You Can Can Be Sure (Part one)
The text for our lesson is found in 1 John 5:11-13:
"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life..." (NKJV).
"that you may know that you have eternal life". In past few weeks we have seen a number of our members who had been immersed in water at some time in the past develop some doubts as to whether or not their baptism was valid. I myself had these doubts many years ago and, like several of our members lately, I chose to eliminate that doubt entirely. Whether or not this action was necessary is not the subject of this lesson. The subject of this lesson is first that we must be sure and secondly, that we can be sure.
Why must be sure of our eternal salvation? The most obvious answer is that our final destination is eternal and we don't get any do-overs. Once we die and leave this physical realm, our eternal destination is forever sealed. We only have one life to offer God and we better get it right. We can correct our failures so long as we live in this life, but after we die, the consequences for failure are permanent.
In Romans 14 Paul gives instruction on conduct in matters of opinion. God gives us certain liberties under the gospel and sometimes well meaning folks either don't know or don't understand what God's expectations might be. The natural tendency for someone who is concerned about obeying God is to take the more restrictive path if they are uncertain on something. Paul gives instruction on how Christians are to behave toward one another when this occurs. There are a number of instruction in Romans 14 but for the purpose of this lesson, we are going to look at only one of them. In Romans 14:23, Paul writes this, "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin." If we are doing something that we are not absolutely sure about, or something that we may have doubts about, then it is sin. Christians are commanded to be convicted in their beliefs and practices. Think about this in the terms of raising our children. Suppose you discover your child doing something they are not supposed to be doing. Something for which you had already given them instruction on. Are you going to accept their excuse when they tell you they just weren't sure about it so they went ahead and did it anyway. What's your response to them going be? How about this response? "if you weren't sure then why did you do it?" Well that's similar to what Paul is saying in Romans 14:23. God has given us His instructions in His inspired record. He wants us to know His instructions. And if we don't know then, He wants us to seek them and be sure about something before we make a mistake. All of God's laws are for mankind's benefit, they are designed to keep us safe and to keep us from harming one another. Our rules for our children are for their benefit. They are designed to keep them safe and keep them from harming themselves and others around them. We don't want our children making mistakes that are harmful to themselves and others and we expect them to understand this and to seek and follow our guidance in this matter. We are God's children. God expects us to seek and follow His guidance in the things we do.
The rules we give our children is a reflection of the love we have for them. Similarly, the rules we receive from God is a reflection of the love He has for us. We can look at His word and see that He cares for us, He is concerned for us, He has our best interests at heart. 1 John 5:3, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" 2 John 6, "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments". God is a concerned Father and He expects us to seek His will on things that we do and He expects us to be sure about those things. Whatever is not of faith, is sin.
So how can we be sure? The first step to being sure is to know the truth. Jesus said in John 8:31-32, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Jesus starts this saying with a conditional word: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed". The word "if" provides a condition upon which something depends. In a conditional statement there is a stated result and an implied result. Jesus stated that "IF you abide in my word, you are my disciples. This statement carries the implication that those who do not abide in His word will not be His disciples. Jesus follows with an another statement beginning with a conjunction: "AND you shall know the truth" And then yet another one with "AND the truth shall make you free". So we have three separate results that depend on the condition of abiding in His word.
If you abide in my word you: 1) Are my disciples; 2) shall know the truth; 3) and the truth shall make you free.
What Jesus implied with the conditional statement is that if you do not abide in my word, 1) You are not my disciples; 2) you shall not know the truth; 3) and the truth shall not make you free.
All of three of the positive promises Jesus made are dependent upon abiding in His word. That means living according to what He has taught. Making His instructions into one's lifestyle or one's pattern for conduct throughout their life.
Jesus said those who abide in His word, those who live in it, study it, strive to learn it and live it will know the truth. Jesus promised we can "know the truth". Jesus said in John 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." "Your word is truth" God's word isn't just something that contains a little truth here and there sprinkled in like salt and pepper. God's word is truth. God's word is the source of truth, it is the totality of truth. It is all truth. From Alpha to Omega, from "In the beginning God" in Genesis 1:1 to the "Amen" in Revelation 22:21, God's word is truth. The Psalmist wrote in 119:160, "The sum of thy word is truth; and every one of thy righteous ordinances (endureth) for ever."
Those who study in God's word, who learn God's word, and who live in God's word are abiding in His word and are given a promise by Jesus Himself. They will know the truth. 2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
You can be sure that if you study, search, learn, correctly handle and live in God's word, you can know the truth.
So how do we correctly handle God's word? There are some very simple Biblical standards we can use to be sure we are rightly dividing or correctly handling God's word. God's word tells us how to handle God's word.
You can be sure that we live under the new covenant.
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
You can be sure that the old covenant has been done away with.
Ephesians 2:13-16 This is Paul writing to gentile Christians in Ephesus.
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
The old covenant made a separation between Jews and Gentiles. Only Jews were God's chosen people. Gentiles who wished to live under the law of Moses had to undergo a process where they were then known as proselytes. Under the new covenant, this wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles was eliminated by doing away with it, or as the text says, "nailing it to His cross". The old law of Moses ended at the cross of Christ. Everyone today who is a Christian is a child of God. Galatians 3:28-29 reads, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
We can be sure the Bible has the knowledge we need
Jude 3-4, "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." The original language translated as "once for all" carries the meaning of unrepeatability and finality. The faith that was delivered was delivered once and will not be delivered again. In 2 Peter 1:2-3, we read, "...His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness". The faith that was once for all time delivered contained everything that pertained to life and Godliness. Nothing was left out. All the truth we need was delivered completely in the first century and it will not be repeated. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." and then in Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
So from this handful of scriptures we can get a picture of just how reliable the Word of God is.
1) Faith comes by the word of God. Romans 10:17
2) The Faith was delivered only once and will not be repeated. (Jude 3)
3) The faith that was delivered in the first century contained everything that pertained to life and godliness. Nothing was left out. 2 Peter 1:2-3
4) The scriptures were inspired by God, meaning He oversaw and directed what was being written about the faith. 2 Timothy 3:16
5) The written record thoroughly furnishes us with everything we need for instruction, correction, doctrine and reproof. 2 Timothy 3:17
What about the preservation of it through the ages? There are roughly 25,000 manuscripts and fragments of the written record in existence. And even if all of these were lost, the entire Bible with the exception of a handful of verses could be recreated from the quotes contained in the writings of early church authors. The Bible as we have it today is the most preserved document in the history of mankind on earth.
We can trust the word of God. We can have absolute confidence that it contains everything we need. We can be sure that the Bible contains everything we need to get to heaven.
We can be sure that the Bible must be rightly divided.
This means that the word of God must be correctly understood and properly applied.
The word of God contains warnings we must heed if we are to rightly divide, or correctly handle it.
1 Corinthians 4:6 reads, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written,". The NASB reads "not to exceed what is written" The ASV reads "not to go beyond what is written". This is not the only place we read this warning either: 2 John 9, "Whoever transgresses* and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God." The NASB reads, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God". The original language carries the meaning of going astray or going ahead of where they should be. Simply stated, Christians are warned in the word of God not to go beyond the word of God. The word of God says that those who do go beyond the word of God do not have God. Paul and John's warnings are echoed in the book of Revelation in words that are impossible to misunderstand:
Revelation 22:18-19, "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. "
In 2 John 9, John wrote that those who go too far do not have God, and in Revelation he wrote that those who take away from the book of Revelation lose their place in the book of life, which represents salvation. They lose their place in the holy city. We read about that in Rev 21 as a place where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more suffering. That's a picture of heaven. Those who lose salvation and their home in heaven do not have God. 2 John 9 makes Revelation 22:18-19 applicable to everything written in the new testament. Concerning God's word in the old testament, it has Deuteronomy 4:2, "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." and Deuteronomy 12:32, "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." No one in history has ever been permitted to tamper with the word of God. We must not add anything to it. We must not take anything away from it. The word of God says that to do so, results in the loss of God.
This is so very important in a society with so much religious division and diversity. We have thousands of different divisions among those who claim Christ as savior. If none of them took anything away or added anything to the word of God, then they would not exist. They all teach things a little differently. They all contain some truth, but do they all contain the sum of God's truth? Have they left something out? Have they added something that cannot be found in the word of God? Have they changed it in any way? The logical answer is yes because if no changes to His word were made, then no divisions would exist.
Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 both record the words of Jesus as saying, "And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." Jesus says here that our worship is worthless if we follow the commandments of men. We have seen in this lesson so far that the Bible is the inspired word of God, it was delivered once for all, it contains everything we need for a life of godliness and we are not to tamper with it or alter it in any way. So with that said, then if anyone is practicing something that cannot be found in the scriptures or leaving something out, then where did that doctrine come from? It didn't come from God so it had to come from the mind of man. If it didn't come from the Bible it came from a man. If it's in the Bible but not in practice then men chose to leave it out. That's a doctrine of men and it renders our worship worthless. It is of no value. It is empty, hollow and ineffective. We can be sure that the scriptures must be rightly understood and rightly applied if we are to enjoy eternal salvation in heaven with God.
You can be sure Christ created only one church.
In Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul wrote, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
Well since there is only one body, then what association does it have with the church? Earlier in the same letter Paul tells us: Ephesians 1:22-23, "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body" The one body that Paul wrote of in Ephesians 4:4 is the same body he wrote about in Ephesians 1:22-23 and it is the church. The church and the body of Christ are one and the same and there is only one. Jesus declared in Matthew 16:18, "...and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Jesus promised to build only one church. Paul says there is only church. Jesus only died for one church. Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it", Singular. Christ only purchased one church with His blood, Acts 20:28, "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God* which He purchased with His own blood." And Christ is the head of and the savior of only one church. Ephesians 5:22-24, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body."
Question for everyone. Let's apply some common sense here. Since Christ only built one church; bled for one church; died for one church; rules one church and saves one church, then shouldn't that be the church we strive to be a part of? Does that make sense? That's the church I want to be in.
I don't want any part of a church or body that Jesus did not build.
I don't want any part of a church that Jesus did not shed His blood for.
I don't want any part of a church that Jesus did not die for.
I don't want any part of a church that Jesus does not rule over.
I don't want any part of a church that Jesus will not save.
Because I want to be sure. I don't get any do-overs. If I get this wrong, I don't get to say to Jesus, "WOOPS... My Bad!!! Let me go back, I'll get it right the next time!!!"
I have to get this right this time. WE have to get this right this time. All Christians must get this right this time. This time is the only time we have. Christians MUST be sure.
And finally, How Can We Be Sure?
It is so simple. Two scriptures is all it takes to give us the answer.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,* who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
There are two conditions here in order to qualify for there being no condemnation. We must be "In Christ Jesus" AND we just walk according to the Spirit. This means walking in accordance with the instructions of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit and recorded for us in scripture. In other words, living obediently to the will of God. We must meet both of these conditions in order to qualify for "no condemnation".
The second scripture is in 1 John 2:3-6
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."
Let's read that again:
"Now by this we know that we know Him [Jesus], if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, "I know Him," [Jesus] and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word [Jesus], truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this [obedience] we know [this is how we know] that we are in Him. [Jesus Christ]"
We must be sure. And the Bible says we can be sure if we are in Christ and living in obedience to His will. That's how we know. That's how we can be sure.
Live our lives by the word of God. Don't leave anything out. Don't add anything to it. Use it as the sole standard for our guide for life. Reject any doctrine, creed book, literature or guides which are not 100% in harmony with the word of God.
Study it, learn it, rightly divide it, correctly apply it. Obey it.
And you can be; you WILL be sure.