SOWING AND REAPING
Copyright © 1995 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
This essay is dedicated to the millions of believers in Christ who are seeking to live a righteous life even though the theology of their church, and the footnotes of their edited Bible, assure them that they are saved by “grace” and therefore righteous behavior, while always desirable, is not an absolutely necessary part of their salvation.
Table of Contents
The principle of balance in Christian teaching and preachingThe Scriptural Definition of Grace
The problem that arises when we seek to balance the necessity for godly behavior with a continual stress on God’s love, mercy, and grace
The Warnings of the Apostles
The Kingdom of God Is As a Seed
The Law of Sowing and Reaping
SOWING AND REAPING
When the writer in his preaching and writing emphasizes godly behavior, people sometimes respond by stating that a more balanced presentation of the Good News should be given. This is to say, it is necessary to stress that we are to live righteously but we must balance this stress by pointing out the grace and mercy of God.
While Gospel preaching and teaching indeed must be balanced if it is to produce good fruit, a problem arises when we attempt to “balance” our emphasis on righteous behavior with the reminder that God’s love, mercy, and “grace” are part of the Gospel message.
Gospel Preaching Must Be Balanced
The goal of Gospel preaching is to produce men and women, boys and girls, who place their trust in the Lord Jesus. First they must trust the Lord for their salvation, their preservation in the day of God’s wrath. Second they must learn to look to the Lord Jesus for every aspect of their life on the earth. Learning to obey the Lord and to depend completely on Him, which is another way of saying learning to live by faith, is as much a part of the program of salvation as is preservation in the Day of Wrath.
Sound, balanced Gospel teaching and preaching produces disciples, that is, people who lay down their own life, take up their cross, and follow the Lord Jesus wherever He leads them.
Teachers and preachers are to feed God’s sheep by taking portions of the Scriptures and explaining them and applying them to the decisions and problems of daily life. Perhaps we do not see enough of this kind of preaching in these days.
But let us think for a moment about balance.
The principle of balance in Christian teaching and preaching. If the minister of the Gospel is emphasizing living the victorious Christian life he must balance this emphasis by teaching the believers how to rest in the Lord’s strength and wisdom. If the minister is emphasizing resting in the Lord’s strength and wisdom, then he must balance this by stressing the importance of doing all in our power to obey the instructions of the Apostles and to keep on pressing forward in the Lord.
If the preacher overemphasizes pressing forward in the Lord, some of the believers will become discouraged because of their slow progress. If resting in the Lord’s finished work of redemption is overemphasized, as it is today on such a large scale, then the believers do not grow in the Lord.
The Scripture teaches that whoever will choose to do so may come to the Lord, and if he does so the Lord will receive him. The statement is made that God is willing that all should come to repentance and be saved.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
The Scripture teaches also we do not choose the Lord, He chooses us.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16)
Many passages throughout the Scripture exhort people to seek the Lord, promising them that He will be found of them. In addition, there is clear teaching that salvation is of the Lord and He draws to Himself whom He will.
To emphasize one of these two truths at the expense of the other is to give a distorted picture of the Divine salvation. We are free to choose to join ourselves to the Lord. But behind the decisions of people the Spirit of the Lord is operating the will of God.
The Apostles were commanded to go into all the world and make disciples from every nation. The Lord also commanded Peter to feed His sheep.
Numerous Christian churches stress worldwide evangelism almost to the total exclusion of bringing the believers from the “milk” of salvation into the strong meat of the Word.
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, (Hebrews 5:14-6:1)
The result of emphasizing evangelism at the expense of feeding the sheep is millions of spiritual babies and very few mature saints.
Another example of imbalance would be to discourse every Sunday on the passages that point out the wrath of God and the torment of the Lake of Fire, a continual harping on the severity of God while never speaking of the numerous assurances of God’s love and the unimaginable joy and blessing that will be the portion of those who follow the Lord. All Hell and no Heaven! The severity of God is pointed out but His goodness is not seen. Actually, the reverse is true today. The “positive” passages are stressed while the “negative” passages are ignored so as not to offend the people. This imbalance results from preachers seeking their own glory. The fear of God has been removed from the churches by overemphasizing the love and mercy of God.
There are assemblies today that present an hour of worship and fifteen minutes of diluted teaching. The result of such imbalance is worldly believers—believers who stumble and fall in the time of testing.
Another imbalance, common in our day, is to speak continually of the financial blessings and material provisions God wishes to shower on Christians while never mentioning the admonition to endure hardness as good soldiers of the Lord.
How often do we hear that the fear (not reverence!) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. What is being emphasized today is love! love! love! This is an imbalance. The American believers, for example, think of God as the great Santa Claus in the sky; a kindly old gentlemen who is wringing his hands while his boys behave like the sons of Eli. Compare this concept with the Fire that flamed from the Most Holy Place and slew the two sons of Aaron.
“These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin;
“and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. (Deuteronomy 27:12,13)
The problem that arises when we seek to balance the necessity for godly behavior with a continual stress on God’s love, mercy, and grace. Some preachers and teachers of today are bringing into view the numerous passages of the Scriptures that speak of the necessity for moral change in the believer. Immediately the warning is issued that we must balance any preaching of the necessity for moral change with several references to the love, mercy, and grace of God.
Here is an example of the incorrect application of the principle of balance. Let us give a simple example of an incorrect application of the principle of balance so the reader may understand what we are saying.
The Scripture states that the covetous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.
For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
It would be incorrect and destructive to seek to balance this statement with an appeal to God’s love or to New Testament “grace.” Such an attempt would parallel Satan’s advice, “You shall not surely die.” Either the covetous believer will inherit the Kingdom of God or else he will not. Which is it to be?
We are in error when we attempt to “balance” the necessity for moral transformation with the passages that emphasize the love, mercy, and grace of God. The result is the concept that if we do not obey the laws of God we will receive the Lord’s blessing in any case because of God’s new-covenant grace.
This is the way the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is taught today and it has produced moral disaster. The Lord Jesus has removed the lampstand of the Christian churches. The Divine testimony has been extinguished in many “Christian” nations because the Divine warnings have been removed from Gospel teaching.
The conclusion that is drawn when an attempt is made to balance godliness with grace is that while we ought to try to do good, if we do not God will receive us anyway. To emphasize the importance of godly behavior and then to modify this with the idea of God’s forgiveness is to confuse the basic operation of the new covenant.
The Scripture teaches that if we live in the appetites of the flesh we will die spiritually, we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The fact is, the rewards we normally associate with being a Christian are reserved for those who through Christ gain victory over the world, Satan, and their own lusts and self-will.
The crown of life is reserved for the overcomer, for no one else. The crown will not be placed on the head of the defeated believer because of God’s love, mercy, grace, kindness, or any other Divine attribute or blessing.
The concept that the New Testament emphasis on righteous behavior is somehow modified by God’s love and mercy may be the most widely held of all Christian viewpoints. But this idea is flawed.
Let us proceed now to explain why difficulties are encountered when we attempt to balance the necessity for righteous behavior with an emphasis on God’s love, mercy, and grace.
Christian teaching is not defining grace according to the way the term is used in the Scriptures.
The Apostles in their writings never diluted their stress on righteous behavior with an appeal to God’s love and grace. Grace is never presented in the New Testament as an alternative to righteous personality and conduct, only as an alternative to the Law of Moses.
The Kingdom of God is as a seed that grows until it transforms the individual. It is not a means of attaining escape from Hell and eternal residence in the spirit Paradise.
The law of sowing and reaping is an eternal law that proceeds from God’s moral Nature. Not one tiny aspect can be changed by an appeal to mercy and grace. What is sown is always reaped unless God aborts the process because we have responded in the manner set forth in the Scripture.
The Scriptural Definition of Grace
The Christian theology of our day is a wasteland. The chaos is due in large part to the manner in which the word grace is being used.
In the secular realm, grace often is employed to designate a period of time, a “grace period” in which requirements are waived. For example, an insurance policy may remain in effect for a month even though a payment was not made by the date required, in order to give the policy holder an opportunity to make his payment and to keep him protected in the meantime.
Notice that “grace” is a temporary provision. To make the grace period a permanent waiver of payment, in the case of the insurance contract, would be to change the terms of the contract.
In current Christian usage, “grace” is being defined as a permanent alternative to godly behavior instead of an opportunity for the believer to change his behavior while keeping him protected in the meantime. The bypass to be used while the road is under construction has become the main highway. The contract has been changed.
Grace is thought of as lenient, indulgent treatment. God forgives us no matter what we do because of His grace extended toward us.
The central thrust of today’s preaching is that we ought to try to please God by living righteously; but if we do not, grace steps in and covers our sins and carelessness. If we believe in the Lord Jesus we will go to Heaven when we die. If we have not been diligent we may not receive as great a reward as someone who has served the Lord with their whole heart, but basically we are “saved by grace,” meaning that God sees us through Christ and will bring us to Heaven when we die.
The above concept of salvation is incorrect in both goal and program.
Is it any wonder the Christian churches are in moral chaos, and the secular governments, which depend on the Church for moral guidelines, along with them!
Perhaps if we will examine a few of the passages of the New Testament that include the word “grace” we will begin to gain a more accurate idea of what Divine grace actually is.
Does grace mean primarily that Christ suffered so I can neglect to live righteously and still enter the Kingdom of God? Let us see.
And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. (Luke 2:40)
“Grace,” as used above, seems to be speaking of the favor, the blessing of God, rather than the overlooking or forgiving of Jesus’ conduct.
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
Again, the idea seems to be that of God’s blessing and favor rather than the overlooking of sin.
When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. (Acts 11:23)
Again, the favor and blessing of the Lord.
From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. (Acts 14:26)
Again, the favor and blessing of God. Notice that one could not balance a teaching on the necessity for righteous behavior by emphasizing the favor and blessing of God (grace), unless one was pointing out that the purpose of the favor and blessing is to enable us to do God’s will. It never would be true that God’s favor and blessing were being held out as an alternative to righteous behavior, an excuse for sin in the lives of the elect. It is obvious from the New Testament, as well as the Old, that the favor and blessing of God always accompany righteous and holy behavior. God will not favor and bless those who are living in sin and disobedience.
Already we have seen that grace is not always speaking of the overlooking or forgiving of our conduct.
In the final sense, Divine grace is the Presence of God through Christ.
“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” (Acts 15:11)
Here is a verse that could be construed to mean God overlooks our sinful behavior and forgives us because of Christ. But a look at the context will reveal that grace is not being contrasted with righteous living but with the statutes of the Law of Moses.
But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them [the Gentile believers], and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5)
To continue our thought:
“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)
Notice that God’s grace not only forgives us but also builds us up in Christ. Grace is not a legal maneuver whereby sinful, rebellious “believers” can escape the wrath of God. Grace is the Presence of God in Christ that forms the righteous Christ in us, resulting in a transformation of our personality and behavior.
being justified [declared righteous] freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:24)
The above verse might seem to support the current viewpoint that Divine grace is a perpetual covering of the sins of the believer, a new manner in which God views man and relates to man. But a careful consideration of Chapters Two through Five of the Book of Romans will reveal that Paul is contrasting redemption through Christ with redemption through the Law of Moses.
Paul would never contrast Divine grace with moral cleanliness, truthfulness, and honesty because the very purpose of grace is to create righteousness in us. This is why problems arise when we seek to balance the necessity for righteous behavior with an appeal to grace. Grace is not an alternative to moral transformation, to the new creation in Christ’s moral image, but the producer of the image of Christ.
How could grace be an alternative to the new creation when the purpose of Divine grace is to produce the new creation?
We ought always to balance our preaching of the severity of God with a clear expression of the goodness of God. But let us keep in mind that the goodness of God never dilutes the severity of God. We are not to think that God’s severity will never be exercised against us because of His goodness. Rather, the goodness of God provides enabling power and wisdom (grace) that make it possible for us to turn away from sin and to walk in paths of righteousness.
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:22)
If we as a Gentile believer do not continue in God’s goodness, that is, to walk before Him in faith and righteousness, we will be cut off from the Olive Tree, from Christ, just as happened to the unbelieving Jews.
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (Romans 4:4)
One could deduce from this that we Gentiles should make no effort to obey the numerous exhortations to righteous living that are found in the New Testament but should simply “believe.” But as we said, Paul was arguing with the teachers of the Law of Moses. Paul was saying we cannot reject the atonement made by the blood of the Lord Jesus and go about seeking to establish our own righteousness.
Paul would never employ “grace” as a means of tempering his stern warnings to believers who continue to walk in the appetites and lusts of the flesh. Rather, Paul was urging his listeners to choose God’s way to righteousness through Christ rather than to attempt to keep the numerous commandments of the Law of Moses or to develop some plan of their own for acquiring righteousness.
Righteousness is defined as “that which pleases God.” If we would obtain righteousness in God’s sight we must enter the plan of salvation God has ordained. God’s plan of salvation includes forgiveness through the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus and also moral transformation until we are in the image of His Son.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
It is inappropriate to attempt to balance a stress on transformation by reminding us of God’s grace, because the purpose of grace is to effect moral transformation.
For sin shall not have dominion [control] over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
The writing of Paul in the two verses that precede the verse above defines what Paul means by sin not having dominion over us.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:12,13)
In the Book of Romans Paul announces that we have died to the authority of the Law of Moses and are free from its regulations. Our sins have been forgiven. We do not have to worry any longer about the animal sacrifices, circumcision, or the feast days. This does not mean we are free to sin, for then sin would retain dominion over us. It is true rather that through the Presence of God in Christ we are able to turn away from slavery to sin and become the slave of righteousness.
The wages of sin is death. If we believers (for Paul is writing to the saints in Rome) choose through Christ to serve the laws of righteousness we will receive the gift of eternal life. The gift of life does not come as something handed to us on our acceptance of Christ. The gift of life is the gift of an opportunity to attain life by turning away from slavery to sin, choosing instead to be the slave of righteousness.
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
Slavery to Christ results in holiness of personality and behavior. Holiness of personality and behavior results in eternal life. The believer who continues in the lusts of the flesh will be paid with eternal death.
For the wages of sin [done by a Christian] is death, but the gift of God [for acting righteously] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
“Grace,” as used in the verse above, means the gift of apostleship given to Paul on the road to Damascus. It has little to do with covering or excusing unrighteous behavior.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (Romans 12:6)
“Gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us” reveals that Divine grace includes the endowment of God’s Spirit given to us by the Holy Spirit in order to build the Body of Christ and to bear testimony of Christ to the world. Grace, as used here, clearly is not referring to an alternative to righteous behavior.
But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also. (II Corinthians 8:7)
Grace as employed above refers to the willingness of the Christian to share his material resources, not to God overlooking his sins.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (II Corinthians 12:9)
“My grace is sufficient for you” refers to the virtue, wisdom, and power of Christ as He enables Paul to fulfill his apostleship. Grace, in this usage, is not referring to a covering of sin.
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
Again we see that Paul did not contrast grace with righteous behavior but with the Law of Moses. The Book of Galatians is an argument against obtaining salvation by keeping the Law of Moses, not against endeavoring to walk in moral purity, peace, sobriety, and dedication to the Lord
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7)
The grace of God includes the forgiveness of the sins of the individual who serves the Lord Jesus faithfully.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)
The above two verses are often used to show there is nothing we need to do except believe in Jesus. But the following verse reveals that we are saved in order that we may behave righteously.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
From the above we see that the very purpose of grace is to produce good works in the believer. Therefore it is inappropriate to attempt to “balance” an emphasis on righteous living with constant references to God’s mercy and grace.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
Grace, in the above sense, would be defined as the saving Life and Presence of the Lord Jesus brought to people when the saint avoids words that are not wholesome but instead uses his speech to build up and encourage those to whom he is speaking.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, (Titus 2:11,12)
The grace of God teaches us that we should live righteously. To seek to balance an emphasis on holy living with an appeal to mercy and grace makes no sense if grace itself teaches us to live righteously!
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness [immorality, lust] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)
“Who turn the grace of our God into lewdness [immorality, lust].” It appears that in the first century some of the churchgoers were attempting to use the forgiveness aspect of Divine grace to excuse immoral behavior. This is what always will happen when we dilute the necessity for godliness by continually referring to God’s love, mercy, and grace.
It is difficult to live a godly life, and if there is an easy way to avoid fighting the good fight of faith, people will find it. “Grace” is employed today as the Divinely provided means of avoiding the stern discipline of true discipleship.
The Warnings of the Apostles
The repeated warnings of the Apostles of Christ prevent our attempting to balance the necessity for righteous behavior with frequent appeals to God’s grace.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
If the believer in the Lord Jesus, having been baptized in water, having been filled with the Spirit of the Lord, then chooses to walk in the appetites and lusts of his physical body, he will die spiritually. He will prevent his own resurrection to eternal life in the Day of the Lord.
One might say, yes, but there is always the Lord’s mercy and grace. This is what Satan always whispers: “You shall not surely die.”
The Divine edict has been pronounced by the Apostle Paul: If the believer chooses to continue satisfying the demands of his soul and body, living as an adamic creature, not experiencing moral transformation through the Life of Christ created in him, he will die spiritually. No amount of love, mercy, or grace will produce a different result. He will die spiritually. Attempts to soften Paul’s warning serve only to blind us to the truth.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
The current teaching that these words do not apply to Christian people is so indefensible that we will not mention it further.
“Those (the members of the churches of Galatia) who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
“Yes, but we must remember the love and grace of God!” Nonsense! Those who walk in the flesh either inherit the Kingdom of God or they do not. All attempts to soften the force of Paul’s warning serve only to corrupt God’s Word. There is no middle ground here, no opportunity to “balance” the admonition with appeals to mercy and grace.
Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (I John 3:15)
Repeated reminders of God’s mercy have no bearing whatever on the force of this warning to Christian believers. No believer who hates another believer or any person for that matter, has eternal life dwelling in his personality.
One could balance an emphasis on the need to live a victorious life by stating that the Lord Jesus has led the way before us and will help us on to victory if we look to Him. We can balance a stress on the effort we ourselves need to make with the passages that offer God’s assistance and the assurance that if we go down to defeat in the battle, God will always forgive us and encourage and assist us as we make an attempt to get back up on our feet and fight on.
But one ought never to attempt to balance I John 3:15 (above) by saying even though we hate and will not forgive another person, God loves us so much He will bring us to Paradise anyway.
Can you see the difference between offering encouragement to the believer who is struggling against sin, on the one hand, and assuring the careless, lukewarm “believer” that God’s love, mercy, and grace will forgive his carelessness, worldliness, moral filthiness, rebellion, and self-will, on the other hand?
This is not a case of offering a healthy balance. Rather it is a diluting of God’s warnings so the Word of God becomes invalid. “God has said you shall die but you shall not surely die.”
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;
but if it bears thorns and briars [neglectful Christians], it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7,8)
“Oh, but we must remember God’s grace!” Either the Word is true or it is not. The above passage is not to be “balanced” with reminders of God’s love. God is as severe as He is loving. The eternal truth remains: the believer in Christ who does not bear the fruit of righteousness in his personality and behavior will be cut out of the Vine—out of Christ. His name will be blotted from the Book of Life if he does not turn and gain victory through the Lord.
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Revelation 3:5)
We said previously that the law of sowing and reaping is never made ineffective unless God aborts the process because we have been willing to take the necessary steps outlined in God’s Word.
Let us say that we are a covetous person but unaware of it. God has been working on other problems of our personality. We shall continue to reap the pain that accompanies the love of money, such as continued anxiety about our gaining and retaining wealth and material things, difficulty in finding rest in Christ, and injury to our family relationships. But the blood will continue to forgive our covetousness because we are obeying the Lord in the area of our personality He is stressing at the moment.
Eventually the Lord will turn to the covetousness that is in us and we will become aware of it. When He does, we are to confess our covetousness and ask for forgiveness and cleansing. If, through Christ’s grace, we are set free from covetousness, our personality will be changed accordingly and the penalties that accompany covetousness will gradually disappear. The sin of covetousness will not be remembered against us in the Day of Judgment. The cleansing and deliverance we have obtained is an eternal judgment on covetousness.
If, however, we refuse to let go of our covetousness, our personality will remain unchanged. When we stand before Christ we shall reap the reward of covetousness. No appeal to mercy or grace will have any effect on the fact that we have passed into the spirit realm with a covetous personality.
Mercy and grace may intervene in that Christ may permit us to enter His new heaven and earth reign and not be cast into the flames of the Lake of Fire. But we will enter the new world of righteousness as a distorted, dwarfed personality. We will not participate in the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord returns to earth. We will not receive the rewards promised to the overcomer because we have not overcome.
God, in this instance, has modified the full consequence of the eternal law of sowing and reaping in that we have been saved from eternal destruction. But we have been saved by fire, having passed as a naked, untransformed personality into the new world.
Can you see how appeals to love and mercy, as a supposed “balance” to the necessity for moral change, can create serious problems in the believer’s attitude toward the necessity for diligently pursuing the life of victory over sin?
The writings of the Apostles are very clear that sin shall not be permitted to enter the Kingdom of God. Any teacher of the Scriptures who attempts to weaken the force of the apostolic declarations is a false prophet and is leading himself and his followers to unimaginable pain, to weeping and gnashing of teeth, to what may prove to be shame, contempt, and everlasting remorse in the ages to come.
Be not deceived. Whatever an individual sows he shall reap. The “grace” teaching of today is the voice of the serpent: “You shall not surely die!”
Adam and Eve sinned but once. Mankind has been suffering for six thousand years as a result. Consider the severity of God!
The Kingdom of God Is As a Seed
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,
“which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31,32)
If the goal of the Divine salvation were our eternal residence in the spirit Paradise, and if we attained our goal by believing that Christ died for our sins, then seeking to balance the necessity for righteous behavior with continued reference to God’s love and grace might be a logical (though not scriptural) action.
“Lord, open to us. We have sinned. We have disobeyed the Apostles you sent to us. But please, Lord, have mercy on us and let us into Paradise.”
But the goal of the Divine salvation is not eternal residence in the spirit Paradise. The goal of salvation is entrance into the Kingdom of God, which is a different issue, a different concept, and we do not enter the Kingdom of God only by believing that Christ died for our sins.
The Kingdom of God is as a seed that is born in us and then grows in us. In actuality, the Kingdom of God is Christ Himself who is born in us and then formed in us.
There is no sin in the Kingdom of God. There is sin in the churches on the earth, but there is no sin in the Kingdom of God.
The reason the covetous, the adulterers, the violent, the liars cannot enter the Kingdom of God is that there is no covetousness in the Kingdom of God. There is no adultery in the Kingdom of God. There is no violence in the Kingdom of God. There is no lying in the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is the doing of God’s will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
It is true also there is no sin in the Paradise of God. Sin entered the Paradise of God when it was on the earth. God’s response was to immediately withdraw Paradise from the earth into the spirit realm. God will not have rebellious people in Paradise along with the holy angels, the pure in heart, and the children. It shall never happen, by love, mercy, grace, or any other means.
We understand that the Lord Jesus brought the thief with Him into Paradise. But you can be sure that the body of the thief was not resurrected with the Lord; neither did the sinful aspect of his personality enter the beautiful garden of God.
The spirit Paradise is a place of waiting, and perhaps instruction in some instances, until the Lord returns and the Kingdom of God is established on the earth. It is then that the sinful part of the personalities of saved people will be dealt with, according to our understanding. The living and the dead will be judged when the Lord returns. In fact, the judgment may have begun already as far as the saints are concerned.
They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (I Peter 4:5)
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17)
The issue of the Gospel is not entrance into Paradise but into the Kingdom of God—deliverance from God’s wrath when the Kingdom of God comes to the earth. The Christian Gospel is not the Gospel of Paradise but the Gospel of the Kingdom. The thief did not enter the Kingdom of God on the basis that the Lord invited him to enter Paradise.
No person can see or enter the Kingdom of God until he or she is born again. Being born again means Christ is born in us. The part of our personality that is of Christ is the part of our personality that is of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is as a seed that grows in us until it consumes our entire personality.
We cannot bring sin into the Kingdom of God. The part of our personality that is sinful is not as yet in the Kingdom of God.
As we said before, as long as we are pressing into the Kingdom of God, the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus covers our transgressions. The blood serves as a bypass while the highway is under construction. The blood never is employed as an alternate means of entering the Kingdom of God.
Since the Kingdom of God is a transformation of what we are in personality, to attempt to balance the preaching of the laws of the Kingdom of God with appeals to grace and mercy is not appropriate. It is not logical. It will prevent people from entering the travail that forms Christ, the Kingdom, in us.
It is correct and necessary to keep reminding the disciple that the grace of God is covering and protecting him as he struggles forward, and that God loves him, because otherwise he would become discouraged. Entering the Kingdom of God is a fight, a race, a never-ending struggle to overcome, through Christ, the world, Satan, and our own lusts and self-will. As long as we are fighting the good fight of faith the blood of the cross is keeping us without condemnation.
But today the grace of God is not being preached as a protection and comfort for the embattled soldier of the cross, it is being presented as a substitute for diligence. The worldly, self-seeking, spiritually lazy, careless, lukewarm “believer” is being told he can never be lost, his name can never be blotted from the Book of Life, that God loves him so much he will never be called on to suffer for the Gospel’s sake.
The self-serving ministers continually are “comforting” the believers with this satanic lie because they want people to “keep coming to church.”
How many people in our congregations would remain if they were told that Divine mercy and grace do not temper the eternal Kingdom law of sowing and reaping?—that if they do not take up their cross and follow the Master they will reap destruction in the Day of the Lord, and no appeal to God’s love, mercy, and grace will change this one bit?
How many would remain? The answer is, the majority would flee and look for a “church” where the pastor informed them that “good old Jesus” would never let them suffer.
If you are the pastor of a church, pick one Sunday and preach the demands of discipleship without mentioning grace. The demands of discipleship include:
- Turning aside from our own life.
- Taking up our cross of self-denial.
- Following the Lord wherever He leads us.
Tell the members that unless they do this they are not disciples, that is, not true Christians.
Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom as straight as Jesus did without attempting to soften its impact, without once tempering your teaching with references to God’s love and mercy. The true saints in your assembly will rejoice and praise God for the truth. The “mixed multitude (probably the majority), that you think are such dear saints, that love you so much, will have things to say to you and those statements will not be pleasant to hear!
The Kingdom of God is a seed that is sown in us. It grows as we nourish it with prayer, reading the Scriptures, obeying the Lord, and serving God in every other way. It is only as we overcome sin that we enter the Kingdom. No amount of mercy or grace has any ability whatever to give us the Kingdom. We enter the Kingdom by growing in the righteousness that is Christ in us. Mercy and grace serve to provide for us and keep us without condemnation while we are being transformed morally. God’s love, mercy, and grace never are a substitute for our stern obedience to the Holy Spirit as He brings us from victory to victory over the sin in our personality.
The Law of Sowing and Reaping
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7,8)
First of all, to whom is Paul writing?
Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),
and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: (Galatians 1:1,2)
Paul was writing to “the churches of Galatia.” There are some today who would tells us such admonitions of Paul (and there are several similar warnings!) do not hold true for believers because they are “saved by grace,” that is, by the grace Paul described in the Book of Romans. This would make Paul a very confused and inconsistent teacher of the Gospel.
The truth is, the ministers who advise us that the admonitions of the Apostles do not apply to the believers are the ones who are confused and inconsistent. Such ministers already have led multitudes astray with their flawed teaching!
All creatures of God reap what they sow. The law of sowing and reaping is an eternal law in both the natural and the spirit realms. God’s love, mercy, and grace do not affect the law of sowing and reaping except under the conditions we have described previously.
Let us say we sow grass seed in our yard. What do we expect to reap? Grass! We would be amazed indeed if bushes or people sprang up as the seed germinated. We have sown grass and we shall reap grass. It is as simple as that.
There is no process by which we can sow grass seed and reap some other crop. To reap an additional crop would require the planting of an additional kind of seed.
It is precisely the same in the spirit realm. When we sow sin we reap spiritual (and sometimes physical) death. When we sow righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God we reap eternal life.
In our day we are teaching God’s people they can sow indifference and sin and reap eternal life. This would be the same as advising someone that he could plant grass seed and reap roses.
Here is why appealing to love and grace as an alternative to the necessity for righteous behavior is so destructive. It is to imply we can sow grass seed and reap roses.
To a far, far greater extent than is ordinarily taught, the Lord’s people will reap precisely what they have sown. In the Day of Resurrection they shall be rewarded precisely as their works have been.
There are several aspects of the rewards held out to the victorious saints. These rewards include endowment with the authority and power of eternal life, rulership over the nations of the earth, closeness to the Lord, and opportunities for service.
We would like to emphasize one aspect of the reward, and that is the body from Heaven that will clothe our flesh and bone body when it is raised from the dead. The body from Heaven is the reward that the Lord will bring with Him in the day our flesh and bones are resurrected.
Our body from Heaven, the body that is being fashioned before the throne of God, is sometimes referred to as a “house”; sometimes as a “robe.”
The point is this: the house, or robe, is being fashioned from what is taking place in our physical body on earth. One might think of it in this way: our body on earth is being sown in corruption that it may be raised in glory.
And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. (I Corinthians 15:37)
As our body is sown into the death of the Lord Jesus, as we experience the sufferings of Christ, a counterpart is formed before God’s throne—a counterpart that will clothe our mortal body when our mortal body is raised from the dead.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, (II Corinthians 4:17)
The eternal weight of glory is our house from Heaven, and it is formed as we die in the Lord and His resurrection Life is revealed in us.
This is the meaning of “That each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10).
We shall receive a body from Heaven that will reflect the manner in which we have behaved in the earthly body. Here is the perfect justice and righteousness of God.
If we have given our life in the service of the Gospel, in the pursuit of righteousness, our choice will be reflected in the robe with which we shall be clothed at the coming of the Lord.
And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:8)
The fine linen, the body from Heaven, is the righteous deeds. It is the righteousness we have practiced.
If we have lived selfishly, burying our Kingdom talent, have not sought the Lord, have continued in our sins and self-will, then we shall be clothed with a body that reflects this choice.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8)
We shall reap corruption. We shall receive the evil we have practiced.
No appeal to love, mercy, or grace will in any manner interfere with the law of sowing and reaping, except under the scriptural provisions we have discussed previously.
The law of sowing and reaping is an eternal law of the Kingdom of God. It holds true under all Divine covenants.
To imagine otherwise is to be deceived by Satan, just as Eve was deceived.
The Lord Jesus did not come to earth to do away with the eternal law of sowing and reaping. The Lord came to forgive sinners and to enable them to change what they sow, and only by changing what they sow, to change what they reap.
The Lord did not come only to forgive the drunkard but to make him sober so he can inherit eternal life.
The Lord did not come only to forgive the liar but to make him an honest person so he is not cast into the Lake of Fire.
The Lord did not come only to forgive the adulterer but to make him morally pure so he can inherit the Kingdom of God.
Christian preaching has always presented salvation as escape from Hell and entrance into Heaven. Escape from Hell and entrance into Heaven are not the emphasis of the New Testament, although Hell and Heaven are mentioned.
The individual who sins always is in Hell, so to speak, and belongs to Hell. He is being filled with eternal death. The Lake of Fire retains authority over every sinning individual whether or not he or she is a Christian.
The individual who loves the Lord and does His will is always in Heaven, so to speak, although it may not be obvious as he is enduring the many chastenings that will make him holy if responded to correctly. The righteous individual belongs to Heaven. He is being filled with eternal life. The Lake of Fire has no authority over him.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death [lake of fire].”’ (Revelation 2:11)
The second death is the Lake of Fire. When, through Christ, we are victorious over Satan, the world, and our sin and self-will, then we can no longer be injured by the second death.
If we are found worthy to participate in the first resurrection from the dead, then the Lake of Fire no longer possesses authority over us.
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power [authority], but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
The purpose of Divine grace is not to bring the sinner out of Hell and place Him in the Paradise of God. The purpose of Divine grace is to transform the sinner until he or she is practicing righteousness. When he begins to practice righteousness, then he belongs to Heaven. He is being filled with eternal life. The Lake of Fire no longer has authority over him. He is a candidate for the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord Jesus appears in the clouds of glory.
The soul that sins shall die. This is a law of God that reaches from eternity to eternity. It is a part of God’s Nature. Any change in the law of sin and death would be a change in God’s Nature, a change in what God Is. A change in what God Is would be the worst of all possible calamities. If God changes in Character, then all of us could hope for nothing better than extinction.
The Lord Jesus died on the cross and rose again that He might forgive us and transform us. Men have changed the Word of God until the Gospel of the Kingdom is viewed as a means of forgiveness without an accompanying moral transformation. This would mean God has fellowship with unrighteousness, with darkness, with uncleanness. This shall never, never happen and we should hope that it never, never shall happen.
What does God say to Christian people?
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1)
“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”
If we would be received of the Lord we must do what He commands.
And all the people said—
(“Sowing and Reaping”, 3909-1)