Monday, June 13, 2011

Clarification From Yesterday's Message on Encouragement

Yesterday morning I preached the second in a series of 8 messages on the 'one another's of the New Testament. "Encourage one another " was the focal command for yesterday. One of the four reasons I gave for obeying this command was this:

"3. Biblical encouragement is a primary means God uses to keep us saved."

I based this statement from what the author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 3:12-14 - "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelievingly heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort/encourage one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end."

Let me assure everyone reading this blog: Matt Pearson believes in the doctrine of eternal security!!! The Bible is loud and clear about that from the beginning to the end. Denying that denies much of the Bible and the beautiful grace of God in salvation. My hope is that God will keep me saved today and tomorrow and forever; not in Matt Pearson's works.

But I also MUST let the Bible speak and let the Bible drive my convictions and theology and doctrine, not my preconceived ideas and notions. I believe in the doctrine of eternal security AND I believe Hebrews 3:12-14.

Now, according to Hebrews 3:12-14, if some things don't happen, believers might fall away from God. They are commanded to : (1) take care; (2) encourage one another; and (3) hold firm their original confidence to the end. If they don't, they might develop an evil, unbelievingly. heart and become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin - leading them to fall away from God and not share in Christ in the end.

Since I believe that I cannot lose my salvation, then when I read that text, I have a choice to make. I can:
(a). Ignore it because even if I do drift a bit, I am okay; or...
(b). Diligently heed the command/warning, seeing it as a gift of God's grace for me and the church to stay saved.

Which do you think is more biblical? Which defines a child of God more concretely? Of course, (b) is the correct response.

Now. If I do not obey, am I still a Christian? Maybe. If I ignore this/these command(s) I either demonstrate either (1) I never was saved in the first place; or, (2) miss God's best for me, get convicted by the Spirit of God, and by His grace press on to heed this grace for me in the
days ahead.

Jesus said in Matthew 24 that the one who endures to the end (by following Him in obedience) will be saved. Likewise, Paul said to work out your salvation with fear and trembling in Philippians 2.

So, do I believe that once a believer is authentically saved by the grace of Christ and the Spirit of God that he/she will ALWAYS be saved? You betcha. But I also believe (because of texts like Hebrews 3:12-14) that this includes the fact that God graciously uses means to keep us saved, one of them being that the church heed the command to encourage one another to the end.

Why else is the Bible here? Was not the majority of the NT written for churches??? Why is it all there unless it is to be used as a means to keep the church graciously and gloriously saved?

Why would we need each other if we could get by as believers all by ourselves? We can't!!! This is why God graciously gave us each other.
God graciously uses means to keep us saved, so diligently and intentionally encourage one another TODAY. By doing so, you reveal the Spirit's work in your own heart (bringing confirmation to your soul of God working in and through you); AND you just might be a means God has ordained to keep a brother or sister from falling away from the living God.


Mark Osgatharp said...


My name is Mark Osgatharp. I live in Cross County and pastor Lakeview Missionary Baptist Church. Looking at the Wynne Baptist Church web-site and your blog, I noticed your comments about the warning in Hebrews against falling away.

I appreciate your willingness to grapple with such texts because many Baptists just sweep them under the rug. However, I would like to offer an alternative interpretation of the text to that you've given.

So far as I read the Scriptures, the only means God uses to "keep us saved" is His own power. Were this not so we could never have the assurance of eternal life promised to all who believe on Christ.

The suggestion that those who "fall away" are unregenrate does not square with the text nor any other Scriptures, which everywhere warn real believers against falling away.

Also, the suggestion that a believer "maybe" is not "authentically saved" pushes the weak and wavering believer even further into doubt and despair. Again, the Scriptures everywhere affirm that all who believes on the Lord Jesus have eternal life.

My understanding of the Hebrews passage - and all others which warn believers against falling away - is that it is a warning against backsliding and has nothing to do with having eternal life per se. Falling away is a real possibility for real believers. But falling away does not equate to "losing eternal life." Neither does falling away prove that the subject is not regenerate.

The believer who falls away with an evil heart of unbelief will fall under the chastening hand of God (see Hebrews chapter 12), perhaps even dying under the chastening hand of God if he does not repent of his backslidings (see I Corinthians chapter 11). Conversely, he will not experience the great blessing and work of God in his life that comes to the faithful.

This was the experience of the Jews which are held up in Hebrews as an example of those who depart from the living God. Had they trusted God, they would have gone down in history as the generation who conquered Canaan by the power of God. Rather, they were the generation who wandered in the wilderness of Sin for 40 years.

Even Moses, faithful as he was, was denied entrance to the promised land because of one unbelieving act of rebellion against God. Does this mean Moses was not a real believer or did not possess eternal life? Absolutely not! But it does mean that he missed what would have been the greatest blessing of his life.

Let me also suggest that very often the Scriptures use the terms "saved" and "salvation" with no reference to having eternal life, but rather to the salvation of our mortal life. One such example is the passage you mentioned from Philippians which says "work out your own salvation". In the same passage Paul spoke of the prayers of the saints turning to his own "salvation".

Certainly Paul did not think his eternal destiny depended on iota on anything that he or anyone else did. But his "salvation" - that is deliverance - from all the persecutions and tribulations he faced was effected by his own faithfulness and helped by the prayers and fellowship of those who stood with him.

And so the Lord taught us to pray every day,

"Lead us not into temptation but deliver us" - save us - "from evil".

Brother, we live in a day when Baptists as a people have lost well nigh all their moral and spiritual moorings. The warnings of God to His people against falling away from faithfulness to Him and His word are sorely needed - probably more than you or I can possibly imagine. These warnings must be under girded by the strong assurance of the hope of eternal life through Christ, which is the only foundation on which any man can live a life that is pleasing to God.

I hope these few words may be of some help to you as you minister God's word.

Mark Osgatharp

Bro. Matt said...

Pastor Mark,

I, too, appreciate your comments very, very much. You are right in that we need to wrestle with these things and make sure we get them right. Too much is at stake if we miss it...both for ourselves and our hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).

Although there are several items you mention I could comment on (I am not sure I agree with or follow your use of the word 'salvation'; and I question whether anyone can still be a Christian and not believe?), I simply want to reiterate here something that I want to be clear on and not be misunderstood to have said. It is something, I believe, that you and I will TOTALLY agree on. In fact, it is the root of this entire discussion in the first place.

You said, "So far as I read the Scriptures, the only means God uses to 'keep us saved' is His own power." YES! YES! YES! and AMEN! I agree with that and believe it with all of my might. Matt Pearson will be saved tomorrow morning, not because of Matt Pearson, but because of the grace and mercy and love and power of God to keep me saved. YES! I have little hope if this were not true.

My point in saying what I said the way I said it (and, perhaps, I could have stated the terminology a bit different in point #3...though I do mean what I said) was simply that God does the keeping and He keeps us by various means - one of them being our encouraging one another to 'finish the course' and 'keep our eyes on Jesus' and 'keep believing,' etc. He doesn't HAVE to use encouragement as a means to keep us saved (just like He doesn't have to use me to share the Gospel with my neighbor), but He has CHOSEN to use it as a means to keep us saved. It is a grace from God that is another majestic way He displays His glory and love for us, by ordaining that we have each other (the church) to encourage one another to stay the course.

I said what I said so that God would further be glorified in our hearts. Encouraging one another is a means God has chosen to use (by HIS POWER!)to keep us saved. Praise God for His sovereign purposes being realized and accomplished and effective through the church (Ephesians 3:10).

Thanks for the dialogue. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry in your love for people, love for the integrity of the Word, and as you seek to see Christ glorified.