Now, But Not Yet


My study of Scripture has led me to these conclusions.

  • I “have” eternal life, but wait for it.
  • I  have been “made” righteous, but am unrighteous.
  • I have been “justified”, but wait to be justified.
  • I have become a “child” of God, but wait to fully experience that relationship.
  • I have been “sanctified”, but am being sanctified.
  • I have a “place” prepared for me to live in, but wait to live there.

All of this is to say I am “saved” , I am being saved, and I wait to be fully saved.

  • I  have eternal life as a present possession but being earth-bound and flesh- bound I will not fully live the eternal life I have until Jesus comes to finally complete his reconciliation of all things to himself (God).
  • I now am counted by God as righteous based wholly upon the worth and work of Jesus but I would be a liar, and be calling God a liar, if I claim I don’t still sin. I do, you do.
  • I have been justified, or ‘set right” with God though Chris,t but until I receive the immortality promised I will not have complete justification.
  • I am now God’s child but I have yet to literally sit at his table, to look Jesus in the face, and to experience all that is mine as an heir to all God owns. And, to share it all with my siblings.
  • I am now sanctified (set apart for God) but my sanctification will only be complete when the very presence of sin will be forgotten history. I’m not there yet but it’s certain I will get there.
  • There is a place reserved for me in eternity outside of time but I must wait to see it and experience it until the new heaven and new earth are revealed along with the sons and daughters that will inhabit them.

I live solidly and without doubt in the now of today, sure of the promised tomorrow. I do so with NO merit of my own. My promise realized is my promise sealed by God himself based not on me or what I have done, or will do, but wholly upon the sinless life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ the righteous. When at last I stand before the Lord of all that is I can claim nothing but the blood of the Lamb poured out for ungodly sinners like me.

While I wait for my blessed hope I am content for Jesus to be my peace, my hope, my joy, my comfort, my righteousness, my advocate, and my promise of seeing the glory of God for myself. Christ is the vine, I am a branch. There is no me without Him. I’m working at abiding in Him.

Grace to you,

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

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Have you received the word?


Isn’t is odd how you can read passages in the Bible, for years, and suddenly see something you had before overlooked? Recently as I was reading through Acts I noticed some reoccurring phrases that for some reason my mind had up to then simply dismissed. Those phrases are, “received his word”, and “received the word of God”. This experience is sort of like detectives I see on TV who work “cold cases”. An ambitious detective will pull the files of an unsolved crime and begin sorting through and analyzing all of the evidence in that file. Many, many times I have either seen on TV or read in the news about some case forgotten long ago that was solved because someone cared enough to give the evidence another critical look and the detective saw something others had overlooked time and time again. I don’t ever remember anyone discussing the appearance of these phrases, “received his word” and “received the word of God”, as they appear in Acts 2, 8, and 11.

Each time they appear they have a specific meaning, and the same meaning, that I think gives the texts some needed context that is not there if they are ignored. The first appears in Acts 2. Every church of Christ member knows part of chapter 2 very well and most Christians know parts of it, but maybe not this part of it.

The setting is a festival in the city of Jerusalem in the first century. It is Pentecost and seven weeks since Jesus rose from the dead. Pentecost was a Jewish holiday/festival celebrating the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. The scene was alive with celebration as people from all across the known world converged on Jerusalem to observe Pentecost, to renew old acquaintances, and likely even to see family. This festival had been celebrated for many years and people knew what to expect, it was a good time! But this year, this Pentecost, things would be very different. They were there to celebrate Law but God was about to lay some Grace on them.

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples the scene was so boisterous and noisy and the followers of Jesus so out of the ordinary that many people took notice and were sure those men had just had too much wine and were drunk. Not the case! Peter stood up and gave an explanation. “These men aren’t drunk as you think, it’s early in the morning”. He announced that a prophecy was being fulfilled before there very eyes. It as from Joel concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit and the results of that coming. He concluded the quote with these words, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) Then Peter starts preaching about Jesus quoting David and making the case that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was indeed the Christ of God they were looking for. He put the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus squarely on them! 

Upon hearing this shocking news, these Jews asked, “What shall we do?”  Then comes the familiar text of Acts 2:28, “ And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Many people evidently stopped reading there. A doctrine of salvation has been built largely upon this one verse and in the minds of many it trumps all others. As one man recently put it, “Any verse of Scripture that seems to contradict Acts 2:38 is “iffy” “. Well, I suggest that since Peter didn’t stop there we shouldn’t either. 

Peter first said “repent”. This is important. “Repent” of what and how? Well, repent of your unbelief! You have rejected Jesus the Christ, the Messiah of God and had him killed, Peter accused them twice of the murder of Jesus. After they were convicted of their sins and convinced of the truth about Jesus (“cut to the heart”) they first needed to repent of their unbelief and believe what Peter had preached. And they did. They “received the Word” Peter preached. Salvation is by grace through faith and these men obviously repented and believed and then were baptized. It is always that order, repentance and faith in Jesus first, and then baptism. The Bible is very clear about this. Notice in Acts 2:41a,So those who received his word were baptized”.  Those who received his word were those who had believed Peter’s preaching, the prophecy of Joel and of David. They had repented of unbelief and had put their faith in the Christ. That is what it means to “receive the Word”.

One other important thing before I leave chapter 2. Peter told those who listened that the promises he gave were to “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39b) . There are two things to take note of  in this 2nd chapter of Acts. First, Peter preached to everyone who had ears. And so it is with us. We are to herald the good news about Jesus to anyone and everyone possible. We are to peach to the whole word, every creature! There is no doubt about that. But, what is just as true is that not everyone will repent. Not everyone will “receive the Word”. Not everyone will believe on Christ. Not everyone will be baptized. The ones who will “receive the Word” are those whom the Lord our God calls to himself. Not one more and not one less. This truth is repeated over and over in the Scriptures.

” So those who received his word were baptized..” Acts 2:41a

Now lets look at Acts chapter 8. Phillip travels to Samaria and preaches Christ to the people. And, the Bible says “the crowds with one accord paid attention to what Peter was preaching. There were unclean spirits coming out of people, others were being healed and many believed on the  Lord and were baptized. One man was mentioned by name for he was a hard case I suppose, but God saved him too. A man named Simon had the attention of the people for a long time. He practiced magic and people feared him. But he too believed after hearing Phillip preach the kingdom of God and about the Christ. God meets people where they are and saves who he will, the down and out, the rich and the poor at his discretion.

The story continues that when the church leaders at Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria “had received the word of God” they sent Peter and John to minister to them. It’s the same story as Acts 2. Someone preaches Christ, some repent and believe “receiving the Word”, and are baptized. The narrative is a bit different here in chapter 8 in that the Samaritans did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter and John came and laid hands on them. So we might not want to be so rigid about using Acts 2:38 as a blanket, once size fits all promise, it clearly isn’t. In Acts 2 Peter preaches, they repent and believe (received the Word) and were baptized and I’m sure they received the Holy Spirit as Peter said. In Acts 8 Phillip preaches, the people believe (receive the Word) and are baptized and don’t receive the Holy Spirit. Then as we will see later in Acts when Peter preached to Cornelius and his folks they too believed and while Peter was preaching Christ they received the Holy Spirit. An unusual set of facts. Why did God do it this way? I don’t have a clue! I only know he did it. What is common in all three cases is that the people heard Christ preached, they “received the word” and were then baptized.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God…” Acts 8:14a

Now to chapter 11. Peter has had a vision, three times, that convinced him that God loved Gentiles as much as Jews and that he should go to them with the gospel. You can read the story in Acts 10. It was after his sermon about Jesus, and after they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit that Peter asked (my paraphrase..) “Can anybody think of a reason why we shouldn’t baptize these people? They received the Holy Spirit just like we did when we believed!” So Peter baptized them. It is worth mentioning that Peter ended his sermon with this sentence. “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43) This was true in Acts 2, in Acts 8, in Acts 10, and in Monroe, Louisiana today. I can think of no reason to try to qualify these words of the Apostle Peter to our ancient ancestors, the first Gentiles to be saved by grace.

The story continues,this was a huge deal! A few days ago a Jew wouldn’t even speak to a Gentile and now they are calling them brothers and baptizing those who believed the gospel. Chapter 11 begins with the apostles and brothers hearing that the Gentiles also “had received the word of God”. There is that phrase once more. The text says “…the Gentiles also had received the word of God”. Also? Yes, the saved Jews, Peter and the other brothers and Apostles were saved the same way as the Gentiles, they “received the Word of God”. They accepted it by believing it!.

In Acts 11:4-17 Peter carefully detailed the story of his going to the Gentiles and what happened when he preached the gospel to them. When Peter finished you could have heard a pin drop. They were completely silent for a time. And then they gave glory to God! That section ends with these words,  “And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (vs 18b) Remember earlier how God calls some to himself? He also gives repentance to those he calls. The Bible is clear about this. Some he hardens and some he softens. He is God and can do what he will. It is repentance that leads to life. Unless a person repents of his or her unbelief, receiving the Word by faith, that person will remain alienated from God.

Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.” Acts 11:1

We Christians are to publish the Word of God across the world to every person possible. The gracious offer of the gospel from God is addressed to “whosoever will..” Some of those to whom we preach Christ will “receive the Word”, only some of them, not all, will repent of their unbelief. There is someone there, someone yonder, who waits to hear and receive the Word of God. They will not hear until we tell it.

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

 

God came to me.


I’ve recently been thinking through what I believe about God, about His scheme of redemption, and how in the person of Jesus He brings sinners like me to himself. In two recent posts, here and here, I tried to display a snapshot of man’s sinfulness and his hopeless and helpless condition without God. In this post I want to show what I believe is the clear teaching of Scripture about how a person  is awakened to the grace and mercy of God in Christ.

It is very common to hear someone serve up the idea that salvation is a cooperative effort, “God’s part” and “man’s part“. For many years I have contended that this idea is not true, and cannot be true. Two verses come to mind that are convincing.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Romans 8:7

A person in his natural state of being is so alienated from God, and the things of God because of sin, that he does not and cannot receive the things of God. Look closely at these verses.

1. A natural man “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God“.

Left to his own devices and his own resources a person without God will not accept the truth of God. This is true every time, in every case. Why? Because the things of God are “foolishness” to him. The story of the passion of Christ makes no sense to him. I have spoken to many people who upon being told of God’s love expressed in the work of Jesus’ death for sinners, and that he now makes sinners pure without their participation, reject it outright. They want no part of it! Man always wants to get credit for his goodness.

2. A natural man “does not submit to God’s law“.

It isn’t that a person without God is neutral, that he just has no interest. Oh no, the truth is he is in rebellion against God. He is “hostile” toward God. He doesn’t “accept” the things of God, and doesn’t “submit” to God’s law because he is against God in his heart.

3. A natural man “is not able to understand” the things of God. And, he “cannot submit” to God’s law.

Here in these two verses is the picture of men and women apart from God who have NO ability on their own to receive the truth about God, to understand, or to submit to Him. You might say to yourself, “If these verses are literally true then how could anyone ever be saved”? It’s a legitimate question and there is an answer, but first one more passage to affirm the utter hopelessness of people without God.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:1-3

Here the Apostle Paul is speaking to folks who are now God’s very own children. He is reminding them of their past and the awful condition of that ugly past. They were “dead” to the things of God, they lived in “trespasses” and “sins“, they were on a course like the rest of the world, following Satan (“the prince of the power of the air”), they lived only to please themselves, and were “children of wrath” like everyone else.

This is indeed a pretty sad state. Here is a people who are dead in sin, dead to the things of God, following the devil, against God, not willing to accept or submit to God, and in fact cannot possibly do so. How then can a person come to Christ and be saved? Thank God the passage above did not end with verse 3.

But God, being rich in mercy,because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5

Yes, people are helpless and hopeless. Yes, they are dead to God, are his enemy, and can’t do anything about it. They have absolutely NO ability to come to God. But God! 

God came to where we were. Right in the middle of our rebellion, our spiritual death, our selfish, ungodly lives and “made us alive together with Christ“! My salvation and yours was by God’s initiative, not mine or yours.

You see, this is precisely what grace is! God loves sinners and he provided a remedy for their sins and then comes to gather them to himself. Paul continues….

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

But for God’s work in us and for us, shining the light of the truth of the gospel into our dark souls we should all perish in our ungodly condition. But He does come to us! The Holy Spirit stirs the heart to faith and repentance and the light of the gospel dispels the darkness of sin and unbelief and God gives LIFE to the lifeless!

“Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling” goes the old song. I can claim no worth, no merit, no work. I can only give glory and praise to a loving God who makes the dead live and love! Oh how wonderful is the story of Jesus and his love for sinners like me. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord! He alone can save the lost sinner.

May God’s truth grip our hearts and minds so that He alone has the glory he deserves.

Royce Ogle

 

 

We contributed the need


 

 

This post is by my cherished friend and mentor Edward Fudge.

God created human beings to enjoy sweet fellowship with himself. But instead of obeying God, we have broken his laws, ignored his wishes, displeased him and gone astray. As surely as human life is God’s gift, just that surely the consequence of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). How can a just and merciful God pronounce sinners “not guilty” and treat them as if they have done exactly what he desired? If he shows mercy, he will not be just. If he does justice, he will not show mercy. Humanly speaking, grace seems an impossible dream. God resolved this dilemma in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. God himself took on human nature and became a baby boy in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

In Jesus, the offended came to the offenders. In a human body, created for that purpose, Jesus gave God the perfect human obedience he had always wanted but had never before received (Heb. 10:5-10). By doing that, Jesus showed God’s law to be both great and glorious (Isaiah 42:21). In one of his last prayers, Jesus could say, “I have finished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Jesus then offered that faithful life “for sin,” in his body on the cross, fulfilling the Isaiah prophecy of one who would “make his life an offering for sin” (53:10).

On the cross like a great lightning rod suspended between heaven and earth, Jesus absorbed all the consequences of human sin — consequences culminating in his death. At the same time, Jesus gave God the Father the only life ever lived in perfect loving obedience to him. Jesus could therefore shout from the cross, “it is finished!” and with the satisfaction of an accomplished work, die satisfied (John 19:30; Isa. 53:11). God’s grace did not come cheap, although for its recipients it is absolutely free.

In the work that accomplished salvation, there is no such thing as “God’s part” and “our part.” It was wholly God’s work to reconcile, justify and redeem, and he did that in Jesus, once for all. Our work comes after God has finished his work, and it is totally a response to God’s work — of grateful obedience and praise. Not until we have accepted the “it is finished!” concerning Jesus’ work are we ready to hear “It is beginning” concerning our own work. And God’s saving work is what he did in Jesus, not something he does in us. It was outside of us, for us.