Safety in Christ: How “Safe” is the Flock of God?

Safety in Christ

How “Safe” is the Flock of Jesus?

© 2022 C. O, Bishop

John 10:26-30

2But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

30 I and my Father are one.

Introduction:

Over the last twenty verses, Jesus has been teaching regarding the Sheepfold, the Good Shepherd, and the Flock of God. This is not the first time he has addressed the subject of the safety of the flock. In John chapter 5, He affirmed that anyone who believes His promise has eternal life the moment they believed. They will never be condemned, but have crossed over (permanently) from death into life.

In John chapter 6 He stated that anyone who came to Him would never be cast out. He declared that, of all who came to Him, He would lose no one, but that He would raise them all up at the last day. That is very “solid ground” upon which to rest our faith!

Over the years, we have touched on the subject of the security of the believer many times. But, since Jesus is directly addressing it, right here in John chapter 10, it seems good that we address it directly, as well.

What was the “Original Problem?”

Why did Jesus come in the first place? The answer to that question goes all the way back to Genesis 3:7, where Adam fell into sin. In disobeying God, he plunged all of his progeny (including Eve) into spiritual death. That is where all of us start out. As Ephesians 2:3 confirms, we are all born “the children of wrath,” just like everyone else. The whole human race had become spiritually dead. We were disconnected from God, at the moment Adam fell into sin. We all went with him! This is what we call “Original Sin,” and it is definitely the original problem!

What was the Solution?

The plan of God to redeem His lost Creation was actually laid before the human race was created: Revelation 13:8 states that Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World.” And, in 1st Peter 2:18-20, we see that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, who was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” So, God shed blood, to provide animal skins as a covering for the sins of Adam and Eve. That blood was a picture of the Blood that Jesus would shed at the Cross. According to John 1:29, His Blood would take away the sin of the World.

But in order for that to happen, Jesus had to be born a human (thus inheriting the right to redeem us.)  But He had to be born without a sin nature. (That is what the “Seed of the Woman” in Genesis 3:15 and the “virgin birth” in Isaiah 7:14 were all about.) Thus He would have the “price of redemption:” a perfect person.

And then He had to actually live a perfect, sinless life, in keeping with that birth. Finally, He had to be willing to pay that price of redemption: His life. And we saw in the previous verses that He had been given the authority to lay down His life, willingly: No one “took it from Him.” So, Jesus is the solution: the only solution God has ever offered. The Old Testament sacrifices were only pictures of God’s perfect sacrifice. Jesus is the “real thing:” He is our only hope, through His sacrifice.

How “Good” is that Solution?

When we talk about medicine, and diseases, and cures for those diseases, the question often arises, “How effective is that cure?” And the answer is often given in terms of percentages, such as, “If the patient receives this medicine within two weeks of infection, there is a nearly 100% cure rate. After that it drops off very rapidly.” And some “cures” are a bit of a gamble, no matter when they are applied. But what about God’s cure for spiritual death—the cure for our sin?

When we read the Old Testament, we see people who seemed to be believers, but who did bad things: terrible things in some cases. From a human perspective, it seems logical to think that “Well, you see? They fell away and they were lost!” But then in the New Testament, we see some of those same people called out by name as being saved individuals…and as righteous individuals!

What about their Sins and their failures?

For example, we see Lot, whose life did not seem to reflect any of the righteousness of God, and who lost everything in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah…and the last thing we see of him was that (because of their deliberate conspiracy) he drunkenly impregnated both of his daughters. And his progeny, the Moabites and the Ammonites, still live today, as enemies of Israel. But, in 2nd Peter 2:6-8, we see that God says Lot was a righteous man!

And then, of course, there is King David, whom God declared to be a “man after His Own heart,” but who later fell into sin, including the sins of adultery and murder, and vicious cruelty toward his enemies. How could he be called righteous?

(Wow! Maybe we need to re-examine what God defines as righteousness. At least, we need to find out on what basis He will declare a human sinner to be righteous.)

Definition of Righteousness

In Genesis 15:6, we see that Abram “believed God, and God credited it to him as righteousness.” And, as we read through the rest of the Bible, we discover that this is the only means by which any sinner has ever been declared righteous by God! We are declared righteous on the basis of faith in God’s plan of redemption.

Faith and Righteousness

In Adam’s case, he believed God’s promise of the coming Savior, the Seed of the Woman. In Abraham’s case he believed the promise of God regarding the coming offspring, and of the promised land. We discover later that he also believed God regarding the resurrection, but that is more obscure. And, he brought blood sacrifices to God on a regular basis.

The Children of Israel found safety, trusting in the Blood of the Lamb, at the first Passover, when they struck the blood of that lamb on the lintel and the two doorposts. In Romans 3:25, we find confirmation that He, Jesus, became the propitiation (the satisfaction of God’s righteousness) through faith in His Blood!

Safety in His Blood

You see; that specific blood sacrifice, offered by God’s Grace, is God’s only plan for the redemption of the lost Human Race! (Jesus is “Plan A,” and there is no “plan B”) And we lay hold of His plan through faith in His blood. Then, in keeping with his promise, He declares us to be righteous in His sight, on the basis of that faith.

It has absolutely nothing to do with our works, either before or after the fact. And what is the “Cure rate?” 100% of all those who trust in Him for their salvation are eternally saved!

What Does Jesus Say About our Safety in Him?

I think it is important that we see His promises as they were given: In John 1:12, Jesus said that the way to be born into His family is to place our faith in Him…receive Him. Believe on His name. In John 3:14-16, Jesus compared the bronze serpent Moses made and hung up by God’s command, to His own ministry.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Judgment and Faith

You remember, that old bronze serpent was hung up to represent the fact of God’s judgment on the sin of Israel, in the form of thousands of migrating vipers that He sent through their midst. People were being bitten and were dying! He told Moses to make that bronze serpent and hang it up high on a pole, so that whoever looked to God’s solution—the bronze serpent—instead of their own solution, would not die! They still had the bite-marks, the pain and the other symptoms of the bites, but they would not die.

Jesus said that He Himself was to be lifted up in similar fashion, so that whoever believed in Him—as God’s solution for their own sin—would also not die. But in this case, the life they gained was eternal life. We still bear the marks of our old sin nature, but we will not be lost.

A Specific Promise in Three Parts

In John 5:24, Jesus promised that whoever heard His Words, and believed on the God who sent Him,

  • HAS everlasting life (Present tense: it’s yours today…no waiting to see if you were “good enough!”)
  • And SHALL NOT come into condemnation (Future tense: it will never happen. God will never again condemn you! Your whole eternity is covered in that promise!)
  • But IS PASSED from death into life (Past-Perfect tense…it’s a “done deal,” and can’t be reversed! You can’t be “un-born again,” or go back to being “un-redeemed.”)

What Works are Required?

In John 6:28, 29, the people asked Jesus “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” (This tends to be our question, too, as we insist on believing that “There must be something we can do, to make God like us!” …to make ourselves righteous. The fact is, it can’t be done…and there is nothing we can do to change our nature as lost sinners!)

Jesus gave a very clear reply: He said, “This is the Work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (That’s it! Faith in Jesus, and His finished work!)

How Secure is that Promise?

In John 6:37 Jesus said, “37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Under no circumstances will Jesus turn away those who have come to Him in faith. Under no circumstances will He subsequently reject them and cast them back out! That is very solid ground! We are not left standing on a “sand foundation!”

Years ago, my younger brother pointed out that most sand is made of tiny fragments of rock…very hard rock, in some cases, such as quartz. But in fragmented form that rock is useless as a foundation. The solid rock we have been given, on which to base our faith, is the Eternal Truth of God’s Word and the Promises of Christ. If we depend upon the fragmented “truths” of the world’s wisdom and human philosophies, we are building upon sand. If we trust the Living God and His Truth, we have built upon the Rock.

No Believers will be Lost

In John 6:39, Jesus made an even more specific promise: 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”

Do you see why that was “more specific?” He said that, not only will HE not “cast” us out, but that He will lose none of us, regardless of cause. Some argue against this, citing the case of Judas Iscariot: but, in John 13:10, 11 Jesus pointed out that Judas had never been “washed”… he was never cleansed. He was not a believer. Judas never was saved, so he did not “lose his salvation:” he never had it to begin with!

In John 15:3, after Judas left, Jesus confirmed this, telling the remaining disciples, “Now ye (plural) are clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you.” Judas had heard all the same words the others had heard. Faith was the difference: they believed, and Judas did not!

Shall Never Perish

But, in our text, here, today, Jesus says perhaps the most powerful of all the promises: He says, 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

“I give unto them Eternal Life, and they shall never perish!” How long is never? How secure is that promise? It is exactly as secure as the character of the One who made the promise. He is utterly perfect and He is THE Truth, so we depend on His Promises as being the truths upon which we base our faith.

They Follow Me

Yes, the normal result of our faith is that we follow Jesus. But, as we saw in the lives of Lot, and David (not to mention Balaam and Samson,) once a person has become one of God’s flock, Jesus, the Great Shepherd, will not lose a single one of them.

We are eternally secure in His promise. Salvation is a gift, not a reward. The gift is ours by God’s Grace, through faith. But if we want Eternity to hold rewards for us, beyond that initial gift of eternal life, then we need to learn to follow Him, and serve as His ambassadors: His hands and feet; and the light of His Hope, in this dying world.

How can we see that Security?

It is interesting that He concluded, 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one.”

If I see the hand of Jesus cupping us from one side and the hand of the Father from the other, and His final word, “The Father and I are one,” then I can understand that we are safe between the two hands of the almighty God who has redeemed us from sin and is calling us to walk with Him in obedience. We are safe in His hands, for eternity!

Lord Jesus, teach us to trust in Your promise, and to follow You in obedience, and to extend that promise of eternal life to all around us, serving as Your ambassadors, and the light of Your Love in this dark world.

Justified by Faith

Justified by Faith—What Then?

© C. O. Bishop 9/27/15 THCF 10/4/15

Romans 5:1-11

Introduction:

We have been studying the book of Romans, and have just completed chapter four, where we examined the question of “What saved Abraham?” We were able to determine that it was definitely faith that saved Abraham; that God definitely accounted him righteous based strictly upon faith. We saw that we are saved by the same means. When we placed our trust in Jesus as our savior, we became children of God, and were permanently counted righteous by the Holy God who had once condemned us as lost sinners. The righteousness of Christ was posted to our individual accounts as we trusted in Him.

That is our foundation: the righteousness of Christ. The rest of the epistle to the Romans is building on that foundation-stone, the Person of Christ in the individual’s life. So, the first thing Paul addresses is that particular aspect of our new life in Christ.

We ARE Justified, and we HAVE Peace with God

5

1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Therefore (on the basis of all that we read in chapter four) being justified (declared righteous) by faith (not works), we have (present tense) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now there is an awful lot in that verse alone! Notice this is peace with God. Peace between us and Him; He is no longer condemning us as lost sinners, as in Romans chapter three. We are no longer at war with one another. (Did you know that you were an enemy of God, by birth? Take a peek at verse ten, down below! It says that “when we were enemies” he died for us!) But now, we have peace with God through our Lord (Greek; “kurios” — master) Jesus Christ. Later on we will look at a different kind of Peace—the Peace of God. But this Peace is peace with God.

This is a positional truth: my position has changed: my location has changed, so, as a result, my standing has changed. I am now in Christ, so my standing has been changed from “dead in sins” to “alive in Christ”. I went from being condemned by God as a lost sinner to being declared righteous by that same Holy God, on the basis of faith in the blood of Jesus. I went from being an enemy of God by natural birth, to being a child of God by spiritual re-birth. I have peace with God, and it cannot be lost. Romans chapter four states that God will never again impute sin to me. He sees me as permanently righteous. Where? How? In Christ, through Christ, by means of Christ. (By the way, in case anyone is wondering, “Christ” is just the Greek form of “Messiah”— the anointed one.)

Consider, then: my standing has been permanently changed to being “In Christ”. But what about my “state?” My condition? My condition can change from day to day, or even from moment to moment. In fact, the Peace of God, that we mentioned a moment ago is completely conditional. It depends upon my “state”, not my “standing”. My standing is permanently perfect in Christ. My state varies wildly, like Oregon weather. But, in reality, my “state” or condition only has two possibilities, as well. I am either in fellowship, or out of fellowship. There is no “in-between.”

We will address the issue of fellowship more fully as we read more.

We HAVE Access to God

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

In Hebrews 10:19-22, (turn there) we see that we are invited to “draw near” to God “through the veil, that is to say, His flesh”.  Remember the tapestry they called the “veil” in the temple? It was a thick opaque fabric that hung from floor to ceiling (60 feet tall), between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the Holy Place. Only the high priest could enter there, and that only once a year. There was no other approach to the Ark of the Covenant; the Mercy Seat—the throne of God. And the priest had to go under the veil to enter.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The way was opened for any believer to enter. We are told in Hebrews 10 that the veil represented the body of the Messiah. When he died, the veil was torn; and the way to God is open. We are to enter through that veil: through his broken flesh at the Cross. There is no other access to God. The access we have, initially, at salvation, is by faith in Jesus and his shed blood. The continuing access we have as believers is by the same means. The reason we can speak in prayer, and know that God hears us, is because we have access to him via the Lord Jesus Christ. We enter His presence in the sure knowledge of his sacrifice giving us access to the Father. This is why Jesus said (John 14:6) “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” He meant it quite literally.

This is both a positional and a conditional truth. Because I am in Christ, positionally, I have access to God, and He will never condemn me. He is literally my Father, now; whereas, before I was in Christ, He was only my creator. He is available to me regardless of my condition. But, if I am not in fellowship with Him, then I still cannot approach Him in prayer without confessing my sins. Psalm 66:18 says “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” It is not that He cannot hear me; it is that He will not listen, if I am in sin.

1st John 1:5-7 states three things:

  1. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all
  2. If I say that I have fellowship with Him, but I walk in darkness, I am lying. I can’t have fellowship with God when I am in sin…when there is unconfessed sin in my life.
  3. If I walk in the light as He is in the light, I can have fellowship with him (and with other believers.)

There are two uses of the noun “light”, in scripture. One is in regard to natural light—photons—physical light. The other has to do with spiritual light; moral light—the continuing knowledge of God. Jesus is the Light of the world in the second sense, and will someday be the light of the world in the physical sense as well. I think the scripture makes it clear in Genesis that He was originally the physical light of the world, but gave that function to the heavenly luminaries on the fourth day of creation. They will not be needed after the New Heaven and New Earth are in place. The Lamb will once again be the light.

So: for the moment, the light in which we are to “walk” is the light of God’s Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. We are told that if we do not walk in the light, we cannot have fellowship with God. (By the way, this is an eternal truth. There has never been a time when a person could be in sin and have fellowship with God. Amos 3:3 indicates that two cannot “walk together, except they be agreed”.)

We have access to God by faith. We come to him, knowing that we are saved, but still sinners. We approach through confession (1st John 1:9) believing that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then we can bring our worship and praise and thanksgiving, or make our petition, praying for others or ourselves.

It helps me to remember the proper order of things when I think of the admonition that we are to “cast” our cares upon Him. (1st Peter 5:7) Using the letters of the word “CAST” in an acrostic:

  • C (Confession)
  • A (Adoration—worship, praise, etc.)
  • S (Supplication…intercessory prayer, prayer for mercy, blessing, specific needs, etc.)
  • T (Thanksgiving)

Now: does my prayer have to take this exact form? Of course not. But if I am hiding sin in my heart, I need to be aware that God does not obligate himself to listen to other issues. The sin issue must be dealt with first. After that, we are free to bring our thoughts and concerns to Him. By the way, this is how we receive the Peace of God. (Philippians 4:6, 7) “Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the Peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Do you see how that is a conditional Peace?

He gave a command: “Be anxious for nothing, but in every thing, by Prayer…”  Do you see how, if you do NOT obey the command, you will not receive the Peace? So, the condition was obedience…obedience to a specific command.

Before we move on, let’s compare the two ideas; position and condition: When we say that salvation is “positional, not conditional” do we mean that there are no conditions to be met in order to be saved from our sins? No—there were two conditions: Jesus said “He that hears my words” (there’s the first condition) “and believes on Him who sent me” (there’s the second condition) “HAS everlasting life.” There’s the promise. But the fact is, after having met those two conditions (hearing the Gospel and believing in it), there are no more conditions. The transaction is permanent. And our standing in Him is secure forever, because it is unconditional. My state is another matter, entirely, and depends on how I am responding to Him right now.

But our future is secure, and we hope in the Glory of God

We Hope in the Glory of God

We know that the Glory of God is what sustained the nation of Israel during their flight from Egypt; in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. His glory stood between them and the pursuing army the night before they crossed the Red Sea. His glory filled the tabernacle, so that none could enter, on the first day is was completed, and His Glory shone from Sinai, filling the sky and air with thunder and dark clouds. Later, that same burning glory shone from the newly completed Temple that Solomon had built.

The disciples were witnesses of his personal glory: God the Son, in His glorified body, on the mount of transfiguration. We will be transformed to be like him, in our new bodies. And, today, the hope of his glory now sustains us, as we live in a life that is not particularly glorious, and is sometimes filled with grief and pain, disease, and death. We know how life got that way, and are looking forward to seeing the end of the story, as we have already been told how it ends.

We Glory in our Hard Times

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Meanwhile, knowing the glory of God, in the dimmest sense, we ourselves can, and should glory in tribulations, knowing that the hard times we now endure will have wonderful results; increasing our patience, building experience, and deepening hope. The hope we have in Christ affects us in a positive way, not negative. Even if we hope for things we do not live long enough to see, we are not made ashamed, because it results in the Love of God flowing through us by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Consider how many millions of God’s saints have lived their whole lives in hope of His coming, knowing it would happen, but not knowing when…just like you and I. In fact, even the Old Testament believers were looking for the coming Messiah. Job said “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand upon the earth in the latter day…” Job lived about 2000 years B.C.! And he was living in hope, waiting for a coming Redeemer. The effect upon his life was that he trusted God in the hardest of times. His testimony was good, and he has eternal reward.

But where did we start out?

Remember Where We Started

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul briefly reminds us that it is specifically through Jesus’ death that we have access to God. He says that we had nothing to offer—we were without strength. And, as a final reminder of our real (former) position outside of Christ, he reminds us that we were not “innocent bystanders”, but decidedly ungodly. We were not “nice little misguided waifs”, but hell-bound sinners!

We would find it a hard decision to deliberately give our life for someone else. All our training and nature says “preserve self at all cost”. Even if we could see that the person involved is a valuable, righteous person, and a good man, to boot, it would be hard. Military personnel receive rigorous enough training that they might do so. A parent might do so, for a child; or a spouse for his or her partner. These are all examples of responding to the need of friends, family, etc. But Jesus did not die for “good people”, or for his friends—he died for bad people, his enemies: us.

What is the Result?

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

So (Paul’s logic continues), since Jesus deliberately died for us when we were lost, rebellious, hell-bound sinners, how much more, now, as the children of God, will we not be kept by Him? He did the hard part of the work to save us when we truly were of very questionable value. Now, since we are the literal children of God, He sees us as being of unquestionable worth… not because of anything we have done, but because of the new creation He has made in us. He will not lose us under any conditions. Paul says that as we were reconciled (permanently) with God through his death, we shall (continually) be saved by his life. As a result, we rejoice in God, through Christ, because we now have that reconciliation. He has declared us righteous, and we are already reconciled to God…whether we feel that way or not.

Jesus spoke briefly on this subject, too: He said that He knows His sheep, and they hear His voice, and they follow Him, and He gives them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

Do you see why this is a critically important doctrine to a believer? Paul is making a point of letting us know the logic of and the security of the believer’s standing with God. He is arming us against the creeping, whispering fear that comes to the believer and suggests, “Well, now you’ve done it! God will never forgive you now! You promised Him you would never do that again, and here you are again, wallowing in sin! You may as well just give up!” (From whom do you think that attack is coming? God is giving you the defense against that attack!)

If you understand that Jesus died for you when you were an enemy of God, and utterly lost, and that as a re-born child of God, you are infinitely more precious to God now than ever before, then you should be able to see that He will never allow you to be lost. He will continue to keep you in Christ, and will continue to shape your life into His own likeness, rebuilding you to be to His Glory.

Let’s daily learn to trust Him more, and allow him to shape us in that way.

Lord Jesus, give us the Grace to trust in your mercy, and in your Love. Teach us to walk with you by faith, and to be a blessing to those around us as a result. Help us to grow to be the men and women of God that you have called us to be.