- Table of Contents
- CHAPTER 1. The Enormity of the Error of Perverting the Gospel
- CHAPTER 2. The Biblical Terms of Salvation vs. Modern Day Misconceptions
- CHAPTER 3. The Lordship of Christ in Salvation
- CHAPTER 4. Regeneration: The Creation of a New Man
- CHAPTER 5. Sanctification: The Growth of the New Man
- CHAPTER 6. We Walk By Faith Not By Sight
- CHAPTER 7. Taking Up Our Cross: An Essential Requirement in Salvation
- CHAPTER 8. What is a Carnal Christian?
- CHAPTER 9. Bear or Burn: The Fruit of Obedience in the Parables of Christ
- CHAPTER 10. Saint or Sinner?
- CHAPTER 11. Righteousness vs. Self-righteousness
- CHAPTER 12. Can a Christian Backslide?
- CHAPTER 13. Love vs Law—Legalism—License
- CHAPTER 14. Sin and the Misinterpretation of Romans 7
- CHAPTER 15. Examine Yourselves as to Whether You Are in the Faith
- APPENDIX 1. Quotes and Confessions in Church History
- APPENDIX 2. Scriptural Evidence for the Necessity of Obedience in Salvation
Clinging to a Counterfeit Cross
by James P. Shelly
Conclusion: Examine Yourselves as to Whether You Are in the Faith
As we have seen throughout the preceding chapters, one of the most pernicious errors ever imposed on the Church is the teaching that God's grace somehow negates the necessity of obedience. Its impact has, in all probability, brought as much disgrace, dishonor, and disrepute, to God and His true Church, as that of any error in ecclesiastical history. It is a teaching that has eliminated any clear line of distinction between the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares, the believer and unbeliever. One can be a wicked and lazy servant and yet still be considered a Christian—Enter the narrow gate and walk in the broad way—Be a saint and live as a sinner—Be born of the Spirit and walk in the flesh—Be a child of God and live like the "sons of disobedience"—Children of light while walking in darkness—Claim God as our father while remaining our own god—Bought with a price yet remain our own—Sow to the flesh and reap everlasting life—Receive an imputed righteousness without living and walking in righteousness. It has inundated the visible Church with faithless professors resulting in the perception to the outside world that the church is filled with hypocrites, when in fact, according to Christ, there are no hypocrites in the Church as biblically defined (Matt. 24:51). The standard by which one might know if he is a Christian has been reduced to professing to believe in Jesus, which is not to be questioned, irrespective of how they live. Subsequently, we use terms like "committed Christian" or "devout Christian" as if commitment and devotedness to Christ were optional. Obedience to the teachings of Christ, although encouraged, are not required—the lack thereof resulting only in diminished rewards enjoyed in the kingdom while entrance into the kingdom is assured. God's grace is narrowly defined as His unmerited favor in the forgiveness of sin while deliverance from sin is a secondary issue. Our justification is not merited but our sanctification is. We have become so obsessed with guarding against the false doctrine of "salvation by works," so twisted the meaning of grace, that any emphasis on obedience or "works" is actually thought of as evil and "Pharisaical" in the minds of many. They fail to see the distinction between legalism, which they mistakenly equate with obedience, and true righteousness; flesh and spirit; The spiritual righteousness of a faith that pleases God (Rom. 8:4-9), the one "who rejoices and does righteousness," who remembers God in His ways (Isa. 64:5), and the legalistic righteousness of the flesh described in the verse that immediately follows, "We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." This is the distinction between the narrow and broad way, the sheep and the goats, etc. It is the distinction between the righteousness of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Peter and Paul, as opposed to that of the so-called righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Because they fail to recognize this distinction they fall into the error of Antinomianism which, even as legalism, undermines and perverts the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The number of souls destroyed by this misunderstanding and mischaracterization of God's grace is incalculable.
The grace of the Antinomian claims to magnify God's love and mercy while in reality it is a mockery of both. We have so-called leaders in the Church who say, "God's love for His People is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from his hand,"1 yet, we would think it absurd to say that an earthly father loves his children so much that he allows them to be defiant and rebellious. While these teachers claim such leniency and lack of discipline from God the Father as love, Scripture describes it as hate, "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly" (Prov. 13:24). Are Christians not sons and daughters of God? (Gal. 3:26). Therefore, if God would spare the rod on His own children and fail to discipline them promptly would it not diminish His love rather than magnify it? The truth is "whom the Lord loves He chastens" and God's love is of such magnitude that He scourges His children (Heb. 12:6), that they might be kept on the narrow path of holiness and from straying too far from the required course of righteousness (Heb. 12:11). "Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart" (Prov. 20:30). According to Scripture, this, and nothing less, is the love of a good and righteous father, "for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?" (Heb. 12:7), and therefore to suppose that it would be otherwise with our heavenly Father is deceptive indeed.
We are constantly being told in the professing church that we should never look to our own behavior when considering the assurance of our salvation and that "we only need look to the finished work of Christ." However, in truth, "the finished work of Christ" has as its primary objective the obedience of the recipient of that work and we are, therefore, constantly warned of the deception of a mere profession of faith that does not result in righteous behavior;
Ezekiel 33:31 - So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.
Matthew 15:8 - 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.
Matthew 7:21 - Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Luke 6:46 - But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?
1 John 1:6 - If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
1 John 2:3 - He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Titus 1:16 - They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
James 2:14 - What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
James 1:22 - But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (all italics added)
Would it be possible to teach the necessity of obedience with any greater clarity than that which we find in these verses? In each of these passages we are warned of the deception of having a profession of faith which lacks the evidence of obedience. The one cannot be severed from the other. Furthermore, how can any of these verses have their intended effect without us personally examining our own behavior and manner of life? How can we know if we are doing the will of the Father, keeping His commandments, walking in the light, if we have works, are doers of the word and not hearers only? By "looking to the finished work of Christ?" How is it possible, in light of these and a myriad of other passages in Scripture, to evaluate the state of our own souls and to seek the assurance of our salvation, without taking into account our own behavior? Without examining our own lives in regards to how we live, think, and act in this present world? Without testing ourselves as to whether or not Christ is truly in us? Without identifying with, and comparing our own lives, with those men and women of faith we find throughout Scripture? In other words how can we know if we are doers of the word and not hearers only without evaluating what we do? The answer is we cannot. It is certainly true that we must look to the finished work of Christ on the cross, wherein we find forgiveness, but we must also look to the resurrected and living Lord in whom we are endowed with the motivation and ability to accomplish His will, mindful that we are indeed doing so, lest we deceive ourselves and find ourselves in a worse state than the unbeliever that makes no profession of faith at all.
It is relatively rare to find a page in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, wherein our obedience to God is not uppermost in the inspired writers mind. We are commanded, as in Ezekiel 18:31, to "Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit." We are then offered God's grace in order to fulfill the command, "I [God]will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you" (Ezek. 36:26). This is the message of salvation throughout Scripture which, of course, points us to Christ and his work on our behalf whereby we are divinely equipped in order to accomplish all that is required of us. The gospel is not so much about us "giving our hearts to Christ," a phrase not found in Scripture, as much as it is our asking God to graciously give a new heart to us, by His Spirit. He does not want our filthy hearts but wants to renew and cleanse our rebellious hearts through faith, Acts 15:9, that every Christian, even as David, would be a man after God's own heart. This is the grace found in both the Old and New Testaments,
"wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved" (Jer. 4: 14).
"First cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also" (Matt. 23:26).
"The Lord your God will circumcise your heart...so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."(Deut. 30:6)
"I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart." (Jer. 24:7)
"I will put my laws on their hearts" (Heb. 10:16).
"Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart....He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation." (Ps. 24:3-5)
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive. (Jn. 7:38-40) (all emphasis added)
We find in these verses that the primary focus of the Gospel is not forgiveness, but obedience from a cleansed and pure heart received by God's grace. Forgiveness is simply a means to an end and not an end in itself. Anyone who would make the end optional makes the means of no avail. Grace is not to be viewed through the narrow lens of forgiveness but through the much broader lens of faith in God which produces far more glorious results. We are not saved by forgiveness alone, but by faith alone. If we imagine that we can be forgiven without receiving a new heart and a new spirit resulting in living a new life—a life characterized by righteousness—we make a mockery of the new birth and render it meaningless. Scripture defines a Christian by that which possesses the heart and even as a tree is known by its fruit—A Christian is known by their character as evidenced by righteous behavior, and has little to do with what one might profess with the lips. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things" (Matt. 12:35). Here, once again, we find two contrasting ways; the way of a good man and the way of an evil man. How can we discern which way we are in? How do we know if we are bringing forth good things? Not by simply looking to the finished work of Christ on the Cross and professing a faith in that work, but by the evidence that the risen Christ is at work in our hearts which brings forth good things. If we are bringing forth evil things Christ is not in us. What then? Do we need to change our behavior that we might be saved? No, we need to get for ourselves a new heart and a new spirit, having our hearts first cleansed by grace and then, and only then, the outside will be clean also (Matt. 23:26).Any other means of outward cleansing is nothing more than filthy rags in the sight of God.
We often hear it said that we are not to question anyone's faith. Yet, throughout Scripture we find the opposite to be true. Did the prophets not question the faith of Israel? Did Jesus not question the faith of the Scribes and the Pharisees? Did not Peter, James, John and Paul often question the faith of others? When it says in Titus 1:16, "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work," is he not questioning their faith? Is Peter not questioning the faith of false teachers when he writes,
"For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption" (2 Pet. 2:18, 19).
Was Paul not questioning the faith of the Corinthians when He wrote, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified"? (2 Cor. 13:5). Those Paul writes to were professing a belief in Jesus and gathering with the Church, but this was not sufficient to prove the genuineness of their faith. Would Paul have asked them to make this self inquiry if they were not exhibiting unrighteous behavior? If their practice was in line with the fruit characteristic of a heart wherein Christ dwells? He says to them in 12:20, 21,
For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish...lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;...and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.
When Paul says, "I shall not find you such as I wish" he means that "I shall not find your intentions, attitudes, and behavior fitting of those who are in Christ." Here, Paul is concerned that, in light of their behavior, they may not be in the faith at all. He has doubts as to whether Christ is truly in them because the powerful effects of such an indwelling appeared to be absent. Why would he mourn for them? Because as he stated in Galatians 5:19-21 such sins are incompatible with the reception of a renewed heart and if they remained unrepentant they would forfeit their entrance to the Kingdom of God. What we are in Christ is intimately joined with how we live in Christ.Scripture describes Christianity as the "way of life." In Acts 9:2 we find that Christians are called those who are "Of the Way."It is the narrow way described by Christ in Matthew 7:14. Paul gives an overall view of "the Way" in his defense before Felix against the accusations of the Jews in Acts 24:14-16,
But this I confess to you, however, that in accordance with the Way...I worship (serve) the God of our fathers, still persuaded of the truth of and believing in and placing full confidence in everything laid down in the Law [of Moses] or written in the prophets; Having [the same] hope in God which these themselves hold and look for, that there is to be a resurrection both of the righteous and the unrighteous (the just and the unjust). Therefore I always exercise and discipline myself [mortifying my body, deadening my carnal affections, bodily appetites, and worldly desires, endeavoring in all respects] to have a clear (unshaken, blameless) conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men. (Amplified Version)(emphasis added)
So then, those in this "Way" are said to faithfully serve and worship God, to be persuaded of the truth, believing in and placing full confidence in everything laid down in the Law and written in the prophets, that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous, and in the hope of being resurrected with the righteous, they always exercise and discipline themselves, mortifying their body, deadening their carnal affections, bodily appetites, and worldly desires, endeavoring in all respects to have a clear, unshaken, blameless conscience, not troubled by a consciousness of sin, void of offense toward God and toward men. "They keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice" (Gen. 18:19). "For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish" (Ps. 1:6)(emphasis added). Paul is saying to the Corinthians, examine yourselves as to whether or not you are in the way of the righteous, the way of faith, abiding in Christ and Christ in you, walking in the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, unless indeed you are disqualified. Adam Clarke writes,
The flesh, the sinful principle, dwelt in them before; and its motions were the proofs of its indwelling; but now the Spirit dwells in them; and its testimony in their conscience, and its powerful operations in their hearts, are the proofs of its indwelling. God made man in union with himself, and his heart was his temple. Sin being committed, the temple was defiled, and God abandoned it. Jesus Christ is come by his sacrifice and Spirit to cleanse the temple, and make man again a habitation of God through the Spirit. And when this almighty Spirit again makes the heart his residence, then the soul is delivered from the moral effects of the fall. And that this is absolutely necessary to our present peace and final salvation is proved from this: that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ—the mind that was in him, produced there by the power of the Holy Ghost—he is none of his; he does not belong to the kingdom, flock, or family of God. This is an awful conclusion! Reader, lay it to heart.2
This qualifying sentence is fitly subjoined, by which they were stirred up to examine themselves more closely, lest they should profess the name of Christ in vain. And it is the surest mark by which the children of God are distinguished from the children of the world, when by the Spirit of God they are renewed unto purity and holiness....But if any have not the Spirit of Christ, etc. He subjoins this to show how necessary in Christians is the denial of the flesh. The reign of the Spirit is the abolition of the flesh. Those in whom the Spirit reigns not, belong not to Christ; then they are not Christians who serve the flesh; for they who separate Christ from his own Spirit make him like a dead image or a carcase. And we must always bear in mind what the Apostle has intimated, that gratuitous remission of sins can never be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; for this would be as it were to rend Christ asunder.3
Unlike much of the Church today the epistle of 1 John draws a very clear line of distinction between a true Christian and a false professor. His epistle was written primarily to comfort believers in the truth of the faith as well as warn them of the false teachings that they were constantly being exposed to. "These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you" (1 John 2:26). What was the primary deception he was concerned with? "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous" (1 John 3:7). Again, what possible words could John use to make the case for the necessity of obedience any clearer? He says anyone who would teach that you can be righteous in Christ without being righteous in practice is a deceiver. Albert Barnes writes,
This is laid down as a great and undeniable principle in religion—a maxim which none could dispute, and as important as it is plain. And it is worthy of all the emphasis which the apostle lays on it. The man who does righteousness, or leads an upright life, is a righteous man, and no other one is. No matter how any one may claim that he is justified by faith; no matter how he may conform to the external duties and rites of religion; no matter how zealous he may be for orthodoxy, or for the order of the church; no matter what visions and raptures he may have, or of what peace and joy in his soul he may boast; no matter how little he may fear death, or hope for heaven - unless he is in fact a righteous man, in the proper sense of the term, he cannot be a child of God. If he is, in the proper sense of the word, a man who keeps the law of God, and leads a holy life, he is righteous, for that is religion. Such a man, however, will always feel that his claim to be regarded as a righteous man is not to be traced to what he is in himself, but to what he owes to the grace of God.4
John tells us in 1 John 5:13, "These things have I written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." John Stott writes;
How may we 'be sure that we know him' (RSV)? By this answer John provides the first test, which he has already adumbrated in the first chapter and now forcefully clarifies. It is the test of moral obedience. We may know that we have come to know him (perfect tense, egnōkamen) only if we obey his commands. Only if we obey him can we claim to know him, not to have accurate information about him merely, but to have become personally acquainted with him. If it is objected that in this case No-one knows God, because No-one is perfectly obedient, we may reply with Calvin: 'he does not mean that those who wholly satisfy the Law keep His commandments (and no such instance can be found in the world), but those who strive, according to the capacity of human infirmity, to form their life in obedience to God'. The verb John uses in relation to God's commands (tērein) indicates more than a merely external conformity to moral standards; it 'expresses the idea of watchful, observant obedience' (Law).5
What does the apostle write that we might know we have eternal life? He says in 1 John 5:18-20,
We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (emphasis added).
Here, John tells us that we know those born of God do not practice sin and therefore those who do are not Christians. We know that we are of God because we are not under the sway or dominion of Satan, the wicked one, meaning we are under the sway or lordship of Christ, the Righteous One. In other words, one can know he is a Christian by who his master is which is reflected in how he conducts his life. He says in 1 John 3:24,
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
Here, John says we can know if He abides in us, not by a professed faith in the finished work of Christ, but by the evidence of the work of the Spirit in that we keep the commandments of God. We read in 1 John 3:14,
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
Here, we know we have eternal life because we love the brethren which, again, is manifest in our conduct. The love John speaks of is not in word but in deed. He says in v. 18,
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
He says essentially the same thing in 1 John 5:2,
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
He says, by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. We see then that genuine love, evidenced by our deeds, does in fact play a vital role in our assurance. Christ said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). And what does Jesus say to those who do not love the least of His brethren, in deed and in truth? "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).It should be clear to all that Jesus leaves us without option; Either we love the brethren in deed and in truth or we perish. Furthermore, this contradicts the common notion that one can be a Christian without being intimately and consistently joined in fellowship with other believers, gathering with the Church as the body of Christ. Is it possible to love our Christian brothers and sisters in deed and in truth without being in regular communion and fellowship with them? When we do assemble with the Church do we love the brethren by singing a few songs, listening to a sermon, and then going home? No, Scripture paints an entirely different picture. We are to come together as a Church to "build each other up" (1 Thess. 5:11), to "encourage one another" (Heb. 3:13), "to stir up love and good works" (Heb. 10:24), "teaching and admonishing one another" (Col. 3:16), to "serve one another" (Gal. 5:13), to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2), being "devoted to one another in brotherly love" (Rom. 12:10), looking "not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil. 2:4). That the Church "may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15, 16) (emphasis added). Simply "going to Church" to listen to a sermon fulfills none of these mandates. If our coming together is not conducive to the participation in and practice of these Biblical directives, the Spirit will be quenched and every member will suffer the spiritual consequences thereof. On the other hand, when coming together Biblically, in intimate fellowship, joined and knit together...by which every part does its share, each member will flourish and grow, edifying itself in love. In such an environment, righteousness, i.e., love for God and neighbor, will be the primary aim and thus sin a primary foe (Acts 13:10). In such intimate fellowship sin will not go easily unnoticed and those who are spiritually mature will be able to lovingly attempt the restoration of those who fall into it (Gal. 6:1). The goats will be uncomfortable in such surroundings and will likely either become sheep or leave the flock. The tares will readily dry up and wither away since they have little interest or thirst for the sustenance of the water of the Word. The mandate to discipline hypocrites will be imposed in the loving fear that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6). The Church then will not be thought of as a hospital for the spiritually sick, as is often asserted, but rather an assembly for those spiritually healed by the Gospel; those restored to a right relationship with God through the blood of Christ "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24). It will be a congregation of those who have been transformed by the power of God in regeneration with the love of God being poured out in their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). They will aspire to do all things with love (1 Cor. 16:14); a love without hypocrisy, abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good (Rom. 12:9). Seeking above all things to have a fervent love for one another with a pure heart (1 Pet. 1:22, 4:8), bearing the fruit of the Spirit to the glory of God. This is the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ; The salt of the earth and a beacon of love and righteousness to the whole world. Charles Heinze writes:
Since holiness is the highest good, the ultimate aim of every act of kindness, charity, or good will should be to lead or assist the recipient to true holiness. Contributing to another's physical well-being may be kind, but true love looks beyond the temporal, physical need to the eternal, spiritual need. Love must have this long-range view to act in harmony with truth. Love acknowledges the true situation or need. Love, therefore, has as its objective the holiness of the recipient.
Of course, this kind of love is impossible for an unregenerate man to demonstrate. Acts of kindness may be present, but a desire for the holiness of its beneficiaries is absent. No one can love with godly love until he has first received God's love in salvation. Then, with a regenerate heart, he can love others in the context of truth.
Holiness is the source, expressed in truth, and demonstrated in love. Love in the Christian brotherhood is not a mere sentimental feeling. It is far more real and practical. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments" (1 John 5:2). All God's commandments are truth (Ps. 119:151) and obedience to them is holiness. This alone is loving the children of God. This is the pathway of blessedness.6
Most every Christian will have times of doubt as to whether or not they have received the gift of a new heart and a new spirit. They do not doubt the promises of God but whether or not they themselves are partakers of them. This happens primarily in the earliest years as a Christian when indwelling sin is at its peak and the ability to discern spiritual truth at its lowest ebb. This is when they are most vulnerable to false teachings. They are often bombarded with false notions of the Gospel and since they are inherently ignorant in their spiritual immaturity they are all the more susceptible to error and particularly that which tends to give comfort in sin. Error is always conducive to sin which does a terrible disservice to the young Christian in that it impedes rather than aids their walk with God. They often find themselves frustrated in their newfound quest for truth as they must sift through all the differing voices and various controversies regarding salvation. However, grace operates in such a way that it gives the Christian an inherent love and hunger for the truth of God's Word which will cause them to carefully and diligently search the Scriptures, comparing all that is heard to the truth found therein. Thus they are progressively set free from anything that seeks to hinder their resolve to please the Lord their God. The Word so works in the purified heart, now endowed with an impassioned longing to please God, that any teaching contrary to these inherent desires will be judiciously discerned and rejected. The true Christian does not seek comfort in their sin but victory over sin. They inherently seek to put to death the deeds of the body and therefore any teaching that tends to prolong their life or to resuscitate them is recognized as contrary to their happiness and well-being. They now have God's law written on their hearts and no longer perceive them as oppressive but liberating knowing that God has their best interest in mind (Deut. 5:29, Ps. 119:45) This they are increasingly made aware of as they experience the great comfort and joy of their obedience and therefore rather than being burdensome they are able to say with the Psalmist, "Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes" (Ps. 119:10-12) Their prayer is not, "Thank you Lord Jesus for keeping the commandments so that I don't have to" but rather, "Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it" (Ps. 119:35). Their mind is set on things above, their eyes fixed on Christ and His Kingdom, their hearts consumed with the love of God, their feet led by the Spirit of truth, and thus they walk in the way of righteousness to the honor and glory of God Who is their sustenance and life, to Whom they are forever indebted. Their former manner of life is now looked upon in disgust. It is repugnant to them (Ezek. 36:31), and when in times of weakness, particularly in the early stages of their walk, there be any attempts to go back to it, they are expeditiously met with Spirit wrought misery and despair (Matt. 26:75). They soon learn that, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62) Therefore, in time, they become increasingly confident in their assurance as they come to realize that this longing to know God, this love for truth, this desperate heartfelt desire to be holy, just and righteous before the God they love and fear, their progression in sanctification, can only be explained by the new birth spoken of by Christ (Jn. 3). This work of the Spirit of God witnesses with their spirit that they are indeed children of God (Rom. 8:16) and that Christ abides in them. The true believer will not rest satisfied until he finds this assurance knowing that the loss of eternal life is the loss of the only thing of any tangible and lasting value. The false professor, on the other hand, will not experience such struggles, for he is never fully persuaded of God's promises. This is the one who glibly says in his heart "I have no need of self-examination for I am trusting in Christ alone Who paid it all, I only need look to the Cross" which is often a thinly veiled contrivance to seemingly exalt Christ while justifying their own sin. Many who say such things have never truly understood what it means to trust in Christ and they, in actuality, tarnish His Name. So it is that the one who never wrestles with his salvation is more likely to be found in danger of a false assurance, for the sober reality of what is at stake never takes root in the depths of his heart. J.C. Philpot writes:
Now I believe that for the most part, those who have nothing else but a birth 'of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man,' have no doubts nor fears, no strong exercises nor sharp temptations as to their eternal state before God: whilst, on the other hand, those whom the Lord is teaching by the blessed Spirit, are often tried and exercised in their minds whether the feelings which they from time to time inwardly experience spring from a real work of God upon their souls, or whether they are mere counterfeits and imitations of a work of grace.
Thus, in God's mysterious providence, those who have every reason to fear have for the most part no fear at all, and those who have no reason whatever to fear, but stand complete in Christ, the objects of God's eternal love...Satan is continually distressing their minds. It is the object of Satan to keep those secure who are safe in his hands; nor does God see fit to disturb their quiet. He has no purpose of mercy towards them; they are not subjects of His kingdom; they are not objects of His love. He therefore leaves them carnally secure; in a dream, from which they will not awake till God "despises their image" (Ps. 73:20)....So that whilst those who have no work of grace upon their hearts at all are left secure, and free from doubt and fear, those in whom God is at work are exercised and troubled in their minds, and often cannot really believe that they are the people in whom God takes delight.7
The general attitude of Evangelicalism is that which is more concerned with the temporal than the eternal and subsequently there is far more concern over the man who may doubt his salvation than the man who has a false assurance. Doubting one's salvation can indeed be a painful experience, with great anguish of soul, but how much more so the anguish of a false assurance? The temporal anguish over the doubt of our own salvation can never be justly compared to the unimaginable horror of being found in the last day, clinging to a counterfeit cross. It is a mere light affliction which is but for a moment compared to eternal condemnation. "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). This principle holds true for all temporal sufferings. Certainly, we must look upon one who is in distress over doubt with compassion, however, we must be careful not to let our compassion interfere with the work of the Spirit. The man who doubts his salvation is not in need of mere human consolation, but rather the witness of the Spirit Himself. Once assurance is obtained, the joy of it far surpasses the temporary distress of doubt. In his diligent seeking of God in His word, he will experience an even greater intimacy with Christ and a strengthening of his faith. Spurgeon said:
We are perilously likely to rest satisfied with a slight healing, and by this means to miss the great and complete salvation which comes from God alone. I wish to speak in deep earnestness to everyone here present upon this subject, for I have felt the power of it on my own soul. To deliver this message, I have made a desperate effort, quitting my sick-bed without due permit, moved by a restless pining to warn you against the counterfeits of the day. ...I am now speaking straight to every one of you, and I am setting myself in the middle of the pew that my keenest sentence may enter my own bosom as well as yours. I say, we are all of us in danger of being the subjects of a false healing: ministers, deacons, elders, church-members, aged professors, and young beginners alike...The devil, who knows the exact bait for poor human nature, finds it easy to pacify an anxious mind by presenting a false salvation, and persuading the heart that all is well, while in fact nothing is well.8
Don Kistler, founder and president of Soli Deo Gloria, said in an article he wrote:
So many today base their "assurance" on things that are not Scriptural: praying a prayer, signing a card, walking an aisle, or raising a hand in a meeting. But when you "go to the mat with them," you find out that they have given their lives to a god that doesn't exist. Mark Twain once said that God created man in His own image, and man has returned the favor. Consequently, in our churches men are able to exercise a faith that is not from God, that is not a saving faith, and have not repented of sin, but merely of its consequences.9
We need to press upon our hearts those poor souls the Lord speaks of in Matthew 7:21, who thinking they were part of the Church, busy in religious activities, crying out on that day Lord, Lord! And Christ saying to them, "I never knew you. Depart from Me." Why? Because despite all their religious activities they continued to practice sin and lawlessness. Whether they be legalists or Antinomians they have no heart for loving obedience to Christ. R. C. Sproul, referring to the repeated use of the title "Lord" says:
In general the presence of repetition in Hebrew literature is a sign of emphasis. When the repetition involves personal address, it indicates a form of personal intimacy...When Jesus warned that some people who call him 'Lord, Lord' will not enter heaven, he was implying that they would be people who believed they had an intimate relationship with him. The warning is all the more alarming in that he said there will be 'many' who will approach him in this manner. Indeed their claim will be insistent. They will appeal to their works as evidence of the authenticity of their personal relationship with Christ. They will include preachers, exorcists, and those who point to 'wonderful works' they have done. ...The point of Jesus' warning is as simple as it is terrifying. It is not the person who professes faith who is saved; it is one who does the will of the Father...Works that are evidence of true faith are not merely activities of the church or ministry; they are works of obedience. We can be engaged in church or religious activities for all sorts of evil motives. Such works, even when God makes good use of them, do not please him. What pleases Him is a genuine spirit of obedience, which is the fruit of genuine faith.10
These false professors do not depart to some temporary place of chastening and one-day escape. Their destruction is eternal and their loss irrecoverable. In order that we might understand the dreadful horror of it, God describes it as an everlasting fire. Although in our finite minds we can never truly comprehend the full weight of it, certainly we can grasp the image of men standing before the Lord of the universe crying out in utter despair, "Lord, Lord, How can this be!?" And he says to them, depart from Me, you who were busy doing many things in My name, but your heart was far from Me. You were very strict in your regular attendance at Church and thus thought of yourself as a righteous and moral person, yet you were derelict in the first and greatest moral commandment of all; To love Me with all your heart, mind, body, soul and strength. You thought that simply attending Church would somehow please Me, however, as one who professed to know Me while continuing in sin, I was displeased that you ever gathered with My people at all (1 Cor. 5:6). You came to church for many reasons but never for the reasons taught in My Word. You enjoyed the singing and the social atmosphere, but when it came to the hearing of My word it was not to you the living water which quenches the thirsty soul, but rather a dry and lifeless word that wearied your flesh. You enjoyed making new friends in the Church but showed little desire for friendship and fellowship with Me, the Head of the Church. You gained recognition as an upstanding citizen in the world, but never gained recognition with Me as a citizen of the kingdom of God. You were so caught up in the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life that you forfeited all the eternal riches and pleasures of heaven. You did not seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness but rather the kingdom of this world and sin. You liked the idea of a heavenly kingdom, but had doubts as to its reality. You thought it may all be true, but you were not so fully convinced that you would to stake your life on it. You spent more time in the entertainments of the world than in prayer and in the study of My Word. You thought you could appropriate My sacrifice, receiving My righteousness, without any genuine desire to be righteous yourself or to make any sacrifices of your own. You had no real aspiration to glorify My Name, and therefore had little concern that your sin would bring dishonor to Me. You called Me Lord, Lord but did not do the things that I said. You did not love Me and therefore did not obey Me. You deceived yourself into thinking you could serve two masters. You had no sincere longing to know Me, therefore, I say to you, I never knew you, depart from Me you wicked and lazy servant (Matt. 25:36). Cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites (Matt. 24:51). Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30).
If pleasing, honoring, and glorifying God—seeking first and foremost His Kingdom and His righteousness, is not our primary delight in this world, we simply have no reason to believe that we are Christian. Believers are described in Scripture as those who love the truth and thus have no pleasure in unrighteousness.
"The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:9-12).
According to this passage, those who take pleasure in unrighteousness do not "believe the truth." Truth goes hand in hand with righteousness even as error with sin. To love the truth is to love righteousness and the one who loves righteousness "shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).
It is abundantly clear throughout Scripture that God sees all the people of the earth walking in one of two paths; the path of salvation or the path of destruction; of righteousness or sin. We have an example in Proverbs 2:1-17 describing the life of the believer in contrast to the unbeliever—the way of good men in contrast to the way of evil men:
My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil, and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways...So you will walk in the way of good men, and keep to the paths of the righteous. (NASB)
Similarly, in Psalm 37, David describes the contrast between the righteous and the wicked:
Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, to slay those who are of upright conduct. Their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the Lord, like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away. The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives. For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth, but those cursed by Him shall be cut off. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; And his descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; None of his steps shall slide. The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found. Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; For the future of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; The future of the wicked shall be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him.
In these passages, those in the difficult and narrow way are described as the righteous—the upright—the blameless. Those of wisdom and understanding, of integrity, discerning righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. Walking in the way of good men, and keeping to the paths of the righteous. They trust in the Lord, do good and feed on His faithfulness. They delight in the Lord and commit their way to Him. They wait on the Lord. They are meek and merciful. They depart from evil, and do good. The law of God is in their heart. These alone are said to dwell forevermore. These are among those descriptive texts of the Christian way and life whereby we must examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith. If we fall short of this "way" we are cursed by Him and will be eternally cut off from His presence. William Law, in his book, "A Serious Call To A Devout And Holy Life" writes:
Our blessed Savior and His Apostles are wholly taken up in doctrines that relate to common life. They call us to renounce the world, and differ in every temper and way of life, from the spirit and the way of the world: to renounce all its goods, to fear none of its evils, to reject its joys, and have no value for its happiness: to be as new-born babes, that are born into a new state of things: to live as pilgrims in spiritual watching, in holy fear, and heavenly aspiring after another life: to take up our daily cross, to deny ourselves, to profess the blessedness of mourning, to seek the blessedness of poverty of spirit: to forsake the pride and vanity of riches, to take no thought for the morrow, to live in the profoundest state of humility, to rejoice in worldly sufferings: to reject the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life: to bear injuries, to forgive and bless our enemies, and to love mankind as God loveth them: to give up our whole hearts and affections to God, and strive to enter through the strait gate into a life of eternal glory...If our common life is not a common course of humility, self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly affection, we do not live the lives of Christians.
But yet though it is thus plain that this, and this alone, is Christianity, a uniform, open, and visible practice of all these virtues, yet it is as plain, that there is little or nothing of this to be found, even amongst the better sort of people. You see them often at Church, and pleased with fine preachers: but look into their lives, and you see them just the same sort of people as others are, that make no pretenses to devotion. The difference that you find betwixt them, is only the difference of their natural tempers. They have the same taste of the world, the same worldly cares, and fears, and joys; they have the same turn of mind, equally vain in their desires. You see the same fondness for state and equipage, the same pride and vanity of dress, the same self-love and indulgence, the same foolish friendships, and groundless hatreds, the same levity of mind, and trifling spirit, the same fondness for diversions, the same idle dispositions, and vain ways of spending their time in visiting and conversation, as the rest of the world, that make no pretenses to devotion....We are told, that 'strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it' (Matt. 7:14). That 'many are called, but few are chosen' (Matt. 22:14)....If I am seeking everything that can delight my senses, and regale my appetites; spending my time and fortune in pleasures, in diversions, and worldly enjoyments; a stranger to watchings, fastings, prayers, and mortification; how can it be said that I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling? If there is nothing in my life and conversation that shows me to be different from Jews and Heathens; if I use the world, and worldly enjoyments, as the generality of people now do, and in all ages have done; why should I think that I am amongst those few who are walking in the narrow way to Heaven?...Weak and imperfect men shall, notwithstanding their frailties and defects, be received, as having pleased God, if they have done their utmost to please Him. The rewards of charity, piety, and humility, will be given to those, whose lives have been a careful labor to exercise these virtues in as high a degree as they could. We cannot offer to God the service of Angels; we cannot obey Him as man in a state of perfection could; but fallen men can do their best, and this is the perfection that is required of us; it is only the perfection of our best endeavors, a careful labor to be as perfect as we can...And when we cease to live with this regard to virtue, we live below our nature, and, instead of being able to plead our infirmities, we stand chargeable with negligence. It is for this reason that we are exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling; because unless our heart and passions are eagerly bent upon the work of our salvation; unless holy fears animate our endeavors, and keep our consciences strict and tender about every part of our duty, constantly examining how we live, and how fit we are to die; we shall in all probability fall into a state of negligence, and sit down in such a course of life, as will never carry us to the rewards of Heaven.11
In the first book of the Bible Adam was commanded, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Gen. 2:16). Adam failed to obey and therefore the Lord God said,
'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever'— therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.
Adam forfeited his access to the tree of life by his disobedience. We then find in the last book of the Bible those who regain access to "tree of life,"
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).
All the warnings to the Churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 have to do, not with what they profess to believe, but with whether or not they are faithful in their obedience to God. Only those who persevere in their obedience are said to receive God's promises. Therefore, it is written,
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie (Rev. 22:14).
So then we find this common thread throughout Scripture; Those who live in disobedience "shall surely die" and those who overcome and live in obedience shall surely live. Adam Clarke writes,
That they may have authority over the tree of life; an authority founded on right, this right founded on obedience to the commandments of God, and that obedience produced by the grace of God working in them. Without grace no obedience; without obedience no authority to the tree of life; without authority no right; without right no enjoyment: God's grace through Christ produces the good, and then rewards it as if all had been our own.
The truth is, every act of obedience tends toward our best interest, well being and comfort and every act of disobedience toward our worst interest, ill-being, discomfort, pain, suffering, and destruction. In other words, there is no downside to obedience and there is no upside in disobedience. We need not worry about being too strict in our obedience since we find nowhere in Scripture anyone ever admonished for being too obedient to God, yet we find on almost every page a rebuke to those who were not obedient. We not need concern ourselves with a legalistic Phariseeism in obeying God for Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees for being too strict in the law but not strict enough! He says in Matthew 23:23,
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (emphasis added)
They were strict in their outward rituals but grossly negligent in the most substantive matters of the law; justice, mercy, and faith. In other words, these were faithless men in need of a new heart. They were hypocrites. Hypocrites by definition are play actors, pretenders. These were pretending to be righteous but it was as filthy rags in the sight of God. This is why we are told by Christ, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. We must actually be righteous before God and not merely appear righteous before men. Those who do His will, in heartfelt obedience, never have to concern themselves with the possibility of standing before God and hearing Him say, "I never knew you, Depart from Me, you who are too strict in your obedience." We can be assured that we know Him when reading passages such as 1 John 2:3, "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments" if we are indeed keeping His commandments. The arguments over what the word "inherit" means when Paul says, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" will only be relevant, in regards to our own salvation, if we are, in fact, unrighteous. The disagreements as to whether or not Christ must be Lord of one's life or if one has to be a disciple in order to be saved, are only of personal consequence to those who have not yet come under His Lordship as His disciple. Furthermore, what are the consequences if those who teach such things as optional are in error? The eternal loss and destruction of the soul! What are the consequences if those who teach such things as mandatory are in error? Greater blessings in this life as well as in the life to come. Did not Jesus Himself say that, "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:19). If there is any doubt whatsoever regarding any one of these controversies would it not be wise to err on the side of obedience? Again, there is no downside to obedience. If we submit to the Lord with our whole heart, come under His Lordship, and follow Him as His disciple, with a heartfelt resolve to obey Him in all things, abiding in Him and He in us, any concern, distress, or agonizing over all the various arguments, controversies, false teachings, heresies, etc. in regards to our own salvation will fade away into irrelevancy and be replaced with the joy and confidence of having no doubt that we are in right standing with God. And in that day when we come into His Holy presence, rather than fearing the possibility of being called a wicked, lazy and unprofitable servant, we can rest assured that we will hear the sweetest words our ears will ever hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord" (Matt. 25:21).
Those who come to realize that they have embraced a false gospel, who find after examining themselves that they come short of true and saving faith, can take comfort in that as long as we still have breath it is not too late. If God is willing to pour out His grace on even the "chief of sinners" He is ready and willing to pour out His grace on you, dear reader. Therefore, while there is yet time, look to Christ and hear His words, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Luke 5:32)Do you feel the conviction of sin in your own soul? Do you find yourself so ashamed that you would not so much as raise your eyes to heaven? Are you agonizing in that you have lived in rebelliousness to the living God? Then Christ's call is to you. If you recognize the wretchedness of your own heart in that you have despised God by blatantly disregarding what He requires of you, then you are not far from the Kingdom. If you do not then you are self righteous, and Christ will not save you. If you think you can get to heaven on your own merits, your own goodness, you make a mockery of Christ's sacrifice and bring the holy and majestic God down to the level of sinful man, which is a most contemptible place. There is coming a day when you will stand before the God that abhors all that resembles evil, whether in thought, word, or deed, and this holy God has never forgiven one sin without demanding punishment for it. Therefore, God poured out His wrath on His beloved Son and He who knew no sin, paid our sin debt to God that we might have the opportunity to be reconciled to Him. When the sorrow over our sin has such an effect that we begin beating on the chest of our heart crying out in despair, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner"? we will indeed go home justified (Luke 18:9-14). If we will repent of our sins—have a change of mind in that we now have deep sorrow and regret for living contrary to His will and no longer wish to do so—having a heartfelt resolve to live for Him, for His righteousness, purpose and will, He will grant us forgiveness, circumcise our heart, give us a new heart and a new spirit, write His law on our hearts, give us His Spirit that He might dwell in our hearts and thus fulfill all the newfound desires of our hearts. "Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4). We will Ask, and it will be given to us; seek, and we will find; knock, and it will be opened to us. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?...how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:9-13). The Spirit will then sanctify us, setting us apart for Himself, and begin the glorious work of conforming us to the likeness of His beloved Son. Working in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure and thus we will lovingly submit to and strive to do His will. He will be our God, the Authority that rules over our daily lives, and we will be His people. We will love Him and keep His word and He will come to us and make His home with us (John 14:23, 24). He will abide in us and we in Him and therefore our lives will be characterized by obedience. This, and nothing less, is God's grace in salvation. That this obedience is by grace and neither optional nor of our own unaided effort is made plain by Christ in John 15:4-10,
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Although sin will be incompatible with the new heart, it will remain as an antagonistic principle, enticing and tempting us as long as we are in this earthly body. When we do fall to temptation we will not seek to cover it, or hide it, but to confess and forsake it. "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy" (Prov. 28:13). We are not left in despondency because we know that "we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous"(1 Jn. 2:1), who intercedes on behalf of those who despair over and seek to renounce their sin. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Ps. 32:5). These promises of God's tender mercies will not be abused by the true believer as a license to sin, but rather they will be used by the Spirit to produce in them a deep humility and thankfulness with an ever growing desire to love and obey Him who has been so merciful, loving, and kind to them. Adam Clarke writes,
On considering this glorious scheme of salvation, there is great danger, lest, while we stand amazed at what was done For us, we neglect what must be done In us....Christ has done much to save us, and the way of salvation is made plain; but, unless he justify our conscience from dead works, and purify our hearts from all sin, his passion and death will profit us nothing....We must beware of Antinomianism; that is, of supposing that, because Christ has been obedient unto death, there is no necessity for our obedience to his righteous commandments. If this were so, the grace of Christ would tend to the destruction of the law, and not to its establishment. He only is saved from his sins who has the law of God written in his heart; and he alone has the law written in his heart who lives an innocent, holy, and useful life. Wherever Christ lives he works: and his work of righteousness will appear to his servants, and its effect will be quietness and assurance for ever. The life of God in the soul of man is the principle which saves and preserves eternally.12
The notion that a Holy and Righteous God would send His beloved Son to endure the humility of being beaten; bloodied, ridiculed, mocked, nailed to a cross; suffer the physical and spiritual fury and wrath of the Father, for the purpose of being forgiven that we might continue in the disobedience which caused such wrath and suffering, is not only contrary to Scripture, but is the epitome of evil and the pinnacle of deception. What a tragedy that so many who profess Christ have actually embraced such a wicked scheme; Clinging to a counterfeit cross and eternal destruction. Never taking to heart the words of Christ, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you" (Jn 5:14). or the words of Paul, "Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don't know God at all." (1 Cor. 15:34, NLT).
Quotes and Confessions Throughout the History of the Church
1. Stanley, Charles, Eternal Security Can You Be Sure? (Nashville, TN: Oliver Nelson, 1990)
2. Clarke's Commentary: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, Romans 8:9 (Abingdon Press 1977)
3. Calvins Commentary, Romans 8:9 (Baker Books, October 1, 1974)
4. Barnes Notes on the Old and New Testaments, Albert Barnes, 1 John 3:7 (Baker Books; 19th edition 1983)
5. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Book 19), IVP Academic; Reprint edition (September 14, 2009)
6. E. Charles Heinze, Trinity & Unity (Dale City, Virginia ;Epaphras Press, 1995.) p.103
7. J. C. Philpot was born at Ripple, Kent, in 1802 and received his education at Worcester College, Oxford (B.A. 1834). In 1828 he was appointed to the perpetual curacy of Stadhamption and the following year met his bosom friend William Tiptaft for the first time. Major writings: He was for many years the editor of the Gospel Standard, an evangelical magazine. He also published Heir of Heaven and Winter Before Harvest, as well as the theological treatise The Eternal Sonship of Christ.
8. Charles Hadden Spurgeon, Qouting Spurgeon (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994)
9. Tabletalk; (Ligonier Ministries, October 1997) p.52
10. R.C. Sproul, The Soul's Quest for God, (Wheaton, IL., Tyndale House 1992), p.24
11. William Law, A Serious Call To A Devout And Holy Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1977). p17-28
12. Clarke's Commentary: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, Romans 3:31 (Abingdon Press 1977)