By Weldon E. Warnock
Fellow-Christian, do you have complete confidence that you are going to heaven? I am finding among Christians some reservations as to what their standing before God is. The reason for this uncertainty is the notion that there may be some sin in their lives of which they are unaware and their unconscious, ignorant, isolated sin alienates them from God, and, therefore, condemns them.
What unnecessary dread and fear because of a misconception of the grace of God. The gospel of Christ teaches assurance, joy and peace for God’s people – not doubt and despair. We sing:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This great song expresses the settled, positive conviction of salvation through the redeeming love of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can confidently proclaim, “heirs of salvation,” because eternal life is so certain for the believer that it is spoken of many times as already possessed. John said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). Jesus said, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47). Other passages could be cited. Indeed, it is a blessed assurance!
The followers of Jesus are given eternal life and they shall never perish; neither shall any man pluck them out of Jesus’ hand (John 10:28). Of course, a disciple can quit following Jesus and forfeit eternal life, but the faithful saint is constantly safe in the hand of Jesus. A dedicated child of God is not in and out of the hand of the Lord, week in and week out. The Bible does not teach such a fragile plan of salvation.
For a faithful Christian to be lost and saved over and over and over and over reminds me of the game many of us have played with flowers as we picked off the petals and said, “She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not The idea of having to be aware of every sin and then specifically confess it, leaves those who would espouse it wondering where they are, spiritually, and saying, “He saves me, He saves me not, He saves me, He saves me not.”
Listen to Paul: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1: 12). The beloved apostle was sure about his salvation. We can be, too — not, however, by sinless perfection through perfect law keeping (an impossibility), nor by being conscious of every imperfection in our past lives (another impossibility), but by God’s marvelous grace that forgives our isolated sins, our ignorant imperfections as a result of our abhorrence of sin and our humility to confess to God that we are sinners and we need His forgiveness. The publican prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). He went down to his house justified (v. 14). We can go on our way, justified, by the same process. David prayed, “Cleanse thou me from secret (ignorant) faults” (Psa. 19:12). With an attitude like that, brethren, God takes care of us – forgives us, cleanses us through the blood of Christ, covers our transgressions and keep us under the shadow of His wings (1 Jn. 1:7; Rom. 4:7; Psa. 17:8).
Read the wonderful passage in Psalms 91:1-4. The Psalmist stated, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust …. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” Yes, our heavenly Father forgives us continuously of isolated, ignorant sins of which we can never become aware, predicated, of course, on general confession. This is what keeps loving believers in God’s grace.
Our hope in Christ is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19). The Christian’s hope is solid and stable, not flimsy and wavering. Hope means “desire and expectation.” Hence, a Christian expects to go to heaven. He has the promise of God for it and he can, therefore, depend on it. All of God’s people have infirmities and are tempted in many ways, but God takes care of His own who have surrendered their hearts to Him. Through the years we have sung:
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love O’er-shaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Some of us are either going to have to quit singing this grand old song or change our thinking about the security of God’s children. How can we sing that we are safe and our soul is sweetly at rest while entertaining worry, anxiety and despondency about our soul? Is it that we are relying too heavily on ourselves rather than the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? When we do the very best we can, we still are unprofitable servants. Let’s assure ourselves that God’s grace does for us what we are not able to do for ourselves. We then can say with Paul, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13).
Concerning the child of God who knowingly sins, whether deliberately or inadvertently, he is to immediately repent and confess his sins (Acts 8:22; 1 Jn. 1:9). God will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:7). God loves us and wants us saved, for God is love (1 Jn. 4:8; 1 Tim. 2:4). We do not have to keep begging God to forgive us, nor do we have to appease Him. He is ready and willing to forgive (2 Pet. 3:9).
These preceding things I firmly and deeply believe. I can find no alternative to keeping myself saved. I can find no other way to maintaining the joy of my salvation. But do not read into what I said as advocating God’s forgiveness of those who are ignorantly walking in sin or living in sin, whether it be immoral conduct or religious error, because the situations are entirely different.
Walking In Sin
The apostle John specifically deals with those who are walking in sin and he explicitly teaches they have no fellowship with God. John writes, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 Jn. 1:6). Whether knowingly or unknowingly, if a person is walking in darkness he has no fellowship with God, regardless of what he claims to the contrary. The word, “walk,” means “mode of conduct or behavior.” Hence, if one’s conduct is persistence in sin, he has no fellowship with God. The blood of Jesus will not cleanse those who are walking in moral impurities and religious falsehoods.
Children of God, regardless of how sincere they may be, cannot go off on a tangent from divine truth and stay in fellowship with Almighty God. Those who use human innovations in worship to God, corrupt the organization of the church or pervert the purity of the doctrine of Christ are walking in darkness and John says they have no fellowship with God. Those who claim they do have fellowship, lie, and those who try to defend their sinful behavior on the basis of sincere ignorance, also lie. Nobody can live in sin and be right at the same time.
Only those who walk in the light, in the truth of God, have fellowship with God and they, and only they, are cleansed (continuous or repeated action) from all sin by the blood of Christ (1 Jn. 1:7), contingent upon the conditions already stated.
Let us learn all we can about God’s word, live as close to it as is humanly possible and say with the Psalmist, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:11).
(Editor’s Note: The preceding article is another attempt by a faithful brother to deal with the question of the security of the believer who might be guilty of sins of ignorance or weakness. Brother Warnock states that the believer can be secure, which all of us believe. He finds this security in the grace of God who forgives isolated sins of ignorance and weakness based on a general confession of sin. He limits this forgiveness to an occasional sin in contrast to a general walk in some sin, whether that walk in sin be occasioned by ignorance and weakness. Brother Warnock has also written a second article, which will be published in a future issue, showing how he will answer the grace-unity advocates who use the premise that God forgives sins of ignorance, weakness, and inadvertence as a platform for fellowshipping those in the Christian Churches and liberal churches of Christ. Brother Warnock takes a different approach to the security of the believer than I do. Our conclusions and practices are the same. Both of us believe in the security of the believer. Neither of us believe that fellowship [whether limited or unlimited] can be extended to those who practice sin, defend it as righteousness, and encourage others to participate in it. We are happy to present his material for our readers’ consideration.)
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 7, pp. 205-206
April 5, 1984