Soteriology 16, Ephesians 2:8-10
May 4, 2016
Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the book of Ephesians, chapter 2 and verse 10 as we continue our study in the doctrine of salvation. Just to let you know what’s going on this class will meet tonight, obviously, and then the next two Wednesdays and the last Wednesday in the month we are not meeting as a class but we’re having a children’s presentation. Which, by the way, is very good, it’s very encouraging to look at what these kids have done during the year. It makes you realize, when they start doing their memory verses and things, that we’re doing more than just being a baby sitting service here. So it’s always encouraging to come to that, so I would encourage you to come to that as well, it’s the last Wednesday of the month.
And the way I have it timed is we’re going to be getting into the doctrine of the security of the believer starting in June in which class the class won’t meet Wednesdays during the summer but we’ll meet in Sunday School, during the Sunday School hour in the sanctuary. So that’s kind of a preview of things to come.
We are here in Roman numeral VI talking about the results of salvation. Once you gain salvation by faith alone what exactly do we have? And this is the section where we learn of our riches in Christ. Dr. Chafer articulated 33 blessings that we have as New Testament Christians. We’re not going to go through all 33, we’re just drilling down of a few of them. And we’re drilling down on the ones that probably need more explanation than others. But we have adoption, eternal life, regeneration, justification, and we also have the forgiveness of all pre-cross sins. So what we’re taking a look at here is good works and if we have time we’ll get into sanctification and glorification.
So another item that we have as New Testament Christians is we have, what I like to call the capacity for good works. Take a look at Ephesians 2:10. Verses 8 and 9 describe how we’re saved, by faith alone. [Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”]
Verse 10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” So it’s interesting, we are not saved by good works, verses 8 and 9, but we are saved unto good works. So we have the ability as New Testament Christians to do works that are glorifying to God. And you’ll find this in Ephesians, many other places. You might just want to take a quick look at James 2 for a minute. James 2:18, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’” And then going down to verse 26 it says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” “Dead” is very, very misinterpreted today. Most people, when they look at the word “dead” they think it means non-existence because that’s the 21st century use of the term; when we think of dead we think of non-existence.
But what you’ll discover in the Bible is death never means non-existence, because when I die, when you die, when every person on planet earth dies are they going to still exist somewhere? Sure, heaven or hell. So faith without works is dead is not saying boy if I don’t have enough works I guess my faith doesn’t exist; 99% of the teaching you get on that chapter will tell you that, but that’s inconsistent with the biblical definition of death. What it actually is saying is if I don’t have works as a Christian then my faith is useless, non-productive. Yeah, I’ve got my fire insurance paid up and I’m going to heaven but God is not using me to advance His purposes on the earth. That’s what is meant by “faith without works is dead.”
So one of the blessings that we have as New Testament Christians is we have the capacity for good works. We have the capacity to do good works which are pleasing to God. And sort of the way we like to communicate this… and before I even get to that, there’s something else we have the capacity to do; it’s to overcome habitual sin patterns in our lives. That’s part of the many, many good works we can do, we have the ability to tell sin NO!
So let me take you to some verses on that, and a lot of these are misunderstood as well. These are sometimes called the household codes. Take a look at Galatians 5:19-21, you probably have heard some of these verses quoted in isolation of the rest of the book. It says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,  envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
So people look at that verse and they say oh my gosh, if I have these habits in my life I guess (A) I lost my salvation, (Arminianism), (B) I never had salvation (Calvinism) or if they go into a rewards theology, which we hold to here, they will interpret the word “inherit” as if these patterns in my life I guess I will not inherit, which they interpret as a reward, I guess I will not be rewarded in the millennial kingdom.
So some people teach from this that some believers will make it into the millennial kingdom and some will not. And this is called outer darkness theology which to me is like a Protestant purgatory, if I can put it that way. There’s a whole view out there and you get it from older commentators like Guzik and it’s kind of making a comeback today in some of our circles that if you don’t have good works then, you know, you might not go to hell but you don’t inherit the millennial kingdom, you’ll go into this kind of outer darkness belief.
So you see how these verses are misinterpreted by a lot of different people. Boy, if I’ve got all these habits in my life, (A) I lost my salvation, Arminianism; I guess I never had my salvation, Hyper-Calvinism, or I guess I’m not going to make it into the millennium, the kingdom, outer darkness theology. And the whole problem here is remedied when you start looking at the change of pronouns. If you go back to verse 16 he says,] “But I say walk by the Spirit and” what? “you will not carry out the lusts of the flesh.” [Galatians 5:16] So when he says “you” he’s using the second person plural pronoun “you.”
Now you start moving into this household code about morality and you go down to verse 21, he says, “I warn you, just as I have forewarned you, that…” does he say “you?” NO, he says, “those,” see how he just switched the pronoun, he went from “you” to “those,” “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” So given that switch in pronoun from “you” to “those” I don’t think Paul is saying to believers you never had salvation, or you lost salvation, or you’re not going to make it into the millennium. I think what he’s saying is don’t imitate unbelievers. That’s the “those”; “you” verse 16, don’t imitate unbelievers because why in the world would you imitate unbelievers; they’re not going to heaven, they’re not going to be in the kingdom so why would you imitate them? In other words, his only point is let your behavior be characterized by your new identity, don’t imitate those who aren’t going to heaven anyway, they are a totally different identity than you. So it’s not an issue where he’s calling into question your millennial citizenship; he’s not calling into question your salvation, whether you have it or not if some of these sins are in your life. What he’s saying is you’re imitating unbelievers, which is outside of your identity.
Let me give you another one; take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, this is another one of these household codes. And the reason I’m going over these is because part of our good works is the ability under God’s Spirit to not have these sinful habits in our lives any more. Take a look at
1 Corinthians 6 and notice verses 9 and 10, the same kind of teaching. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,  nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” So again your average Christian looks at that and says wow, if these sins characterize my life then I guess I never had salvation, because it says those that live like this won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Or maybe I lost my salvation, or maybe I’m going to move off into outer darkness, I’m not going to inherit the millennial kingdom.
But again the whole problem is rectified when you watch the switch in pronouns. If you back up to chapter 6, verse 1, what does he say there? “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous,” taking the saints “before the unrighteous”. Now who are “the unrighteousness”? If you drop down to verse 6 it tells you who the unrighteous are; “but brother goes to law with brother,” see, the unrighteous in this context are these judges. Paul says why are you, as Christians, fighting with each other to the point where it has to be appealed to an unbelieving judge; don’t you know you’re destroying the witness of Christianity before this unbelieving judge. And he calls the unbelieving judges “unrighteous.” Now you drop down to verse 6 and he says, “but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?” see that? So right there in the passage when you connect verse 1 to verse 6, the unrighteous are who? Unbelievers. Are you with me?
Now from there go down to verse 9. See, this is the problem, most people will quote these verses but they won’t let the chapter define who the unrighteous and the unbelievers are. So then when he say, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous,” now who are the unrighteous? The unrighteous have already been defined for us back in verse 1, they’re these unbelieving judges; verse 6 told us these unrighteous are unbelieving judges. So don’t change the meaning of who the unrighteous are. “Or do you not know that the unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,  nor thieves, not the covetous, nor drunkards …will inherit the kingdom of God.”
So this is not saying if these sins are in my life I lost my salvation or never had my salvation, or I guess if I’m not going to inherit the kingdom of God I’m going to, as a believer, be assigned into outer darkness, the Protestant purgatory. The only point that he’s making is don’t imitate the unbelievers. See, he’s not getting into a whole discussion about your security. Don’t imitate unbelievers because these unbelievers have a totally different identity than you do. So why would I pattern my life after what the unbelievers are doing? That’s inconsistent with who I am. That’s inconsistent with my new identity in Christ. So when I go back into sin, which I have the ability to do, I’m living outside of my identity. That’s Paul’s point.
Let me show you another one, look at Ephesians 5:5, another so-called household code. Ephesians 5:5, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” So again, if that verse is quoted to you out of context what you’ll think is wow, I actually sometimes can go back into the sins as a Christian. So if I’m of the Arminian persuasion, if I’ve got my Arminian glasses on. Arminianism believes you can lose your salvation. They interpret not inherit the kingdom of God as a loss of salvation. If I put my Calvinist glasses on, Calvinism with its perseverance of the saints basically teaches that all Christians must bear fruit to prove that they’re saved, if I put my Calvinist glasses on I’ll think wow, if these sins show up in my life I guess I never was saved to begin with, I guess I’m not one of the elect.
See, Calvinism and Arminianism, if you follow them through logically both put you in a state of insecurity. Calvinism makes you feel like you never were saved to begin with so I guess I’d better get saved again. And Arminianism makes you feel like you lost your salvation. Now if you’re not a Calvinist or Arminian but you move off into a very strong rewards concept you will interpret “inherit the kingdom of God” as entering the millennium. So if these sins are characterized in my life I guess I’m really not going into the millennium right away, I’m going off into an outer darkness or a Protestant purgatory.
You see, you don’t have to interpret these verses in the manner that I just described when you look at the switch in pronouns. Go back to Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;  and walk in love, just as Christ also loved” who? “you” that is the second person plural pronoun “you.” Now look at what he says in verse 5, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure” what? “person.” See how he did the switcheroo there? He went from “you” to “person” and that’s what is happening in all these household codes.
So what is Paul’s only point? It’s not to second guess whether you were saved; it’s not to say maybe you’re going to lose your salvation. It’s not saying you are going to go off into outer darkness. What it’s saying is why in the world would you, as a blood-bought child of God imitate unbelievers because when you go back into sin you’re imitating unbelievers, which we have the ability to do as Christians, and consequently you’re living outside of who you are, your identity.
Take a look if you could at Revelation 21:8, this is another one of these moral so-called household codes. Revelation 21:8 which says, “But the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake of fire … which is the second death.” Now here there’s no question that you’re dealing with unbelievers. Right, because it’s talking about folks in the lake of fire in the second death. But you’ll notice that he is rehearsing all of the sins that we just read there in Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 6 and Ephesians 5, which helps the argument that I’m making that Paul in all of these passages is talking about unbelievers, not imitating unbelievers.
And then take a look at Revelation 22:15, it says, “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” Now people look at that and say “outside are” these people; well, maybe I lost my salvation, maybe I never had my salvation. If you move off into this hyper rewards theology what they’ll tell you is some believers are outside the eternal city, the New Jerusalem, some are inside and they’ll say look, right there it talks about those outside. But notice the sins here—“sorcerers,” didn’t we just read about them in verse 8, “immoral persons,” didn’t we just read about them in verse 8; “murderers, didn’t we just read about them in verse 8 of chapter 21; “idolaters” didn’t we just read about them in verse 8? So when we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture we very clearly see he’s dealing with unbelievers.
And the reason this is included in information to a believer is simply to demonstrate to us that when we wander back into the sin nature we’re living again just like an unbeliever which is something we shouldn’t want to do because it’s inconsistent with who we are, it’s inconsistent with our identity, it’s inconsistent with our calling. And that’s why he keeps bringing these things up.
You’ll hear a lot of different teaching on these household codes and I’m trying to give you what I think is the correct view on it. His only point is don’t imitate unbelievers. He’s not threatening them with a loss of salvation or maybe they never had salvation, or maybe they’re not going to get into the millennium, maybe they’re going to be outside the city gates in the New Jerusalem. That’s really not his point; his point is a much simpler point: when you live like this you imitate these unbelievers and why would you want to do that? They have a totally different destiny than you do. You’re living beneath your identity is what he’s saying; you’re living beneath your privileges.
So as New Testament Christians we have the capacity for, number 1, good works; we have the capacity, number 2, for overcoming habitual sin patterns that characterize our lives. And we ought to have an incentive to avoid habitual sin patterns that can characterize our lives at times, not because of some fear about my security, loss of salvation, never had salvation, not getting into the millennium, but it’s just out of touch, out of sorts with my new identity in Christ.
Now one of the ways that we teach this is that good works are desirable in the Christian. They are not automatic. If you were taking this class from a very strong Calvinist or Arminian they would basically say this: if you don’t have good works then you’re not saved because the “P” (Perseverance of the saints) in Calvinism is you must persevere in good works and so if you don’t have any good works maybe you were never a Christian at all. So what they say is all believers do good works. If you’re claiming to be a believer but there’s not enough fruit or there’s not enough good works then simply put, you’re not a believer.
Now what does that do? That puts you in a state of fear your whole life because nobody defines how many good works I have to do to prove I’m a believer. Right? I mean, how many do I have to do? How many old ladies do I have to help across the street? How many people do I have to evangelize this week? Five people? What if I only do four? Or three? What if I miss Wednesday night Bible study? And so people live their whole lives wondering, gosh, am I really one of the elect or not. And it comes from this idea that all believers must do good works to prove they’re a believer. And may I just say to you that I do not believe that’s what the Bible is teaching.
Let me show you what I mean; go to John 15 for just a minute. John 15, which is the Upper Room Discourse because it was given where? In the Upper Room. Now in this Upper Room Discourse Jesus starts talking about a vine and a branch. He talks about a branch connected to a vine that bears fruit. He talks about a branch disconnected to a vine that does not bear fruit. And people come into this passage, and I would encourage you to get our sermon teachings that we’ve done as we were going through John’s Gospel, we did a lot of in depth teaching on John 15, and you can get all that on our website. But what people do is they read a doctrine into John 15 that well, the branches that bear fruit are Christians; the branches that don’t bear fruit are not Christians. And that’s pretty much the standard teaching that you get.
Let me tell you why that doesn’t work. Number 1, who is Jesus addressing? The disciples. Now He’s not even addressing twelve disciples here, He’s addressing eleven disciples because Judas, the only unbeliever in the group has left the building, or the room, back in John 13. So when Jesus makes this statement here to drag into it all of this teaching about whether you’re saved or not, that’s not even His point because He’s talking or conversing with people, eleven people that are clearly saved. So what is He talking about here, the branch disconnected to the vine? That’s not an unbeliever, that’s an out of fellowship believer. John, who wrote these words, was one of those who heard Christ teach this and did a whole expanded book about it in the New Testament called
1 John. 1 John is not a test, it poses various tests in the book but these are not tests to determine if you’re a Christian or not; these are tests to determine if you’re walking in fellowship with God or not, because unconfessed sin, what can that do to our fellowship with God? Damage it.
Just like in your marriage, you can sin against your spouse by cruel words or anger or sarcasm or any number of things, that doesn’t make you unmarried at that point. What has happened is the fellowship between the two of you has been broken. That’s the whole subject of 1 John. This is the whole subject matter that Jesus is getting into here in John 15; the branch outside of the vine not bearing fruit is an out of fellowship believer. The branch inside the vine bearing fruit is an in fellowship believer. Do you follow that?
So having said all that, take a look at what he says, verse 8; it’s very clear, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove yourselves to be My” what? “disciples.” He doesn’t say you must bear fruit to prove you are believers, does he? Does Jesus not use the word “believe” all the way through this book; I think it’s recorded about 100 times, I’m not sure if all of those references are Christ’s words but John uses the word believe and believer constantly. But here he doesn’t say believer, he says “disciples.” The good works don’t prove you’re a believer; the good works prove you’re a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And you say well, what’s the difference? Plenty. Here’s a chart we’ve gone through before; being a believer is on the left side of the screen, being a disciple is on the right side of the screen. All disciples are believers but not all believers are necessarily disciples. So being a believer we call the first tense of salvation which is justification. Being a disciple we call the second tense of salvation which is progressive sanctification. Being a believer is a free gift, however, if you enter into discipleship that’s going to cost you something. The Lord is always going to put His finger on something in your life and say this needs to go. Experience has told me that when I have to give up something the Lord replaces it with something better. But every time you enter into discipleship with the Lord there’s always some kind of cost that has to be borne.
Being a believer is received through faith. Being in discipleship is entered into through commitment and obedience. However, isn’t it great that God provides the resources for our commitment and obedience. If we walk according to the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. [Galatians 5:16, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” KJV] So I don’t want to make it sound like discipleship is some kind of thing that we white-knuckle and we do through human power. That’s not right either.
Being a believer is not by works; being a disciple isn’t going to involve greater degrees of cooperation with God. There’s more commands to obey other than believe the gospel and be saved. “Study and show thyself approved,” “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together,” “do not let sin reign in your mortal body.” [2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” KJV. “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,” Romans 6:12.]
Think of all of the commands that were given to New Testament Christians and when you make a decision to start volitionally cooperating with God in these commands and say Lord, I don’t know how You’re going to do this but You’re going to strengthen me as You promised; you’re not a believer only, you’ve been entered into the ranks of discipleship. Being a believer is an instant process, you trust in the gospel for salvation, instantaneously you’re made right with God. Being a disciple is a lifelong process. We make strides in it some days and other days we don’t. But it’s a lifelong thing, it goes on.
Being a believer is what we call justification; being a disciple is what we call sanctification. In justification Jesus paid the price but in discipleship we pay some kind of price. That’s why Jesus makes all those statements to the disciples, in the Gospels rather; Lord, I don’t want to follow You, I want to bury my parents. What does Jesus say? “Let the dead bury the dead. “ [Matthew 8:22]
He’s not inviting that person to trust in Christ to be saved; He’s inviting that person who has already a believer into a deeper walk with Himself. You have to give up something, we can’t place things above the Lord as we enter into the ranks of discipleship.
Being a believer you trust Jesus as your Savior; being a disciple you follow Jesus as Lord. That’s where you put your Lordship; you don’t put your Lordship in justification, you put your Lordship in discipleship and sanctification. Being a believer you believe the gospel; being a disciple you start obeying God’s commands through His power. Being a believer is one condition, faith alone; becoming a disciple, think of all of the commands we have to start submitting to under His power. Ephesians 4-6 by itself has about 38 commands for us to follow. Being a believer is one condition; discipleship multiple conditions. Being a believer experienced by all Christians; being a disciple experienced by some Christians. Being a believer gives you eternal life; a wonderful gift.
And I hear this all the time from my students when I start talking this way, they say well, if I’m saved and I’m going to heaven why should I be a disciple? And the answer is discipleship results in a lot of further blessings, such as fulfillment, such as rewards, there is a doctrine of rewards where we all will stand before the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ; “all” means all! And we will either be given rewards or not given rewards based upon our cooperation with the Holy Spirit in discipleship.
Becoming a disciple results in greater authority in the kingdom. See, we’re all going to be in the kingdom as Christians, but Luke 19:19, Jesus says one guy will rule over five cities. [Luke 19:19, “And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’”] You go down to Luke 19:17 he says rule over ten cities. [Luke 19:17, “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’”] Now in this kind of communist economy that we’re apparently moving into I thought everything was supposed to be equal, I mean, why doesn’t Jesus say each of you will rule over five cities. Why does He give one guy five cities and one guy ten cities? The answer is the latter guy in life, in his earthly life went further with the Lord in discipleship than the guy that’s ruling over five cities, or the guy that’s in the millennial kingdom that’s not ruling over anything.
So what I’m trying to get at is the choices that we’re making now as Christians, you know we have this “once saved always saved” view which is, I believe, accurate, and I’ll show you that it’s accurate when we get into the subject of eternal security, but because we believe in eternal security we think the decisions we’re making now as Christians don’t matter. And I’m saying they do matter in terms of authority and in terms of reward. They don’t matter in terms of your security eternally but there are other things that are being decided in terms of your future based on our cooperation with God in discipleship.
So what do we then teach about good works? We do not teach that they are automatic; we teach that they are desirable. That’s what God wants. We do not teach that they are the evidence of being a believer; that is to misstate the Bible. We teach that they are evidence of being a disciple. John 15:8. [“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”]
And this also even covers the issue of habitual sin. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.
[1 Corinthians 3:1, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,  for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”]
I mean, is it really possible for a Christian to continue on in sin and still be a Christian? I would say yes because Paul says to Christians in Romans 6, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body.” Would that command make any sense unless the Christian had the ability to let sin reign in their mortal body? I mean, if me being a Christian means I automatically overcome sin what’s that command in Romans 6 doing there? It doesn’t make any sense. So this is a verse that I like to use to show that a Christian can let sin reign in their mortal bodies.
Paul writes, “And I” what? “brethren,” who are Christ’s brothers? Believers, and Paul’s brothers, believers. “I could not speak to you as spiritual people but as to carnal,” carnal means flesh or meat, devoted to the sin nature in other words, “ as unto babes in” what? “in Christ.” You can be a babe in Christ, you can be carnal in Christ. See that? “I fed you with milk but not solid food; for until now you were not yet able to receive it, even now you are still not able,” see where he says “still not able,” they had been in this state of carnality for a long time, “for you are still carnal,” how do we know they’re carnal? Because there’s envy, divisions among you, and look at this, “are you not behaving like mere men?” Who’s the “mere men”? The unbelievers. And that’s where you put 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. You’re acting just like the unbelievers; why are you acting that way? That’s not who you are, that’s not your position. [1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,  nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”]
An out of fellowship Christian can out sin an unbeliever many times. And if you don’t believe me just read the life of David. Is there any doubt that David, the second king of the United Kingdom was a believer? I don’t think there’s any doubt at all but there was a season in his life, through first of all his murder, first of all his adultery secondly his murder, and then his lying to cover everything up. There was a season in that guy’s life where you would be hard-pressed to look at that guy’s life and say you know, that guy is really a child of God. He wasn’t acting like a child of God at all. And yet his eternity was never jeopardized. There were lots of temporal problems that plagued David till his dying day because of his bad decisions, like warfare within his own house, Nathan the prophet said the sword is never going to depart from your house, and things of that nature. But there’s no question that David is a believer. See?
And so Paul divides up the world into two halves, unbelievers, that’s the natural man, and then on the right side of the screen there is believers. And most people in their thinking in Christianity today they just look at it as those two: believers, unbelievers, that’s all that matters. You’re a saint or you’re an ain’t is what people say. And when you start studying Paul what you’re going to see is Paul is far more sophisticated than the simplistic dualism of saved/unsaved. I don’t mean to minimize the distinction between saved and unsaved because that’s the difference between heaven and hell. But what I’m telling you is Paul, in these verses, is carving out categories of believers. There’s the spiritual believer, those are the disciples. There’s the infants and that would be immature, immaturity. And then carnality, carnal believers, believers that keep on wandering back to the sin nature. So what am I trying to say? I’m trying to say overcome habitual sin, overcoming habitual sin, just like good works, is desirable, but not automatic.
And if there was some Reformed theologian that was listening to me talk they would be convulsing in anger by now because what I’m saying is the exact opposite of Reformed theology, because of the perseverance of the saints and faith is a gift. God gives you faith, God can’t fail so if you’re a true child of God there ought to be fruit, there ought to be overcoming habitual sin and if those things aren’t happening you’re not saved at all. That’s the heavy Reformed theology diet that most people get day in and day out on so-called Christian printed page, media and so forth. The issue is is that biblical thinking? I don’t think it’s biblical thinking because Paul’s got three categories here of believers.
Now we describe carnal Christianity as an unfortunate possibility. And that’s very important to understand because a lot of people, when they hear me talk like this they’ll say oh, well, you think sin in the believer’s life is okay, you think sin in the believer’s life is a good thing, you think sin in the believer’s life is not a severe thing in God’s eyes. And I hope you don’t misunderstand me, I’m NOT saying that at all. What I’m saying is it’s possible, there’s a category for it. It’s an unfortunate possibility but it’s a possibility nonetheless. In Reformed theology the possibility doesn’t even exist.
So just a few verses that talk about the unfortunate possibility of the carnal Christian. Exodus 19:1, they had just come out of… the nation of Israel was in Goshen for 400 years; they are redeemed at the Passover, they exercised faith to put the blood on the doorpost, they passed through the Red Sea. Were these people in faith. Yes, it says at the end of Exodus 14, after God closed the Red Sea and drowned the Egyptians, it says, “they believed in the LORD.” Now that’s the same Hebrew construction you find in Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him unto righteousness.” It’s just a little different because the subject is changed from singular to plural but it’s the same grammatical structure in the Hebrew. And nobody doubts Abraham was saved in Genesis 15:6 so why should we doubt that these people were saved?
But you see, what is happening is they are moving from Goshen, once they got to the other side of the Red Sea to Mount Sinai. And what do they receive at Mount Sinai? The Law. The Law was not given to them to save them; do you follow? They were already saved. How do I know that? I’m just looking at the chronology here. And the reason I pointed out Exodus 19:1 is it gives you a timeline and it says, “In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came to the wilderness of Sinai.” So the trip from Goshen to Sinai is two months.
Now what are these people doing for two months? Are they living for God. No, it’s like taking your kids on vacation, you’re out of the driveway and what are they saying? Are we there yet, I’m hungry, I’m tired, I want to go home, Joey in the back hit me. Sometimes you need another vacation to recover from your family vacation. That’s what the children of Israel are doing for two months. Every crisis that comes up they are doubting God, there’s one scene there where they almost kill the leadership. Have you ever been so mad at your pastor that you wanted to kill him… maybe you shouldn’t answer that question.
And this is the crowd that eventually build the golden calf. Now these people very clearly are saved because it says they believed. And if that doesn’t convince you, when you study the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, I believe it’s around verse 29, right in there, you’ll see that this generation is in the hall of faith with all the other saved people. [Hebrews 11:29, “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.”] And yet, they’re not acting like saved people at all, and that’s why they had to be put under the Law because they, as God’s redeemed people, needed to know how to live for God.
How do you interact with each other? That’s commandments 6-10; how do you interact with God?
That’s commandments 1-4. How do you interact with the unsaved world? That’s their identity as a kingdom of priests, that’s described a little bit later on in Exodus, Exodus 19:5-6. How do you worship God? That’s why they needed a tabernacle.
[Exodus 20:1, “Then God spoke all these words, saying,  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before Me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,  but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.  You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.”]
And so this is evidence, to me, that there is an unfortunate reality of a carnal Christian. Other examples of carnal Christianity would be Peter, Acts 10:14, remember the dream of the sheet, Peter being a Jew under the Law of Moses for 1,500 years is now given a vision by the Lord to arise and eat in the dream with the sheet and the animals on it, which a Jew never did for 1,500 years and what does Peter say? “Not so Lord.” Now if He’s your Lord how do you tell Him no? That doesn’t make any sense, does it? “Not so, Lord.” Was Peter saved? I hope so because he preached the opening sermon on the Day of Pentecost where 3,000 people got saved. And yet Peter asserts his will against God in Acts 10:14 and he says “Not so, Lord.” [Acts 10:14, But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.] That clearly demonstrates that a person can, as a Christian, assert their free will against God.
And then when you go to Galatians 2:11-14 you find Peter going back into legalism. So when the Pharisees would come to town Peter would withdraw from the Gentiles. Now that’s Peter as a saved man, a regenerated man, a leader in the church doing that very thing. So it’s another example of him asserting his will against God. [Galatians 2:11-14, “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13] The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.  But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’”]
And then you go to Acts 19 and verses 18-19 and you discover these people that got saved in Ephesus and it says, “Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices,” magic practices. [19, “And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”] And Charles Ryrie has a very interesting note, he talks here about how it could have been up to months before these people who had been saved in Ephesus actually began to give up their magic arts. So again there is a space of time between a salvation and when a person enters progressive sanctification.
And then you go over to the book of Corinthians, my goodness, look at 1 Corinthians 1:2, it says, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been” what? “sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” Is there any doubt these people are saved? They’re called the church, they’re called saints, they’re calling on the name of the Lord, Paul says it’s “our Lord” their Lord is our Lord, your Lord is my Lord. Verse 7 of the same chapter, it says, “so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Does it look like these people are saved? And yet look at their lives. Chapters 1-4 they’re fighting over their favorite Bible teacher. Chapter 5 they’re involved in incest. Chapter 6 they are taking their disputes before unbelievers and discrediting the gospel. Chapter 6 they are involved in prostitution, going into the pagan temple. Chapters 7 there’s rampant divorce and remarriage problems. Chapters 8-10 the stronger brother is flaunting his freedom in the presence of the weaker brother. Chapters 12-14 they are totally out of balance with spiritual gifts, they are putting tongue speakers on a pedestal with no interpretation. Chapter 15 they are denying resurrection. Sound like a real wonderful church to pastor there?
And let me tell you something, Paul never challenges the salvation of these people through the whole book. It’s astounding, isn’t it? In fact, look at what he says in 1 Corinthians 3:15, he warns them severely about the judgment of rewards and it says, “If any man’s work” it’s talking about a guy who comes before the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ who’s lived as a carnal Christian, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet as” what? “through fire.”
Is this guy in hell here? No, because it’s his work that’s burned up at the Bema Seat Judgment, because at the Bema Seat Judgment what God is going to do is apply fire to our works. Not us! If this guy was in hell the fire would be applied to him, he would be in the fire. It doesn’t say he is in the fire; it says his works are in the fire, because the fire determines the quality of our works; are they done with carnal motives in mind or were they done with right motives under God’s power. Were they just works done in the flesh or were these things that we did for God, depending on His strength and power the whole time. And if the latter then were rewarded God is going to take our works and put them through fire to test their quality because if there is a poor quality, like wood, hay and stubble, they’ll be consumed immediately. If there of a durable quality, gold, silver and costly stones then they will survive the fire. In fact, the only thing the fire can do is what? Purify, not destroy.
And it talks about a poor guy, and this is why Paul brings this up with the church at Corinth, it talks about this poor guy standing before the Lord, his works are burned up, he suffers loss, but he himself is what? Saved! He’s in heaven but he smells the smoke on his garment; that’s the doctrine of rewards there. And that’s why not being a carnal Christian is a big deal. It may not determine heaven or hell but there is an issue of rewards that is determined.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:19, now this is the crowd in Corinth that’s slipping out at night, going to visit the temple prostitute, because that’s what you did in a pagan temple, you had sex with these prostitutes in the name of religion; those are called the Greco-Roman mystery cults or religion, which was all over the Mediterranean world at the time this was written. So the church at Corinth was just involved in this practice, some of them.
Paul says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the” what? “Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have form God, and that you are not your own?” What is he saying here? He’s saying when you go do that you’re bringing the Holy Spirit in with you and you’re grieving God’s heart when you do that. He never says here you all aren’t saved, you all aren’t acting like Christians so I guess you’re not Christians. He’s saying when you become sexually immoral as a Christian you’re bringing the Holy Spirit into that sin and that in it because the Spirit is in us for how long? Forever. So that in and of itself should give us an incentive to avoid sin. But very clearly a Christian living in sin, living in carnality is a possibility because Paul never second guesses the salvation of these people; he’s saying you’re bringing the Lord into it.
Paul, if you go over to 1 Corinthians 9, verses 24-27, was afraid that he himself would drift back into carnality. He says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Disqualified for what? What’s the prize? Is it heaven? It can’t be heaven because if it was heaven Paul just taught works salvation, something that he taught against over and over again elsewhere. The prize that he has his eye focused on is the imperishable crown. And what he is worried about is being disqualified from that prize. He says look, if I go back into sin, which apparently the Apostle Paul had an ability to do, if I go back into sin I’m afraid that I’m going to be disqualified for this prize. Paul is not making a statement here about whether he’s going to heaven because elsewhere he says I know in whom I have believed.” [2 Timothy 1:12, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”]
What he is afraid of is forfeiting a crown or a prize at the Bema Seat Judgment. A prize, after I’ve warned others about this prize I’m afraid that I’m going to be disqualified for the prize. So very clearly a Christian, even Paul, had the ability to live in carnality. Or else this statement he makes here is inexplicable, it doesn’t make any sense.
Philippians 4:2-3, you run into a couple of ladies, not that ladies are the only people that do this but he says, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche” I call them Odious and Suntouché, “I urge Euodia and Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.  Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Now are these two women believers? How do you know? Their “names are in the book of life.” They once contended with Paul in the cause of the gospel. Now they’ve gone back into sin and they’re fighting with each other. Yet another verse that demonstrates the unfortunate possibility of carnal Christianity.
And one more and we’re finished. What about Lot? Are you a lot like Lot? Genesis 13:12, Lot pitched his tent towards Sodom. He was thinking about sin. And that’s the first step into sin is you start toying it with in the arena of your mind. See, there’s a reason when you go out to dinner and they come around and they say would you like to order dessert and you say no thank you, and they say well would you at least like to look at the dessert display? Because marketing tells us that thinking about something leads to doing. Right? So that’s what Lot did.
And then you get into Genesis 19:4-8 and he’s sitting, in verse 1 at the city gate meaning he has risen to a place of importance here. He offered his own virgin daughters to the Sodomite crowd. Does that sound like a guy walking under the Spirit’s control? Can you imagine offering your daughters to a mob sexually? [Genesis 19:4-8, “Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter;  and they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.’  But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him,  and said, ‘Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly.  ‘Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.’”]
Verse 14 he gets spiritual, because we got to get out of here because God is going to destroy this place and they thought he was jesting. I think that’s the only time “jesting” is used in the Bible. Oh, there goes Uncle Lot, joking around again, because the guy had no credibility because of his lifestyle. And then the whole story of Lot ends with him drunk with his daughters, in a sexual relationship with his two daughters, Genesis 19:30-38. And from those unholy unions came the Ammonites and the Moabites who were perennial enemies of Israel all their days. That’s where those people groups started.
[Genesis 19:30, “Lot went up to Zoar, and stayed in the mountains, and his two daughters with him; for he was afraid to stay in Zoar; and he stayed in a cave, he and his two daughters.  Then the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of the earth. “’Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him that we may preserve our family through our father.’  So they made their father drink wine that night, and the firstborn went in and lay with her father; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.  On the following day, the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Behold, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve our family through our father.’  So they made their father drink wine that night also, and the younger arose and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.  Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.  The firstborn bore a son, and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.  As for the younger, she also bore a son, and called his name Ben-ammi; he is the father of the sons of ‘Ammon to this day.”]
People love to let Lot off the hook here—well, they got him drunk so it wasn’t his fault. Why was he drinking with his daughters to begin with is what I would want to know? So you have this whole story of mass carnality and yet what does God say in Genesis 19:22, or the angel that came to destroy the city? The angel essentially says there, who came to destroy the city of Sodom, Genesis 19:22, “Hurry, escape there, for I” what? “cannot do anything until [you arrive there]” until you’re out of here, he doesn’t say I will not do anything until you’re out of here, I cannot do anything. What does that show us? Lot was a what? A believer, even though his lifestyle didn’t reflect his identity.
Now there isn’t any doubt in my mind that Lot was a believer because if you go to 2 Peter 2:7-8 it calls Lot a righteous man, not once, not twice, but three times. [2 Peter 2:7-8, “and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men  (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),”]
So question: how can he be a righteous man even though you look at the guy’s record in the Old Testament and to be completely honest with you, if I didn’t have that reference in 2 Peter I wouldn’t even think Lot was saved. How can the guy be a righteous man and yet have a lifestyle that’s unrighteous? Because he was a righteous man positionally but not what? Practically. He was a believer but not a what? Disciple. And Lot, I don’t mean to let Lot off the hook, Lot paid for that until his dying day. In fact, his very own soul was vexed. But we’re going to see Lot in heaven.
So what am I trying to get at here? I’m trying to just give you a series of verses to demonstrate that carnal Christianity is not a good thing; it’s not something we applaud. It’s an unfortunate possibility.
All of that to say once we get saved God wants to do good works in our lives. However the good works we do for Him are desirable but not necessarily automatic. They don’t determine your status as a believer but they do determine your status as a what? Disciple. And God wants us to overcome habitual sins. He doesn’t want us to keep going back to the same sins over and over and over again and when we find ourselves in those patterns the Bible is not making a statement at us that we lost our salvation or never had our salvation or we’re not going to get into the millennial kingdom, he’s saying you’re living outside of who you are; you’re living outside of your identity. You’re living like the unbelievers and you are in a totally different program than the unbelievers.
So all of that to say good works are critical in the Christian life but whether it’s good works or overcoming habitual sins these things are not automatic but they are desirable. So hopefully I made some sense tonight.