[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Is Faith to be Qualified by Works?

by Antonio da Rosa

The following is a response to Tim's comments on my previous post Are We Saved by Faith Alone or by Faith That is Not Alone?

Tim writes:
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*true* faith, the kind through which salvation is obtained, is always accompanied by works. This is how we human beings recognize salvation in others: by seeing works, and recognizing them as those "which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
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Where do you get the notion that faith produces works? What is your definition of faith? Now I will agree that we often use our faith to produce works, and that we ought to. But that faith necessitates a life of persevering works is quite another thing altogether. What I am getting from you here is that the faith that saves is some superlative “faith” that is different from the everyday faith that we exercise. If this is true, what would be your biblical argument that saving faith is a special kind of faith? I suppose for you what makes saving faith “saving” is the quality of the faith? I say that what makes saving faith saving is not the special quality of the faith but the object of the faith, Jesus Christ.

Heb 11:1 states that faith is certainty and assurance. Is it not true that a person can be convinced of something yet not act on it? Isn’t this the usual case when Christians sin?

I know people who are convinced, believe, have faith that diet and exercise can save them from the deadly consequences of heart disease, yet their lives are not characterized by watching what they eat and physical exercise. I guess you would say that they have a “spurious” faith! But they are indeed convinced and believe in diet and exercise. What is the difference between this faith and saving faith other than the object? Works! Therefore if there are no works, hell is certain!

I would agree that a purpose of our eternal salvation is to do the works that God has set up for us (Eph 2:10), but that this is a necessary relationship has been by far undemonstrated merely quoting the text. Eph 2:10 uses the subjunctive “peripateswmen” in a purpose clause: “should walk”. Nowhere in this text is it adduced that it is a necessary relationship, but only that it is an expected relationship.

Tim writes:
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it is also true that the Holy Spirit does not indwell someone without some measure of practical sanctification. It's just not God's style to be ineffective.
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I wonder. If God’s grace completely justifies now, eternally saves now, if the Holy Spirit completely indwells now, how is it the man is not completely sanctified now? It would seem that God’s grace is somewhat ineffective.

Wouldn’t it be easier to see that man has a will to pursue or spurn the graces and leading of God? Everytime a Christian sins he is spurning the graces and leading of God and he grieves the Holy Spirit. And if he can do this some of the time, why not see that he can do it all of the time? If the Christian cannot fall away stopping permanently progressive sanctification, what is the use of all the warnings directed to Christians that they need to endure or else some consequence of one thing or another will befall them?

How is it in Calvinist theology that God will keep the Christian from the really huge sins, or their lives being characterized by them, but His grace is insufficient, or ineffective to keep the Christian from the plethora of little sins that he must confess every single day?

You contention that it is “not God’s style to be ineffective” diverts attention from the real issues. Christian’s sin. Why doesn’t God keep them from sinning?

I say because God doesn’t drag people down the path of obedience. He gives them all things that pertain to life and godliness, precious promises, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the seed of divine life (our regenerate nature), He will chasten, discipline, direct, encourage, etc., but He will not drag someone down the path of obedience! Practical sanctification is the synergistic activity of God and the Christian. If the Christian does not do his part, he will not be sanctified! God has promised rewards for those who obey, and loss and discipline for those Christians who do not!

You quote Is 55:10-11. Is it God’s word that caused you to sin today? (I am assuming that you have the humbleness to admit such). Is God’s word in your life purposeful only for “partial” sanctification mixed with sin? God’s word says “be holy for I am holy”. Does that leave room for the sin that we commit every day? I don’t think so.

Why is God’s grace completely effective to bring about regeneration and justification, but is ineffective to keep you from the small sins that you sin every day?

Tim writes:
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Abraham's faith, through which he obtained salvation, was the same faith that enabled him to be willing to offer up Isaac. You cannot separate the two. If Abraham had not had a faith that was capable of producing action, then God would never have credited it to him as righteousness, because it would not have been faith.
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Are you saying that Abraham’s faith through which he was justified necessitated him to proceed with offering up Isaac? How come your faith didn’t necessitate you to be sinlessly perfect today? Are you saying that if Abraham hadn’t offered up Isaac that he wouldn’t have been saved? That is what is sounds like to me! And that would be works-salvation.

How come Abraham’s faith didn’t necessitate him telling the truth to Abimelech?

So faith is not faith unless it is “capable of producing action”? So you qualify faith by works? Faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by works! “We aren’t saved by faith + works but faith that is accompanied by works.” Faith + works or faith accompanied by works are two ways of saying the exact same thing! No works = hell, thus making works a condition for final salvation, thus making Perseverance theology a works-salvation position.

I thought that faith was the conviction and assurance of the veracity and truth of something (Heb 11:1). Now I am being told that faith is not faith without the qualifier of works!

The Calvinist’s dilemma:
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Some verses condition salvation on faith alone in Christ alone.
Other verses seem to condition salvation on works, and perseverance in works.
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The Calvinist’s solution:
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Modify the experimental data on the verses that say that simple belief in Christ saves.
Secondary assumption made: Simple faith is not the whole story, from our analogy of faith we must include the idea of perseverance in works.
Modify the experimental data on the verses that seem to condition salvation on works, perseverance in works.
Secondary assumption made: these verses just show the outworking of faith. “TRUE” faith, IOW, really big, big, big, faith, includes the idea of a perseverance in works, includes the idea of obedience.
----------

Why not just see that eternal life is by the simple exercise of faith that takes Jesus at His word when He guarantees eternal life to the believer?

Why not just see that when salvations spoken about in the Bible are conditioned on works, that this salvation cannot be the justification-by-faith-alone salvation spoken of elsewhere? “Salvation” has a wide berth of semantical range, with many different usages!

Isn’t it odd, Paul says “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted as righteousness”?

What The Traditionalists have done here, in their doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, is short-circuit Paul’s claim that it through faith apart from works by importing into “faith” the qualifier of “works”! This is shamefully heretical, and is nothing but dressed up works-righteousness.

As concerning your reference of Hebrews, I wonder which tact you take. Are you like a Pink or a Shedd who thinks the warning passages are for Christians, or do you line up with a MacArthur who says the warning passages are for “professing” but not “possessing” Christians? For I would like to question your understanding of Hebrews based upon the warning passages.


Tim, you say:
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"were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us."
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Do you know to whom John is speaking about (2 John 2:18 might help you there)? Do you know who the “us” is in this verse? What was the point of contention between those who went out and those who remained?

If you want to read an exegetical commentary on this passage you quote as a proof-text without a shred of argumentation supporting your interpretation of it, click this link to my blog:

1 John 2:19 Commentary

Tim writes:
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Yes, yes, I know: Hebrews is talking about Judaizers and 1 John is talking about Gnostics, they both have this in common: Both at first appeared to be Christians; to have been justified through faith; but in both cases this was not true: and their actions eventually bore out the truth.
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Gnostics and false-prophets aren’t found out by their works, but by their doctrine (remember, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing!)

You write:
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There is no sense in scripture of a faith accepted by God which produces no action:
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Does faith now have a mind of its own? Does faith have power over your will or does your will determine to act on faith?

Conclusion:

By your insistence that faith necessarily produces persevering works until death in the lives of true Christians, you have made works a condition for heaven. If there are no persevering works, there is no heaven. Without persevering works, there is no heaven.

If perseverance in works are a necessary result of the faith and if a man cannot be saved without them, then the works are, in fact, a condition for salvation. If they are not present, the man will perish. Necessary results for which we are responsible are the same as conditions.

13 Comments:

  • It is on this issue that the Moderate Non-Lordship Salvation falls into a deep problem.

    They do not like the idea of judging people on the basis of works, but they insist that some works are essential to qualify faith and ensure it is not a 'false faith.'

    There really is no stable ground between Lordship Salvation and Free Grace.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, August 01, 2006 1:02:00 AM  

  • By "*true* faith" I mean merely to exclude all things that are falsely called faith, though they are not. There is no concept of "superlative" faith, but rather there is something that claims to be faith, but is not.

    You seem to be misinterpreting my reasoning as follows:

    faith -> works -> salvation

    when in fact, it looks more like this:

    faith -> salvation -> works

    Which, by the logical transitive property can also be rendered as:

    faith -> salvation
    faith -> works

    but never as:

    works -> salvation

    I thought that was pretty clear from the passage in Ephesians 2.

    I would also like to call your attention to James 2, to which I was alluding:
    ----------
    "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
    If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
    and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
    Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
    But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
    You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
    But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
    Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
    You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
    and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God.
    You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
    In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
    For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."
    ----------

    Antonio writes:
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    I know people who are convinced, believe, have faith that diet and exercise can save them from the deadly consequences of heart disease, yet their lives are not characterized by watching what they eat and physical exercise.
    ----------

    --------
    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. ~Mat 7:21
    --------

    It would seem that they, like the devils mentioned in James, have an intellectual belief, but still they don't trust their well-being to diet and exercise. It seems that when it comes down to it, they are convinced that candy bars and laziness will make them happy. Now, I ask you, which is a better meter of the reality of the situation: that they can answer a question correctly on a test, or that what they claim to believe affects their actions despite the immediate rewards of acting otherwise?

    Moses wasn't tempted by the candy bars and couches of Egypt, in stead, he chose to do laps around the desert eating manna with the people of God. I would by his actions conclude that he had faith.

    Do you think Esau knew that his birthright was valuable? Had he not known that, would he have "sought it carefully with tears"? Esau thought that a meal *now* was more valuable than an eternal inheritance.

    Antonio writes:
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    Heb 11:1 states that faith is certainty and assurance. Is it not true that a person can be convinced of something yet not act on it?
    ----------

    Heb 11:1 states the *function* of faith (what it provides), not its definition. Read the rest of the chapter: it is full of people who *trusted God* when there was no other source of assurance, and regarded *his word* as certain, rather than what their circumstances indicated.

    What you are saying looks like this:

    certainty and assurance <=> faith

    What I am saying looks like this:

    faith -> certainty and assurance

    I'm not saying that salvation "necessarily" produces works because of the nature of faith, I'm saying it does so because of the nature of God: that a relationship with him *will* yeild fruit. The nature and quantity or "completeness" (or human recognizability) of fruit is not the issue. What is certain is that without Him, there is *no* fruit, and with Him, there always is.

    Antonio writes:
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    "How is it in Calvinist theology that..."
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    You might need to ask a Calvinist about that.

    Antonio writes:
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    I say because God doesn’t drag people down the path of obedience. He gives them all things that pertain to life and godliness, precious promises, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the seed of divine life (our regenerate nature), He will chasten, discipline, direct, encourage, etc., but He will not drag someone down the path of obedience! Practical sanctification is the synergistic activity of God and the Christian. If the Christian does not do his part, he will not be sanctified! God has promised rewards for those who obey, and loss and discipline for those Christians who do not!
    ----------

    Here we are in total agreement, with the caveat that "loss" has the same meaning as 1 Cor 3:15, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."


    Antonio writes:
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    Gnostics and false-prophets aren’t found out by their works, but by their doctrine (remember, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing!)
    --------

    Jesus says:
    --------
    "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
    Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
    Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." ~Mat 7:15-17
    --------

    Antonio writes:
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    By your insistence that faith necessarily produces persevering works until death in the lives of true Christians, you have made works a condition for heaven. If there are no persevering works, there is no heaven. Without persevering works, there is no heaven.
    --------

    Wow! With whom are you arguing? Surely there is a straw Calvinist in your closet. I said nothing about "persevering works until death". I said that works are a *sign* visible to human beings of salvation (which is not visible).

    Antonio writes:
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    If perseverance in works are a necessary result of the faith and if a man cannot be saved without them...
    --------
    Again, lose the "perseverance" part. Works are only "necessary" because God will accomplish them in us, not because our salvation is predicated upon them.

    By Blogger Tim, at Tuesday, August 01, 2006 2:21:00 PM  

  • >There really is no stable ground between Lordship Salvation and Free Grace.<

    Quite frankly...you and Antonio believe in some works as well. You believe the soil on the rocky ground that springs forth with fruit, yet doesn't ripen, is the first stage that qualifies for salvation. I have been sleeping on this issue waiting for you to surface with this arguement. You cannot make it; neither can you make the arguement that those who interperet James from the Calvinist perspective believe in works, because you too believe in some works that endure for a while on that rocky soil. I am going to hold your feet to the fire on this one guy.

    In order for the free-grace position to be consisitent you would have to make the argument that only those where the seed falls and Satan snatches up can truly be saved if you are to be consisitent with free-grace logic.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Tuesday, August 01, 2006 6:22:00 PM  

  • Brian,

    I think that you need to think that over some more...

    By Blogger Antonio, at Tuesday, August 01, 2006 6:49:00 PM  

  • Based on what reasoning brother Antonio. Fruit that doesn't ripen or mature is still fruit. You are still demanding evidence of faith. It is no differant than the Calvinists...only on a lower level of works. Not as much works.

    But if one does not receive as on the rocky soil and bear some fruit with little endurance...is it off to the Lake of Fire?

    What about the theif on the cross. He didn't have time to meet your demands for fruit.

    Zane Hodges teaches works salvation too, based on your own line of logic.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Tuesday, August 01, 2006 7:37:00 PM  

  • Actually the theif on the cross did bear fruit in his final hour. He rebuked the other theif and boldly proclaimed that the Son of God was being crucified next to him. He also asked the Lord to remember him. Is he lost because he prayed the prayer inproperly with a conotation on his work of confessing Christ?

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Tuesday, August 01, 2006 7:42:00 PM  

  • Brian, I think that you a bit mistaken concerning Free Grace theology.

    I do not deny that born again people will display some fruit.

    Like you said.

    The seed sewn on the rocky soil germinated, sprouted, and grew some.

    But the difference is here:

    1) Free Grace theology does not base even an INKLING of assurance on supposed fruit. The fruit that may result may only be noticeable by God Himself.

    2) Free Grace theology does not traffic in the idea that only those who persevere in faith and good works make it to heaven. We state uncategorically, that anyone, who at any time in his life, believed the promise of Jesus Christ to guarantee for him his eternal well being by faith alone in Him, is saved and secure.

    He may lose rewards if he doesn't pursue endurance and perseverance in faith and good works, he may endure various chastenings and disciplinings, but SALVATION IS A FREE GIFT AVAILABLE TO ALL ON THE BASIS of FAITH ALONE, AND FAITH THAT IS ALONE, APART FROM WORKS.

    3) The believer is not guaranteed perseverance in faith and good works until the end of life. He is guantanteed preservation in salvation, but not perseverance.

    4) Assurance of salvation is of the ESSENCE of saving faith, that means at the very moment that you believe Christ's promise to guarantee eternal life to the believer, not only are you saved, but you by necessity have absolute, certain assurance of eternal life.

    Jesus says, "Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in me HAS everlasting life" (John 6:47). If I believe that, I must as a necessity believe that I have eternal life, or else how can I say that I believe that?

    I hope this has helped you in your discerning between the false gospel and false hope of Calvinism and the promises and grace of the Bible.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:38:00 PM  

  • >I do not deny that born again people will display some fruit.<

    This is what many Calvinist say as well, but I think it unfair to say that you differ as J Vernon McGee makes the same arguements you make and he believes that only those on Good soil are saved. McGee has some Calvinistic perspectives.

    I was essentially challenging what Matthew was saying when he said:

    "There really is no stable ground between Lordship Salvation and Free Grace."

    That is not a fair statement and some of these charges could be laid at you feet as well. Truly someone could make a case that you teach works salvation since you believe fruit will be born. Even though i am not putting an emphasis on my fruit you are still saying I am lost if I am a lazy mental assenter who says he believes yet never does anything.

    Step back and see if this makes sense to you. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if there was a really fringe group out there that begins saying you teach works. It really wouldn't surprise me as I have been reading blogs this past year.

    That misrepresentation would not be fair would it.

    Also, Zane Hodges said there was a time that he believed in repentance for salvation. Was he lost back then? Did he truly get saved when he stopped believing in repentance?


    The bottom line is that this is unfair when Paul simply preached repentance and faith. As long as the person is being told he cannot work for his salvation and that he is saved by grace...we shouldn't keep picking a toil. We question Calvinists for quibbling over semantics, but we can all get equally semantic in our dogma against one another. If a man says he is trusting in Christ alone. He is my brother and we should be very respectful of them because they all have good reasons for some of the Scriptural evidence they give..Quite frankly I do see men like Ryrie and McGee as being very close to understanding the evidence God lays out. I think it is unfair to make charges that this point of view is shaky ground. It creates the same anxiety and doubt as the Calvinists who say we need to keep on examining our faith to the n'th degree. It is not healthy for encouraging one anothers faith.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Wednesday, August 02, 2006 3:13:00 PM  

  • Brian,

    you write:
    ----------
    Even though i am not putting an emphasis on my fruit you are still saying I am lost if I am a lazy mental assenter who says he believes yet never does anything.
    ----------

    I have never said anything of the sort, and I never would.

    It is the fact, Brian, that after all this time that I have been expounding Free Grace theology that you still don't understand our stance.

    Regarding Zane Hodges and his take on repentance, he did believe that repentance was necessary for eternal life. But at this time he believed that repentance was merely a change of mind. Now if he had considered at this time that repentance was the works that he now believes they are (yet not necessarily for eternal life) he would have been trusting in his works and not the finished work of Christ.

    Brian writes:
    ----------
    The bottom line is that this is unfair when Paul simply preached repentance and faith.
    ----------
    That paul preached repentance and faith proves nothing. He preached lots more as well. Nowhere does it say that he preached "repentance" as a necessary condition for eternal life or justification. You find that verse, Brian, then you can have your point. But just because Paul preached repentance!!

    I preach repentance as well! I preach it much harder than the Calvinist does too!

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, August 02, 2006 7:26:00 PM  

  • Also,

    Brian states:
    ----------
    Truly someone could make a case that you teach works salvation since you believe fruit will be born.
    ----------
    I wonder how it would go! They most definitely cannot!

    The gospel and neither do I require any works at all for eternal life.

    Both the Arminian and the Calvinist require a perseverance in faith and good works before someone will be admitted to heaven.

    I do not!

    Neither eternal life nor assurance of salvation is gained by a look to works.

    So go ahead, brother, and try to make a case that I believe in some form of works salvation. It can't logically nor legitametely be done, as it can in both the Arminian and Calvinist religions.

    That I believe that there will be some fruit in the life of the believer (whether visible to man or only visible to God) unless he is converted on his death bed in no way rationally, logically, or reasonably can lead to a charge of works salvation. You are daffy to propose such.

    I prove by logic and syllogism that the Calvinist and the Arminian propose a works-salvation, using their own words against them.

    You do the same and provide a line of reasoning that it can be said that I believe in a works salvation.

    The Calvinist says that a man will persevere in faith and good works or else go to hell.

    I say that faith alone apart from works of any kind is the sole instrument which brings regeneration.

    All that is required of someone to go to heaven is to believe Jesus' promise that He guarantees eternal life and resurrection to the believer.

    No works necessary for salvation whatsoever.

    One cannot tell that he is saved by his works or lack thereof.

    Works have nothing to do with either eternal life NOR assurance.

    Before you go making a charge, make sure you can back it up.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, August 02, 2006 7:35:00 PM  

  • I see I made the Daffy list.
    Is that Daffy Duck? Quack Quack.

    Brother, I was defending against a charge Matthew made about my position and then showing that there was a time that Zane Hodges held the same postition.

    There are plenty of Calvinist over at other blogs calling me worse and even equating McGee type teaching with the emergent Church. Actually I agree with your interpretation of the sower parables but not in your appropriation of them. How you appropriate is of such tremendous value. John Cole will tell you that
    as the man who influenced him and was a leader of our mission board was a Calvinist...yet he did not agree with the Lordship camp. He was more Calvinist than my father is.

    I love you brother. Please understand that I am not offended...you kinda tickled me this time.

    We have got to understand that there are hard truths in the Bible that God is trying to cultivate understanding within.

    I heard a Dallas grad today...Steven Davey who is a Baptist state that he saw truths in both Federal and Seminal thinking. But the bottom line is that we believe in Sola Fida.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Wednesday, August 02, 2006 8:32:00 PM  

  • Brian,

    nothing more said but this:

    I am glad that you are on the blogosphere and that you may consider me a friend.


    Blessings to you and your family, all God's best,

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Thursday, August 03, 2006 1:28:00 PM  

  • You have a heart and passion for lost souls brother. I wish everyone wanted to see the whole world saved as you do.

    You are my friend and you are a friend of God. May he draw you closer to himself everyday.

    If you ever get a chance listen to Pastor Davey here>Wisdom For the Heart

    He has been speaking on Luther and the Reformation all weak. The topic is Sola Fide. The reformation wasn't all it was cracked out to be; but I am thankful for the men of God who stood against Rome.

    In Christ,

    Brian.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Thursday, August 03, 2006 5:04:00 PM  

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