Category Archives: Articles

If It’s Works, It’s Not Grace, Part 2

Peter Ditzel

Two pictures side-by-side. On the left is a picture of dirty, grim-looking child coal workers from 1911. On the right is a joyous child playing in the sand at the beach.
Jesus said, ““Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Jesus didn’t have child labor in mind. He meant that we must humbly turn from trusting in our works and obedience to the law. We must become like simple and carefree children, trusting and resting in Him. This doesn’t take effort on our part. It’s not difficult. Jesus is the narrow gate into the kingdom. God gives us the faith; He takes us through.
Left: Child coal workers in Pennsylvania in 1911. Right: Photo by Barbara Ribeiro from Pexels.

In Part 1, we saw how some preachers promote the idea that finding the kingdom and living the Christian life are hard work and use derogatory terms such as “cheap grace” and “easy believism” against their opponents. Yet, the Bible teaches, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If it’s works, it’s not grace!

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If It’s Works, It’s Not Grace, Part 1

Peter Ditzel

A Euler diagram of two, separate circles. One is labeled grace and the other is labeled works. The diagram shows that there is no intersection between the two sets. Grace and works are separate.
Grace is God’s unmerited pardon. Jesus Christ purchased grace for His people by His atoning sacrifice on the Cross, and God gives that grace freely to believers (Romans 5:15-19). For grace to be grace, it must be entirely apart and distinct from works. It must be pure. It can never be mixed with our works.

Something I’ve learned over the years is that many people profess to believe in salvation by grace alone received by faith alone. Yet, a good number of those same people throw works into the formula, often without even knowing it. You might be one of them. The Bible clearly teaches, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6). Like oil and water, grace and works don’t mix. Our salvation either stands on grace or it falls on works. Let’s look at some commonly held beliefs and see what they’re really based on.

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Fact Check: God Hates the Sin but Loves the Sinner

Peter Ditzel

If God hates the sin but loves the sinner, why are the goats separated for destruction in the parable of the separation of the sheep and goats? Here, we see the parable as illustrated by Gerard de Jode in Last Judgment with Separation of the Sheep and Goats, ca. 1580 after Maarten de Vos
If God hates only the sin but loves the sinner, why do so many parables picture a separation of the righteous and the sinners, with the sinners pictured as goats, trash fish, chaff, and weeds that will be burned with fire? (Gerard de Jode, Last Judgment with Separation of the Sheep and Goats, ca. 1580 after Maarten de Vos.)

One of the most common maxims in Christianity is, “God hates the sin but He loves the sinner.” Advocates often back this up with the fact that Jesus tells us to love our enemies and says God “makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). On the other hand, Jesus also said, “Depart from me, you who work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23b). Is this a contradiction? No, the Bible does not contradict itself. So, let’s do a fact check: Is it true that God hates the sin but loves the sinner?

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The Bible Reveals the Universe Is Both Young and Old

Peter Ditzel

The question of a young Earth creation and an old universe is illustrated by this composite image of Earth's orbital horizon and another galaxy. Image by Lumina Obscura from Pixabay
The Bible and science have long seemed to be at odds over the age of the Earth and the Universe. Some proposed “solutions” weaken the veracity of either the Bible or science or both. But what if there’s an answer to the dilemma that compromises neither, and it’s been staring at us from the pages of the Bible all along?
Image by Lumina Obscura from Pixabay

Did God create the universe only a few thousand years ago, or is the universe billions of years old? When we couple the Creation account in Genesis with biblical genealogies, we find that God created all things in six days a few thousand years ago. The universe is young. But you might be surprised to learn the Creation account also reveals that the universe is old. Let me explain how the Bible reveals the universe is both young and old.

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2020 in Hindsight: The Apostasy, Part Two

Peter Ditzel

President Donald Trump holds a Bible during a photo op outside St. John’s Church in Washington on June 1, 2020. White House file photo/Public domain
“Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). President Donald Trump posturing with a Bible outside St. John’s Church in Washington, June 1, 2020. White House file photo/Public domain

In Part One, we saw that the events of 2020 exposed the immense apostasy of American Conservative Christianity and how easy it was for professing Christians to fall into the apostasy through politics. Now, let’s look at some more ways that God used 2020 to expose the apostasy.

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2020 in Hindsight: The Apostasy, Part One

Peter Ditzel

Looking at 2020 in hindsight reveals apostasy in American Christianity. This picture shows the Adoration of the Golden Calf, oil on canvas by Nicolas Poussin, c. 1634. The worship of the golden calf was an apostasy.
Israel worshipped the golden calf when the people became faithless waiting for Moses. This was apostasy, and it was typological of the apostasy that will occur before the return of Christ. In 2020, God exposed an immense apostasy in American Christianity. It is too soon to say whether it portends the end-time apostasy. Adoration of the Golden Calf, oil on canvas by Nicolas Poussin, c. 1634

We’ve all heard the expression, “Hindsight is 2020.” The past year was unquestionably one of the most alarming and catastrophic years in memory, so it would seem to be a good thing to look back on the year and see what God has been showing us. That’s right, God, who “declare[s] the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), and, who in the Person of the Son, upholds “all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), perfectly determined and controlled 2020 to be exactly what it was. And you can be sure that He did it all with purposes in mind. One of those purposes is particularly important for Christians, and that’s what I’m going to focus on in this article.

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What Is God Doing in This Trouble?

Peter Ditzel

What is God doing in this trouble? This painting of Lot Fleeing from Sodom by Benjamin West shows that God causes calamity.
God not only destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as seen here. He is the ultimate cause of all things, including the recent troubles we’ve been experiencing. He said, “I form the light, and create darkness. I make peace, and create calamity. I am the LORD, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:7). Lot Fleeing from Sodom by Benjamin West, 1810.

There’s no escaping the fact that we’ve entered troubled and troubling times. How should we respond to this year’s salvo of calamities and bad news? Christians rightly turn to God and ask whether He’s causing the trials we’ve had this year. If He has, Why? Why is God bringing calamity upon us? What is God doing in this trouble? I don’t claim to be a prophet, but I believe that the Bible gives us some possible answers to these questions.

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God Will Never Give You More than You Can Handle: True or False?

Peter Ditzel

Is it true that God will never give you more than you can handle? Illustrated by a woman sitting at a laptop covering her face with her hands while multiple arrows point toward her.
Are we really doing the right thing to comfort people with the idea that God will never give you more than you can handle?

“Don’t worry. God will never give you more than you can handle.” This belief is so common that I’m sure you’ve heard it, and maybe you’ve even comforted other brethren with it. But is it true? Are we really helping others by repeating this idea, or are we spreading a heretical lie?

The concept that God will never give us more than we can handle seems to sound right initially. God loves His people, so He won’t give us more than we can handle. But, if we give it further thought, we find it is a notion that is in direct conflict with the Gospel.

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The Devil’s Two Goals

Peter Ditzel

The devil has two goals. False teaching is a way that the devil keeps people from finding the true Gospel. An illustration of Dante's Divine Comedy by Giovanni Di Paolo, 1440s.
False teaching is a way that the devil keeps people from finding the true Gospel. An illustration of Dante’s Divine Comedy by Giovanni Di Paolo, 1440s.

We have a tendency to blame the devil for everything from unemployment to accidents to wars, and maybe even pandemics. But the Bible indicates that the devil is really working on only two goals to achieve one overall plan. These two goals are the arms of a pincer movement to achieve his objective. Don’t worry. The devil doesn’t have a chance in hell of succeeding. Jesus has already defeated him (John 12:31; 16:11; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). But, like a snake that continues to whip around after its head is cut off, he’s still trying; and he can cause problems for those who aren’t aware of his tactics. So, it can help us to know what the devil’s two goals are so that we can recognize them and not become discouraged. Let’s take a look.

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A Brief Rebuttal to Churches that Continue to Meet During the Pandemic

Peter Ditzel

Image by rise-a-mui from Pixabay

I have to admit that I’m surprised. I didn’t expect churches would continue to meet as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. But the issue has even grown and become very divisive. I wrote my opinion on the subject here: “Love Your Neighbor in the Coronavirus Pandemic.” Briefly, my position is that, because of the high risk for spreading a deadly contagion, showing love to our neighbor means that we must not meet. We are also to obey the civil authorities (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1), and these authorities are telling us to stay home. Yet, some pastors stubbornly refuse to close their churches. So, I want to briefly give a rebuttal to the churches that continue to meet during the pandemic.

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