Toward the very end of his life Joshua summoned all of Israel before him to hear a reflection of their historic past, which he would afterwards use to lead up to a solemn warning (Josh. 23:1-16). Among other things, Joshua focused in upon the faithfulness of God which brought them into the promised land they now possessed. He reminded them:
"You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed" (v.14).
Beyond this, Joshua knew something else about God's faithfulness, that is, another side of it, that many seem unaware of in our day! He went on to say to those who were now enjoying the good of the land:
"But just as every good promise of the LORD your God has come true, so the LORD will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord's anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you" (Josh. 23:15,16).
In other words, just as God is faithful to fulfill His "good" promises, He will likewise carry out His most disturbing threats! God is faithful to do both for He cannot disown Himself.
This important-but-disturbing fact about the negative side of God's faithfulness has been overlooked, intentionally or unintentionally, to the harm of the Body of Christ. Israel's historic future from that point in time when Joshua's sermon was delivered is absolute proof that God is faithful to carry out His awesome threats, even to those who are His sons:
"He said, 'They are my people, sons who will not be false to me'; and so he became their Savior. In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercyhe redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them" (Isa. 63:8-10).
Also, see 2 Ki. 17:13-23. Furthermore, though seemingly little known, it is also a fundamental, basic truth found in Scripture that God's favorable promises or solemn threats are conditional upon our continued obedience or disobedience to Him. Scripture declares:
"If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it" (Jer. 18:7-10).
[Verses 7 and 8 contain the reason why God did not destroy Ninevah as Jonah had prophesied would occur in forty days (Jonah 3:4). This is the response the Jehovah's Witnesses (and others) need to hear who try to escape their own false prophesy by referring to Jonah.]
Certainly, some will say that Jer. 18:7-10 only applies to whole nations or kingdoms, but not to individuals. Therefore, such people conclude that we as individuals don't have to remain faithful after we have personally benefited by God's promise, especially regarding salvation. This, however, is clearly refuted by the following:
"But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!" (Ezek. 18:24-32).
Please note that an individual is treated identically to a whole nation or kingdom regarding a change of heart for the good or bad. Sin can always be the righteous man's downfall leading to his death (spiritual or physical). Kings Saul and Solomon are examples of what sin can do to the righteous. It was their personal responsibility to "rid" themselves of all the offenses they committed after their salvation and to get a new heart! Though God is faithful and sovereign He would not do this for them apart from their will, nor will He fail to deal with unrepentant sin. Let us take warning and benefit by their sad examples.
Jeroboam is another person we should consider. He is an example of a person who negated a terrific promise through sin. Before he came to power the prophet Ahijah said to him:
"However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you" (1 Ki. 11:37,38).
Unfortunately, like so many, Jeroboam's future from that point reveals the negative side of the faithfulness of God to bring that promised blessing to a halt, due to his disobedience.
Though God is faithful there are two sides to His faithfulness. If this was not true there would be no need for both New Jerusalem and the lake of fire! Also, it isn't God's faithfulness to us that is the real issue, but instead our faithfulness to God!
Regarding the subject of God's faithfulness, a very misleading notation can be found in the New Geneva Study Bible. This study Bible, which contains the thoughts of John Calvin and other reformers, states on page 907:
"God's faithfulness is another aspect of His goodness and praiseworthiness. People lie, and break their word; God will do neither. In the worst of times it can be affirmed: 'His compassions fail not . . . Great is Your faithfulness' (Lam. 3:22, 23; Ps. 36:5; cf. Ps. 89, especially vv. 1, 2, 14, 24, 33, 37, 49). Even when circumstances are unexpected and bewildering, and threaten to hide His faithfulness, still we know that God keeps His promises to us who believe: 'All have come to pass for you; not one word . . . has failed' (Josh. 23:14)."
Please notice that Josh. 23:15,16 were omitted regarding their explanation of God's faithfulness thereby presenting only half the truth on this subject! As someone once asserted: "A half truth presented as the whole truth is a lie!" This comment from the New Geneva Study Bible regarding God's faithfulness is a prime example of this.
We also read of God's faithfulness in 1 Jn. 1:9. There we learn that God is faithful to forgive and purify us of sin committed after our salvation, IF we meet the condition cited -- namely confessing that sin to Him. [It is understood we are to have a willingness to turn away from that sin. See Prov. 28:13.]
Also, 1 Cor. 10:13 states that God is faithful not to let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. He will always provide a way out so that we can stand up under the temptation. However, there is still the free will of the individual and his personal responsibility that are involved here. If these weren't a consideration, then no Christian would ever fall into sin or stray off into false doctrine, since God will always do His part perfectly!
In Rev. 13:10, we also read of faithfulness, but this time it's not God's faithfulness to us, instead it is the need of our faithfulness to Him -- even during the time that people for the most part will be worshiping the Antichrist! John wrote regarding this:
"This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints."
Very similar to that verse, and during the same time frame, we read in Rev. 14:9-11:
". . . anyone [including those who were previously saved] who receives the mark of the beast and worships his image will be tormented with burning sulfur and the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever."
Verse 12 goes on to say:
"This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus."
Moreover, after His own death on the cross, Jesus said to the Christians at Smyrna:
"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death" (Rev. 2:10,11).
Again we see faithfulness mentioned, but it's faithfulness on the part of the saints -- not God's faithfulness to us! Again, let it be noted that it is our faithfulness to God, according to Jesus, that is needed to prevent being hurt by the second death (another name for the lake of fire, Rev. 21:8)! God's faithfulness to us didn't even come up.
Perhaps 2 Tim. 2:13 is most important in our study on God's faithfulness. A dangerous distortion regarding God's faithfulness begins to surface when certain teachers -- namely the eternal security (or perseverance of the saints) teachers, use this verse in a way in which it was never intended to be used. To consider the immediate context we need to examine 2 Tim. 2:11-14:
"Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding them of these things."
[Please note that verse 14 shows that these verses were to be often repeated in the local congregations in which Timothy would have opportunity to repeat them in his day. In other words, the saints in first-century Christianity, unlike in our day, often heard verses 11 through 13.]
The way some popular teachers interpret verse 13 is most disturbing, for it not only violates the immediate context, but it also goes against the whole teaching of Scripture regarding God's faithfulness to carry out His threats! When Paul wrote 2 Tim 2:12, he probably had Jesus' teachings on this in mind. Jesus said:
"But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" (Matt. 10:33);
"But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God" (Lk. 12:9).
Even though Paul dogmatically asserted: "If we [Christians] disown him, he [Jesus] will also disown us," the eternal security teachers give an interpretation of the next verse regarding God remaining faithful which negates this! For example, Charles Stanley writes:
". . . believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation, for God remains faithful" ("Eternal Security Can You Be Sure?," Oliver Nelson Books, 1990, p.94).
This is distorting the Scriptures to the destruction of souls. Such an interpretation, if accepted, neutralizes this serious warning taught first by the Lord Himself, then afterwards repeated by the Apostle Paul in 2 Tim 2:12. Since it is obvious that one cannot remain saved and be "disowned" by Christ, we should not be surprised that the eternal security teachers would employ such an interpretation, since they seem extremely unwilling to reject their beloved doctrine of "once saved always saved" even though it is clearly unscriptural. Also, some might be wondering from all of this if the eternal security proponents are calling Jesus a liar by saying He won't disown us, if we become unfaithful to the point of disowning Him. Please note this is what the original Apostles did because of the fear of persecution (Mt. 26:31-35). Only a saved person could disown Christ. In fact, the Apostle Peter did this three consecutive times in the face of potential physical harm by denying he was Jesus' disciple and that he was with Him in the olive grove (Jn. 18:17-27 cf. 13:38). Please notice that it is not just through one's lifestyle that we can "disown" Christ! Furthermore, only one previously saved could become disowned by Christ. A saved person is referred to as belonging to Christ (Gal. 5:24), His sheep (Jn. 10:27), etc.
All this boils down to the fact that the unchanging God is faithful at all times, not only to carry out His wonderful promises of blessings, but also His most solemn warnings and threats. God will remain faithful to both for He cannot disown Himself.
In spite of His faithfulness to us, we should be more concerned with our faithfulness to Him! This is the real issue that many fail to see. Before our earthly life is over, we may have to choose to die for Him or renounce our faith in Christ. If it comes to this, may we all remain faithful to Jesus as we bear in mind His eternal words:
"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him" (Lk. 12:4,5).
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The true plan of salvation is repentance towards God and faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 20:21). We prove our repentance by our deeds (Acts 26:20). The Lord Jesus taught the road to life is "hard" and only a "few" will find it (Mt. 7:13,14, NKJV). Many get saved, but afterwards fall away (Lk. 8:13; Jn. 6:66; 1 Tim. 1:19; etc.). In other words, after initial salvation we must endure to the "end" to enter the kingdom of God and escape the lake of fire (Mt. 10:22; Heb. 3:14; Rev. 2:10,11). Eternal life comes to the repentant the moment such believe on Jesus for salvation (Jn. 3:16; 6:47; 1 Jn. 5:12,13), but there is another important aspect of eternal life that many are totally unware of in our day because of the false teaching of eternal security. According to true grace teaching, eternal life is also a HOPE (Titus 3:7), yet to be REAPED (Gal. 6:8,9) in the AGE TO COME (Mk. 10:30) for only the ones who PERSIST IN DOING GOOD (Rom. 2:7) and DO NOT GROW WEARY AND GIVE UP (Gal. 6:9).
If a saved person sows to please his sinful nature he'll die spiritually (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:8,9). The prodigal is a clear example of this (Lk. 15:24,32). The end result of sin is spiritual death, so DO NOT BE DECEIVED (James 1:14-16). For ordering information regarding the believer's security, go to Evangelical Books. Our 801 page book, The Believer's Conditional Security, is the most exhaustive and comprehensive refutation to eternal security ever written. It will not be refuted!
Because of the teaching of once saved always saved, grace has been taught as a license for immorality for so long, and without challenge, that when Scripture is quoted, such as 1 Cor. 6:9,10 or Rev. 21:8, it is disregarded, and the giver of God's Word is falsely accused of teaching legalism, bondage, a works salvation, etc. This reflects how truly dark are the days in which we live!
The ACID TEST question to know if a ministry or local congregation is teaching a license for immorality as condemned by Jude 3,4.
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