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Not What the Inspectors Expect

Have you ever found yourself making a statement like, “Just look at how he is behaving.  I know he can’t be saved,” or “I know he isn’t saved, acting like that.”?  What would lead you to make statements like that?  Are we saved by our actions and deeds or are we saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ?  Lordship Salvation and Calvinism have infiltrated many good churches and have even covertly corrupted the way that many believers think about salvation.  What do I mean?  The “P” of Calvin’s T.U.L.I.P. teaches that the saints will persevere.  It is in this teaching that Calvinists say they believe in eternal security.  But is it the believer that perseveres in their salvation by a godly life, or is it God Who preserves the saints by His power?  The Apostle Peter says in his 1st epistle, chapter 1 and verse 5, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  We will take a look at a few commonly held misconceptions of the day as they relate to the life of the believer and unpack them.

One of the most common comes to us from 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Here, Paul says,  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  I can’t tell you how many people, laymen and preachers, who use this verse to say that a believer just simply will not be sinning anymore.  I have heard people repeat this verse and place emphasis on certain words to illustrate their point.  They look to prove that the verse is saying that a person is a new creature: he has all new wants and desires; all of the old things are gone away: those old things are the desire to sin. But can that really be the case?  Speaking of himself, the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:14-25, “14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  23  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”  I would suggest someone show Paul 2 Corinthians 5:17, except for the fact that he wrote it!  If that verse means what most people say that it means, then what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 7 is in stark contrast to it. That verse has such a richer and deeper meaning than these (mostly) well-meaning people are applying to it.  2 Corinthians 5:17 is a positional verse that describes what has happened to the person that has gone from being an unbeliever to being a believer.  The old conditions of death and an eternal punishment in hell are now gone and have been replaced by many new and wonderful things.  Just a few of the new “things” in the believer’s life include the fact that they have received the new birth, they have eternal life, their sins have been forgiven, they have been passed from death unto life, and many more.

I also hear the book of 1 John often touted as a way of ferreting out unbelievers.  “Look at how John talks about if a person isn’t doing this or that, then they don’t have the truth in them…” is a popular thing for people to say who are of the erroneous belief that John was giving us a litmus test to uncover fake Christians.  So just what is the book of 1 John all about?  Notice that John uses the word “we” quite often; he included himself, a believer, in this group.  We know believers can’t lose their salvation, so what is John talking about?  John is giving us a way to tell if we are in fellowship with the Lord.  You can’t hate your brother, be in darkness, or living in any other type of sin and really expect that you are in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, can you?  You may be out of fellowship, but your salvation is secure.

At this point, the critic is probably screaming, “Then how do you know if someone is saved?  There has to be evidence?”  You can know a person is saved by what they are trusting in to be saved.  The only way a person can be saved is by believing the Gospel.  When is a person saved?  The instant that they trust Christ at Saviour.  How much evidence is available then?  Only the person’s profession of faith and the Word of God that guarantees He will save them.  How much more evidence is needed at that moment?  God can never go back on His Word and salvation can never be lost, so that evidence is good forever.  “Well, a believer is going to grow and have good works,” you say.  They certainly should.  However, that is not automatic and no two believers will mature at the same rate.  Read Paul’s epistles.  Count how many times he gives instructions to his readers in Christian living, or uses phrases like “know ye not.”  If these things were automatic, then these believers would already be doing them, they already would know what he was explaining, and most of those epistles wouldn’t have needed writing in the first place.  Believers have two natures:  we have our new nature, which is born of God, it is perfect and never sins.  But we also still have our old nature which never gets any better, it never improves.  Paul said in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  What did he mean by that?  These two natures that we have share the same body and they fight for control of it.  The one that wins is the one that you feed.  Misunderstanding the two natures leads to more defeat in the Christian life than just about anything else that I know of.

How did Paul deal with sin in the life of believers?  As I have stated earlier, I see so many today who will bring in to question the very authenticity of one’s salvation if they do not believe that person is ‘living right.”  But exactly what do they consider living right?  How many times is a person allowed to mess up before they are declared “not really saved?”  Suppose that someone sees that other person when they are having an “off day” and judges them to not be saved!  This type of “fruit inspecting” is dangerous and unscriptural.  It can do much harm to the faith of those who are already weak in the faith.  So just what is the answer?  How did the Apostle Paul handle this sort of thing?  I can tell you most certainly that he did not call into question the salvation of the backslider.  It has been my experience that most of the people who will question a man’s salvation based on their observations and their opinions always seem to forget the church of Corinth.  The city of Corinth itself was known for its debauchery.  Those who trusted Christ as Saviour and were now part of the Body of Christ came from this environment.  This was a church made up of men and women who were carnal; they were often found to be walking after the flesh as opposed to walking in the Spirit.  This church had at least 14 major issues that the Apostle needed to deal with in his first epistle to them.  Fornication was a major problem as well.  One such issue Paul refers to as “such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles.”  It was bad. So what did he do?  He covered all of the problems and then he reminded them of the Gospel. He says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”  What does he mean when he says, “unless ye have believed in vain.”? He is saying here that they believed in vain if Christ was not risen from the grave.  But then he goes on to make a rock-solid case that Christ did rise from the grave; that they did not believe in vain.  If anything, Paul is reinforcing to them that they are saved.  He is reminding them about what they believed when they got saved and reassuring them that Jesus is the Christ Who died to pay for their sins, was buried, and rose again.  He goes on to say that we too will be resurrected with new bodies.  Then when he gets down towards the end of the chapter he begins to talk about Christ’s return for His Church.  Why would he do that?  He made a strong case that He came and did everything He said He would the first time, according to the Scriptures.  And now he is driving home the point to them that this same Jesus is going to come again just like He said He would.  The point being that it might just matter what we do in between those two events.   How different this approach is from the majority today who will berate a backslidden brother or even someone that may be doing something that they just happen to not agree with, and attempt to convince them that they aren’t saved because of it.  This sort of thing causes people to either attempt to work for their salvation or just walk away in frustration; either way it robs them of their joy and liberty in Christ.  Paul gave us our example here of how to help the carnal Christian.  He also exhorts us in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  He goes on to say in verse 2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”  If there is any doubt as to what the law of Christ might be, we can find it in John 13:34 and right there in Galatians 5:14.  It can be summed up in one word: love.

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