Delivered at the Bible Baptist Church in Porterville, CA on August 12, 2001 in the PM service.
Genesis 15.6; Hebrews 11.8-9, 17
1. This evening I want to explain why some Christians are saved while other "Christians" are not saved, why some who are believers are converted and others who are believers are not converted.
2. In order for you to receive a blessing from this eveningís sermon you have to be humble enough in your thinking to recognize that you donít know everything about the Gospel and about getting saved. You have to recognize that there are issues and truths in Godís Word that youíve not yet comprehended. Are you willing to accept that possibility?
3. Then turn to the book of Acts, chapter 8. I want to start you off by revisiting this morningís consideration of the experiences of Simon Magus, who came under the preaching of the Gospel when Philip was mightily used of God in the great revival in Samaria.
4. Simonís story begins in Acts 8.4-13: "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done."
5. Simon Magus, according to verses 12 and 13, heard the Gospel preached and believed. Simon Magus had faith. And having believed, he was baptized and he continued with Philip. So far, so good.
6. But another Simon came to town. This Simon was Simon Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. He and John came to Samaria to exercise their apostolic authority, since it was by their hands that God was well pleased to give the Holy Spirit during that transitional period of time, verses 14-17: "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." Again, so far, so good.
7. "And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostlesí hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity," Acts 8.18-23.
8. Though he had believed, and though he had been baptized, and though he had continued with Philip, the conduct of Simon Magus, in response to the astonishing supernatural ministry of Simon Peter, convinced the apostle that this man was not converted. And it was because he was not converted that Peter commanded him to "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."
9. Folks, we have here a Biblical example that fully explains the experiences of a number of people you and I know, and perhaps explains your own experience. This man heard the Gospel and believed, having believed, his life was changed. But he wasnít converted. Peterís use of the phrase "if perhaps" in verse 22 establishes that Simon Magusí forgiveness is not certain, but is utterly dependent upon his repentance, which shows that Simon Magus was a lost man despite the fact that he had believed! So, you can be a believer and be unsaved. Stay with me, now.
10. Lest you doubt what I am saying, consider again the Corinthian fornicator in First Corinthians chapter 5. Letís give this young man the benefit of the doubt. Letís not accuse him of lying and deceitfulness in professing Christ and getting baptized and becoming a member of the Corinthian Church, all the while knowing he was lost.
11. And you can be sure that a Church planted by the apostle Paul was not like most Churches today, but that they made a real effort to discern between the righteous and the wicked, to ascertain who was truly converted and who wasnít, so they could know who they were authorized to baptize and who they were not authorized to baptize.
12. But the fact that he committed a sin more heinous than any sin committed by unsaved Gentiles, the fact that he committed sexual sin with his step mother, and the fact that Paul shows, by his use of the subjunctive mode in chapter 5 and verse 5, that this young man is not converted, conclusively establishes that we have yet another example of a so-called believer who is not converted. You can be a believer and still be lost!
13. But donít think that the only examples of believers who were, in fact, not converted are those who committed sins that are so obviously extreme as trying to purchase the Holy Spirit or some form of incest that was foreign even to pagans. There is a much more, shall we say, benign example of believers who were not converted in the Bible.
14. Before we examine some other verses, please remember that the word "disciple" in the Gospels does not refer to the twelve apostles only. A disciple is a follower of the Master, and the Lord Jesus Christ had many more than the twelve disciples throughout His earthly ministry that we know as apostles. So, anyone who followed Jesus from place to place and who sided with Him would properly be labeled a disciple.
15. With that in mind, turn to John 2.11: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him." So, in response to His miracle of turning water into wine, His disciples believed on Him.
16. John 6.60-67. In John 2.11 we read that Jesusí disciples believed on Him. But notice what these same disciples did many months later when Jesus taught some hard lessons: "Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?"
17. So, there you have it. They believed, but they believed not. Virtually every one of Jesusí disciples, men who had been with Him a long time, men who had believed on Him from the beginning, went back and walked no more with Him. And what is indicated by this lack of perseverance? Though they were believers in one sense, they were not believers in another sense. And all the while they were lost.
18. Folks, this is where the parable of the sower becomes so important to understand. In Matthew 13.18-22, listen to the Saviorís explanation of those believers who were not genuinely converted: "Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." The seed, of course, is the Word of God.
19. But once again, in addition to the example of Simon Magus, in addition to the example of the Corinthian fornicator, and in addition to the very disciples of Jesus who had believed in one sense, yet who were not believers in another sense, we see in this parable that it is possible to be a "believer," to seemingly respond positively to the Gospel, and yet not be converted.
20. Pardon me for saying so, but this may be the type of experience of some of you here today are dealing with. And the fact that you have believed the Gospel, yet there is so much that is terribly wrong with your life, so much that simply defies any other explanation than the conclusion that you are not converted, suggests to me that your experience might parallel that of Simon Magus, might parallel that of the young man in Corinth, and might parallel that of those disciples of Jesus.
21. I donít know you. And your pastor and I have had no discussions about any of you. But if your life is accurately described by this parable Jesus taught, perhaps you are yet another example of a believer who is not converted.
22. In a moment we will stand and sing one verse of a hymn. After that verse is sung I will bring this eveningís sermon, a sermon that looks at the life of Abraham, and that I trust will explain so much about your life and the need you may still have to believe in Jesus to the saving of your soul.
23. So, donít be discouraged. Rather, be encouraged by the fact that your lifeís experiences are clearly reflected in Godís Word. Be encouraged, also, by the Saviorís words: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out," John 6.37.
24. Letís stand as brother Jeryl comes to lead us.
1. After the Lord Jesus Christ, the most important person ever to walk the earth, insofar as Godís great plan of redemption is concerned, was father Abraham. Nine times in Godís Word we find the words "father Abraham."
2. Why is Abraham termed "father"? For two reasons: First, because Abraham was the original Jew, the man who was the first and primary patriarch of the nation of Israel. Second, and this is most important to us today, Abraham is the prototype of the child of God, the example for all to follow of how a relationship with God is established and maintained.
3. We are told in Habakkuk 2.4 that "the just shall live by his faith." And in Romans 1.17, Galatians 3.11 and Hebrews 10.38 we find Paul paraphrasing that verse when he writes "The just shall live by faith."
4. My friends, there are few statements in Godís Word that could be considered as important as "The just shall live by faith." And I hesitate to claim that there are any verses more important, for no other phrase so perfectly describes the basis of any and all relationships men have with God as that one.
5. After all, without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11.6. Without faith it is impossible to get saved from your sins, "For by grace are ye saved through faith," Ephesians 2.8. Without faith itís impossible to be justified, "Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God," Romans 5.1. In short, apart from faith in Christ there is nothing for the sinner with which to acquire or possess what is eternal, what comes from God, what is made possible by the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. But we have already seen, already today, that it is possible to have faith and not be saved, to have faith and not be converted, to have faith and not have your sins forgiven. Never mind how thatís possible, for now. The fact that you need to concern yourself with is that it is possible, and that such a possibility may go a long way toward explaining your life or the lives of a considerable number of your loved ones.
7. This message is so important for you. I plead with you to give me your undivided attention. Please, do your best not to leave for any reason, except an emergency, until I conclude the service in prayer.
8. Now, find in your Bible two passages, Genesis 15 and Hebrews 11. Iíll make reference to other passages, but once we read four verses Iíll ask you to close your Bible and look up at me. Genesis 15 and Hebrews 11. Have you found them? Good. Letís read Godís Word together.
9. Iím going to read four verses according to the sequence in which they actually occurred in Abrahamís life. Here on the platform I will start out to your extreme left, representing the beginning of Abrahamís life, moving across the platform as Abraham grows progressively older, reading the appropriate verses. When weíve done that you can be seated and I will review for you the four faiths of Abraham, that will go so far in making the way of faith so much more plain for you to understand.
10. Are you ready? Way over here Abraham was born in Ur of the Chaldees. But here, when he was seventy five years old, God spoke to him and he responded with faith. Hebrews 11.8: "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." That verse corresponds to Genesis chapter 12, which we will not turn to.
11. The next record of Abrahamís faith occurred when he was about 85 years old, and is mentioned by the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 4 and Galatians chapter 3. Weíll read from the original reference to his faith in Genesis 15.6: "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
12. Some thirty or so years later, after Isaac was born, comes the third record of Abrahamís faith. Mentioned in Genesis 22 and James 2, weíll read what the writer to the Hebrews says, in Hebrews 11.17: "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac."
13. Finally, weíll read the fourth reference to Abrahamís faith, in Hebrews 11.8: "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." This, of course, closes out Abrahamís life. Please close your Bible and give me your undivided attention. If you would like to read the manuscript of this sermon, you can find it at www.CalvaryRoadBaptist.Org, on my Churchís web site, where this sermon will be posted tomorrow.
14. Four records of Abrahamís faith are referred to in Godís Word. These four faiths comprise the main considerations of my sermon, and should comprise the main considerations of your interest, since Abrahamís life, in part or in whole, reflects your life in so many ways.
1A. CONSIDER ABRAHAMíS FIRST ACT OF FAITH
1B. Abrahamís First Act Of Faith Comes About In Classic Fashion. We Know That Faith Comes By Hearing And Hearing By The Word Of God, Romans 10.17. We Know That God Gives Faith, Ephesians 2.8. And So, We Know That Abrahamís Faith Came To Him From God When God Spoke To Him. He Heard, And By Faith Obeyed God When He Left Ur Of The Chaldees And Journeyed To The Promised Land, Having No Idea What Awaited Him.
2B. But Itís A Surprise To Many People When They Realize That Abraham Had Faith But Remained Unconverted. It Shocks Many People When They Conclude That If Abraham Had Died With This Faith, During This Period Of Time In His Life, He Would Have Deservedly Gone To Hell.
3B. "But He Did Exactly What God Told Him To Do," You Might Say. "Faith Pleases God, Hebrews 11.6 Says," You Might Remind Me. And I Would Agree With Everything Youíve Said. But The Bible Is Very Clear On This Point. Though Abraham Had Faith, Though By Faith He Obeyed God, Though By Faith He Responded To Godís Word, He Was Still An Unconverted Man.
4B. How Are We To Explain This? Is Godís Word Untrue? Are The Promises Of God Not To Be Believed? My Friends, Godís Word Is True. The Promises Of God Are Reliable Beyond Dispute. But What We Have Here With Abraham, At This Stage Of His Life, Is Not Saving Faith. It Truly Is Faith, But It Can Appropriately Be Called Seeking Faith.
5B. This Is The Faith That Is Exhibited By The Lost Person Who Comes To Church Because He Knows God Wants Him To. This Is The Faith That Is Exhibited by The Lost Person Who Seeks The Lord. And This Is The Faith That We Find When The Sinner Obeys Christís Command To Strive To Enter In, Luke 13.23-24: "Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."
6B. Now, Maybe You Didnít Get Saved When You Exhibited Faith. Perhaps You Were Not Carefully Guided To Christ. Or Maybe God Hasnít Given You Saving Faith Yet. But He Has Given You Seeking Faith, As Evidenced By The Fact That That You Are Here And You Are Listening. My Advice To You Is To Keep Striving, Donít Go Back To Your Ur Of The Chaldees. Continue Exercising This First Kind Of Faith That Abraham Had, Not Saving Faith But Seeking Faith.
2A. CONSIDER, NOW, ABRAHAMíS SECOND ACT OF FAITH
1B. This Was Abrahamís Saving Faith, Occurring Approximately Ten Years After His Seeking Faith Commenced. And This Was The Faith That Got Him Saved, The Faith Thatís Mentioned In Romans 4 And Galatians 3, The Faith That Paul Talks About When He Talks About Getting Saved, The Faith By Which And With Which A Sinner Lays Hold Of Christ.
2B. This Is The Faith That Resulted In Abraham Being Justified In The Sight Of God, The Faith That Was Counted For Righteousness By God, The Kind Of Faith That You Come To Christ With, That You Really Do Believe In Jesus With To The Saving Of Your Soul.
3B. It Is This Faith That Is Sealed With The Indwelling Spirit Of God, That Accompanies Regeneration And A New Heart. This Is The Faith That Corresponds To Being A New Creature In Christ And Having A New Eternal Destiny.
4B. This Is The Faith, When You Come To Christ, When You Believe In Him, That Results In Your Sins Being Forgiven, Washed Clean In The Blood Of Christ, God Forever Forgetting Your Sins And Remembering Them No More. This Is The Faith That Results In You Being Adopted Into the Family Of God, Becoming Godís Child By Means Of The New Birth.
5B. But This May Not Be The Faith Exercised, So Far, By You. How Do I Know? You Are Not A New Creature In Christ. There Is No Joy Unspeakable In You, And Full Of Glory. There Is No Appreciable Evidence Of The Indwelling Spirit Of God In You. And There Seems To Be No Growth In Grace And In The Knowledge Of God Over Time In Your Life.
6B. Now, It Could Be That You Think Youíre Saved. Or It Could Be That You Know Youíre Lost And You Are Completely Discouraged By The Fact That You Thought You Had Faith And Still Youíre Not Converted. Be Encouraged, My Friend, By The Fact That You Are Just Like Abraham Between His 75th And 85th Birthdays. You Are Still In That Phase Of Life Where You Need To Strive To Enter In. But The Promise Of The Savior Remains: "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out," John 6.37. If You Come To Him, When You Come To Him, He Will Receive You And He Will Save You.
3A. CONSIDER, NEXT, ABRAHAMíS THIRD ACT OF FAITH
1B. This Was Abrahamís Great Demonstration Of A Living Faith That James Made Reference To In James 2.21-23, As An Illustration Showing That Faith Without Works Is Dead. This Was When Abraham Was Willing To Sacrifice Isaac, His Son, His Only Son, On Mount Moriah, In Obedience To Godís Command.
2B. When A Genuinely Converted Person Lives Long Enough God Will Test His Faith, Will Strengthen His Faith, Will Prove Him With Tests And Crisis Situations. And If A Person Really Is Converted Such Crisis Events Will Demonstrate His Faith In A Remarkable Way.
3B. As Well, It Is When Your Faith Is Exhibited In A Crisis Situation, Such As When Abraham Was Directed To Sacrifice Isaac, That Your Faith Becomes So Real To Others That You Are Justified In The Sight Of Men. That Is, Men Will See Such Evidence Of Your Genuine Faith In Christ That They Will Conclude That You Are A Real Christian.
4B. But Such Genuine Evidence Of Faith Has Not As Yet Been Seen In Your Life, Has It? Maybe Youíve Not Come Unstuck In Times Of Crisis, But Lots Of People Hang Tight When Trouble Comes Or Tragedy Strikes. What Iím Talking About Is Some Striking Evidence Of Real Faith In God. And That Youíve Not Shown Anyone, Have You? Why Not? Youíre Not Converted.
4A. FINALLY, CONSIDER ABRAHAMíS FOURTH ACT OF FAITH
1B. Abraham Exhibited Seeking Faith Over A Period Of Time. His Saving Faith, When His Faith Was Counted For Righteousness, Was A Single Event In Time. Thatís When He Was Justified In The Sight Of God. As Well, When He Was Justified In The Sight Of Men, When He Exhibited Visible Evidence Of Faith For One And All To See, That Was Faith Over A Very Short Period Of Time. A Couple Of Days At Most. But This Final Testimony To Abrahamís Faith Spanned Three Or Four Decades By My Reckoning. I Call It Staying Faith.
2B. Hebrews Tells Us That This Faith Was Seen When Abraham Lived In Tents With Isaac And Jacob, Hebrews 11.9. If The First Faith, Ur Of The Chaldees, Was Seeking Faith, And The Second Faith, Counted For Righteousness, Was Saving Faith, And The Third Faith, Isaac On Mount Moriah, Was Striking Evidence Faith, Then This Last Faith, This Enduring Faith, Could Be Called Persevering Faith. But I Prefer To Call It Staying Faith.
3B. This Is The "He That Endureth To The End Shall Be Saved" Faith. I Donít Like The "Once Saved Always Saved" Terminology, Since It Is So Frequently Used By The Unsaved For A False Sense Of Security. The Bible Teaches Eternal Security, But It Teaches That Only Those Are Eternally Secure Who Show Their Faith In Christ By Their Long Term Perseverance In The Faith, Their Sustaining Faith, Their Staying Faith.
4B. So The Woman Who Gets "Saved" And Baptized And Attends Church And Participates For Ten Years, But Who Spends The Last Twenty Years Of Her Life With No Visible Evidence Of Faith, Is Missing This Persevering Faith. And If You Look At Her Life Closely You Will See That There Has Never Been Any Striking Evidence Of Faith, Either. And If Her Testimony Of How She Got "Saved" Was Carefully Listened To You Would Find That She Never Did Have Saving Faith.
5B. Seeking Faith, Perhaps, For A While. Maybe Even A Decision. But No Real Faith In Christ. No Mount Moriah Type Episodes. And No Life Of Faith Over The Long Haul. In Short, She Never Did Get Saved. Not Really. How Do I Know? Because Real Faith Works. It Works In Crisis Situations, Like Abrahamís Faith When God Commanded Him To Sacrifice Isaac. And It Works Over The Long Haul With Staying Faith, Again Like Abraham, The Friend Of God, The Father Of The Faithful.
1. So you see, friend, the Word of God is not at all discredited by the experience of someone who "tried that and it didnít work." Neither is Christianity falsified by that person you know who supposedly had faith, but nothing turned out right.
2. And perhaps you have become despondent over your experiences, thinking you got saved and then perhaps concluding that you were never saved. Perhaps you are thinking about giving up, or youíve already given up.
3. What a terrible mistake that is. For as we have seen in Godís Word, there is nothing surprising or unusual about a sinner who has faith to come out of Ur of the Chaldees, but is, as yet, still unsaved.
4. You came to Church and perhaps even made a profession of faith, yet you are still unsaved. Donít quit. Donít give up. Youíve exhibited a certain amount of seeking faith, but youíve not laid hold of Christ with saving faith yet.
5. So, what do you do? Continue to seek. Continue to strive. Continue to plead with God for mercy. Stay with the seeking faith until God graciously grants you saving faith in Christ.
6. Remember, you have the promise of Christ that if you will, indeed, actually, come to Him, He will not cast you out. He will receive you. Thatís a promise. And that promise is all the reason reasonable men need to keep seeking the Lord while He may be found.