Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Five Crown Rewards for Grace-living (the Christ-life)

The Five Crown Rewards for Grace-living (the Christ-life)

The believer’s sins and failures are judged in this world through chastisement.  No sins will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  The believer’s works will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Perhaps one of the greatest misnomers of Christianity is that Christians will receive rewards in the Kingdom Age for having merely been good little boys and girls (because they do not live in sin).  The fact is, Christians will receive rewards for fruit produced (souls won, and disciples made) to the glory of God because they yielded their bodies to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, who then creates the Christ-life in their fully surrendered lives. This is to what the Apostle Paul referred in Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:11-13, and Romans 12:1-2.

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break {luo loo'-o; literally loosen; the idea is to teach a more relaxed, broader, more liberal interpretation} one of these least {in size or importance; i.e.; seemingly insignificant} commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case {double negative in Greek text; not at all or not by any means} enter into the kingdom of heaven {this is not referring to the final eternal state of existence, but is referring to the Kingdom Age because God-kind righteousness is required; i.e., justification ‘by grace through faith’}” (Matthew 5:17-20).

Notice, in Matthew 5:19-20, that there are three divisions of people divided according to their proper understanding and application of the union of Law and Grace; “19 Whosoever therefore shall break {lessen/loosen} one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

1. He who will be “least” in the Kingdom Age (vs. 19a, the unfaithful is the spiritual legalist and anyone lessening/loosening God’s standards of righteousness)
2. He who will be “great” in the Kingdom Age (vs. 19b) is the faithful believer who lives in the supernatural enabling of the Spirit and produces “fruit” to God’s glory.
3. Those who will not even “enter into the” the Kingdom Age (vs. 20, the lost)

The “kingdom of heaven” is the Kingdom Age, not the final eternal state of existence.  The final eternal state of existence is called the Kingdom of God in the Word of God.  There is a difference between these two kingdoms.  The “kingdom of heaven,” or the one-thousand-year Kingdom Age, will still be part of the first and fallen creation.  Dominion will be restored to humanity through the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Rewards will determine the positions that glorified Church Age believers will hold for these one-thousand years of Christ’s rule on Earth.  The parable of the “talents” in Matthew 25:14-30 explains that these positions will be determined solely based on the fruit (or gain) that the yielding of our lives (full surrender) to Christ produces and the indwelling Spirit of God creates the Christ-life through us.  Christ precedes His teaching on the parable of the “talents” with His parable of the Ten Virgins (five “wise” and five “foolish”) in Matthew 25:1-13. Which group of “five” do you believe REALLY believed that the Bridegroom was coming for them?

Secondly, the “kingdom of heaven” will last one millennium, or one-thousand years.  It has events defining its beginning and events defining its ending. Part of the events defining its beginning is the Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ where Christ will evaluate/judge the ministry/service/works of believers during the Church Age.  The faithful will be given “crowns” for various areas of faithful service.  These rewards will also translate into varying degrees of responsibility of positions in the Kingdom Age as they rule and reign with Christ as His kings and priests.  Matthew 5:19-20 is addressing these faithful individuals from the Church Age, their positions, and how the degrees of power or greatness of those positions will be determined. 

The Word of God speaks of five different “crowns” given to faithful believers as rewards. All five crowns are determined by how faithfully a believer lives the Grace-life (Christ-life) in the enabling power of the indwelling Christ.

The Crown of Life

“Blessed is the man that endureth {faithfully continues under} temptation {the trying or testing of the reality of faith; James 1:2}: for when he is tried {dokimos ginomai, i.e., proven to be a regenerated person by his faithfulness to his love for the Lord} he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

The “crown of life” is NOT salvation.  Salvation is not a reward for faithful service to Christ.  Salvation is the salvation of our souls “by grace through faith.” The “crown of life” is the crown for living the Christ-life or the Spirit -filled life.  The “crown of life” is Christ’s reward to the believer for being “salt” and “light,” by living the Christ-life “by grace through faith,” and by yielding his/her body to the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Therefore the “crown of life” is the Crown of the Christ-life habitually lived through the life of the yielded believer as described in Galatians 2:20.  The “crown of life” is Christ’s reward to the faithful believer for the salvation of our lives (not our souls) by yielding our ambitions, abilities, and resources to the cause of Christ in evangelizing the world and in bringing glory to God.

19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20).

The “crown of life” (the Christ-life) is given as a reward to the believer who truly lives out the testimony of his/her water baptism in the death to self and the commitment to live life in the resurrection power of the indwelling Christ.

Failing to keep the promise that was made in water baptism of daily dying to Self (the Sin Nature) and being filled with the Spirit (putting on the Christ-life) will result in the loss of this reward and the position of ruling “over cities” that comes with the reward (Luke 19:11-17).  Those who are not faithful in living the grace-life/Christ-life during the Church Age will hold a position of the castaway in shame during the Kingdom Age.  The degree of rewards (greatness in positions of rule) during the Kingdom Age for glorified Church Age saints will be determined solely because of the spiritual fruit produced by the Holy Spirit through our lives habitually yielded/surrendered to Him.

The Incorruptible Crown

24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 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 {adókimos -unapproved or rejected regarding rewards for service}” (I Corinthians 9:24-27).

The crowns awarded at the Greek Olympic Games were laurel wreaths. They would quickly wilt, turn brown, and crumble into dust.  They were intended to be very temporal because they represented the champion in an event at that moment.  On another day, another competitor may win that crown.  However, the “incorruptible crown” is an eternal crown because it is not given for one contest.  The “incorruptible crown” is given to a Christian based upon Christ’s evaluation of a believer’s whole life.  The key to this reward is the words “temperate in all things” (I Corinthians 9:25).
The word “temperate” is from the Greek word egkrateuomai (eng-krat-yoo'-om-ahee) and refers to the self-control of human appetites, carnal lusts, and/or worldly desires or ambitions.  There are six things that God “hates.” Either the seventh, or having all seven, is an “abomination” (disgusting or abhorrent) to Him.

16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Sin is like a spider web. Seldom is there but one strand.  One sin connects to another that connects to another that connects to another.  For instance, in David’s sin with Bathsheba, we see all seven of these abominations referred to in Proverbs 6:16-19.  Pride led to lying that led to cover-up that created a situation of urgency that plotted to do evil that led to murder that brought God’s chastisement upon David, his family, and ultimately upon the nation of Israel.  By David’s sin, he gave his children permission to do the same and the seed of spiritual discord was sown. 

God does not leave us guessing about what constitutes intemperance or the failure in the self-control of the “flesh.”  In Galatians chapter five, God tells us exactly how intemperance will manifest itself through a person’s life.

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do {present, active, participle; i.e. are doing as the regular practice of their life} such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:13-21).

The “kingdom of God” is the final eternal state of existence provided only to those “born again” into God’s family “by grace through faith.” The “kingdom of God” is NOT the same as the “kingdom of heaven.” All true believers receive the inheritance of the “kingdom of God.”  Therefore, the issue of unrepentant, habitual living in the “flesh” is also a manifestation of still being lost even though there may be a profession of faith in Christ.

The third Crown reward for living the Christ-life, or the Spirit-filled life, builds upon the previous two.  We cannot earn the third Crown reward apart from having earned the first two in that producing a true disciple of Jesus Christ must be done in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.  Discipleship is a supernatural work involving progressive transfiguration (Romans 12:2).

The Crown of Joy or Rejoicing (the Disciple Maker’s Crown)

17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. 18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20 For ye are our glory and joy” (I Thessalonians 2:17-20).

This “crown” is often referred to as the Soul Winner’s Crown.  However, I like to refer to it as the Disciple Maker’s Crown because there are three phases in the evangelization of a soul.  These three phases (or steps, because they must follow in order or succession to one another) of evangelism are detailed in the Great Commission given by Christ to His Church (all “born again” believers).

1. The first phase of evangelism is preaching the Gospel and leading a soul to a faith decision to be “born again.”
2. The second phase of evangelism is leading a “born again” believer to become a disciple of Jesus in daily dying to the “old man” and yielding himself to the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The beginning of this second phase of evangelism is leading a person to be water baptized, which is a physical/outward portrayal of this spiritual/inward commitment.  Water baptism is intricately connected to formal local membership and accountability to other members of the local body in living the Christ-life.  There is no such thing in Scripture as a Lone Ranger Christian outside of formal membership to a local body of believers.  Scripturally, such a person would be considered an anomaly and to be living contrary to the commands of God.
3. The third phase is teaching the “born again” believer, now committed to live the Christ-life, the Word of God and how to become a “doer of the Word” and not just a “hearer only.” The emphasis in the words “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” in Matthew 28:20 is upon the word “observe.” The idea of the word “observe” is to preserve or guard. The natural tendency is to lower or lessen God’s expectations. The believer is to live in such a way as to never let this happen. The high expectations of righteousness (and therefore righteous living) must be carefully guarded and passed on from one generation of Christians to the next with exacting specificity. This involves teaching the specificity of Bible doctrine and living the specificity of what we know.

This three-fold mission is what defines the ministry/purpose of the Christ-life and is what should define the life of the believer who hopes for the “crown of rejoicing.” Christ died for this purpose. This Crown of Rejoicing is the reward of rejoicing for the souls won to Christ and made disciples through YOUR “work of the ministry.” In His resurrection and ascension to the Father, Jesus sowed the Seed of the Holy Spirit of God into the bodies of every “born again” believer with the hope they each would begin to live His purpose; i.e., God-kind righteousness being miraculously produced through the lives of “born again” sinners. This same purpose must become the Disciple Maker’s sole purpose for living. When this spiritual “fruit of the Spirit” is produced inwardly in the believer, it will produce the fruit of souls won to Christ and disciples made of Christ to the glory of God. This Crown is the actual believers who are saved and discipled through your ministry.

19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20 For ye are our glory and joy” (I Thessalonians 2:19-20).

4. The Crown of Righteousness (the Crown for Keeping “the Faith”)

The local church (made up of individual believers saved by “grace through faith,” discipled, and perfected for the work of the ministry) is the “pillar and ground of the Truth.” Every local church and every individual believer will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ according to two criteria regarding how we kept “the faith.”
The effort we put into learning the Word of God and the effort we made to teach the Word of God to others.  The effort we made to translate the Word of God into the language of living (“be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only”).

          The Crown of Righteousness is for learning, living, and teaching the Word of God to others so that they might do the same (creating a continuum of “the faith”). Living the Word of God cannot be separated from teaching the doctrine of Grace, because no one can live the Word of God (be righteous) apart from the supernatural inner workings of the indwelling Spirit of God.

The Crown of Righteousness is the reward for yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who then produces God-kind righteousness through our lives. Apart from this work of Grace, the believer can never be anything but a sinner. The Spirit of God is the inner source of “living water” (God-kind righteousness).

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:17-21).

II Corinthians 5:21 refers to practical God-kind righteousness supernaturally produced by the Spirit of God through the regenerated believer. Christ having been “made . . . sin for us” opens the spiritual door for the Spirit of God to indwell the believer. “Made” in II Corinthians 5:21 is from the Greek word ginomai (ghin'-om-ahee). The idea is to become. I believe this goes beyond the imputation of righteousness “in Christ” to the potential of practical God-kind righteousness supernaturally produced through the believer’s life by the indwelling Spirit of God. This is exactly what Paul is saying in Romans 8:4; “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This was never even a possibility prior to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Age of Grace. “Now . . .in Christ Jesus” the fulfillment of “the righteousness of the law” is a possibility in the regenerated believer’s life if that believer will “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This, of course, refers back to what Paul has already said in Romans 6:11-13.

5. The Crown of Glory (the Faithful Pastor’s Crown)

1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (I Peter 5:1-4).

The Crown of Glory is possibly the highest-ranking crown of all. Rewards are given for faithfulness according to levels of responsibility in ministry that are given to people by the Lord. We must remember that pastor’s will be held accountable for all lives under their ministry if they have not taught people properly and/or administrated the local church under their charge according to the directives given to us in the Word by the Chief Shepherd.

7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. 10 We have an altar {the Lord’s Supper}, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. 15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:7-17).

All Five Crowns are referred to as “full reward”

7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (II John 1:7-9).

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Two Natures of the Believer

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down {has been breached}, and without walls {without protection from attack}” (Proverbs 25:28).

          God divides humanity into two categories of people by the priorities and practices of their lives.  These two categories are given us in I Thessalonians 5:1-10.  These two categories are “children of light,” also referred to as “children of the day.”  The other is those who are “in darkness” or those who live their lives in “the night.”  Those people who are of “the night” are those that live their lives for carnal, selfish, licentiousness.  These are the drug addicts, the sexual perverts, the drunkards. 

The one word that describes those that are of “the night” is the word Hedonism.  Hedonism is defined as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.”[1]  Those who believe in and practice Hedonism are known as Heathens.  A Heathen is defined as “one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods: an irreligious or hedonistic person.”[2]  

Can a Christian be a Hedonist or a Heathen?  The purist definition of the word Christian is described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:22, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.”  Therefore, the differentiation between the Christian and the Hedonist/Heathen is not about pleasure, but in what we find pleasure or delight.  The Hedonist/Heathen can find pleasure in things God forbids - sin.  The Christian finds pleasure solely in doing the will of God.  A Christian cannot be a Hedonist or a Heathen.

1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren {Christians}, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep {while it is daytime}, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night {the righteous}; and they that be drunken {the unrighteous} are drunken in the night. 8 But let us {the redeemed}, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep {at all times of the day}, we should live {presently in this life} together with him {the resurrected life in the power of His indwelling Spirit; now as we will in our glorified state in perfect fellowship with Christ}” (I Thessalonians 5:1-10)

          The War Scroll, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, tells us that the faithful remnant of Israel (the “Sons of Light”) believed they would fight a war in the last days against the Kittim (most probably refers to all non-Jews, including even unfaithful Jews).  In the War Scroll, this latter group is referred to as the “Sons of darkness.”  These two historical phrases, the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of darkness,” give us a view of the understanding of Scripture by the faithful remnant of believers just before and at the time of the first advent of Jesus Christ.  The term “sons” reflects and understanding of generations or descendants.  The idea of producing righteous generations, or children, is reflected in Genesis 6:9.

“These are the generations {descent or family history/lineage} of Noah: Noah was a just man {tsaddiyq, tsad-deek’; righteous, the implication is that he was a redeemed sinner justified by the grace of God through faith and sincerely trying to live a righteous life before God} and perfect {without blemish or undefiled} in his generations {posterity; meaning he was a descendant of a line of people of faith and faithfulness}, and Noah walked with God {The meaning of this is explained in Genesis 6:22; ‘Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.’}” (Genesis 6:9).

          Obviously, producing a righteous generation of descendants does not happen by merely producing children.  In other words, it is not simply saved parents living righteous lives that will automatically procreated saved children who also will live righteous lives.  The Bible is redundant with contradictions to that false idea.  Producing a heritage of godly descendants will require great and consistent effort on the part of the parents within a carefully controlled corporate ethic.
Children will need to be brought to understand that they are sinners by nature and condemned under the curse of God upon sin.  They will need to understand that God expects them to turn from a life of sin to pursue a life of righteousness (repentance).  Children will need someone to explain to them their need of being “born again” and how to do so.  Therefore, they need someone to explain faith in God and faith as the means of receiving God’s gift of redemption.  Then, they will need to be taught their responsibility to engage the forces of evil, including their own sin natures, in the endless daily struggle against sin and for righteousness.  This is what defines a Son of light.  The Sons of light are those decisively joined to the host of Heaven in combat with evil. 

Children “of darkness” will be the natural consequence of parents living unrighteous and worldly lives.  Being children of darkness will certainly be the natural consequence of parents who are unredeemed, carnal, selfish, and reject the Word of God as authoritative in their lives.  The governing principle of both physical and spiritual procreation is that everything produces “after his kind” (Genesis 1:24-25).  It will require great effort and consistency on the part of sinners, even though “born again,” to produce a godly seed of “born again” righteous living children. 
When most people think of Antichristism, they think in terms of demonic forces that oppose anything that is righteous and godly.  That is certainly true of all that is antichrist.  However, seldom does anyone really consider that Satan has infected every human being with the nature of Antichristism at the fall of mankind into sin.  This Antichristism that lies within every human being is described in Romans chapter five.  We all are described as:

1. “Ungodly” (Romans 5:6)
2. “Sinners” (Romans 5:8)
3. “Enemies” of God (Romans 5:10)
4. Carriers and transmitters of “death” (Romans 5:13)

Salvation is not a magic wand waved over our lives automatically correcting all our deficiencies.  The victory over Antichristism must begin within our own hearts and lives as “born again” believers in Jesus Christ.  The greatest hindrance to victory over Antichristism is biblical ignorance and the selfish carnality that continue to dominate the lives of professing believers.  Professing Christians are easily led astray because they are ignorant of Bible doctrine, especially the doctrines of grace, of holiness, of separation from worldliness, and of the priesthood of all believers.  They know enough to pray a prayer and perhaps get their souls saved, but they are never genuinely invested in learning doctrine to the degree they get their lives saved.  Even though they are “born again,” Antichristism continues to reign as their slave master because they have not learned to habitually yield to the indwelling Christ.
Since Antichristism resides within every Christian in our fallen natures (the “old man,” Romans 6:6), the solution to the domination of Antichristism in a believer’s life is found in I John 2:24-27.  The key to victory is found in the repeated use of the words “abide” and “abideth.”  Therefore, John concentrates his first chapter of his first epistle upon the essentials of what is necessary for “fellowship” with God.  Learning to “abide” in Christ is essential to overcoming the Antichristism that resides in us in our fallen natures. 

6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (I John 3:6-10).

The word “committeth” in I John 3:4 and 8 is a present active participle.  The words “transgresseth” in I John 3:4, “sinneth” in I John 3:6, and “commit” in I John 3:9 are present active indicatives. 

What this means is that these verbs are referring to practices that are continuous in a person’s life.  We might insert the word habitually before each of these words to clarify the meaning.  Although the believer will commit occasional acts of sin, if he habitually lives in sin and is unrepentant, he should question the reality of his professed salvation.  Habitual sin is not a question of carnality.  Habitual sin is a question of salvation.

The whole Gospel message extends far beyond the salvation of the soul from the curse and from Hell.  As already stated, any gospel that does not connect the “born again” sinner to his responsibilities in practical sanctification before God is a false gospel.  It is often said that the epistle to the Romans is the “Gospel of God” asking and answering the question, “Where shall righteousness be found?”  Understanding this is important in that the Good News of God does not end with the mere salvation of our souls from the curse and from Hell.  The salvation of our souls from the curse and from Hell is merely a beginning of our “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).  

Misunderstanding the different aspects of salvation has led to numerous errors in the doctrine of salvation.  Augustine saw salvation as a process rather than an event.  This was due to understanding texts that pertained to progressive sanctification as pertaining to progressive justification.  This misunderstanding led to salvation being a process involving religious rituals or sacraments and personal works that contributed to a person’s salvation. 

Men like Luther and Calvin took a progressive view of justification.  In fact, perseverance of the saints is really a progressive view of justification.  In fact, in Calvin’s Institutes of Religion, he has dedicated the whole fourteenth chapter to the discussion of progressive justification, which is just an extension of his false doctrine of Monergism (if you are not familiar with this term, be sure to educate yourself about it).  If you are willing to read through all of Calvin’s convoluted nonsense, you will discover that he believed that justification “by grace through faith” is not an event, but rather a progressive process.  Calvin and Luther both believed in an extreme form of the false doctrine of Monergism that confused or comingled justification with progressive sanctification.  This is a common problem within traditional Calvinism and New Calvinism.  Calvin said: 

“On the contrary, though we may be redeemed by Christ, still, until we are ingrafted into union with him by the calling of the Father, we are darkness, the heirs of death, and the enemies of God.  For Paul declares that we are not purged and washed from our impurities by the blood of Christ until the Spirit accomplishes that cleansing in us (1 Cor. 6:11).  Peter, intending to say the same thing, declares that the sanctification of the Spirit avails “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:2).  If the sprinkling of the blood of Christ by the Spirit gives us purification, let us not think that, previous to this sprinkling, we are anything but sinners without Christ.  Let us, therefore, hold it as certain, that the beginning of our salvation is as it were a resurrection from death unto life, because, when it is given us on behalf of Christ to believe on him (Phil. 1:29), then only do we begin to pass from death unto life.”[3] (underlining added)   

          The problem of the strife between righteousness (light) and unrighteousness (darkness) lays in the fallen nature of every human being born into this world.  The problem is that we all have a fallen nature that has a propensity for the things of the darkness.  This darkness exists where people are ignorant of God’s existence and God’s revealed will that comes to us through His inspired Word.  Darkness is ignorance of God’s will.  People walk in darkness when they live within that ignorance pursuing the pleasures offered by satanic deception and corruption of God’s revealed will.  The true believer has repented of sin and no longer wants to “walk in darkness.”

5 This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ {the once and for all offering} his Son {perpetually} cleanseth {present tense; this is for fellowship with God, not salvation} us from all sin” (I John 1:5-7).

          A predominant theme of all the prophets and their messages from God is a call to repentance and revival of prayer and pure worship of God in love and from the heart.  This theme of repentance and revival would have been the constant emphasis of the remnant returning from the chastisement of Babylonian captivity.  These people wanted to ensure that God would have a faithful remnant of Jews through which He could fulfill His promises to Abraham. 

We can only know of the will of God when we accept the revelation of that will by trusting (faith) in the inspired Words of God.  Hebrews 11:6 defines those that delight in the Law of the Lord as those that “diligently seek him.”  The words “diligently seek” are from the Greek word ekzeteo (ek-zay-the’-o), meaning to search out or investigate so as to offer worship through observance and practice of the will of the One searched out.  

Faith is both the knowledge of, and obedience to, the known will of God revealed through the inspired Words of God in Scripture.  True Biblical worship of God can only exist within the scope of knowledge of, and obedience to, the revealed and known will of God.  This is what the Bible means by the words “walk in the light as he is in the light” (I John 1:7).  Genuine faith will “diligently seek” to know and practice the will of God and will delight in doing so. 

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
          In most part, the ministry of the Church is ministry to people professing to be saved.  That does not necessarily mean we minister to “good” people just trying to be better.  In my almost fifty years of ministry, that ministry to people within the Church has involved trying to help people in deep sexual addiction (fornication and pornography), adultery, spousal abuse (both husbands and wives), child abuse where the child was blinded with extreme brain damage, sexual molestation of children, incest of a father and brother with a young daughter and younger sister, a trusted man in a national ministry whose ministry was built upon a complete farce and where he was defrauding hundreds of local churches of funds.  The list is endless.  The difficulty of ministering to such people after their failure is that our understanding of righteousness is so offended that we want to see justice and penalty, not grace and mercy. 

1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 For there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:1-11).

          In Ezekiel chapter eight, God gives us a unique vision of His view of the human heart, soul, and mind.  The vision exposes the inner thinking, desires, and fantasies of the priests of Israel as well as the “ancients,” or the ruling elders of Israel.  Although they may not actually have been involved in the wicked practices described, this was what their fallen natures desired and lusted after.  The idols were in their hearts!

1 And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me. 2 Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber. 3 And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate {only Levites were allowed access to the Inner Court} that looketh toward the north; where was the {Mercy} seat of the image of jealousy {God is a jealous God; Ex. 20:5, 34:14}, which provoketh to jealousy. 4 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the vision that I saw in the plain. 5 Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry. 6 He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.

"7 And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. 8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. 9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. 10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall {Egyptian hieroglyphics} round about {pagan gods of Egypt}. 11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.

13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. 14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. 16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. 17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence {God’s chastisement}, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose {turn up their nose in insolent scorn at God’s warnings}. 18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Ezekiel 8:1-18).

          The conflict between the will of fallen humanity and the will of God began in the Garden of Eden.  The conflict between the will of fallen humanity and the will of God cannot be separated from the corrupting influences and temptations of the selfishness of fallen angels led by Lucifer.  Where ever Satan’s corruption of the human will exist, Satan has created a partner in corrupting other human beings in his deception of illusions and delusions that involves human beings in their own self-destruction.  The fallen unbeliever is almost completely ignorant of the constant spiritual battle for his soul and will between the hosts of Heaven and the hosts of Hell. 
However, even though the soul can be won to Christ and saved, that does not end the battle for the will.  The saved sinner will live the rest of his life on Earth within the battle between the hosts of Heaven and the hosts of Hell for his/her will.  The question of the struggle for the will is to which host the saved sinner joins his will.  This is what Paul addresses in Romans chapter six.  It is essential that we understand that Romans chapter six is written to “born again” believers.  The context is yielding to the indwelling Spirit of God.  Only “born again” believers have the indwelling Spirit of God.  Any attempt to live for God apart from receiving the gift of salvation and the indwelling Spirit of God is just human works.  Human works to please God are futile foolishness.  

There is an essential supernatural aspect that needs to be understood before saved parents can ever produce a godly heritage.  Parents must understand that God wants to partner with them in producing godliness in their lives and in the lives of their children.  This fact is foundational to understanding the Bible doctrine of practical sanctification.  This partnership with God is usually translated by the word “fellowship” in the KJV.  “Fellowship” with God is the outcome of the filling of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18).  Ephesians chapters five and six teach the essentials to walking in the light rather than in the darkness.  However, Romans 6:6-18 explains the means of entrance into walking in the light and in fellowship with God. 

6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin {the fallen nature}. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin {the fallen nature}, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin {the fallen nature} therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin {the fallen nature}: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin {the fallen nature} shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace {the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Spirit of God}. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin {the fallen nature} unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin {the fallen nature}, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin {the fallen nature}, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:6-18).

          The lost and fallen unbeliever has a fallen, corrupt nature to which God refers as the flesh or the old man in the Scriptures.  Until the fallen sinner becomes aware of the battle between the forces of evil and the host of Heaven, he becomes a tool of Satan in the destruction of humanity through corruption and perversion of the knowledge and practice of the will of God.  God’s use of the word flesh in the Scriptures defines a division between the spiritual and the carnal; between the eternal and the temporal.  The word flesh defines a differentiation between the physical and the spiritual.  The flesh is corrupted in the fall of humanity by lusts.  Lust is a word that describes the corrupted desires of the corrupted will.  The will has been corrupted when the desires of the flesh are contrary to the will of God. 

8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way {God’s way} upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:8-13).

          Noah was a saved (justified) man.  That means Noah had received (“found”) the gift of God-kind righteousness (“grace”).  Noah was a man of faith who believed in the invisible Jehovah.  Because Noah believed in the Spirit-Being of the invisible Jehovah, Noah lived in a manner corresponding to the righteousness of God given to him in the gift of salvation.  This life pattern of trying to live the will of God is described by the word walk in Genesis 6:9 – “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”  The phrase “walked with God” is intended to reflect the traverse through life accompanied by the presence and power of the enabling grace of God in the Person of God’s Holy Spirit.  Because Noah believed and yielded his will to God’s will, God aided Noah in his walk with God. 

          Noah’s salvation was apparent through the character of his desire to walk with the Lord according to righteousness in contrast to the rest of those of the “earth” who walked according to the desires of their flesh.  This is what is described by the words “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).  Obviously, the word “earth” is referring to the people that occupy the “earth.”  The word “earth” is not referring to the water, dirt, and rocks that make up the planet we know as “earth.”  This corruption is referring to the filth of human sensuality worshiped as a god and given every preference.  This is what we call the Hollywood mentality in our generation.  This corruption filled the earth. This corruption flowed into every crevice of human imagination, flooding the world with a license to sin against God. 

In their sins against God, they do violence to their fellow humans.  This is the natural course of natural man once the moral restraints of the Laws of God are rejected.  Human freedoms of the will rapidly degenerate into human abuses as individuals begin to presume their freedoms of the will as more important than another’s freedoms of the will resulting in anarchy.  This is the ultimate end of the way of the flesh.  This is the meaning of the phrase “for all flesh had corrupted his way {God’s way} upon the earth” (Genesis 6:11).  Anarchy is the promotion of lawlessness, unrighteousness, and injustice.  God refers to this mindset and lifestyle as “wicked.”  This is the spirit of Antichrist.

5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (I Timothy 1:5-11).

[1] Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hedonism, accessed 11/4/2017.
[2] Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pagan, accessed 11/4/2017.
[3] Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Public Domain PDF: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.html, Third Book, Chapter Fourteen, page 483. 
[4] "An OnLine site for the Complete WORKS of CHARLES G. FINNEY". www.gospeltruth.net.
[5] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Plain_Account_of_Christian_Perfection, This work, originally published in 1777, is taken from the United Methodist Church's digitization of The Works of John Wesley (1872) by Thomas Jackson. Note that the subtitle may be misleading; the year 1777 is the year this edition was published, not a year Reverend Mr. John Wesley’s sentiments changed in some way.
[6] Full doctrinal statement available at http://nazarene.org/articles-faith, accessed 1/17/2018.

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.