Saturday, January 6, 2018

Does Prayer Really Change Things?

Most times, when the famous James 5:16 is quoted, it is without verses 17 and 18.

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”(James 5:16-18)

Based on James’ writing ALONE, people get the impression that Elijah was a “prayer warrior” (a term and concept that is foreign to scripture) and that BECAUSE Elijah prayed earnestly, God withheld rain and BECAUSE Elijah again prayed earnestly, the rain returned.

People get this impression because they are ignorant of the “rest of the story”, as the late Paul Harvey would say.

When you read 1 Kings 17-18, here is what you find out: In 17:1, Elijah tells Ahab that there is going to be a drought and that it won’t rain again, until Elijah says so. Now, where did Elijah get that? From The LORD God of Israel, “before Whom I stand”.

Elijah (as God’s prophet) didn’t just decide to pray really hard that it wouldn’t rain, moving God’s hand to withhold rain.

What about when the rain returned? We learned from 17:1 that Elijah knew from God that rain would be withheld and it would not return “but according to my (Elijah’s) word”.

So, it is up to Elijah as to when the rain returns, right? Let’s see:

“And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.” (1 Kings 18:1)

That is how God operated via His spokesmen. God works through them. What happens or doesn’t happen is not governed by people, or their prayers, or by prayer circles, chains, warriors, or anything else, but God’s Purpose.  

It is very popular to believe that God is obliged to answer prayer and that if one simply has enough faith and asks in Jesus name for an outcome, God will do it.  For the most part, this comes from a misunderstanding and misuse of scriptures in the gospel accounts of Christ’s ministry.  Below are a couple of verses which are latched onto in order to “claim” certain outcomes:

“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt.18:19)

If anything ye shall ask [me] in my name, the same, will I do.” (John 14:14)

The above two verses are used without regard to the context, nor the audience to whom Jesus Christ made these statements.  These statements and promises must be understood within the context of:

a. The gospel of the kingdom of the heavens
b. The signs which were to lead Israel to repentance

In Matthew 15:24, The Lord made clear to the woman from Canaan that “I am sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”  The signs and wonders performed by Jesus Christ and His disciples were to be credentials.  These were signs that Jesus was the Christ, the Promised One of the Old Testament scriptures.  Paul later wrote the following:

“Since also Jews ask a sign, and Greeks seek wisdom.” (1 Cor. 1:22)

“And I say Jesus Christ to have become a ministrant of circumcision for the truth God, to confirm the promises to the fathers.” (Rom. 15:8)

Signs and wonders were credentials of the Messiah, to lead Israel to repentance.  The monologue of Jesus (to his disciples) in John 14 was a specific promise to them (not anyone living in this age of grace and when the kingdom has receded due to Israel’s unbelief).  Signs and wonders (including healing on demand) stopped during Paul’s early ministry.  Paul advised Timothy to take wine for his stomach ailments.  There was no admonition for the laying on of hands, miraculous healing, agreeing for healing, etc.  Toward the end of Paul’s ministry, we read about two of Paul’s friends and fellow laborers in Philippians and 2 Timothy who Paul does not heal and leaves one (Trophimus) sick,  and one (Epahroditus) is near death, but “God had mercy on him” (see Phil. 2:25-30).  

Why did Paul not simply ask in the name of Jesus Christ, that Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Trophimus be healed?  We read in the synoptic gospels and in Acts of healing on command, and even Peter’s shadow falling on someone and that person being made whole (Acts 5:15)!!

We have to make distinctions where the scriptures make distinctions (2 Timothy 2:15) and not attempt to make what was applicable during one administration and/or for a particular group or individual, applicable to others in a different administration.

Jesus Christ, upon His ascension, sent God’s Spirit to empower the apostles (Acts 2) to continue the signs and wonders that Jesus Christ had performed during His earthly ministry.  They preached Christ Jesus and the kingdom to Israel.  Many of Israel came to repentance during the early Acts period.  The apostles were filled with Holy Spirit and their workings were pointing to the Messiah, who the Jews crucified.  This was what Jesus was alluding to, speaking to His apostles in John 14:10-14:

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. 12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Notice carefully that Jesus Christ says that it is the Father Who did the works through him.  Then, notice that Jesus states that if they believe on Him (Jesus) they will do the miraculous works Jesus did; and even greater.  Finally, He gives the reason for this:  Jesus knew that His time to become the propitiation for the sin of the world was coming.  He knew that He would be going to the Father; but that the kingdom gospel must be offered to Israel.  Verse 13 states that these things will He do so “that the Father may be glorified in the Son”.  The disciples of Jesus, doing great wonders (that even the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures did not do) in the Christ’s name, would glorify the God of Israel, through the Son.

The signs and wonders meant to be signs for Israel do not belong to this time and the administration of the gospel of the grace of God.  Instead, we are to be ambassadors of the fact that God is not at war with the world and sinners; but at peace with them.  The gospel for today is as follows:

“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:18-19)

Before we look specifically at how Jesus Christ prayed, I want to call attention to some things you will not see in the scriptures when it comes to prayer.  You will not read anywhere in the scriptures where believers use prayer as if it some sort of magical incantation.  That is however, what has become popular in many denominations of Christianity.  The Word of Faith Movement is particularly notorious for this.  If the specific promises of healing, for example, is to operate now, as it did during the ministry of Jesus Christ and/or the Pentecostal (early Acts period), then why all the straining?  If it is a genuine movement of God, why the formulas?  What you have now, are people being told that they have just the right amount of faith, get more people praying in “agreement” with them, and speaking what they want into existence.  

In Gethsemane, we see the true model for prayer, both by Jesus Christ, Himself, but also with what He asked of his disciples and for what reasons.  

“Then Jesus is coming with them into the freehold termed Gethsemane, and He is saying to His disciples, "Be seated, till I come away and should be praying there." 37 And taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He begins to be sorrowful and depressed." 38 Then He is saying to them, Sorrow-stricken is My soul to death. Remain here and watch with Me." 39 And coming forward a little, He falls on His face, praying and saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass by from Me. However, not as I will, but as Thou!" 40 And He is coming to the disciples and is finding them drowsing. And He is saying to Peter, "Is it thus: you are not strong enough to watch one hour with Me? 41 Watch and pray, lest you may be entering into trial. The spirit, indeed, is eager; yet the flesh is infirm." 42 Again, coming away a second time, He prays, saying, "My Father, if this can not pass by from Me if I should not drink it, let Thy will be done!" 43 And, coming again, He found them drowsing, for the eyes were heavy." 44 And, leaving them, again coming away, He prays a third time, saying the same word." 45 Again, then, He is coming to the disciples and is saying to them, "Are you drowsing furthermore and resting? For lo! near is the hour, and the Son of Mankind is being given up into the hands of sinners-" 46 Rouse! We may be going. Lo! he who is giving Me up is near!" (Matt. 26:36-46)

Jesus Christ was on the verge of going to be examined by the priests, tried by Pilate, scourged by centurions, and crucified on a cross.  Unlike what most pastors and theologians will tell you, it was not the will of Jesus Christ to go to the cross.  If there was any other way possible to accomplish God’s Plan, apart from this, He wanted it (as any of us would!).  But, He prayed, that although He would want another way, He would do what was His Father’s will; not his own.  It is difficult to pray this way.  I think of parents with sick children and think how amazingly difficult it would be to pray that your sick child live, but not my will; but Thine.  This was the faith of Christ.  

Jesus told His disciples to keep watch and pray, “…lest you may be entering into trial. The spirit, indeed, is eager; yet the flesh is infirm.”  Why did Jesus not get the disciples to pray that God alter His plan?  Why did He not ask the disciples to form a “prayer circle”?  Why did He not say, “I am claiming that I am not going to the cross!!  I am going to speak words of victory and I need you all to agree with Me!”  Doesn’t that sound more like what we hear on Facebook or in a church prayer meeting?  It’s odd that we see none of that in the scriptures, yet the churches which claim to only believe what the Bible teaches, practice this stuff.

He prayed three times, the same way, He checked on His disciples and encouraged them to pray; not about what He was going through, but that they would not fall into trial.  And we see just that stumbling, by Peter, when the crowd came to arrest Jesus.  Even though on multiple occasions, Peter was told by Christ that He would have to be betrayed, that He would die; Peter fought against it. This was the trial Christ Jesus wanted Peter to pray that he not fall into.  Jesus didn’t ask His disciples pray that God change His mind, or that they go find fellow “prayer warriors” to do the same.

In fact, when it comes to His prayer in Gethsemane, I wonder what the Word of Faith folks must think about it.  I wonder what they think about the Apostle Paul and his prayers.  Did Jesus Christ not have enough faith that God would alter the Plan?

This of course, leads us to the purpose of prayer in the first place.  Prayer is to get us in tune with God’s will and to accept God’s will in things, not to attempt to bend God’s will to our will.  Should we pray for an outcome we want?  Absolutely, but this must be tempered with knowing that God’s will may be very different and with the willingness to accept that.  

Growing in grace and peace with what is God’s will is the purpose of prayer.  This is articulated well with Paul’s words to those in Thessalonica:

“In everything be giving thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. " (1 Thess. 5:18)
Is it God’s will that in everything you be giving thanks?  Probably, but I think the bigger point is that give thanks in everything, because everything that you may be experiencing is the will of God for you.  God is teaching us things through the experiences we have, good, bad, or indifferent.  Our spirit in that realization is to be at peace and giving thanks, knowing that this (that may be very difficult) is God’s will for us.

That is far different than what popular Christianity teaches.  Instead, books abound about how to have “Your Best Life Now”, or how to be an effective “Prayer Warrior”, and sermons are taught about how speak success and life into circumstances.  

Not only is that attitude very often fruitless, but it is dangerous and gives an unscriptural view of God.  God is not a genie who grants wishes.  Praying the same prayer for years, or believing that it is a lack of faith on your part, or believing that sin in your life is why something you pray for (or against) does or doesn’t materialize; isn’t scriptural or biblical.

As mentioned earlier, we should pray for what we want and we should also pray for others, but this must not be done with the thoughts to changing God’s mind about things.

The book I mentioned, “Prayer Warrior” interprets Galatians 6:2 as a proof text for praying on behalf of someone else to a desired outcome.  I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but books and teachings of this type are written from the motivation that “prayer changes things”, as the famous bumper-sticker suggests.  As with the case of Elijah at the beginning of this article, prayer is not a cause to an effect.  God is the Causer, and prayer is our involvement in that Plan.  As to Galatians 6:2, let’s take a look at it in its context and the practicality of what Paul was saying:

“Brethren, if a man should be precipitated, also, in some offense, you, who are spiritual, be attuning such a one, in a spirit of meekness, noting yourself, that you, also, may not be tried." 2 Bear one another's burdens, and thus fill up the law of Christ."

I don’t see that Paul mentions anything about praying on one’s behalf here.  What I do see is practical advice for helping others and showing love for one another (the law of Christ-see John 13:34).  The Greek word, translated here as “burdens”(verse 2) is “baros”.  This is a burden we can bear by helping the person and showing them love and sympathy.  That is how believers are to show the world that we are believers.  

When someone needs help, help them or care for them, where they are, in their circumstance.  That is practical and it does much more for them in showing God’s love in a practical way, than adding them to a prayer list. 

This article on prayer isn’t meant to be exhaustive but I hope that it helps in the understanding of what scriptural prayer looked like and what the purpose of prayer is and is not.  

Does prayer “change things”?  It doesn’t change God’s mind or plan, but it should change us and our attitude.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

An Examination of Hebrews 9:27

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb.9:27)

Just cited, is one of the most misapplied and misunderstood verses ever.  Of course, the tendency to read verses in isolation (rather than in context) does not help matters.  The fact that Christians have bought into an immediate afterlife (apart from resurrection) is a stumbling block.  And finally, applying a Western interpretation without the necessary Israelite background is perhaps the biggest reason why this verse is used to teach that man is really alive when he dies and in fact faces an immediate judgment upon death.

Let's first look at the verse based upon how it is commonly taught as see if we cannot find immediate problems from other scriptures.

The common understanding of this verse indicates that man (at death), continues to live and is ushered in to the presence of God to face judgment, where if he is not "saved" (he didn't make the proper contribution to complete Christ's work on the cross), he is then, tossed directly into "hell".

So, from this verse, it is taught (wrongly) that all men WILL die once.  Is that scripturally accurate?  What of those who are snatched away to be with Christ Jesus?  What about those who are alive at Christ's appearing?  What of those who died MORE than once?  Yes, you read that correctly.  There were specific cases in the scriptures of men (and women) who died MORE THAN ONCE.   The most widely known example is that of Lazarus.  Remember Lazarus?  He had been a friend of the Lord's who died and was raised from the dead.  Now, he was NOT raised to immortality.  That is important to note.  Jesus is the ONLY man to have been resurrected to immortality (see 1 Tim.6:16).

Lazarus died a second time.  When?  We don't know but I assure you that he did, in fact, die again.  Now, are we to believe that while Lazarus was dead, he was ushered into the presence of God and judged?  Keep in mind, Jesus had not even gone to the cross yet.  So, we know, that "men are not appointed to die ONCE".

Secondly, what is the context of the ninth chapter of Hebrews?  The writer of "Hebrews" is, (now hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen) written to Hebrews who had a knowledge (thorough knowledge) of the Old Testament scriptures.  They knew well about the function and office of Israel's high priest.  They knew well about the sacrifices made of bulls and goats and how these sacrifices were used to symbolically atone for Israel's sins (foreshadowing the more excellent sacrifice to come).  The writer of Hebrews is telling them that Jesus, the Son of God, was the ultimate High Priest, of whom the high priests of the Old Testament were but a shadow.  If you have not done so at this point; take a moment to carefully read the entirety of Hebrews 9, to gain the proper context.  And, as a matter of fact, beginning in chapter 7 and continuing through chapter 10 of Hebrews, the writer is painting Jesus as The absolute High Priest.

Beginning in verse 24, the writer contrasts Jesus' sacrifice of himself with that of the High Priests who made annual sacrifice.  

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." (v.24-26)

Jesus' sacrifice was a ONE-TIME sacrifice.  It should now be apparent who the men "appointed ONCE to die" are referring to in this chapter.  The men are the High Priests and high priests only.  As you read chapter 9 and even continue into chapter 10 (keep in mind that chapter breaks and verse numberings are not inspired but are inserted by men) notice that nowhere do we read of warnings concerning a post-mortem judgment, or hellfire.  All that is in view is the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross.  However, via reading our traditions into this passage, we impose a meaning on the verse (27) which is completely foreign and out of context.

Also, the high priests went into the holy of holies (foreshadowing Jesus entering the presence of God) and came out of the holy of holies (foreshadowing Jesus’ eventual return) showing that the sacrifice was accepted.  

Now, we should consider some major differences between the high priests’ sacrifices and that of Jesus.  First, the high priests had to continually (annually) make sacrifice unto The LORD for Israel.  However, Jesus’ sacrifice was but once and was for all.  Also, the remembrance of sin was not done away with upon the sacrifice made annually by the high priests:

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1-4)

But, what of the” judgment” referenced in the verse?  We, who have been raised in orthodox Christianity, have been taught that “judgment” is a bad thing.  But, is that right?  Is judgment always a bad thing?  A judicial judgment (which is the meaning of the Greek word “krisis”, translated here as “judgment”) can be good.  For example, a judge may be hearing a civil case and award a judgment in favor of one of the parties.  So, too, in this particular “judgment” and what the Old Testament work of the high priest foreshadowed.  Below are two examples which fit perfectly into what is described and contrasted in chapter 9 of Hebrews.

Consider Aaron, the first high priest, in Exodus 28:29-30:

“And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually. 30 And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the Lord: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.”     

Who is our mediator?  Jesus.  He is in the presence of God, with us on his heart, before God.

As part of the Mosaic Law, a provision was made for one judged to be an innocent manslayer.  See Numbers 35:22-29:

“But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him anything without laying of wait,
23 Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm: 24 Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments: 25 And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; 27 And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:
28 Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
29 So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

Now, consider the passage above with Hebrews 9:27 about how “…it is appointed unto men once to die, after this judgment…” Also, note that in the original, there is no definite article (the) between “this” and “judgment”.  So, what was the “judgment” of Numbers 35, described above?  The judgment was that the killer was an innocent manslayer.  The death of the high priest would allow for the killer to go back to his city of refuge.  

The writer of Hebrews, in verse 27, was making the point of Israel being the manslayer of Jesus.  Are we not told throughout scripture that Israel was blinded that they would not see who Jesus was?  Look, for example at the passage below, considering Israel:

“He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” (John 12:40)

Hebrews 9:27 (and the way it is taught) is a great example of why context is so important and why verses cannot be read in isolation, expecting to find truth.  When you read, not only Hebrews 9 but also the entirety of chapters 7 through 10, nowhere will you find an inkling of what bible teachers are guilty of teaching, when it comes to this verse.  As a matter of fact, this verse should be reassuring, not foreboding, once we understand the context of what is being conveyed.  Jesus is the ultimate High Priest, who will accomplish something for all of creation.  Jesus’ sacrifice of his life and his sinless blood will accomplish for all of creation, what cannot be accomplished via bulls and goats.

This should cause us to consider something additionally when it comes to the question of what was accomplished at Calvary and how far-reaching Christ’s work will go.  God’s requirements of the sacrifice of bulls and goats did not take away sin, except as a shadow of what was to come.  In addition, these sacrifices had to be done continually because as we see in Hebrews 10, the remembrance of sin continues.  However, was faith of Israel required for the absolving of sin?  In other words, was the faith of Israel and each individual what took the sins away?  No, it was all about God and what He had in mind for what Christ’s sacrifice would do, not just for Israel, but for all of creation.  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Every Knee Shall Bow...or Else!

“Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

This verse, stating an eventual fact, is often not cited as the truly remarkable thing that it will be, in the future.  Instead, it is often presented as a threat; and a future confession made grudgingly and under duress and force.

For those who remember Superman II, (yes, things always come back to geek movies for me) you will remember the primary villain, Zod, from Superman’s home world of Krypton.  Zod and his two minions have been wreaking havoc with impunity on Earth, with no one stopping them.  Zod goes to the White House and demands that the President kneel before him and swear loyalty to him.  And, if the President decides not to kneel, what happens?  Well, that would be a very bad idea…and he knows it.

Is this scene of villainy really what the fulfillment of this famous, often quoted passage will be like?  Will Christ Jesus be standing, arms crossed, tapping His foot; God, The Father, seated behind Him on an imposing throne, just waiting to inflict unending pain upon the fool who refuses to bow the knee and confess Jesus Christ as Lord?

Christianity, the institution, that bears The Lord’s name and claims to represent Him, has managed to misrepresent Him to the world.  Christ, being the Word of God, was God’s designated Spokesman to perfectly reveal Him to the world.  While the scriptures do speak of Christ Jesus judging, that is not His primary role; nor is His judging to mete out punishment; for punishment’s sake.  Everything God does and certainly everything His Son did during His earthly ministry; was done to show God’s love for the world.  At this point, it might be helpful for you to do a word study on the word, “world”.  In almost every occurrence of that word in the New Testament, something bad is in view.  And often, the word “world” is used in comparison or contrast to “believers”.  That pretty much does away with the Calvinist argument that states that when “God so loved the world”, “world” means “the elect”.   Nonsense.

Just as any good father, corrects a child who needs correction, our Heavenly Father does the same.  God does not “punish” for punishment’s sake, doesn’t do so “forever” and certainly not “forever and ever”.  

At some point, prior to God becoming All in all (1 Corinthians 15:28) something will happen.  What will happen is what is detailed in Philippians 2:9-11.  This is the outcome; the eventual outcome of 1Timothy 2:3-6, where we read:

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 
(1 Tim. 2:3-6)

This will happen at some point.  All, in God’s timing will come to a realization of the truth.  A key aspect of that truth is the person of Jesus Christ and His role, given by God; as the one Lord and the Mediator between God and man.  

So, will the event when everyone confesses this truth, that Jesus Christ is Lord (to the glory of God, the Father) be a joyful event or a frightening event?  I can find no scriptural reason for this event to be one of terror; an “I told you so!” moment that many Christians make this to be.  For many, this is the verse that is used in memes on Facebook and in sermons, often times, pointed at unbelievers as a “pay day”.  But, is God not responsible for the faith that one has or doesn’t have?  I have written about this many times, but the scriptures are replete with God being pointed to as the provider and withholder of belief and faith.  Ephesians 2:8-9 points out that we are saved by grace through faith and this is “NOT OUT OF YOU”, lest any should boast.  But, do Christians not hold out Philippians 2:9-11 as a boast?  Do most not insinuate that unbelievers are to blame for not coming to belief and acknowledging Christ Jesus, now; while they did (“did” indicates past action; and would probably be considered “doing” something; a work).

Speaking of being given belief, there is a pre-requisite to confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Not surprising, the ability to make this claim isn’t conjured up from out of nowhere by the one making the confession.  Notice what Paul says below (emphasis added):

“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 12:3)

Wow!  If no man can say that Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit; what does that indicate?   Yes, it means that the Holy Spirit leads the person to that truth.  And (stay with me here, we’re building to something) what must a person do to be saved:

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)

I’m anticipating your objection here.  “Yeah, ok, but you also have to believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and I don’t see that.”  Would anyone reasonably conclude that if he is raised from the dead, kneeling before Jesus Christ, that he will not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?!  

Some will further object, “Well, at that point it is too late because being face-to-face with Jesus means that they didn’t have to believe it.  They see it.  Well, let’s see about that.  I am positive that is addressed in the scriptures.  Have you ever heard of Thomas, aka “Doubting Thomas”?  When told of the Lord’s resurrection, Thomas told the fellow disciples that he would not believe unless he saw Jesus.  Read the account below (emphasis added):

“The other disciples, therefore, were saying unto him—We have seen the Lord! But, he, said unto them—Except I see, in his hands, the print of the nails, and press my finger into the print of the nails, and press my hand into his side, in nowise will I believe. 26 And, eight days after, his disciples again were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh—the doors having been made fast—and stood in the midst, and said—Peace be unto you! 27 Then, saith he unto Thomas—Reach thy finger hither, and see my hands, and reach thy hand, and press into my side,—and become not disbelieving, but believing. 28 Thomas answered, and said unto him—My Lord, and my God! 29 Jesus saith unto him—Because thou hast seen me, hast thou believed? Happy, they who have not seen, and yet have believed!” (John 20:25-29)

Now, upon Thomas seeing and touching the risen Jesus Christ (not believing beforehand) did Jesus refuse him?  Jesus Christ did not say, “Yeah, well, you should have believed beforeI showed up.  Too late now…”  No, and the Lord pointed out that Thomas did believe.  The acclamation and acknowledgment by Thomas was called “believing” by Jesus.  

Some will object further and say, “Yeah, well, Thomas believed before he died.  So, the reasoning goes that if Thomas had been in a chariot accident and had died before Jesus came to him, it would have been too late for Thomas.”  Where in the scriptures, is it stated that there is a “time limit” or a “drop-dead date” or a “cut-off” for believing the truth?  The teaching that one cannot be given the truth after death and after being resurrected is unscriptural nonsense;  completely alien to the scriptures.  As a matter of fact, most will not be made believers until their resurrection from the dead (see 1 Cor. 15:21-28).

Now, we have several facts:
A. God wills that all (not “some” or a “few”) will be saved and come to a realization of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:3-6)
B. All (not “some” or a “few”) will bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, The Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)
C. No man can confess that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3)
D. That if one confesses this with one’s mouth and believes that God raised the Lord from the dead, one will be saved. (Rom. 10:9)
E. One can still believe even though one is shown. (John 20:25-29)
F. This life is not a scriptural “cut-off” for belief.

The acclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord, is made “to the glory of God, the Father”.  I wonder what would bring God more glory, between the options of most people being forced to make this confession (like the poor kid who has his arm twisted behind his back by the school bully until he yells,“Uncle!!”) or this being a glad and happy confession made by those welcomed into the arms of their Savior and coming to a knowledge and making acknowledgment of what was done for him?

God is not satisfied with even one being lost; much less, the vast majority of humanity.  Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, pictured this in the parable of the lost sheep.  The Good Shepherd goes out and hunts to find the lost sheep.  He doesn’t sit around, cross his fingers, and hope that the lost sheep finds his way back.  Similarly, God through His Son is the Savior (not passive) of the world (a bad thing) and the pre-requisite to being saved, is first; being lost.