Gospel Truths We Can Count On

We need to get back to basics here:

In this life, the Christian sees through a glass darkly as the Apostle Paul told us (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus there are many things we just do not fully know about, or can only guess at. But on the other hand, there are some vital truths we can depend upon and fully embrace and affirm. The Christian can have certainty in key areas, while admitting partial knowledge in others.

In this regard, I just posted this on the social media a few moments ago:

Here are three couplets you can pretty well bank on:


We can test a person’s faith by two things:
-What they profess to believe (their doctrine)
-How they live their lives (their fruit)


Still, there will be surprises in heaven:
-Some folks we did not think would be there will be
-Some folks we were sure would be there won’t be


This should instill in us two things
-A profound and constant humility
-A steadfast desire to proclaim the truth of the gospel with certainty and conviction

Hopefully no believer can find real fault with anything said here, but let me tease all this out a bit more anyway. As to how we know if someone is a follower of Christ or not, the New Testament consistently gives us two main sorts of tests that we can make use of.

The importance of adhering to right doctrine is paramount. Believe the wrong things and you are not a Christian – or are a cultist or heretic. What we believe matters. As Peter could say with absolute conviction in Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Or as John put it (more than once):

1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Not everything we believe is true, and some things we believe are false and will send us to a lost eternity. But of course the way we live provides another good clue as to whether or not we really belong to Christ. As Jesus himself said in Matthew 7:15-20:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

So we should expect to see some good fruit in the genuine believer. We should see evidence of a transformed life. And we should not seek to hide this new life. As R. C. Sproul once put it: “There is no such thing as a closet Christian; we’re to bear witness to the world of our commitment to Christ and not hide it.”

Paul puts this set of truths together quite nicely in 1 Timothy 4:16 where he says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Believing the right things (orthodoxy) and living the right way (orthopraxis) are both crucial.

The next set of truths flows from this. While we can have some tests and some ways to access where a person is at, we know that at the end of the day only God infallibly knows the human heart. Only God knows those who are truly his. We can try to assess and discern, but we must ultimately leave folks in God’s hands.

So there WILL be surprises in heaven. I have no doubt about that. We are all works in progress, and God is dealing with all of us in differing ways. And while we do not want to depend on things like deathbed conversions, even some hardened atheists and misotheists may at the end of their lives repent and turn to Christ. We can at least pray to that end.

To say all this does NOT mean we suspend all judgment and never question anything or anyone. Quite the opposite. We are told to “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We must hold one another to account and we must hold each other up to the highest of standards – beginning with ourselves.

And to keep us grounded, we must learn to hate sin in ourselves as much as we so easily hate it in others! Too many believers are so very quick to judge and condemn others, while ignoring the obvious issues in their own lives. This ought not to be my friends. We really must not be so quick to judge everyone else.

However, as mentioned, there is a real need for some certitude, conviction and firm belief as well. Having already quoted from the epistles of John, I love what John Stott had to say about certainty as found in these letters:

To read the Epistles of John is to enter another world altogether, whose marks are assurance, knowledge, confidence, and boldness. The predominant theme of these Epistles is Christian certainty. Their characteristic verbs are ginoskein, ‘to perceive’ (15 times), and eidenai, ‘to know’ (25 times), while the characteristic noun is parresia, ‘confidence of attitude’ or ‘boldness of speech’. The Christian’s certainty is twofold—objective (that the Christian religion is true) and subjective (that he himself has been born of God and possesses eternal life). Both are expounded by John, who takes it for granted that this double assurance is right and healthy in all Christian people. His teaching about these certainties, their nature and the grounds on which they are built, urgently needs to be heard and heeded today.

Image of The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary (Volume 19) (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary (Volume 19) (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) by Stott, John (Author) Amazon logo

It is this willingness to stand firm on biblical truth while also knowing our own limitations and fallibility that leads to my last set of truths. On the one hand we must boldly stand on biblical truth and proclaim it fearlessly. But on the other hand we must be humble and circumspect. That will include being especially harder on ourselves than we are on others.

We will be fully aware of all the sin and self that remains in our own hearts, and that should help us to be more patient, forgiving and merciful with others. We know that if Christ could forgive and love such vile sinners as ourselves, we should seek to extend that grace to others.

Sure, biblical love is not mushy sentimentalism that winks at sin and makes excuses for evil. We are to call out sin when and where we see it. This is especially so if someone claims to be a brother in Christ, yet is clearly living in blatant sin and disobedience.

But even here care is needed, and we must listen to what Paul said when he discussed the matters of church discipline and rebuking a brother: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

As always the Christian life is one of balance, while holding onto various core truths and realities. We can boldly and with conviction proclaim the gospel of Christ. But at the same time we must always stay on our knees and seek to stay humble and broken before our Lord. That is the right sort of biblical combination we must all strive for.

[1344 words]

2 Replies to “Gospel Truths We Can Count On”

  1. How do we counter a person whose words (beliefs) and fruit do not match up? Especially within the church.

  2. Thanks Mary. Well, we must gently yet firmly and prayerfully take them back to Scripture, including the passages I mentioned here. If a person claims to be a Christian but there is a big disconnect between their walk and their talk, then we have a responsibility to bring this up with them and challenge them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *