In this Holy Week, before he was crucified, Jesus Christ gave a parable to his disciples.
Matthew 21:28-31 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.” (NASB)
This parable often reveals what I consider two of the biggest tragedies as I’ve preached the gospel. They are as follows:
1. Genuine believers without assurance of their salvation
2. Fake converts with a false assurance of salvation
Both are clearly people deceived by our Enemy. The former does indeed worry me, but not as much as the latter. Jesus was about to crucified on the Passover. He was like the lamb that was slain in Egypt, whose blood was placed on the lintels of the doors of the Israelites. And his salvation would give Israel redemption from Egypt. However he warns that there are men who may seem to readily accept this salvation like the son who said he would go to the farm but don’t end up doing it. They look like they love Jesus. They sound like they love Jesus. They are perceived as Jesus followers. But they do not obey Jesus (John 14:21). They are not truly converted.
However there are others who seem like the son who said he would not go. But they regret their way of life and they turn from their sin and repent. And these, whom Jesus references using the prostitutes and tax collectors, end up being saved. Their faith is characterized by obedience to Jesus. They do not obey to be saved; they obey because they are already saved. They do not follow Jesus to be accepted; they are already accepted and therefore follow Jesus in gratitude. The outwardly obedient son is disobedient at heart but the rebellious son eventually becomes the obedient son.
The tragedy I alluded can be seen in these two sons. The rebellious son who eventually obeyed may still feel some guilt. But as a genuine believer, he must be encouraged that his sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9) and that he can be assured of his salvation. The worse tragedy is the seemingly good son; the one with a form of godliness. The one like the fig tree that Jesus cursed on the week before his crucifixion (Matthew 21:18-19)- all leaves and no fruit; looks fruitful but without the very fruit. Looking spiritual but indulging in, enjoying and encouraging sin. That false convert that enjoys his sin mustn’t take confidence in the fact that one day he said a prayer and “allowed Jesus to come into his or her heart.” That false convert, for his or her own sake, mustn’t take confidence in the fact that he or she said yes to go to the farm. Obedience is proof of our salvation (John 15:14).
The genuine believer that doubts their salvation must remember assurances such as Philippians 1:6 and John 1:12. They must also remember the children of Israel that obeyed and had sprinkled the blood of the lamb on the night of the Passover; they were safe from death. If they sprinkled and doubted Moses, they would still be safe. They would only lose sleep and have lots of anxiety as the night of the Passover came close. But they would still be safe because they were under the blood of the lamb. Such are believers without an assurance of their salvation. They can live low quality lives for the Kingdom of God because of fear, worry, doubt and anxiety. They are in constant dread that they often become ineffective believers. They ought to remember that our salvation isn’t contingent on our strength but God’s (2 Corinthians 1:21).
But the latter tragedy is worse. Suppose an Israelite on the night of the Passover says to Moses that he or she will apply the blood. And like the son who said he would go to the farm but doesn’t do it, this Israelite does not apply the blood over their doorpost that evening. They may have a false assurance in having said yes to Moses but death would surely visit that house. They can be confident in their heritage in Abraham but they would still die in Egypt. Such are people with a false assurance of salvation. They believe and believe hard that they are saved but face death when the time of reckoning comes. If you are not under the blood of the lamb, your child baptism, your church attendance, your charitable deeds, your mother’s prayers, your catechism and your moral record mean nothing. Jesus died this week of Easter so that we would be safe under his blood, not under our good deeds. This message is recurrent in the scriptures.
JESUS WARNS ABOUT FALSE BELIEVERS WHO ARE CONFIDENT IN A FALSE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
Luke 13:24-28 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up for us! ’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know you or where you’re from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets! ’ But He will say, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you’re from. Get away from Me, all you workers of unrighteousness! ’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out.” (HCSB)
JESUS WARNS ABOUT FALSE BELIEVERS WHO ARE CONFIDENT IN THEIR CHURCH PARTICIPATION
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! ’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name? ’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’ (HCSB)
PAUL THE APOSTLE URGES CHURCH FOLK TO CHECK IF THEY ARE TRULY SAVED
2 Corinthians 13:5 “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless you fail the test.” (HCSB)
PETER THE APOSTLE URGES CHURCH FOLK TO CONFIRM IF THEY ARE TRULY SAVED
2 Peter 1:10 “Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble.” (HCSB)
JOHN THE APOSTLE WARNS US THAT APOSTATES WHO WERE ACTIVE IN CHURCH BUT LEFT WERE NEVER TRULY SAVED IN THE FIRST PLACE
1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.” (HCSB)
Christ died so that our sins could be forgiven. Do you recognize that you are a sinner? Do you recognize that your sins deserve the wrath of God? Do you recognize that Jesus absorbed that wrath on your behalf? Do you accept that free gift from Christ? Call unto Him today for mercy and you shall be saved, Beloved.