Sermon: Eternal Security (Part 2)
Sanctification Requires Work
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 09-Jun-07; 75 minutes
This is the second part of a sermon I began on the day of Pentecost, and that first sermon established that this world’s Eternal Security doctrine is an attractive, but deceptive lie. It purports that once a person has been justified by the blood of Jesus Christ, has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, and received the Holy Spirit, that salvation is assured. However, in order to see the falsity of this doctrine, one must be able to see it in contrast with the whole salvation picture.
I showed you that the apostle Paul showed salvation in three different modes: (1) as a reality already possessed, (Past tense). (2) as a reality in progress, but unfinished, as a conclusion uncertain, and (3) as a reality not yet possessed, as though wholly future. So that has to be fit to the context in which Paul was talking about salvation; thus, in the first sermon my purpose was to begin a step-by-step covering of much of that picture. The first step that we examined was the over-riding cover-to-cover issue in the Bible, and this issue, broadly stated, is the matter of government.
We found that God created angels vastly superior to us humans, that they were required to make moral choices, and were tested as to whether they would. We saw that one-third of them, led by Satan, failed. They mounted an attack against God, were defeated, and cast to the earth.
God repaired the damage to the earth from that warfare, and then created Adam and Eve. He required them to also make moral choices, and they, like the one-third of the angels, chose to submit to Satan rather than following God. They sinned. They were cast out of the Garden, out of God’s presence, and were no longer allowed back in, and the relationship between Adam and Eve and God therefore was ended.
We also saw that two thousand years later God made it very clear in Deuteronomy 30 that, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, the Israelites had to make choices. So clear is God’s statement He commanded them to choose life.
In order to see this issue more clearly, we narrowed the government issue to one of loving loyalty to Jesus Christ, and we saw that He too commands His disciples, by saying in John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” This equates to the same charge given in Deuteronomy 30 to the Israelites.
Nothing regarding the morals-choice issue has changed from the beginning. The New Covenant scripture states that sin is the transgression of God’s law, and since sin still exists under the New Covenant, God’s laws still exist, and the penalty for breaking those laws, according to Paul in Romans 6:23, is still death. Sin is disloyalty to Jesus Christ personally and His governance of the church broadly, and it must be avoided.
That was the first point of that sermon on Pentecost. The second point that we covered necessary to understand is that the Bible shows God as a working, creating God. He did not just work in the past. Jesus strongly stated in John 5:17 that God works continuously.
Now perhaps the verse most important in that first sermon appears in Psalm 74:12, where it says “For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.” That is what He is doing.
We are going to go back to the book of Genesis again. An important principle appears in Genesis 1.
Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.
So the picture is clear when one understands that following the creation of Adam and Eve as physical beings, God’s labors did not end but merely shifted gears—beginning a greater, more time-consuming, more important, and perhaps one might say more difficult, spiritual creation of His character in us. This is His work of salvation that He is working in the midst of all the earth.
He is delivering us from our slavery to human nature; that is, creating each called-out one in the image of Jesus Christ, in addition to manipulating the events of about 200 nations, managing the billions of people alive at this time within those nations so that the events produce the effect He desires for the successful conclusion of His purpose as He envisions it.
Brethren, this is a massive operation, but most are so wrapped up in themselves that they do not give what He is doing the time of day. The creation of holy, righteous, divine character in us requires our cooperation as free moral agents, able to understand His purpose, choose the right from wrong, and then make the choice and carry it through.
You will notice that as the Bible begins, Adam and Eve, and then Cain and Abel, were confronted with spiritual tests. These tests begin to reveal evidence that even God cannot create character of that divine quality by fiat. He just cannot say the word and have that character come into existence in another living being. Mankind’s decisions must be tested. God arranges those tests besides what we arrange for ourselves by accident or by habit. Everybody is involved in this.
Without this understanding of the creative process, Eternal Security believers’ thinking naturally leads them into theological difficulty, and that trap is that of a twisted theology which does not agree with biblical truth. The truth is, God indeed does require works, and salvation is absolutely not guaranteed by justification alone. It is a huge step, but there is more yet to come. Other conditions must be met by the called-out ones in order that the fullness of God’s purpose is achieved.
Now think about this. Are you aware that at the moment, the very instant we are justified, as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, we will in this life never be more righteous than we were at that moment? We are absolutely sinless.
One can almost say, that in terms of righteousness, it is all downhill from that point on until we are in God’s Kingdom. Notice I said “almost” all downhill. But we will never be that righteous again. If you were going to look at it on a graph, right after justification we would be way up here, and then we would begin a slide down to the bottom. If we are growing, the time will come that after we hit bottom we will start to go back up again, but we will never get to that point where we were the moment we were justified, but we are working toward it. It takes work to begin to elevate the line on that graph, if righteousness can be measured that way.
Are you also aware that the moment we are justified and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, our sanctification also begins at exactly the same moment? This begins to lead people into the trap that they believe justification guarantees salvation.
There are people out there—commentators, theologians—who are pretty honest. I admire them. I believe I gave you a quote from one of them whose name is Arthur Pink. He is a man that I admire because he is really incisive the way he looks at Scripture. In some areas he is blind, but otherwise he is a pretty good man. I believe I might have given you all or part of this quote before. It comes from his Exposition of Hebrews, page 676:
The verses which we are now to engage our attention are by no means free of difficulty, especially to those who have sat under a ministry which has failed to preserve, to balance between divine grace and divine righteousness where the free favor of God has been strongly emphasized, and His claim largely exhorts, where privileges have been stressed and duties almost neglected. It is far from easy to view many scriptures in their true perspective when those who have heard little more than the decrying of creature ability and the denunciation of creature merit are asked to honestly and seriously face the term of Hebrews 11:6-7, they are quite unable to fit them into their system of theology.
What is the trigger that sets the trap? Well, it is right here, following justification, that works enter the picture and become exceedingly important. They are important, not to earning salvation itself, but to the writing of God’s laws into the heart and mind through the called-out ones working with God for the creation of godly character.
This that I have just stated is accomplished during the sanctification period to ensure that righteousness is not merely a quality that is imputed through justification, but one’s own, engrained in the heart through the experience of living God’s way of life.
Now again, what Arthur Pink is admitting about the verses he is commenting on for not fitting into someone’s theology, is that the sum of these two verses is saying that works by a Christian during his walk with God are not only required, but also rewarded. You will hear more of this in the next sermon I give from the book of Hebrews, chapter 11 on faith, but that will take place on another Sabbath.
Let us quickly review some critical, but familiar verses covering sanctification and works. I want you to kind of string them together so that you see and understand, that lumped together, they show a very clear picture. The first one we are going to go to is in Ephesians 2:10. It is in verse 8 that God says we are saved by grace through faith, but verse 10 says something very important to sanctification.
Ephesians 2:10 For we [Christians] are His [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
I am now going to read this verse the way the margin in my Bible says it should be read. “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works which God has before prepared that we should walk in them.”
From the very beginning God ordained that His children would work, and He arranged it in such a manner that there were certain works they had to do. Jesus knew what those works were. He said “I always do those things that please My Father.” The Christian is God’s creation.
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
First of all, the verses clearly say that God is working in us for His purpose, and that purpose is the salvation that He envisions. Remember, the word salvation simply means “deliverance,” and we are being delivered from human nature by the creation of a new nature in us.
These two verses also say that we must work to manifest our salvation if we have it. In other words, if we really have it we are going to give evidence through what we do that it is there and it is producing certain things in us. Brethren, this clearly means that this Paul is talking about in Philippians 2 is a required work.
Let us go to another one in the book of Hebrews. This one is really rich.
Do you see that prayer, the request Paul makes? He is asking, to the benefit of all to whom he is writing, that God will make, that is create, us perfect. God is working in you. My Bible margin says “make you complete in every good work to do His will.” It is not just one thing, but everything. That indicates a lot.
Hebrews 13:21 . . . [make you complete] in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever.
So what if you choose on your own not to cooperate? Is God going to give salvation to a person He has released from the penalty of death who then turns around, and for whatever reason decides he is going to take it easy, to not do anything, that God is going to save him anyway? I do not think that is going to be too pleasing to God. That person will never be complete enough to go into His Kingdom. We will see more of this later.
God is working to make us complete. Why? So that we will be ready to live in the Kingdom of God. It is that simple. There is nothing complex about this at all. What we do have to do is believe what He says.
Romans 8:29 For whom he foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed[indicating it is yet future—something that has to be made.], to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
When they were first called they were not in the image of His Son. They have to be made in that image.
These verses, in broad strokes, show the step-by-step outline of God’s spiritual creation in the Christian.
Romans 5:1-2 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
That one is really something! Paul is saying in this context that our justification, through Christ, provides us access to a relationship with God. We have peace with God. We are no longer at war with Him. We have the righteousness of Christ, so we can come into His presence. Justification does that. It gives us an opportunity to develop that relationship, but like everything, the relationship has to be developed.
Tell me something. Does this make logical sense to you? Is not the church to marry Jesus Christ? Is He going to marry somebody He does not know? I do not think so, brethren. He is going to marry those who have an on-going relationship with Him. I am going to show you some verses on this. Did He not say to somebody, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.”? To whom did He say that? I will tell you. He said it to Christians who were resting on their oars. They did not get prepared for His return, and they were sitting there with not enough oil.
You ought to know where that is coming from. You see, the Eternal Security people like to avoid those scriptures because it is kind of hard to take. God does require us to do something. Oh, yes He does!
The first thing that Paul is saying here is that this justification opens up a relationship, but that relationship, brethren, has to be developed. Second thing is that it gives us reason to have hope in the glory of God. Do you understand what he is saying? That is our goal! That is what we are to hope for, to have the glory of God a part of us. That is stunning, brethren! Is God going to hand this out to people He does not know, who have done little or nothing to try to work in a way that will please Him so that He will be honored to have that person in His family? That does not make sense.
Let us go to II Corinthians 3. This makes more precise and specific what that hope is.
II Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all [Who is “we”? It is the people—fellow Christians—to whom Paul was writing.], with unveiled face [meaning we are not blinded anymore], beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image [the glory of Christ] from [the] glory [of man] to [the] glory [of God], just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This is accomplished by the Spirit of God working in us because we cooperate with Him. We are the clay, and He has to be able to mold us into what He wants, and He will fit us into the body if we give Him half a chance. But we still have human nature, and we can resist, even through neglect. If we are doing nothing, or very little, we are actually resisting. We may not think we are rebelling, but it is a form of rebellion when we do not cooperate with Him.
It becomes clearer and clearer that the salvation, the deliverance, that God envisions requires time and experience. He does not just waft us off to our reward following justification, because so much remains to be done by Him and us before we are prepared for His Kingdom.
Brethren, once in a while things go wrong in the process of salvation. What God does, as He begins His spiritual creation with the called-out ones, is that He places them in a position quite similar to Adam and Eve in the Garden. The called-out one must begin and continue to make serious choices to either take of the Tree of Life, or of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
This is the end of the second section, and to summarize what we have seen in this section is what God is working toward. He is creating us in the image of His Son.
The third question we will cover in a broad sense is what is required of a Christian during sanctification, and we are going to begin back in the book of Deuteronomy 30. We have been here a couple of times, but these verses are so important to this subject.
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, but are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life, and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
First, I want you to notice carefully how similar this is to what God presented to Adam and Eve, and then later on to Israel, and now to you and me—the called-out ones. All must choose. There is no escaping that. All must choose.
It is interesting that when God did this with Adam and Eve, they were a new physical creation at that time. When this was given to Israel, they were not new in the same way that Adam and Eve were, but they were a new nation forming. By that same token, we are not new like Adam and Eve. In a way we are much more like the Israelites because a new nation is forming—the Kingdom of God. So we are not like Adam and Eve, but we are within the same general framework. Now it goes even further, because we are a new spiritual creation. There is no doubt about that. Paul nails that thing in II Corinthians 5:17. What this sets up is that immediately He tests us like Adam and Eve. We are presented with tests involving choices.
I want you to note that the mood, the attitude, in the context of Deuteronomy 30 is very serious. We are commanded to love Him. Verse 16 says, “In that I command you this day to love the LORD your God.” Love is the keeping of the commandments. He is commanding us to keep the commandments, if you want to really simplify it. It is very similar to what Jesus said. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” You see the consistencies that are there.
Then, after doing that we are sternly warned in verse 17: “But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, [that you have gone away to idolatry], I announce to you today that you shall surely perish. [verse 18].” Boy! That is a hard one to get around. He did not say “you shall surely die.” To us, God is saying “you shall perish.” Gone. We add other verses to this and we know, that to us, He is talking about the Lake of Fire.
Let us go on a little bit further. He then goes on and solemnly warns us again. In verse 19 He says, “I call heaven and earth—[things that are always there; eternal witnesses] to witness today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
Then in verse 20 He says what He is looking for, and He uses the term “love” again, that the fulfillment of His promises here are conditional upon our submissive, loving, and loyal response. Here is our part.
God rescues us. He delivers us from the penalty of sin. He says, “I’ve got you now right where I want you.” And then He says, “I want you to make choices.” He then pleads with us, “Please make the right choices. If you refuse, then you are going to perish.” But then He comes back again and says, “Please make the right choices. Cooperate with Me.” If I can just put it into the vernacular, He is pleading with us to cooperate with Him. That is our part.
Let us go back to that verse I mentioned that is in II Corinthians 5. We will read verse 17 just to know where we are.
II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
We are not new in terms of not having existed before, but we are new in terms of a new creation being done in us, and we become a new creation. The world calls this occurrence “regeneration.” That is their technical term, or they might say it is at this point that a person is “born again.” They are recognizing the newness of what is taking place.
What I read in one place regarding verse 17, I think you will see this very clearly, that the verse in the Greek indicates a clear break has occurred in the person’s life, and that break is “from the old man to the new man,” and the sinner, who is a righteous son of God, from this time on is going to go in a different direction in his life.
We will drop down now to verse 21 and continue on through the beginning of chapter 6.
II Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
II Corinthians 6:1-2 We then, as workers together with Him, plead also with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation have I helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day [or rather it should say technically “a” day] of salvation.
It is certainly the day for us, but there is more to come for the unconverted world.
Verse 21 is telling us that the creative acts of God are continuing in order that we might be made. Do you see that word “made”? “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This gives us another handle on the direction the creation is going in. We can say broadly that we are being created in the image of Jesus Christ. Now what is it about Jesus Christ that needs to be created in us? It is righteousness. “That we might be made the righteousness of God.”
Now here is what happens. It is really very simple. When a person is justified by the blood of Jesus Christ, that clears the person of guilt and aligns that person with the law of God. No sin is held against him. He does not face the death penalty at that time. But that is not the end of the matter. We have yet to be made into the righteousness of God. This is what separated Jesus from us. He really was righteous. We are only judicially righteous because the Judge has said, “I have cleared you of all guilt. But now I want you to leave My court, and when you get out on the street you are not ever going to break a law again, are you?”
Now we are all cynical, because we know the truth. People leave the court, people leave the jail, and they go out on the street and 99 times out of a 100 they behave just like they did before they went into prison. This is why the works are required.
Let us add to this verse 2.
II Corinthians 6:2 For He says, “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation have I helped you.”
What Paul has done here in verse 2 is remind us that now is the time of our salvation. He says, “Hey! Friends, brothers. Don’t waste it. The time is now!” The time is now to do what? Verse 1 tells us what. “We then are workers together with Him.” That is so clear, brethren.
Paul is telling us exactly what our responsibility is. It is to cooperate with God. We work with Him. It is that simple. This is done during the period of sanctification when we are learning to keep the commandments of God, when we are learning through actual practice not to do the evil things anymore. God wants to see an internal change in our character so that we will not just be judicially righteous, but we will be righteous in actuality in what we do—the way we think in our attitudes as they gradually, if we are cooperating, become more and more like Christ.
Brethren, I do not know how it can be made any clearer. We are a work in progress. We are not like the WPA. That was a government agency that hired people during the Depression so they would have money coming in. When you would go out and see where the WPA was working, they reformed the initials. That means “We Piddle Around,” because it looked like nobody was doing anything. We are a work in progress.
God requires, slowly but surely, that we leave the infantile stage cleared of guilt, righteous by judicial fiat, but that the righteousness really becomes ours through daily experience.
I Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. . .
Is that not clear? In this particular context Paul was specifically talking about the ministry, saying that this was Apollos’ job, this was Paul’s job, but it includes, in principle, all of us.
I Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
Here he shifts the metaphor. He shifts it to construction, and God is working on us, see, but we are working together with Him. That is pretty interesting. We are being built, and we are working building at the same time.
I Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
Every man is responsible to God for that. So this section is even clearer than II Corinthians 5 and 6, but did you notice how clearly in verse 10 that the activity includes work? Building is work, so that makes it very, very clear.
In I Peter 2, Paul talks about each one of us being part of a building that is being built. It is a spiritual building, but he follows through on the construction metaphor and talks about us being like we are a brick within that. To me it is really interesting. They use these metaphors, but they do not really stretch it out too much because it gets beyond imagination how we can be built into a building that at the same time you are helping build yourself into the building. It is like the bricks come alive and start doing some of the work, but that is one of the realities of this.
Now the building process has what might be called “positive” and “negative” sides to it. The positive is, as God educates us, we become responsible for developing the always positive characteristics of the image of Jesus Christ.
Paul calls this positive aspect “putting on Jesus Christ.”
The negative aspect is also in this same chapter.
Colossians 3:8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
So you see, there are two sides to this. One is positive. One is negative. One we build on. The other, we take away.
Now John puts a little different twist on this. I want you to go to I John 3. John put it this way.
I John 3:2-3 Beloved, now are we the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him [There is the image.], for we shall see Him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in Him [see, the hope of the glory of God] purifies himself, even as He [Christ] is pure.
This process is that we are working to eliminate the negative characteristics of human nature, and at the same time we are working to build the positive aspects of the God-nature. So the Christian is changing the conduct of his life from one of sin to one of holiness in order to be like Christ, and that, brethren, requires work.
Both sides of this equation are important to the Christian, and now we are going to look at why.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God; and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life: and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
There comes the principle. People are judged by what they do. God has all the evidence. He has evidence of what the heart is like, what they are internally by what they do on the outside.
Revelation 20:13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
Somebody could come back to one of us if we quoted that and say, “Yeah, but they’re talking about people maybe who never had a chance.” Well, they do not know anything about God’s judgment, because He does not do that kind of thing to people who never had a chance. But these people do it, and maybe they could say, “Well, these people maybe were never in the church.” That is a possibility, so we will make certain we got it right and see that it really applies possibly to people in the church.
We are going to look at the book of Romans. Is anybody going to tell me that the book of Romans was not written to people in the church? Remember, this is written to Christians who were part of the congregation in Rome.
Romans 2:5-13 But in accordance with your hardness and impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one [not just the unconverted] according to his deeds: To those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory [the hope of the glory of God], honor, and immortality: but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek [whether they are in the church or not]; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without [apart from] law shall also perish without [apart from] law; and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Christians are being judged according to what they do. That is the evidence God sees. Let us continue this. We are going to go to the book of Ephesians. This also was written to a Christian congregation.
Ephesians 4:17-18 This I say therefore [Ephesians], and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the [unconverted] Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
You can see it, brethren. This is aimed directly at people attending services. It is aimed at Christians. He neatly separates the unconverted from the converted.
Ephesians 4:19-24 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you [Christians] have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off [get rid of those negative things], concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Am I convincing you? I hope I am. Christians have to do works. It is the evidence by which we are going to be judged. Nice thoughts do not cover it. It is a beginning, but what do they lead to?
Matthew 25:20-21 So he that had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained [What did he do? He worked.] five more talents besides them. His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.
Brethren, that is so clear. Works are required. Works are rewarded.
Look at verse 26. Now we are talking to the guy who was given one talent, and went and hid it. It seemed like a good idea to him at the time because he had certain perceptions of the guy who gave him the money.
Matthew 25:26-27 But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
Does not “at my coming” tell you something?
Matthew 25:29-30 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Some reward. It does not sound very good.
Matthew 25:40-41 And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. Then will He say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
That is pretty clear. This is the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. The point is, both sheep and goats are clean. He did not say the sheep and the apes. He used animals that were clean to illustrate His point. Both the sheep and the goats are converted. The goats who did not do the right thing go into the fire.
Can you believe in Eternal Salvation when there are scriptures coming right out of our Savior’s mouth encouraging us to work? He is not saying these things save us, but if anybody does not work they will not be prepared for God’s Kingdom. It is not a matter of the works saving them, it is the fact that they love God and want to conform to what He wants them to be, and they desire it with all of their heart.
Matthew 25:45-46 Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. And these [the goats] will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Let us summarize this third section.
God shows, by taking the entire Bible as a whole, that He cannot create divine holy and righteous character by fiat. The process requires the willing response of a free moral agent who consciously chooses to do the right even in the face of strong opposition. The opposition may be coming from within himself, not necessarily that somebody is holding an ax over his head. Human nature is still there.
This process of doing this is what the Bible terms “works.” The works do not save the person; rather they engrain godly characteristics into his heart through the experiences of life, thus making the character and righteousness his own internally. Works are required in this process. They are so important. It is they that shall be judged.
Section four here is that the Bible contains many, many warnings. Now if salvation is assured to the Christian upon justification, why brethren, are the warnings even needed? God does not waste words. We just read a whole series of warnings. I only scratched the surface. Now Adam and Eve, and Israel, ignored the warnings, and sure enough, brethren, they died.
I think it is interesting that they did not die immediately when they sinned, and brethren, neither do we. Do not be lured into thinking it does not matter, because that, brethren, is really an illustration of God’s patience, His mercy, and willingness to see this thing through. He gives us every opportunity.
To me, the outstanding example of this particular aspect comes from the Israelites and what is recorded regarding them in the Old Testament.
Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
I Corinthians 10:6-12 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Nor let us commit sexual immorality as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
Paul shows here that Israel’s experiences are like snapshots showing us both positive and negative about what can happen to people who have made the covenant with God. I want you to notice that I said can happen. It does not have to happen to us. It is not pre-ordained that we should lose our salvation. It is just the opposite. But God has to take the risk, as it were, of giving us the liberty to make the choice without so much interference that the decisions we make in our choices are just ripped out of our hand. That would not be fair to us, and so He has to restrain Himself.
I am sure that it takes patience on His part, because He wants so much for us to succeed. But He is not going to have the right equipment, as it were, to pass judgment on us unless He intervenes only enough to keep us encouraged, but not so much that He takes that choice away from us.
God began the primary lesson in all of the Bible for converted people through His dealings with the Israelites when they were in Egypt. They were slaves in Egypt. God freed them miraculously through the blood of the lamb, as it were.
I want to take you here step by step. When they left Egypt they were justified. They were free. God had done it completely Himself, and they had just enough faith to walk out of Egypt on the first day of Unleavened Bread. Seven days later they were standing on the edge of the Red Sea and they were terrified because Satan, in the form of the Pharaoh, was coming after them. “Oh ho! You took us out of Egypt to kill us here on the shore.”
But God came to their rescue. He parted the sea. They walked across on dry land. When they got on the other side there was Exodus 15, where whoopie! They were happy! They were rejoicing tremendously. Three days later, after having that great party where everybody sang and danced, they were complaining about not having enough to eat. So He supplied them with something.
We go into Exodus 16, and God reveals to them the Sabbath by supplying them with manna. It goes on. By Exodus 19, God is ready to make a deal with them. In Exodus 20, He begins the terms of the covenant despite the fact that they had already turned their back on Him several times and headed eastward (if you know what I mean). And so He gives them a deal. They were excited. “Boy, this is terrific!” “Yeah, we want that.” “You have a lot of power, God.” “Ah! We want to be on Your side.” “We’ll sign!” So in Exodus 24, they signed on the dotted line and they made the covenant.
But even before they signed, God gave them in Exodus 23 a tremendous series of promises. “When you go into the land I will blow the inhabitants out of there with the hornets and so forth.” They had that deal, but they refused to go into the land at the end of the second year, and God cursed them by saying “You’re all going to die,” and die they did because they refused, over a 40-year period, to cooperate with God. Only two men—Joshua and Caleb—made it into the land, and I think very likely their families went there as a blessing to them.
Do you see the point? Those people made the covenant with God, and they failed to make it. They refused to cooperate with Him. They would not follow the Cloud except because of the physical things God gave to them. But when it came to giving Him their heart, they turned away every time.
Now as far as this sermon is concerned on this principle about Eternal Salvation, it is not that God did not want to save them. He could not under the circumstances. We find then, when we get to the end, that everybody is dead except for Joshua and Caleb. This is recorded in Hebrews 3 and 4, especially Hebrews 4:1-2 which give you a word picture there in the Greek. God is showing the whole wilderness strewn with bodies from one end to the other as a witness to the Israelites what happens to people who do not cooperate with Him. That is the lesson to you and me.
God is not hard on us. He wants us to be ready. Right there in that section is proof that Eternal Salvation is not promised in the Bible. We learned that all those promises He gave them in Exodus 23 were conditioned upon their submission to Him, and wonderful promises they were. But here is the point. Since they did not do their part in keeping the covenant, God did not have to give His either. All those promises went out the window.
He did not force it on them. They chose to not cooperate. To me that is the most powerful lesson on this subject in the entire Bible. People who made the covenant did not make it [survive] because they did not cooperate. They did not do the works that He required of them in the wilderness. So that is where we are now, brethren. We are in the wilderness. We are walking with God, and while walking with Him He gives us the opportunity to conform to Him.
There are two wonderful verses in the book of Titus. One is in Titus 1:15-16, and the other in Titus 2:11-14, where Paul tells us, in the first two verses, people deny God by their works. The one in Titus 2 is really rich because Paul tells us what grace should teach us. Grace should teach us that we are to become people zealous of good works.
Titus 1:15-16 To the pure all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess to know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age, looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
We have this wonderful gift from God, where He forgives our sins. If we understand the value of that forgiveness that justifies us, if we really understand it, it makes us zealous to do the right thing. It should teach us that. Grace is a tool to teach us to do the right thing. Do we make the connection?
I could give you more and more on this subject, but I just want to summarize now.
Number 1: Salvation is spoken of in the past, present, and future tenses. Justification by faith in Christ’s blood takes care of the past. The sanctification process is resolved in the present and future tenses. It is going on for us right now.
Number 2: Angels and man are required to make moral choices. The overall issue in the Bible is government: devoted, loving loyalty to Jesus Christ. For the converted man, nothing changes. He must still make moral choices, but if we are converted our batting average should shoot way up for making the right thing.
Number 3: The God of the Bible is a working God. His work now is the building of character in the image of Jesus Christ, and it is the building of that character that resolves the devoted loving loyalty-to-Christ issue, and of course the work issue.
Number 4: It is very clear that Israel failed to make it into the Promised Land during that period that is the parallel to the Christian sanctification period. Promises made to them were conditioned upon their obedience, which they did not give. They thus broke the covenant.
Number 5: People having God’s Spirit do fail from time to time, and that is why the warnings are given. God expects us to continue on, walking by faith, from the plain of justification, cooperating with Him by reciprocating His love back to Him in good works. And if we do not, we have broken our part of the covenant, and He is thus not bound to allow us to enter into His Kingdom.
Number 6: It is psychologically stupid to suggest to people having human nature that they already have it made when all the while they are involved in a program requiring achievement through dedicated faithful loyalty and devotion to duty. Human nature will invariably take it easy and be neglectful. “Why should I achieve? I already have it.”