As disciples of Christ we are called to a narrow way. For Christ declared:
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Mat. 7:13-14)
And it is by this narrow gate and our humility that we will be judged. Yes none of us are perfect in ourselves, but still there is a narrow gate we are called to strive through. But in fact it seems difficult. But as we go forth and find peace in Christ, some of those presumed difficulties become easy burdens. For Christ also said:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat. 11:28-30)
But Christ is not a hypocrite, so this to me is just one of perspective in regard to what is easy or difficult. For once we learn from Christ, then the difficulty becomes less of a burden or no burden at all.
With this foundation laid in Christ can we move forward to discern who is of Christ and who isn’t? Who is our brother or sister in Christ? For it is certain that not all who say they are Christian or call on the name of Christ, truly are saved by His Blood.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Mat. 7:15-23)
In my Bible there is a break between versuses 20 & 21. But truly verses 15 through 23 are related and run the complete thought together. But what is Christ saying? He is saying to watch what a person says and does. Even if they know Scripture well. For even satan used Scripture on his own behalf. We have an example when he tempted Christ.
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Mat. 4:5-7)
So then what? We know Christ wasn’t just talking about big name pastors in mega churches who will profane the name of Christ, but also various individuals on the internet and in real life, both of reputation and lowly in stature. But through Paul the Holy Spirit spoke the fruits of the Spirit that our walk in Christ may be evident to others. What are these fruits of the Spirit?
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
But Paul also contrasts the fruits against the works of the flesh.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)
I now want to apply this lesson to the assembling of ourselves together. Seeking Christ alone within the assembly. Knowing that none of us walk perfectly, but that we can find enough evidence of a true brother if he is putting Christ first above all things, displaying fruits of the Spirit on a consistent basis. But if someone doesn’t follow the teachings of Christ through the Gospels and the apostles in a consistent way, then doubts about a persons salvation can form. In fact if someone can’t confirm basic tenets of the Faith, then that person worships another Jesus and is in dire need of the True Christ. In such a case it would be proper to spend time ministering to lead them to Christ. Even to someone who has claimed the name of Christ for many years. Let us then examine our walk before Christ in light of the Truth of Scripture so that we can be accounted worthy of our Salvation.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)
I enjoyed this post Al but I am curious about this statement that might need some clarification:
“In fact if someone can’t confirm basic tenets of the faith, then that person worships another Jesus and is in dire need of the true Christ.”
First, nothing in the passage you quoted confirms this statement. There are many reasons an individual might not confirm basic Christian tenets that could range from immaturity, doubt or even mental illness. It is true as you said that we must be watchful and we should judge others (professing Christians) by their fruits- the fruits you have listed here. I would think there is a difference between someone who rejects some or most of what is known as biblical Christianity and a single tenet of the Faith, no? For hundreds of years those calling themselves Calvanists and those calling themselves Arminians have considered each other heretics due to their almost entirely opposing “scriptural” views, except the need to embrace Jesus by faith and repent from sin. The question we each have to ask ourselves is “faith and repentance” adequate or is the standard for being a Christian something in addition to this- such as many of the people above claim? This is a serious issue, because those who add any conditions to Jesus (such as having to conform to a set of doctrinal beliefs) really have no basis for doing so. I can’t speak for you, but I would suggest that both of the camps of people above were in error, despite who may have had the more accurate belief system.
Throughout the scriptures we find what Jesus values in His people, what He deems to be most important. That isn’t conformity to someone’s list of doctrinal truths but a willingness to lay one’s life down for others in love. Although their are consequences for those who either in ignorance or willingly allow false doctrine and false people among the saints, the consequences of failing to love a brother or sister are even more extreme as are the judgments from God for those doing so.
I’m certainly not saying that blatant error should ever be minimized or that someone teaching falsehood should be given a voice. I am saying this though:
The parameters of whether to accept a professing believer are within the framework of the verses you quoted….not in whether someone agrees with the doctrines that fall outside of actual believing (trusting) in Jesus through faith and repentance.
Hey Michael! I’m sure you can understand I left the statement in a general sense since there’s a wider audience. Also mostly because it needs to be applied in a case by case basis. And not to throw mud at one doctrinal party or the other because I’m sure there will be some saved out of both groups.
But in the quest for clarification sake, our Faith of course is built upon our cornerstone, Christ died for our sins. There is no other sacrifice needed for that Salvation. For any other sacrifice offered through prayer or service is a testimony of our faith and not a work towards salvation. Then we begin laying the rest of the foundation on the apostles and prophets. And as Scripture says anything of wood and hay will be burnt up in the end to see what is left.
In the interest of the assembly of Saints we wouldn’t apply the same standard to a new born in Christ as to one who claims to be outside the walls of institution for years would we? But we would still want to maintain a standard for peace and order within the assembly regardless.
Thanks Al. Sorry if that felt like a jab as it wasn’t meant to be. It just seems so easy to erect a standard that is not God’s standard verses taking the time to wait patiently for our Father to reveal the truth about others. That’s what concerns me. I’m obviously not saying that is true about you, those it has and does ring true towards many who claim the name of Christ.
Despite some of these people claiming their primary motive is the general well being of others or a desire to retain purity of doctrine among the saints, beneath it all is often a selfish desire to avoid all conflict because we really don’t want to place others interests above our own. This truth kind of coincides with the post you wrote earlier this month called, No Good Thing.
Hope all is well and good across the water 🙂 One thing that has occurred to me and I wrote about recently on my own blog was that Jesus “is the good tree”. As he said in Matthew 7 – a bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit and neither can a good tree bring forth bad fruit. So Jesus Christ our Lord – being THE good tree – cannot fail to bring forth good fruit. Therefore, since God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), anyone claiming to be a Christian (that is Christ’s one) but does not show the fruits of the Spirit over time would be someone who I would discern more with after talking with them.
Something else to look out for would be also having met some of the disciples of the person who confesses to be a Christian. If their disciples are still walking in blatant sin then we have to question it.
I came at this from another angle. My brother asked me – “Do you believe in once saved, always saved?” and instead of just giving him a quick reply I thought I would post a blog on based on scripture. I can also see now why Paul, knowing that Christ is “The” good tree over all good trees, can easily say to people that those who walk in the following sins “sin X…Y…Z” cannot enter the kingdom of God – because he knew that Christ would not produce this kind of fruit. Its all too easy to say we are Christian and ignore our sins and say we are saved – but are we really repenting over sin? If not then why ask for forgiveness and then continue in the same sins day in day out. I think Matthew 7 is a real eye opener – Christ is calling for perseverance not mental accent but a changed life – not because it is within our strength to do it but that someone who really does believe in Christ will have actually turned to Him and it is He (the author and finisher of our faith) who does the work in us to conform us. If someone doesn’t change over time (if you cannot see a tangible change over the year) then we must ask – have they really turned to Christ because Christ does not lie and will perform that which He has started (unless He hasn’t started anything at all because the professing Christian actually hasn’t turned to Him).
However, fruit is something that grows over time. I believe young Christians must be nurtured with milk but they must also be fed with meat every so often to strengthen them (including myself who has been growing for the last 8 years now). Before we point the finger we need to be keen to examine the soil they are in – has someone took time to prepare, water and tender the young plant or is someone just throwing buckets of water over them…that just kills young plants….if you know what I mean.
“However, fruit is something that grows over time.”
Excellent point to remember Colin. Jesus said we must no go around pulling out weeds less we mistakenly hurt the wheat as well by accident. This is referring to other professing believers of course. I think with elders/leaders who are wolves or who introduce destructive heresies we are commanded to shut them up and publicly condemn them.
In Christ -Jim