This is the question and answer page for a teaching called "Rebuilding the Foundations," which I presented August 12 at a missions conference for Heaven's Family in Pittsburgh.
The questions and answers on this page will not make any sense unless you have heard the teaching. You can listen to or download the audio of the presentation in Pittsburgh. Also available are the outline in PDF and MS Word (download or read online) and the Powerpoint (download or view online).
The long version of this teaching, which I gave over six weeks last winter at my home church, are available in the same formats under the title "Building a Christian Model" at my author web site.
Since "Rebuilding the Foundations" questions some foundational evangelical teachings, I know it is hard to swallow (at least for evangelicals). I have had 30 years to develop the teaching and compare it not only to Scripture but also what was taught in the earliest centuries of the Church. You got all of it in under an hour.
The questions below will help you process and think through the things presented in my teaching (as will the longer teaching linked above).
If you want to add to this faq, use the "Contact Me" page, but be sure to tell me in your comment that your are responding to the "Rebuilding the Foundations" teaching.
This first comment is my own, and it has to do with the apostle John's Gospel and letters.
The apostle John talks about eternal life differently than Paul (and differently than Matthew, Mark, and Luke). John repeatedly speaks of eternal life as a current possession, while Paul and the synoptic Gospels speak of something to be obtained after the judgment (e.g., Matt. 25:46; Mk. 10:30; Lk. 18:30; Rom. 6:22; Gal. 6:8-9).
There are two reasons for this. One, John thoroughly associates eternal life with Jesus (1 Jn. 1-2). As a result, he says we have eternal life as long as Jesus is in us. Since eternal life is in Jesus, if Jesus is in us, then we have eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11-12).
My conclusion from the difference between Paul's use of "eternal life" and John's use of "eternal life" is that in this age, eternal life is only in the Son, and we have eternal life only as long as Jesus lives in us. At the judgment, however, when we have lived a live that proves us worthy of eternal life (Rev. 3:4-5), he will make us innately immortal (Rom. 2:6-7; 1 Cor. 15:53-54; 2 Tim. 1:10). When that happens, there will be a revelation of the children of God (Rom. 8:19-24), we will become the brothers and sisters of the Firstborn (Rom. 8:29), and the whole creation will rejoice (Rom. 8:19-24 again).
The second thing that explains the different wording used by John and Paul is the fact John's writings are thoroughly embedded in "now." If someone leaves the church, and thus the faith, then it is not that the were once part of us, then left; instead, John says that they were never of us (1 John 2:19).
John loves to divide things into two categories, especially in his letters. You are a keeper of God's commands, or you are not (1 Jn. 2:3-4). You are a child of God or a child of the devil, and the difference is obvious (3:10). You love and live, or you don't love and are dead (3:14). You confess Jesus comes in the flesh and you are of God, or you do not and you are not of God (4:2-3).
To further express this "in or out" thinking, John makes ample use of the Greek present and imperfect tenses, which indicate progressive or ongoing action. Thus, in John 3:16, promises are made to those who "are believing," not to those who once believed as is commonly thought. By the same Greek grammar, those born of God "are not sinning" rather than "don't sin" (1 Jn. 3:9). That verse would contradict what he wrote in 1:7-2:2 if it didn't give the indication of "they don't make a practice of sinning."
These things have to be taken into account when we are quoting John lest we make him to contradict rather than complete the other apostolic writings.
As a final example, John 6:47 does not say that the one who believed at one time or another has eternal life, but it teaches that the one who is currently believing (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God as described in Psalm 2) is currently in possession of eternal life.
Romans 3:28, 11:16, and passages like Galatians 3:6-7 make it clear that salvation is by faith. Romans 3:28 say that it is apart from works, and so does Ephesians 2:8-9. Doesn't that refute the idea that we receive salvation by works?
I don't teach that we receive salvation by works. Salvation is a big word, and it can refer to being born again or it can refer to entering the Kingdom of God at the end of our life. The way to tell the difference is by looking at the verb tense. If the verb is in the past tense, then it is talking about the time when we were born again and delivered from slavery to sin. Ephesians 2:1-10 is an excellent example of this. If, on the other hand, it refers to the future, then it is talking about the judgment and our salvation from the wrath of God. Romans 5:9-10 is an excellent example of this, though those two verses refer both to the past and to the future.
What you will consistently find is that we were saved (past tense) by faith apart from works, but we shall be saved at the judgment from the wrath of God by our works. All of the passages that talk about faith apart from works are in the past tense. All of the passages about the judgment and about entering the Kingdom of God talk about works and typically do not mention faith.
This is why James 2:24 says we are justified by works and not faith only. That verse mentions both faith and works because it is talking about the whole course of our salvation, both being justified in the past by faith and being justified in the future at the judgment by the works we have done.
I should add at least one passage to what I have said to help you be open to the idea that we might be justified by works in the future at the judgment. First let me say that "justified by works," which seems like heresy to the average evangelical, is actually a quote out of the Bible from the Epistle of James (2:24). Next, the passage I want to bring up is Revelation 3:4-5 where Jesus said that only those who kept their garments undefiled would walk with him in white "because they are worthy."
Of course, warning passage like 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21, and Ephesians 3:3-8 also indicate very clearly that at the judgment we will be justified by works (by not having done the things in those lists). I appeal to these verses because evangelicals seem not to have figured out that every verse in the New Testament on judgment says that we--yes, even Christians--will be judged by our works (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:10, 1 Pet. 1:17).
Luke ends his Gospel by saying that "repentance and remission of sins" should be preached in Jesus' name. Does this verse not say that the atonement should be preached by the apostles?
If Luke 24:47 means that the apostles should go preach to the lost that Jesus died for their sins, then they failed miserably at their task. As I have pointed out, the apostles never told a lost person that Jesus died for their sins even though they emphasize Jesus' death for sins in their letters. Luke 24:47 should be read with the previous verse, which confirms that the apostles were to testify of the resurrection. They preached the Gospel that the resurrection proves Jesus is the Son of God. As the Son of God, he has authority to forgive sins. The apostles do preach the forgiveness of sins in the book of Acts, but they tie it to his role as Judge of all the earth (e.g., Acts 10:42-43).
Paul included Jesus' death for sins in his summation of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Doesn't this shoot down your claim that the Gospel is just that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?
In a sense, yes it does. In another sense, it does not. The condensed teaching of "Rebuilding the Foundations" does not have time to go into the fact that "Gospel" can be used in different ways. For example, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are all "Gospels." They all include a lot more material than Jesus's resurrection and his death on the cross. In that sense, the Gospel, which often refers to the entire faith the apostles taught, does include the Atonement. On the other hand, I was referring to a basic, relatively short presentation of the Gospel that is given to the lost in order to convert them. According to the examples given to us in the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles did not include the Atonement when they preached the Gospel to the lost.
We are not supposed to add to faith. Your teaching adds to faith.
We are supposed to add to faith. It is commanded (2 Pet. 1:5). You can't enter the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ without adding to your faith (2 Pet. 1:5-11).