Entrance Gained By Faith Alone
Elder O. B. Mink
Now In Glory
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58)
There are no greater or more consistent exponents of the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty and His unmerited grace than New Testament (Landmark) Baptists. However, their preaching and teaching endeavors are not shut up to the doctrines of sovereign grace, but they fervently strive to preach “all the counsel of God”, and try not to omit a single “thus saith the Lord.” They have been to a great extent blessed with the exceeding greatness of God’s power, but this has humbled them, rather than making them proud, for they know they are what they are by the grace of God (I Corinthians 15:10), and therefore; claim no merit before God.
Good works are vitally important to all who claim salvation in Christ, for good works are necessary for the validation of their profession. Our Lord said: “Ye shall know them by their fruits ...” (Matthew 7:16). However, the believer in Christ needs to be fully aware at all times, that even though his good works are according to “what saith the scripture”, they have nothing whatsoever to do with his salvation, nor with his entrance into heaven “by grace ye are saved” (Ephesians 2:5). Nevertheless, I fear there is an off color thread running through the theological fabric of some preachers who claim to be advocates of salvation by grace alone, whereby the good works of the believer is made essential for entrance into heaven.
To de-emphasize good works, BE IT FAR FROM ME, but to over-emphasize good works is far more dangerous. Arminians are guilty of giving prominence to good works at the expense of grace, and the Hardshells, Antinomians and some lax Landmarkers are fearfully guilty of the disparagement of good works. The problem in the main stems from a neglect of, or inability to see or maintain the distinction between salvational faith, which is based solely on the redemptive work of Christ, and sanctifying faith which is wrought by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the far greater part of God’s redeemed, who were never brought along the God honoring path of progressive sanctification. Nevertheless, heaven is as sure for these people as it is to faithful Abraham.
Some years ago (4) I heard a preacher announce his sermon topic from the pulpit, which was:
“HEAVEN IS NOT GAINED BY FAITH ALONE; NO ONE GOES TO HEAVEN WITHOUT WORKS.”
This is a most dangerous statement, and my deprecation of it is compounded, because it came from a man who claims to be a consistent advocate of the sovereign and ill merited grace of God. His entire sermon was a belaboring and compounding of his erroneous sermon title, and after his message, I asked him about infants who die in the womb, or die at birth. He conceded that these infants are saved, and go to heaven without any works on their part. This concession by the preacher, was in and of itself sufficient in contradicting his whole message, and demands a radical modification of it. However, I want to pursue our subject further, and see if the Bible teaches whether or not there are others who go to heaven without any sanctifying works on their part.
“There may be the principle of faith implanted, where there is not an opportunity of showing it by a series of good works, or a course of godly living, as in elect infants dying in infancy, and in those who are converted in their last moments” (John Gill, Commentary On The Book Of James - Page 789).
A preacher friend of mine gave me a church paper, a recent tissue, and pointed out to me the words of a sovereign grace preacher, wherein he said: “I do not believe that anyone can ever be saved by the grace of God, and not do some good works.” My preacher friend, asked: “Is he not preaching babies in hell?” I think this statement was an oversight on the part of the writer, for I know him personally, and he would not knowingly preach an admixture of works and grace as being essential for entrance into heaven, and after reading this preacher’s whole message, it is made glaringly apparent that the above mentioned statement by him is alien to the context of his message. Now, I will mention some, other than infants, who have died and gone to heaven without any good works to their credit.
But let us first, keep first things first, and one of the truths which every believer in Christ should give precedence and keep uppermost in his mind is, that salvation of the soul is the exclusive and solitary work of God, and that our external obedience and internal maturity does not in any way contribute to our entry into heaven. It is not the believer’s obedience that gets him into heaven, but it is the perfect compliance of his Redeemer to the will of His Father (John 8:29), that opens the portals of glory unto him. The saint should be exceedingly glad and utterly thankful that God does not enter into a destiny determining judgment with him on the basis of his good works, for the righteousness of the very best of God’s elect are as filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).
Beloved, who among us is not afraid for God to judge what we may consider to be our very best work? There is none, no not one, who will step forward in response to that question; for it is the undiminishing consensus of Sovereign Grace Baptists, that they do not have any fruit which is perfectly free of all spots, and that some measure of defilement clings hard and fast to our very best of works. This is one of the reasons why Scriptural Baptist churches, have with unvarying consistency preached the doctrine of salvation by the free and unmerited favor of God, and have a holy abhorrence of the Arminian doctrine which teaches that man’s eternal destiny is determined by his own work, that is, by augmenting God’s efforts to save His people with their so-called freewill.
“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” (II John 8) It is rewards the saint can and may lose, but the salvation of his soul is irreversible and absolute, and even though many born again people regress and withdraw from the path of loving servitude, they yet shall be saved. However, if the saved person persists in his lapse of faith, and dies in his shameful and backslidden state, he will stand empty handed at the mercy seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:15). It was this danger that prompted Paul to say: “Let no man beguile you of your reward.” (Colossians 2:18). It is with this very same thought in mind that the Apostle John, admonishes a sister church, saying: “Look to yourselves (plural), that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (II John 8).
The religiously unsaved cannot retrogress or backslide from truth, but they may, and will in due season backslide from their false profession of faith. Peter refers to these counterfeit professors, saying: “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (mud hole)” (II Peter 2:22). A lost person, no matter how religious he may be, can do nothing but add sin to sin, and he will at God’s appointed time receive a just and fearful recompense for his superficial pretension. It is also an awesome truth that a Christian can desist in his pursuit of holiness, and thereby reproach Christ and bring shame on His church, but his aberration and disgraceful retrogression has not nullified God’s saving power and he will surely enter heaven’s gate, but he will be destitute of good works and unrewardable.
All of God’s elect, and more especially His blood bought church, should strive with the utmost fervency to emulate Christ. But the most faithful saint should never esteem himself to be any greater than the chief of sinners, for if it were not for the abounding grace of God, heaven’s gate would have been justly and eternally padlocked with Adam’s transgression of the Edenic covenant.
TRIED BY FIRE
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, for it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (I Corinthians 3:13)
The “fire” referred to in this text is not the imaginary fire of purgatory as the Romanists teach, for purgatory has no existence except in the fantasies of the Papal church. Neither is it the fires of hell, for Christ as the substitute for His people, under the righteous judgment of God; suffered their eternal hell, and never a spark of hell shall ever touch them. The “fire” referred to in the above text (I Corinthians 3:13), is a figurative term which refers to the Divinely inspired, infallible, holy, and eternal Scriptures. All men, the saved and the unsaved shall be judged by the word of God, and it is by the word of God that degrees of torment in hell are fixed, and it is by the same holy word that rewards, or the lack of them in heaven is determined.
Christ said, speaking of the non elect: “He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The word of God, that is, the Bible, is one of the books that will be at the white throne judgment (Revelation 20:12). Christ said to His redeemed people: “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). For prayer to be a good work, it must be according to God’s word. All Pharisaical prayers run counter to the word God, and are motivated by the carnal nature of man. Therefore, they are rejected by God. Every heart rendered plea for mercy is according to God’s word, and will be honored by Him. (Luke 18:10-14).
“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (I Corinthians 3:15). Even though all of his works are of the flesh, and have “self” written all over them; yet he shall be saved, and that for the supreme reason that God’s regenerative grace never loses any of its preserving efficacy. “... The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (I Corinthians 3:13). In the light of God’s word every man’s work shall be made manifest, and there will be no effort by the probationer to gainsay the judicial wisdom of God. The soul edifying and perfect word of God is the exclusive criteria by which every word and work of the redeemed shall be measured, and there will not be one person in that massive throng; who will say: “I have kept all of Thy word perfectly.” But all will at some point in the errorless manifestation of their earthly life, say: “I wish I had not done that.” At some other point, they will lament, saying: “I wish I had never said that.” So it behooves every saint to redouble his efforts to bring forth good works, and to crucify all the “wood, hay, and stubble” in his life.
The primary work referred to in I Corinthians 3 is doctrine, and particularly the doctrine espoused by pastors and teachers, be they so great of men as Paul and Apollos (Vss. 4-6). Simply, the plenary word of God blazing forth in its uncompromising and infinite glory will in that great day, reveal the true nature of all that the saint has wrought and taught, as to their motive, veracity, or falsity. All the Christian’s works, whatever they may be, will appear in their actuality; for they all are weighed in the infallible scales of God’s word. All works which have Christ as their foundation will be rewarded, all else will be as kindling for the fire, but owing to the eternal and glorious truth of Christ’s substitutionary atonement; under which all of God’s elect are covered, they shall yet be recognized as ornaments of God’s mercy, and justified by the faith of Christ (Romans 3:24-26). The depths of God’s grace is unfathomable, and His ways past finding out (Romans 11:33).
No doubt, there will be some heretofore unknown preachers standing before the mercy seat of Christ, who had spent their earthly ministry with little to no acclaim in this world, but whose doctrine and practice accorded with the word of God; and having passed the fiery test, will hear their beloved Lord, as He addresses them, saying: “Well done thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). However, on the other hand, there will be a host of preachers standing there, who, while on earth, were highly esteemed by their parishioners, but having misappropriated this esteem, whereby the flesh was elevated; and their preaching being infected with pride, even though permeated with much truth, will be rejected, for it was ill motivated. All preaching, be it ever so forceful and fluent, which is done for the applause and approval of men, is according to God’s reckoning: “wood, hay, and stubble”, and shall be consumed by fires of God’s unalterable word, but owing to the faithfulness of God, they shall be saved (I Corinthians 3:15).
As to how many will be standing before the merciful and omniscient Throne of Christ is not revealed at this time, but no doubt their number will be multiplied legions, and it appears from the contemporary neglect and perversion of Bible doctrine, that a great majority of them who have all their works marked VOID, will be representatives of our own time. However, while they have entered heaven without any good works, they shall enjoy the everlasting bliss and beauty of heaven; for God’s saving and irreversible grace has kept their heavenly citizenship intact.
GRACE, FAITH, AND GOOD WORKS
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Good works which accord with the Scriptures are evidences of saving faith, and there is always, as we thus judge, a critical need for the manifestation of good works. Grace, faith, and good works wrought by the Holy Spirit, can never clash, but all works manufactured by the flesh are diametrically opposed to every overture of the Spirit. Notwithstanding, the work of the Holy Spirit CANNOT be in any degree deterred, but He will not honor any work that is not in perfect accord with the record that God gave of His Son (I John 5:11). A sermon or a Bible lesson may be spell binding, emotionally uplifting, and challenging, but if it does not magnify the truth of God’s salvational grace, it is not a good work, and will be found at the mercy seat of Christ; as having no light in it (Isaiah 8:20).
The primary heresy in which all religious lies are grounded, is the most ancient, the most successful in deceit, and the greatest devourer of lost souls. The heresy of which I speak, is that devious artifice of the devil, whereby he dupes the unsuspecting, and causes them to believe that salvation of the soul is the product of faith AND good works. This clever ruse of the devil whereby he attempts to destroy the distinction between saving faith and sanctifying faith, merging them, and making them both essential to salvation, is a most dangerous one! The only antidote to this soul damning doctrine is the preaching of the sovereign and all sufficient grace of God. There is NO deficiency in any of God’s works. All of His works are absolutely perfect, and cannot be deprived nor plused with the works of His holy angels, much less that of totally corrupt man.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Jesus is the initiator and consummator of every believer’s good work.
“Not by works of Righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us ...” (Titus 3:5). “Who (GOD) hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (II Timothy 1:9)
Regenerative faith is instantaneous, and is experienced by all of God’s elect (Titus 1:1). But sanctifying faith is progressive, and is the instrument whereby the Holy Spirit conforms the believer unto the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2; I Corinthians 6:19-20). Generally speaking, where there is saving faith, there is some measure of good works, as with the thief dying by crucifixion on the right hand of Christ. He was saved, and rebuked the thief on the left hand of Christ for his unbelief (Luke 23:39-43). This “thief” will be at the mercy seat of Christ, and will be recognized for his good work. While the good work of the thief is single, it will be rewarded, but there will be multitudes standing there who anticipate great rewards, yet owing to the faulty foundation of all their works none could pass the censorship of God’s infallible word and they will walk away crownless. So it is, some people will go to heaven over and against their utter lack of good works, and their presence in heaven will eternally magnify the sovereign and free grace of God.
MAKE YOUR ELECTION SURE
“And beside this (saving faith, Vs. 4), giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, 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. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:5-11)
Good works is not the foundation of election, but there can be no good works without God’s sovereign choice of His people. Election opens the door unto heaven, but it is good works that gives God’s elect an abundant entrance into His presence.
There is no doctrine in the Bible more prominently or repetitiously stated than the cardinal truth that salvation is by grace, plus nothing. Good works do not save, nor help to save God’s elect, but election has no way of expressing itself, other than by good works. But sadly, there are some of God’s elect who are caught in the snare of antinomianism, and decry the doctrine of good works, saying: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). While this (Romans 4:3) is the truth, it is by far, not the whole truth on the matter, for while God’s elect are justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28), it is equally true; that God’s elect are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Both Scriptures quoted in this paragraph, came from the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul, and we may rest assured, the Holy Spirit did not lead Paul to contradict Paul.
The disobedience of God’s elect has to do with the past, present, and future. The elect person’s disobedience of the past is forgiven, and shall never be remembered against him anymore (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17). The disobedience of the believer in the present is not condemnatory, but will be visited with Divine and loving chastisement (Hebrews 12:6-7), and if not repented of in this life will be a means of diminishing his rewards at mercy seat of Christ, or the utter forfeiture of all his rewards.
Salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but rewards are meted out or withheld in accordance to the post regenerate life of the redeemed person. All who stand before the Bema, or Judgment Seat of Christ, will find their election sure, but many will be rewardless, for all of their works were done in the flesh, so as to be held in high regard by men, and in the receiving of this earthly and temporal reward, they find themselves devoid of any fruit that will pass the fiery test of God’s perfect and inextricable word. Even so, they shall be saved, for they were given to Christ in the covenant of unconditional election (John 6:37).
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