Hope in the midst of the coronavirus

COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), continues to spread around the world, with an increasing number of cases here in the United States. The World Health Organization has declared that we are in the midst of a global pandemic. This virus is shutting down political campaign rallies, professional sports leagues, schools, Broadway, Disneyland, and even travel on planes and cruise ships. Some states in the USA are banning mass gatherings for organized events for the next month.


There is another global pandemic that is much older and deadlier than the coronavirus. The Bible calls this lethal and widespread virus sin. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Just as the coronavirus does not respect ethnic boundaries or national borders, neither does sin.

While the elderly and those with chronic conditions appear to be more at risk for the coronavirus, all people are infected by sin. No exceptions. No matter what your age, appearance, color of skin, or language, you are infected by this spiritual disease. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is when we disobey God’s laws (I John 3:4). When we hate, lie, lust, or steal, we sin against God.

Those exposed to or infected by the coronavirus are being separated or even isolated from others. Likewise, our sin separates us from God. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The word “death” in the Bible means separation. Sin separates us from God because He is holy, righteous, and perfect (Isaiah 59:2). He cannot be around sin. The final punishment for our sin is separation from God forever in a terrible place called the Lake of Fire or Hell (Revelaion 20:15). Please understand that God does not want any of us to die forever in Hell.


One of the reasons the coronavirus is causing such great panic around the world is because there is no known cure. But there is a cure for the deadlier pandemic of sin. The Bible tells us that God entered the world infected by this virus called sin. He lived among sick people, not wearing a chemical protective suit, but breathing the same air and eating the same food as we do. Out of love for the world, including you and me, He died in isolation on a cross, excluded from His people and separated from His Father, and then rose from the dead so He might provide this sick world with an antidote to the virus (I Corinthians 15:3-6).

Jesus is alive today and freely offers you the cure for this deadlier virus. Listen to what He said to a woman whose brother died from the virus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Christ guarantees a future resurrection and never ending life to all who believe in Him. No amount of our good works or efforts can save us from the deadly virus of sin (Isaiah 64:6). Only Jesus has the cure.

If you are not certain you will go to heaven when you die, believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life and He guarantees you will live with Him forever in Heaven. He said, “16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17; cf. 3:36; 14:1-3). If you trusted in Jesus just now for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell God through prayer. Remember, praying this prayer will not get you to Heaven. Only trusting in Christ alone gets you to Heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer: “Dear Jesus, I come to you now infected by this lethal virus called sin. I cannot save myself from this virus. I believe You became infected by this virus and died on a cross and rose from the dead to save me from sin and death. I am now trusting in You alone Jesus (not my good life, water baptism, or church attendance) to give me everlasting life and save me from this pandemic of sin forever. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When you believed in Christ, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). God became your Father and you became His child forever (John 1:12). And Jesus now lives  inside you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11-13). He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Christ’s resurrection guarantees you a new resurrection body in the future that will not be subject to disease or death (I Corinthians 15:35-57). Please help others to escape this deadly pandemic of sin by sharing this good news of Jesus’ cure.  

I am sealed forever by God the Holy Spirit

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

When Pat and I returned to the USA from the Philippines recently, we met many people in airports and on airplanes who were feeling very insecure about the Coronavirus. People who live in the Philippines have several reasons to feel insecure ranging from natural calamities such as Taal Volcano, typhoons, and earthquakes to a lack of food, unemployment, and the threat of violent crimes.

One of the most insecure feelings that all people can have is not knowing where you will go after you die here on earth. The truth is all people die (unless of course you are a Christian and the Rapture or removal of the Church takes place). Not being certain of your eternal destiny produces deep-seeded insecurity in people. People take extreme measures to avoid thinking about death. They color their gray hair or go on extreme diets and exercise programs trying to delay the inevitable.

Please understand, no matter how insecure you may feel right now, God does not want His children to be insecure. He has given us incomparable security in the Lord Jesus Christ and He wants us to share this security with a lost world that is becoming more and more insecure.

In Ephesians 1, God describes several spiritual blessings for His children. The one we are looking at today involves the seal of the Holy Spirit. When I “heard” and “believed” the “gospel… of salvation” I was “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (1:13-14). The word “sealed” (sphragizō) was used in the ancient world to refer to a legal signature which guaranteed the promise or contents of what was sealed. It signifies ownership and security caused by the backing of the owner.

The word “guarantee” (arrabōn) was a regular feature of the Greek business world. The “arrabōn” was a part of the purchase price of anything paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest of the price should in due time be paid. The seal of the Holy Spirit guarantees that the remainder of our “inheritance” blessings will eventually be given to us. The primary aspect of our inheritance involves life in heaven with the Lord Jesus.

Registered mail is a good example of the seal of the Holy Spirit. When something is registered at the post office it is sealed until delivered. Actually only two persons can open registered mail – the sender (if it is delivered back to him) and the recipient. When we believe in Christ for eternal life, we are sealed by God the Holy Spirit until we go to heaven. God is the One who sends us on our way to heaven, and God in heaven is the Recipient on our arrival. There is no power greater than God who can break the Holy Spirit’s seal. Only God can break this seal and He promises not to do so “until the redemption of the purchased possession” which is when the church is delivered safely and securely to God in heaven.  

No matter what I do or don’t do after being sealed by God the Holy Spirit, I am guaranteed a safe and secure delivery to God in heaven. Therefore, I do not need to look to anyone or anything besides the Holy Spirit to give me security in this life. My security is found in God the Holy Spirit, not in achievements, affluence, appearance, or the approval of others. This amazing truth must not be neglected or misrepresented because it is intended to bring “praise” and “glory” to our great and gracious God!

Prayer: I come to You God Holy Spirit, and I thank You for sealing me the moment I heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank You for assuring me that You will safely and securely deliver me to my Father in heaven. I praise You that no one and nothing can break Your seal on my life except God the Father. And this will not happen until You safely deliver me to Him in heaven. Knowing this teaches me not to look to counterfeit substitutes for my security, but to solely rest in You for this deep need in my life. I give You all the glory God for this precious truth! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hope for tomorrow

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

As we close out 2019 and prepare for the New Year, we may feel that there is little hope for our future. Recent circumstances or past painful memories may leave us feeling alone and discouraged. We may ask ourselves, “Is there any hope?”

This question is asked everyday by thousands of people in thousands of different ways. When your home is destroyed by flood waters or a Typhoon, you ask, “Is there any hope?”  When you are sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for test results, you ask, “Is there any hope?” When you feel stuck in your marriage, you ask, “Is there any hope?” When you are unable to find a job, you ask, “Is there any hope?” When you keep struggling with an addiction, you ask, “Is there any hope?” When people keep rejecting you because of your commitment to Christ, you ask, “Is there any hope?”

I believe this was a question the people of Judah probably asked when they were taken into captivity in Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah sent his first letter to them while they were in captivity and wanted them to realize that God “caused” them “to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon” (29:1, 4) so they would trust that He is in control. He advised them to make the most of their time during their 70 years of captivity by building “houses,” planting “gardens,” marrying, having “sons and daughters,” and anticipating grandchildren (29:5-6). They were to “seek the peace of the city” where they now lived and “pray to the Lord for it” so they would be blessed as God blessed the city (29:7). God warned them not to let their “prophets and diviners who are” with them to “deceive” them into thinking their time in captivity was short (28:8-9) because He had already said it would be for 70 years (29:10; cf. 25:11-12).

God’s ultimate plans (“thoughts”) for His people were “of peace, not of evil, to give” them “a future and a hope” (29:11). At the end of their captivity, God’s people would “call upon” Him and He “will listen” to them and bring them “back” to the land He promised them (29:12-14).

Listen carefully to what God is saying in verse 11. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you.” God is thinking of you. When believers feel hopeless, they may feel that God has lost their address. They conclude that God does not care about them nor pay attention to them. But God is saying that you are important to Him, so much so, that He is thinking of you.

But you may wonder, “What kind of thoughts does God have toward me?” If you have unresolved trauma in your past, you may fear that God’s thoughts toward you are “evil,” and He is plotting to harm you. God assures us that His “thoughts” or plans for us in the future are filled with “peace, not of evil.” God is not making plans for you that are filled with chaos and evil. He is planning a quiet and tranquil “future” for you that is filled with “hope.” Hope is the confident expectation of good from God.

God may have led you to read this article today so He could say to you: “Don’t give in to discouragement or despair. Don’t give up, look up. Don’t despair, turn to Me prayer.” If you have believed in Jesus Christ for His gift of everlasting life, you need to know that Jesus Christ is thinking of you and believes in you. He is on your side and nothing can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:31-39). He wants you to see yourself through His eyes so that you can live a victorious Christian life that is filled with confidence and hope!

If you do not have Jesus Christ in your life, He wants you to know that He has been thinking of you before you were ever born. He longs to be in a personal relationship with you. But we all have a problem that separates us from God. Our problem is called sin. Sin is when we disobey God with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. But God does not want any of us to be separated from Him, so He provided a solution to our sin problem. The Bible says, “But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23b). God loved us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to take our punishment on the cross and rise from the dead so we could receive everlasting life as a free gift by believing or trusting in Christ alone (I Cor. 15:1-6). Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Christ now invites you to trust in Him alone (not your good life, baptism, or church attendance, etc.), and He will give you everlasting life as a free gift which can never be lost (John 10:28-29).

After you put your trust in Christ alone to give you everlasting life, you can be assured that God has a future for you that is filled with peace and hope! You can now talk to the Lord through prayer at any time and at any place about anything.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for showing me that I am important enough for You to think of me. Sometimes I feel forgotten and unimportant to You, but the truth is You are always thinking of me. Please help me to believe that Your thoughts or plans for me are filled with peace and hope, not chaos and evil, so I can trust You to do what is best for me. Each day when I awake, I can now anticipate good from You through the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for renewing my sense of hope through Him. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

God finishes what He starts

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

The apostle Paul is writing to Christians in Philippi to thank them for their generosity in sending him financial gifts at the beginning of his gospel ministry when no other church did and even more recently (1:3-5; 4:10-18). Paul expressed his confidence that this “good work” of financial assistance that God began in the Philippians would be brought to completion on “the day” Jesus returns for His church (1:6; cf. 1:10; 2:16; 3:11, 20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). What God began in the Philippians enabled Paul to preach the gospel to hundreds of people in his lifetime and impact millions of people with his New Testament epistles. Think of how many people have been influenced by Paul’s writings the last two thousand years!?! Imagine how many more people will be impacted by his epistles until Christ returns for His church!?! This is staggering. God did not waste Paul’s sufferings and imprisonments when Paul wrote most of his letters. He used that time to advance the gospel for generations to come.

I learned a year and a half ago from my Dad that when I was five years old, I disappeared on our dairy farm in Illinois. So my parents and older siblings looked all over for me and eventually they found me standing on a pile of rocks preaching to the dairy cows. I have no recollection of doing this. But my family confirmed that this did indeed happen.

As I read Philippians 1:6 this morning, God reminded me that He began a “good work” in me back when I was five years old preaching to the cows. Even though I had not yet believed in Jesus for everlasting life at that time, there was a sense of calling on my life to preach God’s Word (cf. Jeremiah 1:5). The Bible says this was a “good” or excellent and distinguished work, not a “bad” or “mediocre” work. God never starts something bad in our lives. He starts something good. So no matter how inadequate or ashamed you may feel inside, be confident that what God has begun doing in your life is good and beneficial for you and others. This work is also beneficial to God. It puts a smile on His face to see His children participate in the spread of His gospel around the world.

The most encouraging part of this verse for me is that God finishes (“complete”) what He starts in us. Even though we may falter or get off track in our Christian lives, God does not give up on us or stop working. He often uses hardships in our lives to take us deeper in our relationship with Him so He can use us even more. He wants us to be confident that He finishes what He begins in us. This will give us hope amidst the storms in our lives so that we do not quit or give up.

Whatever God is doing in your life, He wants to use it to reach other people with the gospel far beyond your lifetime. Just as the Lord used the Philippians’ giving to the apostle Paul’s preaching and writing to impact peoples’ lives with the gospel long after they died, so the Lord wants to use your talents to advance the gospel long after you die. He may use your giving, writings, singing, crafts, film productions, acts of kindness, preaching of the gospel, etc., long after you are gone to lead other people to faith in Christ. Make no mistake about it, God will bring to completion the good work He began in you until the day when Jesus returns for His church.

Prayer: Lord of the Harvest, thank You for starting a good and excellent work in me that is neither bad nor mediocre. Knowing that You will finish what You started in my life until the day when Jesus returns for His church, gives me great confidence and hope. Thank You for not giving up on me even when I may give up on myself. I now give you my voice, my talents, my mind and body to finish what You began in me years ago. I look forward to what You will accomplish all for Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Is your sin or God’s grace greater?

“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20).

Whether we have spent more time in jail than in church, God’s grace is available to forgive our sins and remove all our shame. Which is greater? God’s grace or your sin? God’s grace is greater and stronger than your sin through the blood of Jesus Christ! If Jesus’ blood can wash away the sin of all nations from all time in all of history (Hebrews 9:14; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 12:11), certainly His blood can wash away your sin and shame the moment you believe in Him for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 10:43)!

God is not uptight about our sin and shame. He still loved us even though we were undeserving, ungodly sinners without any strength to reconcile ourselves to Him. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up before He died in our place. The Bible says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “Christ died for the ungodly,” not the godly. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners,” not saints. The idea that we must clean ourselves up and stop sinning before we come to Christ is not found in the Bible! We must simply come to Christ as we are and He will cleanse and forgive us.

God’s grace includes everyone. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The word “whoever” includes both good people and bad people, godly people and wicked people.  When people start deciding who is deserving of God’s grace and who is not, they are cheapening His grace. The fact is none of us deserve His grace. We deserve God’s justice and punishment in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23a; Revelation 20:15). So instead of pointing the finger at others, let’s give them God’s grace so they can discover that God is the God of second chance (Acts 20:24; Ephesians 4:32). He is in the business of forgiving and restoring guilty sinners with His grace.

Does God elect some to go to heaven and some to go to hell?

Some students of the Bible understand Romans 9 to teach that God sovereignly chooses some people to go to Heaven and some to go to Hell. However, this understanding ignores the argument of the book of Romans and the context of Romans 9.

The book of Romans is dealing with salvation from the present-day wrath of God which involves God giving the unrighteous over to the downward spiral of the degradation of sin (Rom. 1:16-32). Because God is holy and hates sin, we must first be delivered from His wrath toward sin through justification which is by faith alone in Christ’s death (Rom. 2:1-5:10a). We can then experience deliverance from God’s present-day wrath and the perversion of sin through faith in Christ’s life (Rom. 5:9-8:39).

The argument of Romans up to the end of chapter 8 is a direct challenge to the commonly held belief of first-century Jews that because they were God’s chosen people they would be saved from hell simply by being of Jewish descent and by keeping the Law (cf. Rom. 2:17-3:20). This assumption, says Paul, is absolutely false. The problem is that the Jews were confusing election to service with election to salvation (cf. examples of election to service: Jeremiah – Jeremiah 1:5; Paul – Gal. 1:15-16; John the Baptist – Luke 1:13-17; John 1:23; the disciples (John 15:16). They assumed that because God chose them as the means by which “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), He also chose them, simply as Jews, for salvation. But now they hear Paul saying, “No! Jews do not have a unique path to heaven; on Judgment Day they will be treated like everyone else.” So now they are thinking, “That’s not fair! God has just been leading us on, giving us promises He never meant to keep. He is going back on His word! Where is the justice?”

So in Romans 9 Paul is defending God’s righteousness in His dealings with the Jews and the Gentiles. The Word of God has not failed (Rom. 9:6a). When God says that only those Jews will be saved who trust God’s promises, like their father Abraham did, He is not breaking His original promises to Israel. His choice of the nation as a whole was not a guarantee of any individual Jew’s salvation. God graciously and sovereignly chose Israel to be the nation from which “Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Rom. 9:5). God’s choice of the nation of Israel to bring the Messiah-God into the world was not based upon their natural descent or works (Rom. 9:6-11), but upon His merciful and sovereign choice (Rom. 9:11b-16). And God certainly has the sovereign right to use any individual or group that He chooses for such a purpose, without any promise of personal salvation from Hell being attached.

An example of God choosing someone for service without providing individual salvation from Hell for him is Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17; cf. Judas whom Jesus chose to bear fruit in ministry even though Judas never believed in Jesus – John 6:64; 13:10-11; 15:16; 17:12). God both “had mercy” on Pharaoh by choosing him for an important role in birthing the nation of Israel, and He also “hardened” him in order to accomplish the same purpose (Rom. 9:18). An example of a nation being chosen for service and not salvation is Israel at this present time (Rom. 9:31-10:4). The nation of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah which led God to show mercy to Gentiles by including them in the church. An elect person or nation is never guaranteed justification. In the Old Testament, God chose the nation of Babylon to discipline Israel (see Habakkuk). Likewise, He chose King Cyrus of Persia to help Israel and to subdue the nations (Cyrus is even called God’s “shepherd” and “anointed” in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1). But neither of these sovereign choices proves anything regarding individual or corporate salvation from Hell.

If God chooses individuals and nations to service based upon His merciful and sovereign will, and not human behavior, “Why does He still find fault?” Paul’s listeners would ask him (Rom. 9:19). Paul responds by saying that people are not in a position to criticize their Judge because He is the standard by which we measure justice (Rom. 9:20-30).

God chose the nation of Israel to service and blessings for the purpose of sharing those blessings with others. But since they failed (Rom. 9:31-11:10), God saw fit to elect another group called the Church (composed largely of Gentiles) to accomplish this task (Rom. 11:11-25). Fortunately for Israel, because God is gracious He will again return to them and fulfill His promises and plans (Rom. 11:23-32). How unsearchable is God and His ways (Rom 11:33-36)!?

Conclusion: God’s election relates to His merciful and sovereign choice to choose individuals and/or nations for service (not salvation), especially as it relates to sharing His blessings with others, including the gospel. Just as the nation of Israel was chosen by God to bring the Messiah-God into the world (Rom. 9:5) and be a channel of blessing to all families/nations (Gen. 12:3), so believers (both Jews and Gentiles) in Christ today, are sovereignly chosen by God to be His mouthpieces of blessing to others (cf. Luke 6:13; John 15:16; Acts 1:2, 8; 9:15; 10:41; 15:7; 22:14-15; 26:16-18; James 2:5; I Pet. 2:9).

Overcoming the sin of homosexuality

The Bible is clear that homosexual relations are an “abomination” before God (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; cf. Romans 1:24-32; I Corinthians 6:9-10; I Timothy 1:10) and violate God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman for life (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6-9). How then can a person overcome the sin of homosexuality (or any sin)?

I believe the answer is found in the book of Romans. The key to understanding Romans is to look at the first use of the word “salvation” in 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” The words “saved” (sōzō) or “salvation” (sōtēria) refer to some type of “deliverance.” The context determines what one is delivered from. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed [present tense] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” The book of Romans is the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ which provides the power for deliverance (salvation) from the present-day wrath (displeasure) of God which is expressed in sinners being given over to the downward spiral of their own sinfulness (1:18b-32). 

Notice that when people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and choose to worship creation instead of their Creator (1:20-25), God gives them over (1:24, 26, 28) to the consequences of their own sin (1:24, 26, 28). As people move farther away from God, they “dishonor their bodies among themselves” (1:24). As they continue to rebel against God, He gives them up “to vile passions,” which includes leaving “natural” heterosexual relations to pursue homosexual relations which are “against nature,” that is, they are contrary to how God made us (1:26-27; cf. Gen. 1:28; 2:24). The final stage of this downward spiral is God giving them over “to a debased mind” which accepts as normal what is immoral and irrational to a holy God (1:28-32). Clearly, the farther people move away from God, the more confused they become about their own sexual identity. This is an expression of the present-day wrath of God. God’s present-day wrath can rest upon Christians and non-Christians who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. 

How can a believer or unbeliever overcome this downward spiral of sin? This salvation from God’s present-day wrath is two-fold (“faith to faith,” 1:17):

1. If you are not a Christian, you need justification-salvation before God through faith alone in Christ alone who died for our sins and rose from the dead (Romans 1:20 – 5:9a). This is what delivers us from the penalty of sin and gets us to Heaven. God wants to bring those back who have been given over to their own sinfulness. God sees all people as unrighteous and in bondage to sin (1:20-3:20). God comes to people and gives them His righteousness on the basis of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (3:21-5:9a). Twenty-six times Paul uses the words “believe” and “faith” as the only condition for justification (being declared righteous) before God in this section of Romans. Once a person believes in Christ alone to be declared righteous before a holy God, he or she can then experience…

2. Sanctification-salvation from God’s present-day wrath (degradation of sin) through Christ living in them by faith (Romans 5:9b-8:39). The next time the word “saved” is used in Romans is in 5:9-10: “Much more then, having now been justified [past tense] by His blood, we shall be saved [future tense] from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled [past tense] to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled [past tense], we shall be saved [future tense] by His life.” The salvation being spoken of here is in the future tense and takes place after we are justified and reconciled to God. We were reconciled to God through faith in Christ’s death (3:21-5:9a). We can be saved from God’s present-day wrath or the power of sin through faith in Christ’s life (5:9b – 8:39).  

In summary, whether you think homosexuality is caused by the environment or a genetic disposition, it does not matter. All people are born with a predisposition to sin, whether it is sexual immorality, lying, or a violent temper. The solution is still the same. Believe in Christ’s death for His gift of salvation from the penalty of sin (Romans 1:18-5:10a), so you can trust in Christ’s life to save you from the power of sin in your Christian life as you learn to yield daily to the Holy Spirit who now dwells inside of you (Romans 5:10b-8:39). 

What kind of person does God welcome into heaven?

“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5

1. God welcomes into heaven the person “who does not work.” Getting to heaven is not based upon your works. It is not based upon going to church, praying a prayer, confessing your sin, persevering in good works, confessing the Lordship of Christ,  surrendering to the Lordship of Christ, or promising to commit your life to Christ. God does not welcome the person on the basis of his or her works. This is what distinguishes Christianity from world religions. World religions teach that getting to heaven is based upon what you “DO.” Christianity teaches that getting to heaven is based upon what Christ has already “DONE” when He died on the Cross (John 19:30).

2. God welcomes into heaven the person who “believes on Him who justifies the ungodly.” Getting to heaven is not based upon behaving, but upon believing in Jesus Christ “who justifies the ungodly.” It does not matter how well you have behaved, you are still “ungodly” before a holy God. You may say, “Well, I’m not as bad as him or her.” You need to understand that God is not comparing your life to other sinful people. He is comparing your life to the only perfect Person who has ever lived on earth – Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus never told a lie, but you have told many. Jesus loved everyone, including His enemies. But you have days you cannot stand to be with your own family. The good news is that the moment you believe or trust in Christ alone who paid the full penalty for your sin when He died on the Cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6), God “justifies” you which means He declares you to be totally righteous as if you had never sinned.  

3. God welcomes into heaven the person whose “faith is accounted for righteousness.” The fact is that all people are “ungodly” sinners who deserve to be separated from God forever in a terrible place called the “lake of fire” (Romans. 3:9-23; Revelation 20:15). But the moment you believe in Jesus Christ alone, God gives you a right standing before Him as “your faith is accounted for righteousness.” 

Conclusion: What kind of person does God welcome into heaven? He welcomes the believing person, not the behaving person. He welcomes the ungodly person who trusts in the only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. And He welcomes the person whose faith in Christ gives him or her a right standing before a holy God.

Must I continue in doing good to receive eternal life?

“God, who will render to each one according to his deeds:’ eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.” Romans 2:5b-7

A casual reading of these verses has led some to include that one must continue in doing good in order to receive eternal life. But how does one harmonize such an interpretation with the many verses that clearly teach that eternal life (salvation) is a free gift which one receives by believing in Jesus alone (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; Romans 3:22-26; 6:23; Ephes. 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Rev. 22:17)?

A more consistent way to understand these verses is to realize that Paul is speaking to the self-righteous moralist who thinks he is good enough to enter heaven on the basis of his own morality (Rom. 2:1-4). Paul warns the self-righteous person that he is as guilty as the person whom he condemns because the longer he persists in his self-righteousness, the more guilt God will add to his record until the day His wrath is poured out on the unbeliever (Rom. 2:5; cf. Rev. 20:11-15). On that day God’s judgment of the unbeliever will be perceived as “righteous” because He will “render to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). 

Those who patiently continue doing good would receive eternal life (Rom. 2:7). It must be noted, however, that Paul later shows that no human being on earth will do that (Rom. 3:10-12, 23), and therefore, would need to be justified by God through faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 3:22-5:9a). Why? Because Jesus Christ is the only Doer of the Law (Matt. 5:17, 48; Rom. 8:3-4). Jesus never broke the law and He never will. So guess what happens when you put your faith in Christ who kept all of the Law?  You are made “perfect forever” through His sufficient sacrifice on the Cross (Heb. 10:10, 14). There will be no charges or condemnation against the Christian to determine his or her destiny in eternity (John 5:24; Rom. 8:31-34) because God has already declared him righteous (Rom. 3:22-4:5). 

So in that context of Romans 2:5-11, the meaning of verse 7 is that “if he continues in doing good, and no one does, he would receive eternal life.” On the other hand, “those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:8-11). The emphasis of this paragraph (Rom. 2:5-11) is stated at the beginning and the end, namely, that God will judge everyone equally and without partiality. 

If anyone continues to seek good (and no one does – Rom. 3:10-12), he will receive eternal life. If anyone continues in disobedience (and all will – Rom. 3:23), he will fall under God’s wrath. So each one will receive what he deserves. Hence, the self-righteous moralist must repent or change his mind and understand that God will judge him or her righteously according to what they have truly done or not done. Not what they hoped or intended to do. But according to what they actually did or did not do. Therefore, the self-righteous moralist is just as deserving of condemnation as the worst sinner because he or she falls short of the glory of God. The solution to this problem is to trust in Jesus Christ Who alone was a Doer of the Law and could pay the full penalty for our sin (John 19:30; Rom. 4:5; 5:8; I Cor. 15:3-6). 

Failure to understand these verses in their rightful context leads to misinterpretation such as all true believers will persevere in good works. Or those who profess faith in Christ but fail to persevere in good works were never genuinely saved. That is not what the text says in this context.  

What does it take to spread the gospel around the world?

“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” Acts 28:30-31

Luke concludes the book of Acts with the apostle Paul “in his own rented house” in Rome welcoming “all who came to him”and “preaching…and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence” (Acts 28:30-31). The word “all” is used twice in these last two verses of Acts to show that Paul did nothing half-hearted for the Lord Jesus. He showed no partiality to people, receiving “all who came to him” (28:30b). It did not matter what country, culture, or color was associated with these people, Paul welcomed them. 

He showed this impartial hospitality, so he could tell “all”whom God brought to him “with all confidence” about God’s coming “kingdom” on earth through the reign of “the Lord Jesus Christ” (28:31; cf. 1:3, 6; 19:8; 20:25). Paul could preach kingdom entrance through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (cf. Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17) with “all confidence” because he sought to please God and not people when he preached (cf. I Thessalonians 2:3-4). The last phrase, “no one forbidding him,” shows the unhindered advancement of the gospel under Roman authorities. God used Paul to take the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. 

Are we willing to let God use us to advance the gospel of Christ around the world? For that to happen, we must have the same wholehearted commitment to Christ, to His gospel message, and to all the people for whom Jesus died that the apostle Paul had. When we do, nothing can stop the gospel from spreading around the world.