#STRask: August 3, 2017

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Published on 08/03/2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about faith and works, Paul's encounter with Jesus, and Abram's encounters with God.


  • If salvation comes by means of simple trust, why so many warnings in the New Testament to double check your salvation?
  • When Jesus appeared to Paul, how did Paul know it was Jesus? Paul was not one of his disciples and didn't know what he looked alike.
  • Do you think there were eyewitnesses when Abram talked with God in Genesis 12:7 and Genesis 13: 14?


Melinda: Hi there. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer. I'm here with STRask Podcast, and Greg Koukl's here.

Greg Koukl: Hi.

Melinda: He's going to answer questions in four minutes or less, aren't you?

Greg Koukl: I'm going to try.

Melinda: Yes, you are. You mentioned to me a little bit ago that ... I think we mentioned on the podcast recently, one of your daughter's cats had six kittens, and you just told me-

Greg Koukl: Yeah, they've taken over the house.

Melinda: Another one, the other one's pregnant.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, the other one's popping now, man. She's got a bunch of buns in the oven. I thought, man, I didn't sign up for this, but the last one had six, and my wife said, "oh, maybe this one won't have as many," and I said, "Well, maybe she'll have more." You never know. What we've had to do ... I actually used my carpenter skills to cordon off a section of the kitchen to keep-

Melinda: Oh, I was afraid you were going to fix them or something.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, I used my-

Melinda: With a saw.

Greg Koukl: I used my saw, and I use a shorter blade. Anyway, to cordon off a portion of the kitchen, we took the dining room table out, and then we kind of-

Melinda: Oh, you did?

Greg Koukl: Yeah, that's-

Melinda: So, it's like the cat nursery.

Greg Koukl: I built a little door in it and everything, but I think we've got one of the six ... We've already gotten rid of one, so we've got five left. One went out yesterday, but one of the six just keeps getting out, and I don't know how. We don't know how it gets out, because the thing is now about maybe four and a half feet tall – the wall I built – and so maybe she's standing on a box, or he, and jumping out. They call her Houdini. That's the name the girls have given to her because she keeps getting out, a little, black, fuzzy thing. Anyway, once we get rid of these we're going to have to go another round. My youngest was there for the birthing but my eldest was not, the 12-year-old, and this one that's pregnant now is her cat, Ce Ce, and so we're hoping that she'll get to witness it, but, if she doesn't, too bad. This is the last chance, man.

Melinda: Take a movie.

Greg Koukl: Okay. We learned all that machinery works, and now we're hauling that machinery out right after they're done, because we're not having any repeat performances by either of these cats.

Melinda: Yep, so-

Greg Koukl: In my humble opinion.

Melinda: Your friends are going to run when they start seeing you coming, trying to get rid of the kittens.

Greg Koukl: Oh, do you remember that from years ago on KBRT, and I talked about netting those cats, these feral kittens that were in our backyard? I used a fishing net to catch them? We-

Melinda: Are you going to want to start that up again?

Greg Koukl: Well, we never had such a negative response to ... More response to that show than we've ever had any show before.

Melinda: Thank you for bringing it up again. Okay, let's get down to business.

Greg Koukl: Pardon me. I'm still struggling with this cough.

Melinda: Greg's on a timer. He's got four minutes or less to answer, and coughing is counted on the clock.

Greg Koukl: All right.

Melinda: First question comes from Square Donut.

Greg Koukl: Square Donut.

Melinda: If salvation comes by means of simple trust, why are there so many warnings in the New Testament to double check your salvation? "Work out your salvation in fear and trembling."

Greg Koukl: Well, that's not to double check it. It's just an encouragement how that's done, how it works, in my view, in that Philippians passage, but it's warnings because there's a difference. I'm going to make a distinction here, now. Although the words are not always used consistently like this in the New Testament, at least the concepts play out this way. There's a difference between believing and trusting. That is, you can believe that something, and that's not the same as trusting in something.

Early on in the Book of John, the text says, "There were many that were believing in him," and then it says, "He was not entrusting himself to any of them, because he knew what was in man." He knew, the statement there makes it clear, that there is a kind of belief that's not adequate. It's fickle. It could be in and then out, and so we do have warnings to beware of that kind of so-called faith.

James addresses the same thing, "You say you have faith without any works," and here I think he means evidences of your faith working out in your life. Then he says, "Can that kind of faith save you?" Basically, he says, no. You can have a faith, which I'm simply calling "belief that." That's faith one, or you can have faith two, which is "trust in," and the "trust in" is based on certain beliefs that you have about Jesus, but it's a further step, and that trusting in Him is what is the essence of salvation.

As the New Testament is describing a large group of people and speaking to a large group of people, there were these persistent warnings of saying, just because you believe that – you have a kind of belief that you're part of the program, in a certain sense, that you're part of the group, in a certain sense – does not mean that you are actually regenerate disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, and those are the ones that are going to make it, and so beware! There's the wheat and the tares together. Jesus said, “why do you call me Lord, Lord, but you don't do the things that I say?" That's kind of the Gospel version of James chapter two.

Even though faith alone is what saves, faith that is by itself is not a salvific faith. A genuine faith, a biblical faith, salvific faith, is one that believes about Jesus certain things, but also trusts in Him, and this bears fruit in someone's life. Remember John the Baptist saying to the Pharisees, who were going through the motions, in some ways, and some of the others coming down there to see him, and he said, "Bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance." It's what he said, so you want to bear out in your lives this profession that you are making before the public. He knew that could be shallow. He encouraged them to live it out. This is, of course, an encouragement, an exhortation, that is always timely to the Church at large.

Melinda: If you want a little more explanation of that whole theme, you can go to our website, put in the search box Paul versus James, and you'll find a couple of articles about how Greg works out this theme, and also apparent contradictions between Paul and James on this issue.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, between that. Yeah, it isn't a contradiction, but it is-

Melinda: That's why I said apparent.

Greg Koukl: Right, right. That's troubled a lot of people, and I'm glad that you remembered to recommend that.

Melinda: Of course. Next question-

Greg Koukl: Thank you.

Melinda: You're welcome.

Greg Koukl: That's why you get paid the big bucks.

Melinda: And put up with you. This next question comes from Samson L. When Jesus appeared to Paul, how did Paul know it was Jesus? Paul was not one of His disciples and didn't know what He looked like, did he?

Greg Koukl: Well, if you recall, the first encounter, Jesus told him. Paul is knocked blind. I think he's knocked to the ground.

Melinda: From his horse.

Greg Koukl: No, I used to think that, but I looked back at the passage, there's no horse there.

Melinda: Really?

Greg Koukl: Anyway, he's debilitated.

Melinda: Camel?

Greg Koukl: He's debilitated and shocked obviously, and "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he says, "Who are you, Lord, that I'm persecuting you?" He said, "I am Jesus. Why are you kicking against the goads?" Resisting what God was doing in his life. The goads, I guess, are like spurs. When a person puts their spurs in the horse, the horses sometimes kick. They don't want to go where the rider wants them to go, and this is exactly what was happening with Paul. God was apparently working in his life, in some measure, and Paul is just resisting, resisting, so Jesus shows up and identifies Himself as such. Then, keep in mind, too, that he's blinded for three and a half days. He goes to Damascus and he is sequestered. He's fasting. He's praying, and God sends another man to him.

Melinda: Ananias.

Greg Koukl: A different Ananias, not the one that died, but a good Ananias.

Melinda: I didn't realize that until recently. It never occurred to me that there's two Ananiases.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, there're two. That's like having more than one Fred. Hey, we've got two Gregs. We've got two Gregs on our staff now. We've got Greg Koukl and Greg Cash, our videographer.

Anyway, so Ananias then, a little bit reluctantly but still goaded on by God, don't worry, because he knows the reputation that Paul has, Saul has, and he goes. He then brings a message to Saul and performs an act of healing. These are all pretty persuasive reasons why Saul would trust that the personage, who he heard and said He was Jesus, was actually the Jesus he was talking about. That's the simplest way to answer the question is Jesus told him.

Melinda: Mm-hmm, that's what this podcast is for, simple answers.

Greg Koukl: That's right.

Melinda: Next question comes from 82. Do you think there were eyewitnesses when Abram talked with God in Genesis 12 and 13? I'm going to add ... Go ahead and answer that part. I have a followup question.

Greg Koukl: Well, there's no indication of that. It doesn't say that. That's all I can say. There could have been, but I don't have any reason to believe ... I'm just taking the text in its straightforward way. It seems like a private conversation with Paul.

Melinda: Abram.

Greg Koukl: I'm sorry, with Abraham and God.

Melinda: It was Abram then.

Greg Koukl: Abram, right.

Melinda: Then, I thought, this could be the person's followup question. Who wrote the account then if there were no witnesses? Who wrote the Genesis account?

Greg Koukl: Was that their followup question?

Melinda: No, I just assumed that could be-

Greg Koukl: Well, then, I don't have to answer it.

Melinda: Yes, you do, because I'm the host of this program, and I'm asking you.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, but I'm the boss.

Melinda: No, I'm the host. In this podcast, I'm the host.

Greg Koukl: All right, so the answer is I don't ... Here's the answer. You ready? I don't know.

Melinda: You know who wrote the account! Moses.

Greg Koukl: Oh, I know that. Okay.

Melinda: So, say it.

Greg Koukl: Well then, why'd you ask a question you knew the answer to?

Melinda: I am standing in 82's stead imagining what her followup might be.

Greg Koukl: Okay, 82, do you know who wrote the Book ... The Pentateuch, the first ... Yeah, oh yeah. Yeah, Moses, you're right. Okay, I got it.

Melinda: But then how did Moses know?

Greg Koukl: Well, Moses-

Melinda: Why do you have to be so difficult? You know the question.

Greg Koukl: I'm looking at this text. Just think about it. In case you didn't know this, Moses talked with God, face-to-face, verbally. I mean, you know that it's verbally because when he talked with God close to where the people were, they said, "Oh, man. Don't talk with God around here. That spooks us when we hear Him speak to you. Go over there by that mountain, because we're frightened." Moses had a unique, revelatory relationship with God, and there were lots of things that God told him. Abraham wasn't there, but God was there, and so God could tell Moses what took place.

Melinda: So God was the witness.

Greg Koukl: God was the witness. Well, God wasn't a witness-

Melinda: He wasn't really a witness. He was a participant.

Greg Koukl: He was a participant, right.

Melinda: So, yeah, Moses got it firsthand from God.

Greg Koukl: He got it firsthand, that's right. An eyewitness, so to speak. No eyes, but figurative speaking.

Melinda: Firsthand knowledge.

Greg Koukl: First, no hands either, but-

Melinda: Okay, that's enough. That's it for this episode. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. We put Greg on a timer, and a leash where possible, to give you decent answers in a short amount of time. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer, with Greg Koukle, for Stand to Reason.