GOD'S MESSAGE OF GRACE is
preached; it announces that the death of Christ was for sins,
and that He was entombed and roused. This is accepted by some
who hear, and in it they stand; through it they are saved also,
if they are retaining the evangel.
The above is an outline which
is easy to apprehend, yet it is most pertinent in its
applications. A far greater number of persons have heard the
evangel than have accepted it, and the latter number is also
greater than those who have retained the message proclaimed by
God through the apostle to the Nations.
This presents a problem which
has confused, and the confusion found confirmation in the
poverty of the methods of scripture study. Failure to give close
attention to contexts, together with incorrect partitioning of
God's Word have had baneful effects. Because of instances which
appear to be a turning away from the evangel, credit is given to
the misunderstood experience rather than to the plain
declarations of the scriptures, and hence the precious verities
of the Roman epistle have been put aside in favour of the idea
that salvation may be lost.
On the contrary, the
scriptures show the retaining of the evangel to find its
consummation in salvation, and the interval is a growth in the
realization of God; this retaining of the evangel is evidence of
the reality which lies behind the acceptance, which signifies
our profession of believing God's evangel.
SALVATION IS OF GOD
We can be definitely assured
that any understanding which grants that salvation may rest upon
human caprice or fickleness is quite wrong. Salvation is of God;
it is accomplished by Him from its commencement to its
consummation. He is our Saviour, and we are the recipients. God
does not lose any of His chosen. He does not declare a person to
be righteous and then reverse His decision.
The evangel is a declaration
of God's activities in Christ Jesus. It tells how God's own
personal righteousness is exercised on our behalf, and how that
righteousness becomes ours. This is the basis upon which God
pronounces us not guilty, and hence we stand justified before
Justification is not the
forgiving, but the actual declaring that our past is righteous
because God has established for it a righteous basis, and at the
same time He is able to constitute us just for the future. This
is the significance of the death of Christ, and of our being in
Him, and He being in us. Thus nothing can separate the believer
from the love of God. God is the Justifier!
This, then, is the evangel of
which the apostle declared he was not ashamed; IT IS God's power
for salvation; IN IT God's righteousness is revealed. It takes
us into a realm which is exclusive to the Deity; that high
virtue of forgiveness is deficient when compared with God's
power to declare the irreverent justified. The evidence for our
justification is God's own righteousness, and this makes the
evangel to be veritably God's power for it demonstrates Him as
THE PROCLAMATION OF THE EVANGEL
The evangel is announced to
the nations of the world; specifically it is to call God's
chosen ones. Though the evangel is launched into a world with a
disqualified mind, yet God uses and requires our mental powers
in His evangelizing. The scriptures are His word, and they
provide the necessary information whereby the knowledge of God
enters our apprehension. From this, under the operation of His
spirit, we grow in the realization of God in Christ Jesus.
Through the proclamation God
saves those who are believing. The evangel can be attractive to
many in whom the scriptures never become creative. Time showed
those gathered within the various ecclesias, by the labours of
Paul and his associates, to be both honorable and dishonorable.
Some denied certain facts of the evangel; others taught
differently to the apostle Paul; others desired the wisdom of
Beneath the proclaiming of the
evangel, and the professed acceptance, lies the necessity to
retain it. This ability rests upon the spirit of God and Christ.
Thereby God discriminates His children and sons; they follow His
leading. To retain the evangel is then a particularly crucial
matter, at least this is so when we come to compare experience
with the Scriptures.
THE LANGUAGE OF SCRIPTURE.
Attention to the scriptures
will give its blessing, and yet therein we note phrases and
statements which would seem
to query the certainty which is evident in say the Roman
epistle. The Galatian epistle, which is a defense of the
teaching recorded in the Roman epistle, particularly as regards
chapter 1 to 4, speaks thus; You fall out of grace, also of the
Galatians being bewitched and hindered. Colossians warns; Beware
that no one should be despoiling you through philosophy and
empty seduction. To Timothy the apostle speaks of those who
swerve from the truth and subvert the faith of some; also of
others who upset those who are hearing. The whole province of
Asia abandoned Paul.
These are details which be
difficult to appreciate in the light of the distinct teaching
given in the evangel. Their awkwardness inclines to the desire
that the scriptures had not such references, for they
seem to touch that
superlative quality of the grace of God, and the saint who is
well taught is justifiably zealous that the certainty of
salvation should not be taken away. But we may be sure that our
fears in that direction arise because we have not fully
understood God's word; we are lacking in our penetration; there
is something we have failed to learn. Do not the scriptures
speak of apostasy? How then is this possible? We must note that
the evangel presents to the world God's wisdom, yet it is within
human apprehension. Consequently there is reaction, and this is
most varied, but amidst it all, God is calling out those whom He
GOD'S SOLID FOUNDATION.
To venture to discriminate as
to who are God's saints is, in certain circumstances, a folly.
The apostle Paul treats the question with great discretion. If
others have confidence that they are Christ's, then he maintains
the same of himself. But we must note he terms this "looking on
the surface". Yet again, amidst apostasy, he is emphatic saying;
I have contented the ideal contest; I have kept the faith. Here
he is implying the possibility of even such as himself failing
to retain because the spirit of God is not in him.
The position seems to be that
in the absolute sense it belongs to the glory of God to know who
are His saints. This does not detract from our own personal
assurance that we are His, for His spirit joins its witness to
our spirit that we are children of God.
Should we wish to make any
distinction, then we are to do so only on the basis of - all who
are invoking the Lord out of a clean heart. This is as far as we
are allowed. We fellowship with all such, and seek to present
ourselves qualified before God, acknowledging and believing His
word correctly partitioned. This affords to Him the glory which
FAITH — UNFEIGNED OR SHAM?
The passive faculty to believe
is common to the mind of humans, but its activity in different
persons may be characterised as unfeigned or sham. Abnormal and
wicked men have not faith. In ordinary matters, no less than in
scriptural, the difference in effect is tremendous. To the
straightforward person deception behind the sham faith is
abhorrent. That these terms can fit the profession of faith in
the evangel is a problem which may give serious concern, as well
as intense disappointment and sorrow. It is certainly a strange
fact that there can be such a position, especially so seeing
that the apostle Paul has no doubt that the evangel is God's
power for salvation. He writes without shame, and sets out
details which establish it as God's power. So much is this so
that the details are summed up thus; Nothing is condemnation to
them that are in Christ Jesus, and, if it is possible, this is
made still more absolute by the affirmation that nothing will
separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
In the face of such statements
we may be sure it is with the unfeigned faith in the death of
Christ that the blessings and glory of the evangel are
The profession of faith may be
a sham, an imitation. Though in its first analysis, faith is an
ability of the human mind, yet it has value in relation to God
and the evangel, for He takes hold of such capacity and by His
spirit leads us; then faith becomes the fruit of the spirit.
The natural side can be seen
in the case of Timothy. Unfeigned faith made its home in his
grandmother Lois, and in his mother Eunice. Paul was persuaded
the same of Timothy, and he urges Timothy from the example of
Paul did not proclaim human
wisdom. This in order that the faith of the Corinthians should
not be in men's wisdom but in God's power. Thus in either case
it is the same faculty.
Let us note how the scriptures
speak regarding faith. Abraham was not infirm in faith, Rom. 4,
19; some were feeble in faith, Rom. 14, 1; similarly we read of
the measure of faith, Rom. 12, 3; of faith being grown, 2 Cor.
10, 15; again, it is a fruit of the spirit, evident in fidelity,
Gal. 5, 22; faith arises out of tidings, Rom. 10, 17; we note
also that faith may be specialised, thus; in accord with God's
chosen, Tit. 1, 1; some repudiate first faith, 1 Tim. 5, 12;
faith is for naught if Christ is not roused, 1 Cor. 15, 14; it
is vain and we are still in our sins, if Christ is not roused, 1
Cor. 15, 17. All these show it as a human ability, used or not
by God. It bears a definite comparison to God's use of David's
mouth to speak God's words.
Failures of faith are of human
origin, and not of God's power to save, for that is the real
significance underlying the notion that salvation may be lost.
Yet we may be most seriously exercised to appreciate whether
there is reality in our profession of faith. The sons of God are
led by God's spirit and His spirit cannot lead us to walk
according to the wavering will of the flesh.
YOU FALL OUT OF GRACE.
The statement in Gal. 5, 4;
must not be denied. The Galatians who identified themselves with
the false teachers had fallen out of grace. We ought not to take
the sentence apart from its context, and so lend ourselves
liable to use it to query what is most definite as regards the
certainty of salvation.
Those who are foreknown of God
can never lose their salvation. This is clearly stated in this
epistle; they are children of the promise, and as a consequence
they will obtain salvation.
To "fall out of grace" (in
this context) signifies the turning from righteousness by faith
to righteousness by law. The sentence is equivalent to the first
portion of the verse - you were exempted from Christ. In
replying to the problem, the apostle deals with it from several
angles. Perhaps the most salient are those in 2, 21 and 5, 4.
That in 2, 21 covers the position as regards the death of
Christ, if righteousness be through law; in that case Christ
died gratuitously. This exhibits the poverty of the position of
Paul and those of faith, if the rival "evangel" be correct, Paul
is without righteousness!
The case of the other evangel
is stated in 5, 4; You
were exempted from Christ, any who are being justified by law.
You fall out of
grace; we await righteousness by faith. The adherents to the
false teaching are without the benefits of grace. This is the
plain position based upon the simplest aspect of the case. The
apostle is not telling them directly that they are not saved,
but he has referred to them as foolish, and as being bewitched.
They started well, Christ crucified, but now they have accepted
the error that they need to be completed in flesh !
It is not really within the
considerations of the epistle as to whether salvation can be
lost, but it queried as to whether they have suffered for
Christ. This brings forward the
real point; have they
merely been imitations of those who have faith in Christ
As a matter of fact the
question of losing salvation can scarcely be argued for the
evangel proclaimed by the apostle has stated positively that we
are saved because of God's foreknowledge and choice. God is
effecting the salvation, and sin can but bring increased grace.
This is definite and emphatic in Paul's evangel; the chosen
cannot lose salvation, otherwise grace is no more grace. Grace
would be shown to be a phantasy if it could be frustrated and
God's choice prevented from coming to its consummation.
Now the acceptance of even
such heresy as that which bewitched the Galatians does not take
away the salvation bestowed by God, but persistency in the
error, after the admonition by this epistle, would be strong
indication that the evangel of God's grace had no root in such
persons. Even so, it would not be in point to deduce that God
had not chosen such to salvation, but only that His choice was
not as yet made manifest.
Such admonition as is given in
this epistle ought logically to cause serious reaction, for the
position is distinctly stated that righteousness must be found
absolutely in Christ. It is a righteousness which needs no
augmenting, and, in fact, will not tolerate any considerations
outside Christ crucified. In Him we
The Galatians were being
taught by Judaizers to seek, by their own activities, to augment
the benefits of Christ. Such a thought indubitably suggests that
the necessity for the death of Christ was misunderstood, and,
moreover, that the professed acceptance of the evangel may not
be true. This really is the alternative which the apostle points
to, and later he adds the fact that they had become partisan.
Thus the full case seems to reach the idea that they had not
simply fallen out of grace, but rather that they had not been in
grace. Behind the discussion lies the implication that salvation
may not have been in possession, for there is no resemblance to
the theological notion of losing salvation. All the cases which
are usually considered by theology to be a matter of "falling
away" are, in actuality, cases where grace has not become
subjective. The evangel has been heard, and assent to it has
been given, but the spirit of life has never been received. To
be in Christ denies the possibility of condemnation.
If a professed believer ceases
to retain and obey the evangel, then there is proof that the
faith is a sham; it is a case of simulation; there has only been
the appearance of a saint, not the reality. When God gives the
grace which saves, He does so because in no other way is
There is very little in the
Galatian epistle concerning Christ being also the Lord. Perhaps
the only direct reference to this is 5, 10. The persuasion to
which the Galatians had given heed was not of Him who is
calling. A believer should realize that his Saviour is also the
Lord of his life. Without such an understanding there must be
serious reservation as to the reality behind the profession.
In maintaining the truth and
significance of the statement in 5, 4, we fully establish that
evangel proclaimed by Paul. He defends his evangel and claims
its inherent value to be the gift of righteousness by faith in
Christ. All who receive this righteousness can never lose it.
This evangel shows God as the One who saves, and of this the law
This is a grave possibility
amongst the saints, and the Apostle Paul laboured to safeguard
the genuine child of God from being sorrowed by participation in
it. The major part of the persons in such movements are those
whose faith is a sham, and whose minds have not been renewed by
the evangel. The activity of apostasy can only be viewed on the
surface or outwardly, and this the apostle does, but we learn
that deception lies beneath the withdrawal from the faith;
unbelief reacts to deception.
The second epistle to Timothy
especially moves in the atmosphere of departure from the faith;
it had been an undercurrent in the first epistle, and develops
definitely to call forth the second writing to Timothy. The
attitude which is taken up is to look at the whole as a great
house, and this controls the manner in which matters are spoken.
All are placed under the necessity of showing their own
sincerity and faithfulness in purging themselves from the
dishonorable. Even Paul takes that position for himself; he
urges Timothy to do so. Onesiphorous is singled out and mercy is
requested for him from the Lord, for all around are those who
abandon Paul. The actions of Onesiphorous are of the highest and
betoken the grace of God in his heart, yet such is the extent of
the apostasy that special reference is made to him.
Demas loved the current eon.
He had been associated in greetings to the saints. Apparently he
had turned back from the ministry and probably became involved
in the business of a livelihood, for Demas had been a fellow
worker of Paul. Such a turning away becomes serious in view of
the fact that it has agreement, outwardly at least, with the
tendency of the eon.
Apostasy is a straying from
the faith, a swerving from the truth, a substituting of
philosophy for God's word. Depraved minded persons are given to
apostasy for they are disqualified for the faith, and do not
regulate their teachings by a correctly partitioned word.
Our understanding of apostasy
may be helped by perceiving that it is a revival of irreverence,
yet it seeks to be disguised to represent devoutness. Apostasy
does not afford to God His deity, being a continuance of the
condition against which the evangel is revealed. If we reflect
we shall recall that the evangel was launched into a world,
disqualified in mind, and irreverent in attitude. The evangel,
received, retained and unfeignedly believed, dispels
irreverence, and created the real and proper reverence,
indicated by the Greek term translated by the Concordant Version
by the word devoutness. Devoutness has serious regard for all
that concerns God and His truth; its character is such that it
affords to God all the glories of His revelation, and does not
venerate the creature, but gives to God His fullest deity.
The apostasy seeks to emulate
devoutness, but it is only an imitation, being devoid of power.
It is deception purporting to be real reverence, whereas in
reality it is irreverence and lacks any reliance on the living
God. It will head up into the man of lawlessness.
This is in direct contrast to
the evangel which makes irreverent persons to become truly
reverent, wholly reliant on God as their Saviour. With the
development of apostasy our reverence needs to be thoroughly
distinct from the false reverence of the apostate. The saint may
be spared being engulfed in the apostasy, or any tendency
thereto, by guarding and guiding attention to the sound words of
the commission given to the apostle Paul. Timothy is the
SUBVERTING THE FAITH.
The office of teaching may be
assumed by those not graced by God, as well as those chosen.
Each class may effect ill. The warnings given by the scriptures
should be gravely and sanely regarded in order that the saint
may be useful to his Owner. Those who swerve from the truth and
faith, and by their teachings subvert the faith either of the
unfeigned or the sham saint are not doing the Lord's service.
Moreover they may belong to the class who are disqualified for
the faith since their mind is depraved, the depraved mind
withstands the truth. Paul had to contend and warn against such,
and they are not confined to that time only, but appear to have
been ever present from Moses onward.
It is important to note that
the genuine child of grace, though he may become involved in the
apostasy, yet his salvation is immune and immutable. His folly
and error may pierce him with sorrow; his service may suffer
loss; yet his righteousness in Christ Jesus remains, and so must
Conduct may shipwreck faith.
This occurs when conscience is thrust away and the warfare
consequently is not ideal. This is the extreme position reaching
even to blasphemy. The apostle delivered such to Satan to be
The simple aspect of conduct
comes from reckoning ourselves to be dead unto sin; this will
ensure immunity from such a position as that of Hymeneus and
Alexander. And as genuine children of God we shall be allowing
our Saviour to be also the Lord of our life.
Our service should be
characterized by power, love and sanity; a close adherence to
sound words is the course with value. In entering upon any
service for God we ought to assure ourselves that we are in
accord with His revealed word. There is neither room nor
necessity for anything else. Nevertheless, whatever imperfection
there may be in our labours, we may be sure that our salvation
stands inviolate. Still it ought ever to be our endeavour to be
qualified workmen correctly partitioning the word of truth for
that is the only sane desire.
THE CIRCUMCISION WRITINGS.
These are addressed to those
who already have a connection with God's ways; many, indeed, had
heard the Lord Jesus Himself. He called Israel to repentance on
the basis of the nearness of the Kingdom, for He claimed to be
the King and presented His credentials in this regard. Those who
companied with Him during His ministry confirmed His
announcement, pointing to the Lord Jesus as the prophet like
unto Moses. God corroborated this confirmation. The Hebrew
epistle affirms that the Lord Jesus is the Priest, but not of
the Aaronic order. The people are counseled to endure and so
receive the blessings flowing from the ministry of their King
and Prophet and Priest.
Peter in his epistles engages
in a ministry figured as the shepherd feeding the sheep and
lambs. By this he prepares the flock for the Kingdom.
John's epistles dispense the
love of God's Son, whom God gave to display His love to Israel
and to the world. This One is a propitiation for all. He
emphasizes that Christ has come in flesh and insists that he
will again so come. John by His ministry remains "till He come."
From the rudimentary beginning
by the Lord Jesus all these ministries seek to lead forward to
the maturity of the Kingdom; those who fall aside, it is
impossible to renew again to repentance which is the initial
step as regards the Kingdom. It ought to be clear to us that
repentance and justification have nothing which enables them to
be identified as being equivalents, and hence the results from
each are quite different.
It has been a perplexing
matter to understand how Nations, as such, can be said to stand
in faith and at the
same time be threatened with the fate of being hewn out of the
Olive Tree. We have learned that individuals can give what seems
to be a response to God's evangel, and the evidence of the
reality of the professed faith lies in the evangel being
retained. This exactly features the case of the Nations. They
respond to the position afforded by God's conciliation of the
nations; this is an entry into God's kindness. Will they persist
in God's kindness, even as the individual retains God's evangel?
Should a nation become so highly biased as to vaunt over Israel,
then they are failing to persist in the kindness God has
displayed to them, and they are ready to be hewn out of the
Olive Tree; their outlook as a Nation no longer recognizes that
God has called them to the privileges of reconciliation both to
Himself and to Israel. Such a Nation disbelieves and ignores
that God has grafted it into the Olive Tree to enjoy the root
and fatness thereof which figures the illumination coming from
God's word given to Israel. They are refusing the light which
makes God manifest, and are displaying their innate stubbornness
to God and His ways; they have come to rely upon their own glory
rather than the living God.
As God's saints we should
adhere to the declarations of His word, and thus shall we avoid
withstanding the truth. By clinging closely to His word we shall
limit the possibility of our apostasy. A pattern of sound words
will also lead us increasingly away from the influence of the
apostasy of prior times.
Of Salvation, may we never for
a moment go contrary to the specific declaration of the evangel
that the justified cannot be condemned. Let us retain the
evangel and so give an affirmative to the "if"; then shall we
not be sham saints.
Now I am making known to you, brethren, the
evangel which I bring to you, which also you accepted, in which
also you stand, through which also you are saved, if you are
retaining what I said in bringing the evangel to you, outside
and except you believe feignedly. (1 Corinthians 15, 1-2 C. V.)
to Martin Lee (GoodNewsGospel.info)
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