Purpose of Guarding the Treasure

The purpose of this blog is to encourage readers to invest their time into the Word of God and "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." Paul wrote these words to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:14) in his presumed last letter before his execution. May we be those who see the word of God as a treasure, guarding it with our lives, investing in it with our hearts and minds, and reaping the fruit of an abundant life while getting to know the God who loves us and created us for His marvelous pleasure and glory.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cheap Grace?

Is grace cheap?

First, I see grace as cheap to us – in fact it is free so that’s pretty cheap! However, it was not cheap for God though, ultimately costing Him the blood of the Son of God! The greatest sacrifice of all time done in love for the world. As such, we should not take the free grace of God lightly.

Hebrews 10:26-31 (written to Hebrew believers) warns of this,
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge His people." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God
.” There was not a sacrifice for willful sins under the law, but rather an expectation of judgment. That’s what made David’s sin with Bathsheba so bad – it could not even be covered by a sacrifice because it was premeditated! Was David afraid of losing his salvation or having never been saved in the first place? Of course not. Now the church is under grace, a far superior system. Do we think we can escape the judgment of God under grace for a willful sin? Of course not. We are at His mercy and should expect judgment. While we are forgiven, we must still face the consequences of our sin. The author of Hebrews is not talking about hell here but rather judgment due to God’s people for their open rebellion (“The Lord will judge His people.”) (v30)

Let me also say that my position on free grace does not promote license. After five chapters of Romans with the conclusion that justification is by faith and not by works, the next logical question is this in Romans 6:1-2,
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Paul knew that since justification was by faith and not works, they next logical question would be, “Does it matter how we live then?” While lifestyle has no bearing on justification as justification is a gift, God sent Jesus to redeem us from sin! Why would we continue to live in sin when that is the very thing that God sent Jesus to eradicate? Justification is salvation from the penalty of sin. Sanctification is salvation from the power of sin. Glorification is salvation from the presence of sin. Paul clearly leaves no room for license after justification using here the strongest Greek idiom to indicate repudiation and outraged indignation (“May it never be!”). Thus, while a believer could take the gift of eternal life (the non-fire assurance) and continue to live in the flesh (or else why would Paul even raise the question in the first place), he will most certainly be living contrary to his new birth nature, be in rebellion against God’s will, face the discipline God, continue to suffer the consequences of sin and living in the flesh, and ultimately reap what he has sown at the judgment seat of Christ. He will get to heaven as we all do, by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, but will be ashamed before His Savior for a live wasted.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 lays out the framework,
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.” Some believers will have the foundation of Christ, but will build a whole house comprised mostly of wood, hay and straw (i.e. the deeds of the flesh). Notice that our deeds are tested by fire and the deeds of the flesh will be consumed while the deeds of the Spirit will be refined and remain as a reward, but ultimately the man “shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

Assurance of Salvation

Can someone have assurance of salvation if they never have any change in their life?

If we look to our life change as a determination for whether or not we are truly saved, could anyone honestly ever say that they were saved? Despite the fact that I am born again, I am riddled with sin and in need of confession of sin and the cleansing by the blood of Christ on a daily basis. By that definition, I’m guilty of being a habitual sinner. I am just as guilty as anyone else of impure thoughts, jealousy, outbursts of anger, idolatry, etc. The point of contention for me is where do we draw the line for a changed life? What’s the standard for proof of salvation? A little change such as regular church attendance, reading one’s Bible frequently, occasional prayer, etc or more drastic changes. Can one say, “Well based on my track record so far, I guess I must be saved.”? Then what if someone really blew it and committed adultery or murder (i.e. David)? Did that make David unsaved after all? Of course not. David was saved by faith in the coming Messiah, but his sinful works (fruits) surely did not support that reality.

Looking to our works for evidence of salvation will never truly bring assurance of salvation because unfortunately the saved still sin and are capable of any sin while living in the flesh as opposed to living in the Spirit. True assurance is found in looking to the One we trusted to save us in the first place – Jesus Christ. If we aren’t saved by works then why would we look to works for assurance of salvation? Inward looking can lead to selfishness, pride and defecting the glory from where it is supremely due – our Savior Jesus Christ. God wants His children to know they are saved. He wants us to serve Him in love, as a response to our salvation as opposed to serving Him in fear or out of obligation to prove or maintain salvation.

Here is a good 1 John verse for assurance of salvation.

1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.

So to know if you have eternal life, you must ask yourself, “Have you believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life?” If you have the Son, you have life. Scripture declares that you receive the Son when you believe in Him (John 3:16, 5:24).

Here is another good passage for assurance of salvation.

John 10:27-29 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

This passage tells me that Jesus gives eternal life to His sheep and they will never perish or be taken out of His hand. In other words, rather than me holding on to Him, He is holding on to me and nothing (not even me) can remove me from His hand. That is a strong hand grasp!

Believers do, however, need to look to their works/deeds to determine whether or not they are living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:16-23, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Paul also exhorted the Corinthians to look to their own experience as evidence of whether or not they were experiencing the abundant life in Christ with its blessings (such as answered prayer, spiritual blessings, fruitfulness). 2 Corinthians 13:5-6, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.” Paul himself also examined his works and enslaved the flesh as he states in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
The same Greek word for “disqualified” used by Paul is used for the Corinthians in “fail the test.”

In summary assurance of salvation comes from believing the words of our Savior and knowing that He is our security not us. Looking to works for assurance of regeneration will only cause doubt in the heart of a believer as we all are ultimately guilty of the grossest of sins even after salvation having the capacity to still live in the flesh. In addition, looking to Jesus alone for assurance of regeneration cannot result in any boasting of our own in regards to salvation and compel us to lovingly serve our Savior. Examining one’s works is essential to determine whether or not the believer is living in the power of the Holy Spirit and within the will of God.