Archive for the ‘Antinomianism’ Category
Lance was my friend. He and I use to go to eat together every Tuesday while we were in college. We both loved God, love His Word, love teenagers (we were both youth pastors at the time) and both had dreams of evangelizing the world for Christ. Lance and I had a good friendship until one night we debated eternal security. Unbeknown to me, Lance had begun reading some “radical” eternal security books that taught cheap grace, easy believeism, and antinomianism. We debated at his kitchen table for hours about grace, the love of God, salvation, faith, security, perseverance of the saints, hell, etc. Lance held that God’s love was so wonderful and His grace so great that He would keep us no matter what we did. He reasoned that since salvation is a total work of God, God keeps us and He promises us eternal life (which eternal life means that it is eternal) and thus: we are saved forever. No matter what sins a person may commit, God promises to keep the person forever.
This was our last meeting. We lived in different cities at this point and we both became busy with life. Time passed by.
Lance’s new embracing of this radical view of eternal security led to major changes in his life. His passion for prayer went away. His hunger for worship slowly evaporated. He once guarded his eyes from watching ungodly movies but no more. He confessed to me once that he struggled greatly with lust. No more. He simply begin to live out his passions. After all, he reasoned that night I met with him, God is the one who keeps us. Lance fell further and further into gross sins. Eventually, he had an adulterous relationship with the choir director of his church and left his wife and two children for his mistress. He completely turned away from Christ and today is a shell of the man he use to be. Pray for Lance.
There are three major views regarding Lance at this point. The first is the radical, “once saved, always saved” view that says that Lance is bound for glory. Lance probably would hold to this view. He perhaps would know that he is not “in fellowship” with Christ but he would still claim heaven. Many cheap grace advocates (or free grace as they call themselves) would agree. I heard Dr. Tony Evans say once, “Even if you deny Christ and become an atheist, when you die, if you have believed even just once, He will drag you to heaven with you kicking and screaming that you don’t want to go.” The only thing Lance is losing right now is his rewards at the final judgement (1 Corinthians 3:15).
The second view would be that A) Lance was never saved to begin with and his apostasy proves he was not saved. The problem with this view is that no person reading this can have the assurance of our salvation. It is possible that you or I are false converts. It is possible that you will fall from the faith this time next year (1 Corinthians 10:12). If we could go back to the days when Lance and I would eat lunch together and you could ask him if he would fall away, he would have denied it. None of us wants to believe that we would deny Christ. Like Peter, we want to believe we would stand for Him no matter what (Matthew 26:33 and notice all the disciples agreed in verse 35) yet Peter still denied Christ as did all the disciples (Matthew 26:56). The person holding this view has no assurance since they believe that God keeps them but if they turn away from Him, they are not saved to begin with. Would it not be better to teach that we are saved through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) and we are kept through faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:5)?
B) Lance is still a child of God who is in rebellion but under the conviction and discipline of the Lord, he will repent and be restored. This view holds that a child of God should live a holy life and if they don’t, God will discipline the person even to the point of death in order to save them (1 Corinthians 5:5). This view holds that true children of God do commit sins and even commit gross sins but this does not change the fact that they remain children of God. Since God has given us eternal life, we can never lose that life. It is eternal! Therefore, God will discipline His sinning children but He will never cast them away (John 6:37). He has promised us eternal life (Romans 8:38-39) and nothing can separate us from His love.
Let’s just take one example from Scripture in the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24. Read the text and then ask yourself these questions:
Was the son truly a son in Luke 15:11?
Did the father view him as alive to him or dead to him according to Luke 15:24?
In this case, the prodigal was a true son and rebelled against his father and begin to live a life of sin (Luke 15:13). The father considered him dead to him and lost (Luke 15:24). I have heard Luke 15:11-24 preached so many times toward sinners but Jesus is not using this parable that way (Luke 15:31-32). The prodigal son was not the lost sinner but the rebellious child who left the home and lived in sin. Until he repented (Luke 15:21), he was lost and dead. Life is only found in the father’s home and he knew this.
This leads me to the third view and that is the Lance must repent or he will not have eternal life. Eternal life is found in Christ alone. All of us will go into eternity some where. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus said in John 5:24-25,
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Notice that Jesus says that life is found in Him. The Greek in this text is in the present active tense so that Jesus is saying, “Whoever hears (and keeps on hearing) My word and believes (and keeps on believing) Him who sent Me has eternal life.” This passage is much like John 10:27-29 where Jesus says that if we hear His voice (and keep on hearing His voice) and follow Him (and keep on following Him), we have eternal life and no one is able to pluck us out of His hands. True security is not found in ourselves but in Christ alone.
Some, at this point, we say that all of salvation is a work of God and I would agree. Salvation is accomplished through Christ alone (John 19:30). Jesus alone is our salvation and our only hope (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Titus 1:1-2). Jesus alone is the one that we look to for salvation from beginning to end. He is our righteousness, our redemption, our mediator of this new covenant, our everything. We acknowledge that salvation is found only in Him and not in a church, an act of flesh (John 1:12-13) but completely in Him (Acts 15:11). Yet I would argue that God calls us to remain FAITHful to Christ (Romans 11:20-22). We are to remain in faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 11:2-4; 12:21-13:5). Jude 21 says to keep ourselves in the love of God. I have heard many “once saved, always saved” advocates dance around this verse but they ignore what Jude is saying. As we stay focused on Christ, Jude 24-25 promises us that He will keep us as well! 1 Timothy 1:19 says some can shipwreck their faith. How can they shipwreck faith if faith here is not true? True faith focuses on Jesus alone for salvation from beginning to end (Romans 2:6-7). Jesus taught us to “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (Luke 12:35).
Jesus said in John 8:51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Again, this is the present active tense of the Greek. If we keep and keep on keeping Jesus’ word, we will never see death. Eternal life is not a vague concept but eternal life is found in an eternal Jesus. Salvation, sanctification, glorification are all found in Christ Jesus alone. To argue that a person can be saved apart from Christ is not found in Scripture (John 14:6). Eternal life is found in Christ alone.
My view of Lance is that Lance must repent or he will go to hell. He is found, right now, in Revelation 21:8. Sin will keep people out of heaven because sin is against a holy God (1 John 3:4). Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 that sin leads to eternal death and not inheriting the kingdom of God. Galatians 6:7-9 teaches us that if we sow to our flesh we will reap from the flesh and that is death. We are called to be a people of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and to hate sin. We are called to confess our sins for forgiveness (1 John 1:9 which makes no sense if we completely forgiven of all sins at the moment we believe). Jesus is our salvation and He is the one that we cast ourselves upon to be saved in this life and the life to come.
King David sinned against God. He committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). 2 Samuel 11:27 ends with the saddest words perhaps in all of Scripture: “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD” (NASB).
Arminius wrote about David’s sin rather briefly but his words are interesting. He wrote,
The example of David proves nothing. For, even if it be granted that David after commission of adultery and murder had not lost the Holy Spirit, it does not thence follow that He cannot be lost. For a man may sin still more grievously, and on this account lose the Holy Spirit. But what if I shall say that David did lose the Holy Spirit, after he had committed adultery and murder? You will reply that it appears from Psalm li. that the matter stands otherwise. I respond that that Psalm was sung by David after that, having been admonished by Nathan, he had repented of those crimes; but that God, at that time, upon the preaching of Nathan, restored the Holy Spirit to David.
In another place Arminius wrote,
If David had died in the very moment in which he had sinned against Uriah by adultery and murder, he would have been condemned to death eternal.
Many Calvinist have taken exception with these statements saying that his theology here is poor and reflects his belief that a person can “lose their salvation” through sinning. They point to passages that seem to teach our unconditional security in places such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 and they praise God for His security in spite of their sins.
One Calvinist I have had some exchanges with on Twitter posted remarks about how Arminius was works-righteousness in his beliefs since he rejected eternal security (or “once saved, always saved”). In fact, I would argue that this Calvinist guy holds that if you reject eternal security, you are probably not saved. I wrote him and asked him, “If you went out and committed adultery and murder, where would you spend eternity?” He responded back, “HEAVEN (his emphasis) because my sins are forgiven.” He then responded, “but if I did go out and commit those acts, it would prove I did not believe.” So I wrote back, “So if you commit those sins, you were never saved to begin with?” How can he have it both ways? He says that he can commit adultery and murder and still go to heaven but if he did those sins, he was not saved to begin with?
Do you see where his road is leading? On the one hand he is arguing for an antinomian view that says that nothing we do affects us. We are under no obligation to be holy. We are under no obligation to obey God or submit totally to Him. We can do anything we like, live anyway we want but still be saved. Yet on the other hand, if we do go out and live like “hell” then we prove we were never saved to begin with. So which is it? Are we saved from sin or in our sins? Are we delivered from the penalty of sin but not the power of sin? Is there any sin that is more powerful than God that He cannot help us overcome?
I don’t doubt that we all struggle with the flesh. I recognize that we live in a fallen world full of the flesh and full of the devil. I don’t doubt that we all face temptations (James 3:2). 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches us two important points: we all are tempted yet we all have the power of God to overcome. Take the “hot” sin of our times: homosexuality. Is homosexuality natural? The obvious answer for the Christian is no. So is sin natural? Why then do we sin if sin is not natural? The answer is because we want to sin. We love sin. Our flesh desires to sin (Galatians 5:16-17). I don’t buy into my own excuses for sinning nor yours. I sin because I enjoy sinning. Yet the Bible calls me to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). The Bible calls me to forsake my sins and walk in repentance (Acts 26:20). The Bible calls me to be like Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-24). The Bible calls me to confess my sins to God (1 John 1:9). The Bible calls me to not sin (1 John 2:1-2). The Bible calls us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith or not (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).
The security of the believer is simply this: we are saved IN Christ Jesus. Why would you want to be away from Him? What sin is greater than the love of Christ? What does the world offer you that is greater than the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven in Christ? You see the issue is not about “losing your salvation” but loving Jesus supremely! The issue is not about what sins can I commit and still be saved but instead the issue is whether you love Christ more than your own sins. We have framed the questions wrong. We have made the debate over “eternal security” all about us and not about Christ. Christ is our salvation. I have eternal life because of Christ and not because of me (John 5:24-25). Christ is our all in all. He is worth more than anything this world can offer or the flesh can desire. In His presence we will be free from sin as we live in eternity with Him, free from the lies of Satan, the temptations of the flesh, and without the bondage of time (Hebrews 12:18-24). I pray that our focus would not be upon us or upon sin but upon the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).
When I first entered college at a conservative, evangelical Bible college in 1993, the school had several policies. One, among many, was that we could not wear blue jeans. We could wear black jeans, red jeans, green jeans, etc. but just not blue jeans. I wore two pair of black jeans for my entire first year. Another weird rule was that we could play sports on Sunday but not keep score. If we kept score we would be guilty of breaking the Lord’s Day. We kept score by using our fingers but not by saying the score out loud. Other rules were we had to attend church on Sunday (even if you had to work, you had to find a way to attend a church service) and we had to have a mandatory “quite time” where we read our Bible and prayed. We had to attend all chapels. We had to keep our hair a certain length above our ears. We had to attend specific churches otherwise we had to sign a statement acknowledging that we were attending a church that the college did not approve.
I know a guy who attended a well-known fundamentalist school in Florida and their rules were stricter than ours. Women had to wear dresses with no makeup. Men had to wear slacks at all times. Ties were optional but favored. They could only use the King James Version, could not study from any other Bible than the KJV and had to attend the local KJV only church near the college. They could have no facial hair, no jewelry. They could not listen to any secular radio stations. They had to practice “biblical separation” from the world and the compromising church.
Legalism kills. Legalism forces you to be concerned with yourself, your works, your morals. It pays little attention to your heart. When I was in college I quickly gained a love for Jesus as He attacked the hypocritical Pharisees. I saw Pharisees all around me. I saw men who could play the parts that the college expected from us but inwardly they didn’t love Christ nor His kingdom. They did all the college asked them to do and yet they didn’t love God. God was viewed by them (and most of us at that time) as harsh, a God who is keeping His books open, ready to convict us of the littlest infraction of His holy law. Our outward works were our focus and not on the gospel of His grace.
Sadly, now the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way. My old school is just like any other college these days. The only exception would be they are still required to attend chapel, to attend a local church of their choosing, and to not be physical with the opposite sex until marriage. Yet gone are the days of the old legalistic rules. In part, of course, I am happy to see this. Legalism doesn’t produce joy. Legalism doesn’t produce righteousness. Legalism doesn’t produce faithful disciples of Christ. Legalism produces death.
Yet so does cheap grace!
I see cheap grace replacing legalism. Instead of the true gospel taking the place of legalism, cheap grace that allows for sin is becoming the norm. True holiness is not produced by works. True holiness is not produced by emotionalism. True holiness is produced by biblical grace but biblical grace doesn’t allow for unchecked sinning (1 John 3:7-8). We are told in Hebrews 10:26-31 to not spurn the Son of God and to think that we can willfully go on sinning against God. The balance of grace sees that our salvation is based on God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and is finished by His grace (Romans 5:1-11; 1 Peter 1:3-9). Grace enables the passionate disciple of Jesus to see just how great is His love for us (1 John 3:1-3) and to see that He saves us by His own power (Romans 11:6). Further, true grace enables the disciple to overcome sin not by our own will-power but by His overcoming grace (Titus 2:12). There are simply no assurances given to those who are living in sin. In fact, Romans 6:23 makes it clear that the wages of sin is still death.
Cheap grace may give some relief to the guilty conscience but in the end, it destroys lives and destroys people. Cheap grace is just as dangerous as legalism. Both kill. Both are tools of Satan (John 8:44).
My advice is simple: the gospel. The gospel focuses on Jesus. The gospel doesn’t focus on our abilities or our sins or our works. The gospel focuses on the finished work of Christ. The gospel is our defense against the enemy of our souls (Revelation 12:11). The gospel is the truth of God that sets the sinner free to love God, enjoy God, worship God, and obey God. When we see that Jesus is our salvation, that He is our Savior and Redeemer, our hope is not in us but in Him (1 Peter 1:5). Our forgiveness, our righteousness, our security, our intercessor, our head, our shepherd, our Lord and Master – this is our God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). The gospel is not about what we do but what about what He has done for us (Galatians 3:1-5) and yet this gospel sanctifies us (Acts 15:9). This gospel produces fruit in us by working in us and helping us become more like Jesus (Galatians 5:1, 13-15; Ephesians 5:1-2). The gospel focuses all on Jesus and His works (Galatians 1:6-9). The gospel truly sets us free (John 8:31-38; Romans 8:1). But the gospel also empowers us through the Holy Spirit to be holy (Romans 8:1-4). We are not perfect (James 3:2) but our aim is to be like Jesus (1 John 2:6) but not through blind obedience to laws of men but to submission to the Spirit of God who is making us more like Jesus. We once were vile sinners but by grace, we are now focused on becoming more and more like Jesus our Savior (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The gospel recognizes that we are always in need of God’s grace. We never get to the point where we don’t need His grace nor His forgiveness. We daily recognize that our salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).
I pray that this short post will encourage you to love Jesus, to appreciate just a little more what He has done for us. Jesus alone is worthy to be praised for saving us (Revelation 5:9-10). I pray that we will faithfully preach the gospel of Christ and not the lies of flesh through legalism or cheap grace. The true gospel saves (Romans 1:16-17). The true gospel sets us free.
When it comes to grace, it seems we can swing to either sides of extreme views regarding grace. On the one hand are those who would, in my estimation and I believe in light of the Bible, abuse God’s grace for their sins. Many of these folks are well-meaning people who want to protect salvation by God’s grace and not distort salvation with works so they avoid works altogether to the point of denying that good works flow from a saved life as part of sanctification. They run to passages such as John 6:29 or Acts 15:11 or Acts 16:30-31 but they avoid passages that speak of obedience to Christ as Lord such as Jesus’ commands in the Gospels (see Matthew 7:21-23 or Luke 6:46-49 as examples) or passages such as Acts 5:32 or Romans 1:5 or 1 John 2:3-6 that speak of obedience as necessary for salvation.
Antinomians hold that the moral law has no bearings on the New Testament disciple. They hold that grace is so wonderful, so powerful that a person need only to believe in Jesus once and they are bound for eternity. They hold that obedience to Christ, holiness, bearing fruit, walking in the Spirit, loving God, etc. are all optional and while they are all good, they are not necessary for salvation since we are saved by grace through faith in the Jesus Christ. This salvation is all of grace and none of works and the promises of God are that He will keep us forever (Romans 8:38-39) no matter what. All our sins are forgiven in Christ the moment that we believe the gospel since Jesus died once for all (Hebrews 8:13; 10:10, 14).
There is a certain appeal to antinomian teaching of course. We can still claim to be a Christian while living in outright sin. Many antinomians would decry such a position and would not claim that they hold to that view. Yet this is where their teaching lives. I once had an e-mail discussion with such a teacher. He held to the radical, non-Lordship view that one needed only to believe the gospel once and they were bound for eternity (once saved, always saved). He held that sin, after their initial confession of Christ, has no bearings on that person anymore and they are now free in Christ (Galatians 5:1). He held then that any sin is permissible but not beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12). I asked him point-blank if any sin was allowed in the life of a disciple and he wrote me back “YES!” and he added, “What joy there is in knowing this!” A couple of books that endorse this view are Charles Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, and Bob George, Classic Christianity.
Yet true grace in the New Testament teaches us to say no to sin. Titus 2:11-12 (NIV) says:
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
True grace does not give us a “sin no matter what” attitude but true grace points us to salvation in Christ Jesus and teaches us to say no to sin. True grace wants to please our Lord and not ourselves or our flesh. Paul asked the question in Romans 6:1-4:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Because we have been buried and raised with Christ Jesus in His death and in His resurrection, this should cause us to walk in the newness of life. This life is not a life of slavery to sin. Romans 6:6 adds, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” The disciple of Jesus is a slave to righteousness and not sin (Romans 6:18).
True grace understands that we are not perfect (James 3:2) but true grace understands that our source of salvation, our hope for eternal life, our righteousness before God, our security, our redemption, our holiness, our life is found only in Christ Jesus our Lord (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31). True grace runs from sin, not to it (Jude 4). Matthew 1:21 says that Jesus came to save His people from their sins. Many want to be His people but few want to be saved from their sins. Jesus came to set us free from sin.
Think about it. If Jesus came to earth, suffered on the cross for our sins, how can sin no longer be the issue? Sin is what got us here in the first place (Romans 5:12). Sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is what brings death (Romans 6:23). God said in Ezekiel 18:4 that the soul that sins shall die. This still holds true today as it held in the time of Ezekiel or the time of David or the time of Adam and Eve. Our only hope to crush sin in our lives in the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus. His Spirit enables us to crush sin in our lives (Galatians 5:16-17). This is not some sort of self-will power to overcome sin. This is not “pick yourself up by your bootstraps and dust yourself off” but this teaching in the New Testament on grace empowers us to follow Christ, to love Christ, to worship and adore Him in holiness. True grace helps the disciple love God, love His Word, fear Him, hunger for Him, long for His presence, long to honor and please Him in all things (Colossians 1:9-12) and why, because of the gospel of His grace (Colossians 1:13-14). The gospel motivates us to obedience. This obedience is not fleshly or self-labor. This obedience flows from our love for God in light of the gospel. 1 John 3:23-24 says:
23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
We obey Christ in light of the gospel. We do not obey Christ to earn His righteousness or to have favor with Him. We obey Him because of what He has done in saving us (1 John 4:9-10). We obey Him out of love and out of worship and not out of fleshly obedience. We recognize that salvation is accomplished only through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) yet we know that God prepares us to obey and serve Him (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14). Good works flow naturally from our true source for life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I pray that today we would honor the Lord Jesus Christ through our lives (1 Peter 1:15-16). I recommend Dr. Michael Brown’s book, Go and Sin No More: A Call to Holiness.
Here is a video of Dr. Michael Brown teaching on the subject of hyper-grace and how deceptive it can be. It is a great and much needed teaching.
Here is a solid word of warning from Adam Clarke about the abuses of God’s grace that can sometimes come when an overemphasis is placed upon the doctrine of imputation of righteousness. I believe his points are very helpful in the shallow Christian world that we live in today. And now here are the words of Clarke:
This doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ is capable of great abuse. To say that Christ’s personal righteousness is imputed to every true believer, is not Scriptural: to say that he has fulfilled all righteousness for us, in our stead, if by this is meant his fulfillment of all moral duties, is neither Scriptural nor true; that he has died in our stead, is a great, glorious, and Scriptural truth; that there is no redemption but through his blood is asserted beyond all contradiction in the oracles of God. But there are a multitude of duties which the moral law requires, which Christ never fulfilled in our stead, and never could. We have various duties of a domestic kind which belong solely to ourselves, in the relation of parents, husbands, wives, servants, &c., in which relations Christ never stood. He has fulfilled none of these duties for us, but he furnishes grace to every true believer to fulfill them to God’s glory, the edification of his neighbor, and his own eternal profit. The salvation which we receive from God’s free mercy, through Christ, binds us to live in a strict conformity to the moral law; that law which prescribes our manners, and the spirit by which they should be regulated, and in which they should be performed. He who lives not in the due performance of every Christian duty, whatever faith he may profess, is either a vile hypocrite or a scandalous Antinomian.
God is said to be “no respecter of persons” for this reason, among many others, that, being infinitely righteous, he must be infinitely impartial. He cannot prefer one to another, because he has nothing to hope or fear from any of his creatures. All partialities among men spring from one or other of these two principles, hope or fear; God can feel neither of them, and therefore God can be no respecter of persons. He approves or disapproves of men according to their moral character. He pities all, and provides salvation for all, but he loves those who resemble him in his holiness; and he loves them in proportion to that resemblance, that is, the more of his image he sees in any the more he loves him, and e contra. And every man’s work will be the evidence of his conformity or nonconformity to God; and according to this evidence will God judge him. Here, then, is no respect of persons. God’s judgment will be according to a man’s work, and a man’s work or conduct will be according to the moral state of his mind. No favoritism can prevail in the day of judgment; nothing will pass there but holiness of heart and life. A righteousness imputed, and not possessed and practiced, will not avail where God judgeth according to every man’s work. It would be well if those sinners and spurious believers, who fancy themselves safe and complete in the righteousness of Christ, while impure and unholy in themselves, would think of this testimony of the apostle?
As eternal life is given IN the Son of God, it follows it cannot be enjoyed WITHOUT him. No man can have it without having Christ; therefore “he that hath the Son hath life,” and “he that hath not the Son hath not life.” It is in vain to expect eternal glory if we have not Christ in our heart. The indwelling Christ gives both a title to it and a meetness for it. This is God’s record. Let no man deceive himself here. An indwelling Christ and glory; no indwelling Christ, no glory. God’s record must stand.
Who are Christ’s flock? All real penitents; all true believers; all who obediently follow his example, abstaining from every appearance of evil, and in a holy life and conversation show forth the virtue of Him who called them from darkness into his marvelous light. “My sheep hear my voice and follow me.” But who are not his flock? Neither the backslider in heart, nor the vile Antinomian, who thinks the more he sins the more the grace of God shall be magnified in saving him; nor those who fondly suppose they are covered with the righteousness of Christ while living in sin; nor the crowd of the indifferent and the careless; nor the immense herd of Laodicean loiterers; nor the fiery bigots who would exclude all from heaven but themselves, and the party who believe as they do. These the Scripture resembles to swine, dogs, goats, wandering stars, foxes, lions, wells without water, &c., &c. Let not any of these come forward to eat of this pasture, or take of the children’s bread. Jesus Christ is the good Shepherd; the Shepherd who, to save his flock, laid down his own life.
To forsake all, without following Christ, is the virtue of a philosopher. To follow Christ in profession, without forsaking all, is the state of the generality of Christians. But to follow Christ, and forsake all, is the perfection of a Christian.
Talking about Christ, his righteousness, merits, and atonement, while the person is not conformed to his word and Spirit, is no other than solemn deception. The white robes of the saints cannot mean the righteousness of Christ, for this cannot be washed and made white in his own blood. This white linen is said to be the righteousness of the saints, Rev. xix, 8; and this is the righteousness in which they stand before the throne; therefore it is not Christ’s righteousness, but it is a righteousness wrought in them by the merits of his blood and the power of his Spirit.
We must beware of Antinomianism, that is, of supposing that, because Christ has been obedient unto death, there is no necessity for our obedience to his righteous commandments. If this were so, the grace of Christ would tend to the destruction of the law, and not to its establishment. He only is saved from his sins who has the law of God written in his heart, who lives an innocent, holy, and useful life. Wherever Christ lives he works; and his work of righteousness will appear to his servants, and its effect will be quietness and assurance for ever. The life of God in the soul of man is the principle which saves and preserves eternally.