The Gospel (VI)
ESSENTIAL GOSPEL DOCTRINE (4)
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 10/8/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to Philippians 1:3-6:
Philippians 1: (3) I thank my God on all the remembrance of you, (4) always in my every prayer on your behalf making [my] prayer with joy (5) over your fellowship in the gospel, from [the] first day until now, (6) being persuaded of this very thing, that the [One] having begun a good work in you will finish [it] until [the] day of Jesus Christ;
We are continuing to study the essential doctrine that is part of the gospel. We have, as a basis for this study, the following definition of the gospel: God's promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Two weeks ago, I began expounding on the phrase TO SAVE. We looked at one of the meanings of "TO SAVE," which is to DELIVER or RESCUE. Two weeks ago, we saw what sinners are delivered or rescued FROM, and last week, we saw what was involved in the person's deliverance and rescue.
This week, we're going to be looking at the other primary definition of "TO SAVE," and from this, we will see another essential gospel doctrine. As I said before, yawshah (YA-sha) is the Hebrew word that is usually translated "save," and sozo (SO-zo) is the Greek word that is usually translated "save." These words do not only mean "to deliver" and "to rescue." There is another important meaning to these words. These words ALSO mean "to preserve" "to be safe," and "to do well." So here we see that SALVATION doesn't ONLY have to do with the initial deliverance and rescue from the bondage of sin, but it ALSO has to do with being PRESERVED from evil. Once we are delivered and rescued, we REMAIN in this state FOREVER. So the gospel also includes God's promise to PRESERVE. It is GOOD NEWS that God promises to PRESERVE. What kind of good news would it be if God promised initial regeneration, but then said that these regenerate people can become unregenerated and finally perish in hell? This is not good news at all. In fact, it is a blatant form of salvation conditioned on the sinner, because it says that a person's BAD WORKS can UNDO their salvation. Well, if their BAD WORKS can UNDO their salvation, what do they think will REDO their salvation? Their GOOD WORKS.
Let's turn to some Scriptures that show that God PRESERVES EVERYONE HE SAVES, and that not a SINGLE PERSON whom God saves will return to a state of lostness.
Psalm 37: (23) The steps of a [good] man are established from Jehovah; and He will delight in his way. (24) Though he falls, he is not cast down; for Jehovah upholds his hand. (25) I have been young and am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his seed begging bread. (26) All the day he [is] gracious and lends; and his seed [is] for a blessing. (27) Turn away from evil and do good and live forever. (28) For Jehovah loves judgment and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever; but the wicked's seed shall be cut off.
Notice that in verse 23, preservation is tied to God's SOVEREIGNTY. God ORDERS our steps, AND He preserves us. This is an important passage, because it shows two things: FIRST, that God causes us to remain in a state of justification, and SECOND, God causes us to remain submitted to His righteousness. We see both OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE preservation here. God does NOT keep His people in a state of justification while at the same time having them engage in unbelief and denying the gospel. God does BOTH. There is NEVER one without the other. I'll be speaking more on that in a little while, the Lord willing.
Psalm 73: (23) Yet I [was] continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. (24) You shall guide me by Your counsel; and afterward [You] will take me [to] glory. (25) Whom have I in Heaven? And I have no desire on earth besides You. (26) My flesh and my heart waste away; God [is] the rock of my heart and my portion forever. (27) For, lo, those who are far from You shall be lost; You have cut off all who go whoring away from You. (28) [As for] me, [it is] good for me to draw near to God; I have made my refuge in the Lord Jehovah, to declare all Your works.
See here that preservation is ALL THE WAY to final glory. And notice again the objective and subjective preservation. God's people are guided by His counsel, AND God takes hold of their hands and takes them to glory.
Psalm 121: (3) He will not give your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. (4) Behold, He who keeps Israel will not slumber nor sleep. (5) Jehovah [is] the One keeping you; Jehovah [is] your shade on your right hand. (6) The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night; (7) Jehovah shall keep you from all evil; He shall keep your soul. (8) Jehovah shall keep your going out, and your coming in, from now on and till forever.
Take a look at what God is saying here. He is saying that He keeps His people from slipping, keeps them from all evil, and keeps their soul. Isn't that a glorious passage? God keeps our souls SAFE, and not only does He keep our souls safe, He keeps us from slipping! Let me say it this way - God has made it so that it is IMPOSSIBLE for His people to slip! I'm planning to get into more detail as to what it is IMPOSSIBLE for God's people to do, but this is just a little introduction. We CANNOT slip! What does it mean to slip? We'll go into more of that later, the Lord willing. But also remember here that we're talking about a PROMISE from God! Remember when we went over GOD'S PROMISE? Well, here's a PROMISE. God PROMISES that He will not give your foot to slip, that He shall keep you from all evil, and that He shall keep your soul - not only now, but FOREVER! Praise God!
And speaking of promises, let's turn to Jeremiah 32:39-40:
Jeremiah 32: (39) And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me all the days, for good to them and to their sons after them. (40) And I will cut an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do good to them. But I will put My fear in their heart, that they shall not depart from Me.
Do you see how God's preservation of His people is tied right in to His promise to deliver them and to give them a new heart? God promises that He will put His fear into their new heart and that they will NEVER depart from Him.
John 6: (37) All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the [one] coming to Me I will in no way cast out. (38) For I have come down out of Heaven, not that I should do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (39) And this is the will of the Father sending Me, that of all that He has given Me, I shall not lose [any] of it, but shall raise it up in the last day. (40) And this is the will of the [One] sending Me, that everyone seeing the Son and believing into Him should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
How can you be any clearer than that? Look at verse 39. How many whom God has given to Jesus will Jesus lose? "I shall not lose ANY of it!" Look at verse 40. How many who believe in Jesus will have everlasting life? "EVERYONE"! And again, see that this preservation goes all the way from regeneration to final glory.
John 10: (28) And I give eternal life to them, and they shall not perish to the age, never! And not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand. (29) My Father who has given [them] to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck out of My Father's hand.
Who is able to pluck the sheep out of God's hand? NO ONE! They shall NEVER PERISH.
Now, can anyone or anything STOP or HINDER God's people from being saved eternally? Romans 8:28-39:
Romans 8: (28) But we know that [to] the [ones] loving God all things work together for good, [to] those being called according to purpose; (29) because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be [the] First-born among many brothers. (30) But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
So when God justifies someone, is there any question as to whether or not he will glorify that person? Romans 8:31-39:
Romans 8: (31) What then shall we say to these things? If God [be] for us, who [can be] against us? (32) Truly [He] who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up on behalf of us all, how will He not freely give all things to us with Him? (33) Who will bring any charge against God's elect? God [is] the [One] justifying! (34) Who [is he] condemning? [It is] Christ who has died, but rather also [is] raised, who also is at [the] right [hand] of God, who also makes intercession on our behalf. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) Even as it has been written, "For Your sake we are killed all the day; we are counted as sheep of slaughter." (37) But in all these things we more than conquer through Him loving us. (38) For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
NOTHING can separate us from God's love! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
Now what do these verses tell us about God's people once they are saved? It tells us ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED. I am not ashamed to say that I believe in ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED. The Arminian will ask, "No matter what he does, he remains saved?" And I answer, "Exactly. No matter what he does, he remains saved. Nothing he HAS done or IS doing or WILL do will EVER return him to a state of condemnation."
Now we're all thinking of the common objection, aren't we? The objectors say, "So regenerate people can sin any kind of sin, engage in the most wicked perversions, deny the gospel, go off and live a life of irreligion and unconcern, and still be saved?" Let's go over this one for a while. The same objection was raised in Paul's day. Let's turn to Romans 6. Paul just got finished saying in chapter 5 verse 19 that through the obedience of ONE, many were counted righteous. He said that our own personal obedience has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with our being counted righteous before God. He said that where sin abounded, grace much more abounded.
So here come the objectors. If our salvation has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with our obedience and has ONLY TO DO with the obedience of Christ, why can't we just go ahead and sin all we want to, since God's grace through Christ is the only thing that matters in salvation? Look at verse 1 of chapter 6:
Romans 6: (1) What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
Isn't that just like the Arminians who hold to conditional preservation? And isn't that just like the Calvinists who condition final glory on perseverance? They accuse us of antinomianism. They accuse us of believing that it doesn't matter what a Christian does.
But pay close attention to how Paul answers the objectors in verses 2-13:
Romans 6: (2) Let it not be! We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it? (3) Or are you ignorant that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (4) Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin. (7)For the [one] that died has been justified from sin. (8) But if we died with Christ, we believe that also we shall live with Him, (9) knowing that Christ being raised from [the] dead dies no more; death no longer lords it over Him. (10) For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. (11) So also you count yourselves to be truly dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (12) Then do not let sin reign in your mortal body, to obey it in its lusts. (13) Neither present your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as [one] living from [the] dead, and your members instruments of righteousness to God.
Does this sound like a license to sin? No - it is just the opposite. Verse 2 says that we have died to sin and shall not live in sin. Verse 4 says that we should walk in newness of life. Verse 6 says that we no longer serve sin. Verse 11 says that we count ourselves dead to sin. Verse 12 says that we should not let sin rule in our bodies. Verse 13 says that we are not to present our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness to sin. Make no mistake about it - Christians DO NOT live in sin. Do Christians still sin? Yes. We are constantly falling short of the glory of God. Yet our walk is NOT in sin but is in newness of life. Look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
1 Corinthians 6: (9) Or do you not know that unjust ones will not inherit [the] kingdom of God? Do not be led astray, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor covetous ones, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor plunderers shall inherit [the] kingdom of God. (11) And some [of you] were these things, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God.
Here is a description of what these Christians WERE like before they were saved - notice verse 11, "some WERE these things" - but now they are NOT these things. We see in verse 10 that NONE of these kinds of people will inherit the kingdom of God. Some like to gloss over this by saying that Christians are STILL these things in their walk but are declared righteous, so they will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Some say, "we're all adulterers, but we're covered by the blood." But the context will not allow that interpretation. NO HOMOSEXUAL will inherit the kingdom of God. If a person DIES A HOMOSEXUAL, he will go to hell. So the objector who says that we believe that someone can be a homosexual and be saved does not know what we believe. If they say, "But you just said that a person can't lose his salvation no matter what he does," I say, that's true. But a person who has been truly saved WILL NOT be a homosexual.
Does this mean that one's remaining saved is conditioned on one's doing or abstaining? In no way. One's remaining saved is conditioned on the finished work of Christ alone. But one who IS saved WILL NOT walk in a certain way. They WILL NOT walk in these sins. Call me a legalist if you want to, but that's what the Bible says. And if you think that this is legalism, you don't have a clue as to what legalism is.
There is one other area in which we need to see that God's people are preserved. It is a VITAL AREA. God's people are preserved from believing, confessing, and following a false Christ and a false gospel. Let's turn to John 10:5:
John 10: (5 )But they will not follow a stranger, never! But [they] will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of the strangers.
Does it say that we will SOMETIMES follow a stranger? Does it say that we will follow a stranger and follow the true Shepherd at the same time? No! It says that we will NEVER follow a stranger! Let's turn to Matthew 24:23-24:
Matthew 24: (23) Then if anyone says to you, Behold, here [is] the Christ! Or, Here! Do not believe. (24) For false christs and false prophets will rise up. And [they] will give great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Christ Jesus is saying that those false teachers will come with their subtle deceits and certainly will lead many astray -- but it is IMPOSSIBLE to lead the elect astray! God preserves His people from being led astray by the false gospels of these false prophets!
Let's turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:3-17:
2 Thessalonians 2: (3) Do not let anyone deceive you in any way, because [that Day will not come] unless first comes the falling away, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, (4) the [one] opposing and exalting himself over everything being called God, or object of worship, so as for him "to sit in the temple of God" as God, setting forth himself, that he is God. (5) Do you not remember that I told you these things, I yet being with you? (6) And now you know the thing holding back, for him to be revealed in his time. (7) For the mystery of lawlessness already is working, only he [is] holding back now, until it comes out of the midst. (8) And then "the Lawless One" will be revealed, "whom" "the Lord" "will consume" "by the spirit of His mouth," and will bring to nought by the brightness of His presence. (9) [His] coming is according to the working of Satan in all power and [miraculous] signs and lying wonders, (10) and in all deceit of unrighteousness in those being lost, because they did not receive the love of the truth in order for them to be saved. (11) And because of this, God will send to them a working of error, for them to believe the lie, (12) that all may be judged, those not believing the truth, but who have delighted in unrighteousness. (13) But we ought to thank God always concerning you, brothers, beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of [the] Spirit and belief of [the] truth, (14) to which He called you through our gospel, to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (15) So, then, brothers, stand firm and strongly hold the teachings you were taught, whether by word or by our letter. (16) But may our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, and our God and Father, the [One] having loved us and having given everlasting comfort and good hope by grace, (17) encourage your hearts, and may He establish you in every good word and work.
After warning the Thessalonians about the falling away, the man of sin, the son of perdition, and God's sending "a working of error, for them to believe the lie, that all may be judged, those not believing the truth, but who have delighted in unrighteousness" (v. 11), Paul then states, "BUT we ought to thank God always concerning you, brothers, beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of [the] spirit and belief of [the] truth, to which He called you through our gospel, to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vv. 13-14). Notice the contrast! He talks of those who are deceived into believing the lie and delighting in unrighteousness, and he contrasts this with those who have been sanctified by the spirit and have believed the truth of the gospel. Paul is saying to the Thessalonian believers, and to all of us who are regenerate, that it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to believe the lie and delight in unrighteousness! God preserves us from these things!
Now let's turn to a passage that we read when we went over total depravity. It's Matthew 7:18:
Matthew 7: (18) A good tree cannot produce evil fruits, nor a corrupt tree produce good fruits.
Now I want you to get the impact of this. Just as much as it is IMPOSSIBLE for a totally depraved sinner to bring forth good fruit - it is JUST AS IMPOSSIBLE for a regenerated sinner to bring forth evil fruit. Are you getting the full impact of this? When we talk about the TOTAL INABILITY of an unregenerate person to bring forth good fruit, we mean TOTAL and ABSOLUTE INABILITY. And you know what, a believer is TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY UNABLE to bring forth evil fruit!
But wait a minute. Don't we still sin? Yes, we CONSTANTLY fall short of the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ, and we CONSTANTLY cry "O wretched man that I am!" How can it be said, then that believers CANNOT bring forth evil fruit? Luke 6:45 gives us the answer:
Luke 6: (45) The good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart. And the evil man brings forth evil out of the evil treasure of his heart, for his mouth speaks out of the abundance of his heart.
This is not talking about all the thoughts, words, and deeds of either the regenerate or unregenerate man; it is talking specifically about what GOSPEL the men believe and confess. It is IMPOSSIBLE for a regenerate man to believe and confess a false gospel!! Those who are in the flesh bear fruit unto death, and those who are in the Spirit bear fruit unto God (Romans 7:4-5), and it is JUST AS IMPOSSIBLE for one who is in the Spirit to bear fruit unto death as it is for one who is in the flesh to bear fruit unto God.
When we see descriptions in the Bible of sins that are necessarily indicative of lostness, we know that a believer is PRESERVED from doing such things. For example, God says that saying in one's heart, "There is no God" is indicative of lostness (Psalm 14:1); thus, it is impossible for a regenerate person to say in his heart, "There is no God." God says that praying to a god who cannot save is indicative of lostness (Isaiah 45:20); thus, it is impossible for a regenerate person to pray to a god who cannot save. God says that being ignorant of the righteousness of God, seeking to establish one's own righteousness, and not submitting to the righteousness of God are indicative of lostness (Romans 10:3); thus, it is impossible for a regenerate person to be ignorant of God's righteousness, to seek to establish his own righteousness, or to not be submitted to God's righteousness. God says that preaching a false gospel is indicative of lostness (Galatians 1:8-9); thus, it is impossible for a regenerate person to preach a false gospel. God says that saying we have no sin and saying we have not sinned are indicative of lostness (1 John 1:8,10); thus, it is impossible for a regenerate person to say he has no sin or say he has not sinned. God says that denying that Jesus is the Christ is indicative of lostness (1 John 2:22); thus, it is impossible for a regenerate person to deny that Jesus is the Christ. God says that not abiding in the doctrine of Christ is indicative of lostness (2 John 9); thus, it is impossible for a regenerate person to not abide in the doctrine of Christ. God says that speaking peace to one who brings a false gospel is indicative of lostness (2 John 11); thus, it is impossible for a regenerate person to speak peace to one who brings a false gospel. Now if one says that a regenerate person CAN do these things, then that person DOES NOT KNOW the God who promises to preserve His people. But WE who DO KNOW the God of all grace, KNOW and REJOICE in God's preserving grace. It is so precious to us. Let's turn to Jude 24-25 to close:
Jude 1: (24) Now to Him being able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you before His glory without blemish, with unspeakable joy; (25) to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty and might and authority, even now and forever.