Can we ever know doctrine for certain?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-20)

I've often written about this passage, showing the process of recognition via the example Jesus gave. In other words, emphasizing the fruit. In this essay I want to focus on one simple thing.

The word will.

In today's mushy, emergent, false humility-filled, intolerant of certainty world, people say you cannot know doctrine for certain, and to attempt to do so is arrogance. It's popular to say that "Truth for me means...but I can't be sure...I'm open to other interpretations..."

It is extremely unpopular to be dogmatic today. Yet if we cannot know good doctrine with any certainty, then that means we can't know bad doctrine for certain, either. What they are basically saying is that it is never possible to know if a doctrine is false. This is very convenient for the false teachers out there because this would mean that they can never be identified.

But this is not what the bible says.

The verses above tell us that false prophets will come. False prophets (false teachers) bring false teachings. We know that. The word in the verse for false prophet is "pseudoprophētōn" and you notice the 'pseudo' right away. The definition of the word is "a false prophet; one who in God's name teaches what is false."

So watch out, they will come.

But have no fear, because ... and here is the good news ... you WILL recognize them. The verse states that plainly. It then sums up with its re-statement that you will recognize them. Jesus is assuring us that we will recognize the ones who come bringing false teachings and if they bring a false teaching then they are false themselves.

It doesn't say, "You may recognize them." It doesn't say "Sometimes, in the right light, you could recognize them." It doesn't say "On a good day, it's possible to recognize them." It says, "You will recognize them."

How do we recognize them? By their fruits- their teachings.

No wonder the emergent crowd so longs to bring disrepute to the certainty of understanding what is false and who is false! If all doctrine is potentially valid, then the ones bringing them are also valid, and should be listened to. This gives satan a toehold in your mind to widen that crack of doubt, plant false seeds, and confuse you. When Satan asked Eve, "Hath God said?" in Genesis 3:1, instead of being dogmatic and responding, "Yes, God hath said..." she answered with a confused doctrine that she had added to. Satan ran with that and persuaded her to bite the fruit. The rest is our sad history.

By saying we will recognize them, I don't think it means that every believer will recognize every false teacher instantly at all times. We are a body. That means we are organic and mutually working together for the glory of God within the scope of each of our gifts the Spirit dispensed.

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ." (1 Corinthians 12:12)

Some were given discerning of spirits, others the gift of helps. Where those with discernment cry out that a wolf has infiltrated, others busy helping perk up and take heed. Where those with the gift of helps can earlier identify one who needs support, those who are watching for wolves may be slower to spot the need. We work together for His good and glory through the dispensing of the gifts.

Being dogmatic can be good and it can be bad. By dogmatic, I mean having studied, prayed, and come to a certain knowledge of a certain doctrine. We can never be casually dogmatic, or unintelligently dogmatic. Ever. But a person can be certain of right doctrine and can know when a doctrine is false for sure, too.

I'll use the doctrine of hell. I mentioned in an earlier post that very early on in my walk I studied all the different interpretations of hell. Some people who teach from the bible, say that we go to hell for a period of time and after a length of punishment, are annihilated, never to exist again and released from their torment. Others who teach from the bible say that unbelievers go to hell and remain there forever enduring the wrath of God. Both use the bible but both cannot be right. One of these stances is contrary to the other.

The bible does not offer confusion nor does it contradict itself. In this way, I know that one of those doctrinal stances is wrong. I prayed for wisdom and studied further and it was a short while after that where I understood that hell is eternal conscious punishment. (Revelation 14:11). Therefore I no longer need to entertain the thought that annihilation is a possibility. I don't need to be "open." I know it to be false, because eternal punishment is true. I'm closed on the topic. The bible is black and white like that.

However being dogmatic about your uncertainty is dishonoring to Jesus, because you have entertained a false doctrine and haven't sought to reconcile them via the Spirit, prayer, and study. Mrs Rachel Held Evans wrote of her 'evolution' away from the traditional doctrines of the bible in her book, "Evolving in Monkey Town." The book describes that she learned "in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve." Her evolution was unfortunately away from the traditional biblical doctrines of young earth, eternal hell, and so on. Mrs Evans said to me today that "My point is that Christians disagree on the clarity of the issues you bring up. I think Fudge makes a good case..." She was referring to a well-known theologian Dr. Edward Fudge who teaches an annihilation view on hell.

Of course they make a good case. If they made a bad case we wouldn't have any discord, but be of one mind and on the same page. Additionally, just the fact that disagreement exists does not mean that all viewpoints are valid nor are they true. It also doesn't mean we stop seeking clarity, thinking, well, if so many disagree, then there must not be one truth about this." No, never let it be so!

When teachers use the bible to make a good case but that case is at odds with another good case, stop, study, and pray. It is up to us to recognize that pre-tribulation rapture, mid-tribulation rapture and post-tribulation rapture cannot ALL be true. Traditional view of the Trinity and Modalism both cannot be true. If one refutes the other, it is up to us to seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit. He will guide me into truth. That I don't seek clarity isn't even under contention, though some fail at that first step. Once the Spirit delivers the answer, I am grateful and can then ponder the doctrine, think of all the verses that go with it, and better get to know Who my Savior is.

If you allow yourself to exist in a perpetual state of doctrinal confusion, then you will always be confused about who Christ is.

John 8:44 says that satan is the author of lies. As God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) then satan IS the author of confusion and discord. Just because there are lies does not mean we cannot know the truth. Being careful to handle the word rightly, (2 Timothy 2:15) asking for wisdom (James 1:5) and discernment, and through the Holy Spirit, we can have comfort in knowing His truth.

You will recognize them. You will.

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy." (James 3:17 NASB).


  1. A link on the right hand side promotes an ecumenical bias. Average Us
    Why We Call Jesus Our Redeemer Lon writes about why it would be better to be a catholic in some ways.

  2. I know. I read his essay and commented on it. He commented back.

    He referred me to his posts on "Protestant disunity", where he used the word catholic in its original sense.
    Can We All Be Catholic (Universal) Again

    Catholic means universal, explained here

    thanks for the alert!

  3. Elizabeth Prata, this blog runs the risk of accidentally teaching a man. I, as a man, have the authority to invoke 1 Timothy 2:11-15 upon you. To disobey this scripture is to disobey God. You have been warned.

    1. Paul Bates,

      EEK! This is the girls' room! Quick get out or I'm calling the hall monitor!

    2. While I share your enthusiasm in desiring to be as biblical as possible, I am not sure that what Elizabeth is seeking to do is usurp authority.
      KJV say's
      1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

      12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

      13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

      14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

      15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

      In general part of the woman's fallen nature was to usurp the authority of her husband. That is made clear at the time of the fall.

      I have been reading this blog for quite a while and have not gotten the idea that Elizabeth seeks to "be the pastor".
      The Lord has used many Godly women to carry out His plan, and speak up, (and it usually happened when a man, accidentally, or other wise shrunk away from what the Lord called him to do.)
      Besides, is it not the Word of God that brings understanding as the Holy Spirit works?
      Would you Paul Bates, get in the way of what the Spirit of God would have Elizabeth say?

  4. Absolutely we will recognize them, IF we know the scripture. If we do not read, and study to show ourselves approved of God - a workman that need not be ashamed, then we will not know the truth from the lie.

    Sadly, this is the state of many in the body.

  5. Paul Bates,
    This is a blog on the Internet, not a church.

    You run the risk of learning something.

    You have been warned.

  6. Thanks everyone for responding to "Paul Bates." However, his comment was sarcastic and mocking, illustrated by the fact that the link he took time creating for his name only goes back to the verse he was using to satisfy his own sarcastic agenda and isn't in fact his name. Paul Bates is a a black actor who wears a lot of bling and is known for roles in 8 Mile and True Romance. Maybe the commenter's name is really Paul Bates, but I doubt it.

    I published it because he brings out a good point. Sometimes people charge women who run blogs with teaching, but as you have capably demonstrated, women were allowed to teach in certain situations, notably other women and children, and in other environments, just not to have a leadership role in the church. Priscilla hosted a bible study in her home, with her husband. It is one reason of many reasons I sign my name, so people will know who it is saying these things, the person and the gender.

  7. I think it often has to do with the fact the the woman will often have a better understanding of the Bible than the complainer has!

  8. Hi Elizabeth,

    Yes we can know doctrine for certain, but a good many blood bought believers go home to the Lord with some doctrinal error. A post- or a-millennialist who passes to the Lord with that belief, one who subscribes to covenant theology, baby baptism, slain in the spirit, theistic evolution, etc... all of them, truly saved, did not have perfect doctrine in this life. Nonetheless, we should seek to be as 2 Tim 2:15 as we can. My husband and I do our best to rightly divide the word as Bereans. We are supposed to mature and not be tossed by every wind of doctrine.

    It's not arrogant to be dogmatic about the truth. The trouble is, there are some sincere believers who have doctrinal error who sometimes can get dogmatic about their error, and believe they are in the right. The key is humility, for the Spirit WILL teach us and lead us to ALL truth, if we are humble. And we all grow at different rates, we need to bear with one another at times. 2 Timothy 2:24-25.

    A true believer though WILL, as you said, because you quoted the Lord who said it in the first place, know the false teachers by their fruit. I have found the book of 1 John to be extremely helpful in vetting out true from false believers.

    I am utterly unfamiliar with Rachel Evans, but if she has rejected 6 day young earth creation and literal hell, etc, as you report, she has certainly leapt off a cliff, and many will follow her error, unfortunately. May the Lord give us hearts to heed Jude 1:22-23, to any true believers who may be wandering.

    The pickle, though - is many big name MEN teachers are purveyors of these same errors that Evans teaches.

    Nonetheless, the sheep KNOW the Shepherd, and another they will not follow.

    -carolyn (who also signs my name so people know who is saying these things, including gender) :)

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      Thank you for the good word, you are absolutely right. Good warnings there.

      It is possible to know doctrine clearly but that doesn't mean perfectly. Nor does it mean consistently over the life of the believer. We are only human and we do see thru a glass darkly, though we have the Spirit as the Light. But over time, the fruit they will bear will be good, as the proof that they are with Him and not against Him.

      That's why it pays to be patient, prayerful, and careful in our own walk as well as wondering about the words of others.

      A case in point are two which trouble me greatly. John Piper is a well-known theologian, but of late has evidenced some less that solid words, thrown in with some less than solid friends, and done some less than solid things. But he's preached solidly for 50 years. Quandary: Is he momentarily drifting, and can be brought back, or is this evidence of a deeper problem that has been there all along? Billy Graham preached for years without people knowing he held heretical beliefs. Apostasy can evidence quickly or slowly,it just depends.

      Another issue is John Stott. A long-lived, solid preacher who in his later years suddenly drifted into less than traditional views, tentatively espousing annihilation of the soul instead of conscious eternal torment, and ordination of women- but not for leadership positions.

      What to do? Dispense with Stott's 50 years of solid work, including preaching, commentaries and books? Or wonder about his sudden drift and with discernment still read his works? What was really happening there?

      His change of heart sparked a heated controversy, which forced a debate and many to solidify their views. This could have been the reason he went west instead of east, the Lord was forcing a work. Or maybe the simple truth is that he had a spiritual-heart condition for a while at the end which clouded his views. Who knows for sure? I don't. If I were to guess I'd surmise Piper is apostate and Stott just momentarily drifted. Time will tell.

      It is easy to discern a MacArthur because his work is public and never has he drifted. It is easy to tell an Evans, because she has never been solid and promotes many heretical things through twisted scripture. It is hard to know what goes on with the ones like Piper and Stott- but one thing is sure, wolves come and they are hard to detect because they wear sheep's clothing.

      Whether they consistently adhere to solid doctrine over time is one of the signs they are a sheep and not a wolf.

    2. A+ you and I in the Lord are eye to eye here sister! My husband and I have the same concerns about the same (Piper, Stott, Graham) - and other - preachers. When it comes to these big name preachers and teachers, our policy is this: when we see the big red flags, we step away from them and watch from a safe (safe) distance. We cease recommending them to anyone or quoting them, and we refrain from using their resources. We steer clear and we wait, and watch some more. We do this because we don't know them personally and can't hold them accountable face to face, unlike a pastor of a local church.

      At the local church level, if we hear things that are off the mark, my husband speaks up. As painful and difficult as it is, we will (and have) leave a church that goes astray.

      But with the big name teachers, frankly these days we read and listen to very few. It's not worth it to try to sift through the confusion, or to have to reference these unsound men with continual disclaimers, when there are, as you said, those like MacA, who have public work spanning for decades, and no drifting whatsoever. It's way easier... and safer.

      We are dumb sheep. Safe is good.


    3. Oh yes, and 1 Tim 5:24
      The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.


    4. Praise the Lord for you, a discerning sister and her husband who are of like mind in Christ with me! We're not alone, phew, it's good to know, isn't it!

      I do the same as you, stop recommending, watch carefully and with the number of solid men still around, I turn away from the questionable ones and listen to the solid ones. I use u all my discernment as it is, without having to be on DefCon 5 all the time in the pew. DefCon 2 is fine.

      If people ask, I recommend MacArthur, Don Green, Phil Johnson, Steve Lawson, Mike Riccardi, Nathan Busenitz, Mike Abendroth...there are still good men out there. I am writing a blog right now about that very thing. Though we are seemingly surrounded by wolves who are shedding their sheep's clothing daily, the Lord still raises up good men to preach His word.

      I've spoken up in church too (privately) and I too have left a drifting church. It hurts, but then again, Paul knows a LOT about churches that hurt, and of course Jesus does too. His own neighbors He had grown up with in Galilee wanted to kill Him! And like you, I don't complain, just glorify Him for the work he does, which is always good, and seek to worship Him in spirit and in truth where He leads me to go. :)

  9. Elizabeth, no we are not alone, the Lord always has 7000 who don't bow their knee to baal. And occasionally we can find each other in local assemblies or online. But when we go into an unfamiliar church, we go in on, like you called it (LOL!) def-con5. If we can tell a place is sound, we will drop to 2 or 3.

    Though admittedly at times I have complained, mostly along the "why do the wicked prosper" lines, as in why those churches still go on, while the sheep are driven out or left bleeding in the streets. But I know in God's time He gives them due recompense, and always tends the wounded sheep.

    I definitely praise Christ for His discernment, that He has graciously given us. He's saved us from many pits. We've learned much from these challenges.


  10. Hiyah, Elizabeth! I haven't been online much since graduating but I've put up the most recent 4 pages of your blog on my browser for offline reading. Dunno if you've checked out my blog any recently, but I've done my best to keep it continually updated and I've got a few posts you might find interesting. I know I tend to ramble a lot xD But I've written a few poems that I was very pleased with, and you might like 'em. :) You can use anything you want that you find on my blog, though I can hardly guess what might inspire you/r creativity, of what I've written.

    Keep on keeping on! I'll be around occasionally :)

  11. Congratulatons on graduating! Thanks for stopping by!! I'll check it out later, my very best to you , so happy you've graduated.

  12. Hi Elizabeth , I read your blog everyday and. have been very encouraged and have learned alot. Thank you for all your hard work.
    What I don't understand is how you can approve MacArthur's teachings as he is a Calvinist. To me, this is as false as all the other names listed. Thanks for letting me air my views. Laura

    1. Laura, what specifically do you see as false? Let's compare scripture.

  13. The belief of Calvinism. Please read the July 9th posting on "Notes from a Retired Preacher" blog. Thanks, Laura

    1. Do you believe the bible does NOT teach predestination and that MacArthur is therefore preaching unbiblical things?

  14. I believe Calvinism is unbiblical. Individuals make free will decisions whether or not to accept God's gift of salvation. God's choosing of the elect before the foundation of the world was based on His foreknowledge of their decision to accept His gift of salvation.
    Calvinistic doctrine maintains that God in His foreknowledge did not see any condition in the future lives of those He elected that caused Hi to choose them instead of others. Unconditional election asserts that there was no measuring stick, no standard or test applied by God to determine who would be His elect and who would not. If that is true, then the unelect are unconditionally predestinated by God to damnation. This is completely contrary to Scripture: II Peter3:9, I Tim 2:4-6, Ezek 33:11, Isa 45:22 to mention a few verses.

    1. "Unconditional election asserts that there was no measuring stick, no standard or test applied by God to determine who would be His elect and who would not"


      Predestination is the biblical doctrine that God in His sovereignty chooses certain individuals to be saved. He does this without influence (AKA 'looking down the hallway of history to see who would pick Him and THEN choosing to save them) because that would mean man is in charge and not God.

      God, in His sovereignty, without influence, decided to choose some to salvation. Matthew 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20, 27; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:33, 9:11, 11:5-7, 28; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2:9; 2 Peter 1:10.

      That He decided to do so is grace, for we all deserve hell, and that is where every single individual on earth would end up, if God had not saved them.

      At the same time, human beings are called to make a genuine decision to place faith in Christ unto salvation- something the LORD makes possible by drawing them to Jesus by the Spirit.

      Calvin wrote his five points of grace to answer Arminius. Arminius said:

      1. man is only Partially Depraved – humanity is tainted by sin, but not to the extent that we cannot chose to come to God on our own

      2. Conditional Election – God chose who would be saved based on knowing beforehand who would believe. God chooses those who He knows will believe.

      3. Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died for everyone, even those who are not chosen and will not believe. Jesus’ death was for all of humanity, and anyone can be saved by belief in Him.

      4. Resistible Grace – God’s call to be saved can be resisted and/or rejected. We can resist God’s pull toward salvation if we choose to.

      5. Conditional Salvation – Christians can lose their salvation if they continue in a life of sin and/or fall away from God. The maintenance of salvation is required for a Christian to retain it.

      Read more:

      Calvin wrote in response to Arminius,

      Total Depravity - As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dead in trespasses and sins. Man is unable to save himself (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18).

      Unconditional Election - Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate a response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response (Romans 8:29-30;9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12) because man is unable to respond, nor does he want to.

      Limited Atonement - Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Christ should die for the elect alone. All whom God has elected and for whom Christ died will be saved (Matthew 1:21; John 10:11; 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; Ephesians 5:25).

      Irresistible Grace - Those whom God elected He draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds (John 6:37, 44; 10:16).

      Perseverance of the Saints - The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-14).

      Read more:

      The Doctrines of Grace, which Calvin wrote to answer Arminius, are biblical, and so is John MacArthur's teaching. Left to ourselves, man would never choose God, never seek Him, and would always reject. We can praise God that He loves us and sent His Son to make it possible to become justified and sanctified and then glorified. He is a Good God.

  15. 2 Peter 2:1
    But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

    The word bought here is the same word as in 1 Cor 6:20, which refers to believers. Christ did not just die for the elect. He died for all men, including these false teachers. They rejected Him. This verse in 2 Peter is plain and simple to understand.

    Of course all men must be drawn, or else no one would seek God, we are not in disagreement on that.

    Calvin rehashed Augustine, and both carried many errors into the faith, that persist to this day.

    We should not be calling ourselves Calvinists nor Arminians anyhow, neither man died for ours sins. We are CHRISTians. 1 Cor 1:12-13

    That notwithstanding, I still appreciate many of MacArthurs teaching - he is excellent on creation, end times, and practical day to day church issues. I have greatly benefitted from many of his sermons, and consider him a faithful brother in the Lord.

    I will fellowship with any brother and sister in the Lord, as long as the discussions do not get cantankerous, as I have seen this topic degrade into some rather unfitting verbal battles, with insults being hurled from both sides. I have not seen your site degrade as such, which is why I will visit.

    Grace and peace to you

  16. I recommend to those who cannot understand and accept God's sovreignty in election and predestination to read Arthur Pink's "The Sovreignty of God". He, according to Scriptures, presents the truth of Scripture.
    If Grace is grace, then it is God who does the choosing. If none seek God, then He is the one who acts on man, otherwise, none would choose Him.
    And of course, we have the "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated". I'd say God did the choosing since neither was worthy and deserved judgment and condemnation. And God chose Jacob before Jacob was even born so Jacob didn't get to choose.
    Anyway, there are many proofs when comparing Scripture with Scripture. The whole Book of John will attest to this as well.
    Just my humble opinion.

    1. Neither Jacob nor Esau was chosen for salvation. Jacob/Israel was chosen for service.

      There are plenty of solid biblical teachers who do not follow the teachings of Augustine, and they are not incorrect.

    2. Every person who is saved is saved by grace of Jesus in His sovereign choosing.

      In the case of the Malachi 1:3 & and Romans 9:10 passages which reference Esau, it is to the nation “Esau” more formally known as to the Edomites. It is God choosing one man to bring descendants out of who will be His chosen nation and the other man born of flesh & founding a nation that was not chosen to bring salvation. Romans 9 goes on to say that by no means is it an injustice to choose one over another. He has mercy upon who he has mercy and compassion upon who He has compassion- and hardening those whom he will harden. (Rom 9:14-18)

      In this same vein one could look at Galatians 4 also. (Hagar and Sarah)

    3. But the issue is still that Jacob was chosen for service - he was NOT chosen for salvation. John 3:16 says that God loved the WORLD (not just the "elect") and for that reason sent Christ.

      The Bible makes it clear in no uncertain terms that we have a choice to accept or reject the salvation provided for us. The payment was made for everyone in the world, but it is only efficacious for those who accept it. Sort of like a ship with a life preserver available for everyone on board, and when it sinks only those who grabbed their life preserver survive.

      While some of my favorite authors/pastors are Calvinists, I can listen to them because I can filter out the unbiblical TULIPs. Unfortunately, most people can't do so.

      I just wanted to make a point that non-Calvinists are just as much saved as those who are Calvinists (Augustinians, actually). I prefer to not debate the issue because I've not found a Calvinist yet who has changed his mind.

    4. Calvinism is not unbliblical, it is based on many scriptures, correctly exegeted.

      As for your analogy of the life is good as far as it goes. However, the people in the water bobbing around them cannot reach for anything. They are already dead.

    5. Matthew 22:14 "For many are invited, but few are chosen."

    6. Glenn, I have never heard that. Are you saying that Jacob was not one of God's chosen people? What does chosen for service mean??
      As far as what world means in John3:16, if taken in context it means those outside of the Jews, which were the people of God. There was no provision for Gentiles. They had to become proselytes of Judaism. Jesus was explaining to the Jews that a provision was being made for others besides them. The context is proven by the scriptures before 3:16 in the passage and the scriptures after.
      Jesus, himself, said that He had come only for the lost sheep of Israel. But the day was coming when salvation would be open to people of all nations. Not everyone but to some. Jesus also said not to love the world. Is that the same world that God sooo loved? See, in that passage, 3:16, it means that in the same way that God provided a way for the Jewish people to be saved, that a way was being made for Gentiles as well. Understand what the serpent being lifted up in the desert meant...
      It also says right after 3:16 that the world stands condemned.
      So which is it, loved or condemned?
      Context and history and who the books are directed too help you understand what is being said.
      I hope this helps. Go over to and click on Q&A and read what Pastor Jim McClarty has to say. It is eye-opening. So are his other articles.
      Humbly submitted.

  17. A few quick additional thoughts:

    Romans 9-11 is a unit, regarding national Israel, past, present, and future, not individual salvation.

    Eph 2:8-9, the "that" (NAS) or "this" (ESV) refers to salvation, not faith, which is evident by the greek noun genders.

    As I said before, 2 Peter 2:1 clearly and plainly says Christ bought the false teachers, though they deny Him. He indeed paid the price for their sins, but they did not repent and believe.


    1. Carolyn if you believe 2 Peter 2:1 affirms universal atonement then that is at variance with many other scriptures. The verse in 2 Peter isn't even talking about believers. The Master didn't pay the price for damnable heretics.
      The verse is explained here
      and here

      Jesus laid down His life for the sheep (not the goats) John 10:11, John 10:15, and He bore the sins of many, not all. (Isaiah 53:12)

      Th upshot is that the mind of Christ is satisfied with the issue, there being no discord in His eyes between predestination and atonement of whatever stripe, and therefore I am too.

    2. Hi Elizabeth, thank you for responding. Yes I already have read GTY's sermons on this verse. However, the Scripture is plain to me, as I have said above. I am satisfied with the plain reading of the text, which accords with many other scriptures. So you know, I am not a universalist. The way to life is narrow and there are few that find it. Matthew 7:14

      However, as this is your site, I intend to refrain from further comment on this topic, unless you ask. I will not likely visit this particular link again.

      I do thank you for keeping this discussion conducted in an honorable manner.

      Grace and peace to you in Christ

    3. Thanks Carolyn. We are saved by His grace, and grateful for it.

      "he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will," Ephesians 1:5

    4. Carolyn, 2Peter2:1 is talking about the Jews being brought out of Egypt Deu32:6. It's historic fact that Israel always denied the Master that bought them. This is not about salvation.
      And Eph.2:8-9, faith is the gift and so is the grace that saved you. If you go to Eph.1:4, it should be clear that you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. If that be so, then you didn't have a chance to exert your faith. Your feet hadn't even hit the planet yet.
      It is all by Him and to Him and for Him!!
      To God be the glory and He gets it all because He did it all and we can be so thankful.
      Hope this helps.
      It took me a while to grasp some of these things but what peace it brings to know that God doesn't make mistakes and it was not based on any decision or choice you made so it REALLY sticks.


  18. Elizabeth,
    Thanks for this thought provoking post first of all.
    I think that a quick review of Church history will reveal that over the past 2000 or so years Christians have had interpreted scripture in a variety of different ways in regards to many important issues. Why do you think this is? Would you consider the possibility that the scriptures contain at least some ambiguity on these issues? If this is not the case then do you have a better explanation?
    Thank you in advance for your thoughtful and gracious response.

    1. Ryne,

      You’re welcome. Yes, over the last 2000 years people have interpreted scripture in a variety of ways in regards to many important issues. Why do I think this is?

      --False teachers and false prophets. People were taught wrongly. “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit. Jeremiah 2:8.

      Titus 1:11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

      --Sin and unrepentance. People follow after their lusts.
      “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John 3:19.

      "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions," (2 Tim 4:3)

      Jude 1:18 "They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires."

      --They did not obey His will: (this one is conditional, if-then)

      "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." John 7:17.

      “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

      --They did not pay attention and keep to it:

      2 Timothy 1:13 "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus,"

      "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." Heb 2:1

      The LORD teaches us by His Spirit-

      Psalm 25:9 "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way."

      People CAN know the foundational principles of the faith.

      2 Timothy 2:15 says
      “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

      If we show ourselves to God, rightly dividing the truth then it stands to reason that it can be done. Not only it can, but He enables us by His Spirit to do so.

      Further, not only can you know doctrine, for sure, you are held accountable for not doing so!

      There are some things we can’t know. Who can figure out the Trinity? No one. But the foundational doctrines, we can know.

      Just because SOME people misinterpret scripture does not mean that NO ONE can know it. We can. I hope you are in the group that seeks wisdom from above and that you know what you know.

    2. Hello Ryne,

      Thanks your your long answer. You had asked a question, and I answered, using scripture. Your reply, while polite, did not address them and used no scripture yourself- and simply asked more questions. This, then, becomes a conversation of man's myths and not God's truth.

      Paul wrote to Timothy, (1 Timothy 1:3-6)
      "As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion..."

      Doctrine is doctrine, illuminated by the Spirit. His absolutes can absolutely be known. I've fulfilled my stewardship of His truth and shared it with you. Any further discussion would be endless genealogies, promoting speculations, and vain discussion.

      "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5.

      The Holy Spirit guides us into truth. He promised to, He does and He has. Either you believe that, or you don't.

      I'll pray that the scriptures I shared with you above, and the verses in my many replies and the verses in the piece to begin with will illuminate you. As for the conversation, I am going to close with

    3. Elizabeth, you are exactly right!!!!!!!!!!!

      Your sister, in Christ,

    4. Thanks I forgot to delete the last paragraph, lol. it should have ended with "either you do or you don't' :)

  19. Pam,
    This will be my last comment on this topic, as it is not edifying or fruitful.

    Jacob was chosen over Esau for God’s service; it was Israel which became God’s chosen people through whom the Messiah would come. The passage has nothing to do with God choosing people for salvation.

    John 3:16 IN CONTEXT is about all the people in the world. Period. Jesus was indeed provision for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews.

    I don’t have to go to any site to learn anything about Calvinism. I have studied it for years from both sides of the fence. One of my favorite teachers is John MacArthur.

    The God I worship is the God of the Bible who gives all men the opportunity to either follow Him or reject him. Period.

  20. Elizabeth, do you consider those who disagree with you on calvinisms definition of predestination and election brothers and sisters in Christ? I do not see it as a salvwtion issue myself. If someone has confessed their sins and believes Jesus is the son og God, died on a cross for our sins and risen again to life on the 3rd day, and will come again, I consider them a brother.


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