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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
 Singapore
 ferc.org.sg
 
Preached At:
 
 
Title:How True and False Salvation Are Revealed
Text:LD 32 Hebrews 6.4-12, Luke 8.0 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2021
Added:2022-06-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 409 - A Summons to Praise
TH 701 - Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It 
TH 687 - Make Me a Captive, Lord

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


How True and False Salvation Are Revealed

HC 32, Hebrews 6.4-12, Luke 8.4-15, 1 Corinthians 6.9-11

(Users of this sermon may want to modify this portion) What makes a person a real Singaporean? Looking at the internet, I discovered some commonalities from various authors. We are kiasu, kiasi, great complainers, we speak Singlish, put chili on everything, and we know how to order kopi like a pro. “Aunty, one kopi gao keh C siew dai peng dabao.” And no matter what gripes we have against the country, we feel patriotic when we watch the NDP, or find out our passport is number 1 again, which doesn’t matter now because we can’t travel, but we still get a bit disappointed when Changi is no longer the best airport.

In the same way, what makes a Christian? One very key thing is this - because we are grateful for the salvation we have in Christ, we strive to live for him by doing good and when we sin, we repent.

When we last studied the Heidelberg Catechism, we looked at the keys to the kingdom of heaven in Lord’s Day 31. The gospel opens God’s kingdom and salvation to those who believe it. When they don’t believe, they can’t enter God’s kingdom or be saved. And if they’re believers, they’ll continue to walk holy before God. But when there’s persistent sin and impenitence, church discipline removes them from the church. That’s the church’s part - to preach the gospel and to exercise church discipline.

Today, we want to look at the believer’s part. If he’s truly a believer, saved from his sins, then he will, by nature, do good. He’s thankful at heart for what Christ has done, he continues to believe and obey God out of a pure heart. When he sins, he repents. But a person who calls himself a believer but does not continue in faith or pursues holiness, but instead indulges in the sins of the old man without penitence, even if he’s not removed by church discipline, he will not enter heaven. In looking at this topic, we want to examine our passage in two sections. The first is false faith and its fruits, and the second is truth faith and its fruits. 

If you’re a true believer there will be true faith and it will show forth in its fruits. What if you are not a true believer? It will show forth in its fruits. The writer to the Hebrews was addressing a difficult situation in the church. There were those who said they believed, were baptized, joined the church, called themselves Christians - but they loved their sins and lives too much to continue with Christ. They never truly believed. And they leave. This is the parable of the sower - there are those who because of the cares of the world (how hard life is), riches (how good life is), and pleasures (how exciting life is) - they leave the faith. There are also others who leave the faith because their faith was only emotional. But while at church, they experienced much. Hebrews 6:4-6 gives us 5 things that they experienced.

Firstly, verse 4 says, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened.” They were enlightened. They had Bible knowledge. They understood the gospel. It made sense to them intellectually. But there was no root. While they were enlightened, the writer doesn’t say they believed the gospel. They were enlightened - like many people who are in church - they attend Bible study, Sunday school, listen to the sermons - but they fell away, verse 6. 

Secondly, verse 4 says, “For it is impossible for those who have tasted of the heavenly gift.” They tasted the gift of salvation. They had the experience of joy. Like the rocky soil - those people receive the gospel with joy. There’s emotion. Jesus died for sinners - I’m a sinner - how wonderful it is to be saved. Now to be sure, to taste is not the same as to eat or to drink. Jesus said he was living water - and whoever drinks of him shall never thirst again. Jesus said he was living bread - and whoever takes him into their heart will be satisfied.

But to taste is not to eat or drink. To taste is to sample. To see if you like it or not. And it’s like a child - no, I like blood orange gelato - I like the taste. But the more he licks, the more it tastes bitter to him. Because blood orange is bitter. At first, Jesus was sweet - then the Christian life dawned on them - it’s not so easy - there’s a lot of self-sacrifice, self-denial, giving up of sins you love so much. No, I don’t want Jesus. I’ve tasted, but I don’t like. 

Thirdly, verse 4 - “For it is impossible for those who were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” Literally, “having been made sharers of Holy Spirit.” Now, they experienced spiritual things - but they didn’t possess the Spirit. They had experienced blessings, were acquainted with prayer, others prayed for them, they were engaged in spiritual things. But they didn’t experience the life changing work of the Spirit - to change their hearts from those who love sins to those who love the sweetness of Christ that comes from surrender.

Fourthly, verse 5 - “For it is impossible for those have tasted the good word of God.” Once again, they tasted. They tasted the word and found it good. They benefited from the Word, they enjoyed the Word, they were impressed by it. Yes, unbelievers can be touched by the Word. Mark 6:20 says, “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” Herod enjoyed listening to John’s preaching. He tasted the goodness, but there was no change. In the end, he rejected the laws of God, and he beheaded John.

Fifthly, verse 5 - “For it is impossible for those who have tasted the powers of the world to come.” The word “power” here refers to miracles. In those days, they witnessed miracles. God authenticated the Word by signs and wonders. These people in Hebrews 6 had seen the miracles. They had been enlightened, they tasted the gift of salvation, they experienced spiritual things, they found the word good, and they witnessed miracles. Yet in verse 6 they fell away. Now, what does this mean?

When you fall away, you fall away from something towards something. The Greek word means to slip by the way - like walking on a road, you fall into a ditch. So they’re falling from the way of Christ. But they are falling in to sin and rejection of Christ. Now, to be clear - we all sin and backslide. It doesn’t mean that we’ve fallen away. If we fear losing our salvation, hate our sins, if we want to repent - that’s a clear indication we haven’t fallen away. If we can fall away because of lying, then Abraham would’ve been lost. If drunkenness can make us lose our salvation, then Noah would’ve been lost. And if it’s adultery, then David. And if it’s denying Christ out of fear, Peter would be in the lowest hell because he denied Jesus 3 times. These all sinned, but they repented. God does not despise a broken and contrite heart.

But they who don’t repent, but choose to sin persistently - which is unbelief, is not a true believer. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God - “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.”

If a person persists in sins like these, he cannot be saved. They’re not saved. Now, Christians can struggle with these sins. A Christian may struggle with lust or fornication - but he will repent. A Christian may struggle with stealing - but he will repent. A Christian may struggle with homosexuality - but he will repent. We may struggle with sin, but we’re not identified by our sins. That’s why verse 11 says, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The Corinthians had been these things, but they repented and were saved. So falling away does not mean struggling with sin, but falling into disbelief and persistent sin.

Verses 7-8 give us an illustration - “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”

The earth, if it receives blessings like rain and sun - then it will bring forth plants. This pleases the farmer. And that’s what happens if there’s genuine salvation - you bear forth fruits. But if the land brings forth thorns and briers, even though it receives the same gospel rain - that means, nothing has changed. There was no change. There was no salvation. And the result of that impenitence is rejection. The land will be burned.

Now, the author is not trying to teach us agriculture. He’s showing that when there is impenitence, living in sin, there will be rejection by God. If they have been enlightened, tasted salvation, shared in spiritual things, enjoyed the Word of God, and witnessed miracles, if they shall fall away into sin and unbelief, they will not repent - they cannot be saved. They were not saved to begin with.

In fact this passage says it’s impossible for those who have experienced all of these blessings, if they were to fall away into persistent sin and unbelief, that they will repent. They’re turning their backs on Christ and aligning themselves with those who crucified and mocked him. That’s why it’s impossible. It’s what our catechism says in Q87 - “Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and impenitent walk of life? By no means!”

But the opposite is true. True salvation is proven by persistent thankful fruits of holiness and obedience. We now see true faith and its fruit. Verses 7-8 speak of the fruitfulness of the good land that receives the gospel - it will bear forth many fruit. It will please God. 

Now, a genuine believer will never lose his salvation. God’s the one who’s able to keep him from falling. Once a sinner is transformed and given a new heart, how can God transform him back and retransplant the old heart? No. True believers will never ever deny Christ, nor sin without repenting, nor stop believing in Christ. This is why in verse 9, he calls true believers beloved. The false believers - “they” in verses 4-8; now he addressed the “beloved” - Christians. And he reminded them that though he had spoken truthfully about the unconverted, he was confident of better things concerning them because they were saved. He said, “we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.”

He now comforts and assures them to continue in their Christian journey. Because they truly believed, what were the fruits they were to bear? And this is what Q86 speaks of. If they had been delivered from their sins, what good works must they do? That out of gratitude to God, to praise him and to assure themselves of their salvation, they were to bear forth fruit by living godly. These are the better things that accompany salvation. And while there are many, in Hebrews 6, the author lists 3.

Firstly, love. Verse 10 - “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” What showed that they believed? Their work and labor of love. This love they have demonstrated toward Christ by serving their fellow believers. They served these Christians in the past and also continued to serve. Now, we show love when we serve one another - to offer a cup of cold water, by giving to one another in times of need, to pray in times of difficulty, to spend time. And while we are right to do that, we see in context what kind of love this was. It wasn’t just love when it was convenient; this was a self-sacrificial love in very inconvenient and dangerous times. People were being persecuted. There was great temptation to hide if were a Christian. But no, they visited Christians in prison. And that was dangerous.

Hebrews 10:33-34 tells us that many Christians were humiliated publicly. They were insulted and scolded. They had acts of violence against them. Their property was taken from them. What did the other Christians do? Did they hide? No. Verse 33 says they “became companions of them that were so used.” They identified with those who were publicly shamed. And they had compassion on those in prison - those who were financially ruined. And they visited them in prison, they brought food, they sympathized with them. But Hebrews 13:3 exhorted the Christians to remember those in prison - as if they were imprisoned with them - to remember their suffering as if they also suffered. And many of the Christians did that. This was the labor of love.

In Nazi Germany, there were many people who were against the policies of the Nazis. They sympathized with the Jews. But many sympathetic people chose not to help the Jews, chose not to give them refuge, because to do so, they would identify with them, and that would mark them out for persecution. But there were those who did and they were sent to the concentration camps. We only have to remember Corrie Ten Boom - how because as Christians, they harbored the Jews, they were taken and tortured. And her sister died at the hands of the Nazis. 

Many of these Hebrew Christians were afraid, but they chose to show love and minister to suffering Christians at a very difficult time. And this marked them out as Christians, fit for persecution. But he assured them that God is not unrighteous - he sees this love; he notices that love that risked itself and will reward it. That is a mark of salvation. But beloved, we are to grow in obedience. And if we aren’t growing in our forbearance, forgiveness, acts of kindness, then how can we be more radical in our love?

Secondly, hope. Verse 11 - “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” The writer desired that each one of them would demonstrate diligence and earnestness to the very end - that they would not give up the faith. So that they would have the fulfillment of their hope. Their hope was heaven. He wanted them to persevere as Christians. That’s a mark of faith. Never give up Christ. There are many temptations, many joys in the world, many sins, that girl or that boy - but nothing compares to Christ. We are confident that only Christ satisfies. We are confident that only the joys of heaven are better than anything here.

But if you live tenaciously, not giving in to your sinful desires, but struggling hard against the world, that reward of heaven is yours. A Christian needs to cultivate tenacity that when Christ comes, all the perseverance, all the giving up of sin, all the enjoyment of Christian things will pay off. It doesn’t pay to give into sin - sure, you’ll have temporary pleasures and happiness but eternal suffering. A Christian is marked by a hope of that time when he knows his perseverance will pay off. We are not to lose hope.

Thirdly, obedience. Verse 12 - “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” This ties in with hope. If you hope in Christ alone, and your aspiration and goal is heaven, then you’ll be tenacious in resisting temptation. And you will be tenacious in obedience, even unto death. Christians were being persecuted in Rome. They were about to give up hope. But the author told them not to be slothful, but to mimic others who faithfully endured their thorns on earth to inherit the promises. These didn’t give up their faith. They died and received the promises of eternal life. So imitate them. Don’t give up. Keep on obeying. This is authentic Christianity because this was what Christ did.

Christ was obedient unto death. He did not sin. He did not flinch when he went to the cross. And he died for you and me. If you really understand your salvation - purchased not with corruptible things, but with incorruptible - then you will persevere to the end. Sometimes we aren’t so brave, and we will make mistakes. But true love always redeems itself. Thomas Cranmer, the first protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, feared death. He had seen his friends Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer killed by the Catholics because they would not retract what they believed in. So, he retracted what he said by signing a recantation. But in the end, he recanted his recantation because of his love for Christ. This was true love. So he was led to be burned at the stake.  He was chained to the stake, and then the fire was lit. He then stretched out his right hand and placed it in the fire, burning it into a stump, all the while exclaiming – “This unworthy right hand.” This was the hand that he used to sign his recantation. True love will always redeem itself. 

Those who are saved will show forth their salvation by their fruit. Those who are unconverted in the church will one day show forth their fruit too. But dearly beloved, are you tempted this evening to give up your faith? Make sure of your salvation. Press on now. Choose to obey God. Make every effort in repenting.

 

1. False Faith and Its Fruits

    A. The experience of unconverted people in church

    B. Falling into persistent sin and unbelief

    C. Impenitence means rejected

2. True Faith and Its Fruits

    A. Love

    B. Hope

    C. Obedience

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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