Cled E. Wallace
There is immeasurable satisfaction in the personal conviction that one is saved and sure of heaven. Many think they are saved who are not, and the disappointment of a multitude who regard themselves as sure of heaven must be viewed as appalling. Jesus expresses a warning along this line:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matt. 7:21-23).
Human speculation cannot point the way to heaven, nor can human feeling or opinion carry reliable assurance that one is saved. Divine assurance is based on the promises of God and a man should heed the divine admonition to “be not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).
It is important that the information revealed to guide an honest man into a state of blessed assurance should be both simple and clear. The New Testament is not disappointing in this respect. The Lord’s will is expressly stated in words that are immediately understandable by all who have any appetite for assurance:
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).
There is nothing in this that all should not easily understand, and he who obeys has the promise of God that his sins are pardoned. He is saved. “Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). It must be clear that a sinner thus forgiven is saved only from his past sins. It is both unscriptural and unthinkable that this pardon absolves him from the guilt and the consequences of sins he may commit subsequent to his baptism into Christ. Provisions, both ample and divine, are made to insure the Christian’s entry into heaven but these provisions are conditional and call for cooperation on his part. The apostle John has something to say about this:
If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).
My little children, these things write I unto you that ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world. And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:1-3).
The Christian must walk in the blood-sealed commandments of the Lord or else sin will conquer him and keep him out of heaven. As an aid, he has constant and instant access to a throne of grace through Jesus our Advocate. It was to Christians Paul wrote: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12). “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:12-13).
There are some strange and harmful ideas afloat regarding the sins that Christians commit. A Dr. Pettingill had a Bible Questions Answered column in a Chattanooga daily paper. A querist approached the doctor with a hypothetical question on divorce and declared that “the Scripture says that she commits adultery. Will that be a sin and keep her from being saved and going to Heaven at the end of time?” The doctor’s answer will bear some looking into. He says in part: “The question of being saved and going to Heaven at the end of time’ is not settled by such considerations. Every one who is born again is saved and is sure of Heaven.”
That is, if I understand the matter, the contention is that if one has been “born again” and “is saved” and commits adultery he “is sure of Heaven” anyhow. I take it that “such considerations” would not be limited to adultery. There are other sins besides adultery, a long list of them. If “Every one who is born again is saved and is sure of Heaven,” even though he commits adultery, why should he not be equally “sure of Heaven” even if he commits some or all of the other sins catalogued in the scriptures? This certainly gives a saved man plenty of latitude in the way of sin. The doctor must have sensed that this needed some sort of qualification so he remarked that “God will doubtless deal with them in chastening. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” Incidentally, his use of this text is a perversion of it. The implication is that a Christian suffers the consequences of his sins only in this life. Doesn’t a sinner suffer the same consequences for the same sins in this life? Is he also chastened of the Lord?
It is well enough that we examine the scriptures on this matter of sin and its consequences as it affects the Christian. Paul wrote to Christians and sounded this warning:
Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them (Eph. 5:5-7).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” And we are blandly told that if a Christian does such things his “going to Heaven at the end of time is not settled by such considerations.” “But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
It seems to me that a man is pretty badly mixed up where his understanding ought to be, if he thinks that such sins will cause a sinner to go to hell forever, but cannot keep “one who is born again” out of heaven. “One who is born again” has committed himself to the will of God and vowed that he will accept divine leadership. He reneges on his vows, turns back to sin, and “is sure of Heaven” anyhow! The Bible does not teach it. Besides, if I read my New Testament aright, a man who chooses to remain out of Christ and rejects the gospel, will fail to reach heaven even if he never commits adultery and keeps the rest of the Ten Commandments. “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things have passed away: behold, they are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). This new creature can be tempted, he can sin, he can fall from grace, “and is sure” to miss heaven unless he walks in the light with Christ. When a man becomes a Christian God does not grant him the indulgence for the sins he may afterward commit, implied in the theory of the impossibility of apostasy. He is on the other hand warned against falling, given a course in prevention, and told how to get back in case he does fall. Better listen to God and turn down the theories of men.