There are no greater or more consistent exponents of the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty and His unmerited grace than New Testament (Landmark) Baptists. However, their preaching and teaching endeavors are not shut up to the doctrines of sovereign grace, but they fervently strive to preach “all the counsel of God”, and try not to omit a single “thus saith the Lord.” They have been to a great extent blessed with the exceeding greatness of God’s power, but this has humbled them, rather than making them proud, for they know they are what they are by the grace of God (I Corinthians 15:10), and therefore; claim no merit before God.
Good works are vitally important to all who claim salvation in Christ, for good works are necessary for the validation of their profession. Our Lord said: “Ye shall know them by their fruits …” (Matthew 7:16). However, the believer in Christ needs to be fully aware at all times, that even though his good works are according to “what saith the scripture”, they have nothing whatsoever to do with his salvation, nor with his entrance into heaven “by grace ye are saved” (Ephesians 2:5). Nevertheless, I fear there is an off color thread running through the theological fabric of some preachers who claim to be advocates of salvation by grace alone, whereby the good works of the believer is made essential for entrance into heaven.
To de-emphasize good works, BE IT FAR FROM ME, but to over-emphasize good works is far more dangerous. Arminians are guilty of giving prominence to good works at the expense of grace, and the Hardshells, Antinomians and some lax Landmarkers are fearfully guilty of the disparagement of good works. The problem in the main stems from a neglect of, or inability to see or maintain the distinction between salvational faith, which is based solely on the redemptive work of Christ, and sanctifying faith which is wrought by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the far greater part of God’s redeemed, who were never brought along the God honoring path of progressive sanctification. Nevertheless, heaven is as sure for these people as it is to faithful Abraham.
Some years ago (4) I heard a preacher announce his sermon topic from the pulpit, which was:
“HEAVEN IS NOT GAINED BY FAITH ALONE; NO ONE GOES TO HEAVEN WITHOUT WORKS.”
This is a most dangerous statement, and my deprecation of it is compounded, because it came from a man who claims to be a consistent advocate of the sovereign and ill merited grace of God. His entire sermon was a belaboring and compounding of his erroneous sermon title, and after his message, I asked him about infants who die in the womb, or die at birth. He conceded that these infants are saved, and go to heaven without any works on their part. This concession by the preacher, was in and of itself sufficient in contradicting his whole message, and demands a radical modification of it. However, I want to pursue our subject further, and see if the Bible teaches whether or not there are others who go to heaven without any sanctifying works on their part.
“There may be the principle of faith implanted, where there is not an opportunity of showing it by a series of good works, or a course of godly living, as in elect infants dying in infancy, and in those who are converted in their last moments” (John Gill, Commentary On The Book Of James – Page 789).
A preacher friend of mine gave me a church paper, a recent tissue, and pointed out to me the words of a sovereign grace preacher, wherein he said: “I do not believe that anyone can ever be saved by the grace of God, and not do some good works.” My preacher friend, asked: “Is he not preaching babies in hell?” I think this statement was an oversight on the part of the writer, for I know him personally, and he would not knowingly preach an admixture of works and grace as being essential for entrance into heaven, and after reading this preacher’s whole message, it is made glaringly apparent that the above mentioned statement by him is alien to the context of his message. Now, I will mention some, other than infants, who have died and gone to heaven without any good works to their credit.
But let us first, keep first things first, and one of the truths which every believer in Christ should give precedence and keep uppermost in his mind is, that salvation of the soul is the exclusive and solitary work of God, and that our external obedience and internal maturity does not in any way contribute to our entry into heaven. It is not the believer’s obedience that gets him into heaven, but it is the perfect compliance of his Redeemer to the will of His Father (John 8:29), that opens the portals of glory unto him. The saint should be exceedingly glad and utterly thankful that God does not enter into a destiny determining judgment with him on the basis of his good works, for the righteousness of the very best of God’s elect are as filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).
Beloved, who among us is not afraid for God to judge what we may consider to be our very best work? There is none, no not one, who will step forward in response to that question; for it is the undiminishing consensus of Sovereign Grace Baptists, that they do not have any fruit which is perfectly free of all spots, and that some measure of defilement clings hard and fast to our very best of works. This is one of the reasons why Scriptural Baptist churches, have with unvarying consistency preached the doctrine of salvation by the free and unmerited favor of God, and have a holy abhorrence of the Arminian doctrine which teaches that man’s eternal destiny is determined by his own work, that is, by augmenting God’s efforts to save His people with their so-called freewill.
“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” (II John 8) It is rewards the saint can and may lose, but the salvation of his soul is irreversible and absolute, and even though many born again people regress and withdraw from the path of loving servitude, they yet shall be saved. However, if the saved person persists in his lapse of faith, and dies in his shameful and backslidden state, he will stand empty handed at the mercy seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:15). It was this danger that prompted Paul to say: “Let no man beguile you of your reward.” (Colossians 2:18). It is with this very same thought in mind that the Apostle John, admonishes a sister church, saying: “Look to yourselves (plural), that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (II John 8).
The religiously unsaved cannot retrogress or backslide from truth, but they may, and will in due season backslide from their false profession of faith. Peter refers to these counterfeit professors, saying: “The dog isturned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (mud hole)” (II Peter 2:22). A lost person, no matter how religious he may be, can do nothing but add sin to sin, and he will at God’s appointed time receive a just and fearful recompense for his superficial pretension. It is also an awesome truth that a Christian can desist in his pursuit of holiness, and thereby reproach Christ and bring shame on His church, but his aberration and disgraceful retrogression has not nullified God’s saving power and he will surely enter heaven’s gate, but he will be destitute of good works and unrewardable.
All of God’s elect, and more especially His blood bought church, should strive with the utmost fervency to emulate Christ. But the most faithful saint should never esteem himself to be any greater than the chief of sinners, for if it were not for the abounding grace of God, heaven’s gate would have been justly and eternally padlocked with Adam’s transgression of the Edenic covenant.
You are invited to join us for worship at Grace Missionary Baptist Church: Sunday School 11:00 am Worship 12:00 Eving Worship 7:00 pm Wednesday Bible Study 7:00 pm Located at the Glowmarw Bridge.