– by Deji Yesufu
AFRICHURCH MONTHLY SUMMIT (August 2019): DAY TWO
A GREAT SALVATION, A SURE SALVATION
Text: Hebrew 2:1-4
Yesterday, and in the light of our opening scriptures, we saw that salvation from sin is the Christian gospel. If you do not agree with anything I said yesterday, I want to plead with you that you agree with this thesis: that the only thing we contributed to our salvation is our sins. That we are men and women wholly indebted to the mercies of God. May the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be praised forever more, amen.
Today we wish to go further in our examination of this “so great a salvation” that the writer of the book of Hebrews wishes for us to know about and not to neglect. Today, I wish to discuss the themes around our salvation. To do this, I would be employing a much disputed theological position. I have been taught in seminary that the best sermons are the sermons that have the best arguments; so I would plead with you to endure my arguments.
Recently I read a true story that moved me greatly and I wish to share it in this message. Once upon a time, in our very recent history, a servant of God who had served the Lord and his church all of his life and had reached a very ripe old age, fell ill and was hospitalized. He was billed for surgery and was to be visited by his son who needed to, at the least, keep his Dad company. When this pastor’s son arrived, his father told him what happened to him the previous night. This servant of God was quietly contemplating the surgery, and based on doctor’s prognosis, there was the likelihood he was not going to survive the surgery. He said suddenly he felt fear grip him as he contemplated his end. He had served Jesus all his life but here he was not sure of what awaited him in the afterlife. In his despair he turned to the Lord in prayer. He then told his son that not long afterwards he felt greatly at peace. He received a strange dose of assurance from the Holy Spirit. In fact, as he stood, awaiting the surgery, he was no longer afraid of dying.
Brethren, today I want to talk to us about the great salvation we received from God and I want to tell about how sure this salvation is. One of my greatest heart ache as a Christian apologist is trying to help Christians understand the greatness of the salvation they received. I am almost always upset to hear of Christians say they are saved but at the same time talk about losing such a salvation. After teaching a friend the concept of an assured salvation for close to two years and he still held on to his Arminian theology, I quoted John MacArthur to him: “if you think you can lose your salvation, you will”. My good friend was upset by the statement but I told him that this is the truth. If after years of being a Christian and studying scriptures, such a Christian has not received an assured witness of his sonship from the Spirit into his heart; probably he was not a Christian after all.
Brethren, the day will come, like that Pastor, whose story I just told, that nothing else will suffice for assurance for you than the blessed witness of the Spirit in our hearts that our salvation is sure, safe and secured; that our salvation cannot be lost. That day everything you have done for Christ will stand wobbling. Every message you have preached, every good you have done and anyone you have helped will stand as nothing before you. Your eternity will be staring at you in the face and woe betide you if you have no assurance from the Holy Spirit; such assurance grounded in the word of God.
The number one enemy of an assured salvation is our sins. This is the reason why I needed to create the foundation yesterday and help us to realize that no man’s sin is dead. Our sins are alive and well. If you succeed in covering them up with false theology today, they will stare at your face on your deathbed. The only thing that can cover up your sin is not your good deeds but the blood of Jesus! This is the reason why we must understand the greatness of the salvation we have received and the place of assurance of salvation in the life of the saint. As we proceed, let me say upfront that an assured faith comes in two ways: 1. Through an understanding of the objective truths in the word of God. This is what I would be using the rest of my sermon to do. I would be employing the truth of scriptures to drum in an assured faith into your minds. 2. The second way we receive an assured salvation is through the blessing of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit would need to take those truth from our minds and drum them into our hearts. Then we would know that we are God’s children and we cannot be lost. This I cannot do; this is the work of the Spirit and I trust that he would do it in your hearts tonight. Amen.
One of the greatest wonders for me in redemption story is how God chose David to be an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Of all the patriarchs God chose David the murderer, the adulterer and a bloody man of war to be the one that the Messiah would be name after: Jesus the son of David. Why would God do a thing like this? Well, let us examine the scriptures and see what God says of David:
“My steadfast love I will keep for (David) forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever…” Psalms 89:28-37
I wish to suggest that God chose David to be Christ’s progenitor and to be the one to whom he would be name after simply by grace alone. David did not earn it; he was the least of all the patriarchs to bear this noble title. And most of all, David’s sins were his only contribution to this choice. Here’s is my finite thinking to this matter: if the Son of God shall possess a grave sinner like David as his ancestor, then sinners can as well be his descendants too. Halleluyah! This is what David said about the blessing of salvations:
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord would count no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalms 32:1-2)
The above scripture would form one of the prime scriptures for Paul as he argued in Romans 4:6-7 for the doctrine of justification by faith. Paul makes a little adjustment to David’s words. What David called “transgression” (singular), Paul renamed “lawless deeds” (plural). Concerning “sin” covered, Paul calls it the plural “sins”. And Paul does not put the conditional “in whose spirit there is no deceit”. In employing this scripture, Paul was describing the blessing of being justified by faith. It entail three mighty truths: our sins are forgiven; our sins are covered; and God does not count the one justified by grace a sinner – he does not hold our sins against us.
What does this imply?
When people argue against a secured salvation, they say that while indeed the Christian may have his sins forgiven, there are still some sins that if they are not confessed or renounced could earn such a person eternal damnation. David and Paul appear to disagree with this thesis. They are rather saying that there is a blessedness in God. A blessedness that come through faith in Christ. When one is saved; when one has salvation, that person sins can no longer damn him. Why? Because his sins are forgiven. But if forgiveness is such a limited language to describe this salvation, that person sins are also covered. It means that the sins that may seem unconfessed and thus unforgiven are hereby covered. And if that seem to be limited to you too: please understand that God would not hold the sin of the righteous against him. Sin, the very thing that you think can damn the saint is the very thing that has given him a place before God. He is blessed because sin can no longer send Christians to hell!
May God grant us the grace to believe these truths.
The Holiness of God
The concept of the holiness of God is a description of one of many attributes of God. The Bible makes the declaration that God is supremely holy. Scriptures like one 1 Peter 1:16, has the Almighty God say: “… you shall be holy, for I am holy”. We however may not grasp the perfect picture of the holiness of God until we come to Isaiah 6 where Prophet Isaiah has an encounter with the living God. The angels flying around the throne of God are saying “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Even as holy angels, this is their own reaction to the holiness of God they witness: it is a spontaneous outburst of praise and worship. Isaiah on his own part was dumbfounded, he says:
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Host!” (Isaiah 6:5)
He could not come to a proper frame of my mind until another angel touched his mouth and thus taking away his guilt and atoning his sins. What then is the relevance of all these to the subject of the greatness of our salvation?
Brethren, may we never entertain the thoughts that anyone of us can earn our salvation by our righteous deeds. May we forever perish the thoughts that we can make heaven; no you cannot make heaven – the best your best deeds can earn for you is hell! In human terms, who can be more righteous than Isaiah? This is a man who had been prophesying about the evil deeds of the children of Israel most of his life. He had such moral authority in life and ministry to be able to engage in such ministry. But the day he saw God, he condemned himself to hell; he said “…I am lost…” This is only a reflection of the holiness of God.
Before God, the minutest sin is as bad as the most outrageous sin. Before God, I dare to say that even our best deeds are laced with sin. It was terrible day in Christendom when Arminianism challenged Calvinism and restored to Protestantism the many idolatrous beliefs of Roman Catholicism. That is another subject entirely and there is no time to talk about it. Suffice to say here that the greatness of our salvation is premised on the fact of the substitutionary works of Christ for us. Just as Isaiah had his sins atoned for right there before God, our sins have also been paid for and atoned for by the death and resurrection of Christ. What happened to Isaiah was a judicial act of justification that was carried out by the sovereign will of the Judge of all the earth. The same thing happens to us Christians. We simply have our sins taken away. This is the reality: when you got born again, your past, present and future sins are have been taken away by God. This is how great our salvation is! Halleluyah!
If by any chance all of the above truths that I have enumerated are true, what should be our response to this? There are many but I would limit my discussion to worship, holiness and evangelism.
Worship: I had been a Christian for only about six months. Then I did something wrong. It wasn’t one of those outrageous sins but the Holy Spirit brought deep conviction to my heart. I cannot remember repenting. But I remember hearing a song of Don Moen:
Be Still my soul (2x)
Cease from the labor and the toil
Refreshing springs of peace awaits
To troubled minds and hearts that ache
Be still my child
I know your ways
And I would guide
For my name sake
Plunge in the rivers of my grace
Rest in the arms of my embrace…
Brethren, I was left in tears. I just understood instinctively that sin could no longer damn me anymore. I was safe in the hands of my Savior. So all I do in the Christian life is worship. Some of the people who bring out these realities the most are the Puritan hymns of the 17th and 18th centuries. They extol the deep mysteries of a holy God who chose by sovereign grace to save lowly sinners.
Holiness: Some teach that a doctrine of grace as we have enunciated in this sermon would lead inevitably to licentiousness. My response is simply this: when water is poured on a land planted with seeds, these seeds would grow into plants that bear fruits for eating. But the same land would yield weeds in some other areas. Our response to certain realities are based on the stuff we are made of. If you have the holy seed of a converted heart within you and you receive the water of the word of God, you would bear fruits in keeping with righteousness: holiness. If you however possess the seed of hell in you, you would bear fruits of unrighteousness and continue to keep the world waiting for a “robust response”. The gospel of the grace of God that saves sinners is children’s bread. The fact that vagabonds have made nonsense of it should not stop the preaching it.
Evangelism: The greatest motivation to bringing others to saving faith in Christ and to share the story of our possession of such a glorious salvation is the fact that we have received it freely and graciously from God. The apostles did not preach because God was breathing down threats on their necks; they preached because they were debtors to God’s mercies. Let us all go and therefore share this great gospel with all the world.
Let us pray…