The Perserverance of True Believers

The Perseverance of True Believers
July 12, 2009
Pastor Sean Harris

The title of this message is The Perseverance of True Believers. If you believe that you are converted and born again, this sermon will be of utmost importance to you. Now when we begin reading in verse 21, I want you to recognize that there is one long, continuous sentence going through verses 21, 22 and 23. Paul, like myself, had a tremendous fondness for run-on sentences. He could just go on and on, and he does that in this text.

Colossians 1:21-23
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Do you remember when you were an enemy of God? Do you remember when you were alienated from God? Do you remember when you had no confidence in your eternal security? Do you remember the time when you had no confidence in your eternal forgiveness of sins? Can you remember that time? Do you remember when the glorious God of mercy shined the Gospel down deep in your soul, converted you, and made you a new creature in Christ? God has a plan for your life. God has a distinct and individual plan for your life, and the plan is to present you as a case, bride, cleansed from your sins, holy, righteous, beyond reproof. Don’t allow yourself to drift away from the hope of the Gospel. Don’t allow yourself to move away from the power of the Gospel. Don’t allow your mind to creep away from the centrality of the Gospel. Keep yourself focused on the Gospel. Keep your marriage focused on the Gospel. Keep the church focused on the Gospel.

Baptists communicate a confidence that the Word of God teaches that we are eternally secure in Christ. Sometimes Baptists will say, “Once saved, always saved.” And we use that affirmation and the confidence that we are born again and as such we cannot lose our salvation. In fact, that is one of the things that would distinguish this church from a Free Will Baptist Church. A Free Will Baptist Church would affirm that they can lose their salvation. Let’s ask a couple of questions.

Question Number 1: Is it possible for someone who has been radically changed by the power of the Gospel into a new creature in Christ to lose their salvation? Preacher, do I have to worry about losing my salvation? Preacher, is it possible that I could repent of my sins and put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and enter into a relationship, but because of my sin, I drift so far away that I am cut away from God? And I think that I’m a Christian, but along the way I lost my salvation.

Question Number 2: Does the Bible give instructions to the believer concerning persevering in the faith? Does the Bible teach anything about continuing in the faith? Or does the Bible just kind of give me an assurance that once I’m saved I can just kind of relax and say, “Good for me”. Or does the Bible have some really specific teaching about after I’ve been converted there are some things that God expects me to do? Well, that is what we are going to cover today. We are going to do two things from the Word of God: Number One: We are going to comfort ourselves. We are going to get assurance. We are going to say, “Man, I’m glad that is in the Word of God.” I need to know that. I am comforted by that. And then, Number Two: We are going to get challenged. We are going to get some solid exhortation. I am not just going to walk out of this room and say, “Whew, I’m good to go” but you will also say “the Word of God challenged me in my walk.”

So here is the comfort. You didn’t have to reconcile yourself. God reconciled you to Himself through Jesus Christ. You don’t have to work your way to Heaven. You don’t have to say so many “Hail Mary’s”. You don’t have to confess your sins to a priest. You don’t have to do the sacraments. You don’t have to do those kinds of things. Jesus Christ has bought your salvation. He has redeemed you. He has justified you. He has forgiven your sins. Look what God has done for us. True Believers have been: regenerated, justified, adopted, reconciled and sanctified. Regenerated: do you know what regenerated means? That means you have been made anew, made alive. We call that born again. Justified: that means your sins are no longer held accountable to you. You have been made the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Adopted: you are a member of His family. You are brought in as a son or daughter. You have been reconciled. The differences between you and God the Father, the sin that separated you from the Father, has been removed and now you can climb up on His lap and say, “Daddy, I need to talk to You.” You can go in your private prayer closet and get down on your knees and say, “Father, I am hurting today.” And He says, “Come talk to Me, My son or daughter. I love you.” Isn’t that encouraging? Yes, it is. You can know that if anything happens to you, downrange or overseas, that you are eternally secure in Jesus Christ. You have been sanctified. That means that you have been set apart. You have been made His own. He bought you with a price. You are becoming more like Christ every day. So the question is: Can a creature in Christ become irreconcilable?

When someone says, “Hey, you Baptist: What do you preach about that eternal security?” You can tell them it’s not a Baptist thing. It’s a Bible thing and then you take them to John chapter 10. It describes the rescue of a sinner and it talks about the sinner becoming a sheep and it talks about what that is like.

John 10:27-30
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all: and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I am my Father are one.

Now that is some pretty incredible assurance. I have asked little Christian to help us here in this illustration. Would you come up here please, Christian? I want to communicate what the Word of God says here. John 10:28 says they shall never perish. So what is being described is God and how He rescues us and He takes us and He scoops us out of sin into deliverance. And the best illustration I can give you is how I can just reach down and grab this little boy and just pick him right up. That is what God does with you. Let me tell you something: He doesn’t need your help to save you. You don’t have to give Him your little two cents worth. It is an easy thing for Him to save you. Now, I didn’t pick a big guy. I picked a light guy because I know my own strength. But God can deliver any of you, and He doesn’t have to have your help. Christian can’t resist me—there is nothing this little guy can do to keep me from snatching him up. That is John chapter 10. Now is that comforting to you? You don’t have to worry about the Father losing you. You don’t have to worry about the Son saying, “Wow, this is getting to be too much.” This is a light thing. He has got you right here. And then Jesus said if this isn’t enough, the Father has got Me, and We are One. You are not going to lose your salvation. So what you should be concerned about is “Am I saved?”

I want you to see our text. Let’s work our way through this. You see, we believe in eternal security in this church. And our Articles of Faith say that we believe in the eternal security and everlasting blessing of the saved and the eternal conscious punishing of the lost. The preservation of all believers rests upon the finished work of Christ, the promises of God, gracious election and the Sovereign predestination of God. Did you notice that nowhere in there is human needs? God can rescue you without your assistance. Christ did it all on the cross. It was the finished work. So let’s ask ourselves, Should this security in Christ, independent of my actions and life, create indifference toward the moral and spiritual demands of the Gospel in the life of the believer? Since I know the saying “once saved, always saved,” should this give me a lackadaisical attitude where I can just prop my feet up and say “Man, I’m saved. I’m good. I can relax.”? Or should I take something from this passage and apply it to my life? Let me ask you something, is there anything God glorifying in the attitude that says, “I’m saved; now I can live like I want?” Is there anything God glorifying in the scenario in which I kick back and say “Whew, I’m good to go”? Does that fit into the character of God? In that scenario, let’s ask ourselves Who is God? I am God in that scenario. I am the idol because I choose the actions; I don’t obey, I don’t listen. I do what I want, and I can relax because I’m saved. How does that reflect the grace of God and the power of the Gospel? You see, I thought the power of God was supposed to make me a new creature in Christ. I thought the power of the Gospel was supposed to reconcile marriages and friendships. I thought the power of the Gospel was supposed to impact my life every single day. I thought the power of the Gospel was supposed to make me a new creature in Christ and you could see that I am radically changed because of the power of the Gospel. So if I am over here living like the devil, how in the world does that look like the Gospel in any way, shape or form? If there are irreconcilable differences in my marriage and it cannot get healed, how in the world does that look like the Gospel? If two church members cannot get along and so they sit on opposite ends of the church, how does that look like the Gospel? If one church member cannot say to the other, “I was in the flesh. Please forgive me,” what does that look like?

So are you going to Heaven or to Hell? Paul answers how a person can know if they have been reconciled unto God. Look at what Paul does not say as you look at the text. Look in your own Bibles because I do not want you to think that this is a Baptist thing. I want you to know that this is a Bible thing. While we are a Baptist church, first and foremost the Authority is the Word of God. Notice in verse 23 that these people that have been reconciled continue in the faith. They are grounded and settled. They are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel. They are not out there flapping. They are continuing in the faith. Paul doesn’t ask if they were sincere, if they really mean it, or if they were baptized. I am talking to counselors, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, deacons, and to my fellow preachers. He doesn’t take them back to a previous time. He asks them, what are you currently doing with Christ? Why are you so hard on this, Preacher? Because in this church that I have been a part of for 20 years, I know there are families that have worked in teaching or as deacons in the church for many years, and now they are not a part of any church anywhere in Fayetteville. Every Sunday morning, they are home and are not connected to a local church in any way. That just can not happen. You have a responsibility before God to continue in the faith.

We are not to use this confidence and run out here and ignore the Master. So there is the challenge. The doctrine of eternal security of the believer is a comfort to me in knowing that Christ has rescued me, but in the same sentence, the same doctrine also challenges me to continue in the faith. Remain grounded, remain settled, and don’t you dare be moved away from the hope of the Gospel. You stay with the Gospel. One of the most troubling things in my own personal life is the fact that I have no confidence whatsoever that my father is in Heaven. You see during the last two or three years of my father’s life, he began to drift away from the Gospel to the point that he was into Native American Mysticism and all kinds of nonsense. I would love to know that I am going to spend an eternity with my father. The problem is when I read a verse like this I say “You didn’t continue, Dad. You didn’t stay with the hope of the Gospel. You moved away and so you leave me with no assurance. There is no comfort. I don’t know.” And so now I’m hoping that he was backslidden, and I’m hoping there was that period of repentance, but I don’t have any assurance. Moms and Dads you have a responsibility to stay the course. Don’t allow yourself to leave the hope of the Gospel. When a young person doubts their salvation, do not take them back to when they were three years old. Ask them where they are right now in their faith. Tell me where your hope is right now. If what you did in the past in fact converted you, then your feet will be planted right now because the power of the Gospel is sufficient to keep you in the faith. You have to stay the course. I want to do that for my son more than anything in the world. God, keep me right here on the course, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now. God you keep me on the course. Be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel. Close the church doors when we are no longer a Gospel-centered ministry. Close the Christian college when we are no longer a Gospel-centered ministry. The Gospel is the good news that God Almighty through His Son Jesus Christ is reconciling people each and every day so that they do not have to experience the wrath themselves. This should really challenge you.

We already got the comfort from chapter 10. Let’s get the challenge. Don’t just give someone the comfort. Give them the challenge. If you are going to preach the Gospel, then preach the whole Gospel. Give them the entire Truth. That is why you very rarely hear me say, “Once saved, always saved,” because that is not giving them the entire story. Because verse 27 says, my sheep hear my voice. And what else do my sheep do? They follow me. Sheep are characterized by listening to the Master. This is why I am so broken about my own father’s eternal security because he stopped listening to the Master. And oh, how I would love to ignore all that and oh, how I would love to go back to a place where he asked Jesus in his heart. But that would be ignoring all these numerous exhortations in the Word of God, to stay the course, to listen to the Master, to follow Him. And you say, Preacher, do we get off course? Yes, we get off course sometimes. Preacher, are there people that are backslidden? Yes, there is no question there are those who are backslidden. Can you identify who there are? No. And I don’t want to put my son and my wife through turmoil by getting off course. That’s assuming I die before her and get into a mess and then she is wondering, “Was I married to a hypocrite? Was he really converted and got into sin or what happened here?” You should not want to put your children through that. You want to leave a legacy. You should want to leave a legacy that you stayed the course, by the grace of God. What do your kids think when Dad is here, there, here, there? Your sons and daughters are depending on you to stay the course.

So let’s get Christian up here to look at the illustration of this concept one more time. Now if, in fact, you see Christian running away from me, do you think that he wants to be rescued? When I tell him, “Christian, lift your arms up” and he refuses, does he want to be rescued? When he is not following instructions, does he want to be rescued? No. I want to be the disciple that follows instructions so that when the Master says lift your hands up, I do it. Alright, let’s turn Christian around. Now, Christian, turn your eyes on me and keep your eyes on me the whole time. Now, if you see his little head turning all over and drifting around, does that keep me from rescuing him? No it doesn’t, but it sure does call into question whether he wants to be rescued or not. When you see him flailing around out there, and making it difficult for me to rescue him, do you think he wants to be rescued? So when I tell Christian to look at me, follow me and he does and I can pull him right up here, isn’t that sweet? Isn’t that awesome? That is what God the Father does to us and expects us to do: listen to the Son, obey the Master, and follow instructions. Listen to me very closely. The reason we don’t follow instructions well is because we have forgotten the pit of hell is hanging underneath us.

Niagara Falls is a pretty impressive thing. You certainly would not want to fall over the side. If you could understand that you are hanging over Niagara Falls, I bet you would listen to the rescuer. I bet when he said, “Cross your legs and look right at me,” you would cross your legs and look right at your rescuer. I bet you would not take your eyes off the rescuer if you understood that below you, the pit of Hell was hanging. The eternal security of the believer does not give me the license to look like the devil, act like the devil, and live like the devil. Do I drift away sometimes, yes, I do, but by God’s grace He snatches me up, reels me in, gets my attention and says, “Look right here. Listen to me.” What we don’t have is little Christian doing his thing, and God the Father is trying to jerk him back, and there is this huge competition. That is not what is happening here. That is not very God honoring. What is God honoring and God glorifying is when I say, “Master, You tell me where to stand, and You tell me how to stand and I will follow Your instructions.” The way we make our lives God honoring, God glorifying, and Gospel centered is by obeying Him. You see, this snap link is awesome because it’s secure, and you are secure in Christ. But you do not take that security as a license to live like the devil. We are challenged today. Listen to me. Do what I tell you. This is performance oriented training. We understand that in the secular world; move it to the spiritual world and we will do well. There is no assurance of eternal life for those who don’t hear the voice of the Master and obey His Word unless they are being chastised. (Hebrews 12:8) So counselors, teachers, ask them, have you ever experienced the chastisement of God? Do you understand what it is like to be convicted of your sin when no one else knows about your sin? Have you repented of a situation from which you were not threatened by punishment and you just repented because repenting was the right thing to do?

Acts 11:23
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.[or] to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,

Just like Paul did back then, I am doing it now. I am exhorting you, Berean Baptist Church, to stay with the stuff. I am encouraging you. Turn to 1 John 2:19. I want everyone to see it in their own Bibles, please. This is one of the most troubling texts to me. This bothers me. This verse cannot be cut out of the Bible, and I cannot ignore it. It is in the Word of God. It is all inspired, all preserved and in verse 19, the Apostle John writes, they went out from us. There was a group of people that were part of the body of Christ and they went out from us. Wait a minute, look what he says, but that is a strong contrast, they were not of us. Wait a minute. You mean you can be in the church, look like the church, smell like the church, walk like the church, get baptized in the church, have your membership in the church and not actually be part of the church? Notice what he says please, for if they had been of us they would no doubt have continued with us. It says no doubt and that is why I say this is troubling to me. Because I look at my father’s life and I say, No doubt he should have stayed the stuff. And godly people who want to encourage me say, No, he was probably just backslidden. And oh, how I wish I could just grab a hold of that. But I am here to tell you that everyone is not backslidden. In Matthew 7, someone was never known of God. The Bible doesn’t say wide is the path that goes to Heaven and narrow is the path that goes to destruction. It is just the opposite. So what is the exhortation to every dad? What is the exhortation to every spiritual leader? You stay with the stuff. Don’t you dare allow yourself to drift away!

Look at Acts 14:22.
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

He exhorted them in the faith. You see when I hear the flippant, “Once saved, always saved” I don’t hear the exhortation to continue in the faith. Where is the exhortation in that phrase to stay the stuff? It is not there. I am here to encourage every single adult believer, every single teenager to stay on the course.

Fact: It is unbiblical to give someone assurance of their salvation if they are not presently living in the faith and hope of the Gospel. It doesn’t mean that they cannot be saved. I am not suggesting that because you do not know the heart. All you know is what the Word of God says. And the Word of God says that they continue in the faith. You say, Pastor, are there backslidden people? Yes. There are backslidden people. But backslidden people are characterized by returning to the faith. Why? Because God chastises them, pulls at them and draws them in. Why? Because they are His own. If there is no chastisement in your life and you are backslidden, you are in fact a bastard according to the Word of God. And so, if I am in sin and I do not feel any chastisement, that should be of tremendous concern to me. Men, if you are in deep, dark sin and no one knows about it and you are not feeling chastisement about it, don’t dare have a confidence in your eternal life.

BBC Article of Faith #12
We believe in the eternal security and everlasting blessedness of the saved, and the eternal conscious punishment of the lost. The preservation of all believers rests upon the finished work of Christ, the promises of God, the gracious election, and the sovereign predestination of God.

We are not working our way to Heaven with this. No one is suggesting this in any way, shape or form. But what we are suggesting is that people of the faith are characterized by godly living.

Turn to Acts 27: 22, 31. God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility are both presented in this passage. Let’s put this together: God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility. Up here on this platform, God is Sovereign. God snatches Christian up; God rescues Christian. God doesn’t need Christian’s help one bit. God has already determined that Christian is reconciled. He is being reconciled, and he will continue to be reconciled. There is no need to help Him, God can do it all. That is Sovereignty. What is human responsibility? ”Turn around. Look at me. Put your hands up. Do what I tell you to do.” It’s not so that you can help God save you. It is because you have a responsibility to obey the Master. If the Master says to cross your legs because that is better for the rescue attempt, then you cross your legs. If the Master says to look right here, then you look right here. Okay, so let’s see this in the text. Acts 27 is the story of Paul getting ready to go to Rome. He is on his final journey, and he is being held captive. He has a centurion and a guard of soldiers guarding him. They have rented or leased a ship to move this prisoner back to Rome. So there are soldiers on the ship as guards, there are sailors on the ship to take care of the ship and there is a centurion as a guard. They get into a tremendous storm. They should not have set sail. Paul had told them not to set sail. They ignored him, and they moved forward. Lives are being threatened and people think that they are going to die. In verse 22, Paul gets word from the Angel of God that everyone is going to make it. No one is going to die. I have already ordained that this ship is going forward. So at that point, does that give everyone the freedom to rest? No. In verse 31 the sailors don’t believe in the promise of God. And they get really nervous and they begin to abandon ship. They are sneaking off into these little small boats to let the ship crash. And please notice what verse 31 says. Paul says unless you abide on the ship you are going to perish. Do you know what that was? That was human responsibility. What was the means whereby God had ordained to save the crew? The sailors were. Don’t allow the doctrine of eternal security of the believer to lull you into a false sense of security where you can live like the devil and act like the devil.

2 Peter 1:10
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

You give diligence. Do you know what that is? That is a challenge from the Word of God. You make sure that your election is sure. You stay by the stuff. These hit and miss devotions, this hit and miss church attendance, every now and then showing up to the house of God does not sound like diligence to me. Diligence is staying by the stuff, focusing on the Word of God, listening to the Master. That is giving diligence. Now here is the promise for those that give diligence: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Did you get that? There is the comfort right there. I’m challenged to give diligence, and I’m comforted to know that He has got me in His hands. While little Christian is commanded to look this way, if he drifts away and gets off course, the Master can turn him around. And if he drifts off course, the Master can pull him back in. But we are instructed clearly from the Word of God to stay the course.

A Short Examination of Discipleship Options

A Google search of discipleship materials available to the church is overwhelming. Clearly the church is hungry for anything that can be marketed as “proven successful.” According to Barna, even though the resources now may be better than any time in the past, the results are pitiful at best. Baptists, Methodists, Assembly of God and others have all created a variety of curriculums that focus on doctrine or spiritual disciples or spiritual gifts or a combination of all three. Curriculums vary tremendously from DVD series, lecture series, small group discussion programs, and teacher-pupil methods. The purpose of this short paper is to articulate and evaluate what is available for discipleship and indicate what a pastor should use.

The huge array of choices for discipleship programs available for purchase through the Internet eliminates any excuses for not having resources available for church members to disciple new converts. Moreover, conferences full of vendors are held all over the world trying to market their resources with glossy-color photos, bright colors and huge selections of curriculum. Of the choices, a DVD series is probably the worst choice. First, the pastor (or disciple-maker) who purchases a DVD series or curriculum series will not facilitate the series with the same passion he would if he had prepared the lessons himself—passion is important in discipleship. Second, pastors must remember that resources that discipled converts well in Miami, Florida may not work quite as well in Boise, Idaho. While the biblical truths will remain the same, the articulation and application of those truths in a culture that is remarkably different may need to be different. Third, in Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, by John MacArthur, S. Lance Quinn emphasizes that preaching or teaching is not sufficient to make disciples. He says, “[Discipleship] finds its real fruition across the entire spectrum of the shepherd’s work: feeding, leading, cleaning, bandaging, protecting, nurturing, and every other aspect of a tender shepherd’s loving care. This is the process of discipling.” The guy on the DVD will have a hard time doing what Quinn insists is necessary for spiritual formation in the life of the disciple. There is no digital substitute for the disciple-maker.

All programs that work well have one thing in common, they have a teacher behind them that is utterly committed to the truth and wants to see that truth applied in the life of the disciple. The Lord Jesus modeled this perfectly in the embryonic church, and the apostles followed His lead. Jesus is the Truth, and they preached Him. Passing the responsibility to disciple a convert to a man or woman on a plastic disc or an author of a book was not an option. For eighteen plus centuries, it is fair to say, discipleship consisted of a man (or woman), a convert(s) and the Word of God. That model is biblical and still must be the foundation to all discipleship regardless of the supplementary materials used. Nothing can replace a passionate disciple-maker who earnestly desires to see Christ formed in the life of his converts.

Curriculum choices must be carefully evaluated against two criteria: first, the Word of God; and second, the church’s doctrine. A curriculum produced by an Arminian Charismatic fellowship will not work for a Reformed Baptist. However, the more the curriculum focuses on the person and work of Christ, the more effective it will be. Jesus said if the church would lift Him up He would draw people to Himself (John 12:32). Converts need to be using their Bibles throughout the lessons. The curriculum must cause them to read and articulate an understanding and application of truth. The “so what?” question must be asked over and over.

Barna’s research in Growing True Disciples clearly demonstrates that if a discipleship culture is going to develop in a church, the Senior Pastor has to be the champion of this cause. Barna believes the senior pastor must be “an irrepressible advocate of discipleship” and should create a “hybrid model” of discipleship from the best of all other sources for his church. No one is going to say it the way he wants it said, and he will not be near as passionate about something created by someone he has not met in Miami, Florida when his ministry is in Boise, Idaho. In Miami, Florida, the Baptist pastor is receiving former Catholics into the church; and in Boise, Idaho, the Baptist preacher is hoping that Mormons are being reached with the true gospel. The pastor does not have to start from scratch; two or three good discipleship curriculums should be purchased and then church specific discipleship courses must be developed.

In Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren uses a baseball diamond to communicate the need for a series of training experiences in order to grow a convert into a disciple-maker. From the pulpit, the convert must be continually challenged to grow and the church must have a plan. Nothing beats one-on-one mentorship, but this may not always be possible. Those apt to teach must be involved in teaching with a passion. Perhaps a simple new convert course, followed by a church membership and then an advanced discipleship course would be sufficient initially. Then additional courses in stewardship, parenting, apologetics etc. can supplement the best expository preaching the preacher can produce. The church must track converts moving through these gates and continue to improve its culture of discipleship until it sees converts becoming disciple-makers. Finally, when the church assaults the very gates of hell with a combined, synchronized discipleship effort, it can expect spiritual assault proportional to the manner in which it is pursuing authentic discipleship.


Barna, George. Growing True Disciples. Colorado Spring, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2001.

Barna, George. The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What they Believe and Why They Matter. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009.

MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005.

Warren, Rick. Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

A Ministry of Reconciliation

June 28, 2009
Pastor Sean Harris

Colossians 1:19-22
For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Please notice verse 19, for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. Once again we are reminded of the significance of the Deity of Christ. Paul wants to bring this to our attention one more time. The church of Colosse needs to be reminded that Christ, the body of Christ, the Man Christ Jesus has every ounce of Deity within Him. He is the walking, talking, breathing, living God. Why is this so important? Why must we put such emphasis on this? Salvation is in Him and Him alone, and you can’t make up your own “Him.” You cannot decide what attributes you would like Him to have. The Word of God has already made that clear. You can’t pick and choose your Jesus. Your Jesus has every ounce of Godhead in Him.

Colossians 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Every ounce of the Godhead, everything that God the Father had, God the Son had—all of it. Paul is communicating that Jesus is completely God. Everything that God is, Jesus is. God is more than Jesus. God includes the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Jesus is only one aspect of God, but He is every bit God. You might be called upon to give an answer at any time, and when you are supposed to give an answer, you want to know how to give the right answer. How pitiful it is for you to say “let me get my preacher”. Every single Christian is called to be able to explain the Person and Work of Christ. Everyone should be able to do that. What a pitiful thing it is if the preaching ministry of the church doesn’t develop God’s people to be able to defend their faith. This is not a social gathering. This is a time of instruction. This is a time of development. This is a time of discipleship. Again and again, I am going to say this: You shouldn’t have to come out to a private class on a Monday night to grow in Christ. You ought to be able to grow in Christ through the preaching and teaching of His Word in Sunday school, Adult Bible Fellowship, Men’s Ministry, and other ministries. Everything that we do ought to be teaching you and encouraging you to grow in Christ. You say that the Father is God, but the Father is not the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. But they are all God. You say I don’t understand that. Me neither. That is our premise. We just take the Word of God at face value. We just believe that all sixty-six books are divinely inspired and have been preserved by God for our edification. And we are not here to do anything other than present the truth.

1Timothy 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

There is only one mediator. The Godhead determined that the man Jesus, who would reconcile the world to God, would be God, sharing all the properties, characteristics, and prerogatives of God Himself. Of course, the movement of incarnation was that God took flesh, not a human became divine (New American Commentary). This is so important for you to understand. A church member sent me an email this week about how she was confronted by a Jehovah Witness and how she needed to be able to articulate her faith. I am telling you right now it is pitiful when a Jehovah Witness comes and knocks on your door, and you find yourself nervous and shaking in your boots and wishing you didn’t have to defend your faith. Something is wrong there. When a Mormon or a cultist knocks on your door, you ought to be able to say “Let me tell you something right now. I believe that Jesus is God and that He is the Son of God.” Just get to the heart of the matter right away. Cut them right off! It is pitiful that they are more articulate than we are. Those who have the truth are less articulate than those who are deceived. Something is significantly wrong there.

Colossians 1:20 And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Peace. That means we were at war. You don’t go to having peace without having war. Everyone understands that. There was a war. God hates sin. There is a war against sin. There is a war against the unbeliever. There is a war against children of disobedience. We are going to talk about the wrath of God. He made peace through the blood that was shed on the cross. The consequence of disobedience is enmity or hostility between God and man. Last week, we had the privilege of dedicating a baby. There are many cute babies, but the reality is outside of Christ Jesus there is an enmity between that little innocent baby, from our perception, and a holy and righteous God. And that is why the ministry of reconciliation, the goal of the Gospel is to get that baby reconciled to God. If we are not committed to that, we might as well just be a club. You know we do some good deeds, we hang out a little bit, we fellowship a little bit, play softball, and have a cute little club. That is not why we are here.

Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Let me tell you something, if you start a Gospel presentation out by letting that sinner know that they are an enemy of God, they might feel more of a need to repent. That is too confrontational, Pastor. Which is more confrontational—tell them the truth or let them die and go to Hell? Which is more loving? You see, if I understand that I am an enemy of God, there is a necessity to figure out that problem. I have got to figure out if I’m an enemy of God. I don’t like that idea; how do I fix that? That is when the soul winner can tell them about the Gospel. But if they don’t understand that their sin separates them from God, God hates that sin, and His wrath abides on that sin, then you are in no position to tell them about the awesome love of God. Verse 20 says that by him to reconcile… Reconcile is this incredible, awesome word that describes the restoration of a friendship. We love the idea of being reconciled. Husbands and wives, when you get into a little tiff, isn’t it awesome to be reconciled? When someone takes the spiritual leadership (and it should be the father, it should be the husband, but sometimes we are too weak to do that, so the wife steps up) and begins to iron through the difficulty and you get honest and transparent one with another, there is a little bit of repentance that goes on inside of that marriage. Then all of a sudden, the joy and love that was there prior to this alienation is now brought back together. That is reconciliation. And reconciliation is awesome in a marriage. Now, you think about two sinners being reconciled, how much more awesome is it to be reconciled to the God of the Universe, the Holy, Sovereign, Perfect God of the Universe. This message of reconciliation is awesome.

So what are the reasons unbelievers don’t think very much of Christ’s work of reconciliation? Why is it that the co-workers, neighbors, students at your college, and people that you associate with that are lost, don’t get excited about the reconciliation of God? Why isn’t that important to them? There are three reasons. Let’s look at them.

Number One: They honestly do not believe that there is a God. They have been duped into believing that evolution is a fact; they were once a blob or they came from a monkey, and there is nothing after death. So they live life with all they can for a few years, and they believe a lie that they are going to decompose in a pine box and that is it. And they love that lie because they love their immorality, and if you love your immorality, you don’t want any accountability. That is the fact.

Number Two: They don’t know that sin has alienated man from God. They believe that they are morally good people, and that as a general rule, God loves me. How in the world wouldn’t God love me? I help my neighbor, and I am a good person. And really, please don’t tell me that God doesn’t love me. You really don’t know me. Don’t judge. That is the world we are living in right now. That is the culture in which you are called to minister. We cannot go back to “Leave it to Beaver.” Those days are over with; we are not going back. We live in a post-modern world in which absolute truths are completely denied, and if we want to get outside of our bubble and start reaching people with the Gospel, we have got to know the people that we are going to encounter. When you engage these people, recognize that they don’t see themselves as alienated from God. They think only Hitler and a few other men like that are alienated from God. For the most part, they can justify their sin. That is exactly what South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford thought when he brought to our attention what happened with David. That was all justification. That is exactly what it was. If it was good enough for David, it was good enough for me. Don’t throw me out of office. God didn’t throw David out of office, so don’t throw me out. That is exactly what he was saying. By the way, he was a Republican so I am an equal opportunity preacher when it comes to that. It doesn’t matter whether you are Republican or a Democrat; you are both going to get it.

Number Three: Misperception. They can’t imagine that God sees them as an enemy; they underestimate God’s wrath. The entire world is in love with the love of God, and we should be in love with the love of God. But what makes the love of God so awesome? It’s the understanding that God is a vengeful, wrathful God Who sets that aside in His mercy and grace. That is what makes it so awesome. If there is no concern for punishment, mercy isn’t that big of a deal. There is no concern. But when all of a sudden, life is on the line and the consequences are over the top and you get mercy, then mercy is a big deal. All you have to do is think about your own life, either as a child or as a parent. When you see Dad explode over something and He sends you to your room, you know the consequences are going to be over the top. You know that you are going to get it. And then when Mom and Dad say I love you. That love is awesome, and that love is magnified. Because you understood that you deserved the punishment. You understood that you were dead to rights. You should have gotten the ticket. You know what I mean. There isn’t anyone that hasn’t sped. You’re driving down the road going way too fast; you know you are guilty there is no way around it. The speed limit is clearly posted. You looked at your speedometer a few minutes earlier. You know you were taking a chance. And you get pulled over. When you know that you are caught dead to rights, and you deserve the ticket but get some mercy, isn’t that mercy awesome?

In the Gospel presentation, you must first address the wrath of God against sinners. You are dead to rights. You deserve the wrath of God. You have to look at the wrath of God (John 3:36, Romans 1:18, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6).

Colossians 3:6 for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.

If they don’t see themselves as a child of disobedience, the Gospel is meaningless to them. If they do not see themselves as alienated and an enemy of God, you don’t have good news for them. And so we have got to establish that first and foremost. Secondly, we need to show that outside of God, there are some irreconcilable differences. We have got to show them that there isn’t a Plan B or Plan C. There’s no way they can be morally pure enough. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All are sinners. I am a sinner. I am the chief of sinners. I lead the way in sinning. And then the mercy of God is magnified. Let me give you a word of caution, please. Do not attempt to defend the love of God by denying the wrath of God. Do not do that. When someone says to you, I do not understand how God can be a loving God and a wrathful God, don’t deny the wrath of God. Don’t try to minimize the wrath of God to magnify the love of God because you are doing just the opposite. When you communicate how holy God is, how just God is, how perfect God is, then that helps you to better understand His mercy and grace. Recognize that God’s wrath toward sinners magnifies His love, mercy, and grace when He extends reconciliation to sinners. Recognize that according to verse 21, before being born again, we were in fact alienated from Christ. Yes, even you. You were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.

I want to pause for just a minute. I want you to think about the parable of the two sons. One son stays home. He is the good son; he doesn’t go out and spend all of the inheritance. The other guy goes out and lives it up. He gets way down in the pig pen of life and asks to be brought back. Now which son more clearly understood the love of the Father? It was the one who thought he wasn’t going to be reconciled, the one who thought that he was going to have to live in the pigpen. He couldn’t get over the fact that his father still loved him. Now don’t misunderstand. I am not encouraging you to run out there and sin. That is not what I am saying. I am saying let’s make sure that we clearly understand how much our sins offend the Holy and Righteous God. Let’s not bring God down to our level. Let’s not try to get God to understand us so He can justify us and wink at our sin. Let’s recognize that ungratefulness is a sin. Let’s recognize that a failure to be content is a sin. Let’s recognize that a failure to recognize God’s goodness is a sin. Let’s recognize that we still have a problem with sin. Self-righteousness kills the church. That is why Christ went after self-righteousness. Look at your Gospels and you see Him going after self-righteousness with a passion. Who gets called vipers? Who gets called snakes? The self-righteous do; the hypocrites do. It is those that recognize that they have a need for a Savior that embrace Christ. So that is our first step. The issue is with man, and most importantly the issue is in the mind. So let’s talk about this—enemies in your mind.

1. It all begins in the mind. You need to be concerned about your thought life. You need to be concerned about your attitude. It starts in your mind.

2. Sinners engage in evil deeds because they are hostile in their minds. That is why I need a new mind. I need a new heart. I need the stony heart removed, and I need fresh flesh put in. I need God to do an work on my whole body. That is exactly what Paul was talking about when he said he couldn’t wait to be delivered of this flesh.

3. Faulty thinking leads to faulty behavior. It starts in the mind. Counselors, this is so important for you to remember when you are dealing with someone. You have to address thinking in the campers. Get into their minds. It is easy to get them to conform to a known set of works. We have to get deeper than that. We have to get into their minds. What were you thinking? It is easy to tell Christians to dress this way, look this way, and walk this way; that is easy. Everyone can conform to a known set of standards. You have to peel that back and get inside the thinking process.

4. Every single thought needs to be taken captive to obey Christ. So let’s be really pointed one more time. Eight years ago: that is when the thought needed to be taken captive for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. That is when he should have grabbed that very first immoral thought and said, “This thought will be taken captive right now. This thought is not okay. This thought is immoral. This thought is sinful. This thought must not go on.” Husbands, do you want to protect your marriages? I want to protect my marriage. I want to go the distance. Then keep a hold of your thought life. Do not allow your thought life to get out of control. When your thought life gets out of control, your behavior gets out of control. Everyone believes somehow that they are strong enough to have a thought life which is immoral but behavior which is moral. It never works that way. This governor attributes the entire affair to the first email. That is one of the problems of the 21st century. We are texting things and typing things that we would never ever say in person. Young people, do not allow yourself to type something or text something that you would not say in person. Do not allow yourself to go down that road because there is no end to it. Your morality is at stake. Eight years ago the affair began in a simple little email. And it started in his mind. Men, our relationship with ladies should be above reproach. Ladies, I know from a pastoral perspective sometimes you think that I am exceptionally short with my emails to you. I am going to tell you right now. That is an intentional decision on my behalf. I don’t ask you how your day went. I don’t ask you how you are doing because I am not to have that kind of relationship with you. Your husband is to have that kind of relationship with you. If I am responding to a lady in an email, they are going to get “just the facts, Ma’am”. I am not going to go any deeper, because I don’t want an email relationship with you. It is the reality. Who does Satan go after? He goes after leaders. He goes after Senior Pastors. Sure, you can email me and I will answer your question, but I should never type something that I am not more than willing to cc my wife on. Here, Sweetheart, read this email. There is something seriously wrong in your marriage if you have a private email account to which your wife does not have access. I know there are some guys that have to have some separate things like that because of the military. I’m not talking about National Security; I am talking about personal accounts. You have your work email and you have your little personal hotmail that no one knows about. There is something wrong that. Take that into captivity right now, Men.

Matthew 12:34-35 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

So the question is “How did the God-man Christ Jesus reconcile man to God? What did Christ do to reconcile you to God?” The Scripture is very clear on that. Look at Colossians 1:20 and 22. He tells us two key elements. Number 1, He shed His blood. The Bible makes it very clear that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Every single lamb, goat, pigeon, and every single thing in the Old Testament that was shed blood was all picturing the Perfect Lamb of God Who would shed innocent blood. And Number 2, He died on that cross. Paul delivers a parallel dissertation on reconciliation to us. We will move through these Scriptures, and then we will wrap it up.

2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

That is the issue right now. There is no fear of God in our country. The fear of God is gone. We are not concerned with our immorality. How in the world do you carry on an affair for eight long years and call yourself a Christian? Something is wrong there. Where is the fear of God? Where is the fear of God’s judgment on my life, on my ministry, on my office, and on my state? Where is the fear of God? It is gone in America. That is why there is such a need for pulpits that preach the Word of God, the Truth. I am not mad. I know sometimes it looks like I am mad, but I am honestly not angry. I am passionate about this Truth. I don’t know how to tell you with a million dollar smile on my face to guard your marriage. I can’t do that. Because when we are talking about adultery, when we are talking about destroying families, I feel like that needs a wake up message! I don’t know how to do it any other way. When Paul says, “We have fear of God” he is concerned that some day he is going to stand before a holy and righteous God and account for his life. Yes, his sins are forgiven. That is a true statement. But he still knows that he is going to account for his life, the choices he made, the priorities he had, and the sacrifices he made. He is going to account for that and so he says, we persuade men.

So let me just talk to the Anchorage counselors for a minute. When Monday afternoon comes and those campers come piling off the bus, that is your objective. You are there to persuade men and women. That is it. You are not there to entertain them. You are there to persuade them of the Truth. You want to passionately persuade them of the Truth. That is the goal. If I didn’t think that you were committed to that, I wouldn’t support your ministry. I wouldn’t love you guys the way I do. I am crazy about the Anchorage. I am crazy about the entire ministry because I believe that for 12 weeks during the summer, you are committed to persuading men and women, boys and girls of the Truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. And Berean Baptist Church is not going to partner with any one that isn’t committed to that.

2 Corinthians 5:14. For the love of Christ constraineth [controls] us; because we thus judge [conclude], that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

So you don’t live for yourself any more. You don’t live for your children. You don’t live for your wife. You live for Him and Him alone. You don’t live for the United States Army. You don’t live for the corporate dollar. You don’t live for the state. You live for Him and Him alone. He alone constrains you. He controls you. Every decision you make is based on what would the Lord have me do? You are not concerned with what you want to do in life. You are concerned with what He has for you to do. Not what college do I want to go to, but where does the Lord want me to go to college? Not what occupation do I want, but what occupation does He want me to have? Not what wife do I want to marry, but what wife does He want me to marry? Not who I want to date, but who does the Lord want me to date? God, please get a hold of every aspect of my life. Will that change you? Yes, it radically changed Paul. The Gospel is supposed to impact my current life so that I no longer live for myself. I live for Him Who died and reconciled me.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given unto us the ministry of reconciliation.

Us: not the preacher, not the deacons, not the Sunday school teachers. Us, all of us, the entire body of Christ; we all have a ministry of reconciliation. The entire church has a ministry of reconciliation. Not only those who have the spiritual gift of evangelism. No, that is not what Paul said. Paul said every one has a ministry of reconciliation. In verse 19, notice that not only do we have a ministry of reconciliation, we have a word of reconciliation. Our message is one of reconciliation. Verse 20 says, we go forward with the message of be ye reconciled to God. Be restored. Our message is not to pray this prayer to avoid Hell. Our message is not an intellectual ascent to the existence of Christ. Our message is not bring your sins up to this bar and exchange it for a suit of asbestos. Our message is not a “health and wealth” Gospel. Maybe you don’t understand what I mean, so let me give you a similar illustration. What would you do about a guy who said, “Do you know what? I don’t want to be by myself when I’m old and gray, so I am going to go find me a wife? I’m tired of doing my own laundry and I would really like for someone to cook for me so I am going to go find me a wife.” What would you think about that? You would say that is ridiculous. That is not why you get married. You get married because you love someone and you adore them and you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Well, that is the Gospel message. The Gospel message is “it’s time to stop adoring yourself and start adoring the Creator God of the Universe.” The Gospel message is “now it’s time to start serving God and God alone.” We don’t come from a message to get out of Hell and go back to your own life living it any way you want. That is not our message. Our message is that it’s time to be reconciled to God. You have been living for yourself long enough. It is time to restore your relationship with God. And so our message of reconciliation comes from Acts 20 and 21: It is a message of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Every single counselor has to talk about repentance. That is the true Gospel. That is the only Gospel. You cannot waver from that. That is the message that the Apostles gave, and we must continue to preach that message. God is not reconciling people unto Himself so that they don’t go to Hell. He is restoring them to a place of harmony and friendship with Himself so that they might glorify Him. He is restoring a people who are righteous and who are being made righteous by a sanctifying grace of God. That is why we are saved—to glorify His holy name. We do that through holy living. Let’s compare 2 Corinthians 2:21 to Colossians 1:22.

2 Corinthians 2:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Colossians 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Why is reconciliation so important? Why isn’t justification enough? Why does He redeem us? Why does He do all that for us? So that He can present us holy, unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: The message is that He delivered you to the light. The message is you were a sinner, and He took the righteousness of the Son and put it on your account. The message is that you were enslaved, and He bought you off the block. The message is you were way out there, and He set you apart. The message is you were alienated from God, and He took that enmity. He got it out of the way and said “Let’s get the friendship back in place”. He is literally moving us back to a pre-Fall day. He wants to walk and talk with you in the cool of the Garden. He wants to have an intimate, personal, close relationship with you. He wants you to get up in the morning and start your devotion time saying “God, I just want to be close to You.” And He says, Not only have I justified you, not only have I redeemed you, not only have I delivered you out of darkness, but I have reconciled the harmony that is supposed to be there so that we can have a friendship. This is what you have going on. You have the judge of the county forgiving your debt and inviting you over to his house for a barbeque. And you say, Man, you are the judge that just forgave my sins. He says “yeah, not only am I going to forgive them, but come on over. Let’s grill some burgers together. Let’s sit by the patio and enjoy some fellowship together.” And God says “let’s get close and personal. I want you to know me. I don’t want you to be way out there in the distance. No, I am going to come in with you, sup with you, and be with you. I am going to fill you with my Spirit so that you can have a close and intimate relationship with the God of the Universe.” Now do you understand why it’s important to preach a ministry of reconciliation? Can you see how awesome that is?

So let’s wrap it up with what the application to God’s people in the 21st century is. We go with the message of reconciliation. No one has a message of reconciliation like we do. No one talks about the intimacy that the Word of God communicates. No one talks about being filled with the Spirit of God and having a close and personal relationship with the Creator God of the Universe. No one talks about that. Christianity is alone in that teaching. Christianity is alone in communicating that you can have a personal relationship with the Sovereign God of the Universe. Let’s take it really personal. How in the world could any of us not be reconciled one to another? How can it be that I enjoy reconciliation with God the Father, and you enjoy reconciliation with God the Father, but you and I can’t? How can that be? You are a new creature in Christ. I am a new creature in Christ. I have been reconciled. You have been reconciled. How in the world can you and I hold any animosity toward each other insomuch as we love the reconciliation that God the Father has done for us through Christ? Counselors, are you getting it? The children and the teenagers that you engage with need to be reconciled to someone. I promise you. If they are hurting, if they are distraught, if they are in rebellion, if they are having difficulties, there is someone to whom they need to be reconciled. Often it is going to be a mother or a father or the authority figure in their life. So once you get this reconciliation done, you have to start working that lateral reconciliation. Who do you need to forgive? Let’s make it really personal. How could a husband who loves Jesus and a wife who loves Jesus have irreconcilable differences between them? It should never happen. How in the world would a marriage end up in divorce if the father has been reconciled and the mother has been reconciled? How can that happen when they enjoy the reconciliation that the Father has provided? That should never ever happen in the body of Christ. And when two Christians are refusing to be reconciled, when two counselors are refusing to be reconciled, when two students are refusing to be reconciled, that is sin. Sin which must be confronted and dealt with through what: the power of the Gospel. The same Gospel that saves a soul from Hell is the same Gospel that has the power to reconcile two individuals who believe they have irreconcilable differences.


In Dr. Michael R. Mitchell’s short article entitled “Sources and Forms of a Message,” he presents four sources a person could draw from to create a track for discipleship. First, Mitchell speaks of “tradition” which would equate to the Word of God for a community of Christians. Second, the teacher must draw from observing the person’s life. Third, he or she must draw from their own personal experience with the Lord; and, fourth, they must seek direct help from the Holy Spirit. The purpose of this paper is to provide instruction on how a disciple-maker must carefully draw from these four sources as they lay out a curriculum for discipleship and to justify a church’s careful use of published curricular resources.


The primary source for all discipleship material must be the Word of God with specific emphasis upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Bible is a very large book; it is not practical to direct the convert just to the Bible. He or she needs to study, above all else, the life and teaching ministry of Christ as revealed in the gospels, Acts, and the apostolic epistles to the early church. Acts 2:42 provides the standard—the apostle’s teaching. The disciple-maker must follow Paul’s example and begin with a commitment to initially impart nothing above or beyond “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2: 2). Without an understanding of the person of Christ as both God and Man, the believer cannot fully appreciate the power of God available to him through the gospel. Without an understanding of the three messianic offices—prophet (teacher), priest (Savior), and King (Lord)— which Christ came to fulfill, the new convert will not know the depth to which his relationship with Christ can grow through the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:17; 2 Pet. 1:8, 3:18). If one does not understand that Christ came as the final revelation of God—one may continue to chase after other prophets, visions, or additional revelations. If the new covert does not understand Christ’s high priestly work of mediation and advocating, he may be overcome with depression or despair at his inability to gain the victory over sin. Or if he does not understand Christ is Lord, he may be too quick to ignore Christ’s prophetic work in his life.

Second, the more the disciple-maker knows of his convert’s past and current struggles, the more he will be able to customize the discipleship program to meet the present day needs of the convert. Paul modeled this idea by writing thirteen different letters to speak to the needs of his converts and the churches he was overseeing in a unique and special way. The manner in which one would disciple a convert from Catholicism and Mormonism should not be identical. Each of these converts would bring with them a variety of “raw ‘stuff’ that [needs] to be refined and cultured.” The more the disciple-maker is able to observe of the new convert, the greater the potential effectiveness of the discipleship process.

Third, the disciple-maker brings with himself some amount of life experience to share with the pupil. These life experiences are unique to the teacher and provide illustrations and supplementary information to enhance the learning experience. The teacher will be able to recall previous ways truth was opened up to them and replicate that for others. In 2 Peter 1:18, Peter’s eyewitness account of God revealing the power of His Son in a unique way led him to powerfully communicate that they had not followed “cunningly devised stories” (2 Peter 1:20-21). An example of how God answered the prayers of the disciple-maker may boost the recipient’s confidence and understanding of prayer. Or, an example of the struggle a disciple-maker went through in following the Lord in believer’s baptism may serve as an encouragement to get baptized.

Finally, the fourth source of direction for discipleship materials and curriculum must be the Holy Spirit (in a guarded way). In so much as the canon is closed, the disciple-maker does not look to the Spirit’s role in discipleship in the same way Peter, Paul, or holy men of old were “moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Instead of inspiration, the disciple-maker needs illumination and wisdom. Illumination “is not a giving of new revelation, but a work within us that enables us to grasp and to love the revelation that is there before us in the biblical text as heard and read.” Every convert is different one from another. Therefore, illumination and wisdom are needed to make the most of a curriculum or passage of Scripture in the life of the convert.

For nearly all believers, the idea of discipling another convert is such an overwhelmingly daunting undertaking that the vast majority of Christians never attempt such a task. Questions like: where to begin, what to cover, which Scriptures to use and other good questions can all be answered through a published curriculum. However, extreme caution must be exercised when using published curricular resources for several reasons: First, the curriculum cannot be a replacement for the Word of God. The young convert must be reading his or her own Bible—the goal of all discipleship is to get the student able to hear from God through His Word (that is Prophet, Jesus). Second, the curriculum cannot be a replacement for the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Again, the objective of discipleship is to get the convert to hear from God-the Holy Spirit through His Word. He or she must grow in their faith, and the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to create faith in the life of the believer (Ro. 10). Moreover, it is impossible to create enough different resources to account for all the different types of converts coming to Christianity; therefore, the curriculum cannot be a substitute for the teacher who individually intercedes for wisdom to disciple this unique convert into the local body of Christ and the Word of God with all the life experience he brings with him Finally, the curriculum must be centered on Christ, His gospel and His Word as the absolute truth for mankind. Anything less is unacceptable.


The absolute essence of the great commission given to the church by the Lord Jesus Christ just prior to His departure to be with the Father, is a charge to make disciples (Matthew 28.19). However, this great commission has been misunderstood my some as a dualistic responsibility. First, get lost people converted and baptized; second, get converts to become followers of Christ. Perhaps, part of this confusion between getting someone ‘saved’ and getting someone to follow Jesus is because of the confusion over what it means to be a disciple of Christ and the definition of discipleship. The purpose of this paper is to define what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ—a disciple—based on what is recorded in the New Testament.

Discipleship begins with a male or female who has been born-again (John 3). One cannot be a follower of Christ if they have not acknowledged the person and work of Christ as the anointed One—the Messiah—sent from God the Father as the Son of God. One of the first disciples of Christ Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, describes Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:41). Then Nathanael, another follower of Christ, describes Jesus as “the Teacher, who is the Son of God, who is the King of Israel” (John 1:49). Finally, in Matthew 16, Peter also describes Jesus as “the Christ the Son of the living God” once again reinforcing that discipleship begins with the proper perspective on the person and work of Christ. A disciple of Christ is one who believes that Jesus is both the Son of God and God incarnate and has placed his faith in the work of Christ as his only Prophet (teacher), Priest (savior) and King (Lord).

In Growing True Disciples, George Barna makes the point that discipleship begins with an understanding that one is saved “by grace alone.” Jesus told Peter that his understanding and belief that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the Living God was a gift from the Father (Matthew 16:17). Unlike the vast majority of surveyed Christians in The Seven Faith Tribes by George Barna, most followers of Christ do not articulate a saved by grace theology when asked about achieving a right standing with God. According to Barna, “less than two out of every five Casual [Christians] (38 percent) believe they will have eternal life because of their own confession of sins and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Savior, their only hope of receiving God’s Grace.”

By God’s grace, repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the apostolic message that, when preached, creates faith unto conversion in the hearts and minds of sinner’s who become followers of Jesus (Acts 20:21, Eph 2:8-9). Jesus continually challenges His followers to take up the cross of Jesus and follow Him (Matthew 10:38, 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, 14.27). Faith in Him was not the end; it was the beginning of a journey. He did not establish a separate class of people known only as believers. Luke 14:27, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” is strong—if one is not presently following Jesus, he or she cannot be considered a disciple. Discipleship is the lifelong process of following Jesus as one’s only Prophet, Savior and King. Followers of Christ are those who are willing to suffer and face “persecution and death for Jesus’ sake;” this is what was meant by every reference to taking up a cross and following Jesus.

A disciple of Christ is one who puts a higher premium on his relationship with his Lord and Savior than his relationship with his father; mother, brother, sister, spouse or any other human being. Matthew 10:37 makes this point absolutely clear: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” With regard to this entire passage on discipleship (Matthew 10:32-39), John MacArthur writes in The Gospel According to Jesus, “our Lord gave no more definitive statement on discipleship than that. There He spells out in the clearest possible language the cost of discipleship.” One cannot separate the cost of following Jesus from the belief in Jesus if that belief is authentic faith. Again, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). The ESV Study Bible notes are exceptionally helpful in summarizing the requirements of discipleship. Thomas Schreiner writes, “Those who would be Christ's disciples must (1) love their family less than they love Christ (14:26); (2) bear the cross and follow Christ (v. 27); and (3) relinquish everything (v. 33).” These are complementary ways of describing complete commitment [to Jesus as Lord]. According to John MacArthur, Jesus often used “slavery as a symbol of discipleship.” For example, Jesus said in Matthew 10:24, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.” This is slavery in an atypical sense: A slave of Jesus is also a friend of Jesus when he or she obeys their master (John 15:14-15). It is a unique relationship created before the foundation of the world to honor and magnify the glory of God (Eph 1:4).

At the core of discipleship is a complete commitment to a combination of recognizing Jesus as the Christ in a personal way, and striving to live in a way that reflects a commitment to the truth that Jesus is Lord (1 John 5:1, Romans 10:9). Thus George Barna is absolutely right: disciples of Christ must “learn and understand the principles of the Christian life” and “obey God’s laws and Commands.” Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me” (John 10.27). They must represent Christ on this planet; they are salt and light (Mt. 5:13-14). Disciples of Christ “serve other people” and obey the great commission by reproducing “themselves in Christ.” Disciples of Christ have been and are being radically changed by the power of the gospel into the image of their Master by God’s sanctifying and enabling grace. Their repentant faith is exclusively in the finished work of Jesus as their only Prophet, Priest and King. They are not a separate class of believers but are, instead, true believers different from those who name the name of Jesus but will hear the fateful words “I never knew you” (Mt. 7:23). True believers are followers of Christ—they are those whom Jesus said “will enter the kingdom of Heaven” and whom He characterizes as one those did “the will of the Father” (Mt. 7:21).


Barna, George. Growing True Disciples. Colorado Spring, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2001.

Barna, George. The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What they Believe and Why They Matter. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009.

Kaiser, W. C. Kaiser, Hard Sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

MacArthur, John. The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? Anniversary Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

Schreiner, Thomas. ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008.

The Preeminence of Christ

Col 1:15-18: This Scripture is considered by many scholars to be a hymn with either two or three stanzas. This may have been something that the early church would sing during their worship services. It is in fact possible that Paul was in a spirit of prayer and that he kind of moves to praise and worship of God as he recites this hymn. I would submit to you that there has not been a preacher or author alive that could do this passage its full justice. It is that awesome of a text.

Colossians 1:15-18
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Who? Jesus. Jesus is the image. He is in fact the icon, the Greek word for “image” there. Jesus is the visible representation of the invisible God. He is in fact God. II Corinthians 4:4 powerfully communicates that the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God.

John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father he hath declared him.

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;

And so we need to stop thinking about Jesus Christ as this kind of semi-hippy-feminine-kind-of-dude who walked around with flip flops and wore kind of a dress, and we need to start thinking at all times that Christ was and is God. That He is in fact the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and when we see Jesus, we see God. When we hear from Jesus, we hear from God. Three key doctrinal points need to be emphatically jumped on, insisted on, and declared upon.

Number One: The truth that Paul is presenting here is what divides Christianity from cults and false religions. This is the single dividing line; this is the line in the sand. And you say, Pastor, we’ve heard this before and you are right; you have heard it before and we will continue to declare it over and over again any time the text supports it. Why is it so important to do that? Because we are living in this post-modern world that tells us over and over that the Father doesn’t mind the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses. The Father is okay with the Muslims, and the Father is okay with the Buddhists, and the Father is okay with the Hindus. But that is not okay at all. In fact, the Word of God teaches just the opposite. The Father is not okay with His Son being ignored as the preeminent one. He is not okay with that! The reason that I need to emphasize this to you is that many of you have co-workers that are Mormon or Jehovah Witnesses, and what you find is that they are morally good people. They are the kind of people who will mow your grass when you are gone. They are the kind of people that will pick up your newspaper in the driveway for you. They are the kind of people that will watch over your house, and if you had a water break they would come running over and help you fix the problem. So in our minds, we think they are morally good people, and they must be fine with God. This is not what Paul teaches at all. This entire passage is dedicated to helping us understand this. We don’t stand in judgment, and we don’t declare ourselves better than them because we are most exceptionally thankful that the light of the Gospel has shined in our hearts and minds, and our prayer is that that same light will shine in their hearts. Our prayer is not that they die and go to Hell. Our prayer is that the god of this world will not have the victory, and that the light will come crashing through like a heat seeking missile and explode in their heart, and show them that Jesus is Lord.

Number Two:
The central truth of the New Testament is that Jesus is Lord, that He is the express image of God. He is the walking, talking, breathing, living God. The God of man, born of a Virgin, living a sinless life, is in fact God.

Number Three: Jesus is the Son of God and provides the ultimate, perfect, and final revelation of who God is as God the Son. The commentary here is clear and pointed:

[Jesus] was the unique manifestation of both God and man, always embodying the best of both wherever he was. In choosing the word “image,” Paul stressed that God was present wherever Jesus was. He was the personal manifestation of deity
The New American Commentary, p. 215

So let’s look at the next part of verse 15 in your Bibles: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: I want you to underline this in your Bibles. I want you to note this so that you will not be surprised by it. I want to make sure that God’s people who come to Berean Baptist Church are well equipped to combat heresy. The heresy that was being taught 1,700-1,800 years ago is the same heresy that is being taught today. And that heretical doctrine is that Jesus is the first and ultimate in created beings. It was heresy 1800 years ago, and it is heresy today. The Scripture does not teach that Jesus was born. The Scripture does not teach that there was ever a time that the Father created the Son, and now the Son is the ultimate in created beings. That is not what is meant by this idea of “firstborn.” It’s exactly the opposite. It is this idea: In Psalm 89:27, David is referred to as firstborn. Although he was not the firstborn in any way, and yet from God’s perspective David was the firstborn king of all the kings of Israel. And what the Father is communicating and declaring about the Son as the firstborn is that He is the preeminent One. He is the One Who is going to get the Kingdom. He is going to get the Dynasty. He is the One Who is exalting Him into a position of preeminence here in this idea of firstborn. It is a term that describes how God sees David among all the kings of the earth and specifically within Israel’s history. The context of the Scripture does not allow Jesus to be a created being. So if someone says to you, the Bible says that Jesus is the firstborn, you need to be able to retort that. You need to be able to explain that it is a way of communicating His position as the preeminent One in the family.