Soteriology 012Revelation 3:20 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 6, 2016 • Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation
Soteriology 12, Revelation 3:20
April 6, 2016
Welcome back everybody. We are in lesson 12 of the doctrine of salvation and believe it or not these Roman numerals that I have are logically structured. So Roman numeral I is the definition of salvation which we’ve gone over. And then election is what God does in our salvation, that’s Roman numeral II. And then Roman numerals III and IV is the price that was paid by Christ to procure our salvation, that’s where we dealt with atonement and salvation words. And then Roman numeral V is how you get salvation. So that’s the section we’re on now. And when we finish that we’ll look at once you have salvation what does that mean? What are the results? And then Roman numeral VII is once you have those results can you lose it? That deals with the eternal security debates. So believe it or not these are logically structured.
So we are in Roman numeral V which we’re going to finish today, Lord willing, on how does a person actually receive salvation. And that deals with God’s one condition of salvation which is what? Anybody remember. Believe or faith, a single word. And does anybody recall how many times the Bible teaches that? About 200 times.
So one of the things people do as we’ve talked about, instead of building their presentation of the gospel from the 200 clear verses they go to the obscure ones. And I think that they do that because we, by definition, are works oriented; we like to work for things. You know, it’s easier to give a gift than to receive a gift. So we, for whatever reason, ignore the 200 crystal clear passages and we want to run off to the remote ones that seem to teach something different. So in this unite called God’s One Condition of Salvation what I’ve basically been trying to do is show you how each of these obscure verses can be harmonized with the 200 clear ones. So “repent” is another way of saying believe, if you understand that repent means to what? To change your mind.
And Lordship is really not something for justification but something for what? Growth or progressive sanctification. And we also saw that receive or accept Christ is a synonym for what? Faith. And then when we’ve looked at believe and work, when do the works come? After salvation. And then we looked at baptism; baptism doesn’t save you but baptism is an outward confession of a what? An inward reality. And last time we looked at confess and the controversy surrounding that and I tried to show you that the verses people use that say you have to confess Christ are pretty much taken out of context. And I know that’s an earth changing people for a lot of people so I would encourage you to listen to last week’s lesson where we went into that.
And another false invitation that people give, you hear this quite a bit, is they say you need to ask Jesus into your heart; that’s what we’re going to look at here. So rather than build their gospel from John 3:16, which is to believe in Christ, what people will say is… an you hear this all the time, you need to ask Jesus into your heart, or ask Jesus into your life, or invite Jesus into your heart. And once you really start looking at this biblically what you’ll discover is the Bible never tells people to do this.
So then why do so many people think this is in the Bible? Well the answer is in the book of Revelation, chapter 3:20, this is the verse they all use. And when they have a gospel tract that says invite Jesus into your heart they quote Revelation 3:20. Other than Revelation 3:20 there’s not a single verse that teaches such a thing, although there are 200 verses that say a person must believe in Christ to be saved. So let’s look at Revelation 3:20 for a minute. You all have heard this, and you know, I don’t want to be too hard on this because my own mom was saved through this verse, through Billy Graham. So I think sometimes God can use imprecise language in spite of ourselves. Sometimes God rescues us in our sloppy presentations. But that’s not an excuse for not trying to get it right. Correct?
So Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold,” this is Jesus speaking to the church at Laodicea, “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” So how many people have heard that as a gospel presentation before. Almost everybody. So let’s take a look at this; is this really what this text is saying. Now we have a tract, I think it’s not on our rack anymore because we ran out but I wrote to the folks that produced it and asked for some more so we should be getting some more up pretty soon, but it’s written by a pastor Dennis Rokser of Duluth Bible Church, and he produced… it’s not really a tract it’s more like a small paper, and it’s called Seven Reasons Not to Ask Jesus into Your Heart.
Have you guys seen that tract out there, it’s kind of a provocative title. And really what he’s trying to do is to get people to actually read this passage and he’s trying to show people that that passage is not what people think it says. So it’s not a tract about not being a Christian, it’s more of a tract on being precise, using biblically based terminology in our gospel presentations. So if you want to get more in depth into this I would encourage you to read that tract once we get some more out there.
But just a couple of points on why Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come into Him and will dine with Him and he with Me,” just a couple of reasons why that is not at all speaking about salvation.
What are our three rules for Bible Study? Context, context, context! Back up and look at the immediately preceding verse; look at Revelation 3:19, which nobody quotes in their presentation when they use this verse. Jesus is speaking to Laodicea, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline;” so is this verse speaking to unbelievers needing to trust Christ or is it speaking to believers? I mean very clearly verse 19 indicates it’s speaking to believers. Now why do we say that? We say that because this church is a candidate for discipline and you might want to factor in Hebrews 12:5-11 which says a sign that God owns us, the sign that we are sons of His is what does He do with us when we step out of line. He disciplines us, “whom the Lord loves the Lord chastises.
[Hebrews 12:5-11, “and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;  FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE ISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”]
So if you just back up one verse you’ll see very clearly that it’s not at all talking about a situation where an unbeliever needs to trust Christ to be saved; the whole context here is dealing with believers that are out of fellowship with God. And that’s probably the principal reason why people when they use this verse evangelistically are really ripping it out of its context. It was never given by God as an evangelistic verse. And then if you go back to verse 14 it says, “To the angel of the” what? “church in Laodicea,” so what do you have in a church? Do you have unbelievers in a church or believers? I mean, typically you have believers. Now of course, in America every once in a while an unbeliever can slip into a church and that’s why we try to give the gospel here on Sundays every week. But back in the first century you weren’t part of a church unless people could validate the fact that you were really an authentic believer.
So Revelation 3:20 really is not talking about the need for an unbeliever to trust Christ and become a believer. What it’s talking about is a church that belongs to Christ is out of fellowship with Christ. So when Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” He’s not saying you unbelievers need to trust Me as Savior so you can be believers. What He’s saying is you believers have stepped out of fellowship with Me.
It’s kind of like what David did; remember David in the Old Testament, how he committed adultery and murdered? Was he a believer when he did that? Yes he was. Did he stop being a believer when he committed those sins? No he didn’t. Well, what was broken then was not his position before God but His what? His fellowship. So it’s sort of like being married. I could use that example. Or maybe I won’t use marriage anymore because my wife is sitting up there, don’t want to reveal too much. How about the situation where you have an earthly father; you can offend your earthly father, can’t you? Now once you offend your earthly father does he stop being your earthly father? No, positionally he’s still your earthly father, you’re still his son or his child. Well, what has changed then? What’s changed is the enjoyment that you have and your relationship has been broken. The fellowship that you have with each other has been broken, and so you’ve fallen out of fellowship with your earthly father but your position is still the same.
So when we get to eternal security what I’ll be showing you, not tonight but later on in the course, that once you’re saved you’re eternally secure, but as Christians we can still sin, can’t we? And when we sin what changes is not our position, not what that our names are going to be erased from the Lamb’s Book of Life, what changes is our moment by moment fellowship with God has been altered, that that’s where we need to exercise 1 John 1:9 and confess our sin. [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”] I’ll talk about that verse in just a minute. So that is the situation going on here in Revelation 3; it’s a church that’s out of fellowship with Christ. It’s not a bunch of unbelievers that need to become believers, and you’ll see that very fast once you stop cherry-picking verses here and there but read it in its context. When you connect verse 20 back to verse 19, “those whom I love I discipline” it’s very clear it’s not talking about an evangelistic situation at all.
So what happened here at Laodicea, and by the way, the word “Laodicea” is very interesting. It’s a compound word, it comes from two Greek words, laós, which means people, and dikeō which means to rule. So you put those two words together, laós and dikeō and you get Laodicea and what that word literally means is the people were ruling. So this was a church that had become very prosperous, as you read through this particular letter, Revelation 3:14-22.
[Revelation 3:14, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:  ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,  I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.  ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.  ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”]
You know, they were having church, they were having Christianity, money was coming in and things like that, but they had gotten out of fellowship with Christ; that’s the situation that’s being dealt with here.
So when Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” He’s not saying to the unbelieving heart open the door so I can come into your life and be your Savior. What He’s saying is I want to come in and be with you as My church again, I want fellowship to be restored. And you can kind of pick that up by looking at the word “dine,” there, did you catch that in Revelation 3:20? “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Now when you study this, we lose sight of this in western culture because we’re always eating in a hurry, kind of like the way I just did a few moments ago, but in the first century world, in the biblical world when you actually dined with someone that was a sign of very intimate fellowship.
So what did Jesus have with His disciples in the Upper Room? The last supper. That was a sign of intimacy between them and Him. And so when Jesus says I want to come in and dine with you He’s not saying I want all you unbelievers to get saved, that’s not what Revelation 3:20 is talking about. What He’s saying is I want intimacy with My people restored, is the whole context there of Revelation 3:20. So all of this to say that this is really not an evangelistic verse at all when you understand it in context.
And when He says I want to come in to you, the word that’s used here is eis erchomai, eis is a Greek preposition that means in, and when you put it together with erchomai it basically means to come, to come in. And that combination is used, eis and erchomai about 8 times elsewhere in the New Testament. And eis erchomai never a single time means to come inside somebody. And the reason I bring that up is that’s how folks use this verse; they make it sound as if you’ve got to trust Jesus as your Savior and then through the new birth, spiritual birth, He will come inside of you; and that’s not what eis erchomai means at all. eis erchomai does not mean to come inside but rather it means to come in with. “Come in with” is different than to come inside somebody.
So for example, one of you might get up in the middle of a lecture and use the restroom or get a drink of water and come back into this room. And when you come back into this room that’s eis erchomai, you’re not coming inside anybody, you’re coming in among a group. Do you follow that? So when people use this evangelistically they make it sound like Jesus is going to some inside you, which He does from other passages, but this verse is not talking about that at all. It’s talking about coming in among and being with God’s people. That’s what Jesus wants and that’s the whole meaning of Him standing outside the door and knocking.
So Laodicea is really a frightening letter because it tells us that we can have Christianity without Christ; it’s possible for us to do that as God’s people, to get so into the people ruling, Laodicea, in other words the mind of man calling the shots, that we actually fall out of fellowship with Christ and He’s no longer calling the shots, we’re calling the shots because we’re not submitted to Him moment by moment and we’re out of fellowship with Him. And so the whole point here is I want that fellowship restored. This is a broken fellowship passage; it’s not an evangelistic passage although 99.9% of the time when this is quote you’ll hear it used in an evangelistic sense.
So here is how eis erchomai is used elsewhere, just to give you a flavor of this. This has to do with Joseph of Arimathea, in whose tomb Christ was buried. And it says, “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage” now remember Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple of Christ, he was a believer but he wasn’t real outspoken, and finally he got enough courage, after Jesus died and he “went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.” [Mark 15:43]
So when it says there “he gathered up courage and went in before Pontius Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” I have the relative portion of the verse underlined, that’s eis erchomai. So Joseph of Arimathea did not go inside of Pilate, he didn’t possess Pilate like a demon, okay? He went in to a room among Pilate and where Pilate was. So when Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in” it’s not talking about coming inside somebody; it’s talking about coming in among, and that’s a proper understanding of eis erchomai.
So all of that to say don’t build your evangelistic presentation with the lost of Revelation 3:20; build it on the clearer 200 passages which teach the only condition necessary for a person to enter into a relationship with God is to believe or trust in Christ; that’s the point. So this is a commonly misquoted verse, quoted out of context.
Let me take you to another one, a lot of people believe you’ve got to confess your sins to become a Christian. You hear this said to unbelievers a lot, you have to confess your sins and unless you confess your sins then you’re really not a Christian. So where do they get this from. Take a look at Matthew 6:12, this is just another example of a verse being pulled out of context. It says, “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name…” That’s in Matthew 6:9, and then in verse 12 it says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
So people say well, there it is, you’ve got to, before you become a Christian you have to confess your sins, which to me is sort of unnerving because what if I fail to confess one of the many sins I’ve committed and I forgot to confess that one? Does that mean I’m not a Christian. And that’s the lingering doubt that’s left in people’s minds. And they try to build the case that we have to confess our sins before God as a condition of becoming a Christian and they get that from Matthew 6:12, [“‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”] But Matthew 6, as you know is the which prayer? The Lord’s prayer, probably better named the disciple’s prayer because Jesus didn’t actually pray this prayer; He was teaching them how to pray. And did you catch how that prayer started, “our Father, who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” [Matthew 6:9]
So when this prayer is prayed Jesus is assuming that those praying it are unbelievers or believers? Believers! And you know that because it begins “Our Father.” So therefore this little clause here at the end, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” is not something that the Bible places upon an unbeliever as a condition to be saved. The only thing the lost sinner must do is trust in the provision of Jesus Christ. This, and 200 Bible passages say that crystal clear, as we have talked about.
This, on the other hand, is talking about our relationship to God once we are already saved, because it says at the beginning “Our Father.” So this is not a condition for justification, forgiving, this is a condition for what? Sanctification or what? fellowship. See, and this is what people do is they take verses that are necessary to restore broken fellowship, like the words of Christ to the church at Laodicea, like words from the Lord’s Prayer and they make it sound like these are things that the unbeliever or the unsaved must do. And that’s not interpreting the Bible correctly.
So here’s the thing to understand: you basically have two relationships with God. The first one is your fellowship that you have with God before you’re saved. Before you’re saved the only relationship you have with God is He is your judge. Okay! He’s not your Father, He’s your judge. If you’ve never trusted Christ personally then He is your judge. The only way to rectify that dilemma, which is the human condition, humanity is in this problem, right? The only way to rectify that condition and to prevent God from being your judge is for you to do what? Believe, one verb, on the provision of God which is the finished work of Jesus Christ. That and only that will fix the problem that we have where God is our judge. Once you trust in Christ He is no longer your judge but He becomes your what? Your Father.
Now once He becomes your Father is it possible for the Christian to sin again? What do you guys think? Sure it is. So what happens then when I sin again as a Christian? I don’t go back to a situation where He’s my judge; I’m in a situation now where He is my Father and I’ve fallen out of fellowship with my Father. So how do I correct that second relationship? Well, there’s a lot of things we have to do. The Bible gives us many, many commands, multiple commands. One of the things to restore broken fellowship is we have to be forgiving towards others that have hurt us because as long as I’m walking around with a bunch of anger in my heart I can’t really enjoy fellowship with God the way He wants me to, although I’m still His child. If I commit a sin I have to confess that sin to Him, we’ll talk about that in just a minute. I have to be in prayer pretty regularly, I have to be in His word, I have to be in fellowship with His people.
So the point I’m trying to make is when we, as Christians, fall out of fellowship with our Father there are multiple things the Bible tells us to do to restore broken fellowship. But when we’re dealing with the first situation, where He’s my judge, because I’m not even saved at all, we have to be very clear on this; there’s only ONE condition that must be met to fix that first situation, and that is to believe or trust in the provision of Jesus Christ.
But after I get saved and He is no longer my judge but now He is my Father it’s very easy for me to fall out of fellowship with Him and so that’s where Matthew 6 verse 12 comments. It’s not commenting on how a lost person gets saved, it’s commenting on how somebody who has God as their Father begins to enjoy God in the ultimate sense in terms of fellowship. [Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”]
And by the way, that’s exactly how Revelation 3:20 is being used; it’s not dealing with our relationship to God as Judge, it’s dealing with the believer’s relationship to their Father and restoration of broken fellowship. You guys following me on that. [Revelation 3:20, “’Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”]
Let’s go over to 1 John 1:9 for just a minute. This is another verse people use to argue, wrongly, that an unbeliever has to confess their sins to God to be saved. So they like to quote 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And so sadly many people, well-meaning Christians, go up to unbelievers and they basically here’s what you have to do to get saved; you have to confess your sins, because 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And so people like to use this, they don’t use John 3:16, they want to use 1 John 1:9 as some kind of gospel presentation. But just like the Matthew 6 passage, just like the Revelation 3 passages, it’s just another example of people taking a verse out of context.
So what is the context of 1 John 1:9? Is 1 John 1:9 written to the unbeliever or to the believer? It’s very clearly written to the believer. Now the Gospel of John, as we spent three years in this church going through it, is written to the unbeliever. And I showed you why that was true; it comes from John 20:30-31, an invitation at the end there to believe in Christ and have the gift of life, meaning the people that it was written to had not yet trusted in Christ. [John 20:30, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”]
So if you want to craft evangelism you would primarily use the Gospel of John, you wouldn’t use 1 John because 1 John has a totally different purpose. 1 John is not written to the unbeliever, it’s written to the believer. And you can go through… I can show you many, many verses in 1 John that prove that, which we don’t have time to go through but just follow 1 John 1:9, which is towards the end of chapter 1; chapter 1 leads into which chapter? Chapter 2, and you look at the language of chapter 2 and what does it say? “My little” what? “children.” Do these look like believers or unbelievers? Very clearly they’re believers. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have” notice he says “we” there, so when John says “we” he is identifying with the spiritual status of his audience.
Was John the Apostle saved? Clearly he was. So his audience he is dealing with is saved also. “we have an Advocate with the Father,” and notice how he refers to his relationship with God, and our relationship to God, not as our judge but as our what? “Father,” which is further evidence that he’s dealing with saved people here. “…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;  and He Himself is the propitiation for” whose sins? “our sins;” see how John is identifying with the spiritual status of his audience again? If John was saved then his audience must be saved; that’s what he means when he keeps saying “we” and “ours.” And then he says this propitiation of Jesus is so strong, it’s “not for ours only,” now he deals with the unsaved world, “but also for those of the whole world.”
But when you look at 1 John 1:9 in context here, again the whole point of it is not how does an unbeliever become a believer, that is totally foreign to the context. 1 John 1:9 is written not to the unbeliever but to the believer, because believers sin. When we sin, not if we sin but when we sin fellowship or enjoyment between us and God is broken and how does that fellowship get fixed? The answer is 1 John 1:9. What are we supposed to do? “If we” do what? “confess our sins,” now confess is in Greek is homologeó, logeó means to speak, homo, as in homosexual, same, homologeó is to speak the same or it’s another way of saying to agree. So the word translated “confess” is homologeó, it means to speak the same or to agree. What do we need to do as Christians in order to restore broken fellowship with God. We need to come before Him and agree with Him that what we have done is wrong. And then we need to ask Him to restore fellowship with us and when He does that He says well, maybe I will, maybe I won’t…. NO, He doesn’t say that, he says “He is” what? “faithful” to do it.
So 1 John 1:9 once again is not a passage aimed at the unbeliever to get them saved. When you study 1 John 1:9 in context the whole point of it is how the believer, who already has God as their Father, who sins, how can they restore broken fellowship with Him. Do you follow the difference there. So 1 John 1:9, using it evangelistically is an abuse of the verse. Matthew 6:12, using it evangelistically is an abuse of the verse. Revelation 3:20, using it evangelistically is an abuse of the verse. And this just comes from basic Bible study procedures where we’re examining these various verses in context.
Let me take you to another one that is commonly used wrongly with the unsaved. And people say well, if you’re going to become a Christian you need to forgive other people. First of all you need to ask Jesus into your heart, (which is wrongly used); secondly, you’ve got to confess your sins (which I’ve tried to tell you is wrongly used) and the third thing people like to say is well, if you’re going to become a Christian you need to forgive other people. If you’re not willing to forgive other people then you’re not a Christian.
Well, that’s not what the Bible says 200 times. The Bible, 200 times, if nothing else build your house on John 3:16, it says the unbeliever must fulfill one condition to be saved, which is to believe. [John 1:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”] So then why do people think you have to forgive other people to become a Christian? They get that from Matthew 6, back to the Lord’s prayer for a minute, verses 14-15, it says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
So people look at that and say oh my gosh, if I am not willing to forgive every single person in my life that’s ever injured me or wounded me then I guess I can’t become a Christian. But once again, go back to Matthew 6:9, who’s praying this prayer? The child of God, because how does the prayer begin, “Our” what? “Father who is in heaven.” The assumption of the prayer is that these people are already rightly related to God. [Matthew 6:9, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.”]
So if they’re already rightly related to God the issue in this prayer is not how these people get saved, they’re already saved. It’s how to enjoy maximum fellowship with God. And let me tell you a little something about unconfessed sin; unconfessed sin will damage your fellowship with God as a Christian. I’m not saying that it sends you to hell, but your moment by moment enjoyment of God and intimacy with God is damaged every moment that unconfessed sin continues on. It’s just like your family or your marriage, family is still family, positionally, but the enjoyment that you have with each other, the intimacy which you can enjoy with each other is damaged every moment that you have offended somebody in the family and not apologized. You’re still family but the fellowship is injured.
And that, basically is what unconfessed sin does. And in fact, unconfessed sin can actually damage a person’s prayer life. David in the Psalms, in Psalm 66:18 says “if I harbor iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear.” As long as I am praying to God with this sinful pattern in my heart and life that’s never been confessed then it damages my prayer life.
And by the way, if you mistreat your wife, here’s a good verse for us, 1 Peter 3:7, it says, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life,” and then the last clause there in 1 Peter 3:7 says, “so that your prayers will not be” what? “hindered.” So if I go home tonight and mistreat my wife or yell at my wife or scream at my wife she’s still my wife, I’m still a Christian, but every moment I don’t confess that sin not only have I damaged intimacy in my marriage but I’ve also damaged intimacy with my Heavenly Father, to the point where it can even hinder the prayers that I offer up to God.
So that is really the whole context there of Matthew 6:14-15, I mean, if we’re going around holding grudges against people as Christians, don’t really expect God to listen to a lot of our prayers; don’t expect to really have a very intimate vibrant walk with the Lord because how is it that we can be given grace and yet we turn around and we want to hold other people with the standard of justice? That type of attitude… and that’s why the Bible says “don not let the sun go down on your anger,” and things like that. [Ephesians 4:26, “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”] And the solution is not to move to Alaska, by the way, because people say well, the sun never goes down so I can be angry all the time. That’s not what it’s saying. When it says “do not let the sun go down on your anger” it’s saying have a forgiving attitude towards people.
And shouldn’t we be like that anyway; look at what the Lord has forgiven us. And what you’ll discover is if you have a forgiving attitude towards people not only do your personal relationships heal but your moment by moment enjoyment with God becomes more and more vibrant. And so that’s really the whole point of Matthew 16:14-15. Once again it’s a restoration of fellowship kind of verse and you know that because the very first words in the whole thing are “Our Father.” So all I’m really teaching you to do is to put verses in context; that’s all I’m trying to say here.
Here’s another one people like to use. Let’s go over to Matthew 19:21-22, it’s another commonly misused verse. And they say well, you need to sell… if you’re going to become a Christian you need to sell all your possessions and give it all away to the poor. And they’ll quote Matthew 19:21-22, which is Christ’s interaction with who? The rich young ruler. And they’ll try to build an evangelistic message off these verses because that’s, after all, what Jesus did. Remember what Jesus said to this rich young ruler. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’  But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.”
So people use this as evangelism, they say you go up to an unsaved person, you’d better tell them to sell everything they have because that’s what Jesus told people to do. And so they’ll use Matthew 19:21-11 in that vein. Now let me explain to you why you should not use that passage this way: you should not use this passage in this way because Jesus is omniscient. The guy who said to the rich young ruler sell it all was omniscient; omniscient means all what? all knowing. Are you all knowing? Am I all knowing? No I’m not. Jesus was, so Jesus, when he was dealing with this specific person could see his individual hang-up.
And what was holding this man back from a relationship with the Lord was money; money (as I’ll show you in a minute) is not evil it’s the love of money that’s evil. And that’s what this guy’s hang-up was. Jesus, through omniscience could see that, He could look into his heart and He could see the thing that was holding him back from personal faith in Christ was money, because doesn’t Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount you can’t serve both? You can’t serve God and Mammon, I think that’s over in Matthew 6:24, you’ll either love the one and hate the other or be devoted to the other and despise the one, you cannot serve both God and money. [Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”]
Jesus, who was all knowing could look into this guy’s heart and see his problem. So when Jesus told this individual you need to sell everything He was giving him an individualized formula and He was actually doing here what we would call pre-evangelism. The goal is to get this guy to believe in Christ but Jesus could see what was holding this man back from Christ so He dealt with the root of the problem, which was love of money, and the only way this could be resolved in this individual’s life is he had to sell everything. Jesus could do that because He was omniscient and He was dealing with a specific person. We are not omniscient, we do not know looking into someone’s heart what’s holding someone back from exercising faith in Christ so we don’t really have the same right to go up to people and say you need to sell everything you have to become a Christian.
So one of the things to understand about the Scripture is the Bible never teaches that money is the root of all evil. That’s a commonly misquoted verse. 1 Timothy 6:10 never says money is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10 says “For the” what? “love of money” and then it doesn’t even say “is the root of all evil,” it says it is “a root,” not the root, “a root of all sorts of evil, and some people longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
So as Jesus was interacting with this rich young ruler He could see what was holding him back was not that he had possessions but that his possessions possessed him. It’s not that he owned things but the things he owned, owned him.
And so Jesus, through omniscience is doing pre-evangelism and He understands by looking into this man’s heart that what was holding him back from personal faith was money. And so Jesus says the individual problem for you is love of money so what you need to do is you, as an individual, need to sell everything. In other words, this verse is not intended as a generic presentation of the gospel for all people because all people aren’t beset by this particular love.
By the way, there are very rich people that don’t love money at all. There are very poor people that do love money. The sin is not money and possessions; the sin is the heart attitude towards money and possessions. And this guy was a special case because he had money and he loved it, and Jesus is basically saying… He’s doing here pre-evangelism, He does this because He’s omniscient and He can look into a person’s heart, and He’s essentially saying here what your problem is is you love your money, so for you, for the path to be cleared so you can enter into a real with Me, you, as an individual, must sell everything you own. So it was never intended as a generic evangelistic message for all, if I’m making any sense.
This is an interesting verse here, this is Joseph of Arimathea, and I quote this just to prove that being rich is not a sin. In fact, 1 Timothy 6 says if you’re rich you should be rich in good deeds. [1 Timothy 6:18, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,”] So actually God can use a persons that has money and has resources, so it’s not a sin to have resources; the sin is loving those resources in place of God.
So when you look at Joseph of Arimathea, the tomb in which Jesus was buried, it says this: “When it was evening there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who himself had also become a” what? “a disciple.” [Matthew 27:57] Notice what it says, he is a disciple of Jesus but he has riches. So therefore, based on this verse is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus and still have riches? What do you think? Sure it is, this is an example of it. So we shouldn’t assume that wealth or riches is some kind of sin, as the verse says it’s “love of money,” and Jesus through pre-evangelism could see, through His omniscience, could see what was happening in the heart of this rich young ruler. So that’s just another example of taking something Jesus did to an individual and making it some kind of universal appeal in terms of a gospel presentation.
And then the last one that I have here is, and these are all problem passages, they all contradict the one condition of salvation. The last one I have here is people say you need to pray a prayer of saving faith. So what people will say all the time is have you prayed that prayer? And of course in evangelism you guys know the drill, where the evangelist says every head bowed, every eye closed, if you want to pray that prayer of saving faith let me see your hands, and the evangelist will go I see that hand in the back, I see that hand, thank you, yes, I see that hand. Okay, everybody with their eyes closed and their heads bowed that wants to become a Christian pray after me… and they’ll lead you through some kind of prayer. And this is so normal today in American Bible believing circles that people think that unless there’s a point in your life where you actually bowed your head and prayed that prayer then you’re really not a Christian.
And the goal of a lot of churches is to get people to the point where they’re willing to bow their heads, close their eyes and pray that prayer because we think unless they pray the prayer then they’re not saved. Now you may be shocked to learn, and don’t take my word for it, study it out in the Bible, there are no examples anywhere in the whole Bible, of anybody, praying a prayer to receive Jesus as their Savior. You go all the way through the book of Acts, which is a record of Paul’s evangelism and evangelistic messages and him reaching the lost and never once does he say okay, I want you to close your eyes and repeat this prayer after me.
So the issue is not the prayer, the prayer is not the issue; it is the what? The faith that’s the issue. Now I came to Christ praying a prayer; is it wrong to ask people to pray a prayer. I don’t think it’s wrong if you explain to people the significance of faith. It’s faith in Christ that’s the issue, not rotely praying a prayer. Now in my case I did pray a prayer but in hindsight I totally recognize that it was not the prayer itself that saves; it was the faith expressed in the prayer. So if you want to get someone together and share with them the gospel and lead them to Christ and you want them to pray a prayer, you have to understand that number 1, the Bible never requires them to do that. But let’s say you wanted to do it anyway. Then that’s fine, just explain to them the fact that it’s not the prayer that’s going to save you; it is faith in the provision of Jesus that will save you.
Now if you feel better praying about it lets pray. If you want your faith to be expressed in a prayer then go right ahead and let’s do that together. But the prayer itself has no saving value at all. The Bible 200 times says it’s faith alone in Christ alone that saves. So faith expressed in the prayer saves, not merely the prayer. There are not biblical examples anywhere of people that are unbelievers praying a prayer to receive Christ evangelistically.
And, let me get this across, a person can bypass prayer altogether if they want to, by simply exercising faith in Christ. So that’s why at this church, you know, we try to… we are Sugar Land Bible Church, we’re trying to follow the Bible and so we don’t make it a habit of saying to everybody you need to close your eyes and pray this prayer. I need to see a show of hands, and things like that. You need to come forward and things of that nature, because once you move down that road you open the door to confusion in people’s minds. They think walking the aisle saves them; they think praying the prayer saves them.
Now again, is it wrong to do things like that? Not necessarily, if you explain to them what’s happening. You have to explain to them based on the content of the Bible that it’s not walking an aisle or praying a prayer that saves, it’s faith!! Now if you want to express your faith through walking you’re free to do that, but you don’t have to do that. If you want to express your faith by raising a hand you’re free to do that but you don’t have to do that. If you want to express your faith by praying a prayer you’re free to do that but the Bible never tells you to do that. See?
o it’s completely possible for a person, let’s say sitting in our audience on Sunday morning or over the internet to hear the gospel, to trust the gospel or believe it, and never raise a hand at all, never send in an e-mail, never pray a prayer of any sort; it’s completely possible biblically for that person to be saved. And so what we’re trying to do is just to get back to what the Scripture teaches on these things. And because of tradition what you’ll discover is that there’s a lot of confusion.
So all of this to say what we’ve gone through is a ton of things, getting near ending here, a ton of things that are wrongly inserted by people into gospel presentations. When we really study this biblically what we discover is there’s one condition necessary to be justified before God, which is to believe in Christ; we’ve gone through what that means, to trust in Christ. And we should not wrongly insert things into gospel presentations that the Bible never says to insert. And you start growing in this direction when you start studying the Bible and reading it in context.
Now next week we start changing directions and we start looking at the results of salvation. See what we’ve been going over the last several weeks is how to get salvation, which is by faith alone. What we start moving into next week is once you are saved or justified before God what does that mean exactly? What do you have? And you’re going to be happy to note that you are filthy rich. You say I don’t feel rich. It’s got nothing to do with feelings. I don’t look rich. Some of you don’t look very rich, I don’t look rich either probably. But we are rich because God has blessed us with how many spiritual blessings? Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love.”]
Dr. Chafer, from the Bible, articulates 33, we probably will not go through all 33 but we’re going to go through some significant blessings that you have, that you may not even be aware of and you’re going to walk away from here feeling really good about yourself, not because of some accomplishment on your part but because of what Jesus has accrued, lavished upon us because we are “in Christ.” So that’s the direction we’ll move into next week. So at this time I will stop talking and we’ll release people to go pick up their kids if they need to do that and I’ll be happy to entertain questions if you have any of those.