Chapter 16, Continued from Chapter 15
“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor.2:13)
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A series of Bible studies on
SALVATION IN CHRIST
THE ISSUE OF THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER
PART B’: Which believer risks losing his salvation… (#7)
As stated at the end of the previous Chapter, this Chapter deals with few general principles with which closes the Second Part of this new series, in which have been examined various cases of loss of salvation of the believer.
“Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates? (2Cor.13:5).
- 1. Examine yourselves if you are in the faith…
The believer’s march toward ‘heaven’ is extremely difficult because of his internal and external enemies, but also because his destination is of the utmost importance. Self-examination is, therefore, enjoined!
Given that Paul was addressing to believers, the expression “in the faith” means that they should walk by faith and not by sight: In full conviction that whatever they do is God’s will or what God permits! That they should act with confidence: “[…] Happy is he that condemns not himself in that thing which he allows” (Rom.14:22). In other words, that I am sure that it is correct and obligatory what I have decided: Whatever I do, say or write, or think, etc. It is written in God’s Word: “[…]for whatever is not of faith (of conviction) is sin” (Rom.14:23). In the context of this principle falls the double-mindedness about which the apostle James speaks: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (Jas.1:8). Also: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded” (Jas.4:8).
We must, therefore, examine ourselves and not the others, because each one of us will give account to God for himself and not for others. We will not be able to justify our sins because of the sins of others. This, however, does not mean that we must close our eyes and not discern what is happening in our brother’s life, because then, where are the mutual exhortation, admonition and reproof? Sincere love and interest in others’ lives is not only permitted but it is also an obligation… In order to examine ourselves, it is necessary to use a secure and trustworthy measure of comparison. This measure is God’s Word! Our conscience is a bendable and not sufficiently secure measure. Our conscience cannot give us a perfect judgment (1Cor.4:4; Ps.143:2).
The apostle Paul said: “… I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judges me is the Lord.” He who really has the right to judge is the Lord. He is the only one who knows man’s heart (1Ki.8:39; Ps.139: 1-5; 1John 3:20; Rev.2:13). “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things » (1John 3:20). Fortunately, Christ, instead of judging us, He intercedes for us.
We should discern ourselves on the basis of His Word and be prepared for the hour of the Great Judgment. The Holy Spirit has, to that end, an active role to play: It searches our depths and brings to the surface the hidden things of darkness and the imaginations of our hearts. As for us, in the measure that we give up ourselves, our material and spiritual things to God, in that same measure we become spiritual. If we accept the searching work of the Holy Spirit we will become much better and many people will pay attention to our words and mainly to our character. This is not true for everybody because if some do not let, as a rule, God judge them how much more us! If we love God’s judgments and repent, then and only then, the Holy Spirit will keep being poured on us and will make us understand His words (Pr.1:23). Let us also love the reproofs of men of God, who are inspired by goodness and justice even if they are not absolutely just and exact! “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities” (Ps.141:5). When God judges, there is mercy in His judgment!
2. Self-examination should be honest and meticulous
Let us pray the Lord and say:
- “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart” (Ps.26:2).
- “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24).
So, self-examination must be diligently done and in the fear of God. It should extend to our words, thoughts, feelings and especially our Christian character and conduct within our family, our work and our church. Let us keep our leniency not only for ourselves but also for others. Let us be satisfied with the leniency that the Lord has had on us!
3. Self-examination should be continuous and without ceasing
The verse under study is in the imperative present tense, which means that self-examination must be made without ceasing. In this way, God brings to the surface our dark depths, which disappear as soon as the light of the Word of God falls on them, because “… all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatever does make manifest is light” (Eph.5:13). The study of the Bible contributes greatly to such self-examination. Self-examination is all the more necessary when the believer goes through tribulations or afflictions. Self-examination is enjoined but should not be done anxiously. We must ask God that His Holy Spirit might search our motives and our acts without any hindrance!
4. Things that we should examine:
- If our credo is according to the Word of God, lest there is a doctrinal error, small or big. Even a little error, a little leaven can leaven the whole lump (Gal.5:9). We must always have in mind that whatever we know, we know nothing yet as we ought to know (1Cor.8:2)…
- We must especially examine the choices of our heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life (Pr.4:23), because the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer.17:9). Without an honest and severe self-examination it is impossible to detect any need for improvement. It is impossible to see mistakes, failings and sins disappear without self-examination and their rejection. Self-examination is very difficult for our souls because it requires humiliation and confession, which are painful to the soul. The pride of the soul resists and alters judgment. Our pretension concerning our piety will be tested at the moment of danger, of a painful testing of our interests (benefits) and of our relationships… I repeat: From the choices of our heart depend the issues of life. The events that will follow are bound to the choices of our heart. From the moment we have made our final choice, the events will begin to take their course and we will not be able to change or influence them. From the moment we have pushed the trigger of our choice, it is impossible to change the course of the events that will follow our life. The Word of God says:
- “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Pr.4:23).
- “A man’s heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps” (Pr.16:9).
- “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer.10:23).
In other words, from the moment a man has made his choice, the course of his life is decided and regulated by God. Our works may appear to be good but they may not be done with good motives and with a perfect heart. We must examine day and night which are our desires and our goals, and where and which is our treasure and how our thoughts are absorbed day and night…
5. “…prove your own selves…”
The man of God must examine himself whether he has put on the whole armor of God (Eph.6:10-18):
- If he loves the truth and uses always the truth, whether in little or in big issues;
- If he practices justice towards God and man (that is, if he repents), recognizing God’s rights as well as his own sins and faults;
- If he is ready to give his testimony, under favorable and unfavorable conditions for himself, on behalf of Him who loved and saved him;
- If he has learned to resist by faith the temptations of Satan and of his flesh, by obeying the Word of God;
- If he believes in God’s protection, if he has the certainty that none can snatch him from God’s hands and that consequently he has the certainty of his salvation;
- If he is well armed with God’s Word, so that he may use it properly, both as a defensive weapon and as an offensive weapon by using the most appropriate “it is written”;
- If he has made the unceasing prayer his breath and prays to God lifting up pure hands;
- If he wants that God’s will should always be done in his life and in the life of both his friends and his enemies;
- If he believes that all his requests which are according to God’s will cannot remain unanswered in God’s time; and finally,
- If he takes care to keep the clothes of righteousness that God has given him always pure. Then, God the Father will continue to give him unceasingly the Holy Spirit, His fruit and His gifts (Ac.5:32)! Then, boldness, assurance and spiritual authority will gush out spontaneously! He will never pretend that he has them! “Whoever boasts himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain” (Prov.25:14).
IF NOT, he will become spiritually blind, unfruitful and he will even forget that he was purged from his old sins (2Pet.1:9)!
God uses His own ways to bring us to a situation or to a place in order to be tested so that our content be manifest, know what is in our heart, whether we will keep His commandments or not (De.8:2). He brings us to the “desert” of afflictions to be tempted by the Devil, to speak to our heart and to give us the valley of Achor (Trouble) as a door of hope (Hosea 2:15), in order to transform the crisis into an occasion of spiritual maturity… If we do not “stone to death” any sin that God reveals us, there is no hope of improvement and of spiritual progress.
Conclusion: No repentance? No correction! No repentance? No improvement and no progress! No repentance? No Christ! No repentance? No life eternal but everlasting death!
6. “Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you?”
Let me begin with certain verses:
- “[…] If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him” (Joh.14:23). Consequently, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in the believer that loves Christ and keeps His words! Unbelievable but true!!!
- “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom.8:10).
- “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Ga.2:20).
- “Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1Cor.3:16)?
If “Christ is in us” then we have the responsibility:
a) To keep our conscience clear (1John 3:20-22) and
b) To “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine” (2Tim.4:2).
7. Except we are reprobates…
7a) Christ and sin cannot cohabit; they are not compatible!
Otherwise we are reprobates (not approved, disapproved, rejected, unable to stand the trial, inappropriate, castaway) or false Christians. Let me refer to some important verses, which clarify the notion of the word “reprobate” and the message of this verse:
- “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate” (Tit.1:16).
- “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1Cor.9:27). Paul does not refer to an eventual perdition of his soul but to the need of keeping his body in discipline (1Cor.9:27).
- “But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near to cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Heb.6:8).
- “If you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard…” (Col.1:23).
We conclude, therefore, that Christ is in all TRUE believers! This is the meaning of the expression “Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you?” Christ, therefore, is not in someone who is reprobate (disapproved, rejected, inappropriate or castaway), although he professes that he knows God (Tit.1:16). What makes someone reprobate? It is sin. And to be more exact and clear, a sin for which man has not sincerely repented. “Why by their fruits you shall know them” (Mat.7:20). A man is not reprobate if he cleanses himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2Cor.7:1). In addition: If he keeps himself pure, he will become a vessel of honor, sanctified for the Master’s use and prepared to every good work (2Tim.2:21). Such a man can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth (2Cor.13:8). Only “… as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom.8:14).
If we are reprobate, what is going to happen if we do not repent? (Heb.6:8).
7b) Except we are deceived
There are believers who think that they are pure but who are not, in reality, washed from their sin, as the Word of God says (Pr.32:12). This, though it seems improbable, constitutes very often a sad reality, which is widespread among religious people. There are believers who are deceived and err. The following words are not written in vain:
- “But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas.1:22).
- “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal.6:7).
- “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (Jas.1:26).
- “Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev.3:17).
- “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal.6:3).
- “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1Cor.15:33).
What is going to happen if we are deceived and do not return to the truth?
7c) Except we do not discern ourselves
The consequences for those who do not take part of the body and blood of the Lord worthily can be very serious, up to death… To take part in the Lord’s Supper is a solemn act and there will be fearful results if it is celebrated in an improper way. We should search out and remove all things that are offensive to God. This self-examination should be done always but especially before the Lord’s Table (2Cor.11:28). Our participation is a solemn profession of our attachment to God and an act of consecration. A man should see if he is born again, if he discerns the Lord’s body, if he has truly repented of his sins and has a sincere desire to live the life of a Christian. Also if he has put in order his relation to those with whom he has spiritual problems and is reconciled. Consequently, our participation at the Lord’s Table should always be preceded by honest and prayerful self-examination.
What is going to happen to us if we do not discern ourselves and do not repent (1Cor.11:30-32 and Luke 13:3, 5)?
7d) Except we have not loved God as we ought to
On that Great Day, every man’s work will be made manifest. The secrets of all hearts shall be revealed: Whether the believer has held truth or error; whether he has had correct or false views of piety; whether what he has done was something that he should have done or not. Everything shall be revealed by fire, even our zealous but useless activism! “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2Cor.5:10). We must therefore be ready for the day of the great judgment before the Judgment Seat of Christ… A man who is not moved by the vehement desire to rid himself of every sin and whose heart is not enflamed by the desire to transmit the Gospel would do well to put a big question mark for his genuineness…
What is going to be our apology when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ? Have we thought of what is going to happen if we have not loved Christ with all our heart, if we avoided or refused to deny ourselves, take up our cross, present our bodies as a living sacrifice holy, agreeable to God, which is our reasonable service?
Self-examination is useful not only for our comfort and our spiritual revival but also because the enemy, very often, exploiting our mistakes and shortcomings brings discouragement. Our self-examination brings to the surface our true will and not any false feelings that the enemy creates in our souls. Our self-examination reminds us of the unchangeable mercy of our great God and Savior: “Because he considers, and turns away from all his transgressions that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Eze.18:28). (Please, read also Ps.77:1-10).
The usefulness, therefore, of this self-examination is great:
- “For if we would judge (would discern) ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1Cor.11:31-32).
- “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Gal.6:4).
- “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1John 3:20-22).
I deem necessary, as I close the second part and enter into the third and final part of this series to refer to certain words of the apostle Paul of utmost importance:
- “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he stays faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2Tim.2:11-13).
- “Moreover, brothers, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory (hold fast – YLT or hold firmly – possess or master or keep – GR) what I preached to you, UNLESS YOU HAVE BELIEVED IN VAIN” (1Cor.15:1-2).
May none of us hear from the Lord’s lips “[…] I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Mat.7:23). Let us make a convention with God on the basis of the verse: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24).
“Now to him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)
To be continued…