Are You Your Brothers Keeper?
It is such a great work for a soul to be brought to repentance and come under Christ’s reign. Yet is difficult as that is, in a sense that is just the initial phase of a person coming to ultimately being saved on the Day of Judgment. This is not the theological paper nor a doctrinal statement, but a practical exhortation to those brothers and sisters in the Lord who have been involved with the Ageless Conflict study, and who already have an understanding that unconditional eternal security and automatic perseverance of the saints doctrines are a lie.
Nevertheless I may believe this exhortation is important even considering who is likely to read it. When I first rejected eternal security belief about seven years ago, I still didn’t see the ease with which a true believer could become lukewarm, weakened, or even fall away altogether. Sadly, witnessing many people who were once obviously blood-washed, on-fire saints become worldly and/or get deceived by false gospels has proven to me that we will either grow stronger and wiser in the Lord, walking in life more abundant; or we will become weakened, lacking discernment, and maybe even die. When I first rejected eternal security I saw believers on a boat headed to glory which a person could actually choose to get off and no longer be a partaker of Christ. Now I see it more like believers in Christ on a boat heading to glory that is getting pounded with storms; and those who don’t find understanding and strength to stay stable, and those who don’t carefully hold on tight, will be ripe candidates to be overthrown and destroyed.
“4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:4-9)
“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1 Timothy 1:18-19)
14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:14-19)
So with this considered, there is such an importance to not only reach the lost with the gospel, to not only be steadfast and watchful ourselves, but in doing so to also consider our brothers and sisters who have already come to Christ and found the narrow that leads to life. So much of the Bible deals with ministering to other Christians and helping each other endure on the narrow way and make it to the end, finishing our course faithfully. It doesn’t make sense to preach to the lost, see them to come to Christ, and not take diligent action to see that they get well-grounded in the Lord and come to maturity in Him. That is the Lord’s goal, and though there are different ministries in the body of Christ, we still need to make sure that whatever we do we are considering the Lord’s ultimate end of “bringing many sons to glory.” (Hebrews 2:10)
We read in Proverbs 12:27: “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” Memorize this Proverb! Never forget that whoever we aid to come into the kingdom by our preaching, that entrance is truly just the starting line of the Christian life. The need to disciple them carefully and wisely has only just been created and that work is just beginning. And whenever we interact with other real Christians, it’s important that we consider that such a work is yet ongoing in all of us, and we should be mindful and careful that our contribution to that work is only helpful and not destructive
I’m not speaking of some form of “progressive sanctification” or the idea that people can accept Jesus as their Savior and then choose Him as Lord too later on if they wish. We all know that is blasphemous non-sense; and our study has been much about refuting concepts like this. Consider it like this: A new recruit in the Army has to forsake being a civilian completely, he must submit to the authority of the military unconditionally, with all opposition to that in his life deliberately renounced. In a sense he can never become more of a soldier than he is the day he enlists. If someone treated the military’s authority the way many treat God, they’d add a few push-ups to their civilian life, wake up a little earlier sometimes, and spend a little less time in the shower- and say that he is therefore a soldier who should be entitled to full pay and military benefits! (That’s the military version of progressive sanctification I guess, we could call it “progressive soldierfication.”) Nevertheless, a new recruit in the military who has met the conditions to becoming a soldier still doesn’t fully know what he is in for, still has a brutal training ahead of him, and he will be sent off to war where he must fight honorably (I know we enter the war the moment we come to the Lord, but in a sense the military boot-camp is also a simulation of a war environment, so the analogy is still close). And if he wants to stay a soldier he’s got to endure all of this faithfully, though he’ll likely have his ups and downs. He must at least get up when he falls, remain in the program and become the product the military sought when they recruited him- or he’ll be a cast-away (1 Cor. 9:22-27).
So though the analogy isn’t perfect, I believe this illustrates to a large extent the importance of helping those we know who are already in the Lord be faithful; and not to forsake at least being involved in getting them the prayer and counseling they will surely need to get established in the Lord and hold on to Him as the storms come when we’re reasonably able to. Some of you are in positions where you are like sergeants in the military, with a responsibility to not only help and support other soldiers in enduring their training, but also a responsibility to be involved in ensuring that training is provided- as well as to be faithful examples of undergoing that training faithfully yourselves. There’s a product being sought, and if necessary training isn’t given or the training is inadequate, then those under it almost certainly won’t fight the good of faith and continue in the grace of God.
“17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4)
So this means we’ve got to be all the more watchful and responsible. When people come to Christ, we can’t just say “Praise God, another soul in the kingdom” and go out to eat acting like our mission is accomplished, we’ve done our job, and the rest will just work out happily ever after.” That seems crazy, but that is the norm in the evangelical world now! And that describes a lot of the mess that is in evangelical churches. Nor can we even just turn our focus on preaching more to bring others into the kingdom, without taking due care to also feed those we’ve already had a part in bringing in- or at least helping make arrangements so that they can get in fellowship and fed with the whole counsel of God’s Word somehow. Certainly, many who appear to get converted never really genuinely repented and got converted to Christ at all. But note this, It’s the same careless attitude towards gospel work which both produces shallow, false conversions AND which doesn’t sufficiently shepherd and establish true converts to Christ.
I’ve heard a quote which has been pricking me lately which applies here “There is no finality this side of eternity.” We read in Ecclesiastes 10:18 “ By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” And then on the other hand we read in Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” Consider how only following the latter verse will prevent the situation described in the former verse within the church.
Church leaders especially have responsibility here. One of the things which made John Wesley’s class meetings so effective in the early days of the Methodist Church (long before the Methodist church backslid obviously) is that there wasn’t just a sermon preached with no practical instruction given for real life and no accountability about applying it; the class meetings dealt with the question “How is it really going with you?” People would discuss and receive biblical counsel regarding things in their life, and not just hear high sounding things divorced from real-life application. Pastors/Shepherds of God’s people have a responsibility to take reasonable measures to know what is really going on with those in their church; and to handle those things with wisdom so they will be healthy and strong in the faith, rather than straying from the narrow path or hindered by struggles that could be overcome and laid to rest by biblical wisdom being applied to them. Sadly, in many church those who are involved with the church stray from the truth or become weighed down by heavy burdens, yet their true condition for one reason or another is never really known and/or ministered to by the leadership. Though it may be impossible to prevent this altogether, a faithful shepherd (who if faithful is a diligent overseer) will observe and seek to discern when such is the case so he can do something appropriate to bring healing.
Even those who are not official leaders in the church have responsibility and can do so much regarding praying, exhorting, and otherwise helping their fellow believers. One of the best gentle rebukes I ever got in my life came from a Christian woman whom I have only met once. She asked me what I did for a living. I told her I was a security guard, but being (foolishly) ashamed of that I said “I know I can’t do that forever.” She said to me humbly, yet with conviction and a little bit of gentle sarcasm ‘How do you know you can’t do that forever?” And hearing that just set me free. I had been letting worldly values and expectations into my thinking which left me unnecessarily insecure and discontent with my job. And her wise word was exactly what I need to hear. Why be ashamed and in a rush to leave a job which was giving me a great chance to study the Bible and which still provided enough to live on? It shouldn’t be a big deal if no one is impressed by my job or if I’m a little poor by American standards (which is still rich by world standards and historical standards). So even something small like that spoken with godly concern can be gold in terms of helping another believer get established in Christ and renewed in mind to be less infected by conformity to this world in thinking (Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18- note the context here- this is in relation to putting on the whole armor of God which we were instructed about in the previous verses)
“7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.” (Romans 1:7-11)
“12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14)
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Colossains 1:21-29)
-See also Matthew 24:44-51 with Matthew 25:31-46 (comparing these passages helped broaden my understanding of what it means to minister to “the least of these my brethren.”)
This is such an important issue related to the Ageless Conflict that I had to write this article on it since the book didn’t get as specific about it. Recently Great Britain voted to exit the EU, and there are already powerful forces pushing to reverse that election result. No doubt when someone repents and exits Satan’s kingdom of darkness to be a citizen of Christ’s kingdom of light, Satan will push fiercely somehow to get them back on his side. May we be faithful both in preaching to bring to the lost into the kingdom, as well as to minister appropriately to those who have entered the kingdom. All who’ve studied the Book of Acts can see that the pure faith of the Apostles places a very heavy emphasis on both. They are each an essential in the ultimate purposes of Christ in coming to reconcile people unto Himself being achieved. We want both our lives and our labor to withstand the fire on Judgment Day and endure for eternity. “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1 John 2:17)