Why do you say yet not obey? That is the penetrating question Jesus asked those who followed Him from place to place during His ministry. Disciples (followers) learn and live the training received from their Master (Luke 6:40; John 8:31). Jesus is not our ‘Lord’ unless we obey Him. Like them, the Master challenges us to investigate our motives for saying He is Lord while disobeying His word. The Scriptures help us examine ourselves to discover and remove obstacles preventing salvation and hindering discipleship. (1) A hard heart (John 12:37-40). An open, receptive, and responsive heart accepts the word of God and is fruitful by doing the Lord’s will (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). (2) Fear and favor of men (John 12:42-43). Fearing rejection from others, many still prefer men’s favor over God’s approval. (3) Love of the world (1 John 2:15). Genuine love for Jesus obeys His commands (John 14:15). When we misplace our love and disobey Jesus, we deceive ourselves to think we love Jesus. (4) Deceived by false teaching (Luke 8:15). A popular doctrine convinces many souls that Christians cannot fall from grace (be lost). Yet, the gospel warns disciples against falling away (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:12-13). This false doctrine opens the door to complacent, neglectful faith (Heb. 6:11-12; 10:39). Jesus said it is foolish to hear His words and do nothing (Luke 6:49; Matt. 7:26-27). But it is wise to hear and do His words (Luke 6:47-48; Matt. 7:24-25). Yes, we must do more than say, “Lord, Lord,” to be a disciple and enter the kingdom of heaven. We must hear and do the words of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3–4, NKJV).
This passage explains the subject, action, purposes, and results of baptism. It speaks of the Great Commission baptism (water baptism), the “one baptism” commanded of us all (Matt. 28:19; Eph. 4:5). The subject of baptism is the sinner, the person who is not “in Christ” (v. 3), without the benefit of His death (v. 3), and dead in sin (v. 4). Christ’s baptism is for the lost, not the saved. The action of baptism is immersion, a burial in water (v. 4; Col. 2:12; Acts 8:38). Three purposes and results of baptism are briefly enumerated here. (1) The sinner is “baptized into Christ” (v. 3). Until one is in Christ, he has not “put on Christ” and is not a “new creation” (Gal. 3:27; 2 Cor. 5:17). He is lost. (2) The sinner is “baptized into His death” (v. 3). Water baptism is how sinners reach the saving blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7; Acts 22:16). (3) The sinner is “buried with Him through baptism into death” (v. 4). Sin is put to death when the sinner is baptized. God’s power raises the sinner to newness of life (Col. 2:12; 2 Cor. 5:17). Before baptism, the sinner remains dead in sin. In baptism, there is a new birth, a resurrection from sin’s death to newness of life in Christ (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). Christ commanded water baptism (Mark 16:16). So did His apostles (Acts 2:38; 10:47-48). Christ saves sinners who obey Him by being baptized into Him (Acts 8:12; 1 Pet. 3:21; Heb. 5:9). By the gospel, God is calling sinners to be saved in Christ. “And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:21–24, NKJV).
This clear statement of sin was said to a Christian, Simon, who believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12-13). This passage helps expose and defeat two false doctrines. The first error is denying the necessity of water baptism for salvation (Mark 16:16). Some say Simon was never really saved in an attempt to deny this. But, Acts 8:12-13 says he believed, was baptized, and continued following Philip’s teachings like others in Samaria. If Simon was not saved when he believed and was baptized, neither were the Samaritans. And if they were lost, then the apostles gave the Holy Spirit to those who had not “received the word of God,” which they had (Acts 8:14-17). Yes, Simon was a Christian. It is postulated by those who reject baptism’s necessity for salvation that Christians would have to be baptized when they sin repeatedly. This text denies that. Peter told Simon the Christian to repent, not to be baptized again. The second error exposed is the impossibility of apostasy (a Christian cannot fall away and be lost). But Simon was poisoned and enslaved by sin, needing forgiveness. Simon was lost unless he repented. His plea for Peter’s prayer indicates his repentance and confession of sins (v. 24; 1 John 1:9; James 5:16). Sinners must believe and be baptized to be saved. Christians are forgiven by repentance and prayer. Otherwise, the sinner and saint remain lost in sin.
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2–4, NKJV).
Prayer is a powerful spiritual blessing we have in Christ. Paul trusted the power of patience, persistent prayers offered by his fellow Christians in Colossae. His exhortations encourage us to pray in the same manner. (1) Continue earnestly in prayer (v. 2). Devoted diligence to prayer is a trait of faithful disciples. Jesus taught a parable that we “always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1-8). We show faith in God to hear and answer us by continuing to pray (Luke 18:7-8; Heb. 4:14-16). (2) Vigilant prayer is vital (v. 2). Prayer is practical, expressing daily supplications, praises, and petitions (Phil. 4:6). Be alert in your prayers, attuned to immediate circumstances, and trusting God to respond (1 John 5:14-15). (3) Pray with thanksgiving (v. 2). God gives us every good gift that sustains our lives now and into eternity (James 1:17-18). His children remember to honor Him with thankful prayers. (4) Pray for others (v. 3). Paul yearned for their prayers. We “pray for one another,” not just ourselves (James 5:16). (5) Pray for opportunities to teach the gospel to the lost (v. 3-4). Paul asked them to pray that God would open a door to speak His word that saves those imprisoned by sin. Paul also asked them to pray that he would effectively speak God’s word that saves souls. May we continually be devoted to thankful prayer, petitioning God to open doors for His word and help us speak it properly.
4 And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:4–7, NKJV).
Friends tell us what we need to know because they care for us; they look out for us. Jesus is our truest friend who tells us not to be afraid of those who can kill us. They have no power over our immortal soul. God has the power to judge and punish our sins in hell. That is where we ought to place our fear. God is not a terrorist who threatens us. He cares for us and tells us of the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23). He loved us and sent His Son to save us from our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom. 6:23). Fearing God is an act of faith, not terror. God does not forget the sparrows, and He will not forget you. He knows you better than you know yourself. (Quick, how many hairs are on your head? God knows, even though you do not.) Your value is far greater than sparrows. So, do not fear people who threaten you because of your faith. Confident faith leads us to confess Jesus instead of being afraid (Lk. 12:8-9).
14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. But be that as it may, I did not burden you. (2 Corinthians 12:14–16, NKJV)
Paul laid up spiritual treasures for his children in the faith by diligently teaching, admonishing, and equipping the Corinthians Christians to live faithfully. Paul had delayed his plans to return to Corinth, which was all his detractors needed to think and say the worst about him (1 Cor. 16:5-7; 2 Cor. 1:15-18; 2:1). Despite being loved less, he would continue to “spend and be spent” for their souls. Here is a word of exhortation to gospel preachers. Do not be deterred when others criticize you for preaching the word of God (2 Tim. 3:10-12). Do not be distracted when you are assigned improper motives for proclaiming the gospel. Preach God’s word with the urgency that truth and its power to save demands (2 Tim. 4:2; Rom. 1:15-16). Some will not accept the sting of sound doctrine and charge you with wrongdoing when you deliver God’s truth. Some may even lie in wait and try to catch you in something you say (Lk. 11:53-54). They may try to make you the problem. Do not be silenced (2 Tim. 2:9-10). Always be motivated by love for the saints and the lost. Incur the cost (“spend and be spent”), bear the burden, and declare the whole counsel of God without fear or favor (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:5).
17 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; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17–18, NKJV)
It is truly incredible how so many people insist on propping up the false doctrine that Christians cannot fall away from the Lord and be lost. The false doctrine suggests teaching the possibility of apostasy diminishes God’s power to save. That is a diversionary, deceptive, and destructive lie of the devil, the father of lies. Of course, God has the power to save. Human free will is also a part of the equation; We are saved “by grace” (God’s part) “through faith” (our part) (Eph. 2:8). Without free will, we are mere robots. God becomes an unjust tyrant, selecting some for salvation and others for damnation regardless of their conduct. That cannot be true (Acts 10:34-35; 17:30; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:4). Today’s passage overwhelms the false doctrine of once saved, always saved. Some had already fallen. Peter warns beloved Christians, “lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (v. 17). The countermeasure to prevent falling is spiritual growth in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 18). When we mature in understanding and apply our faith to follow the Lord, Jesus is honored “both now and forever,” not ourselves. We dare not minimize (or even rejecting) the truth that Christians can fall and be lost. Instead, remain steadfast in your faith by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8–10, NKJV)
I lost a key this morning, a pretty important one. I don’t have nine others, only the one. Frantically searching, I turned on a lamp, looked in drawers, and under every place I could think they might be. Unlike the woman in this passage, I did not find the lost key. So, I can appreciate her joy when she found the lost coin. But of course, her gladness over finding the lost coin illustrates heaven’s joy over one sinner who repents (v. 10). I lost track of that key, and now it is gone. Thankfully, God never loses track of people. They may choose to leave the Lord instead of remaining with Him (see the parable of the prodigal son, Lk. 15:11-24). But God is always looking for lost souls. He does not want one soul to perish. He is longsuffering toward us, granting us time and opportunity to repent (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4). Never think you cannot be “found” and saved by the Lord (1 Tim. 1:15-16). His gospel has great power to free you from the shackles and death of sin when you believe, repent, confess your faith, and are baptized for the remission of sins (Rom. 1:16; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 10:34-35). Keep looking for lost souls, and rejoice with heaven when souls are saved.
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one. (John 10:27–30, NKJV)
This passage is easily understood and gives great assurance to the followers of Jesus. People have distorted this teaching of Christ to assure souls that they can never so sin as to be lost once saved from sin. This passage does not teach this error. A brief review of the text shows Jesus comforts the faithful but does not secure sinners. First, see what Christ’s sheep do: They hear His voice and follow Him. Next, see what Jesus does: He knows them and gives them eternal life. Now, who “shall never perish” and not be snatched from Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand? It is the sheep who hear and follow Jesus (v. 27). What if the sheep stops following the shepherd? Christ sheep are exposed to life-threatening dangers when they leave the sheepfold of safety, wander on the hillside of sin, and forage in the thicket of evil. When Christians stop listening to Jesus and refuse to follow Him, their souls are in jeopardy! Christians who return to sin bring on their eternal demise, not an eternal reward (2 Pet. 2:20-22). This truth does not diminish the power of the Father and Son to save. It acknowledges what Scripture confirms: Christians can fall away (Gal. 5:4; Lk. 8:13). God protects sheep who hear Him and follow Him. So, hear the word of Jesus and follow Him every day.
12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:12–14, NKJV)
This remarkable miracle of healing the lame man at the pool called Bethesda is a marvelous illustration of God’s merciful healing of our souls from sin (Jno. 5:1-9). What followed also illustrates our obligation once God saves us from our past sins. Just as Jesus told the man to “sin no more,” Christians cannot “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Jno. 5:14; Rom. 6:1-2). Just as the lame man’s healing should prompt him to live differently, our salvation from sin compels us to cease practicing sin. We have “died to sin,” being freed from the clutches of its slavery by the blood of Christ (Rom. 6:3-11). Saved in Christ, we are “servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). Jesus warned the man that returning to sin would bring a worse outcome upon him. That is also true of Christians who sin (read 2 Pet. 2:20-22). The teaching that Christians cannot sin and be lost is false. Jesus healed the man, yet a far worse thing would occur if he practiced sin (Matt. 5:29-30). Even so, Christ has saved us. But if we turn back to sin, we will be lost. That outcome will be on us, not on Jesus (2 Cor. 5:10).