When a Christian Ends His Own Life

Will a genuine believer in Jesus Christ who kills himself still go to heaven?

My wife called me at work several weeks ago; the morning was good but the news was not. Our daughter had been perusing her friends’ posts on Facebook and saw some from one family that were unclear but disturbing. We called them, close personal friends for over 15 years, and learned that their oldest son had killed himself.

It was a painful shock. These friends were dedicated Christians and had raised their children in the faith. We had known this young man since he was a little boy, playing at our house and sharing birthdays and holidays. He had prospered in the US Army. In the past year, he had inexplicably severed ties with his family and joined a cult.

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Key Concepts of Paul in Salvation – Romans

The Apostle Paul emphasized righteousness, faith, redemption, and justification in his letter to the Romans.

The book of Romans has been described as the magnum opus of the Apostle Paul.  In it, Paul laid out his theology of Christ and salvation in his clearest, most concentrated style.  Scholars have labored to plumb the depths of Paul’s words and concepts for centuries, and much is still to be written.   Luther and the other Reformers found in the first five chapters of Romans their fundamental idea for the Reformation, justification by faith alone.

Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη dikaiosynē) to Paul was not a result of good works, earned by the person, as though he could gain a favorable account with God by his deeds.  Rather, righteousness is a standing imparted by God as a result of faith (Romans 4:3), which is itself a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  For centuries, Christian scholars have contrasted righteousness by faith, a Pauline Christian teaching, with righteousness by works, a Judaistic teaching.  E.P. Sanders work minimized “righteousness by works” in Judaistic teaching in the first century and emphasized “righteousness by covenant”.  This has significantly shaped the modern discussion, and borne some good fruit by improving Jewish-Christian understanding.  However, Sanders’ “covenantal nomism” has a serious flaw.  If the Jews are saved because they are God’s covenantal people, but must still perform good works to stay in that relationship, salvation still depends on works.

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Paul’s Life – Background and Chronology

The Pharisee Saul, better known as Paul, laid the foundation for the Church. What can we learn from him?

Paul, possibly the most famous of the apostles of Jesus Christ, was a scion of Jews of the Diaspora.  Until the Babylonian exile beginning in 605-586 BC, Israelites of the tribe of Judah were concentrated in Southern Palestine.  Afterwards, they were scattered all over the ancient Near East, with large communities thriving in Alexandria and Rome.  A sizeable community arose in Tarsus of Cilicia, a province in what is now southeastern Turkey close to the border of Syria.  Tarsus was a major Roman city of trade and learning, and Cilicia was famous for its cloth products.  Both influences can be clearly seen in Paul’s later life as an educated traveler and scholar who made tents to support himself.

Jews of the Diaspora formed communities wherever they lived and so were able to maintain much of their religion and culture, including attending synagogues and observing dietary laws.  Paul, the son of observant Jewish parents, was raised as a “Hebrews of Hebrews” in this environment.  Paul’s parents were also Roman citizens, a rare honor, and so Paul inherited citizenship, which greatly helped his ministry.   At some point in his childhood he traveled to Jerusalem and learned Judaism at the feet of Gamaliel, the famous 1st century Jewish teacher.  Passionate for his Hebrew faith, Paul became a Pharisee, and excelled among his peers in every way.

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Paul’s Missionary Journeys

A brief summary of the missionary trips of the Apostle Paul.

As Christians read the New Testament, it is easy to forget how much time elapsed between Matthew and Revelation, almost 100 years.  Jesus died and rose again around 30 AD, and for two years the church grew, rapidly and in relative peace.  The persecution began about 32 AD, and Paul became a Christian in that year.  He spent years preaching in Damascus, and then spent quite a bit more time in Arabia before returning to his hometown in Tarsus, Asia Minor.  His first missionary journey did not begin until AD 47, covering many cities in Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus, Perga, Iconium, Lystra, and others.  After a short return to Jerusalem in AD 49 to help with the Jerusalem Council, Paul left on his second missionary journey.  During this mission he wrote Galatians and probably Thessalonians.  He began in Asia Minor, but received the call to Macedonia and crossed over into Europe.  Paul and his companions ministered in Philippi, where he was imprisoned and beaten, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, where he spoke at the Aeropagus, and Corinth.  In 52 AD Paul returned to Syrian Antioch to complete his second journey.

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