Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Forsaking all known sin for eternal life? A discussion on degrees

We started a new semester at the school I teach at as an adjunct (the newly renamed Arizona Christian University).  I am teaching Acts-Revelation and have a new batch of bright-eyed students, ready to delve into their New Testament and explore it.  In that class I have a student who came to the class staunchly Reformed and perhaps turned off by the free grace position. (I invited her to follow this blog too!)

We discussed on Facebook some of her concerns with the free grace position on eternal life; some of the concern was more perception than reality, more a caricature of what we believe than an interaction with what we really stand for. (it’s almost like we were talking politics or something!)  She was gracious in our discussion and we will have a fun semester of learning together, I am sure.

Funny enough, after having this discussion with her I saw a blog entry from Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen.  Michael was Dan Wallace’s intern at Dallas Theological Seminary and is Reformed in his understanding generally.  So go read his post, and then after the jump there are several outstanding questions from his writing that we need to address.

Does one have to forsake all known sin before they are saved?

Let’s say from the outset that phrases like “cheap grace” are not helpful to the discussion.  Unless he wants to label the first position “no grace” or “works salvation,” then he ought to be more charitable with his designation of the third position.  He also claims a title for his position (“free grace”) that has already been claimed by others who are not 100% in agreement with his understanding. (for the record, that would be us!)  That is perhaps a tad disingenuous, but we can certainly forgive him for that.

That said, I think that we ought to be able to dialog with Michael and those who follow and respect him quite a bit on this one.  Why? I am glad you asked!

  1. He distinctly distances himself from the Lordship Salvation position, and gives good exegetical and theological reasons for doing so. We can stand with him and appreciate his thoughtful interaction with 1 Peter 3:15.  We can agree with it wholeheartedly in fact.  (remember the ancient proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”)
  2. We can thank Michael for being willing to stand apart from his mentor Dr. Wallace and other esteemed professors at DTS and elsewhere when he finds biblical reasons for doing so.  Now certainly Michael respects those mentors, professors, and friends highly and would not break fellowship or dialog with them, and we wouldn’t expect that.  But being willing to publicly disagree and say why he disagrees is laudable.
  3. His pointing out of Peter’s prolonged sin in Acts 10 is helpful.  God doesn’t work out the sin in people’s lives all at once, and we do not hear from Peter any indication that he struggled with this sin.  It seems that he simply carried it with him for 10 years!  Only then did God use Cornelius to work it out of him.  That is helpful in a pastoral sense.
  4. He doesn’t stay in an “ivory tower” theology.  His concern for accurate exegesis and good theology doesn’t stop at interpretation but moves on to application.  He realizes that from a practical perspective no one can honestly say that they have forsaken all known sin.  In fact, the most mature realize that they stubbornly cling to sin and need repentance (and may not be experiencing it), whereas the immature many times think that they are holy when they are not.

For these reasons I think that we should applaud this post from Michael and thank him for his contribution to the discussion.  We should not begin our interaction with Michael by pointing out our differences, but by reinforcing our areas of agreement and realizing that we all serve Jesus Christ together. (this is known as the Socratic Method)  We have much that we see quite the same.  We all are in process theologically and in discipleship, and therefore can all be proven wrong.  Only then can we bring up areas of questions or of nuance to the discussion.

After reading Michael’s post, There are two points in particular that I think need some discussion and clarification between him and those of us who have already staked out the camp known widely as “free grace.”  First is his statement regarding what “free grace” says about repentance:

“Repentance is the changing of one’s mind about who Christ is and their attitude toward sin (i.e. that I am a sinner and sin is bad). This change of the mind will necessary bring forth the fruit of a change [sic] life, but one cannot determine what aspects must change or when the Holy Spirit will bring certain changes about.” (emphasis original)

The second is the corollary statement in his section marked “cheap grace” concerning repentance:

Repentance is the changing of one’s mind about who Christ is. This change may or may not bring change in the life of the believer. (emphasis original)

These sentences are the only differences between those two sections in his post; the other sentences are identical in the “free grace” and “cheap grace” descriptions.  There are certainly differences between the two ideas, but can we begin a dialog about exactly how large the difference is?  While FGA would not disagree with the latter statement, we would reword it to better represent what it is that we truly believe.  “This change does not automatically or uniformly bring about external, verifiable change in the life of the believer.”  What we might nuance is to ask whether change needs to be external and verifiable by a third party to be viable.  We might ask if change that is internal, if sorrow for sin and a desire for holiness don’t break through ingrained patterns if that is legitimate.  Certainly it took Peter 10 years to even begin to be confronted with the sin of racism, though of course Peter was saved during that time when he was in unrepentant sin.  So the internal realities are what matter more than the external manifestations.

Personally I can be okay with a definition of repentance that is about “attitude toward sin” as long as it is nuanced to acknowledge that this attitude does not automatically or uniformly produce externally verifiable change, which may take decades to see.  As I am not the judge, that does not offend me.  When he says “one cannot determine what aspects must change” I am not far from him because I realize that he allows that a believer in Christ can struggle with and even engage in serious personal sin (such as Peter’s bigotry) without that being a sign of reprobation.

In fact, I personally would welcome Michael into the FGA and would love to hear him discuss his views.  He is a thoughtful theologian and a gracious Christ-follower, and I need more of those in my life!

What about you?  How do you read his statement?  What areas of agreement would you build upon, and what areas of discussion and clarification would you focus on?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

“I’m with Him!”

By Ryan Lambros
 
When I was 9 years old, my family went to California for a jump-rope tournament (yes, I was a competitive jump-roper…but that’s another blog discussion). While staying at the hotel near Coronado Island, we met 2 young Naval officers who were on a brief stay from the USS Kitty Hawk. My dad, being the talkative, I-can-befriend-anyone type guy, got them to see if we could go on board the aircraft carrier that night and tour the incredible ship. They pulled some strings and got my family and the whole jump rope team passes to tour the carrier.
 
When we arrived at the dock to enter the hugest ship I’d ever seen, we were each given passes that identified us as being with the two young men, thus giving us authorization to board the ship. I remember my dad telling me, “Ryan, if anyone asks who you are or why you’re here, you show them your pass and say, ‘I’m with him’ (pointing to one of the guys).” We continued the tour and I stayed super close to the two guys. They gave us a phenomenal tour and I even got to shoot some hoops with the captain of the ship (indoor basketball court)!
 
I remember going through the tour holding on to my pass with such confidence. I knew that with it, I belonged! As a little kid I envisioned guys with guns flying down to capture me if I was asked why I was on the ship and had no reason to give them. The pass also gave me confidence in the men leading the tour. That pass was a direct link to the tour guides. If I followed them, I would probably get a much better understanding of the carrier than if I just wandered aimlessly around. Ultimately, the pass had a two-fold purpose: a remedy and a design.
 
I should not have been on that aircraft carrier. Who they let on to military ships is a very serious deal. Left to myself, I would not have been able to get on that boat. Getting on that boat could not have happened on my own. I needed that problem fixed. The pass, provided for me by the two guys leading this whole thing, gave me the remedy I needed. It was the free, undeserved pass that allowed me to access the incredibleness of the carrier that awaited me. It was mine. No one could take that away. It was issued, stamped, signed, and delivered. Even if I were to lose the physical display of the pass, it was documented in the log book that Ryan Lambros was allowed to be on that ship.
 
Where does a 9 year-old boy start when wanting to see an entire aircraft carrier in 1 hour? Does he check out the deck? Does he check out the bunks? What about the airplane-holder-thingy (I’m not a Navy guy)? Well, the pass given to me was directly related to the guy who gave it to me. Maybe I just trust him to guide me? Maybe the pass was designed for me to follow the tour guide; I’m sure he knew what was best. The pass was designed for me to have access to follow the leader. It was designed for me to enjoy and soak in the incredibleness of the ship, that I would otherwise have no other way of experiencing on my own.
 
Two purposes of the pass that should not be mistakenly combined: the remedy and the design. The remedy comes first. It allowed me to get on to the boat. The design comes second. It allows me to stay with the leader to enjoy the tour WAY better than left to myself.
 
Do you get where I might be going with all this? God’s grace has two DISTINCT purposes: remedy and design. The remedy grace gives to us was accomplished through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Eph. 2). The design grace now gives to us is that it motivates us to say no to our desire to search the ship on our own and to follow that remedy to enjoy our “tour” much more (Titus 2:14).
 
So often I see people struggle with this distinction. More specifically, I see students struggle with this distinction. As a Youth Pastor, people often ask me, “If a student in your ministry believes the Gospel, yet makes tons of mistakes afterward and lives a life that doesn’t reflect the Gospel, either later in high school or in college, do you worry about their salvation? Do you go back to them to make sure they’re saved?”
 
Students are tough sometimes. They are very passionate; they are very “swayed” by pressure; they oftentimes think they know things before they really do. My response to the people who pose the question mentioned above is this: “My job is to show them the remedy grace provides in a clear declaration (Eph. 2:8-9). My role is to proclaim the Gospel! My job is to help them realize the design that grace provides. My job is also to show students how the Gospel should affect our lives. You know what? Believing in the remedy is the easy part for students because it’s free. Following the design is much more difficult.”
 
Let’s compare them to the metaphor. Students are given the free gift of grace (“this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” Eph. 2:8) just like I was given a free pass to the ship (I did nothing to deserve it). Students then have a choice to walk in the design of that gift (“training us to renounce ungodliness” Titus 2:12) or to walk in pride. Some students wander aimlessly throughout the ship of life. They try to figure out everything there is to the ship. They think they are enjoying the best of the best while those who are following the tour guide are truly enjoying the best (trust me; the two guys gave us an incredible tour). So what happens to youth who leave the tour?
 
If I had wandered away from the tour and an officer found me, he would say, “What are you doing?” I would respond by saying, “I am with the tour guide, even though I’m technically not physically following him, BUT I have this pass.” Instantly, the officer would have to respond, “Well, I know you are authorized to be here, but do you not realize that your pass means you should be following your tour guide? It’s way better!” See, the officer would never challenge the remedy of that pass, but would probably challenge my understanding of the design. Even if I were to lose the physical pass, which could happen if I were to get in some trouble wandering on the ship, the truth of the matter is that the physical display of the pass isn’t what allows me to be there. It is the log book that has record of me being issued that free pass.
 
When students mess up, do things they shouldn’t, or even “go off the deep end,” I don’t instantly jump to the conclusion that they don’t have a “pass.” I simply remind them the design of grace. It is there for their benefit. They have received such an incredible gift, but they are wasting their time on the ship if they throw away its design. Instead of tossing students who struggle with their walk with God out of my youth group, I trust in the remedy and design of grace. The remedy for the student has nothing to do with me. I am simply called to preach the Gospel and show them the pass is available! The design is something that is a bit more specific. As a leader in the tour (not the tour guide myself) I am called to show students the pass’ design and the benefits of following that. Mmm, sounds like Grace-centered discipleship…but that’s another topic!
 
Ultimately, the greatest line – the most comforting line – that grace gives to students, is the ability to say, wherever and whenever they are on the ship, “I might be lost and not with the tour like I should, but I’m with him!” You wouldn’t believe how incredible youth ministry is when students understand the remedy and design of grace!
 
Ryan Lambros is an FGA member and the youth pastor at Maricopa Springs Family Church.  He graduated from Southwestern College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration.  He can be reached at ryan@maricopasprings.com.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

President's Letter - January 2011

                                                                           
Teach us to number our days that we might present to you a heart of wisdom.” These are the ancient, wise words of Moses to Israel and to all of God’s people in any dispensation.

We find ourselves with a new year before us with all the opportunities that the Lord will present to us. Might I suggest that we not only prioritize our schedule, but also and more importantly, schedule our priorities? Whether it is in our own spiritual lives or in the ministries that we serve, we all need a map or a matrix that we use to guide us to our desired goals.

In 2011 the FGA has a three-fold ministry matrix by which we hope to help further our mission.
First, we want to be involved in Equipping/Education. We wish to accomplish   this by an exchange of information through our website, blog, and through networking with our members. We also will provide more theological and ministry articles published by our members through the Journal of Chafer Theological Seminary.
 
Second, we desire to Encourage members as we provide a bigger picture of grace ministries in America and around the world. It is all too easy to get a silo mentality and only see things through our own glasses. The fact is that there is much ministry going on throughout the world being provided by those of us who proclaim the full grace of God.
Third, we desire to Enhance your ministry through the resources of FGA. The whole is greater than the parts. We hope to help you connect with others in FGA to provide you opportunities for ministry and partners in ministry.

As the New Year is before us some of us have a tradition of making New Year resolutions. Perhaps it is to lose those 10 pounds or exercise more each week. Maybe it is to refresh our Greek or maybe even our Hebrew??? Might I ask you to make it a resolution or at least a habit, to pray for FGA regularly this year?

          ▪Please pray for the FGA council meeting in January as we seek to pray and prepare for the year, including our   national conference.   
          ▪Please pray for financial stability this year through dues and donations.
          ▪Please pray also for the Lord to open doors to ministry leaders we will be contacting and seeking to get involved with FGA.
           

 The New Year is before us. Let us make sure to “Count the days and Make the days Count” that we might present a heart of wisdom to the Lord.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay, Ph.D.
President, FGA

Counseling Carnal Christians (Part 2: The Pattern)

By Dr. Fred Chay
 
Having dealt with the predicament many ministers face in the church today in Part 1 of this series, we turn now to finding a biblical pattern for approaching people who are living carnal lives in order to help them repent and live eternally significant lives.
 
It is a well documented fact of history that the church at Corinth in the mid fifties of the first century was shot through with serious issues of divisions, a spirit of selfishness, and immorality.  To navigate the twisted estuary of issues that existed at Corinth required all the skill the apostle Paul had gained and an abundance of the grace of God to the church. Paul approaches his task with a clear strategy which reveals a biblical pattern for counseling carnal Christians.
 

(1) Paul Affirms Their Position

 
The apostle Paul begins by affirming their position in Jesus Christ. He begins at the outset of his first epistle by reminding them of their true position and personhood by God's grace.
 
...to the church of God which is at Corinth to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:2-9, NASB)
There is no question in Paul’s mind that these are his brothers, redeemed by Christ, destined to spend eternity with Paul in fellowship with the Father.  They are “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” as well as “saints.”  They, along with others, “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  They “eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Without a doubt, the audience that Paul writes to is regenerate and the first part of his strategy is to affirm their position in Christ.
 

(2) Paul Denounces Their Practice

 
Having quickly and powerfully affirmed their position, without raising the quill from the paper Paul launches into a firm, unrelenting, yet loving disdain for their personal and sinful practices. He clarifies his audience as the same ones he has so lovingly and powerfully affirmed in verses 3-9. It is to his "brothers" that his exhortation is addressed:
 
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you." (1 Corinthians 1:10-11, NASB)
The quarreling and fighting among the saints points to the truth that these saints are not effectively living up to their calling.  They are not the spiritual giants that they might think that they are.  In 1 Corinthians 3:1 Paul goes farther, referring to his brothers in Christ as fleshly, carnal, babies in the faith.
 
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1, NASB)
Moving from his denunciation of their divisions, he moves to their participation and seemingly "careless" attitude toward immorality. In chapter 5 Paul is astonished at their tolerance of immorality by a church member with his stepmother.
 
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst." (1 Corinthians 5:1-2, NASB)
The list of problems and turmoil within the church goes on to include lawsuits against brothers in chapter 6, selfishness and perhaps drunkenness at the Lord's supper in chapter 11, and the selfish and showy use of spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14. Nevertheless, in all the sin and spiritual failure of these brothers, Paul never hints that they are anything but the justified saints he began to address in chapter one.
 
If ever there was a case to question the salvation of professing Christians based on their behavior, this church provided the opportunity. But Paul does not question their conversion. However, he does present a question to them. It is not a questioning of their past belief or their present behavior, but it is in regard to their future role as a beneficiary in the kingdom. It is this questioning and the following exhortation that provides us with a biblical pattern of how to deal with believers who are besieged with carnality.
 

(3) Paul Questions The Future

 
In the midst of his denunciation of the Corinthians’ divisions and divisive behavior, Paul focuses on Christ being the unity of the ministry. It is upon the foundation of Christ that all of God's servants must build:
I planted, Apollo watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow-workers; you are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:6-11, NASB)
Each of the individual members of the church of Jesus Christ has the distinct right and risk of building upon the foundation. It is at the Bema seat, the judgment seat of Christ, that Christ Himself will evaluate each person’s motives, methods, and manifestation of ministry.
 
Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work, which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire…Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 4:5 NASB)
The connection of 3:1-9 and 10-13 is clearly a cause-effect relationship. Because of their carnality their spiritual life is anemic. The only possible result is an evaluation by Christ that is less than desirable. Why does Paul introduce this future reality? Clearly it is meant to stimulate these babes and snap them out of their lethargic "Christian" walk. It is the same theology and methodology used by the apostle in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, writing to the same audience. In this instance Paul reveals that it is his driving ambition to be pleasing to his Lord. His reason in part is that he knows one day he will give an account of his life and ministry.
 
Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad., Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. (2 Corinthians 5:9-11, NASB)
This motive was introduced in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul describes the diligent discipline he exacted upon himself so that he might be found to be a faithful apostle qualified to serve Christ.
 
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim; I box in such a way as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NASB)
 
Paul certainly is not in jeopardy of losing his salvation. (See 1 Cor. 3:15b). But he is keenly aware that through a slothful and undisciplined life he could not only forfeit the present qualification to serve Christ, (9:27), but also future rewards to be bestowed by Christ in His kingdom (1 Cor.3, 2 Cor. 5). It is this theme, the loss and gain of reward by Christ, that Paul uses as a motivational method to move the carnal Corinthians to a more obedient and profitable Christian lifestyle.
 
In 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 Paul is rebuking his brothers because of their selfish and greedy behavior toward one another. They were evidently taking each other to civil court in hopes of winning a lawsuit. The apostle appeals to their sense of logic and shame.
 
Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life? If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? (1 Corinthians 6:2-6, NASB)
 
If we as believers will judge the world and the angels in the kingdom of Christ, certainly we can handle such simple matters here on earth between brothers. Paul admonishes them that it would be better to "suffer wrong" and be defrauded (6:7-8). But Paul concedes that instead they "do wrong:"
 
Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren. (1 Corinthians 6:7-8. NASB)
 
Paul goes on to remind his brothers that those who do wrong shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
 
Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:10-11, NASB)
 
The severity and the possibility are real for these believers. Paul, in the original text, utilizes the same word in both verse 8 and 9. To "do wrong" is to "do unrighteousness". The term is the same and the result for those who do wrong, such as stated in 6:9-10, is that they are assured of a loss of reward (3:15 and 2 Cor.5:9-10). In fact, some of the vices listed in 6:9-10 are the very maladies that beguiled the Corinthian church (compare 3:3, 5:1-2, 8:1-9. 11:17ff). Further, Paul rebukes brothers who are involved in these sins. It is these vices committed by Christians that Paul demands must be judged.
 
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
 
The concept of inheritance has both a passive and an active force. All believers have a positional inheritance, which Paul describes in 1 Cor. 1:1-3 as well as in most of his writings (Eph.1, Col. 1, Rom. 8). This inheritance is based solely on the perfect and completed work of Christ. It is our right to enter into heaven with the passport of Christ's death and resurrection as our official and legal document of our inheritance.
 
However, there is also active force to an inheritance. This concept is seen in the historical use of the word to reflect the concept of acquiring or possessing something. Often this concept has a conditional element involved. It is this active and conditional force that is clearly seen in Paul's argument. He completes his argument by reminding the Corinthians that they formerly acted like that, but now they have been washed, sanctified, and justified. That behavior may have been justifiable before their conversion, but certainly not now, subsequent to their conversion.
 
The apostle utilizes the same argument to another group of believers who are struggling in a similar spiritual battle. In Galatians 5:16 Paul reveals to them that they have two choices. They can either walk by the flesh and produce its deeds or by the Spirit and produce its fruit.
 
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:16-23, NASB)
 
The warning is clear. If these brothers and sisters refuse to walk by the Spirit the only course remaining is to walk by the flesh. The result is that they who practice these things shall not inherit the kingdom. Paul finishes his exhortation to his brothers by re-enforcing his plea for them not to commit two sins, which he just listed as those which exclude inheriting the kingdom. "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:25-26)
 
In Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians his concern is to exhort and educate Christians who are behaving in an inconsistent manner with their lofty position in Christ. To the Corinthians Paul had earlier introduced the possibility of losing reward and suffering loss (Chapter 3). In chapter 6 he personalizes this possibility for the Corinthians in the context of their carnal activity. If they continue in this practice, they may win the lawsuit before the temporal judges on earth, but they shall suffer loss before the Eternal Judge of heaven and earth.
 
Paul’s pattern, then, is well-established in 1 Corinthians.  He affirms the position of the Corinthians as saints, believers in Jesus Christ.  He then calls them to live in light of an eternal perspective not with fear of a loss of eternal life but with a realization of the eternal significance of their decisions for their service to Christ in the heaven.  This “eternal significance” perspective guides Paul’s admonitions to those who are secure in Christ.
 
In our final post in this series we will look at how we can practically apply the biblical principles which Paul has laid out in counseling carnal Christians.