Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Purpose and Aim of the Warning Passages

By Jerry Wragg @

One wonders why God would bother giving a non-contingent warning to those
who are non-elect. If He knows they won’t ever believe (“abide” ala John 15),
what import does a warning passage have?

On the other hand, if only “God knows those who are His” (and He does), then
warning a professing believer to guard against unbelief would serve the
following purposes:

• To forge an active and passionate growth in His grace –
• To prevent the self-deception of false security –
• To test levels of faithfulness –
• To cause sober reflection on the dangers of unbelief –

These warnings will have different impact, depending upon the maturity level
of each believer:

  • For the strong Christian– Warnings offer a reminder to press on all the
    more, and an abiding confidence that one has obeyed these cautions.
  • For the weak but willing – Warnings provide a graphic deterrent to future
    patterns of sin; They display the specific care of God in pointing to dangers;
    They engender a greater dependence on grace.
  • For the weak and stubborn – Warnings bring instant clarity to trouble
    (chastening); They bring greater conviction to the conscience; They expose
    unbelief as the source of all stubbornness.
  • For the hardened – Warnings call for the justice of God, thereby upholding
    holiness; They confirm the traits of apostasy; They declare the absence of true

Indeed, Paul challenged the fleshly Corinthians with “Examine yourselves to
see if you are in the faith!…Or do you not recognize this about yourselves,
that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). This same
admonition is refined with force in Colossians 1:22-23, “…He has now reconciled
you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy
and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly
established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that
you have heard…”. Jesus’ economy of words in Matthew 24:13 is noteworthy, “But
the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.” Why such a strong
admonition? Wouldn’t this approach tend to foster an unhealthy introspection,
external performance, and ultimately weakened assurance? The answer lies in the
fact that in the infinite wisdom of God, redemption is accomplished both as to
the end as well as the means. The perseverance of the saints is soundly rooted
in the eternal decrees and power of God, but does not exclude the providential
outworking of all things in due course. Stated another way, God has created us
in Christ Jesus and prepared long ago that we should walk in good works, yet
the ordained means by which He brings about our preservation and glory is the
manifold commands, admonitions, encouragements, and calls to faithfulness.
Furthermore, He has ordained our obedience as the objective source of assurance
(“if you abide in My love, then you are truly My disciples”), which is to be
kept fresh and blossoming daily (2 Pet. 1:3ff.). We might look at the matter in
this way:

Eternal Security → Promises God’s faithfulness, Describes God’s securing power,
Explains God’s sovereign purposes, Ascribes to God exclusive glory
Assurance → Grows with Christian faithfulness, Manifested by increasing
holiness, Shaken by a ravaged conscience, Fades with patterns of neglect and
God will do what He promises, but we are warned to practice what He commands
(Heb. 10:23).

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