Friday 27 February 2015


Salvation can be seen as a beautiful garden patch God gave to us without us having to work for it. What should we do with this undeserved gift? What does it mean to work out our salvation?

Let’s consider the analogy of a little garden plot with a myriad of flowers adorning it. This garden can be likened to God’s gift of salvation to us. Of course, we should spend time admiring it and give glory to God for its beauty. But we simply cannot stop there—by being passive about it. We have to tend, cultivate and maintain that little garden patch. We need to water it, add fertiliser, protect it from pests, remove from it dead flowers from time to time and so on.  Otherwise, with time, the flowers will wilt and what remains is just faded glory.

Why keep on harping on the fact we are saved by FAITH? That every believer should know. No right thinking believer disputes the fact that we are saved by faith. What is crucial is that which follows conversion. What do we do next? Genuine faith has to be evidenced by WORKS: "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26). Paul echoes this need for personal responsibility—to work out our faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

A world of difference exists between ‘work for’ and ‘work out’. Author J. Oswald Sanders draws an analogy between salvation and an estate. We do not have to feverishly work for an estate. We have already been given an estate. But we have to work it out—develop the estate’s hidden resources.

If we believe that we do not have to work out our faith, then we will have to cut away the following verses from our Bible:

  • Work out your faith with fear and trembling: Philippians 2:12-13

  • Keep striving: Philippians 3:12-14

  • Run the race with discipline so we won’t be disqualified: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

  • Bear fruits that befit repentance and don’t rest on your spiritual laurels: Luke 3:8

  • Narrow and hard is the way to life: Matthew 7: 13-14

  • Holiness requires effort; confirm your election: 2 Peter 1: 5-8, 10

Going back to the above analogy of a God-given garden patch, how do we tend and maintain it?

The apostle Paul enjoins believers to live purposefully—enlightened by an understanding of God’s will—because the days are evil. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).

While some of us may have high-profile gifts, others assume a quieter role in the background (Ephesians 4:11-13, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7). For example, if we are not called to be pastors or teachers of the Word, we can exercise our gifts in other areas such as hospitality (1 Peter 4:9-11).

Believers have a limited, finite period to discharge the God-ordained task He has placed in our hands. We must emulate the sense of urgency in Jesus’ life and mission. “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4).

Being faithful also means that we are willing to be good stewards of the time, talents and resources God has endowed us with (Parable of the Talents). The servants who received five and two talents were equally commended for being faithful. The productivity facts and figures aren’t exactly what God is looking for; it’s our faithfulness in managing the talents that counts. Woe betides any believer who buries his talent. Such a believer is epitomised by the one-talent servant who was condemned as wicked and slothful and cast into the outer darkness (Matthew 25:14-30).

So let's work out our faithbe faithful stewards and servants—and we will one day reap an everlasting reward (1 Corinthians 15:58).


Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park. They say everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you at the cross. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism.

It’s great to experience God’s unmerited favour. But we must not stop there. There are other ways to gain His favour.

Many believers focus on the privileges of being a Christian and forget that there are conditions attached to the blessings. In short, blessings come with responsibilities.

Though we are saved by faith, we must not forget the fact we are destined for good works. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.”

Monday 23 February 2015


Can faith be seen in isolation from works in the life of a believer?

“We just need to have faith in His grace and mercy.” Perhaps we are so used to hearing preachers say, “It’s all by God’s grace,” that we come to believe that faith alone is all that is necessary in the Christian life.

To have faith in God’s grace is definitely true. But the story does not end there. If it ends there, it would be tantamount to believing in a half-truth.
  • Though it is clear that we are saved not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), we must not forget the following verse—that we have been set apart for good works (Ephesians 2:10).
  • Though we are saved not by works (Titus 3:5), we are to devote ourselves to good works (Titus 3:8).
  • Finally, James shows that faith without works is dead—hammering the last nail into the coffin and despatching the half-truth that it is all by faith.
Though Abraham is justified by faith, we need to remember that his faith was completed or perfected by works when he obeyed God by sacrificing his son, Isaac (James 2: 14-26).

Does James contradict Paul? No.

Paul himself spells out—both in Ephesians 2:10 and Titus 3:8—the necessity of good works as evidence of a saving faith.

What can be clearer than Paul’s injunction in Acts 26:20: “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.”

If we think that the tenets of our faith only require mental assent from us, then we have been seriously mistaken. Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Matthew 3:8).

Salvation is at once the easiest and most difficult thing.

It is easy because we attain it through faith, not by our good works. However, it is also the most difficultbecause the state of being saved carries with it serious implications for the believer.

  • “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23).

  • “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate the necessity of good works as evidence of a saving faith

In the practical outworking of the believer’s life, faith certainly comes in a package together with works. It’s a faith-works package.


Some say that believers only need to change their mind (ie. correct their past erroneous thinking) when they repent. Is this true?

Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park. They say everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you at the cross. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism.


Are we saved by faith alone, or do we need works, too?

In the Christian life faith and works go together like inhaling and exhaling.
Billy Graham stated it in these terms: "Faith is taking the Gospel in; works is taking the Gospel out."


Compare Ephesians 2:8-9 with Ephesians 2:10

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9).

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)

Compare Titus 3:5 with Titus 3:8

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
(Titus 3:5)

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
(Titus 3:8)

Faith without works is dead

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
(James 2:14-26).

Sunday 15 February 2015


Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?

The apostle Paul teaches that some believers will make it to heaven by the skin of their teeth with the smell of smoke on their clothes and their hair singed. They will barely scrape through the “final examination” before attaining eternal bliss, just like a student who gets 51 marks out of 100. 

Loss of rewards but still saved
“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3: 12-15).

Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. Loss of rewards may happen because their works are tainted with wrong motive or pride. For example, those who flaunt their charitable deeds or love praying publicly to show off will not be rewarded in future (Matthew 6:1-6).

However, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), a completely different scenario exists. Did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards? Or did they lose much more—their salvation? Let’s go deeper.

Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13)
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The purpose of this article is to establish two important premises:

  • The foolish virgins lost their salvation (not merely lost their eternal rewards).

  • The foolish virgins are, in fact, believers.

Loss of salvation
When we hear terrifying expressions such as ‘door is shut’, ‘I do not know you’, ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ with regards to eligibility for entry to heaven, our only wish is that it does not apply to us.  All of them suggest exclusion from heaven. All are related to being sent to hell.

Shutting of the door’ is a picture of judgment. Because the foolish virgins had to go out to buy oil to refill their lamps, they failed to meet the bridegroom and were shut out from the wedding feast.

After Noah entered the ark with his family and the animals, the door of the ark was shut. Shut out from the ark, the sinful world faced God’s judgment, perishing in the great flood.

The foolish virgins were shocked to hear these ominous words, “I do not know you”, just like the backslidden miracle workers in Matthew 7: 21-23. If the foolish virgins' names are written in the book of life, wouldn’t the bridegroom / God know them?

Do we need to have a Th.D. or M.Th. to grasp the fact that this parable paints a picture about exclusion from the wedding feast / heaven? Jesus, the bridegroom in the parable, only welcomes those He knows to his wedding feast / heaven (Revelation 19:6-9).

What do we do if a stranger requests for permission to enter our home? If we do not know him, we will just shut the door. Why then do we not accept at face value Jesus’ teachings in this parable? Why must we allow the preconceived idea that believers cannot possibly lose their salvation to cloud our thinking and make us rationalise away their outcome?

When the door is shut on account of the fact there is no existing relationship between the person inside and outside the door, it can only mean one thing: Exclusion from the wedding feast / heaven (Revelation 19:6-9).

Failure to develop an intimate and abiding relationship with Christ, lack of anticipation and preparedness for the bridegroom’s arrival (failure to carry extra oil) caused the foolish virgins to lose their salvation.

They did not lose their reward as 'feel good' teaching would have us believe. The door to heaven was shut in their faces.

If the names of believers can be blotted out from the book of life (Revelation 3:5), it means that their names must be there in the first place.

Who says believers cannot lose their salvation? The fate of the foolish virgins is a sober warning to all who profess to be believers not to be careless and complacent (1 Peter 4:17-18, Matthew 7: 13-14, Matthew 7: 21-23, 1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

Next, we ask ourselves who do these virgins (bridesmaids) represent: Are they believers or pre-believers?

Are the Foolish Virgins Believers?
Here are SEVEN reasons in favour of the fact that all the virgins were believers, including the foolish virgins.

First, Jesus was addressing believers in Matthew 24 (Olivet Discourse) and this Parable of the Ten Virgins is a follow up to emphasise to believers to be watchful, not complacent and careless, as He can come anytime. Even at an unexpectedly late hour (midnight) as the bridegroom in the parable did.

We must not fail to recognise that this parable is a continuation of the Olivet Discourse where Jesus was explaining to His disciples the signs of the end of the age:

“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3).

Second, the word 'virgins' suggest that all the bridesmaids were pure, just like believers set apart for God’s purposes (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Third, 'ten' is the minimum number associated with a congregation. In Judaism, public prayers could only be offered if there were at least ten believers. Jesus certainly knew how to use the best metaphors (ten virgins) to contextualise His message to the people then so that they could grasp it easily.

Fourth, like many presumptuous believers in church today, the foolish virgins addressed the groom by the name, "Lord, Lord" (Matthew 25:11). That means they were not outside the circle of believers but had a relationship with the Lord once upon a time. Sadly, they lost their spiritual fervour with the passage of time and finally were told by the bridegroom, “I don’t know you.”

Fifth, all the virgins were carrying lamps. This picture is consistent with the fact that believers are supposed to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

Sixth, they all had oil in their lamps. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. A lamp can only emit light when it has sufficient oil. Without the Spirit, believers would be spiritually dead and ineffective as witnesses. If anyone does not have the Spirit, he does not belong to God (Romans 8:9b)

Seventh, they were all eagerly looking forward to meet the bridegroom so that they can light the way for the bridal party as they make their way to the bridegroom’s home where the wedding feast was held. This is consistent with the fact that all believers should look forward in the future to attend the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9).

I hope it does not seem to you that I am trying to squeeze milk out from a rock in order to prove my point that all the virgins (bridesmaids) are those who profess to be believers.

With so much evidence in place, it is a well-established fact that Jesus was speaking to believers (audience) and referring to those who profess to be believers (represented by the virgins) in this parable.

The foolish virgins are those who profess to be believers but are careless and complacent. They did not carry with them extra oil to keep their lamps burning just in case the bridegroom got delayed.

Why is it important to establish the fact that the foolish virgins are believers, not pre-believers?

If the foolish virgins are pre-believers, then some believers would take comfort in the fact that it does not apply to them. Hence, they (believers) think they need not buck up spiritually.

Once we acknowledge that the foolish virgins are believers, the sombre truth emerges that believers may lose their salvation:

  • If they are lacking in anticipation and preparedness for Jesus’ return (Matthew 25:8)

  • If they are not abiding in Christ (John 15:6).

  • If they live carelessly, fail to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit, fail to seek His will and do it (Ephesians 5:15-18, Matthew 7: 21-23).

  • If they fail to endure amid persecution, fail to overcome deception and lawlessness (Matthew 24: 9-13).

Warning Reiterated
A similar warning is given in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), which comes just after the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

What happened to the wicked and slothful servant who failed to multiply the single talent given to him?

“For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25: 29-30).

The fruitless (wicked and slothful) servant in the Parable of Talents was condemned. Fruitless faith will not save us (James 2: 19-22, Luke 3:8-9).

Both the above parables, which are addressed to believers, underscore the need for accountability and personal responsibility.

Complacency and failure to abide may rob believers of eternal life. And it is not about getting smaller or lesser rewards but totally missing out on heaven. The following passages refer to believers:
  • “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

  • “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6).

So easy to go to heaven?
Anytime you hear people making it sound so simple to make it to heaven (Matthew 7: 13-14), downplaying personal responsibility, immediately you can smell a rat. False teaching is once again rearing its ugly head.

If we believe that we do not have to work out our faith, then we will have to cut off the following verses from our Bible:

  • Work out your faith with fear and trembling: Philippians 2:12-13

  • Keep striving: Philippians 3:12-14

  • Run the race with discipline so we won’t be disqualified: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

  • Bear fruits that befit repentance and don’t rest on your spiritual laurels: Luke 3:8

  • Narrow and hard is the way to life: Matthew 7: 13-14

  • Holiness requires effort; confirm your election: 2 Peter 1: 5-8, 10


How can the foolish virgins, being believers, be shut out from heaven? Isn't it supposed to be Once Saved, Always Saved?



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Saturday 14 February 2015


Is it alright for Christians to join their friends to celebrate Valentine’s Day? 

Since the Bible does not say definitely whether it is right or wrong, we will have to examine the roots of the celebration as well as its practices. 

Valentine’s Day does not have deep-rooted, dark spiritual connotations like pagan feasts or Halloween. * Since it is positive in that it seeks to build the relationship between spouses or lovers, believers should not be barred from celebrating Valentine’s Day. 

It is up to the individual Christian to decide whether he or she should participate in Valentine’s Day in light of the following references:

  • “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

  • “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15).

  • “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Colossians 2:21-23).

We need to act based on our personal convictionswith the help of the Holy Spiritafter having searched through scripture. We do not need man-made laws or moral policemen to tell us what to do. 

The caveat is that believers should practise moderation. We should not go overboard in our spending on gifts or use the occasion as a license for sexual immoralityif the couple is not yet married.  

While there is nothing wrong with a romantic evening over candlelight dinner, fornication is clearly wrong in God’s eyes. The couple should pray beforehand to determine the limits to their level of intimacy before it passes the ‘point of no return’. 

The following is mainly directed to young courting couples:

When you are young you have lots of energy. You can make many varied choices in life. You can choose the good or bad. You can mix with the right or wrong crowd. You can go to places that build your character or to sleazy joints. Make sure you choose well.

  • “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

  • “Stop offering the parts of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have been brought from death to life and the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13).

  • “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).

 If we choose to fear God and glorify Him, He will honour our commitment and bless our life abundantlyso that we will, in turn, bless many people.

It’s not going to be easy. But with God’s help and godly company, we will succeed in maintaining our moral purity. “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

If Valentine’s Day draws couples closer to one another, Christians should have no qualms celebrating the occasion with the above conditions and safeguards in place.

For we have been called to freedom. Only do not turn our freedom into an opportunity to gratify our flesh (Galatians 5:13).


*   “St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The most popular martyrology associated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.” – source: Wikipedia




Why does the Bible single out the youngespecially young menwhen it comes to keeping ourselves morally pure?

While few are called to celibacy, all believers are called to be morally pure (chaste). And chastity is not “no sex” but “no unlawful sex outside marriage”.