Soteriology 036Romans 8:13 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 23, 2016 • Soteriology
Soteriology 36, Acts 5:1-11
October 23, 2016
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for another day and we’re grateful for Your grace that saved us, and as we’re learning in this study, Father, we’re particularly grateful for your grace that keeps us. And help us to be good stewards of this doctrine and learn how to look at the passages that people use to deny the doctrine of grace. We pray You’ll be with us this morning as we study and we ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Let’s open our Bibles to the book of Romans, chapter 8, verse 13. We’re continuing to sort of navigate through these shark infested waters of eternal security.
Of course by now you know that eternal security is the idea that the grace that saved you is the grace that keeps you. So if that’s true forfeiture of your salvation is impossible. We’ve gone through several arguments, about 13 of them, that teach security. And most people stop their series at that point and that’s why there’s so much acrimony on this because we just shout verses back and forth against each other; we don’t really know how to interact with the other side’s verses.
So we’re actually taking this step a bit further and this is a little bit longer of a treatment than you would usually get on this subject where we’re actually interacting with the passages that at first glance make it look like you can lose your salvation.
We’ve looked at a bunch of passages from the Old Testament, several passages from Matthew, including the so-called unpardonable sin; passages from John, passages from Acts, such as the conversion of Simon the Sorcerer. And then last week we looked at passages from Paul; we looked at Galatians 5:4 where it says, “You have been severed from Christ,” and I tried to show you what I think that means; and “you have fallen from grace.” And then we looked at the so-called household codes where it mentions a bunch of sins and it says those that live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. There’s about four of those so we went through those so we went through those and I tried to show you that none of them really deny the security of the believer when rightly understood.
We’re continuing to move through Paul and some passages that are sometimes used to deny security.
One of them is Romans 8:13, which says, “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” So you look at a verse like that and it says basically to the believer, because these are people that have the Spirit, you’ll notice the word “Spirit” there, but if you go back “to the flesh, you will die.” And kind of a side note, a lot of people today are arguing that we are one-natured as Christians.
The Reformed camp says that over and over and over again, that we’re not two natured. And frankly I don’t believe that’s true, I think that we are dual natured in the sense that the Holy Spirit comes inside of me and I receive the new nature at the point of faith alone in Christ alone. But have you noticed that the old nature doesn’t wither away and die? It’s always there to return to. Now we don’t have to return to it but we certainly can return to it. So we are very much dual natured in that sense and we don’t become single natured until I’m out of this body which would be glorification. So as long as I’m in this body I have the potential of going back to the sin nature almost at will and God has given me certain resources where I don’t have to do that.
But you’ll notice that it says here in Romans 8:13 if you go back to the sin nature, which is the sarx or the flesh, then it says you will die, and people that deny eternal security say well “die” means you lose your salvation. But I don’t think that’s what it means here; it’s not talking about a loss of salvation. It’s, in actuality, talking about the reality of a death-like existence as a consequence of being temporarily separated from the joys and blessings of walking in fellowship with God.
So when I go back to the sin nature and I live in the sin nature and I don’t confess my sins to God basically I’m still saved positionally but my fellowship with God has been broken. So I may be pleasing to God positionally but the moment by moment intimacy and walk with God, practically I’m displeasing Him. It’s just like a relationship, a marriage for example; I can offend my wife, she can offend me but we’re still married, right? Positionally. But until I confess whatever I said that hurt her or vice versa the fellowship, the intimacy in the marriage which still exists is largely broken. So that’s basically what returning to the sin nature does in the life of the Christian. And that’s the death that he’s speaking of here; not eternal death, it’s a death-like existence and you’re sort of cut off from joys and blessing of walking in fellowship with God.
And what you’ll discover is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, warns us over and over again of this death-like existence. Just a few verses, you might notice the book of James; James has quite a bit to say about this. James is really misunderstood. To understand the book of James you have to understand that he’s writing to believers that have the Spirit. And people want to turn James into a test of whether a person is saved and that’s not the point of James at all. They clearly have the Spirit, chapter 4, verse 5 says that. [James 4:5, “Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?”] But he’s warning them about if you go back to the flesh you will die in the sense that your fellowship with God will be broken.
James 1:15 says, “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” So there can be death even in the life of a Christian who’s eternally secure in terms of fellowship. James 5:20 says virtually the same thing, it says, “let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” So if God uses you to turn someone, a fellow believer away from the sin nature you’re sparing him from death, not positional but practical.
The Apostle Paul talks a lot about this idea over in 1 Timothy, chapter 5 and verse 6. It’s talking about a widow, “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” So the only thing she really has, this person given over to wanton pleasure, she has momentary pleasure which sin does bring but she’s dead even while she lives; as long as she’s in that state she can’t enjoy moment by moment intimacy with God.
Over in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, verse 24, he says, “for this son of mine” this is the prodigal son, remember, “for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” And your typical interpretation of the prodigal son is it’s an unbeliever that gets saved; that’s how most people preach that and that’s the prodigal coming home. Well, let me ask you a question: if it’s an unbeliever getting saved how does that fit the analogy of returning home? How does that fit the analogy of the prodigal still retaining his position as a son?
And by the way, Luke was written to Theophilus, when you study Theophilus in Luke 1:1-4 you’ll find that he’s very much a believer. [Luke 1:1-4, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,  it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;  so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”]
So the story of the prodigal son is not an unbeliever getting saved, you go to the Gospel of John for that. This is talking about an out of fellowship believer that gets restored back into fellowship.
And you say well gosh, that’s very severe terminology, death, I mean, is it really that serious to be out of fellowship with God even though your fire insurance may be paid up and you’re going to heaven? Well, you look at the life of David, David of course being the second King of Israel, I don’t think there’s any doubt that David was saved. Right? But David, as we know, stepped out of fellowship with God through his sins that are given in 2 Samuel 11; he committed first of all adultery, then he tried to cover it up through the commission of murder. And you do those two you’ve only violated two major of the Ten Commandments. And he then pretended like it never happened which is basically what we do when we go into sin, we just kind of bury it and act like no big deal.
And David, I think it was about six months to a year we’re told that he lived in this condition. And Psalm 32 is the description of his life in that condition. Psalm 32:1 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!” So he’s talking there about the blessings he experienced when he finally came clean and confessed his sin to God. Verse 3 says, “When I kept silent” that’s describing the six months to a year that he wouldn’t confess what he had done, “When I kept silent about my sin,” now tell me if this doesn’t sound like death, “my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality” vitality is life, right, “My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” And then there’s little word here that shows up all the way through this Psalm and many Psalms, “Selah,” which basically means to consider carefully, to contemplate carefully. And then he says, “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.” And he says “Selah” again.
So he’s contrasting what his life was like after he confessed his sin where spiritual life and enjoyment of God returned versus what it was like before he confessed his sin, and he says as long as he was in that unconfessed state, even as a believer, his vitality was stripped away like the draining of water, or a swamp, or draining water at least, and God’s hand was heavy on him. How often was God’s hand heavy on him? I think it says [verse 4] “day and night” doesn’t it. And he talks about “groaning all day long.” [verse 3] So that’s what Paul is warning you against here. Don’t go back to the sin nature because you will die; it’s not necessarily a statement of loss of salvation; it’s a statement of enjoyment of God’s blessings, fellowship disappears from a person’s life.
You know, the most miserable people on planet earth, the most unhappy people are God’s people in sin in an unconfessed state. And the reason I know that is because God loves you, loves me too much to see us wreck our lives in sin. We always think well, you know, I can kind of contain it and I can keep things under control and we’re self-deceived because we don’t really understand the nature of sin; we don’t understand is horrific consequences. And so we think we can play a little game of getting close to it, committing a few and it’s really not going to affect us. And so when you get into that condition God just sits there and bothers you. In fact, I believe Lot’s largely was in that condition all those years he spent in Sodom and Gomorrah because he talks about his soul being vexed and some of the Bible versions translate it as tormented.
So if you want to be very unhappy in your life then go back into sin because God is not going to allow you to feel good in that condition very long, because he loves you too much to see you wreck your life in it so He’ll just sit there and bother you. Amen! Anybody been in that condition? I’ve been in that condition and it isn’t a fun place. So that’s what Paul’s warning about, it’s not an eternal security kind of issue.
And it couldn’t be an eternal security issue because what does He say at the end of Romans 8? What I quoted was at the beginning of Romans 8, what does He say at the end of Romans 8?  “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s a powerful eternal security verse which, if you could go back to the sin nature and lose eternal security in Romans 8:13 that would be a contradiction of what he says at the end of the chapter. That wouldn’t make any sense.
Let me take you to another verse that is used to deny security. Go over one book to the right, from Romans, go over to 1 Corinthians 8:11, and I’m going to use the King James Version because a lot of people use the King James Version and the King James Version translates it in a way that makes it look like you can lose your salvation, which says, “And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” So 1 Corinthians 8, 9 and 10 are dealing with the subject of your freedom in Christ. So “in Christ” you have freedom to do a lot of things but as Paul says “all things are lawful but not all things are” what? “expedient” or “profitable.” [“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10:23]
And the specific issue he’s dealing with here is food sacrificed to idols. What’s the big deal, I’m under the grace of God, if I eat food sacrificed to idols it doesn’t damage me spiritually so what? Well, what do you do with somebody that just got saved that has a strong Jewish background and they’ve been told their whole life that food sacrificed to idols is a sin. Now they just got saved, they don’t have the theological understanding you have, you know there’s nothing wrong with eating food sacrificed to idols but that’s not their conviction. And they really haven’t had time to grow, so what do you do then? What do you do with your freedom? Do you just flaunt it in their face or do you volitionally curtail your freedom for the benefit of somebody else?
And that’s what Paul is getting at and he talks about what happens to the weaker brother when you flaunt your freedom in their face. They actually perish. It says ,“And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” [KJV]
And they look at that word “perish” and they go oh my gosh, that’s hell because that’s how the word “perish” is used in the famous John 3:16 passage, right, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not” what? “perish, but have eternal life.” So when people see that word “perish” in 1 Corinthians 8:11 they kind of develop this argument that the weaker brother can actually go to hell if you flaunt your freedom.
Well let me ask you just a real simple question; would God ever condition someone’s eternity based on the response of another believer? I mean, if I flaunt my freedom or I don’t flaunt my freedom why would God base someone’s eternity based on my decision to flaunt my freedom or not flaunt my freedom. So that really doesn’t make sense, does it. I’ll just give you an example of this. Before I got married I had a roommate, a really nice guy, he was a Christian but he was coming out of a lifestyle of severe alcoholism and he got saved and actually he had part of his liver removed and all of these things because of the abuse of alcoholic beverages.
Now my understanding of the Bible and I don’t mean to get any Baptists mad at me here, I don’t really see any great sin in social drinking; I really don’t. I see a sin in drunkenness, I see that very clearly condemned in Ephesians 5:18, [Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,”] but let’s say I’m mowing my lawn in Houston and I’m hot and I go into my house and I open up a cold beer and drink it. I mean, I really don’t think I’m in sin. However, what if I did that in the presence of this recovering alcoholic? I could sit and argue him theologically because he had such a bad experience with alcoholic beverages that in our apartment he banned anything related to alcohol, even certain recipes and bottles of things that you pour in for like spice and flavor and things like that, if it had alcohol in it, it was of the apartment. That was no big issue with me because I’m not a drinker anyway. But what if I had just flaunted my freedom in his presence? I would have actually been destroying him; see that? I would have been putting him back under a state of bondage and he would very much be perishing, not going to hell but going back into bondage. See that? And so that is really what Paul is dealing with here.
Gromacki, the New Testament scholar defines “perish” in the 1 Corinthians 8 passage as follows: The weak Christian perishes in that he suffered a spiritual loss, a sense of sin and that affected his fellowship with God. The reckless use of liberty actually violates the purposes for which Christ died. That’s what “perish” means; “perish” doesn’t mean hell everywhere it’s used. It certainly means that in John 3:16. [John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”] But its flaunting one’s freedom to the point where you’re putting someone else in a state of bondage.
So back to the alcohol examples, once I saw that my wife and I just made a commitment that we’re just not going to drink. We don’t have alcoholic beverages in our house and the reason is because I’m actually a Bible teacher and what if someone around town saw me drinking? Maybe they are a recovering alcoholic and I would be using my freedom in a way which would put them in a state of bondage. So because of the position I’m in I just decided, we just decided as a couple that we’re just not going to drink alcohol even though we don’t have any big issue with Christians that drink alcohol. It’s a private conviction that we’ve decided as a couple to live by because we don’t want others to perish.
And how you come down on that is between you and the Lord; it’s a freedom in Christ issue. I mean, you’ve got a lot of freedom as a Christian to do a lot of things but there are times when we’re called to volitionally curtail our freedom for the benefits of somebody else, recognizing that the use of that freedom could cause someone else to perish, not go to hell but go back into a state of bondage. So that’s really what he’s doing here, it’s not an eternal security issue even though the word “perish” is used, at least in the King James Bible. So this can’t be a loss of salvation issue because what it’s dealing with is abuse of liberty damages the immature Christian’s growth. That’s what he means by perishing. You’re putting an obstruction in their pathway to maturity. Hopefully that makes sense.
And let me take you to another one if I could, let’s go to 1 Corinthians 9, I told you these would go faster once we got beyond those big problem passages about the unpardonable sin. Notice 1 Corinthians 9, just one chapter to the right, verses 24-27, a very common verse that’s used by people to deny the security of the believer. Paul says… I think Paul was a sports fan because so many things he talks about deal with sports and in Corinth, I’ll show it to you on a map in a second, there as an isthmus or a land bridge separating Corinth from Athens and on this land bridge they had a lot of Olympic contests, what is kind of a precursor to our Olympics, called the Isthmian Games where people were competing as athletes and they were rewarded with crowns and things of that nature.
So you’ll notice Paul uses the Isthmian games, that the Corinthians all understood, as a springboard for teaching spiritual truths. So 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.”
So Paul himself is teaching the doctrine of rewards and he is acknowledging that there are certain rewards God will give to some Christians and not others at the Bema Seat, and here he’s talking about the incorruptible crown for gaining mastery over the flesh or the sin nature. Just because you’re saved it’s not automatically guaranteed that you’re going to live above and beyond the sin nature. In fact, I would argue most Christians are not living above and beyond the sin nature because they’re not in an environment where they’re given instruction on how to live above the sin nature and they don’t really understand their resources in Christ whereby they can reckon the sin nature dead and not obey it even though it’s powerfully trying to pull them backwards into sin.
So the believer that is not perfect but basically lives a life above and beyond the sin nature is given a prize. That’s the context, it’s a rewards context. The problem really comes in when it says “I myself will not be disqualified.” So people, rather than understanding this as a reward think it’s talking about going to heaven. So the issue is what prize does Paul think he might be disqualified from? If you don’t have a doctrine of rewards in your theology, and by the way, here are the five crowns that will either be given or not given at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ following the rapture. The incorruptible crown for gaining mastery over the flesh, [1Cor 9:24-27]; the crown of rejoicing for the soul winner [1 Thess. 2:19-20], the crown of life for the believer that endures trials [James 1:12, Revelation 2:10]; the crown of glory for the believer that faithfully shepherds God’s people [1 Peter 5:2-4], and the crown of righteousness simply for longing for His appearing [2 Timothy 4:8]. And in the far left column you’ll see the verses where I got each of those.
But a lot of believers don’t have a doctrine of rewards so if you don’t have any doctrine of rewards what are you going to do with this word “disqualify”? People look at that and say Paul is buffeting his body and making it his slave so that he doesn’t go to hell is the way people understand that, wrongly. If that is what Paul is saying then he would contradict everything he ever taught about salvation because how do we gain salvation? By faith alone in Christ alone and we’ve been justified freely by His grace. Paul says that over and over again. He says it in Ephesians 2:8-9. [Ephesians 2:8-9, “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.”] So then if Paul were to turn right around and say I buffet my body and make it my slave lest I have preached to others I might go back to the sin nature and be disqualified, meaning going to hell, he just contradicted what he taught about the doctrine of salvation, which is always gained by faith alone in Christ alone by grace.
So Paul, from his other very clear verses, never taught a theology which based his salvation on his ability to buffet his body and make it his slave and keep his sin nature in check. If Paul taught that not only would he be contradicting everything else he ever said about the doctrine of salvation he would be teaching a doctrine of works. And really, when you get right down to it (and people don’t like to hear this) but the truth of the matter is the view that you can lose your salvation is nothing more than a doctrine of works because the focus is always on you and your ability to stay away from some kind of sin. The spotlight is no longer on Christ and what He has done for you and how He’s given you a free gift that you’ve received by faith and it can never be withdrawn, that’s no longer the focus; suddenly I’m the focus. The focus is my ability to stay away from sins X, Y and Z.
So in this doctrine of eternal security or lack thereof is a heavy works emphasis. And I think it’s a legitimate question to ask people who believe very strongly you can lose your salvation, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask them are you really saved. I mean, who in the world are you trusting in? Have you trusted in Christ to give you eternal life and keep you? Or has works and your works mentality simply followed you into your so-called Christianity, because under Arminianism you literally are your own savior. It is simply a works based system.
So is Paul teaching works here? No, he’s not teaching works here. If he was teaching works here he contradicts everything he ever said about the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. What he is teaching here is the doctrine of rewards; that’s the disqualification. The disqualification is not going to heaven; the disqualification is a disqualification of receiving a reward above and beyond salvation. And there will be people, mark my words, at the Bema Seat Judgment, who will enter heaven and will stand before the Lord at the Great White Throne Judgment and not be rewarded. How do I know that? Because Paul has explained that very clearly, has he not, in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.
[1 Corinthians 3:11-15, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,  each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”]
He talks there about people who are saved so as by fire; I mean, they made it in by God’s grace but they smell the smoke on their garments almost because their life is spent “in Christ” in fleshly pursuits and they’re in heaven and that’s great, but they’re unrewarded in heaven. And one of the things I love about Paul is he practiced what he preached. He taught this doctrine so aggressively about loss of rewards that he says I myself am a little bit worried from time to time, that after I’ve preached to others I might go back to the flesh and be disqualified from the prize; “the prize” is not heaven, the prize is rewards received above and beyond salvation.
So how do we please God? We believe in His provision, Jesus Christ’s, so as to be justified and then we grow in our progressive sanctification, learn about our resources and we seek to live a life under God’s power, not a perfect life but hopefully a life that’s not sinless but sins less as we mature and grow. That’s how we please God practically and that’s the believer that God rewards; that’s the believer that God uses. That’s the believer that has intimacy with God moment by moment.
Let’s go to another verse, go over to 1 Corinthians 11, a lot of these are in Corinthians interestingly enough. How would you like to be the pastor of The First Corinthians Church. I mean, these guys… and it’s funny, they’re called saints at the beginning of the book but they’re not acting like saints, they’re acting like aint’s, just take the “s” off. So they’re positionally right with God but they’re really not living, growing the way God would have them to grow. In fact, these people got so messed up that they actually showed up to the Lord’s table inebriated or drunk. I mean, how low can we go here guys? There’s a reason why Ray Stedman used to call 1 Corinthians 1 Californians.
Now here I’m quoting from the King James Version because it translates one of the words a certain way which causes people to question can you lose your salvation. Paul says, [1 Corinthians 11:28] “But let a man examine himself, so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily” you should underline that word “unworthily” in verse 27, it says that also in verse 29, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation” that’s how the King James translates it, “damnation,” so people think that’s got to be hell. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.  For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”
So the word “damnation” makes it look at first glance that if I show up to the Lord’s table with a heart that’s not right then my eternal destiny is somehow in the balance, I can lose my salvation. But what I want you to see is verse 32, which I think is the key to the whole thing. He says, “But when we are judged, we are” what? “disciplined by the Lord, so that we will not be condemned along with” the what? “the world.” The world is characterized by certain sins and God doesn’t want us to be like the world. He wants us to be different than the world so what He does to us is He applies momentary pain in our lives to get us to associate the pain with the sin and that keeps us away from behaving just like the world. But you’ll see very clearly that He’s distinguishing the Corinthians from the unsaved world.
So even though the King James translates that “damnation” it’s not talking about the same damnation that the unbelieving world one day will experience, it’s really talking about a different category. So what is this talking about; I mean, some of them are sick, some of them have “fallen asleep,” the King James translates that “damnation” which I don’t think is the best translation.
What it’s talking about is chastisement which can be so severe that it can result in what I like to call maximum discipline, where God actually takes believers home early. He terminates their natural life span because they’re such an embarrassment to Him. And it’s very clear here that that’s what God did with some of the Corinthians. These people didn’t go to hell, their eternal security was not an issue. What God did is He introduced death, that’s what He means when He says “some of you have fallen asleep.” The word “asleep” is a figure of speech called a euphemism, you recognize the “eu” prefix as in euphoria; a euphemism is a polite way of saying something.
He could have said they croaked, they kicked the bucket, some kind of crass terminology but he uses a polite way, a euphemism, he just says they fell asleep which is a pretty good description of the believer’s death because yes, they’re out of their body but they’re going to need their body one day, so just as sleep is temporary the position of the body as the believer separates from their body is temporary as well because in the great resurrection, which we believe will happen at the rapture of the church, they’ll be in that body again except it’ll look better and feel better because it will be resurrected. So that’s why the euphemism of “sleep” there is an appropriate one.
So what he’s dealing with here, and even though the King James I don’t think is the best translation, translating this damnation, it’s really not an eternal security passage; it’s really talking about maximum divine discipline. We’ve already seen that with Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-11. We’ve seen that in the church at Thyatira, Revelation 2:23-24. And you see that concept in the writings of the Apostle John, 1 John 5:19 where he talks about a sin that leads unto death. So these are divine discipline passages and you see that because the Corinthians are distinguished from the world. He’s doing this because he doesn’t want them to be like the world, they are distinguished from the world. And the King James, unfortunately translates that as damnation and people see the word “damnation” and think it’s hell. It’s not talking about hell.
Now while I’m on the topic of 1 Corinthians 11 let me just clear up a major misunderstanding and that comes from the word “unworthily,” we saw it in our passage but if you go back to verse 27 I want you to understand something. It says, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord in an unworthy” what? “manner shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”
So here’s how your typical Christian (and this is how it’s taught 99.99% of the time, if I come to the communion table and I have some kind of unconfessed sin in my life from six months ago or a year ago or something that happened a long time ago and I’ve never confessed it, then God can strike me dead at the communion table. And I want you to understand that that is not what the verse is talking about. It does not say “unworthy” it says “unworthy manner.” See the difference. We might put it this way; it doesn’t say unworthy, it says unworthily; unworthily, which I think is the right understanding of verse 27, unworthily, sometimes translated unworthy manner, is an adverb, not an adjective. What’s the difference between an adverb and an adjective. An adjective modifies a noun; an adverb describes a verb. So adverbs, you remember from English grammar, basically end in l-y… we don’t have any Sam’s in here do we? Sam ran quickly. What’s the verb? Ran. What’s the adverb? Quickly. Quickly describes running.
So when Paul condemns the Corinthians for coming to the Lord’s table unworthily he’s not talking about some sin they committed six months ago, he is describing the behavior of these people as they practice the Lord’s table. That’s what God is mad about. He’s not worried that they’re unworthy, I mean, we’re all unworthy (outside of Christ obviously). He’s talking about unworthily, he’s talking about the practice of communion on that given Sunday, is what God’s mad about.
And what was wrong with their practice? Well, pretty much everything, other than the fact that they were at least trying to do communion, I’ll give them credit for that, but Paul says you’ve taken what is holy and you’ve made it profane. You’ve taken the communion table and you’ve turned it into a common meal; that’s what God is mad about. It was like a picnic lunch kind of thing. And that’s why he says, quoting Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Caddy Shack, not the best movie to be watching as a Christian… no, it wasn’t Rodney Dangerfield, it was the guy that plays the judge, what was the guy’s name? I won’t test your knowledge because you’ll reveal your carnality that you’ve watched that movie.
But he makes a statement, I think it was Ted Knight, right? He said something like don’t you have homes, you know, like go eat at home. And that’s what Paul is basically saying; he’s saying don’t you have homes for this? In other words, if you want to have a common meal go home and have your common meal but don’t take what’s sacred in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ and turn it into a common meal. And beyond that you had to have… it was a pay to play mentality that they had because the only people that could participate at the Lord’s Table were people that had resources. So you had to have resources to participate because it was a common meal so what do you do with the brother and sister in Christ that’s poor? They’re excluded from the whole process.
And you see, the dominant theme of Corinthians, it was J. Dwight Pentecost that opened my eyes to this, the dominant problem in the book of Corinthians is divisions; in almost every major section you’ll see Paul upset about divisions. And the way these people were practicing the Lord’s Table brought division into the body of Christ. It put an unnatural barrier into the body of Christ because if you were wealthy and had means then you could participate because they had turned this into a common meal. If you were not wealthy and didn’t have means, even though you had Jesus and the Holy Spirit inside of you, you were on the outside.
And if all of that weren’t enough these people had actually shown… it shows how little respect they had for the Lord’s table, they actually showed up (as you study this chapter) intoxicated. I mean, can you imagine that, coming to the Lord’s table wasted? And that’s what was happening in Corinth. And now that you understand that background, now you understand why he uses that adverb, verse 27, therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord “in an unworthy manner”… what manner? The manner in which they are practicing it, “shall be guilty of the body and blood of Christ.” And that’s why God moved into this church with divine discipline, some became sick, some died.
Now the reason I covered that background is because most people are terrified to come to the Lord’s Table unnecessarily because the way they think, and I know this because I thought this way myself for many years until I understood what was happening here, gosh, maybe there’s some sin that I committed when I was 16 that I never confessed. I mean, can you even remember all the sins you committed at age 16? I mean, that’s an impossible burden in and of itself, too many to confess when you think about it. But if I come with that unconfessed sin, boom, I could be struck dead, and that’s not what it’s saying. It’s not saying unworthy (do you follow?); it’s saying “unworthily.” The only way you can come under this type of discipline is if you’re disrespectful in your tone and attitude towards the Lord’s Table on that given Sunday morning that you’re practicing it. So hopefully that alleviates a little fear in people. So again, it’s not a loss of salvation issue, it’s a divine discipline issue.
Let me cover one more, 1 Corinthians 15:2, this is the resurrection chapter. Paul says, “by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in” what? “in vain.” Now Arminians love that verse because “believed in vain” means you had salvation then it was taken away. The Reformed camp loves that verse because they have the doctrine of spurious faith, they talk about the faith that saves and the faith that doesn’t save, which I oppose that doctrine from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. And the reason I do is because of the negative effect it has on God’s people. If you believe there’s a faith that saves and a faith that doesn’t save you’re going to spend your whole life wondering what? Do I have the right kind of faith.
Faith saves, period! It doesn’t matter if your faith is followed by good works or not; faith saves, period! Let me ask you just a simple question; when Noah walked into the ark with his family, which I would guess would be one step into the ark, right, he took one step and he was saved from water. Did his salvation from water depend upon him holding the door the rest of the flood, to make sure water never came in? No, because that would make Noah’s salvation from water contingent on his performance. It’s not his holding the door that kept him safe; what kept him safe was the grace of God and he took a single step. The moment anybody in their entire life, I don’t care if they did it as a little kid or whenever, if they ever exercised faith in Jesus Christ they are saved, period.
Now that’s not what you’re going to get from Reformed circles. That’s not what you’re going to get at the Passion conference and all these big Reformed conferences, they say there’s a faith that saves and a faith that doesn’t save and unless your faith is characterized by fruit and sorrow and this and that it’s not the real kind of faith. So you can see why this verse is a very happy verse to their theology because it talks about believing “in vain,” there it is they say, there’s a faith that saves and a faith that doesn’t save.
Again, you’re rescued from these very poor understandings of the Bible by going back to the context. 1 Corinthians 15:2 says, “by which you are saved, if you hold fast the Word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” Now what chapter in the Bible are we in here? What do we call this? The resurrection chapter. These people in Corinth are denying bodily resurrection and that’s why Paul in verse 12 says, “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
Now why would these people here in Corinth deny resurrection? They deny it because that is what was taught in Greece; Greece was overrun by an early form of Gnosticism. Gnosticism, Gnostic’s taught a dualism and they basically said the spiritual world is good, the physical world is bad. That was the overarching belief system or philosophy all over Greece and it became more dominant in the second century.
And that’s why when Paul is preaching in Greece on Mars Hill he had an audience, until he got to this part about the resurrection. He’s getting ready to close his sermon there on Mars Hill, Acts 17:32, he says, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer,” well, why are they sneering? Well, there can’t be a resurrection from the dead because we believe, Gnosticism, the spiritual world is good, the physical world is bad. “…but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’”
I mean, he had common bond with these people; his unsaved audience he was reaching them until he got to this subject of resurrection. So that’s in Greece. Now let me ask you a question; how far away is Greece from Corinth. You can’t see it well on that map but they’re right next to each other. In fact, what separates Greece from Corinth is that little strip, called an isthmus, where soldiers, to prevent going around the southern part of Greece, where many lives were lost, they would just drag their boats on wheels across this land bridge. And so the mentality in Greece was very connected to the mentality in Corinth and this mentality seeped into the Corinthians church. And so the Corinthians believers, who were all saved, started to question whether there is such a thing as resurrection.
And that’s why Paul is explaining 1 Corinthians 15, why he’s defending resurrection to these people. He’s not just… the thing to understand about the Bible is it’s what we call “crisis literature,” it’s not like reading Oswald Chambers thought for the day; that’s not the way the Bible is written. The Bible is written to resolve problems; there were actual crises happening here in Corinth, not the least of which was the movement of incipient Gnosticism into the Corinthians church which was causing Christians to doubt bodily resurrection because after all, the physical world is bad, the spiritual world is good.
So Paul spends a whole chapter defending resurrection. And he makes an interesting statement in verse 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in” what? “vain, and “your faith is also in vain.” His only point is simply this; if you have believed in a Jesus that never rose from the dead then you’re believing in a Jesus that has no power to save you anyway because you’re believing in a man that never authenticated who he was through his bodily resurrection. So what he’s saying is your whole gospel has no power if there is no such thing as the bodily resurrection from the dead. He’s trying to get them to understand… it’s just a really simple point he’s making, he’s trying to get them to see the ramifications of buying into incipient Gnosticism, the ramifications being if Jesus really did not rise from the dead then there’s no sense in believing in Jesus for salvation because He doesn’t have the power to pull it off anyway.
He’s not getting into the subject of whether these people are saved. So when he says you believed in vain he’s not at all getting into the topic of loss of salvation and he’s not developing the Reformed doctrine of the two faiths. That’s totally contrary to the context of the passage. He just is making a very simple point, if, in fact, Jesus never rose from the dead, and you guys might be going down this road because you’re starting to buy into incipient Gnosticism, then you’ve believed in someone who doesn’t have the power to save you anyway. And that’s what he means by “believing in vain.” So that makes some kind of sense.
Now next week we’re going to look in depth at the passage “examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith” because a lot of people take that to mean oh my gosh, I’ve got to examine myself to make sure I’m a Christian. And I’ll show you contextually that’s not what he’s dealing with. So we’ll probably spend the whole lesson just on that one verse.
Any questions or thoughts?