Over on Facebook, a friend of a friend posted this video, to which my actual friend commented:
I read this quote online and believe it’s applicable to what’s being discussed here. “No Christian can lose Christ or salvation, but those who think they are Christians and have no sanctified life were never saved to begin with and thus will be surprised when Jesus rejects them in the afterlife.”
Okay, no. No. This focus on holiness and the confusion of sanctification and justification has got to stop. Why? Because it’s not Scriptural.
“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” – 1 Tim 1
What do we see in this passage? We see that it is possible to REJECT faith and good conscience. But where do these things (i.e. faith and good conscience) come from?
“It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is NOT OF YOURSELVES; IT IS A GIFT OF GOD, not by works so that no one can boast.” – Eph 2:8-9
The faith is imparted to you. Indeed, as Jesus told Peter upon his confession: “For FLESH AND BLOOD HAS NOT revealed this to you, but MY FATHER who is in heaven” (Matt 16:17) Likewise the apostle whom Jesus loved, writes that “If anyone acknowledges Jesus is the Son, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 Jn 4:15).
What we witness here is that the Spirit itself reveals the truth of God to us and offers faith; i.e., our faith is only the gift of God itself.
And we know that it is possible for “in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,” to then fall away” and not be restored “to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Heb 6:4-6).
It is worth noting in Matthew 7, Jesus warns of false teachers in the same breath as the warning against works righteousness:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt 7:15-23)
What we see is that the false prophets CANNOT be discerned by their works, for they do certain good and mighty acts (see Mk 13:22 and Matt 24:24) that can be false, not by the power of God, and so deceive even the elect. We instead judge them according to what comes from prophecy: words and doctrine, for prophecy is not action.
What is it Paul says of the Christian life? “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom 7:21-25). It’s Jesus, not our own work, for we continue to do evil even as we long to do good.
Washer and others like him try to locate the assurance of their justification in their sanctification, but this is not accurate. For Jesus Himself tells us what our life of doing God’s work looks like. Guess what: it doesn’t look like holiness!
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:25-29)
This is the work of God! To believe in Christ, or as Paul wrote: “to know nothing more than Christ and Him crucified” for the sins of the world.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:17-20).
The Law has been fulfilled, not abolished, by the completed work of Jesus, lest we call him a liar when he cries out on the cross “It is finished!” Your justification, my justification: The sin of the world is set right with God by the precious blood of the the Son Himself, man upon the tree.
The Spirit will in its time and way manifest good works, in season and out – not when we expect to see them, not where they SHOULD be, but when and where and how it pleases, for you cannot see the wind or predict where it will go, just so the Spirit moves where it wills (c.f. Jn 3:8).
The test of a Christian is not a sanctified life. For if you must be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect, I have news for you: you will never be. Which is why we are clothed with Christ, having been buried with Him by our baptism – because He is our righteousness, and so we are the righteousness of God Himself, not by works.
By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone. Man is the American church in desperate need of a a good old fashioned Reformation. For this salvation by works amounts to nothing more than medieval Roman Catholicism: say this prayer, do this giving to the poor, buy this indulgence, and THEN the grace God has poured out on you through Jesus will be sufficient.