Tuesday 28 April 2020



Will believers, saved by grace through faith, be judged? 

In my interaction with fellow believers, when the topic touches on salvation and eternal security, some would cite the example of how the dying thief got saved through faith in Christ alone and how he was immediately ushered to paradise. You see, they tell me, it is “all by faith” and this incident is in agreement other references that we are saved by faith alone (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Yet, if we consider the whole counsel of the word of God, we will quickly realise that faith has to be proven by works (James 2:17,22,24,26). Intellectual faith not matched by works, obedience, endurance, perseverance and fruit-bearing is dead (John 3:36, John 15:6, Colossians 1:21-23, 1 Timothy 4:16, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 10: 38-39, Jude 5, Matthew 24:13).

Faith and obedience are inextricably intertwined. If we say we believe in God but refuse to obey Him, we are deceiving ourselves for John 3:36 teaches those who disobey God will face His judgment and will not be saved. Also Hebrew 5:9 tells us Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.

Many who believe in ‘faith is all that matters’ and ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (OSAS) would have great difficulty swallowing the harsh truth that believers will finally be judged. The following passage in Hebrews 10 is one of the greatest bugbears to eternal security (OSAS) adherents. It will be like a thorn in the flesh, debunking their ‘feel good’ theology. 

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Notice the reference to the Mosaic law about judgment against sin (physical death) and the fact that Christ’s blood no longer avails for those who keep on living in sin in this Hebrews10 passage. This means that believers can suffer spiritual death and lose their salvation if they trample on Christ’s atoning blood. That is why, as the passage ends, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God”. There is no other “feel good” interpretation to circumvent this passage; furthermore, it is clearly stated that it is God’s people (genuine believers) who will be judged. The words ‘dies’ and ‘fire’ clearly speak of God’s wrath.

Peter quoted Moses’ teaching that God will raise up a prophet (Jesus) and every soul that does not obey Christ will be destroyed (Acts 3:22-23).

Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10).

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4: 17-18).

Many believers like to think that Christians will be judged only from the perspective of quantum of rewards—more faithful ones receive greater rewards than ordinary believers but that is not the whole story. The above passage in Hebrews 10 tells us that by choosing to deliberately live in sin, we will invite God’s judgment—for which Christ’s atoning blood is ineffectual; and that simply means believers may lose their salvation.

All of God’s people will be judged. The rotten apples will be condemned if they:

  • Choose to live in sin

  • deny God or

  • commit apostasy (turn their backs on God)

Let us consider each of these three categories of believers in turn:
Those who willfully live in sin, harden their hearts and refuse to repent will be judged severely. For how can a holy God coexist with the immoral in heaven? If one has been saved and sanctified and yet choose to be like a pig and return to the swill, how can God accept one into the Kingdom of God? 
  • For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire”(2 Peter 2: 20-22).

  • Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
  • Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5: 19-21).
  • For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).
  •  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
But those who sin but later humble themselves by repenting will be saved (Luke 13:5, Luke 18: 9-14).

Believers who deny God will not be saved. Let us be reminded in these perilous end-times when we are likely to face life-threatening decisions—to acknowledge or deny Christ— whether it is through persecution (as in the case when a gun is pointed at one’s head) or when we are challenged to take the Mark of the Beast in order to survive. 
  • If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12).

  • “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10: 32-33).
Apostasy is condemned; it seems impossible to restore apostates.

  • For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it. (Hebrews 6:4-8).

God’s judgment is impartial and thorough. His fire will test our good workswhether it is genuine or not—before He assigns His rewards.

  • Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

This passage tells us that some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. Loss of rewards may happen because their works are tainted with wrong motive or pride. For example, those who flaunt their charitable deeds or love praying publicly to show off will not be rewarded in future (Matthew 6:1-6). As Paul said, God “will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Not all who call themselves believers will be saved; profession does not equal possession.
Christ warned that there will be a separation of goats from sheep when He returns— professing believers in church will be separated from genuine believers (Matthew 25:31-46). “Goats” and “sheep” look quite like in a congregation. No one really knows until Christ shows up again to “sieve” the church.

Notice that Christ repeatedly warned that there will be a separation of good and evil. He used farming and fishing metaphors, which were familiar to the listeners in that era, to get His point across:

  • In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43), the tares will be gathered and burnt whereas the wheat will be preserved.

  • In the Parable of Dragnet (Matthew 13:47-52), the kingdom of heaven is like a net full of fish. When the net is full, men will select the good fish and discard the bad ones.

False teachers—who were believers once upon a time—will suffer consequences worse than that of unbelievers:

  • But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1).

  • For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Peter 2: 20-21).

By the way, can you figure out why these false teachers are referred to as twice dead in Jude 12?

We are personally accountable

Friends, do not depend on liberal theology espoused by ‘feel good’ preachers. In the end on judgment day, we are personally accountable to God.

So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God (Romans 14:10-12).

When God calls us to give an account, we cannot rationalise that preacher X made me think and behave like that. In the first place, why did we draw conclusions through the tinted lens of someone else’s liberal theology instead of studying the Bible first-hand by ourselves like the Bereans?

Of course, we all prefer a God who does not judge us but only wants to bless us. But such a belief is wishful thinking—escaping from the truth revealed in the Word. A holy God will definitely judge believers—in keeping with His attributes of righteousness and justice. https://bit.ly/2ScxyN9

In conclusion, believers will be appraised according to our faithfulness, works and fruit-bearing and the appropriate rewards will be assigned to us. However, this is not the full story—some believers may lose their salvation, a view that will not go well with adherents of eternal security (OSAS) and Calvinism.

The challenge I have with this teaching—ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED (OSAS)—is its failure to interpret individual passages honestly that disagree with this particular system. For example, Hebrews 6:1-8 and 10:24-29 clearly teach that people, after receiving the saving knowledge of Christ, can fall away and lose their salvation. Second Peter 2:20-22 and James 5:19-20 are as clear as tar on snow that a believer can fall away and once again be called sinners who have to be restored.
  Joseph Mattera, Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York.

As a young believer, I used to believe the simplistic classification taught by theologians: 
  • Christians will never face condemnation when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). The purpose of this judgment is to assess the believers' works and assign the appropriate rewards. Our eternal destiny is secure and there is no retribution.
  • Non-believers, on the contrary, will have to stand before God in the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) and face God’s wrath.
However, now after more than four decades as a believer, my theological worldview has dramatically changed. It is no longer true that believers will not face God’s wrath and there are so many references that support this view, including the dreaded passage in Hebrews 10:26-31 which states: “The Lord will judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Of course, this warning applies only to those believers who willfully live in sin and refuse to repent). 

Notice that the book of Hebrews is primarily written to Jewish believers to encourage them in the faith and warn them against the dangerous eternal consequences of giving up on God (apostasy). Though some may argue that those who fall away are not genuine believers (not saved in the first place), and that genuine believers will definitely endure till the end, this weak argument does not dismiss the fact that the primary audience of this book was genuine Jewish believers.


Can a true believer give up his or her faith?

Some Christians believe, once they are saved, absolutely nothing can happen to them to alter their eternal destiny even though they might live in sin or deny God,.

In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?

Some say that God will never forsake believers and that nothing will separate us from His love. However, has this ever crossed your mind? God may not leave us but we can walk away from God. It takes two to tango. 

What fate awaits those who sin repeatedly after they have believed?

No comments:

Post a Comment