Soteriology 026John 15:1-6 • Dr. Andy Woods • July 31, 2016 • Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation
Soteriology 26, John 15:1-6
July 31, 2016
Let’s go ahead and open with a word of prayer. Father, we’re grateful for today and an opportunity to get into Your Word a little bit. I pray You’ll be with us as we continue to look at this wonderful truth that we have, the doctrine of eternal security. And I pray that You’ll fortify us in this truth and it would be something that would change the way we live. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory, we ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Can you open your Bibles to the book of John. By the way, if you need a handout Ron has a few back there. The Gospel of John, chapter 15. Here we are, sort of working our way through eternal security; is it true that once saved always saved? I’m giving you first of all, in the first part of this class the pro eternal security argument, which I hope we’re going to finish today. I have 13, so by way of review because self-righteousness did not save us in the first place it’s not a basis upon which salvation can be lost. Number 2, salvation is neither given or maintained by works. Number 3, If a believer can lose eternal life, then how can eternal life be what? Eternal. Number 4, The Bible’s promises guarantee security, John 10 would probably the strongest. Number 5, The assurance of salvation is possible. You know, God wants us to know that we are saved. And if you could lose your salvation you could never have the assurance of salvation. Number 6, the believer is predestined for glory. Number 7, the Spirit’s seal on you cannot be broken. Number 8, God keeps us from falling out of His hand. Number 9, Christ is currently interceding and advocating for us. Number 10, Christ’s death perfectly dealt with all sins, past, present and future. Number 11, a believer can’t be removed from Christ’s body. Number 12, the Bible never tells you which sins remove salvation. You’d think the Bible would do that if you could lose salvation. And then number 13, this is where we are right now, believers with unfruitful lives still have salvation, although they lose rewards at the Bema Seat.
So we’re focused on number 13, and you see what everybody says is they say well, if you teach security then you’re not coming down hard enough on Christians who go back into sin. So a lot people feel you’ve got to dangle hell over people every Sunday and Wednesday to get them to live right. You’ve got to perpetually threaten them, they’re going to lose salvation if they go back into sin. And that really isn’t what we believe the Bible teaches. However, that’s not to say that if you go back into sin you don’t experience consequences because you very clearly do. And so what this slide and the next one really communicate is the consequences that people experience as Christians when they go back into sin. But the consequences, all of them enumerated are never you’re going to go to hell. So to me when all of these consequences are articulated and the Bible never says oh by the way, you’re going to go to hell if you go back into sin. That in and of itself is a very powerful argument for the security of the believer.
So what we’re just looking at here is what do you lose as a Christian when you go back into sin? As we’ve studied you lose power, you grieve the Spirit, you lose joy, you lose spiritual sight, you forfeit the opportunity to grow. We spent a lot of time last week saying you move back into carnality; in fact, we spent the whole session talking about carnality because there’s a lot of people out there that say there’s no such thing as a carnal Christian and I tried to show you very clearly there is. So carnality is a problem.
Something else you lose if you go back into sin is you forfeit fruitfulness; you can become unfruitful. So that’s why I had you open up to John 15 which is Christ’s teaching, and we have done extensive teachings on this when we were teaching the Gospel of John. This is Christ in the Upper Room and He begins to talk about branches that are in the vine that bear fruit, branches out of the vine that do not bear fruit. And people that are non-context readers of the Bible look at verses like that and they say oh, well, that’s a distinction between being a believer and an unbeliever; the believer is in the vine bearing fruit, the unbeliever is out of the vine, not bearing fruit.
Now one of the key things to understand when you study any book of the Bible or any passage is who is the audience? Who is he talking to? In the Upper Room He’s not talking to unbelievers, is He? Who’s He talking to? He’s talking to believers, He’s talking to the disciples. In fact, there was only one disciple that was an unbeliever. Who was that? Judas, and back in John 13:29-31 Judas had already left (to betray Christ) the Upper Room. [John 13:29-31, “For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, ‘Buy the things we have need of for the feast’; or else, that he should give something to the poor.  So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.  Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him….”]
So by the time you get to John 15 He’s not talking to any unbelievers at all, He’s just talking to His eleven hand-picked disciples, all of whom obviously were believers. Right. So that’s the context of in the vine, out of the vine, fruitfulness, lack of fruitfulness. So He is not drawing a distinction here between believer and unbeliever. If you think He’s drawing a distinction between believer and unbeliever you have to ignore who this was said to. He’s drawing a distinction between those believers in fellowship and those believers out of fellowship. Are you with me?
So look at verse 5, he says there in verse 5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and in in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” And then you go down to verse 8 and it says, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove yourselves to be My disciples.” When He talks about a believer or a branch in the vine He’s talking about a believer in fellowship with God, so that would be a believer who has confessed his sin or sins; that’s a believer that’s trying to live out the Christian under God’s power. That’s the believer that’s walking in moment by moment fellowship with Him.
And the promise is if you’re that kind of believer and in fellowship believer, primarily, not that we’re perfect but we spend the majority of our lives as Christians in fellowship with Him, then fruit… (and by the way, it goes on here and it defines fruit that will last) fruit comes spontaneously in your life. By contrast, if you’re out, a branch out of the vine, then you really can’t expect a lot of fruit any more than you can expect a branch of an orange tree, for example, that’s disconnected from the nurturing sap of the tree to bear oranges. It’s just a very simple analogy. So every moment I spend in sin, every moment I spend out of fellowship with God… it’s not jeopardizing my position in Christ but what He’s saying here is I just cannot bear the fruit that God has called me to bear because the fruit only comes when it’s connected to the nurturing sap of the tree.
Now you say well wait a minute here, doesn’t it talk about one of these branches being cut off and being thrown into the fire? Isn’t fire always hell? And the answer is fire is not always hell. For example, there are going to be those at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ who are believers but they have spent the majority of their Christian lives with the right foundation but building with the wrong material. So they are building with wood, hay and stubble, in other words, they’ve gone back into carnality and it’s very clear there in 1 Corinthians 3:15, we may look at that later, that their works, not them but their works are put through a fire. [1 Corinthians 3:15, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”]
What does a fire do? It destroys that which is combustible, wood, hay and stubble. But that which is non-combustible, gold, silver and costly stones, which would represent the life in Christ in fellowship, the latter, gold, silver and costly stones goes through this fire but the only thing the fire can do is purify. So 1 Corinthians 3:15 talks about those who are in Christ that are going to heaven but they’re watching at the Judgment Seat of rewards their life to a very large extent going up in smoke and fire imagery is used. It says, “If any man’s work is burned up,” see burning there, “he will suffer loss; but he himself will be” what? “saved, yet so as through fire.”
I’m going to spend a lot of time (when we look at the arguments against eternal security) looking at that branch and the fire. One of the things I want you to understand is fire in the New Testament does not always mean hell; yes, fire typically does mean hell in the New Testament but there are about three examples I could give you where fire does not mean hell. And by the way, when you look at this branch being thrown into the fire, as you study this it never says, and I misread this for years and years and years thinking that that’s what it said, but it really doesn’t say this; I used to think this said God took the branch and threw it into the fire. But as you study this you’ll see that God in this passage is not the actor in throwing the branch into the fire; what it says is they’re like branches that dry up that men gathered and threw into the fire.
So let me ask you just a basic question: Would God ever entrust the task of throwing people into hell to mere men? I mean… of course not! So we’ll spend more time on this branch being thrown into the fire and I don’t believe that that’s talking about hell at all. I think it’s talking about some kind of temporal discipline, either on this earth or perhaps a loss of reward at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. Paul uses the imagery of fire to describe that. So I don’t think it’s hell but more on that later. But the only point I’m trying to make here is if we spend our lives in Christ, not in fellowship with Him because of unconfessed sin and other things, yes, we’re going to heaven but we just cannot be very fruitful for the things of God. So that’s a little bit there on John 15, unfruitfulness.
By the way, there was a disciple that was sitting there in the Upper Room listening to all of this, and who was that disciple? It was a guy who wrote this book called The Gospel of John. John is going to take these same exact truths about in fellowship and out of fellowship and he’s going to put them into his own book that would be recorded about sixty years after he heard Jesus teach these things, in the book of 1 John. So 1 John, to understand1 John you have to understand the Upper Room Discourse, particularly you have to understand John 15. John 15, as I said before, the whole point of it is not believer versus unbeliever; it’s in fellowship out of fellowship. And remember what Jesus said in the Upper Room? “I have many more things to tell you but you cannot bear them now, but when He, the Spirit of truth comes He will guide you into all truth.” [John 16:13]
Sixty years later the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance what John heard in the Upper Room and would strategically guide him in writing the little book of 1 John which is simply an amplification, if you will, of the branch and vine discourse. And I say that because 1 John is misunderstood all of the time. 1 John is taught by people to say well, believer/unbeliever, because it poses various tests for righteousness. If you don’t have these tests in your life you’re not saved. And that’s what you hear 99% of the time through Christian media, Christian literature, those kind of things. And may I just say to you that that is not the way church history, by and large, has understood 1 John. And it’s not at all in harmony with what John heard here in the Upper Room, so a little bit more on that later.
But what is the consequence of going back into sin as a Christian? Lack of fruitfulness. What’s another consequence? Take a look, if you could, at Matthew 16:24-25, and as you’re turning there I’m going to go over to the book of Ecclesiastes for a minute. As you begin to experience a lack of purpose, even though you’re going to heaven, even though you’re saved, your life really doesn’t produce the kind of purpose that God would have it produce. And if you want a whole book about a guy who clearly was saved as the third king of the United Kingdom, Solomon, but his life lacked purpose, you would read the book of Ecclesiastes because in that particular book Solomon, towards the end of his life, was led astray by his many wives (plural), so first of all he shouldn’t have been possessing many wives, right? And a lot of these wives came from foreign countries because that’s how treaties were entered into in the Solomonic time period is you were given someone to marry.
So he entered into these treaties with these other countries, something he shouldn’t have been doing. He was offered the daughter, or the princess or something like that, of the kingdom that he entered the treaty into and he entered into all these treaties against the direct will of God and he had all of these wives. In fact, he had about 700 wives and 300 concubines. And the Bible, and I think it’s 1 Kings 11 says his many wives turned his heart away from God. [1 Kings 11:4, “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.”]
And so what was Solomon experiencing as he was in that condition? He was going to heaven, I believe, but he began to experience an emptiness and a purposelessness. And in Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 he says, “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.” And then he says,  “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.’” Life is empty; life doesn’t make any sense, life is meaningless. And then in verse 8 he says, “All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing.” You know that song, I can’t get no satisfaction, I’m going to sing that for you this morning if you don’t mind… NO! But there’s a song, I don’t even know who sings it but this guy just goes on and he goes I can’t get no satisfaction; what he’s saying is I can’t find fulfillment in life, I can’t find meaning, I can’t find purpose. And unbelievers, of course, are like that because your purpose can only come in God, right? And out of fellowship believers are like that, Solomon being a textbook case of an out of fellowship believer and he wrote a whole book called the book of Ecclesiastes under that condition.
So you have to sort of be careful about using the book of Ecclesiastes to build doctrinal points. I find a lot of systematic theologians, they try to make a point and they quote the book of Ecclesiastes; I’m always wondering, well what’s the context there of Ecclesiastes? It’s talking about a man and he calls himself throughout the book as living “under the sun.” In other words, because he’s out of fellowship with God because of all of his wives and sin and all of these things he was committing he didn’t have the divine viewpoint in life. So he’s expressing his emptiness. So let’s be careful about quoting the book of Ecclesiastes, let’s look at the specific context of everything that’s quoted in the book of Ecclesiastes because a lot of the things he’s saying in Ecclesiastes aren’t really good.
From the New Testament perspective, that’s why I had you turn to Matthew 16, verses 24-25, Jesus begins to lay down the criteria of discipleship and it says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Now look at this, verse 25, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” And then he goes on and he says,  “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
But how do you really start to find meaning in life? It’s not by gaining your life, grabbing hold of your life; it’s losing your life. Now again, I would ask you this simple question: when Jesus said this who was he talking to? What disciple was He interacting with? He was interacting with Peter. Now Peter had been saved for probably over three years by now, this is towards the end of Christ’s ministry. So He’s not dealing with the distinction between a believer and an unbeliever; what he’s saying Peter is now that you’re a believer and you have received the gift of God I’m calling you now into a deeper walk with me, where you’re not just a believer, someone trusting in Me for your eternity, but you’re going to actually follow Me, even to the point of death if necessary. And that’s called discipleship.
And in the process of unfolding the doctrine of discipleship, which is a doctrine that can only be aimed at the believer, only a believer can follow Christ as His disciple, right? He begins to say that’s how you’re going to find purpose in your life, as you lose your life you’re going to discover it. But if you don’t follow Me in this path called discipleship then you’ll end up losing your own live in the process, you’re going to be just like Solomon and you’re going to spend the majority of your life “in Christ” living outside of finding fulfillment, meaning and purpose.
So the promises of fulfillment is not just for the believer, it’s for the believer that cooperates with Christ as a follower. So very clearly there are people that have trusted in Christ as Savior and are on their way to heaven, I would describe the Corinthians church that way, I would describe Solomon that way. But then within the ranks of the believer there’s a smaller group called the disciple which is actually willing to cooperate with Christ as He empowers us on daily denial to ourselves and the promise of fulfillment is only aimed at His disciple.
So guess what? Every moment I spend out of fellowship with Christ, every moment I spend going back into sin, is a moment I really can’t experience the fulfillment and the meaning and the purpose in life that God has for me, I’m just like Solomon living under the sun with a human viewpoint, so unfruitfulness and lack of purpose.
Something else that can happen to us when we go back into sin is a lack of stability. Notice, if you will, the book of Galatians, chapter 3 and verse 3. We just become unstable; we gravitate towards one false idea after another. Galatians 3:3, can a believer become unstable? Look at Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the” what? “Spirit,” are they Christians? Absolutely they are Christians, they have “begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” So these folks wandered back into sin, specifically they were trying to work out the middle tense of their salvation, progressive sanctification through human power. And Paul basically tells a bunch of Christians that they’ve become foolish. Perhaps another way of saying it is they’ve become unstable. A believer can become unstable.
Notice 2 Timothy 2:18, it talks about false doctrine, I believe coming into the ranks of Christians. It says in 2 Timothy 2:18, “men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” Now you can’t have your faith “upset” unless you have what? Faith! I mean, if someone’s upsetting my faith doesn’t that presuppose that I have faith to upset? So it’s talking about false doctrine coming into the life of the believer and it was taking their faith and unsettling it or upsetting it or disrupting it.
And you might recall that when we were studying 2 Timothy, particularly verse 18, one of the things I pointed out is this verb translated “upset” is the same verb used to describe Christ overturning the moneychanger’s tables. Remember when Christ went into the temple and they had turned His Father’s house into a place of commerce, He was very upset by that and He started to literally overturn tables. That’s the same word used to describe that here in 2 Timothy. So think of a table being overturned and all the money and coinage, you know, scatters all over the floor.
That’s sort of the imagery that you get of a Christian who moves into false doctrine. In this case they were tampering with the doctrine of resurrection, they were putting prophecy in the past, that’s called today preterism; preterism comes from the Latin word past or gone by. There’s a whole bunch of people out there today arguing that Bible prophecy has already happened, there is no future antichrist, the antichrist was Nero, these kind of arguments. And I know many, many people that drift into that doctrine and what happens is every moment they spend under that false doctrine their faith is literally being overturned, upset, unsettled and they’re becoming unstable.
One more, if I could do that, one more verse, look at 2 Peter 3:17, Peter writing to Christians all the way through these two little letters of Peter, and at the very end of 2 Peter he says this: “You therefore, beloved,” now when he says “beloved” is he talking to believers or unbelievers? Clearly believers. “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men” that would be false doctrine, now look at this, “and fall from your own steadfastness,” so you’ll notice here that a Christian (they’re called “beloved”) can fall from their “own steadfastness.” Is this talking about loss of salvation? No, what it’s talking about is the instability that can be introduced into a person’s life when they fall out of fellowship with Christ and wander into false doctrine.
So lack of stability is a key problem with the out of fellowship Christian. And there are Christians that are very, very unstable; they’re unstable in their ministries, they are unstable in their character, they are unstable sometimes in their marriages. And I don’t know what it is about unstable Christians but they fall for one deception after another because they’re not rooted and grounded in God’s Word. And I’ve been a Christian since 1983, I know some of you have been Christians longer but the nice thing about being a Christian over several decades is I’ve seen several trends come through the body of Christ; trends that are very, very popular and everybody seems to jump on the bandwagon.
One example I’ll give you is the prayer of Jabez, remember that a few years ago. Runaway bestselling books, The Prayer of Jabez, study material, and everybody was saying this prayer, almost like a magical incantation of some kind. And today, a few years have passed, I hardly hear anything about The Prayer of Jabez, the only thing I hear about is I go to a used book store and see a Prayer of Jabez book and I looked at that and I said wow, this is in a used book store, that was so popular a few years ago. So it was a trend that just came through, everybody kind of jumped on it and then over time people abandoned it. And I’ve probably seen, in the short time I’ve been a Christian, probably four or five major trends like that that have come through. So the unstable Christian is always jumping on board, very enthusiastic until the trend wears off. So we have this ability, as Christians, to be very, very unstable and that’s a major consequence of going back to the sin nature.
I have some more here, another list to get through. This has to do with conviction. Take a look at Psalm 32:1-5, another consequence of going back to the sin nature is we come under the conviction of God. Why do we come under the conviction of God? Because God knows what is going to destroy our lives; He knows that sin will destroy our lives and He loves us too much to see us wreck our lives under sin. So if you go back to sin as a Christian let me tell you from personal experience, God has a tremendous ability to make you feel very uncomfortable and very bad. Now we look at guilt as always bad, but I would say guilt to a large extent functions as pain; if my hand is on a stove that is on and the pain shoots through my hand and prompts me to remove my hand that pain is not a bad thing; that pain is a good thing because if I keep my hand on that stove I’ll destroy my hand. So the pain actually becomes my friend. So God knows what sin will do to us; we go back into sin and He will just annoy you over that sin. Why? Because He loves you. We don’t see what the sin will do but God does.
And this is the condition that Lot, we made reference to Lot last week, are you a lot like Lot, remember? He was what I would call a carnal Christian and God bothered him because in 2 Peter 2:7-8 it says, “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 unrighteous deeds).” Yeah, Lot went back into sin, there’s no question about it. But he was miserable every single moment he was back in sin. Why was that? Because he was tormented… he was tormented by it. I believe that the torment that he experienced, some of the older Bible translations teach this as the vexing of the soul, I believe that that discomfort that he was experiencing was none other than the convicting hand of God.
So there are many times in my Christian life where I’m tempted to go back into sin and I simply say this: you know what, the last time I did that the Lord made me feel so miserable about it and I don’t want to feel that bad today so I think I’ll avoid the sin. If you want a textbook case of a man who was convicted by God it’s the story of David. And that’s why I had you turn to Psalm 32:1-5, if I have my chronology right there’s about a year or so where David hid his sin.
Now Psalm 51 is the blessings that he experienced when he finally confessed his sin to God. By the way, I say “sin,” there were multiple sins in David’s life when you study 2 Samuel 11. There was lying, there was adultery, and ultimately there was murder and was David saved? I think so, he was the first king of the United Kingdom. God said of David this man is a “man after my own heart” later on. But David did what most of us do with sin, we just kind of tuck it under the mattress and pretend like it never happened. You know, we hide sin from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we try to hide sin from God. Is it really smart to try to hide something from God since God knows everything? I mean, it’s like we’re so self-deceived, the things we do in our sin nature.
But David hid his sin. Now God bothered David all that time period and David describes it in Psalm 32 1-5. He says, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!  How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!” In other words he was blessed when he finally confessed his sins, plural, to God. Verse 3, watch this, “When I kept silent” so what was David’s life like when he was hiding? “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away,” the second part of verse 3, “Through my groaning” once in a while… NO, “through my groaning all day long. Verse 4, now why was he groaning?  “For day and night” that’s around the clock, “For day and night Your hand” whose hand? God’s hand “was heavy upon me;” it’s this conviction that he’s under. And when he was under that conviction he says, “My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” And then finally he says in verse 5, “I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.”
But if you want to see a description of somebody and what he’s like under the convicting hand of God, just like Lot when he was hiding his sin from God for about a year, you can get a great description of it there in verses 3 and 4.
So what does unconfessed sin do in the life of the believer? It doesn’t send you to hell but God is so good at this convicting ministry that you can actually feel like you’re in hell. I mean, there have been times in my life where I’ve come under the convicting hand of God and it almost seems like, to me, some form of eternal judgment. It’s not eternal judgment but it can feel that way because it’s the pain shooting through my body which is not my enemy, it’s my friend, it’s telling me to get away from whatever it is I was doing and to get back into fellowship with God. I mean, would you allow your children to wander off into destructive behavior without agitating them and annoying them? Of course you wouldn’t! Why would God let you, why would He let me just wander off into sinful self-destructive behavior without bothering us about it?
Something else that happens, let’s go to the book of Revelation, chapter 3, verse 19, it’s sort of related, we come under the diving discipline of God. And as we turn there you might want to jot down Hebrews 12:5-11, it’s the most in depth place I know of this doctrine in the Bible, at least in the New Testament. It says whom the Lord loves the Lord what? Chastens.
[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 DISCIPLINES, 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.”]
In fact, the book of Proverbs says if you don’t discipline your children you hate your children. [Proverbs 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”] That’s an important thing to quote to your kids because when you discipline what do they all say? “You hate me.” Well, if I hated you I would just let you do whatever you wanted to do. The fact that I’m disciplining you shows my love for you.
So what is divine discipline? I would describe it this way; it’s momentary pain applied to somebody by God so the next time they think about doing that sin, whatever it is, they associate the momentary pain with the sin and then their hand is kept back from that sin. And as their hand is kept back from that sin and while it’s true that no discipline at the time seems pleasant, as Hebrews 12 tells us, that process of discipline saves our lives from behavior which is sinful and by definition self-destructive. [“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11, NIV]
The easiest way to analogize it is if your child runs across the street without looking, which kids do, right? They don’t have any life experience, they don’t know speed limit laws and trucks and cars barreling around the corner at high speeds, they just run across the street because it looks fun. Well, any parent worth their salt will take that child aside and discipline them. There’s different ways of disciplining. We, at our home, do use spanking but we don’t use it as a first resort, we use it as a last resort but spanking, although it’s (maybe I shouldn’t even say this on the internet) you know, it’s weird, you discipline your kids in the store and who does everybody look at? They look at you like you’re some kind of bad parent when in reality when I see someone disciplining their children publically I almost want to stand up and applaud. As a matter of fact, one time Anne, in Dallas, did discipline Sarah at an amusement park and this guy just yelled out “All right,” it’s like so rare to see it he was happy because that’s what keeps these kids under control. Didn’t we have to be disciplined by our parents? I mean, I remember I was… well, I won’t get into all that.
So you discipline a child so the next time they think about running across the street without looking they remember the discipline so when they associate the momentary pain with the discipline they won’t run across the street without looking. And guess what just happened in the process? Their life was spared from the truck barreling around the corner and killing them on impact. Basic parenting 101, right. Well, if we’re God’s children doesn’t He do the same thing to us? If you go off into sin God will give you a little tap on the shoulder, maybe something more than that so the next time you’re thinking about doing it you remember, wow, I remember that discipline that God gave me, I’ll stay away from this sin and your life is prolonged as a result.
And look at what he says here to the church at Laodicea, in Revelation 3:19, “’Those whom I love, I” what? “reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” It’s kind of interesting to me that he makes this statement to the most carnal church of the seven churches in the book of Revelation because people all the time read this and they say those people weren’t believers, how could they be believers? Look at the way they’re acting. Of course they were believers because he says in verse 19, “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline,” so discipline is proof that God loves us. So if you go back into the sin nature then you become a candidate for divine discipline.
And sometimes, and this takes us to the next one, that discipline can be so severe that it can result in the termination of one’s life. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 11:30. [1 Corinthians 11:30, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.”] Some people God disciplines, of his children, to the point of death. I don’t know how frequently God does it, I’m glad He doesn’t do it all the time or else church attendance would be pretty low. But there are four cases in the Bible where it happened. The first is Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-11, who were slain in the Holy Spirit. Now I have a lot of students coming from the charismatic background that pride themselves on being slain in the Holy Spirit. And I always like to take them aside and I say do you really think that’s a good thing, to be slain in the Holy Spirit? The only people I know in the Bible that were ever slain in the Holy Spirit were Ananias and Sapphira, because they sold property and they kept back part of the proceeds for themselves and in the process they told the whole church we gave all the proceeds to the church.
Now this is a very common misunderstanding, people say well God disciplined Ananias and Sapphira because they didn’t give all of the proceeds of the sale to the church. And that is not their sin because the Bible never comes down on the ownership of private property. In fact, in that context, Acts 5, and you need to understand this because your kids, let me tell you something, in these schools that they are in they’re being taught a Marxist doctrine constantly. Marxists appeal to the Bible, it’s called liberation theology, where you’re trying to link Marxism or the principles of communism with Scripture. So all of these twenty somethings are being kind of hit with this Marxist idea and there are those in the body of Christ, like Jim Wallace and many others I could talk about that are mixing Marxism with the Bible and they’ll say look, the early church, they gave up all their property and they were all equal.
The great response to that is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, because Peter, who announces the discipline on Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:4 says, “While it remained unsold,” that’s the property, “did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” Why was God upset with Ananias and Sapphira? He wasn’t upset with Ananias and Sapphira because they sold their property and only gave part of the proceeds to the church; that’s not the issue at all. That’s a complete misreading of the Scripture. The property was theirs, they could do whatever they wanted with it.
The sin of Ananias and Sapphira is they sold the property, they gave part of the proceeds to the church, which wasn’t the problem, but they told everybody we gave it all to the church. So their sin was publicly lying; their sin was publicly misrepresenting their level of generosity and that’s why Peter tells Ananias and Sapphira that, “You have lied,” see the word “lied” there, “You have lied” to the Holy Spirit. That was their sin. And the church is very new at this time, it’s only started in Acts 2 and if a new virus gets into an infant, as you know from basic biology and medicine it will destroy the life of that infant. So God here was keeping the church pure by bringing immediate discipline on Ananias and Sapphira, not for their sin in not giving everything to the church, that’s not even the point, it’s public misrepresentation and lying. That was the problem. And so they were struck dead right there on the spot. And people say well, they weren’t Christians.
Let me ask you a question; what were they doing in church if they weren’t believers? And then what do you do with verse 11 “And great fear came over the” what? “the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.” The rest of the believers got scared. Now would a believer be scared if an unbeliever was struck dead? No, that’s supposed to happen. But one of our own was disciplined to the point of death so we’d better stay away from that particular sin that they were involved in, public misrepresentation and this discipline to the point of death kept the church pure in its infant form and allowed this baby infant, this new spiritual organism to survive. See what God did there? He disciplined them to the point of death; discipline was very severe and in this case it took their very own lives. And I believe that Ananias and Sapphira, once they died, went right into the presence of the Lord. There’s no doubt in my mind that these two were Christians or believers.
1 Corinthians 11:30, which is where I had you turn, the same thing transpires. Now remember the Corinthian church was drunk and disorderly at the Lord’s Table; in fact, if you go back to verse 27 it says, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” And then you go down to verse 30 and it says, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number have” what? “fallen asleep,” which is a euphemism. A euphemism is a polite way of saying something. It’s a polite way of saying death; Paul analogizes all the time the death of the believer to falling asleep because you know that you’re going to be resurrected one day, you’re going to use that body again so your condition is temporary, although your soul is alive and in the presence of the Lord. But here’s another example where God disciplined folks in Corinth, some to the point of death. Some He caused to get sick, others died.
Now verse 27 is so misread and misunderstood, this is the way it’s normally taught: you can’t eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ, that’s the communion service, if you’re unworthy. 99% of the teaching you get on this that’s what they say. So they say ooh-ooh, you’d better not have any unconfessed sin in your life, like sin you committed six months ago or a year ago or last week, because if you come to the Lord’s table with unconfessed sin in your life, pow, you can be struck dead. The NASB translates this not as unworthy, but “unworthy manner.” The better translation is not unworthy, but “unworthily.”
You say is there a difference between “unworthy” and “unworthily”? It’s a night and day difference. “Unworthily” is an adverb; an adverb modifies a what? A verb, it’s like saying Joe ran quickly; the verb is ran, quickly is the adverb describing how he ran. Why did God bring discipline in Corinth? It’s not because they were unworthy; it’s because they were partaking of the Lord’s table unworthily, which fits the whole context here of 1 Corinthians 11.
What were they doing? They were excluding the poor, you have to pay to play in other words, they set it up in a way that the rich could participate at the Lord’s table and the poor couldn’t. And they were dividing the body of Christ unnecessarily. Beyond that they took what was sacred and turned it into a common meal. And that’s why Paul says don’t you all have homes where you can eat in. This is the Lord’s Table, this is not just a common meal. And beyond that people were showing up inebriated, in a drunken state. They had total disrespect for the institution of communion that the Lord set up in the Upper Room. That’s why God disciplined some, made some sick and disciplined others to the point of death. It had nothing to do with what sin they committed five years ago. It had to do with the manner, this is an adverb, the practice regarding how they were abusing the Lord’s table at that specific point in time. See that? That’s what God was upset about.
And I draw that distinction because if you don’t understand that you’ll come to the communion table in fear, constantly, over some sin you may have committed. I mean, when I was first taught the doctrine you have to come to the Lord’s Table in a worthy manner I’m always worried, well what about some sin I committed sometime in my life that I’ve forgotten about? Is God going to kill me because I partook of the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner. And you see, the laws of language and context rescue you from that fear. It’s not “unworthy,” it’s “unworthy manner.” It’s not “unworthy,” it’s “unworthily.” In other words, if you’re coming to the Lord’s Table with a reverent attitude then you’re not going to be struck dead. So I just throw that at you because it’s another example of people being disciplined to the point of death. God does that sometimes; He takes people home early.
One more example of it, Revelation 2:23, this is the church at Thyatira, Revelation 2 really about verse 22-23, Jesus says, “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.” So adultery of some kind, whether it’s spiritual or physical, had come into the church at Thyatira and Jesus says in verse 23, “‘And I will kill her” this is in the church, do you see this? “I will kill her children with pestilence,” why? “and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” How are we going to purify these churches? Jesus says well, here’s how it’s going to work. Some of these Christians in these churches that are in sin I’m going to kill and that is going to have a purifying effect on all of the churches; it’s exactly what’s taught in Acts 5:1-11, because the death of Ananias and Sapphira sent fear throughout the saved world and they said to themselves, you know, we’d better stay away from that particular sin because God apparently is pretty upset about it, as evidenced by the fact that He disciplines some believers within the church to the point of death.
The only other place I know of this doctrine, and some of you have asked me about this already, is 1 John 5:16 which is the sin that leads unto death. “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death.” Look at this: “There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.” So there are some… now it doesn’t say what the “sin leading to death” is. So every time I teach this someone raises their hand and says what’s the sin leading to death? I don’t know? How would I know, it doesn’t tell me. The only thing this opens the door to is that there are some sins of a peculiar quality that God reserves the right, not only to bring discipline into the believer’s life but to actually take the believer home early. So this doctrine is taught not once, not twice, but four times in the New Testament: Acts 5:1-11, 1 Corinthians 11:30, Revelation 2:22-23, 1 John 5:16.
Now in none of these cases is the issue hell. The issue probably would be hell if the believer could lose his salvation. I rehearse this because many people argue that our doctrine of eternal security makes it sound as if we don’t take sin seriously. Let me tell you something; God takes sin very seriously. What do you introduce into your life when you move off into sin? Unfruitfulness, lack of purpose, lack of stability, conviction, divine discipline, and in some peculiar and I would say rare cases, even premature death.
So I didn’t quite finish the list today, we’ll finish it when we get together the next time we’re together.