In Acts chapter 1 Jesus Christ gives us a clear definition of a genuinely saved child of God. Jesus refers to the work of John the Baptist in reference to the Gift of God promised to those who believe in Him. John the Baptist also referred to this Gift given by Christ, contrasting those who belong to Christ because of His Gift with those who don’t belong to Him in Matthew chapter 3. Let’s read the passages from those two chapters.
4And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5
11“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, who sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11-12
Those who belong to Jesus Christ through faith in Him because of His grace receive the promised Holy Spirit and so are regenerated or born again into the kingdom of God. This is a supernatural act performed by God Almighty in the soul of the repentant believer who has placed his/her faith in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Those who are not born again by the Holy Spirit are destined for God’s eternal judgment in hell as declared by John the Baptist when he referred to the chaff being burned up with unquenchable fire. The wheat, those who belong to Christ, are filled with the Holy Spirit and gathered together to Him. The chaff rejects the testimony of the Scriptures about Christ and are bound for eternal judgment in hell.
When Jesus taught Nicodemus that he must be born again by the Holy Spirit He was pointing to the promises of God about the Holy Spirit given in the Old Testament; Paul referred to this promise in his epistles. God promised to pour out His Holy Spirit upon the Jewish people in Ezekiel chapter 36, and upon all people in Joel chapter 2 to which Peter referred in Acts chapter 2, and Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of promise in the books of Galatians and Ephesians. It is important to understand that we are born of the Holy Spirit when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; what has occurred in our lives through faith is a genuine powerful work of God. Those who belong to Christ by faith in Him are regenerated by the Holy Spirit of promise and so have eternal life and the Spirit’s provisions for their daily lives.
3Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” John 3:3-7
25“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 26I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36:25-26
28“And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. Joel 2:28-29
16”But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. Acts 2:16-18
13Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14
11In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:11-14
Believers in Jesus Christ have the life of God within them through the indwelling Spirit and are therefore empowered to live godly lives that glorify Him. Those who belong to Christ believe the Scriptures and go to God’s Word for encouragement, edification, enlightenment, and exhortation. When Jesus prayed for His disciples in His high priestly prayer, in John chapter 17, He identified His disciples as those whom the Father had given to Him out of the world and had kept His word. His beloved disciples received the words the Father had given to Jesus Christ and believed the Father had sent Him. Saved out of the world they received God’s Word, which is the truth that sanctifies His children. Believers are loved by the Savior, loved by the Father, but hated by the world.
6“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they have known that all things which You have given me are from You. 8For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. 9I pray for them, I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” John 17:6-9
14”I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth.” John 17:14-17
Jesus Christ also prayed for those who would believe in Him through their word. Jesus prayed that His children would all be one, just as Jesus Christ is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus Christ; so He prayed that we would all be one in Him. This can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s children, as they are conformed to the image of the Son of God. The only source for true knowledge about the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the Scriptures. This oneness is brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s children through the revelation of the Bible. There is a perception of disunity within the church because the wheat and the chaff occupy the same threshing floor. Unbelievers reveal their nature through their unwillingness to place themselves under the authority of Christ through reliance upon and obedience to the Bible. They would rather have their ears tickled by the deceits of depraved deceivers than submit to godly biblical doctrine. Don’t doubt that they feign faith in Christ, because they do, but it is a said faith and not biblical faith in our glorious risen Savior which alone is efficacious to save sinners. These deadly errors cause divisions and offenses that disclose the unregenerate is hell-bound.
20“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one. 23I in them, and You in Me; that they may be perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 24Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25O righteous Father! The world as not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that you sent Me. 26And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-26
The whole of this passage contrasts the genuine believer in Jesus Christ with the imposter. Those who belong to Christ are one with Him and with the Father, they have received God’s glory, they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and bound for eternity with Christ. They are beloved and love the Savior. They believe what He has said in His Holy Word, the Bible, and are not caught up in the controversies of the world that seek to dissuade from belief in the Bible. They world doesn’t know Christ or the Father, no matter what their religious claims, they prove it by their rejection of the Bible as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God, and so prove they are not partakers of the eternal life with glory given to the children of God. They will be burned with unquenchable fire. The letter given to the church of Sardis by Jesus Christ perfectly reflects their unbelief and condemnation before God.
1“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5He 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. 6He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:1-6
False profession generates ungodly living proving feigned faith. Repentance and return to the truth is the only remedy. Much of the problem with the church today could be alleviated by the work of salvation in the heart of sinners. Unless repentance and genuine faith are embraced by the sinner, they will be burned with unquenchable fire. As we stand fast for the truth, through faith and love for the Savior and devotion to His work, may God enlighten the hearts and minds of the unredeemed so they too can share in the glorious joy of eternal life with the Father and His Son, and loving fellowship with the saints engendered by the Spirit of promise and reliance upon the truth of the Bible
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