Elder Harold Hunt
1Co9:27, But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
What was Paul afraid of? He was genuinely concerned about something? What was it?
He expresses concern, that after he has preached to others, he might himself be acastaway. What does he mean by being a castaway?
We cannot imagine he is concerned that, having been born of God’s Spirit, he might lose his home in eternal heaven. He has preached far too clearly, that if one is chosen, redeemed, and born of the Spirit, heaven will be his home. Nothing can separate him from the love of God, and nothing can deny him his home in eternal heaven. He is not concerned that he might someday spend eternity with the wicked in eternal damnation. But he is genuinely concerned about something. Again, we ask, what is it?
He is concerned that, in spite of all God has done for him, and all he has experienced in service toward God, he might prove unfaithful to his calling, and lose everything worthwhile in this life. He is concerned that he might becastaway from the fellowship of the saints, and the benefits of a godly life.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the saints will bepreserved by grace, and never fall finally away. Some of our Articles of Faith use the word persevere, instead of preserved, and again, it is clear the saints will persevere in a state of grace. That is, they will never cease to be the children of God. They will never cease to have the Spirit of God in their hearts, and that Spirit will continue to have its effect. They will never lose what God has prepared for them in heaven.
But are we also to believe the saints will, without fail,persevere in the pursuit of holiness? Are we to believe that until the end of their lives they will be found in the pathway of faith and obedience? They will persevere in a state of grace; but is it possible that one might depart from the pursuit of holiness, and be found at the end of his journey in a state of rebellion?
God has sworn he will have them with him in heaven; but has he made the same promise about rescuing them from their own folly in this life? Has God guaranteed that, in spite of their sometimes rebellion, he will, without fail, bring them back to the fold. Has he provided some kind of assurance that the truly born again person cannot make ultimate shipwreck of his life? Are we to believe that, regardless of how recklessly a truly born again person may behave—for a time—he can be sure that God will ultimately rescue him from his rebellion, so that he will finish his journey in full triumph of a living faith.
Or, quite the contrary, does God warn that the truly born again person may so conduct his affairs that he experiences the temporal wrath of God, and destroys his witness, and his own personal welfare in this life.
Granted, we have God’s assurance that if he has ever loved us, he will always love us (Jer 31:3). We have his assurance that all the forces of evil combined will never be able to separate us from his love (Ro 8:35-39). We have it from the same Apostle Paul that those who were chosen in eternity past are the exact same people who will be glorified in eternity to come (Ro 8:28-30). We have God’s promise that his sheep, his people, will never perish (Joh 10:27-30).
There is nothing the Bible teaches more clearly than it teaches the eternal security of the child of God.
Joh10:27-29, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand."
Jer31:3, The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.
God gave his Son as the redemption price to pay the sin debt of his people. That chain of redemption is a golden chain which reaches all the way from eternity past to eternity to come.
Ro8:28-30, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified."
Notice that those who were chosen in eternity past are the exact same people who will be glorified in eternity to come. And notice how Paul traces these same people from their being foreknown to their being glorified. No distinction is made between them; they are the same people.
The list of proof texts goes on and on. If one is chosen, redeemed, and born of the Spirit of God, he is sure of eternal heaven.
But that is not what Paul is concerned about. Granted the truly chosen, redeemed, and born again person is heaven-bought, heaven-born, and heaven-bound. He will never lose what God has provided for him after this life is over. God has determined to have his people with him in eternal heaven, and he will do all he has purposed to do. God makes that point so clear that he confirms it with an oath.
Isa14:24,27, The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand....For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
God purposed to bring the redeemed home to glory, and he swears he will do it. It was not necessary for God to swear. God cannot lie; a simple statement would have been enough. But for our benefit, he swore that he would do all his pleasure. He will have every one of the redeemed with him in heaven. If God says it—and swears to it—that ought to settle the question.
But there are those who go beyond the God’s promise that he will bring the redeemed safe home to heaven, and reach the conclusion that he has also promised he will not allow them to make ultimate shipwreck in this life.
In their misdirected zeal, they assure their hearers that, regardless of how vile one’s conduct may be, if he is one of the redeemed, God will not allow him to persist in a state of rebellion forever. They assure their hearers they may "fall into grievous sins, and,for a time, continue therein;" they may, "incur God’s displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves."
They tell us that if one is truly born again, he may—for a time—stray from the pathway of duty, andfor a time he may rebel against his Maker, but, if he is truly one of the redeemed, he will, without fail, return to the pathway of duty. God will see to it that he repents and returns to the fold.
And, without question, that is sometimes the case. Some-times the rebelling child does return to the fold. That was the case with David.
David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and he had her husband Uriah killed to cover up his sin (2Sa 11). He sank about as low as a person can sink, and he suffered for that crime as long as he lived. But he repented; he found forgiveness; and he spent the rest of his days serving the Lord. That was not the case with his son Solomon. Solomon was clearly a child of God; but he finished his life in a shameful condition. We will look more at Solomon in a moment.
That was the case withthe prodigal son. He left the protection of his father’s home. His wasted his inheritance in a far county, with harlots and riotous living (Lu 15:11-32). But one day, he came to his senses. He said, "How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. Make me as one of thy hired servants." His father did not make him one of the hired servants. He had compassion on him, forgave him, and restored him to his former state. He killed the fatted calf, and called for his friends to make merry and rejoice with him.
There can be no doubt that often the wayward child does return home. That is not the question. The question is, does God provide any kind of guarantee that will always be the case. Does God guarantee that the prodigal will come to his senses.
Our purpose in this little study is to examine what the Bible teaches on the subject. Does God provide a guarantee that—regardless of how you may behavefor a time—he will ultimately bring you back to the fold? Do we have God’s guarantee that the truly redeemed and born again person cannot make ultimate shipwreck of his life?
I fear that those who reach that conclusion lay claim to a promise God has never made.You can be sure that God will do all he has promised to do; but God has never promised that he will not allow you to destroy yourself. These good brethren assure their hearers that their rebellion will only be for a time; God will see to it they finally return, and, the outcome will be that they will "certainly persevere to the end." They insist that if a person is elect, God will not allow him to continue in rebellion. He will, without fail, come to the end of his life in a state of obedience.
But, regardless of how sincere those teachers may be, the Bible provides no such assurance.It does not guarantee the rebel will finally see the error of his way and turn from it.
One unintentional side effect of such reasoning is that it has the potential of encouraging the sinner to continue in his sin until God calls him back.
We do not believe for a moment that those who teach that notion would willingly encourage the sinner in his sin. We have no reason to believe they are anything less than honest, God-fearing people. They are as concerned to encourage a life of service and obedience as those who oppose the doctrine, and they would rightly recoil from any suggestion to the contrary. But doctrines do have consequences, and the potential is there, nonetheless.
The notion that God has guaranteed he will bring one back from his state of rebellion has the potential of making the sinner complacent in his misconduct.
The Bible teaches that the truly born again person can so behave himself that he loses everything worthwhile this side of the grave; he can so act as to make total ship wreck of his life.The person who assures him that he cannot suffer such loss is providing a guarantee he can never fulfill. Those who are born of the Spirit of God are not in danger of eternal damnation. They are the children of God; they are the objects of his love, and he will not allow the objects of his love to suffer eternally. But, while the child of God is eternally secure in Christ, that does not mean he can sin with impunity. There are dire consequences to the born again child of God, who willfully, persistently, lives after the flesh. Paul refers to those penalties as a fate worse than death.
Heb10:26, "For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."
Paul is saying the rebel is leftwithout consciousness of a hope in Christ Jesus." There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." What state is he in? Here it is. "But a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." The adversaries are those who are enemies to God and all that is godly. He is a child of God, and he will live in heaven some day, but he feels none of the power of that hope in his heart. Instead there is fear, that fear of fiery indignation, which will one day devour the adversaries.
"He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden the Son of God under foot, and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the spirit of grace."
Paul is telling us about something worse, a "sorer punishment," than death. What is worse than death? It is for a child of God to be cut off and in the condition we have been talking about.
Sometimes we talk about what a harsh thing the law of Moses was. And the Law of Moses was a harsh system. But for a person to be stoned to death was really a less punishment than to be left here in this life, cut off—completely cut off—from the joys and the benefits he might otherwise have had.
"Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing."
"The blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified...." Is that talking about a dead alien sinner? Those who will one day suffer eternally are not sanctified by the blood of the covenant. He "counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace, for we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord, and again, The Lord shall judge his people," (Heb 10:29-30). This is talking about his people. If there was ever any doubt, that should remove it.
Heb10:31, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Peter talks about the same thing.2Pe 1:5, "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge, and to knowledge, temperance, and to temperance, patience, and to patience, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, charity, for if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, but he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
It does not mean those sins are still charged against him. The Lord put those sins away at Calvary, and he "hathperfected forever them that are sanctified" (Heb10:14). Those who are redeemed and born again are perfected and that forever. The man in this condition has not ceased to be born again; he has not ceased to be a child of God, but he is blind; he cannot see afar off, and he has "forgotten that was purged from his old sins."
He has not ceased to be purged from his sins; but he hasforgotten; that is, he has no credible witness in his heart that he is a child of God. He is a child of God, and heaven will be his home—but he has no reason to think so.
That brings up a serious question. Somebody tells me the thought that he has no credible witness that he is a child of God takes away all the assurance from a humble, prayerful, child of God who stumbles along the way; but that is not the case at all.
The principle we are talking aboutholds no terror for the humble, prayerful child of God, who sometimes fails. But it also holds no comfort for the person living in a continuing state of rebellion. There is a world of difference between the two.
I am fearful that, on the one hand, I will discourage the occasionally stumbling child of God; but I am just as fearful that I will encourage one living in a continuing state of rebellion.
Every heaven born soul stumbles from time to time—but he can never be at peace in his sin. He sins, but he is miserable in his sin, and he wants to do better.
If a person is comfortable with his sinful condition, and persists in it, it can only mean one of two things:either he is not a child of God. He is flesh, all flesh, and nothing but flesh, and we should not be surprised that he is comfortable living after the flesh. One day his judgment will be according to his works (Re 20:12).
Or else, like the person Peter describes, he is a child of God, but he has so continued in sin thatGod has given him over to judicial blindness. He is blind; he cannot see afar off; and he has forgotten he was once purged from his old sins. He may truly be a child of God, but he has lost every reason to think so.
The Bible teaches that—in some sense—the child of God can perish. And it teaches just as clearly that, so far as this life is concerned, that perishing is sometimes total, permanent, and irreversible. The Bible gives some clear examples.
Mt21:18-20, "Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered, and when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee from henceforth forever, and presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away."
Bear in mind that this was a good plant, a good tree; it could have brought forth good fruit. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. So this tree was capable of bringing forth good fruit. This tree is symbolic of a child of God, who is not bearing the fruit he ought to bear. The Lord hungered; he looked for food on this tree; he came to it, and found no fruit thereon, but leaves only, and he said to it, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth, forever."
This was a good tree. It was capable of bearing good fruit. It did not; The judgment of God fell on it, and let me ask you: How long do you believe it is going to be until this tree bears good fruit?
"Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever." That is long enough, is it not? Never again will this tree bear the fruit it might have borne. This tree might at one time have borne that fruit, but now the judgment of God rests on it, because it did not bear fruit, and now, there is no possibility this tree will ever again be the fruitful tree it might have been.
Mt24:14, "The kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods."
There were three servants. To one servant he delivered five talents, to another servant, two talents, and to another servant, one talent. The man with five talents went out and worked with them, and doubled what he had. He gained five talents. The man with two talents went out, and considering what he had to work with, he did the same thing. He doubled what he had. He gained two talents.
Not all of us have the same capacity. God does not require me to use your talent. All God requires of me is to do the best I can with what I have. That man with two talents did just as well as the man with five talents. He just did not have as much to work with. But the man with one talent "went and hid his talent in the earth," and when his Lord came back he challenged him. The Lord commended those other two servants, and gave the same commendation to the man with two talents as he did to the man with five talents.
But in verse twenty-four the man who received one talent came and said, "Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sowed, and gathering where thou hast not strawed, and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth, lo, there thou hast that is thine. His Lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed; thou oughtest, therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then, at my coming, I should have received mine own with usury. Take, therefore, the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents, for unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And he cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth."
Notice that these were all servants of the same Lord.They all had talents given them from the same Lord. They all had the ability, according to their own capacity, to serve their Lord. The man with one talent could not do as much as the man with five talents, but he could have done just like the man with two talents. He could have used what he had. But he did not use it, and he lost it.
Let me ask you again, what do you believe was the prospect that his Lord would ever give him another talent.What do you think is the prospect that his Lord will say, "Okay, you have had one probation; you missed out that time, but I am going to give you another chance." It is not going to happen, is it? He was cast out into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
These were all three servants of the same Lord. They all had talents with which they could have served their Lord.The third servant did not, and his loss was total, permanent, and irreversible.
Joh15:1-5, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine; ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me, ye can do nothing."
Let me ask you: is this talking to children of God, or is it talking to dead alien sinners? It is talking to children of God, is it not? He says, "I am the vine, and ye are the branches." The dead alien sinner is not a branch in Christ Jesus. This is talking to the Lord’s children. Now notice verse six, "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, andmen gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
Is that talking about eternal damnation? It is notmen who cast anyone away into that terrible place. But notice that it is men who cast these people into the fire. Sometimes that happens by a vote in conference in church. "Men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
It does not always happen that the person is turned out of the church. I have known some people who were in the condition described in these verses, who stayed in the church the rest of their lives. They never did anything so outward, so obvious, that they would ever be dealt with by the church, and yet, their joy was gone. Everything they had ever experienced was gone. It had been gone for years. There was no spiritual joy about them, and yet, they stayed in the church, and, sometimes, were the most insistent on making all the decisions. It becomes a problem in the church, when that happens.
"If a man abide not in me (that is, one of these branches in Christ) he is cast forth as a branch and is withered, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
Again, the same question we asked awhile ago: after this branch is cast into the fire and burned, what do you believe are the prospects that branch will ever be put back in the vine, and bear fruit in the vine.
There is nothing that can separate the child of God from the love of God, but the child of God can so persist in sin, and go on, and on, until he loses everything worth having in this life.
We talk about a person losing the joy of his salvation. He can do that. He loses the joy of the church, the joy of the gospel. He wonders why the preacher cannot preach the way he used to preach. He allows, "That preacher used to go to the pulpit every Sunday morning and he would just set this place on fire, but he just can’t preach like that any more." Perhaps the preacher preaches as well as ever. Maybe the man cannot listen the way he used to. He cannot hear the way he used to hear.
A person stands to lose the joy of the church, his home in the church, his job, his business, his family, his children, his home, his health, and, perhaps, even his sanity. There is no end to the things a person stands to lose—this side of the grave.
I am sure some of you can think of someone you have known very well. There is no doubt in your mind that he is a child of God. You have been with him in church. You have seen him rejoice under the preaching of the gospel, and you cannot doubt that he is born of the Spirit of God. But today, he has made shipwreck of his life.
You can supply the name. Everybody knows somebody who fits the pattern. He has lost the joy of his salvation; he has lost the joy of the church; perhaps, he has lost his home in the church; he lost his wife; his children will not talk to him; he lost his job; he lost his business; he lost his home; he lost his health. He lost everything worth having—this side of the grave.
The text says, "Men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." There is no possibility those branches will ever again be put back together and put back in the vine to bear fruit here in this life.
Heb6:1-6, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
I believe it is clear enough that he is talking about a child of God. He says if that person shall fall away, it is impossible to renew him again to repentance, seeing" they crucify to them-selves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." That is still talking about the branch that was cut off and cast into the fire. It is talking about that fig tree to which the Lord said, "Let no fruit grow on thee from henceforth forever." It is talking about that one talent servant whose talent was taken away and who was cast out into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Paul says it is impossible to renew such a person to repentance.
Somebody may want to know, "But what if he decides to repent?" He cannot do it. It is not possible for him to repent. A person cannot repent just any time he decides to.If God does not give repentance you cannot repent.
2Ti2:25, "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."
Ac11:18, "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."
Ro2:4, "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?"
The one text says that Godgives repentance, the next text says that he grants repentance, and the last text says that he leads to repentance. If God does not give repentance, if he does not grant it, if he does not lead you to it—you cannot repent.
You cannot just wake up one morning, after you have lived for a long time in a bad way, and say, "Hey, I believe I will repent today. I believe I will change my way. I am going to turn over a new leaf. I am going to start doing better." It does not work that way. The religious world thinks you can do that. They think that is all there is to it. But they are wrong.
You cannot just wake up one morning and decide, "I am going to do better." If God does not give repentance, you will never repent. If he does not grant repentance, if he does not lead you to repentance, you cannot repent. The text says it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. You can talk to the man all you want to, but you will never get him to repent. He cannot repent. It is not within his capacity.
I would like for us to notice some characters the Bible talks about, who were in that condition.
2Pe2:15-16, "Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but was rebuked for his iniquity, the dumb ass speaking with man's voice, forbad the madness of the prophet."
That is talking about Balaam, a prophet in the Old Testament. Balaam is one of the most mysterious characters in the Bible. One of the reasons he is so mysterious is that he behaved himself in such manner that, sometimes, it is difficult to tell whether he was a child of God or not. I believe when we look at him closely, the Bible makes it clear enough that he was a born again character.
Balak called for him to come and curse Israel, and he wanted to do it. Balak had promised him all kinds of wealth if he would curse Israel. Balak was afraid of Israel. He said, inNu 23:7, "Come and curse me Jacob, and come defy Israel." But Balaam could not do it. In verse eight, he replied, "How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed, or shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied, for from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him, lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and number the fourth part of Israel, Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
Balaam wanted to die the way Jacob did. Do you remember how Jacob died? He died in his own bed, in his right mind, with his family all around him, with his mind on the Lord, and he was talking about the Lord and his goodness. Balaam said when he came to die, that was how he wanted to die—in his own bed, in his right mind, with his family all around him, and with his mind on the Lord.
Does that sound like a dead alien sinner to you? One who wants to die with his mind on the Lord bears evidence of an experience of grace.
And in verse nineteen of that same chapter (Nu 23:19), he says, "God is not a man that he should lie, neither the Son of man that he should repent, hath he said, and shall he not do it, or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" Balaam had more light on Bible doctrine, and he manifested more light in that one verse of scripture than ninety-nine per cent of the religious leaders in America today.
And inNu 24:17, "I shall see him but not now, I shall behold him, but not nigh, there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth." Some two thousand years later there came wise men from the East, who had seen the star that signaled the arrival of the King of Israel—the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ. They saw that star and they came to Bethlehem, looking for the Messiah.
Mic5:2, "And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel."
They had the prophecy of Balaam about the star, and they had the prophecy of Micah that the newruler in Israel would come out of Bethlehem. Two thousand years after Balaam prophesied the star would appear, it did appear. The wise men saw it; they knew the time of the Messiah was at hand; and they went to Bethlehem, looking for the Lord.
I believe the Bible gives proof enough that Balaam was a child of God. The wicked do not talk the way Balaam talked; they do not pray the way Balaam prayed. Balaam prayed, wanting to "die the death of the righteous." He said, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." But it did not turn out that way. Notice how Balaam died.
Nu31:8, "Balaam also, the son of Beor, they slew with the sword."
The very last thing recorded about Balaam is that he died fighting against the Lord’s people.When the Bible gets around to relating his death, it records it almost as a footnote, as if to say, "Oh, by the way, Balaam was killed in the battle too."
What happened to Balaam? Balak offered him money if he would curse Israel. He tried to curse Israel, and he could not do it. Balak made the offer again, and Balaam tried again to curse Israel, and he still could not do it. Balak made the offer the third time. Balaam tried to curse Israel the third time, and he still wound up promising blessing upon Israel.
Re2:14,"But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication."
Balaam tried to curse Israel, and he could not. He said, "I cannot curse those the Lord has blessed." But he had seen Balak’s money, and if there was any way he could earn that money, he wanted to do it. He had discovered that God would not allow him to curse his people.
Balaam was also a crafty man in a natural way. He finally went to Balak and said," Balak, I have got it all figured out; God has blessed Israel, and I cannot curse them, but here is what you can do: if you will send bad women down there, you can get Israel in trouble with their God." He taught Israel to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
He says, "I cannot curse them; God has blessed them, and I cannot undo it, but if you will send enough bad women down there, and get Israel to misbehave, and offer sacrifice to strange gods, you can get them in trouble with their God, and bring the wrath of God on them." He earned his pay, but he lost everything.
Mt16:28, "What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
Balaam did not lose his eternal destiny, but he lost everything worth having in this life. Have you ever seen it? Have you ever seen a child of God, who sold out, and died, fighting against the very cause that he had, at one time, supported? Sure you have. It happened to Balaam.
Another good example is King Saul. He started out just fine. He was humble, and self-effacing, and he showed good judgment. He gave ample evidence he was a child of God.
1Sa10:6 , "And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy unto them, and shalt be turned into another man. And it was so, that when he turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart."
Every word in the Bible is there for a purpose. The expressions, turned intoanother man, and God gave him another heart are significant—they mean something. What happens in regeneration? God takes out the hard and stony heart, and gives a heart of flesh. The person is born again; he is a new man.
Even though Saul was a big man physically, he was small in his own sight. He was very humble, very self-effacing. But he became king, and it went to his head. He was not able to handle it, and he became lifted up in pride. Once, the priest did not arrive on time, and he tried to do the priest’s job for him. That got him in trouble. From there on, it was downhill.
Samuel sent him to destroy the nation of Amalek. Amalek had stood against Israel, when Israel came into the land of Canaan, and God commanded Israel to destroy the entire nation— just wipe them off the face of the earth. Because of their immoral life style, because of the way they lived, they were riddled with disease, and God intended to use Israel, like a surgeon’s scalpel to remove that diseased flesh from the human race.
Saul did not do that. He saved King Agag, and the best of the cattle alive. When Samuel arrived, he asked Saul, "Have you done what you were supposed to do?"" Yes, I have done exactly what I was told to do." And Samuel wants to know," Well, if you have, what meaneth this lowing of the cattle in mine ears?"
"Be sure your sin will find you out." Samuel says, "I hear cattle lowing on the other side of the hill. What is that commotion, if you have destroyed all of Amalek, and all their livestock?"
1Sa15:15,22-23, "And Saul said....the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed....And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft...."
The Amalekites were involved in witchcraft, and Saul was telling Samuel, "You are no better than they are. Your rebellion is just like their rebellion." Witchcraft was a part of their national religion. He says, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry, because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king."
1Sa15:26, "And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee, for the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned to go away, he laid hold of the skirt of his mantle, and it rent, and Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou. And also the strength of Israel will not lie, nor repent, for he is not a man that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it, or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good."
1Sa15:35, "And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel."
1Sa16:1, "And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?"
What do you believe was the likelihood Saul would continue to be the king of Israel?None whatsoever. He had lost it. It was gone. His rejection was total, and complete, and irreversible. He lost the kingdom; he lost his life, and eventually the lives of his family.
Admittedly, there are those who question whether either Balaam or King Saul were children of God; but that just goes to make the point. When a person behaves the way those two men behaved, no matter how charitable we may try to be, we can never know for sure, whether they were children of God.
We can never know, and ifthey ever knew, they have long since "forgotten they were purged from their old sins."
They no longer have any heart-felt assurance they are the children of God.
We may reasonably question whether Balaam and Saul were children of God, but we will take a few moments to notice other characters we have no choice but to recognize as children of God, and they demonstrate the same principle.
It is possible for the truly born again person to end his days in a sinful condition. Some of these characters may have repented of their ways, but if they did, the Bible does not record it.The last thing the Bible records about them is their rebellion.
Ge6:11-12, "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth."
There is no more notable saint in the Bible than Noah. He lived in a wicked and depraved age, whenall flesh had corrupted his way. The world was awash in wickedness.
In that wicked age Noah stands out as the one man who "found grace in the eyes of the Lord," (vs. 8). No other man in history was blessed the way he was. Except for Noah and his family, the entire human race perished in the flood. All mankind since that time is descended from him.
After God singled out Noah from the rest of mankind, Noah finally succumbed to his own fleshly weakness. He stood firm in an age when he was surrounded by wickedness. But later, when he was surrounded by nobody except his own family he fell.
Ge9:20-22,28-29, "And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without....And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died."
Surely, nobody would question that Noah was a child of God. After the experience related above, he gave a comprehensive prophecy of the future of the three great divisions of mankind;but so far as his personal conduct is concerned, the very last thing the Bible tells us about Noah finds him stinking, stumbling, falling down, passed out, stark-naked drunk.
After that shameful report, the next thing we read about is his death.
Solomon is another character who demonstrates the same lesson. Regardless of how noted a saint one may be, he is still liable to fall. Who could forget Solomon’s humble request, when God said, "Ask what I shall give thee." He did not place any restriction; he just told him to say what he wanted. Solomon did not ask for riches, nor long life, nor the life of his enemies. His simple request was," Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this thy people that is so great?"
(2Ch 1:10). He did not ask anything for himself; he just wanted wisdom and knowledge—just enough ability to judge the people aright.
It was Solomon who recorded God’s promise, "If my people which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land." That is instruction for the ages. Every nation on earth needs to hear and heed that message.
Listen to God’s promise to Solomon.2Ch 7:17-18, "And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be a ruler in Israel."
God promised Solomon a perpetual dynasty reigning in Jerusalem—but that promise was conditional.It was only "if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked." If he transgressed, there would be a far different result.
2Ch7:19-20, "But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations."
But, after God had so blessed Solomon, he went astray. It would be hard to find any body, who started out so high, and fell so low. He violated every condition God laid on him, and God punished him and his posterity the way he said he would.
We are told that "Solomon loved many strange women"
(2Ch 11:1). He gathered a thousand wives and concubines for his harem. He went from being the most eminent of saints to being the most lascivious of libertines. He was the Hugh Hefner of his day.
It is questionable whether Hugh Hefner could have kept up with him. Hefner has never had the money Solomon had. Solomon gathered up the gold of Ophir (2Ch9:18), and he "made silver in Jerusalem as stones" (2Ch 9:27). He used that power and wealth to assemble those thousand women, for no other reason than to satisfy his carnal lust— and they turned his heart astray.
Before long, we find him worshiping with those strange wives at their pagan, demon-worshiping altars.
1Ki11:4-5, "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites."
(Note: Paul described the nature of those Gentilegods. 1Co 10:20, "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God." The word in the Greek is daimoniois, demons).
He engaged in those evil religions, and his life began to reflect their evil ways.
1Ki11:6, "And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father."
In his rebellion against God, he was not satisfied with occasionally worshiping at pagan altars; he built altars for the pagan gods of all his wives.
1Ki11:7-8, " Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods."
God made promise of great blessing to Solomon, and to the nation under his rule—but those promises were conditional.
1Ki11:9-11, "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice. And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he kept not that which the Lord commanded. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant."
Solomon was to be the last king of the united kingdom. After his death, God left his son Rehoboam with two tribes, and gave the other tribes to Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam.
The last thing the Bible tells about Solomon finds him plotting to have his rival Jeroboam assassinated.
1Ki11:39-41, "And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever. Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam....And the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?"
Those who are sure, that if you are one of the redeemed and born again, God will ultimately bring you back from your life of rebellion—regardless of far you may have strayed— will have a hard time proving their doctrine by the life of Solomon.
Did Solomon ever repent of his plotting to have Jeroboam killed? Did he ever return to his former faithfulness. If he did the Bible says nothing about it. Solomon was clearly a child of God, but he came to the end of his days in a very shameful condition.
Allow me one more example. Uzziah was made king when he was only 16 years old.2Ch 26:4-5, "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord....[he] had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper."
"God made him to prosper," but it was only "as long as he sought the Lord." That did not last. He was finally lifted up in pride, and that pride was his downfall.
2Ch26:16, "But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction; for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense....And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper.
Uzziah ended his days as a leper. Leprosy is a terrible disease. The flesh rots; one by one, the fingers and toes die and fall off. A leper was not allowed to come close to healthy people. He was forced to wear a cloth over his face and cry out, "Unclean, unclean," if anybody approached. Such an very, frightful, sound that must have been. It is impossible to catch its horror on paper.
Leprosy is a symbol of sin, and in this instance, it is a symbol of that sinful condition in which many a disobedient child of God ends his days.
The gospel is a comforting message.There would be no need for comfort, if we never had doubts and fears. The children of God have every right to be encouraged. From time to time, it is the lot of every heaven born soul to have seasons of doubts and fears. To every trembling child of God who is beset by doubts, and who mourns because of his shortcomings, I would bid you to take courage. That very distress is one of the evidences of grace. The wicked have no such concern. They are comfortable with their sin. They enjoy any activity all the more if they think it is sinful.
Mt5:4, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Isa40:1, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God."
Those who constantly call on the family of God to question their salvation are simply abusing the Lord’s children.They take the joy out of the gospel and the church. They teach the children of God to live in fear of eternal damnation, when they should be living in prospect of a better day to come.
In that, I am talking about those humble, prayerful children of God who—in their faltering, often failing, way—are trying to serve the Lord. I am not talking about those individuals who are living in open rebellion against their Maker.
We must acknowledge there are those who use the doctrine of eternal security as a cloak to hide behind.They once made a profession of faith, and, because of that long-ago profession, they are sure eternal heaven will be their home. Their lives reflect nothing of their profession, but they are sure eternal security will take care of them—regardless of how they behave.
For those in that condition, I have very little encouragement.The Bible offers nothing but, "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries," (Heb 10:27), and I have no license to offer anything more. Their lives give no reason to believe they are children of God.
Perhaps, I am writing to one, who truly is a child of God, who is in that condition. True, you made a profession many years ago; but for all we know—for all you know—what you felt at that time may have been nothing more than emotion. If it was truly the Spirit of God, how can you so easily continue in a state of such willful rebellion?
Or perhaps you are one of those like the barren fig tree, or the one talent servant, who was given over to destruction. There is no comfort in that thought. Repentance was no longer available for that one talent servant. He could not repent; God would not grant him repentance. As far as this life is concerned, it was all over. He was cast intoouter darkness, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. If you are in that condition, and if God’s Word is true, you are likely facing your share of weeping and gnashing of teeth. That weeping and gnashing of teeth can come from a lot of things, loss of your job, loss of your health, sickness of one you hold the most dear. The rebellious child of God stands to lose everything worth having this side of the grave.
Perhaps, you are thinking, I have been this way for a long time and nothing has happened. That may mean you are like Balaam or King Saul. God may have written you off. Again, I must point out that Paul described your case.
Heb10:26-27,30-31, "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.... Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord, and again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Notice that is talking about his people. If that does not terrify you, there is no need for me to say anything more.
There is one other consideration. There truly is such a thing as anominal professor–a person who professes, but does not possess, the Spirit of God. Paul described them.
2Co11:13-15, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
These nominal professors pretended to be children of God and ministers of the truth. We have no reason to believe they were either.
Many of those we sometimes callbacksliders belong to this group. They were once interested in religion, but their interest faded. They once learned much of the letter of the truth. (You can teach a parrot to say the words.) And they shed a lot of tears; but it was nothing more than emotion. They are not children of God, and they will burn someday.
On the other hand, it is possible for a truly born again person to make ship wreck of his life. He can so persist in sin that God delivers him over to judgment.
He is chosen, and redeemed, and born again. Heaven will be his home—but we have no right to encourage him in his condition. He may be one who has been delivered over to judgment, or he may never have been a child of God in the first place.Either way he is headed for destruction—either in this world, or in the world to come.
The truly chosen, redeemed, and born again, are sure to bepreserved by grace, or persevere in a state of grace, if you would prefer to say it that way. One day, they will every one arrive safe home in glory. But you will search the Bible in vain for any guarantee that God will ultimately rescue them from their own folly. You will search in vain for any guarantee they will every one finish his journey in the full triumph of a living faith.
I am sure there are those who will insist I am being too harsh, and I must admit that I am fearful of discouraging any little child of God who is beset by doubts and fears. But I am also fearful of encouraging any rebel in his war against his Maker.
Perhaps there is yet hope.The prodigal son was in a far country, wasting his substance in riotous living. Perhaps there is some little child of God reading this, who is in that condition. If that is your case, I would bid you to rise and return to your father’s house.
One day, the prodigal came to his senses. He said, "How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. Make me as one of thy hired servants."
His father did not make him one of the hired servants. He had compassion on him, forgave him, and restored him to his former state. He killed the fatted calf, and called for his friends to make merry and rejoice with him. Just four verses before that account, we read, "I say unto you, that likewisejoy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance," (Lu 15:7). There is no more happy scene in the Bible than the scene where the prodigal came home.
Pray that God would give you repentance. You cannotwork it up on your own ,but plead with your Maker that he would give it to you. Perhaps, there is yet hope. Who can tell?
Jon3:9, "Who can tell if God will turn and repent and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?"