I heard a pastor say that I Do Not Believe In A Second Grace! Then what is the state of the church and church leadership in America today, if not the world? I wonder how the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Reverend Pat Robertson, Dr. Dobsen and leaders of the majority of America's congregations and religious organizations would answer the Apostle Paul if would show up today and pose the same question that he asked believing disciples at Ephesus(See Acts 19:1-6))? What would these teachers in America (see John 3:10)answer if asked, have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?
I question whether the majority of America's church and religious leaders today, leaders of millions, have ever been born again (anothen) themselves (See Romans 8:1-17)? Instead, I suspect that the majority of our religious leaders today are in the condition that Paul referred to in Romans 10:1-4, when he said, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God". Why do I feel this way?
I was sitting on a bench,located on the front lawn of the Church of the Nazarene on 16th Street NW in Washington DC, along with a pastor friend of mine one warm Saturday evening. He and I, along with members of his flock were visiting a sister-church for a weekend community fellowship service. It was a beautiful and warm summer afternoon, when this senior pastor of a prospering mega-church located in the nearby state of Virginia, and I, sat and talked. He had anticipated a staff opening at his church and asked me about myself and what I believed. He also shared things about himself, and what he believed.
His comments on salvation reminded me of something that another pastor friend of mine shared with me several years before. Given my understanding of scripture, I found both of their conclusions to be alarming. This pastor shared with me that he did not believe in a, 'second grace'. For those of you who are not familiar with this phrase, it represents a viewpoint held by some in the Christian church with respect to what it takes to be saved. And I hope that they are correct, for if they are incorrect, there are a lot of people sitting in churches who have followed this teaching that may be in error. On the other hand, if I am incorrect in my understanding a believer will simply have the second grace that this pastor referred to, and nothing will be lost.
Most churches share a core belief, with respect to what is required for one to be saved. Must agree that believing, confession, repentance and baptism are essential for salvation. On the other hand there are churches who believe that once you believe on Christ you are saved, your faith in him has saved you. There are other churches who believe that baptism by water and of the spirit are requirements for salvation. Those who say that they do not believe in a second grace seem to be saying that all that is required for one to be saved is one's faith in Jesus Christ, and once you profess your faith you are saved.
I mentioned another pastor friend of mine earlier, several years ago we were chatting and he explained what he believed that it took for one to be saved. The Holy Spirit, he said, "only empowered one be a witness". He cited Acts 1:8 to prove his point. He went on to say that the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with being saved. Now this would be a good place to say that I hold both of these ministers in the highest regard. I neither question their motives nor their biblical acumen or their desire for the truth. Having said that, we strongly disagree.
I. Born Of The Spirit
I believe that the Holy Spirit is essential to one's salvation and without the work of the Holy Spirit, we are none of his. Seeing how it is the Christmas season, let us begin with the gift of Jesus Christ, 'prototokos'. The term prototokos means first in rank and order. None of us would disagree that Jesus is the head of the church. The members of the church are his body. In the same manner that families are constructed in most cultures today, the children are offspring of the parents as a result of the seed that is planted by the father into the mother. In legitimate relationships the husband, derived from the Greek term husbandry (which means the planter), is the planter of the wife. He plants his seed into the mother. The mother, the father and the offspring are one family.
In the book of Luke, Chapter 1, versus 26 through 35, the angel appeared and said to the Virgin Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the [Son] of God." The same rule applies here, except that instead of an earthly father injecting his earthly seed into the mother, the Heavenly father injects a spiritual seed into the mother.
In John chapter 3 verses 3 through 5, Jesus, explains to Nicodemus, that in order to see the Kingdom and to enter the Kingdom, one must be born 'anothen' (from above), just as Jesus was born from above by the overshadowing of the Most High. In other words, to be a part of God's family, one must be born into the family just is one is born into the human family.
The seed of the Spirit is in place of the seed of the human seed, and just as the Angel explained to Mary that the Holy Ghost would come upon her, and, "the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee and that holy thing shall be born of thee...', we must be overshadowed by that same Spirit in order to experience the rebirth. It is the same process by which are born again. For as we all entered the Kingdom of the earth and into the human family by the seed of a man and through the womb of a woman, we are born again as a result of the seed of the Spirit into God's Kingdom!
Jesus was born into the flesh as a result of the work of the Spirit. All who are in Christ are spiritually reborn as a result of that seed, and it remains in you.
This marks the beginning of the church family. This is where sonship or membership in the family begins and ends. All who will be a part of this family must be born into it, carrying the father's seed, i.e., the seed of the Holy Spirit. The progenitor was God, nothing one can do with flesh can place him into the Kingdom of God. Just as you are born into the human family, you must be born by the spirit into the spiritual family, I cannot emphasize that enough.
And just as water plays a part in the human reproductive process, i.e., the embryo resides inside the amnion of the mother's womb and it is filled with a watery fluid. It is called amniotic fluid. When a fetus is ready to be birthed, that sac, symbolizing baptism, bursts open and the fluid along with the fetus are born into this world. I believe that the water baptism may refer to far more than a symbol of burial with Christ. I believe that it also symbolizes our incubation period in the mother's amniotic fluids. And just as the water breaks and we are baptized into this world, we must also through the water be baptized into the kingdom with the washing of regeneration.
II. The Unknowing Leaders of The Unborn Church
The problem with the unborn church of today is that we still have the well meaning Nicodemus and Apollos type teachers with us today, see, John 3:3-21 and Acts 18;24-28. Here we have two well meaning, capable and eloquent teachers of the scriptures. However, neither understood what it meant to be born again.
Hebrews Chapter 12: versus 22 and 23 tell us that we are come unto the, "...general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven". I reiterate that Jesus is the prototokos, the firstborn of all creation of the Heavenly family the church. This church begins and ends with the Holy Spirit.
The church began Jesus with and continues to be populated to this day by those who are born as a result of being overshadowed by the power of the Most (see Romans 8:15 and 16).
Jesus explains to Nicodemus, that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit, wherein Nicodemus becomes confused, for he is only aware of the kind of birth that exists on earth with earthly species.
Aquila and Priscilla take Apollos, the eloquent Alexandrian speaker aside to show him the way more perfectly, for he only taught what he understood. Based on biblical evidence both men submitted to the word and expanded their teachings. Unfortunately many ministers today have not, and some will not.
I submit again that many well-intentioned ministers, in my opinion, still do not understand the role of spirit in our salvation. Sadly, if I am correct, these ministers continue to be the blind who are leading the blind and taking them right into the ditch with themselves as they all grope around in the dark, but never come to the knowledge of the truth.
What is frightening about this I have observed is that most of your larger churches are pastored by men and some women who simply do not understand the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation. Their members simply say the magic words, becomes members of the church and are quickly placed in some auxiliary or church ministry.
So important was the Holy Spirit that Paul explains in Romans 8, that without the Spirit, we are none of his. And lets consider who Paul was speaking with when he said it, he was writing to believers.
Many who call themselves HIS, are none of HIS because they have not gone through God's reproductive process. A fetus can be a fetus, however, a fetus may not necessarily ever be born. Many in the church today are like stillborn fetuses. They are in incubation, i.e., sitting in churches, listening to the word, paying tithes, praying and fasting, however, they have never been born again. Wouldn't it be sad to hear God say to depart from me for I never knew you?
On another occasion Paul confronts, not a group of non-believers, but disciples, see Acts 19:1-6. "He said unto them, have ye received the Holy Ghost when (since) you believed"? See the text below:
1 And it befell [Forsooth it was done], when Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul when he had gone the higher coasts, he came to Ephesus [came to Ephesus], and found some of the disciples.
2 And he said to them, Whether ye that believe have received the Holy Ghost? And they said to him, But neither have we heard, if the Holy Ghost is. [And he said to them, If ye have received the Holy Ghost believing? And they said to him, But neither we have heard, if the Holy Ghost is.]
3 And he said, Therefore in what thing be ye baptized? And they said, In the baptism of John.
4 And Paul said, John baptized the people in the baptism of penance, and taught, that they should believe in him that was to coming after him, that is, in Jesus. [Forsooth Paul said, John baptized in baptism of penance the people, saying, that they should believe into him that was to come after him, that is, into Jesus.]
5 When they heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid on them his hands, the Holy Ghost came into them [the Holy Ghost came on them], and they spake with languages, and prophesied.
7 And all were almost twelve men.
Paul knew that these disciples were positioned to receive Christ and to become Sons of God (a work that can only be done by the Holy Spirit). He was speaking to believers who had been baptized, yet they never received the Holy Spirit (not just a gift as some churches teach), but the gift that we celebrate at Christmas, i.e., God's gift to the world that was born of Spirit. These were in the state of John 1:12, But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but God.
Paul inquires (vs 3), "Unto what then were ye baptized...", for they knew only the baptism of John. Paul explained that John, verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. Many today have received only a baptism of repentance and/or acknowledgment that they were sinners. But that does not change the person. In (vs 5, when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, Still not finished, (v6) Paul laid his hands upon them and the Holy Ghost came on them...'
Where does baptism come in to play? Lets look at the definition of the Greek term baptizo, where we get our word baptize. Baptizo, means to to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe to overwhelm
The New Testament Greek Lexicon says, that the clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution.
But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g. Mark 16:16. 'He that believes and is baptised shall be saved'. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle! Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989. I love that explanation. Have you truly been converted, or were you baptized and thereafter joined a congregation. That's not enough!
III. The Seal of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the seal that confirms that you are authentically his. For after the Holy Spirit comes on you, you are then a witness for you are truly his. Lets examine a few scriptures about the seal, all of which show that once must be sealed and all of those that John saw in the books of Revelations that were God's, had the seal.
Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Ezek 9:4 And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry...
2 Cor. 1.21, 22 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God', Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts...
Rev. 7:3, Saying, hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads
Revelations 9:4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
Revelations 14. 1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand , having his Father's name written in their foreheads
Revelations 22;4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
Have you been born again? Have you been dipped in the Spirit, born from above? Have you been sealed?
Each non-believer and believer alike must ask themselves and God, am I following a well-meaning Nicodemus or Apollos type teacher with a limited understanding of spiritual things, one who has provided me with perspectives on salvation that simply do not agree with scripture. Keep in mind that Nicodemus did come to Christ, keep in mind that Apollos was a teacher of God, and most of all keep in mind that the disciples that Jesus found at Ephesus were sincerely seeking the things of God. However, when each of these heard the word and the truth of the word rightly divided, they did not turn away from it. Have you ever studied something with the best of intentions only to find out later that you completely or partly misunderstood what you had just read?? It happens to all of us, it even happens to preachers.
The case of too many Leaders in our churches today is that they are not teaching lies, they are simply teaching only what they know, and consequently their followers are being provided with limited knowledge. The dispensational theological teaching of today, i.e, that the Holy Spirit, which some refer to as a second grace, is no longer required in Salvation is a serious error. It shows, in my opinion, a complete lack of understanding of the work of the spirit in the composition of the church kingdom by teachers who hold and promulgate this belief.
Those who believe his word do not simply say, "I believe", believers are those who obey the words that they have heard and do them. But there is another group that says, I believe him, but they never do what he says. The scriptures say that demons believe and tremble, but certainly they are not saved. Many demons in the New Testmament cried out when they saw Jesus. They recognized him as the Son of God, but the demons were not saved.
I visited a church in California, another mega church. The pastor was a remarkable, warm and kind man. He publicly admitted that he did not come from a religious background. It was as a result of the efforts of his wife, caucasian, who attended a black baptist church, that he began going to church from the onset.
He was prophesied to, at that black church, that he would one day be the leader of a large congregation. He is the pastor today of a church with a membership of approximately 15,000. At this church there the charismatic singing, jubilation and waiving of the hands. But how does one get saved? During the altar call, individuals come down and repeat the creed (his is not the only church that does this). The pastor then prays over all who come and welcomes them into the Kingdom of God. The newly initiated are then whisked away to a back room where they are signed up for membership. This happens in most of our churches today, not just his one.
A problem arose in this church several years ago, and the church was subsequently sued. Why? Some of the newly initiated, reportedly saved members, were placed over the youth ministry where they proceeded to molest youngsters in the church. Were these people ever born again? You decide? The scriptures teach us that we must do more than come to the altar, repeat a creed, and join an assembly and begin acting charasmatic in order to be saved.
Church of the unborn, you must believe me, the disciples were with Jesus himself throughout his public ministry on earth, and still they were not converted. During the time that they spent with Jesus, they taught others and were empowered to heal the sick, cast out devils and to perform other miracles, but still they were not converted. Jesus on one occasion informed Peter, face-to-face, that he had not been converted, and that he was not to even attempt to strenthen the brethren until he had been converted himself. Jesus instructed all of his disciples that they must (Acts 1:8,) go to Jerusalem and wait there until they were endued with power (anothen) from on high, from above, from a higher place, the first, from the beginning, from the very first anew, over again. We have many teachers, ministers and preachers today, who have never been converted themselves, teaching others. As Jesus explained to Nicodemuc, are you a teacher in Israel and you do not know these things? Believe me, many ministers today don't know, and like Apollos they cannot teach beyond their experience. But Jesus told Nicodemus, "...that we speak that we do know and testify that we have seen" Jesus also promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit, which they must wait to receive, would guide them into all truth. How can ministers who do not even believe in a second grace teach you the whole truth about salvation? How can teachers and ministers and pastors who have never been born again themselves teach you the truth about salavation? No wonder many cannot see or understand it?
I do not believe that any pastor would willfully mislead his flock. On the other hand as Nicodemus did not understand the rebirth, and Apollos did not understand the rebirth, it is not hard to believe that some pastors, ministers and teachers today don't understand it either. Sadly, many of them have a tremendous influence today in and over their followers, and those who are coming to learn about Jesus.
If there is an ulterior motive, many pastors today want to build large congregrations. In deference to the word, too many pastors do not understant that it is not the number of members in the congregation, but more importantly, are the members born again? If not, you end up with what Gideon found to be true of his bloated army of 32,000. Only 300 of these warriors were approved by God. Pastors have to ask themselves today due I have 32,000 or 300. I plan to write on that subject, 32,000 or 300, The Mega Church Phenomemon.
To support my position, I have heard from members of some well-respected and large congregations that their pastors actually avoid certain scriptures concerning this topic; I know some of their pastors. This is very scary given that the scriptures have warned us of false prophets. The scriptures also warn us of prophets that 'went but were not sent'. If you read this, make sure that you understand the scriptures, and that you are not a part of the church of the unborn (Acts 19:1-6). If you are a part of the unborn church, it is time to become a part of 'the Chuch of the First Born whose names are written in heaven'. Merry Christmas, and do not reject the gift of God which is the Holy Ghost!
Peace & Grace!