Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Will All True Christians be Presented Blameless at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

Lordship Salvation (Lordship Calvinism) has a peculiar doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. It states that all true Christians will persevere (and grow) in faith, faithfulness, and obedience until death. This doctrine states that sanctification is inevitable in the life of the believer. In this theology, all will receive a “Well done, good and faithful servant” by Christ. All will receive the Kingdom as an inheritance; all will reign with Christ; all will be presented before Him blameless.

Yet the Bible and its authors are much more realistic than that. Holiness is never presented in Scripture as being taken for granted in Christians. We find many passages demanding our sanctification, and warnings against apathy and retrogression. Perseverance is never guaranteed in the life of the regenerate one. The believer is admonished, encouraged, warned, and motivated by rewards to endure in the faith until the end. The Bible explicitly entreats the will hundreds of times with commands to pursue holiness.

The writers of the New Testament were under no illusion that perseverance of the saints was inevitable. They understood the necessity of vigilance, determination, and consecration. Significance in this life that would transect into eternity is promised to the Christian saved by grace through faith who submits himself to the demands of discipleship. Purpose and meaning are offered to God’s children; the abundant life is laid out before them! Furthermore, the conditional honors of co-heirship of and co-reigning in the Kingdom of God are obtainable. The victorious Christian will be presented 'blameless' before Christ at His coming.

Yet anytime that man is faced with true responsibility there lies a possibility of failure, and such is the case with the born-again Christian.

Throughout the Bible we see that our posture before Jesus at His coming is contingent upon our actions here on earth. For example:

1 John 2:28
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

Confidence and the absence of shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ is conditioned upon a perseverance in a dynamic and intimate fellowship with Jesus.

Often men and women wonder what God’s will is for their lives. Let me tell you what God desires of His children: sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). Experiential sanctification is a co-operation between man and God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Paul says (Phil 4:13). It is Paul willing and doing, and it is Christ giving the strength; it is a co-operation. If something is a co-operation by definition and one of the parties fails in their responsibilities then the desired result will not be accomplished.

From pulpit and commentary we often hear that the Scripture’s designation of “blameless” is the portion and lot of all who are truly Christians. Does this contention line up with the plain reading of Scripture? Let us take a look:

Col 1:21-23
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight -- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Perseverance in the faith is required to be presented holy, blameless, and above reproach at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Do not confuse this with losing one’s salvation! It is impossible to do so!

Do not make the mistake of thinking that this is referring to man’s final salvation! “Words like ‘holy,’ ‘blameless,’ and ‘above reproach’ do not require the sense of ‘sinless’ or ‘absolutely perfect.’ Men can be described in all these ways who are not completely sinless [see 1 Tim 3:10; Titus 1:6, 7]” (Zane Clark Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, p 90-91).

Cross-reference this passage with a text that comes 5 verses later:

Col 1:28
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect [mature] in Christ Jesus.

Paul preaches, warns, and teaches for the purpose of presenting Christians as mature before Christ.

“[Paul] seeks to bring men to that matured experience of holiness which will enable them to be presented acceptably to God. When they stand on review before Him [at the Judgment Seat of Christ] their lives ought to meet with His approval (see also Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10). But this approval can only be achieved, he cautions his readers, if they hold firmly to their faith in the Gospel and do not allow new ideas and doctrines to move them away from fundamental truths (1:23)” (Hodges, p 90)

1 Thess 3:11-13
Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

Paul prays for the Thessalonians to “abound in love to one another and to all” so that the Father may establish (confirm) them blameless in holiness at Christ’s coming.

1 Thess 5:23
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul prays that God would sanctify the Thessalonians, and prays that they would be preserved blameless before Christ at His coming. Why would Paul pray for something that is inevitable? It is the subjunctive language of request! God has His role in the sanctification process and man has his own.

1 Tim 6:11-16
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

Paul commanded Timothy unto perseverance so as to be without spot and blameless at Jesus Christ’s appearing

The last verse is befitting for a conclusion:

2 Peter 3:14-18
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation -- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

We read in 1 Cor 4:2 that “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” Diligence is required for the Christian to be “found” by Christ without spot and blameless at His coming.

This passage reminds us of a very poignant parable of Christ:

Matt 24:45-51
"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Note Peter’s last comments, which will be excellent to conclude with:

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Peter knew that the “beloved” Christians were not guaranteed perseverance and that 1) falling from steadfastness and 2) being led away with error were real possibilities, so he warned them! Lastly he commands that his readers “grow” in their faith.

Peter’s words here hardly sound like one who is convinced of the Perseverance of the Saints! He warns his readers from falling and commands them to grow! Pointless if their endurance in the faith is guaranteed.

What John, Paul, Peter, and Jesus have warned us about in the previous passages, I warn to you now:

Pursue holiness. Consecrate yourself. Be diligent in sanctification. Lest you be found by Christ at His coming in unfaithfulness and shrink back in shame.

Submitted for your approval. Comments, observations, and objections welcomed.

Antonio da Rosa

Key words: the Judgment Seat of Christ, Bema, blameless, without spot, holiness, sanctification, Perseverance of the Saints, steward, stewardship

14 Comments:

Anonymous Legume said...

Your entry reminds me of the last paragraph of GES’ (condensed) belief statement.

Finally, every Christian must stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, not to determine his eternal destiny, for that is already set, but to assess the quality of his Christian life on earth (2 Cor 5:10; Rev 22:12). Anticipating either reward or loss of reward at the Judgment Seat should also motivate believers to perseverance and to faithfulness to God’s revealed will (1 Cor 3:10 -17, 9:24 -27; Jas 5:8-9; 1 John 2:28). One’s capacity to glorify Jesus will forever be based on how faithful he was in his stewardship in this life (Luke 19:17, 19, 22-26).

I find the last sentence to be both motivating and sobering.

Kevin Kramer

November 04, 2006 8:33 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

A vital message.

November 05, 2006 1:39 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Truly a sober reality!

November 06, 2006 9:41 AM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Did you coin the phrase "Lordship Calvinism"? I like it.
Your post is excellent.

November 06, 2006 10:47 AM  
Anonymous GlennW said...

Your statement about lordship salvation:

It states that all true Christians will persevere (and grow) in faith, faithfulness, and obedience until death. This doctrine states that sanctification is inevitable in the life of the believer.

reminds me of a question that I have had when reading proponents of perseverance of the saints: Why is faithfulness at the end of someone’s life the only faithfulness that counts?

As an example, suppose that three different people (call them Alex, Bonnie, and Charlie) believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (I am using "believe" in the free grace sense) and that each of them (unbeknownst to them) has about 30 years left to live. Alex is a real partier and believed after going through some rough personal times and while having a terrible hangover. Within a few weeks of his conversion (and after his hangover cleared up) he drifted back to his old ways and just forgot about his conversion. Then after ten years he began to think about how empty his life has been and remembered that he had at one time believed. He tracks down a local church and begins regular attendance, cleans up his life, and remains in the faith until his death in twenty more years. I believe that both the lordship salvation and free grace salvation camps would claim he is saved.

Bonnie on the other hand is gung ho for the word from the get go. She attends church regularly and lives what everyone would agree is a good Christian life. However, Bonnie is an ambitious person and as time goes on she puts more and more time and energy into her career. As she is more and more successful she not only begins drifting away from her church and making those "little" compromises required to further her career. After a while she drifts away completely, even those little twinges of guilt she would have at first, fade away after a while. Then, after climbing the corporate ladder and becoming a success, she realizes that she is not happy. The big house and nice car just do not have the capability of making her happy and she realizes that she was happier once upon a time (ten years ago) when she was an active part of a congregation. She chooses to once again begin faithfully attending church and trying to live the Christian life. She remains faithful until her death in about ten years. Once again, I believe that both the lordship salvation and free grace salvation camps would claim she is saved.

Now for Charlie. Charlie meets the love of his life who gives him the gospel which he believes. Charlie marries this wonderful woman, has a family, and has a happy life. Of course Charlie and his family are active in the church and viewed by everyone as the model Christian family. Then after twenty years of happiness Charlie's wife becomes ill with a terminal disease and, after an extended illness, passes away. Charlie is heartbroken and as time goes on he becomes very bitter and openly begins to ask "why did God let this happen". Then one day he stops attending church completely, won't speak to any of his old church friends, he also refuses to return calls from his pastor. Charlie lives for about ten more bitter years and never attends another church service nor even acknowledges that he is a Christian. I believe that this is a situation where lordship salvation and free grace disagree as to Charlie's status. Free gracer's would probably argue that Charlie is indeed saved but I doubt that many lordship salvation advocates would believe he is saved.

So, if this is true, I ask again: Why is faithfulness at the end of our lives the only faithfulness that counts for reformed/lordship advocates? I am not aware of any scriptural justification for this.

Glenn W.

November 06, 2006 11:52 AM  
Blogger Bhedr said...

Wow! This really looks great Antonio. KC really knows how to make things look great.

November 06, 2006 3:46 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Brian,

Actually it was Rose who did the template, and Casey helped with some of the problems she was having.

I also wanted to tell you something.

I was really impressed with all your comments on the Pulpit magazine series on Lordship Salvation.

Very impressed.

Your thoughts were lucid, your explanations persuasive, and your demeaner one of humbleness.

You did a great job!

Antonio

November 06, 2006 5:01 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

The new look is great.

November 07, 2006 12:56 AM  
Blogger the_arkie said...

Glenn W.:

Is this illustration original with you? If you have borrowed this or adapted it from another source, I would like to know. I am considering using this illustration as a part of a Sunday School curriculum I am currently writing. I want to accurately identify my source. If it is original with you . . . kudos for developing such a clear illustrative point!

You may email me directly: padivan@scbglobal.net

Thanks.

BTW Antonio, isn't it amazing that God offers a free gift that ends up costing us more and more the longer we posess it? There is a paradoxical element to salvation that escapes Zane Hodges on this issue. God does not contradict himself . . . it is just that the simplicity of faith on our part is a complexity of grace outworked in our lives on God's part.

Instead of arguing for or against the necessity of life-change, we should simply marvel that God does changes lives, and continue to ask Him to do that wonderful work, in all of our lives, including the lives of those who seem to be living in consternation to that work.

What if what God offered was a ticket to heaven, but no possibility of resising unrighteousness until we got there? Praise the Lord that what He has offered is so much greater than that!

Thanks for taking the time to write the article.

PAUL

November 07, 2006 3:41 AM  
Blogger Marcian said...

Good words. I guess I get different things from this. The last paragraph from Matthew 24 said a lot to me. I see a lot of hypocrisy from people who don't realize that they have a duty to build up those around them within the church instead of cutting them down and not opening up (being vulnerable) to them.

I'm sure this isn't what you intended to get across when you sat down to write this, but sometimes God's word speaks for itself.

Cheers!

November 07, 2006 6:36 AM  
Anonymous GlennW said...

Paul,

As far as I know the illustration is original with me but I would not be surprised if someone else hasn't thought of it before me. As far as I am concerned you are free to use it.

I am trying to understand how someone who believes in perserverance would interpret these different situations. I know that an Arminian would say that these people would be loosing and regaining salvation but someone who accepts the reformed/traditionalist position of perserverance cannot say that. A lot of people who I believe to hold reformed views will often give the same answers as Arminians to these questions and I just do not understand how that can be.

Glenn W.

November 07, 2006 6:51 AM  
Blogger Bhedr said...

Hey Antonio,

Rose and Kc then. It looks good.Great Teamwork!!!

Well, thanks for the kind word Antonio.

May you continue to make Him known everywhere you go.

The Lord came to give us all hope. He is our healing balm and grace is the only way we will be healed.

Your posts have also been helpful to me throughout the months as I continue to discover what the Lord is saying to us through his precious word. May we encourage all to but "LOOK" to the saviour and be saved. What hope that gives all of us and what hope you give man by speaking this message to men and women throughout the world.

Your missions trip is still a happy memoir for all of us and should make all of our hearts glow and desire to do as you have done in reaching lost man in the short amount of time that we have left.

God bless you,

Brian

November 07, 2006 12:00 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Kevin,

I appreciate your email and your support. I am very humbled to know that even a bit from my articles has encouraged you toward greater holiness. I think the passage you share is very important!

Matt and Jim,

Thanks for dropping by, please drop by again!

Rose, thanks for the encouragement. I didn't coin it. Lordship Salvation has two general flavors: Lordship Calvinism and Lordship Arminianism. Both are functionally the same. If you do not persevere in faithfulness, holiness, and obedience, you go to hell. The phrase is not unique to me. I think I heard it from my friend Marty Cauley.

Glenn,

You come up with a good question. They take a few passages out of context, such as Phil 1:6 and Matt 24:13, couple it with their take of "spurious," "temporary" faith that they think is supported by the parable of the sower and James 2, and whala: Perseverance theology. In all actuality, my reading of Dort and Westminster leaves me with the impression that the elect can backslide for quite a long time, and as long as they repent before they die, they are alright. Thanks for your illustration. I really dig it.

Paul, I really do appreciate you dropping by. Please continue to do so. You probably gather that I don't agree with your paradoxical outlook. I do wholeheartedly agree that God is in the business of changing lives, yet it comes as we pursue spiritual disciplines -- God changes us as we submit to His will.

Marcia,

I think that you clearly have something there, and I see that as an application. The pretense we see in our assemblies can be so disheartening, especially because it makes the Body suffer. I would be quick to say that hypocrisy is not a telltale sign of the unsaved. May I dare say that I have struggled with the same hypocrisies?

Brian,

Thanks again for your kind words.

November 07, 2006 2:26 PM  
Anonymous bobby grow said...

Antonio,

Your new template is really cool . . . Rose did a great job!

November 07, 2006 2:48 PM  

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