The Least In the Kingdom Is Still IN the Kingdom
Vol: 139 Issue: 27 Saturday, April 27, 2013
One of the objections offered in response to the position that God’s grace is greater than all our sin refers to the passages in Scripture that enumerate specific sins together with the warning that those that commit these specific sins ”shall not inherit the ‘Kingdom’.”
The objection in part, reads this way:
“Paul says in several verses in Corinthians, and Galatians that some behaviors will keep us from inheriting the Kingdom.
First, I assume he means the Kingdom of Heaven. Second, I assume he means if we are doing those things and don’t stop, we cannot inherit the Kingdom.
These are very difficult verses for me. He is clear and specific. If doing these things will keep one from inheriting the kingdom, and a person is claiming to be saved, but continues to do them anyway, is Paul a liar if he says you can’t go to Heaven if you do these things?”
In the end, the questioner asks, “Wouldn’t it be better to choose not to sin?” These are fair questions — especially that last one, so I will start with it.
Q. “Wouldn’t it be better to choose not to sin?” A. “Yes.” Gee, that sounds easy. Doesn’t it?
But Adam and Eve found it a bit more difficult than that. They were created perfect, without an ingrained sin nature, and they only had one commandment to obey.
Their commandment was clear and specific:
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
They didn’t have to worry about graven images, or keeping the Sabbath or not stealing or bearing false witness . . . they only had one commandment and it was a singular negative.
“You can do anything. Nothing is forbidden, except for this one, little, insignificant command NOT to eat from this one little tree.”
That was it. One little commandment. Not ten. Just one.
Adam and Eve did NOT live in a sin-sick, demon-infested, fallen world filled with temptations specifically designed to trigger an in-bred, universal sin nature. They lived in perfect fellowship with God, with Whom they walked in the Garden in the cool of the evening.
Wouldn’t it have been better if they had chosen not to sin?
What if God gave them a second chance? Suppose God said, “Ok, you guys are new here. I didn’t tell you about the serpent. You aren’t very sophisticated — of course you were blindsided. Now you know the difference between good and evil. So what? Let’s just forget about this time and move on. Go, and sin no more.”
Clearly, the option not to sin is always there. But man’s nature is what it is. We are sinners by nature. It is what we do. It defines us. We are the only natural, created beings that are capable of sin. It is what defines us — it is what separates us from the lower order of mammals.
My dog cannot sin. She can do things that are against the rules, and she can do them wilfully, but she cannot sin. She knows only what is forbidden, not why. She feels no guilt when she disobeys. She has no individual self-awareness.
Sinning is what we do. NOT sinning is unnatural, which is why the “natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
However, when we become saved, we receive an additional component — a “quickened” spirit, at which time we become a NEW creature, (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15). The new creature is capable of receiving the things of God, but the new creature continues to reside inside the old one.
“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
This is the dual nature of the Christian — a supernaturally quickened new creature temporarily trapped inside the old one. Literally, it is the spirit of life trapped inside a body of death.
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25)
Wouldn’t it be easier just to choose not to sin? One would think so. But no human being in the history of man, from Adam until now, (excepting the man, Jesus Christ) ever managed to pull it off.
Including the Apostle Paul . . . which brings us to the second objection, to wit: “Is Paul a liar if he says you can’t go to Heaven if you do these things?”
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:10-11)
Let’s begin with the most obvious issue. Who are the unrighteous? Are they those that do the things enumerated on that list? Does that mean a fifteen year old girl that never did any of these things is righteous?
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10)
So even if one never committed fornication, idolatry, adultery, self abuse, theft, was never covetous, never took a drink, never said anything evil of someone else or ever committed extortion, such a one was already unrighteous, according to Romans 3:10.
How does one become righteous?
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)
“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works . . .” (Romans 4:6)
“And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:22)
So, the unrighteous that do all these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But unto the unrighteous that believe, God imputes righteousness.
“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:23:25)
So, righteousness is imputed unto the unrighteous, by believing in Him that was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification.” Works — bad OR good, cannot be relevant if salvation comes by faith alone.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Go back to the top of the passage.
“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:3-4)
Does this mean that somebody who is justified by the law and “fallen from grace” has lost their salvation? No. It says that if you seek to be justified by the law, then you haven’t sought justification by grace.
The odd thing about teaching eternal security is that it almost sounds like one is defending a RIGHT to sin, rather than acknowledging the reality that sin is part of being in the flesh, and that in the flesh “dwelleth no good thing, for to will is present with me.” (Romans 7:18)
Because it sounds like a defense of sin, it is easy to argue against it. That’s what makes the simplicity of Christ so complicated.
Sin is not all right. Sin is not good. Sin is not ok with God. Sin has no defense. Neither does a sinner. That’s why we need a Savior.
Sin has consequences, here on earth, at the Bema Seat before Christ, and subsequently into eternity in heaven. Not everybody will be made a ruler over ten kingdoms, or ten cities.
But everybody who stands before the Bema Seat is saved.
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus pronounced blessings, or beatitudes, for certain groups of individuals.
Note with me that all of them are future tense — “they SHALL be” comforted, they SHALL inherit the earth, be filled, obtain mercy, see God, be called the children of God, etc.
ALL of them, that is, except two.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.”
Notice that the rest will inherit the Kingdom, but that the poor in spirit ALREADY have. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary defines the “poor in spirit” this way:
“To be poor in spirit is not to lack courage but to acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy. It confesses one’s unworthiness before God and utter dependence on Him.”
That does not sound like the kind of person that believes his eternity is settled according to his ability to choose not to sin.
The second group that have ALREADY inherited the Kingdom of Heaven are “those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.“
Is the Lord talking about personal righteousness? Well, let’s put it another way. Is there such a thing as personal righteousness? I believe that is an issue asked and answered already.
Either there is NONE righteous — or there is. Which is it? BOTH cannot be true.
“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)
So he that is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is already greater than was John the Baptist. So it would appear that being the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, one is still IN Heaven. How does one become called “the least” in the Kingdom?
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19-20)
Those that are saved, but that break the commandments and teach others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but they will still BE in Heaven.
Again, explaining the doctrine of eternal security is not an ENDORSEMENT of sin, but a recognition of reality. All men sin, including saved Christians. So if the standard for salvation is to trust Jesus AND sin no more, heaven will be empty.
And if sin is on a sliding scale, that is to say, some saved sinners will go to heaven but other saved sinners will not, based on HOW sinful they are, then the standard for righteousness is not by faith alone, but by faith plus UNDEFINED works.
Sin is a “work” — it is something you have done — nobody else can sin for you. Sin is your work and yours alone. God doesn’t make you sin. Neither does Satan. Only you. Sin is the most intimate and private of all human endeavors.
If your salvation is dependent on your works, then so is your righteousness. If your works can make you unrighteous, then you are NOT clothed in the righteousness of Christ, you are clothed in your own.
Any other understanding makes both you AND Satan more powerful than Jesus, since Satan can trick you into sinning, whereas the Bible says that having paid the penalty for all sin once and for all, Jesus sat down at the right Hand of the Father. (Hebrews 10:12)
In the final analysis, salvation is so simple that it is too complicated for us to grasp intellectually. That is why the Lord says we must have the faith of a child. A child doesn’t wonder if he deserves what his father provides for him.
“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”
It would be better to simply choose not to sin. Indeed, Christians make that choice every day. Except for the times that we don’t. And that is why we need a Savior. Not just at the point of salvation, but for every single step that we take in our walk with Him.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Salvation cannot work any other way.
Note: This morning’s addition was originally published last year. Many Christians get down on themselves in their walk with Christ at some point or another. This brief reminds us to look to the Savior and lean on His righteousness. We can try to do it ourselves but the Bible, history and personal experience tell us we can’t. We fail ourselves consistently. He will never fail us. Maranatha!