Assurance in First John?
As long as I can remember I have been told that if a person is struggling with assurance of salvation you take them to 1st John. The idea being that 1st John will help someone that is doubting their salvation have the assurance that they are saved. Let’s take a look at 1st John and see if this concept really works. Please have your Bible ready and read these verses as we go. Vs 1:6-7 requires you to walk in the light. Vs 1:9 requires you to confess your sins. (What if you forgot one?). Vs 2:3-5 requires us to keep the commandments. Vs 2:6 requires us to walk as he (Jesus) walked. Vs 2:9-11 requires us to love our brother. Vs 2:15 requires you to hate the world and the things that are in the world. Vs 2:20 says that we “know all things” Vs 2:27 says you have an anointing and you don’t need anyone to teach you. (Why do we have Sunday school I wonder?) Vs 2:29 says we must do righteousness. Vs 3:6 says you will not sin. Vs 3:7 righteousness required again. Vs 3:9 if you are saved you will not commit sin and even “cannot sin”. Read this one a few times just to make sure, yes it’s very clear. Vs 3:10 if you don’t do righteousness you are not of God. 3:14 requires you to love the brethren. Vs 3:15 excludes murderers from salvation. Vs 3:17 seems to require you to give to any brother in need, verse 19 using the phrase “hereby we know we are of the truth”. Sounds like a requirement to me. Vs 3:24 commandment keeping is required again. Vs 4:7-8 you are required to love your brother. 4:16 We are required to dwell in love. Vs 5:1 requires you to believe that “Jesus is the Christ” (This does not sound like how we are saved today in this dispensation”) Vs 5:4 requires you to overcome the world. Vs 5:13 probably the most commonly quoted verse on this subject requires you to believe on the “name” of Christ. (Where is our gospel of trusting in the finished work of Christ in this context?) (Where is trusting in the finished work of Jesus death burial and resurrection in this whole book?) We’ll keep moving along. Vs 5:18 clearly says if you are born of God you will not sin. You can read the entire book of 1st John in just minutes. If you have not read these verses please go back now and do this. I can think of no worse advice to a person that is doubting their salvation than to send them to 1st John, yet I have heard this my whole life and seen it first-hand. The entire book of 1st John is about WORKS. We are NOT saved by works. How in the world can we get assurance by our works? I can think of no better advice to a person that is doubting their salvation than sending them to Romans! Among other Pauline books that actually discuss how we are saved today in the dispensation of grace. Romans 4:5 is crystal clear! “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Let’s throw Romans 5:1 in for good measure. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” Being a right divider of scripture I can believe every word in the book of 1st John as it is written because I know where the book of 1st John belongs in God’s progressive revelation. If you believe this book is describing our salvation in this dispensation then you can have NO assurance because you can NEVER hold the standard described in the book. If however, you know that in ISRAEL’s new covenant the Holy Spirit enables them to keep the Law perfectly then 1st John makes COMPLETE sense and is easily understood. Please read Jeremiah 31:33-34 for yourself and see if this doesn’t cross reference to 1st John perfectly.
We are still studying the gospel here at Grace Bible Study and have had some good discussions recently about eternal security. Many Christians probably can’t adequately show why they believe what they believe on this subject. As with many doctrinal positions, both sides of the argument can be “Biblical” which is why we have denominations instead of just Christians. Both sides have verses that prove their position. Yes there are Bible verses that are used to prove eternal security and there are verses that seem to teach the ability to loose ones salvation. This is exactly why we have denominations on both sides of this fence that will never agree (Phil 2:2). Here is the problem with the entire situation. Both sides of this doctrinal argument don’t rightly divide their Bible, so this doctrine will continue to divide Christianity as it has for hundreds of years. The current method is to use “proof texts” that teach your position and ignore the verses that teach the other position. As right dividers we teach all the verses. If you just pick proof texts, you can come to the conclusion that salvation can be lost based on Hebrews chapters 6 and 10 and Ezekiel chapter 3 among others. Then you grab a few obscure verses like falling from grace to prop up your agenda. So you can use the Bible to teach that a person can lose their salvation. This comes from following an agenda instead of following the Bible rightly divided. The other side of the argument uses John chapter 10 among others, and teaches that salvation is eternally secure. This is the correct position but incorrectly taught if you choose to use John chapter 10 as your “proof text”. The book of John starts out telling you “he came unto his own” (John 1:11). This is easily proven because Jesus told us he was only sent to Israel and told his disciples not to go to the Gentiles. John 4:22 says “for salvation is of the Jews” this follows exactly what Jesus said. John 5:29 teaches works. John 20:9 the disciples this late in John still did not understand the resurrection, which is what our gospel is all about. Romans 15:8 is crystal clear. This all makes complete sense because the middle wall of partition is still up between the Jews and Gentiles in the book of John. Read Ephesians chapter 2 for more clarification on this subject. So what about the verses in Hebrews? Simply put; why are you reading a book named “Hebrews” and getting doctrine for us today in the age of Grace? You’re reading someone else’s mail and trying to force it into another context. Paul was called directly by Jesus to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. We absolutely use the “Hebrew Epistles” for our learning but the Hebrew epistles do not contain our marching orders for the dispensation of Grace that we are in now. Hebrews chapter 11 is still one of my favorite chapters, but we are not the “audience” of Hebrews doctrinally. I can learn much from this book but I do not find doctrine for my daily life here. Hebrews chapters 6 and 10 have a clear dispensational answer which we have already taught about here at Grace Bible Study. The fact is we are eternally saved if we have trusted in the gospel of the grace of God which was revealed by the Apostle Paul. No we don’t preach Paul, we preach Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25) and that mystery was revealed to Paul. Don’t believe me, read Ephesians Ch 3 and Colossians Ch 1 for the Bible’s explanation. Choosing the Bible over tradition is a hard thing. The division we see today proves the majority choose to stand with their tradition.
Where two or three are gathered?
If I were to ask you what’s the meaning of the phrase “where two or three are gathered” chances are you will say something to the effect that two or three make up a church. You might also say something about getting an answer to prayer. I have heard people say two or three are required for a church to be present my whole life, as have many others I asked. Recently I studied this “idea” scripturally. Let’s read the verse:
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
At a glance this verse might seem to teach what it is commonly reported to, but a right divider of scripture always investigates the context. Let’s search the scriptures for this phrase “two or three”. If you are willing to take some time with your Bible open as you read this, your Bible will reward you with something to build your faith in God’s word and you will clearly see that Christians need to start investigating all the “slogans” we constantly hear preached at church. Read each section of scripture below and ask yourself what context the phrase “two or three” is consistently used in, in scripture.
II Kings 9:30-37
II Corinthians 13:1
I Timothy 5:19
I hope you just read these verses? If not you are missing the whole point. If you did you very clearly have seen that when the Bible uses the phrase “two or three” it is always in the context of judgment or the witness against others. If you did not see it in Joshua 7:2-3, remember what happened at Ai? Israel was judged at the battle of Ai because of the sin of Achan. Finding these super cool nuggets in the Bible are the very things that increase your faith in God’s word. Now let’s read the context of Matthew 18:20. Verses 15-19 are about what subject? Did you notice they are about a brother trespassing against you? Now read verses 21-22. Did you notice they are still about forgiving the brother that has trespassed against you? Now let’s read Matthew 19:28. What were the disciples going to do in the kingdom? They were going to judge. They were given power to bind and loose in Matthew chapter 16 and 18. The Bible very clearly teaches the concept behind two or three and it has nothing to do with defining that a church is present or that your prayers will have more power. This is a Christian slogan that is perpetuated as truth when it is not. Part of the reason for this false teaching is undoubtedly Christianity’s failure to believe the Bible about Christ’s kingdom being a literal, physical, earthly kingdom as the entire OT clearly teaches. The Covenant allegorical teaching of churches today give pastors leeway to create many slogans that a literal dispensational interpretation would never allow. If you believe in the literal kingdom that the Bible clearly teaches then this verse can’t be butchered. When you believe in the “spiritual” kingdom which the Bible does not teach you can make Matthew 18:20 mean just about anything you want. Why must we be Bible believers? Because God meant for you to understand his word and when you fall into the trap of believing you need other people to teach you everything you might just end up in a ditch. You can understand the Bible if you study it God’s way. God sent you the Apostle Paul, why won’t you listen to him?
Now or Later
Last week here at Grace Bible Study we started a series of lessons on the gospel. More specifically the gospel of the grace of God as revealed to the Apostle Paul by direct revelation of Jesus Christ. How and when Jesus gave this new information to Paul is clearly described in Galatians chapters 1 and 2. Paul describes this revelation as a mystery that was “hid in God”. Why would we need to start a series on a subject Christians have heard hundreds of times? Ask 10 of your mature Christian friends to tell you what the gospel is, and you will quickly see why. If you can’t describe the gospel by which you are saved now, in the dispensation of the grace of God in less than 3 minutes then you don’t know the gospel. I’ll give you an example of how the gospel is easily confused today in churches everywhere. Let’s begin by looking at several verses that describe when you get salvation.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Mark 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Mat 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
1Pe 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
From these verses we see that salvation is a future event that you must endure to the end, and hope for the times of refreshing at the revelation of Jesus Christ before you get it. You should note that some denominations teach these verses regularly and some avoid reading or teaching them. And today many will attempt to explain them away if they don’t teach their agenda. Let’s compare these verses to another group of verses.
Rom 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Rom 6:22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Tit 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
Tit 1:3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
From this group of verses it seems clear salvation is something we can receive NOW. So depending on the agenda you are following you can teach from the Bible that salvation is something you have to wait for and get later or salvation is something you can have now. I hope you can see how clearly these verses teach something different. Yes these verses do contradict each other. Are these verses a mistake? Absolutely not. As a right divider of scripture I believe all these verses literally as they are written. I do not need to avoid some or try to emphasize others to follow a denominational agenda. The Apostle Paul did not teach the good news that Israel’s earthly kingdom promised to them was “at hand” like Jesus and Peter did. Nor did Paul teach that salvation would come at Christ’s second coming to the earth at the end of the tribulation. Why? Because Jesus Christ revealed to Paul that he was doing something different. Israel had been set aside in blindness and unbelief. Paul was given a NEW message and a NEW ministry, that salvation is available to everyone regardless of your heritage. We are living in the dispensation of the grace of God where God is dealing with everyone in grace. Salvation is available freely by believing the good news Jesus revealed to Paul. You do not find this message in Matthew through Acts chapter 8. You find the gospel of the grace of God in Paul’s epistles because this message was revealed through the Apostle Paul. Rightly dividing the Bible clears up confusion and makes the gospel by which we are saved today crystal clear and easily understandable.
Steve Schoenberger is a student of the Bible and the teacher at Abundant Grace Bible Fellowship, A Mid-Acts Dispensational Bible church teaching the Bible rightly divided according the revelation of the mystery delivered to the Apostle Paul