It seems unthinkable that the Lord would reject Christians who claim faith in him and who do what he says to do, like sharing the great commission. Why would he do that?
It is so unthinkable, that most churches teach that this cannot happen. They reject the repeated evidence in Scripture, to promote what people prefer to hear, that once a person makes a genuine profession of faith in Jesus, they are guaranteed salvation, and nothing they do can ever separate them from Christ.
As highlighted in the last two posts, the Bible teaches that not all who say Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom. Not all who claim to have a profession of faith are thereafter acting with faith as the manner in which they approach decisions. Many people will think they are saved, but Jesus will reject them as wicked. What is missing in their Christian faith?
According to the Spirit, it is entirely possible, even common, for Christians to rightly claim faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, to even grow in their knowledge and practice by obeying what he says, and still miss out. Christianity is not just simply about knowing rightly, nor about doing right; it is designed to be about reflecting rightly, and that requires that our motives for why we do what we do to come in line with the heart of God. In other words, Christianity requires that we obey in the way that fits with and reflects the nature of God.
Christian history has shifted the biblical focus of the nature of God toward an intellectual description of how there can be one God in three persons. The Trinity may be a helpful concept in trying to understand the Godhead, but Scripture emphasizes the nature of God in terms of righteousness. As the Apostle John noted succinctly, “God is Love!”
If you want to understand the way to live faithfully, with genuine hope as a salvation-promised Christian, you must focus not simply on what you do, but on the way you obey. In a word, you must seek the way of love.
In the context of Paul’s instructions to the Christians in Corinth, he identifies that there are numerous parts or roles in the Church into which the Spirit of God places and gifts people differently, like apostles, prophets, and teachers. He then proceeds to say, “but now, let me show you the most excellent way” to apply yourselves in these different responsibilities. 1 Cor 13 is known as the love chapter, but it is easy to miss the larger context for why he teaches on this topic of love.
As the text states, you might have incredible faith, prophetic preaching, extraordinary knowledge, and obedience all the way to death, all given by the Spirit, but if you don’t practice these things for the reason of expressing love as you do them, then ultimately they are worthless. God may well still use such people to accomplish his purposes, but they personally will be considered wicked, because they didn’t reflect the right way to obey.
As Paul revealed about his own ministry, it remains completely possible for him to preach to others and still end up disqualified (1 Cor 9:27). He earlier revealed that if he served as an apostle and preached the gospel for reasons other than voluntarily—like to make money, or to have a good job, or to develop a successful track record of ministry—then he would be “simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward?”
The Holy Spirit may endow people with special powers, abilities, callings, and gifts, but if those expressions are done for any reasons other than to primarily honor the holy name of Jesus, to build up other Christians in the Church, to reflect the living nature of God in Christ, to demonstrate love in everything and for every reason, then it may look good on the outside but remain dead on the inside. Our motives matter to God.
The Spirit clearly warns believers who are willing to listen carefully, that in these end days there will be terrible times where professing Christians will actually be “lovers of themselves”. Their focus will emphasize what looks most beneficial for self, rather than expressing themselves primarily toward what is most beneficial for others. Their attempts at love will flow the wrong direction, like blood that is backing up in a body and trying to go the other direction.
This is the very judgment Jesus pronounces on the Sardis Church as recorded in Revelation: you have a reputation of being alive, but are dead! Or, as he says to the Ephesian Christians, you are obeying and maturing, but I have this one thing against you, you have lost touch with doing what you do in the way of love.
This love is defined by the nature of God, not by the preferences of others, so don’t be deceived into thinking that the world can tell you what this love looks and feels like. They are devoid of anything that comes from God, so their ideas of love are all distortions of the truth. The love of God is modeled in the person of Christ.
This truth might help to clarify the meaning of Jesus’ statement about the servant who brings the food of the master on time, and that after he has done his duty he should still consider himself an unworthy servant. God is after more than just right actions; he desires a right heart in his people–a heart he will provide through Christ, but not one he will impose against our willing participation and faithful application.
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Lu 17:10)
As James wrote in his letter, Christian religion that doesn’t keep a tight reign on the tongue is worthless. Even claims of faith in Jesus, that lack the actions of the “royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’”, are dead. As Jesus confronted the religious Pharisees who were meticulous in obeying Scripture and thinking that it assured them eternal life, “I know your hearts, that the love of God is not in you”.
Profession of faith in God, and even obedience to his commands, remains empty of eternity if it lacks the purpose of expressing the love of God in how we live. This is why the Bible declares that God will judge each person by looking at the motives of their heart. Telling Jesus that he owes a person heaven, because they were faithful in preaching his name, healing people, and casting out demons, just doesn’t cut it. A Christian must obey by demonstrating a desire to love and benefit others rather than gain for self.
It is a sad truth that many professing Christians “live as enemies of the Cross of Christ”. They may believe in Jesus, and even obey what Scripture dictates to Christians, but they live contrary to the “pattern we gave you”–that special, Spirit-led “way” that expresses the God-like love shown through the Cross. This pattern is not about church liturgy, but our active, daily faith-dependent approach of expressing the heart of God in ways that reflect Jesus. In context, Paul says that his prayer is that believers would abound in “greater love”, “filled with the fruit of righteousness”.
“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” (Phi 3:17-18)
Doctrines that promote “once saved always saved” deceive believers away from this truth, because such a teaching of salvation is entirely based on a claim, rather than on the Christ-reflecting way in which that claim is lived, as Scripture teaches. Ministry and Christian service are ultimately acceptable to God as they reflect the loving way of Christ, as they demonstrate the daily bearing of the cross that through Jesus “so loved the world”.
Mercy, as another word often used in Scripture, is a specific form of love that is expressed as an act of grace toward those who are in debt and can’t pay. Like all of us who owe a debt of death because of our sin against God, the Lord extends mercy toward those who accept his sacrifice on their behalf. This kind of mercy expresses godly love to those who are in desperate circumstances. In turn, those who uphold lawful judgment, but don’t seek for appropriate expressions of mercy, the Bible prophecies will not be shown any mercy by God.
Mercy triumphs over absolute-justice; love triumphs over rote-obedience. Neither ever deny or distort justice or obedience, rather they are the driving desire that lead the way toward righteous, godly, Christ-like living. Christianity must actively express the love of God as the reason and constant purpose for everything done, or it is an empty claim with lifeless activity.
In turn, the word grace, as typically used in Scripture, is another expression of this nature of love that encompasses the very concept of the Christian gospel message as demonstrated by Jesus toward those who believe in him. To express grace, like God expresses it toward us, is to “forgive as God has forgiven you”. This means that grace must be more than just a message that is taught and accepted like facts or knowledge. It must also become an expression toward the salvation and healing of the soul of others. Teaching the gospel must involve the expression of the gospel-truth with an inner desire to extend grace, forgiveness, and mercy to others who are willing to accept it, but who can never earn it, pay for it, or deserve it.
Christians must love one another! To trust and obey, must be according to his Way!
If you want to study further into this amazing love, I recommend the book “Love by definition”.