Author: Ron Graham
If We Sin Wilfully
—The conditional security of believers
In our previous lesson we introduced the 14th principle concerning the seal of God. We saw that the seal is conditional. This lesson is entirely devoted to that matter.
14th principle: The seal of God is conditional.
In the chart below, we examine seven portions of scripture that show we Christians, although certainly secure, nurtured, and protected, will not remain so unless we respond to God’s grace and diligently fulfill his conditions according to his purpose for us. This lesson is about the conditional security of believers.
1. Parable of the fig tree
¶“6Jesus told this parable: A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. He came hoping to find fruit on it. He found none. 7So he said to the vinedresser, 'Look here, for three years now I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?' 8And the vinedresser answered him, 'Sir, spare it one more year. I'll dig around it and put on manure. 9Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good. If not, you can have it cut it down.'” (Luke 13:6-9).
The parable Jesus told about the fig tree planted in a vineyard, illustrates what “"conditional” means. The fig tree’s place in the vineyard was under review because the tree was not bearing fruit as it should. At the same time, its place was secure. The owner had no wish to cut it down. The caretaker was anxious to nurture and protect it.
The tree was not being asked to do anything too difficult for a fig tree to manage. It was not asked to hoe weeds or keep birds out of the vineyard. All the fig tree had to do was fulfill its purpose in the vineyard, to bear fruit. A fig tree is supposed to produce figs. If it would do what it was able to do and helped to do, its place was assured.
2. Branches cut out and grafted in
¶“19You are going to say, 'Branches were cut out [of God’s olive tree] so that I could be grafted in'. 20That's right [up to a point]. They were cut off because they didn't believe. You took [their] place only because you believed. Don't be conceited about this. Instead, fear 21God, because if he didn't keep the original branches, he won't keep you either [if you don't keep believing]. 22So think about both the goodness and severity of God —on those who fell away God was severe, whilst on you [who believe] God is good. But you must continue in his goodness, otherwise you too will be cut off. 23Furthermore, if those [who fell] don't continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted in. God is able to graft them into [his tree] again” (Romans 11:19-23).
This passage is about God’s kindness to both Jews (the cultivated olive tree) and Gentiles (the wild olive tree). I hope it does not confuse you to switch from fig tree to olive trees, but this analogy shows that those who are grafted in can be cut off, and those who are cut off can be grafted in again.
There is a proviso or condition (in other words an "if") in the security of the saved and sealed: "IF you continue in God’s goodness, otherwise you also will be cut off" (verses 22-23).
3. Running the race to win the prize
¶“24You know, don't you, about races in the stadium? Everyone in a race will run, but only one will take the prize. Run so as to seize the prize! 25The athletes agonize in self discipline —all for a crown [of leaves] that will perish. However we [struggle for an eternal crown] that does not perish. 26That's why I run with no uncertainty. That's why when I fight I don't punch the air. 27I discipline my body and make it a slave, lest having preached to others, I myself could be disqualified” (1Corinthians 9:24-27).
Here Paul likens the Christian life to running a race. You don’t run aimlessly, otherwise you will be disqualified for the prize. You "run in such a way as to win the prize" and if you don’t, you lose the prize. The prize is certain, provided you do your best to run the race.
4. Enemies who were reconciled
¶“21You were once, in your evil thoughts and deeds, strangers and hostile [to God]. Yet now Christ has reconciled you [to God]. He did this by the death of his fleshly body. So he can present you [to God] holy and faultless. You are above reproach in God’s presence 22—so long as you continue grounded and firm in your faith, unmoved from the hope of the gospel that you heard. [This was the gospel] preached to all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, came into that service” (Colossians 1:21-23).
It is clear why some people are God’s enemies. It is because of their evil behaviour. It is impossible to remain reconciled to God while returning to that behaviour. Only "if you continue in the faith" will you remain reconciled to God. The reconciliation is certain so long as you dont move away from it. Move back into the enemy’s camp, revert to enemy behaviour, and you are once again the enemy of God.
5. A certain fearful expectation
¶“19So my brethren, be bold to enter the most holy place with the blood of Jesus. 20[By that blood] Christ dedicated a new Way. This is a living way that enters through the veil. [I speak of 'the veil' figuratively] meaning the flesh of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
¶“21Since we have a high priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. Let us have our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:21-22).
¶“23Let us cling to the hope we confess. Let us not waver, for we can fully trust him who made the promises [on which we rest our hope]. 24Let us be mindful to stir one another to love and good deeds. 25Let us not abandon our gathering together like some do as a habit. Rather, let us encourage one another, especially as we see the day coming near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
¶“26Since we have received knowledge of the truth, we must not willingly continue to sin. If we do, no sacrifice for sins will be left for us. 27We can only be terrified, expecting the fire and fury of a judgment that will consume those who rebel. 28[We read in] the law of Moses that those who rebel against it die without mercy or appeal on [the testimony of] two or three witnesses. 29Don't you think that a far worse punishment is merited by one who tramples on the Son of God? One who has been made holy by the blood of Christ’s covenant, [should not] treat that blood as unholy. That would insult the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:26-31).
The Christian has a hope that is sure and certain, but at the same time a fear that is just as sure and certain. Drawing near to God, we have "full assurance", but we must hold to it unswervingly. No power can force us to sin. But if we deliberately and willfully sin, no power will prevent us. If that is our choice, then we enter into the wrath of God again.
6. The important little word "if"
¶“6If we claim to have fellowship with God, yet we walk in darkness, then we tell a lie and act dishonestly. 7But if we walk in the light, the same light that God [dwells] in, then we have fellowship with God and he with us. Moreover, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1John 1:6-7).
¶“8If we claim that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9But if we confess our sins [to God], He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all that is wrong.” (1John 1:8-9).
¶“3If we keep God’s commandments, we know by this that we have come to know God. 4If someone says, 'I know God', and that person doesn't keep God’s word, then that person is a liar devoid of truth. 5The love of God is truly perfected in whoever obeys God’s word. By this [principle] we know that we are in God’s [fellowship]” (1John 2:3-5).
John says, "We know that we have come to know God". We challenge anyone in the universe to cast any doubt upon that knowledge. It is certain truth. But John adds a condition: "...if we obey his commandments".
Only "if we walk in the light" are we truly able to assert that we have fellowship with God. Our guarantee is solid; but that does not mean it is without a proviso. Knowing God is conditional upon obeying God.
7. The Lord’s letter to Sardis
¶“1To the messenger of the congregation in Sardis, write: the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars is saying, 'I know your works, how you have a good name for being alive, but you are dead. 2Be on watch, and make strong what you still have, which is ready to die. I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God” (Revelation 3:1-2).
¶“3So remember what you received and heard. Guard it well and repent. If you won't watch, then I will come upon you like a thief. You will not be expecting me, at the hour I come upon you” (Revelation 3:3).
¶“4Even in Sardis, a few can be named who have not soiled their robes. They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5Those who overcome shall be dressed in white, and I will not blot out their names from the book of life. Rather, I will acknowledge their names before my Father and his angels' ” (Revelation 3:4-5).
"I will never erase his name from the book of life" says the Lord. Whose name?
- The one whose deeds are complete in his sight.
- The one who remembers Christ’s word, obeys it and repents.
- The one who wakes up.
- The one who does not soil his garments with sin.
- The one who overcomes.
The threat is clearly implicit that names can, and will, be erased out of the book of life —the names of those who refuse to meet these conditions.