Sins Just Prior to Death

       What will happen to a Christian if he commits a sin just prior to his death?  Will he be saved?  It certainly is an intriguing question.   It seems plausible that a Christian could curse just prior to his death say in an automobile accident.  In light of James 2:10, does that mean his soul is eternally lost just because he slipped up just prior to his death?

          If that scenario is possible, then we could easily think of many more situations where God’s mercy would be required to save us.  By extension of that logic, if God is willing to grant us mercy for one unrepentant sin, He certainly should be willing to extend mercy to us for all our unrepentant sins.  However, that would not be just if God extended mercy either arbitrarily or with partiality.  So is it even possible for God to make exceptions to His law?

In order to properly analyze this hypothetical situation, we must be careful to address the subject by examining what is revealed in scriptures.  It is very tempting for us to speculate on the outcome of a person’s conduct (Matt. 7:1-2).  We should always allow the Bible to be our guide in this and any other important question.  We should also respect the silence of the scriptures if it does not address the issue (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19).  We certainly do not want to make up our own rules for God’s judgments.

We cannot be certain what decisions Christ will make on the Judgment Day unless He reveals it to us.  “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.   But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.   But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.   For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:11-16).  The apostle Paul continues these thoughts when he wrote, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!  For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:14-16).  God’s judgment will be righteous and God will have mercy on whomever He decides to have mercy.  Obviously, God’s mercy is conditional.  Just because we live as a Christian does not mean God will automatically extend His mercy.  John asked a good question that illustrates this point well.  He wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17).  In light of James 2:13, it would seem such a merciless individual does not deserve any mercy even if his only other transgression was committed just prior to his death.

Christ is not a respecter of persons (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9; 1 Pet. 1:17 ).  “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” (Col. 3:25).  The fact that a person is a Christian does not skew His judgment.  How we feel about a matter does not change the truth (Prov. 3:5; 28:26).  Just like in math class, how we feel about the problems has no bearing on the answers.  Human logic that suggests God will forgive unconditionally is not the kind of justice God will use on the Judgment day.

God has revealed that He expects obedience (Lk. 6:46; Jn. 14:15, 21; Rev. 22:14).  We must keep ourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:22; Jas. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:3).  For the Christian, this is accomplished through confession and repentance of our sins (1 John 1:5-2:6; Lk. 17:3-4).

One unrepentant sin could cause us to lose our souls (Jas. 2:10).  One misspoken word subjects us to judgment (Matt. 12:36; Jas. 5:12).  Hating our brethren will prevent salvation (1 John 3:14-15).  A Christian that teaches a false doctrine will be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:4; 2 Pet. 3:16-17). God is not even going to cut any slack to a weak brother whose sin was caused by a more knowledgeable Christian (1 Cor. 8:11-12).

Ananias and Sapphira were Christians.  They lied just prior to their death (Acts 5:1-11).  Will they be saved even if they prayed for forgiveness of all their past sins just prior to the events that took their lives?  Remember, it was Christ who said, “All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8).  If we say Christ will be merciful to all Christians for a few unforgiven sins at the Judgment, then Ananias and Sapphira should be safe.  But then again, who would dare to make such a judgment since we aren’t God?

Many will ask, “What hope of salvation is there if God is so strict (Heb. 12:29)?”  Peter provides the answer.  “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”  (2 Pet. 1:4-11).  Peter is saying if we give all diligence to these things we will be fruitful, productive, obedient, forgiven at a moment’s notice to God.  However, if we aren’t obedient in our diligence to these things, we are blind perhaps even thinking that we can’t keep ourselves pure because we are so wicked.

God gives time for repentance.  Longsuffering means patient endurance.  It is a quality of God toward all mankind (Rom. 9:22; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:9).  “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4)?  This doesn’t mean God tolerates sin.  It means God gives us an opportunity to repent (Matt. 7:7-11; Lk. 11:9).  God knows our hearts and will give us time to repent (though it may not be for long).  He gave the churches in Asia time to repent (Rev. 2:4-5, 14-16).  Ananias and Sapphira had their moment just prior to their death to repent.  However, it appears they didn’t take that opportunity nor was that opportunity extended for very long.

Notice how quickly Peter rebuked Simon the Sorcerer and the reason for the rebuke in Acts 8:18-24.  Despite the fact that Simon is a new convert committing a sin in ignorance the Apostle required immediate repentance.  There is as much urgency for us to repent of our sins as there is to be baptized once we learn the truth (Acts 16:25, 33; 22:16; 2 Cor. 6:2; Jas. 4:14).

Sin is a choice.  When we are tempted to sin, God not only gives us a way out but He won’t allow a temptation beyond our ability to resist.  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).  If we sin just prior to death it is because we allowed it to happen.  Once we recognize our error, we must immediately repent as we might not have much time remaining.

God is as long suffering as he is merciful.  When you think about it, the scenario where a person sins just prior to death is really a hypothetical situation that is unlikely to ever occur to any true Christian.  If we are living our lives as we should, we will take every opportunity to repent of our sins. The Lord doesn’t wish anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).   It doesn’t make sense to think that God would allow our death to occur in a manner in which no opportunity for repentance exists.  We can take comfort in knowing that God will give all of us an opportunity to repent of our sins; even for a sin that occurs just prior to our death.

By Steve A. Hamilton

Salvation by Grace By James Cope

In Titus 2:11-13 we read: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” This passage affirms that the grace of God that brings salvation teaches us. The salvation here mentioned is obviously salvation from sin and its power. There is a grace of God, however, that does not bring salvation from sin, and from its operation we can gain a good idea of the meaning of grace in its spiritual implications.

The word grace simply means “favor.” Actually we live and move and have our very being by the grace of God. By His grace we breathe the air. By His grace we eat the food to satisfy our hunger. By His grace we drink water to quench our thirst. Every physical blessing we enjoy may be properly ascribed to the grace of God.

It is equally true that this grace by which we live is unmerited By this we mean that there is nothing inherent about man which obligates God to bestow His favor upon him. Man has not and cannot do anything to obligate God to him apart from God’s self-chosen love and Will toward man. This is as true spiritually as physically.

If man lives by God’s grace he cannot be passive toward that grace. God provides food but man must eat it. God provides water, but man must drink it. God provides air but man must breathe it. God does not force His grace upon man in the physical realm; neither does He force His grace upon man in spiritual matters.

Grace Teaches

The passage under consideration (Titus 2:11) declares that God’s grace teaches. This statement harmonizes with every other passage in the Bible having to do with man’s salvation. It was and is through the process of teaching that God reveals His interest in and love for sinful man. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Corinthians 1:21). After man, by his own inventions, learning, wisdom and philosophy had demonstrated the utter foolishness of trying to save himself, Jehovah interposed the gospel to do for man that which he had not done and could never do for and by himself. Thus Jesus spoke: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), and Paul declares: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The grace of God, then, reveals itself in the gospel and the gospel can save none who refuse to believe it. This is exactly the point the Apostle makes in Ephesians 2:8 when he says, “By grace are ye saved through faith.” This is the same grace of Titus 2:11 — the grace “that bringeth salvation,” the grace that teaches.

With these thoughts before us it is not difficult to understand why Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach (teach) the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:16), and “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Teaching or preaching the gospel was the means by which God’s grace was to be made known to the peoples of earth. For man to reject the gospel, then, is to rebel at the grace of God which brings salvation.

Teaching the gospel is necessary, but teaching alone can profit none whatever. Where teaching falls on deaf ears and stubborn hearts it is as seed sown on hardened, wayside soil (Matthew 13:4). There must be a hearing of the Word, a hearing whose disposition is to heed, if the teaching is to profit; hence, Jesus not only said to His disciples, “Take heed what you hear.” but also, “Take heed how you hear.” A receptive heart is a necessity if grace’s teaching is to enlighten it.

Grace Demands Faith

Just as one cannot come to God without believing that “God is” and that He rewards them who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), so one cannot come to Jesus Christ without believing He is the Son of God (John 5:39,40; 6:28-47; 8:21-24). The heart indisposed to hearing and learning can never be drawn to God in this condition (John 6:44,45). As long as there is no will to learn the teaching there cannot possibly be any faith to save, and for the Word to profit it must be learned (John 6:45) with a view to believing and doing what it says (John 7:17), because apart from faith in it, the Word cannot profit those who hear it (Hebrews 4:2).

The grace of God, then, provides the means for man’s redemption from sin, but man in sin must appropriate this means (the gospel) by hearing, learning, and believing it. This means that man is not passive but active in his salvation. For him to be otherwise is to make of him a mere machine, wholly without power to discern or choose between good and evil. If he is altogether passive he could not save himself if he would, and he would not if he could. In such condition if man is lost he cannot help it and if he is saved he cannot prevent it. If we deny man’s activity in salvation we thereby deny his free moral agency, and if man, as God made him, is not a free moral agent with power to choose between good and evil and thereby determine his own eternal destiny, the entire Bible is useless. All its pleadings, overtures and invitations plus all its warnings, threats and commandments are but sounding brass and clanging cymbals — they are empty, absurd and wasted.

There is not one passage in the Bible which indicates man is not free to choose between good and evil, between God and Satan, between salvation and damnation. It is this one consideration which gives grace its efficacy as that grace is revealed in the gospel. The gospel is powerless to save him who refuses to believe it. It is God’s chosen medium to save man who does believe it.

Grace and Works

“But,” asks one, “does not Paul declare in Ephesians 2:8, ‘By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast‘?” Indeed the Apostle so states, but instead of this passage teaching that salvation is of grace without man’s activity, it affirms the exact opposite. Notice the expression “through faith.” Salvation is “by grace through faith,” not by grace without faith. The grace is God’s part, in man’s salvation, the faith is man’s part.

Then what about the expression: “that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast?” Obviously, though man is active in salvation his salvation comes neither through his own wisdom (I Corinthians 1:21), his own merit (Romans 3:9-19), nor his own works as is the clear implication of the passage before us. God does the saving, not man. Jehovah has designed the plan of salvation, has revealed it to man in the gospel, and has invited man to embrace it. When man in sin accepts the divine plan and conforms his life thereto, by virtue of this action he acknowledges his own inability to design and execute a plan for saving himself. Though he submits to the will of God, salvation is not of himself but of God; hence it is “not of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5).

If finite man could save himself through his own wisdom or his own standard of righteousness he would have whereof to boast even before God. This is exactly what Paul declares in I Corinthians 1 man has not done and can never do. As indicated above, God designed and perfected the plan for man’s redemption; hence, salvation is not and cannot be by the works of man apart form God’s revelation and, therefore man cannot boast about his salvation.

It (salvation) is the gift of God” in exactly the same sense that Jesus Christ is the gift of God. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16), but because God gave His Son it does not follow that all the world is saved by Him. Actually, Jesus Christ is God’s “offer” of salvation and cannot be a “gift” unless and until He is accepted. So it is with salvation. Salvation if “offered” to sinners through the gospel but does not become and cannot properly be a gift until accepted or appropriated. Man’s action or inaction with reference to God’s offer is that which determines salvation’s remaining an “offer” or becoming a “gift.” Here again we see salvation predicated on man’s disposition or will toward it.

Grace and Baptism

Sometimes we are told that if one must be baptized in order to be saved, salvation is made to depend upon a work of man, not on the grace of God. The fallacy in this reasoning is easily detected when we remember that baptism is not a work of man. While it is true that man is active in submitting to baptism, it is not true that baptism had its origin or continues its purpose in the wisdom or works of men. The Lord Jesus once asked the stubborn Jews a timely question about the baptism administered by John the Baptist. Said He, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” (Matthew 21:25). Obviously, John’s baptism came from God (John 1:33), not from men. This being true, Jews submitting to it were doing the work of God. In like manner, when sinners are baptized at the command of Jesus Christ, they are doing the work of God, not the work of men for baptism exists now by order of God, not by order of men (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2;38; I Peter 3:21). On another occasion the Jews asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent” (John 6:28,29). We ask: “How can this be true?” i.e. in what sense can one do the work of God when he believes on Jesus Christ? The answer is clear if we will remember that God thus commands it. Anytime we do what God commands because He ordered it we are working the work of God. This is equally true of believing on His Son, repenting of sins, confessing faith in
Christ with the mouth, being baptized, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, or doing anything else of which God is the Author.

Divine and Human

We should not lose sight of the fact that there are two sides to the scheme of redemption — the divine and the human. God and man’s. There are some things that belong exclusively to God while there are others that belong entirely to man. For example, it was God’s prerogative to decide to offer man salvation; it is man’s prerogative to accept or reject the offer. It was God’s choice to send His Son; it is man’s choice to believe on or disbelieve Him. It is God’s order for men to be baptized in order to be saved; it is left up to man whether he will be baptized and be saved or reject baptism and be damned.

As certain as God offers salvation to sinners by the preaching of the gospel it is just that certain that this is the grace of God that brings salvation by teaching. Contrariwise, to reject the gospel as it is preached, i.e., the gospel taught, is to refuse the grace of God and thereby forfeit salvation.

What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25).

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, ‘Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation’” (Hebrews 3:12-15).

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. for if the Word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3).

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now He commandeth all men every where to repent; Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness but that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him form the dead” (Acts 17:30,31).

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).

Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).

By James R. Cope; The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 12, October, 1952.
Via http://lavistachurchofchrist.org

 

Book Review: From Fear to Faith by Matthew Allen

“The goal of our study has been to help New Testament Christians move toward a new paradigm that is characterized by a confidence in God and an increased assurance of His promise of salvation” (p. 59. Emphasis mine).

A paradigm is a pattern.  Webster particularly defines a paradigm as “a pattern, example, or model.”  So I wonder, what’s wrong with the pattern laid out for us by Christ?  Why do we need a new pattern to follow?  Is Matthew Allen implying that the pattern laid out in God’s word does not adequately produce confidence?  The Apostle Paul said, Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13).

So what is this new pattern?  Sadly, this book outlines a “grace based” philosophy that isn’t new at all.  Rather, it is a perversion of the gospel (Gal. 1:6-9).  Wittingly or unwittingly Brother Allen has fallen into a doctrine as old as the King James Version when John Calvin wrestled with this same question.  Does God require perfect obedience to obtain the remission of sins?

From the opening chapter of this book, perfect obedience is marginalized.  Grace is emphasized as an unconditional favor post-baptism.  Repentance is trivialized.  God’s mercy is limitless.  Continual cleansing is advocated.  The culminating effect of such writings makes one think we are fine being sinful; after all, we “cannot meet all of God’s standards” (p. 55).

Perfect obedience is marginalized.  To the author, perfection is not attainable.  “All Christians need to move away from the idea that human perfection is attainable.  It simply is not” (p. 9).  He writes in the first chapter, “We need to get away from the unspoken teaching that says we have to be absolutely perfect all the time in order to get to heaven” (p. 6).  Never mind the fact that the scriptures do not talk about absolute perfection.  The author makes that point clear by sighting passages such as Romans 3:23.   However, scriptures do say, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).  Human perfection is attainable from time to time in righteousness while God is consistently perfect.  In Matthew 19:21, Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  If perfection was not possible why did Jesus tell the Rich Young Ruler he could have been perfect?  Other passages teach the same concept that perfection is obtainable (Jn. 17:23; Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:28; Col. 4:12; 1 Thess. 3:10; Heb. 11:40; 12:23; Jas. 1:4; 2:22; 3:2; 1 Pet. 5:10).  Jesus even sights the church in Sardis for not having perfect works (Rev. 3:2).

Brother Allen needs to consider that if perfect obedience is not attainable, then perfect love is not attainable.  In order to love Christ, we must obey him (Jn. 14:15; 1 Jn. 5:3).  Yet, we all fall short of our obedience to our Savior as the author abundantly emphasizes.  If we cannot obey Christ it means we don’t love Him!

Further, the Apostle John says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 Jn. 4:18).  If we can’t attain obedience, we have not been made perfect in love because love requires obedience.  If we can’t attain perfect love through obedience then we have something to fear.  If we don’t love Him because we don’t obey Him, we don’t have the assurance of salvation!  Obviously, the author’s understanding of obedience is seriously flawed.

The author goes on to state, “We must not expect Christians to come out of the baptistery water and be capable of perfection” (p. 6).  I would beg to differ! Simon the Sorcerer was a new convert (Acts 8:13) but notice the rebuke he got from Peter (Acts 8:20-23).  That was anything but mild.  Peter did not coddle Simon in his sin.  Perhaps the author sees this as “shooting our own” (p. 7).  Yet, it serves as an example that we must confront sin rather than tolerate it.  People should not be encouraged in their sins (Rom. 6:1-2).

Further, it seems the author is blaming the church for the sins of the weak or ignorant.  “Our weakest and most vulnerable Christians fall away too soon because some congregations have created such a sterile environment that they feel completely uncomfortable and intimidated by others sitting in the pew” (p. 6).  If I understand this argument, Brother Allen is upset that Christians have the gall to live righteously in their “environment” because it makes others feel bad about their sins.  Again, we find an attitude toward the acceptance of sins.  Does a sterile environment in the pew actually cause people to fall away?  James says sin occurs when people are drawn away by their desires (Jas. 1:13-16).  Remember, it is in obedience to God’s instructions that we worship Him in that sterile environment (1 Cor. 14:40).  Surely, God is not tempting the weak to feel uncomfortable by setting them next to a godly individual during worship.

The chapter on “New Perspectives on Obedience” gives me pause.  The author sarcastically ridicules the obedient as keeping a check-list that has to be fulfilled as though they are void of love for God.  He creates a dichotomy between “having to obey rather than wanting to obey” (p. 45).  Does it matter whether a person obeys from a sense of obligation (2 Cor. 9:5), fear (Eccl. 12:13), or love (Jn. 14:15)?  As parents, does it matter to us how our child obeys when he is about to run out in front of traffic?  Works from love don’t merit our salvation any more than works from fear.  If we do what we are supposed to do we are still unprofitable servants (Lk. 17:10).

Repentance is trivialized.  Repentance is “to change one’s mind or purpose” concerning sin (Vines).  It is the resolution not to sin again!  Yet, Brother Allen believes repentance is impossible and sets a person up for failure. “We can resolve to never sin again.  If we do this, we set ourselves up for failure.  This is impossible.  See 1 John 1:8” (p. 10).   A few lines later he reiterates, “Since resolving to never sin and not facing our sin are ways leading to defeat we must learn from our sin” (p. 10).  This is extremely troubling for me to accept.  God says that repentance is required for the forgiveness of sin and Brother Allen says it leads to defeat and failure.  Is this part of the new paradigm (Acts 5:29)?  Why would God tell us to do something that would lead to our defeat in the fight against sin?  Obviously, the author has made a tremendous blunder in his rationale.  If that is not the case, his sheep skin is wearing thin (Matt. 7:15).

Mercy is limitless. The author generalizes to the point of fallacy on the subject of mercy.  “God has never begrudged any gift to mankind. God’s mercy is without limit. No one is beyond His saving power” (p. 21).  Yet, God told Moses that His mercy was conditional.  “For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.   So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16).  God “repays man according to his work, and makes man to find a reward according to his way. Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice” (Job 34:11-12).  Mercy is obtained at baptism (1 Pet. 2:9-10).  Yet, mercy can be lost through disobedience (Heb. 10:26-31).

Grace is unconditional post-baptism.  The underlining problem with this whole book is Brother Allen’s misunderstanding of grace.  He recognizes the free gift of our Lord’s grace but he fails to see how it is accepted on our part.  He would have us believe there is nothing we can do after baptism but passively accept His free gift.  He fails to recognize that anytime we obey God’s commands we are working the works of God unto salvation (Jn. 6:28-29).  Obedience is part of our faith in Christ.

Obedience is required because God commands it (Jn. 14:15, 21; 1 Cor. 7:19; 1 Jn. 2:3-4; 3:22, 24; 5:2-3; 2 Jn. 1:6; Rev. 14:12; 22:14).  Grace is based on human performance.  Grace teaches us to conduct ourselves in certain godly ways.  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14; emphasis mine).  To say, “Grace is not based on human performance” (p. 26) is to mislead people into thinking there is nothing they must do for salvation.  We are saved “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8).  Grace is God’s part in our salvation while faith is our active part which is demonstrated by our obedience (Jas. 2: 17-26).

For a proper explanation concerning grace I would highly recommend an article written by James R. Cope entitled, “Salvation by Grace.”  The article can be found at:  http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVarticles/SalvationByGrace.html.  Brother Cope’s article explains just how we accept our salvation by grace through faith.

Continual cleansing is advocated.  The chapter on “Justified in Christ” is a soft peddling of the continual cleansing concept.  He states in that chapter, “God promises to cleanse us of all sin.  Our salvation is not dependent upon our perfection – but on God’s cleansing!” (p. 32).  Again, we find the author contradicting scriptures on the subject of perfection while affirming the work of God in our salvation to the neglect of any involvement of the sinner.  A few sentences later he states, “God wants to forgive people who want forgiveness.  He forgives people who realize they need forgiveness.  He forgives people who feel truly unworthy of forgiveness” (p. 32).  One will notice he never says God forgives those who repent or ask for forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4).  The reason for that oversight is because the author seems to believe forgiveness is complete at baptism.  After Brother Allen sights passages that teach salvation occurs at baptism he writes, “We will be saved, wholly, completely and forevermore!” (p. 7).  To the author it seems asking for forgiveness is not necessary after baptism.

Conclusion.  This book review should not be taken as documenting every possible error.  There are many more questionable statements throughout this book.  The five points above represent the most glaring contradictions to God’s word in Brother Allen’s book.

From Fear to Faith by Matthew Allen and published by Spiritbuilding Publishing is the worst Bible class book I have ever had to endure.  Brother Allen’s influence has caused one congregation that studied this material to divide within a few months.  Instead of building one another up in the assurance of salvation, this book helped tear apart a once loving congregation.  False doctrine has that affect (Acts 20:29-30).

 By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net