LOOKING TO PRAISE AND WORSHIP JESUS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. 18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ben and Mark Talk

Ben -"Please explain the conversions of Lydia and Cornelius within your "God hating prior to regeneration" paradigm."
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Mark -Lydia and Cornelius were born in sin and shapen in iniquity like all others. It is said that they were dead in trespasses and sins, that they walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, conducting themselves in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
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Ben - "The Bible says of Cornelius that he was "God fearing" and not "God hating" prior to putting faith in Jesus Christ. The Arminian would say that Cornelius was operating under prevenient grace while not yet being regenerated."
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Mark - I see both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit working on Cornelius before a regenerating encounter:The Father first gives to the Son those who are to be saved - John 6:37,39.The Father draws that person - John 6:44The Father teaches that person about Christ - John 6:45Those granted by the Father come to Christ - John 6:65.The elect are separated from the rest of the world, and unto Christ by God the Holy Spirit - 2 Thess.2:13; 1 Peter 1:2.All of the above scriptures indicate that a working of Two of the Members of the Trinity are evident before a regenerating encounter. John 6 clearly shows that those whom the Father gives to the Son WILL come. Cornelius was at that stage between the beginnings of both the Father's and the Spirit's work, and regneration. IOW, we see in Acts 10 a man in whom God was already working, and irresistibly at that. (see John 6)
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Ben -"How about Lydia? Was she regenerated before or after God "opened her heart"?"
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Mark -After. God the Holy Spirit ALWAYS acts in conjunction with His word, never apart from it.
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Ben - "She was a God worshipper prior to this experience and not a God hater. Do you believe that the opening of Lydias heart is a reference to irresistible regeneration? If so, I have a few more questions."
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Mark - She was in that same process as Cornelius above - that of being drawn and enabled by the Father; and separated from the world, and unto Christ by the Spirit. Irresistible? Yes. Regeneration at this point? No. God the Holy Spirit ALWAYS acts in conjunction with His word. See Romans 10:17;1 Cor.1:18; 2 Thess.2:14; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23.
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Ben - "Was the heart God opened the new heart you speak of, or the old one?"
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Mark - The old one. See above.
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Ben - "If it was the new heart [and the text no where suggests this] then why the need for the Lord to "open" it?"
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Mark - It was the old heart.
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Ben - "If it was the old heart that God opened to respond to the gospel, then we have a beautiful illustration of the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace."
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Mark - Perhaps we are similar here.
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Ben - "You earlier wrote,"The unregenerate love sin and hate the Light - John 3:19-20."Apart from the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, that is entirely true."Hence I couple this verse together with Eph.2:1-3, and Eph.4:17-19. for my definition of dead in sin."A few thoughts on your Eph. proof texts. 1) The regeneration described in 2:4-7 is said to be "through faith" [verse 8] and not "to faith". Faith is how the sinner recieves or gains access to God's grace. Look at Rom. 4:16 and 5:1.2) Paul is very careful to repeatedly note that all spiritual blessings [including regeneration] are only enjoyed by those who are "in Him [Christ]". Ephesians 1:13 makes it quite clear that we come to be in Christ after [logically speaking] believing the gospel, and not before."
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Mark - I agree with all your above statements.
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Ben - "Therefore, faith must precede regeneration because we cannot experience the life of Christ outside of vital union with Him, and that union comes by faith."
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Mark - Why must it? Unregenerate man is hostile, loves sin, hates the light, doesn't understand the gospel, doesn't seek God. Left unattended man will not seek God. God the Holy Spirit, through the instrament of His Word brings about regeneration after the "prep period" mentioned above.
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Ben - "In Him, you also, *after* listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- *having* also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise."
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Mark - Amen to your above points.
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Ben - "The Greek is literally: "believing you were sealed".This alone proves that your doctrine of regeneration preceding faith is fallacious."
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Mark - I don't see that. Again, regeneration comes about through the Spirit's working through His word, the gospel message.
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Ben - "So how does a sinner come to believe? God graciously enables the sinner though the power of the gospel and the inner working of the Holy Spirit. This is prevenient [enabling grace] which draws and powerfully influences the dying sinner to respond in saving faith. God, in effect, graciously overcomes the sinners hostility/inability, upon the sinner hearing the gospel."
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Mark - I whole heartedly agree!
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Ben - "This enabling does not, however, guarentee a positive response."
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Mark - WRONG. See John 6.
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Ben - "So I believe that faith is a "gift" only in the sense that one could not believe if not for the prevenient and enabling grace of God."
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Mark - Agreed.
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Ben- "Faith is not a gift in the sense of being irresistibly caused by regeneration. Scripture nowhere says this, only the sophistry of certain theological systems."
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Mark - Faith is a gift. Eph. 2:8; 1 John 5:1.
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Ben - "Do you believe, in your system, that the regenerated sinner must in fact choose Christ [is caused to choose Christ], or do you believe that the sinner who is regenerated *freely* chooses Christ?"
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Mark - The sinner freely chooses Christ. It is his new nature to.
September 12, 2007 8:25 AM

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22 Comments:

Blogger Susan said...

Mark,
This was an interesting exchange. Thanks for sharing it.
I was stopped mid-thought by Ben's comments that Cornelius and Lydia were God-fearing and not God-hating prior to putting faith in Jesus Christ.
It made me wonder how many churches are filled with how many people who consider themselves “God-fearing” and yet never crack open a Bible other than on Sunday and who continue to live differently through the week than they speak and act on Sunday. How many people in the US (or elsewhere) would respond “Christian” when asked what religion they are, yet never set foot inside a church.
I guess I was just thinking that people can easily attend church and consider themselves Christian without really being “God-fearing.” When I attended man-centered churches, I don’t think I really “feared” God. I think the teaching there was so imbalanced – more toward the side of love and mercy and less on the wrath and judgment, that it was a natural tendency to not fear His power and sovereignty.
I remember when Reformed thinking just clicked in my brain how I thought “now His sovereignty actually means something!”

September 12, 2007 11:52 AM

 
Blogger Gayla said...

Amen, Susan!

September 12, 2007 12:51 PM

 
Blogger kangeroodort said...

Hey Mark,

I am truly honored that you devoted an entire post to my comments. You must really like me :)

I know that we will likely never agree on these issues. We are both quite convinced that our theology is correct and nothing either of us say will likely change that.

The reason I get into these discussions is because it forces me to carefully examine my own beliefs when they are challenged by someone else. I also believe that Calvinism has some dangerous practical implications. You no doubt feel the same about Arminianism. I do consider you a brother in Christ and I am convinced that you love the Lord very much. I appreciate you engaging me on these very important theological issues.

I would like to make a few comments on your answers but it will likely be the last time I address this with you. After that we will just have to agree to disagree. I do not, however, have time today to give your comments the attention they deserve. I will try to answer them tomorrow but may not be able to find the time then either. If that is the case you will not hear from me until Weds. next week as I will be taking the first vacation I have had all year.

I hope you don't mind me dropping comments on future posts and maybe even challenging your thinking. Your critical comments will always be welcomed at my blog.

God Bless,
Ben

September 12, 2007 2:09 PM

 
Blogger jazzycat said...

Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!

If Paul were describing Arminian theology, why would he make this statement? Hmmmmm.... He goes on to say:
Romans 9:15-21 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

September 12, 2007 4:02 PM

 
Blogger kangeroodort said...

Mark,

A few comments regarding the answers you gave to my questions.

"Cornelius was at that stage between the beginnings of both the Father's and the Spirit's work, and regneration."

If Cornelius was seeking God before he was regenerated as you seem to be implying, then this completely contradicts your insistence that one is a God hater prior to regeneration, and hence the need for regeneration preceding faith. Your comments are out of harmony with the reasons you gave for why a sinner needs regeneration prior to being able to put faith in Christ. They are in perfect harmony, however, with the Arminian doctrine of previnient grace.

"Mark - [Lydia] was in that same process as Cornelius above - that of being drawn and enabled by the Father; and separated from the world, and unto Christ by the Spirit. Irresistible? Yes. Regeneration at this point? No. God the Holy Spirit ALWAYS acts in conjunction with His word."

Again, Lydia was a worshipper of God. You have stated that the reason one must be regenerated before one can put faith in Christ is because we are all God haters prior to regeneration. Here you plainly deny that assertion. You say that she was being "drawn" and "enabled" by God prior to regeneration. This would cause me to believe that she was much less than the God hater you described all unregenerates as earlier. Again, you have perfectly described the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace, and contradicted your previous assertions that one is a God hater until irresistibly regerated. For example, "The unregenerate love sin and hate the Light - John 3:19-20."

You agree that the heart God opened was Lydia's "old" heart. This old heart was opened so that she could positively respond to the gospel. You therefore prove that God can enable us to believe the gospel prior to regeneration.

Mark - Why must [faith precede regeneration]? Unregenerate man is hostile, loves sin, hates the light, doesn't understand the gospel, doesn't seek God.

These comments flatly contradict all the comments you made concerning Cornelius and Lydia above. Do you truly not see this?

I wrote,

"In Him, you also, *after* listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- *having* also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise."

And you responded,

"Amen to your above points."

I don not see how you can "Amen" my comments unless you think that we can possess eternal life outside of union with Jesus Christ. Eternal life is not something that floats around and God causes to stick to whomever he chooses. Eternal life resides in Christ alone [Jn. 1:4; 5:26; 6:35; 11:25;14:6; 1 John 1:2; 5:11; Col. 3:3-4] No one can possess eternal life outside of Him. Eph. 1:13 plainly says that we come to be in Christ through faith. If life resides in Christ alone, and it takes faith to come into union with Christ, then faith *must* logically precede regeneration. That is unless you believe that one can be regenerated outside of union with Christ, which you seem to deny, and which contradicts the verses I cited above. Eph. 1:13 ruins your entire argument.

Look at 1 John 5:11, 12:

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Only the one who "has the Son has life". Can we have the Son outside of union with Him? If not, then we cannot have life outside of union with Him, because only the one who has the Son has life. Eph. 1:13 says we come to be "in Him" by faith. That settles things as far as I am concerned.

Mark - I don't see that. Again, regeneration comes about through the Spirit's working through His word, the gospel message.

I don't understand how you cannot "see that". I do not necessarily disagree with the rest what you wrote.

I wrote,

"This enabling does not, however, guarentee a positive response."

You responded,

"WRONG. See John 6."

I have already written some posts regarding John 6 and irresistible regeneration. Feel free to check them out.

You said you agreed with the following statement,

"So I believe that faith is a "gift" only in the sense that one could not believe if not for the prevenient and enabling grace of God."

But you do not believe this. You believe that faith is something caused by irresistible regeneration. You believe that it is something God causes us to do. You say that the regenerate freely chooses to believe. You cannot mean this except in a compatiblist sense which amounts to saying that God causes faith.

If you say that we "freely" choose in a libertarian sense, then you have to also admit that one regenerated could also choose to reject Christ according to the sinful nature that Calvinists insist even the regenerate still possesses. Regeneration by itself cannot produce saving faith unless God causes that faith, and it becomes equivocation and double speak to say that the regenerate "freely" chooses to put faith in Christ.

So your comment, "The sinner freely chooses Christ. It is his new nature to" further demonstrates the absurdity of your position.

If my response does not lead to excommunication, then I will answer Jazzycat's comments next week.

September 13, 2007 1:01 PM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Ben, the elect are those whom God predestines to be conformed to the image of His Son. Cornelius and Lydia serve as examples of what the process looks like. Looking at them is like looking at a cross-section of a process.

1) the drawing/enabling of the Father

2) the separating and convicting of sin by God the Holy Spirit.

Now, that the New Covenant prophesied about in Jer. 31:31-34; and again Ezek 36:26-27 speaks of one receiving a new heart can not be denied. That new heart is for the purpose of the Christian to be conformed into the image of God's Son, thus that person, now a temple of the Holy Spirit, walks in God's ways, showing forth the praises of Him Who called the out of darkness, and into His marvelous light.

I acknowledged throughout my respone to you that at some points my views parrelel (sp?) yours of prevenient grace. I see the "prep period)as such a place. However, it is a means to an end (conformity to Christ) and not the end itself.

September 13, 2007 1:21 PM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

I work 2nd shift, 3 to 11, So responses from me won't be seen in the evening. See ya tomorrow.

September 13, 2007 1:31 PM

 
Blogger Susan said...

So your comment, "The sinner freely chooses Christ. It is his new nature to" further demonstrates the absurdity of your position.

Actually, I thought that was excellent - it is the result of the believer having been born again, Christ's term.

Once born again, the sinner has a new nature - the Holy Spirit living within, which he did not have prior to regeneration.

I thought Mark stated that beautifully - it is his new nature to freely choose Christ, against whom he was in rebellion prior to being saved from himself.

September 13, 2007 3:16 PM

 
Blogger Magnus said...

If I might be so bold to ask a question. I understand what Ben is saying in the we need faith first and since it is not a work then we can not boast and salvation is still through God's grace, but where does repentance come in? My limited knowledge thought that faith and repentance work hand in hand. If that is the case then would we also have to repent before we become regenerate? Wold we then also have to say that repentance is not a work, because if it is then we open up a whole can of worms.

Of course i know that there is an easy answer to this and i just can not see it, but that is why i pose it to people smarter than me:)

magnus

September 13, 2007 10:53 PM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Magnus, welcome!

Faith and repentance DO go hand in hand. Some would even say that they are different sides of the same coin. Put together they are known as conversion, when one has forsaken the world, and is now a follower of Christ. Conversion flows from, and is a result of regeneration, that experience wherein God the Holy Spirit imparts new life to one who once was a slave of sin.

Mark

September 14, 2007 7:34 AM

 
Blogger Magnus said...

Mark,

thanks for the response. So if faith and repentance are of the same coin and some people say that faith comes before regeneration, would that then not mean that repentance has to come before regeneration as well?

If I follow correctly Ben is saying that faith is not a work and thus it comming first does nothing to the all grace thing, but is it fair then to say that repentance is not a work either? So would Ben's view have to be that faith AND repentance occur first before one is regenerate?

I am new to all of this, it is very interesting.

magnus

September 14, 2007 7:56 AM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Magnus, I will waite for Ben's response here so as to not caracature his position.

He and I are going to be doing a lot of talking in the future.

September 14, 2007 8:25 AM

 
Blogger Magnus said...

Fair enough, I will wait till next week when he comes back. It does seem though that not only would you have to have faith first, but also repentance since they are linked so tightly in Scripture.

many thanks for you insights.

magnus

September 14, 2007 8:35 AM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Ben, I usually start getting ready for work at around 1 PM, and leave for work at 2:15. Just so you know why you may not get immediate answers. The following morning you'll see them.

September 17, 2007 1:31 PM

 
Blogger kangeroodort said...

Magnus,

I don't see faith or repentance as works. In fact, repentance is described in Heb. 6:1 as a turning away from "dead works". Repentance is forsaking our sins, not working for salvation. Faith and repentance are two ways of looking at the same condition. Repentance is turning away from sin and faith is turning towards God. It is one motion and one condition.

September 21, 2007 9:14 AM

 
Blogger kangeroodort said...

Jazzycat,

You seem to believe that Paul is speaking of irrevocable reprobation and unconditional election in the passages you cited from Rom. 9. When read out of context I can see why you would come to your conclusions. I do not have time to do an exposition of all of Rom. 9 [though I will eventually at my blog], but I would like to ask you a few questions as to how you reconcile your Calvinistic interpretation with the surrounding context.

Paul makes it clear in 9:1 that the subject matter of the chapter has to do with the rejection of the greater part of Israel and whether or not this constitutes a failing on God's part as to His promises to Abraham [and hence Israel]. This is the subject matter being dealt with from Rom. 9 to Rom. 11. Therefore, the ones Paul is speaking about in the passages you cite are primarily the Christ rejecting Jews.

You seem to think that Paul is saying they are rejectd due to some irrevocable eternal decree. If that is the case then what business does Paul have in praying for these reprobates in 10:1 and wishing himself accursed for their sakes in 9:1? Why would Paul hope and pray against God's irrevocable eternal decree? Why does Paul not come to the same conclusion as you in Rom. 9:30-33. Paul concludes that the reason the Jews are rejected is not due to a secret decree, but rather to their failure to put their faith in Christ, and seeking rather to establish their own righteousness [James White doesn't even mention Rom. 9:30-33 in his exegesis of Rom. 9 in the Potter's Freedom].

What about Rom. 11:23 where Paul, speaking of these same reprobated Jews, says that they may yet be grafted in if they do not persist in unbelief. How can this be possible if they are irrevocably reprobated as you claim? Verse 31 says that they will yet receive mercy, and verse 32 says that "God has bound all men [including these reprobated Jews] over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on all." How do you explain this in light of your understanding of Rom. 9:15-21?

September 21, 2007 9:38 AM

 
Blogger kangeroodort said...

Susan,

You wrote,

I thought Mark stated that beautifully - it is his new nature to freely choose Christ, against whom he was in rebellion prior to being saved from himself.

Do you believe that the regenerate still possess a sinful nature? If they do then how can you say that the regenerate will freely choose according to his new nature? If the old nature is still present, then how can you be sure that the newly regenerate sinner will not, instead, choose according to his sinful nature? If you say that he must choose according to his new nature, or that God overides his sinful nature, then it is not much of a free choice then is it? It is a choice that God irrestibly caused.

For more on this you may want to read my post http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/09/fletcher-on-being-dead-in-sin-part-2.html

September 21, 2007 9:46 AM

 
Blogger kangeroodort said...

Mark,

I really don't think I can say anymore than I already have on the subject. I wrote my last post on the subject [at least for a while] yesterday and provided a link on the comment I left for Susan. If you want to interact with any of the posts I have written on the subject, then feel free to stop by and drop a comment. I would only ask that you address what I have written rather than just saying you disagree. Thanks for the time and exchange.

God Bless,
Ben

September 21, 2007 9:52 AM

 
Blogger kangeroodort said...

Susan,

part of the link got cut off. It should be "fletcher-on", rather than just "flet-on".

September 21, 2007 9:54 AM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Ben, God gives to all life and breath (Acts 17:25), does that mean He lives and breaths for them? Nay, they breathe because they are alive, they are alive because they breathe.

September 21, 2007 9:55 AM

 
Blogger Magnus said...

Ben,

thanks for the reply and I have a question on what you replied to Susan. You wrote:


"Do you believe that the regenerate still possess a sinful nature? If they do then how can you say that the regenerate will freely choose according to his new nature? If the old nature is still present, then how can you be sure that the newly regenerate sinner will not, instead, choose according to his sinful nature? If you say that he must choose according to his new nature, or that God overides his sinful nature, then it is not much of a free choice then is it? It is a choice that God irrestibly caused."

I am sure that she can answer you so my question is perhaps just to clarify this for me.

I thought that Calvinists believe that we do have free will, but that due to our depravity we only choose sin. It is when one gets regenerate by the Spirit that then one is able to choose God.

So, why would the sinner keep sinning... because that is what he desires the most. Why then does the regenerate freely choose God... because his desires have changed. So while a regenerate can and does still sin, he would not look at it the same as before. His sin will become repugnant to him and he will repent because that is in keeping with his new desire.

I am hoping that you could give me the Arminian take on why one keeps sinning even when reborn? I read Wesley a great deal and he seems to think that it is possible for a man to achieve sin free life while on earth. He always said that he never met a fully sanctified person, but that it was possible.

thanks to all of you for helping an ignoramus such as myself.

magnus

September 21, 2007 10:09 AM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Magnus, if we look at Galatians 5:22-23, and take God the Holy Spirit out of the picture here, what are we left with but the works of the flesh (5:19-21). The war does not begin until God the Holy Spirit takes up residency. Before that the flesh (although somewhat tempered with a conscience, Rom. 2:15)has its own way.

The new nature, as you pointed out, desires God and the things of God. However, as Paul points out in Galatians 5:17, there is a war between our still corrupt flesh and the indwelling Holy Spirit. This war ends when Christ comes to take us home, and we get glorified body's, and we become like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2. This is when what Christ accomplished on the cross comes to fruition, when we shall be like Him.

Mark

September 21, 2007 10:50 AM

 

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