How the Pendulum Swings

Someone I know posted this quote on Facebook:

“Thinking that I deserve heaven is a sure sign I have no understanding of the gospel” -Sinclair Ferguson

And I responded, as led by the Lord:

“Absolutely true! We can do nothing in our flesh to earn or to deserve our own salvation. It is only by God’s grace through faith that any of us are declared righteous in God’s sight. But many people are swinging the pendulum in the other direction and they are teaching that no works are required of us, not even repentance or obedience or submission to Christ as Lord, and that is equally as faulty as thinking we can do something in our flesh to deserve our own salvation.

“And there we need to have a biblical understanding of the word “faith” and where that faith comes from and what the Scriptures teach regarding the works required of us as part of God’s grace to us, for God’s grace instructs us to say “No!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives (Titus 2:11-14). And after we read Ephesians 2:8-9 we need to also read verse 10.”

I am reading in 1 Corinthians 15 today. As many years as I have been reading the Scriptures, which is probably 65 years, I still struggle to understand many of these Scriptures which were primarily written for the Jews who were transitioning between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. For the language used to describe this transition, if not taught in full context, can lead some people to believe that we no longer have to obey or submit to Christ as Lord. And that is not what they are teaching.

So, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15 in the context of the whole book of 1 Corinthians. The book begins by addressing those who are “called to be saints,” and a saint is one who is holy, and holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from the world because we are being made to be like Jesus in his character. So, it means to be morally pure, upright, godly, and righteous and to no longer live like the ungodly in sensual passions and wickedness.

In chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians we have a situation where a man within the gatherings of the church was in a sexual union with his father’s wife. And the church was proud and did not mourn this situation. And so Paul said that they needed to remove that man from among them. For his sin could infect the whole congregation to where they might feel they have the same liberty as him to live in sexual immorality or in any other habitual and deliberate sin. And Paul told them that they should not even associate with another who calls himself a Christian if he is living in sexual immorality.

In chapter 6 he took it even further than that and he declared that anyone who is sexually immoral, or who is an idolater, or an adulterer, or those who practice homosexuality, or who is a thief, or a drunkard, etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God. And he was writing this to those who professed faith in Jesus Christ in response to the fact that some of them were wronging and defrauding one another. And then he went on to tell them that they must flee sexual immorality for they are to glorify God with their bodies.

And then Paul made a very interesting statement in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 where he said this:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

So, what was he teaching there? Was he teaching works-based salvation? No! But he was teaching progressive salvation, i.e. that we are saved (past), we are being saved (present) and we will be saved (future) when Jesus returns and he takes his bride to be with him, provided that we run the race with endurance that God marked out for us to run, i.e. provided that we forsake our sinful lifestyles and we now follow our Lord in obedience to his commands with steadfastness of faith in Him until the very end.

And then in 1 Corinthians 10 we read about the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years under the leadership of Moses. With most of them God was not pleased, for they were idolaters, sexually immoral, revelers, those who put Christ to the test, and those who grumbled against God. Most of them were overthrown in the wilderness because God put them to death, and so they did not inherit his eternal kingdom. They did not enter into his eternal rest because of their unbelief (disobedience).

So, we are not to follow their example. We are not to think that God will not judge us for our sins if we continue in deliberate and habitual sin against him. So we are to take heed if we think we stand lest we fall. For our Lord is faithful and he will provide and he has provided the way of escape for us out of temptation to sin so that we do not fall into sin. For we cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons, too.

So, we need to read 1 Corinthians 15 in the light of all of that.

1 Corinthians 15:56-58 ESV

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

If we continue living in deliberate and habitual sin without genuine repentance, i.e. without turning from our sin to walk in obedience to our Lord and to his commands, it will end in death, not speaking just of physical death, which most all of us will have to endure, but of spiritual death, i.e. with us not inheriting the kingdom of God.

But when this says that the power of sin is the law this is not saying that we don’t have to obey the Lord any longer. I can’t say that I fully comprehend what this is saying in verse 56, but I know what it isn’t saying based on the teachings of the New Testament and even 1 Corinthians, as a whole. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And what is the victory? It is victory over sin. For Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He shed his blood for us on that cross to buy us back for God (to redeem us) so we would now honor God with our bodies and not live in sexual immorality. And he died that we might be crucified with him in death to sin and that we might be raised with him to WALK in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

So, the encouragement here is for us to be steadfast in faith, immovable, always abounding in the WORK of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our LABOR is not in vain. Yet, if we decide that we don’t have to do any work, that we don’t have to obey God, and that we don’t have to turn from our sins, and that we don’t have to submit to Christ as Lord, but that we can continue living in habitual and deliberate sin, then please know that it will end in death, not in life eternal with God.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Rev. 2-3; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15]

Nearer, My God, to Thee

Lyrics: Sarah F. Adams, pub. 1841
Vs. 6: Edward H. Bickersteth, Jr.
Music: Lowell Mason, 1856

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then, with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or, if on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I’ll fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

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