Continuing with Part 2 from the first message. We will pick up on the text in 1 Corinthians . . .
Church discipline begins with preaching and a right understanding of conversion. It is not merely jumping out of the line going to hell to the line going to heaven. It is the supernatural work of God, the work of regeneration, whereby God makes a new creature. How do we know that we are saved? Because he who began a good work in us continues it (Phil. 1:6). We are new creatures.
if you hold fast the word which I preached to you . . .
You are saved if you hold fast to the word preached. I am not going to remove that if from the Bible. If they do not hold fast, it is not that they have lost their salvation; rather, it shows that they were never saved at all. We are telling that God can get a man saved from the condemnation of sin but cannot keep them from the power of sin. That is a lie. God’s name is upon his people, and he will continue to always work in every one of his children.
I want to look at 2 Corinthians 13:5.
The church in Corinth is infamous. We see a lot of giftedness and carnality in the church. Today, people take the church in Corinth as the standard. We use Corinthians to use that churches have always been as wicked as ours. We justify carnal men who claim to be born again. We are a product of our times, and we have got to put this foolishness away. Paul addressed the sin of those in Corinth; he did not create a doctrine to justify carnal men. He started by saying,
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
I implore you. Examine your lives in the light of Scripture to have a biblical assurance. How quickly we depart from Scripture to superstition. How do you know? “I was there . . . I just know it.” It is the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. The lost doctrine of regeneration is causing so much confusion in our churches.
I want to confess to you that I am angry, because what is going on today is not the length of the mantle, how our praise services should be, but I am mad about what is going on in the evangelical church. We have substituted ritual and tracts for preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Little things we tell people which are worth nothing.
How do we help people who are doubting their salvation? Struggle with assurance?
Take them to the Scriptures and help them examine themselves in light of it. Consider 1 John 5:13:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
The purpose is to not let true believers doubt their salvation. It is to show that false converts are not truly saved. John sets out a series of tests throughout the entire book.
Let’s begin with 1 John 1. I want to throw in the “great assumption.” Like Rome, who used infant baptism to lead many to false assurance, Baptists are using the Sinner’s Prayer to lead many to the pit of hell. The great assumption can be found in our bookstores. How many books will you find on the true gospel, on conversion and sanctification? The great assumption has to do with the neglect and dismissal over the gospel. We assume we know how to counsel sinners, to addressing those doubting and/or struggling with assurance. When someone comes to us doubting their salvation, we don’t coddle them; we help them.
Pastor, you have authority to preach the gospel, to lead a person to Christ, but you do not have the authority to pronounce over them they are saved.
1 John Tests:
v.5 God is light, and Christians will walk in that light. (test 1)
God has shown you his will; he has revealed to you who he is. If we say that we are believers, and yet the characteristic of our lives do not line up with God in his ineffable light, then we lie to ourselves. Our lives must conformed to what God has revealed about Himself and His will. This is not about perfection, but about conforming our lives in obedience. You can take a snapshot image of me sinning and say, “See, Paul Washer is lost.” But if you take a video camera day after day after day, you will find some who is not perfect but someone whose still of life is inclined towards and pressing into what God has revealed in his Word. You will see a difference in the inclination and action. The Christian life is a struggle, but therein lies the proof of conversion–a person pressing into this high calling. You cannot encounter God and not be the same. The Christian may be limping and broken, but he is pressing on.
Can a Christian fall into sin? Yes.
Can he backslide? Yes.
Can he stay there? No.
Why? Because God is his Father, and God will discipline those who are truly His.
Those whom God loves, He disciplines.
v.8 The true Christian will be sensitive of the sin in their lives and live a life of confession and repentance. (test 2)
People who are most broken over their sin are those who are the most committed in your church. Those not bothered about their sin will be those in your church you are not committed to Christ and His Church? The difference? The sheep and the goats. Because one sees their sin, they are more broken, but turning to Christ, they experiencing more of God’s mercy and pursue greater measure of holiness. There is a mixture of brokenness and joy that produces a pattern of holiness which is the result of God’s saving grace which is also sanctifying grace.
One of the greatest evidences of true conversion is not sinless perfection, but the recognition of sin in our lives that makes us rely on the grace of God alone.
2:3 . . . if we keep his commandments (test 3)
Obedience does not lead to salvation, but is evidence that we have been saved. Do you have a new relationship to the commands of God. To the believer, they are a delight and not burdensome. Here there is a new inclination and lifestyle, and the great concern is the knowing and doing of the will of God. And when we get dull in these areas, the loving discipline of God brings us back to Him.
v.6 . . . ought to walk in the same manner as he walked (test 4)
Yes, I cannot walk like Christ; I cannot walk in impeccability, beauty, and glory of Jesus, but in the midst of following Christ, we should desire to be like Christ in every area of our lives.
v. 9-11 Love for the fellow believer in the context of a biblical church (test 5)
One of the greatest evidences for true conversion is love for one another. I say biblical church because there are churches who will go into a community with questionnaires to ask the pagans how to do church. Biblical discipline has to do with the pulpit; godly people will come, and ungodly people will leave. If the Spirit of Christ is in you, you are going to give your life for the very thing Christ gave his life–the Church.
[excursus on Matthew 25:31-46 and how it is often misinterpreted]
If we believe the Gospel, explain it to God’s people, and help them find true biblical assurance, then it will reduce the need for discipline in our church.
Paul Washer highlights something I really believe is not expounded upon, namely the difference between eternal security and perseverance of the saints. So often someone is told they are saved and going to heaven from the point they first believed, that they are eternally secure. Yet this kind of eternal security strips the sanctifying grace and keeping promise of our Father from the Christian life, as though a hell-bent sinner can be glorified without being sanctified. The if cannot be removed. The believing and repenting that marked our conversion must be the defining mark of our life at every point–even when we breathe our last breath. There is a prerequisite to church discipline, and that is knowing who the church is. Consequently, if we do not understanding regeneration and its relationship to church membership, then matters of church discipline will be great. However, if we labor in the Word as stewards of the gospel and mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1), and if we labor as physicians of souls with among whom we shepherd and counsel, then we help people have true biblical assurance and joy in their salvation, know that the God who saved them will keep them, and will perfect in them that which he begun to the praise of His glory.