Written by WilliamWBirch from his blog “WilliamWBirch.net” on September 27, 2011
The apostle Paul closes his letter to the church at Corinth with these words: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22 NASB). “Maranatha” (μαράνα θά) translates, “Our Lord, come.” The word for “accursed” in Greek (ἀνάθεμα) refers to “a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed” (link). I give you the original Greek words here so that you can see how nearly every letter used to make up “anathema” is also used for “Maranatha,” mentioned only here in the New Testament. Speculation has been made about the connection of the two terms, but this post is not meant to further that conversation.
I do wonder, however, if those who profess to be followers of Christ but who do not love Jesus are those who are devoted to God without hope of being redeemed (anathema) when the Lord returns (Maranatha). What is more important, in my opinion, is the immediate question posed to all who profess to be Christians: Can you admit with honesty and integrity that you love Jesus? I did not ask whether you “believe in God” or if you “believe (in a historical way) in Jesus Christ,” nor did I ask if you are perfect. I also did not ask if you love Jesus perfectly. But some people profess to believe in God or in Jesus and the confession amounts to nothing more than mere words. Do you love Jesus?
I heard a story about a pastor’s son, now in his thirties, who supposedly “accepted Christ” at a young age but presently demonstrates no fruit (evidence) of a changed heart or life (and has not since his youth). The son cannot confess that he loves Jesus. The pastor baptized his young son, and this pastor has always been a passionate proclaimer of God’s word, including the doctrine of necessary perseverance. In other words, the pastor has always been convinced — as is the son today — that once a person “accepts Christ” (and of course follows that “acceptance” with believer’s baptism), he or she is saved eternally. Nothing that person can do (or not do?) will forfeit his or her salvation, since salvation is by grace through faith in Christ and not of works (i.e., any deeds we do).
Fair enough. I will not take any issue with the doctrine of Perseverance (or the contrary view). This post is not about Perseverance. The moral of that brief story of the pastor’s son is that this son has the mistaken view that he is still saved — saved, even though he cannot confess that he loves Jesus — saved, even though there is no evidence whatsoever that his heart has been changed as a result of “accepting Jesus.” I want to address this son and all like him. Friend, the matter is not merely that you are not “living as you should.” The matter is much more severe. You cannot confess to love Jesus, which speaks volumes about your present condition with regard to salvation.
I admit that I am uncomfortable with the language of “accepting Jesus.” In my Southern Baptist context, I have heard the phrase used by pastors. They mean no harm by its use. For them, the phrase means the same as “receiving Jesus.” For John the Immerser (Baptist, Baptizer) states, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NASB). I prefer the language of receiving Christ as Lord and Savior (not just as Savior but also as Lord). I do not think the Greater (King Jesus) needs to be “accepted” by the lesser (sinful human beings). If stated any other way, we (the lesser) need to be “accepted” by God (the Greater) through Christ — this is the biblical way to understand the matter, in my opinion. For Scripture states that God “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6 NKJV, emphasis added).
If you cannot confess with honesty and integrity that you presently love Jesus, you can be guaranteed one of two truths: 1) that salvation has not yet come to you (so that you still need to be born again), or 2) that you have backslidden into a state from which you need to turn away or forsake. The words of John the Immerser still speak to you today: “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8 NASB). I like the way the New Living Translation reads: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”
This message was given to Jewish people who were relying on their heritage to make them right with God. Some “professing Christians” today are relying on their baptism, or their connection to God through a parent or a grandparent, or their good deeds, or, in the case of the pastor’s son, on a pastor’s teaching of perseverance — that a one-time confession of accepting Christ rather than an on-going faith in and love for Jesus amounts to eternal security and salvation — to make them right with God. They fail to consider that each individual will have to appear alone before the judgment seat of God in Christ to give an account of his or her life. Faith and repentance are individual experiences. No one will be admitted into God’s presence by someone else’s faith and repentance.
Scripture teaches that “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5 NASB). When a person believes or trust in Christ for salvation, the Person of the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within that individual. The “love of God,” whether it is love for God or His love for us and others, is then evident in that person. The person who does not love, Scripture teaches, does not belong to Christ: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 NASB).
We had no love for God prior to being born again: “This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10 NLT). More to the point, Jesus Himself states, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:24 NASB). Our faith in and love for Jesus is most clearly demonstrated when we obey (a result of repentance) His commandments. Those who live their lives for themselves, in direct disobedience to Christ, do not love Him. No matter what they profess about their supposed Christianity or their belief in God or in Jesus Christ, if they do not love Jesus (exhibited by a life of obedience), they are not now and will not later be saved, but instead cursed.
Today is still the day of salvation. May the Lord grace your heart toward repentance and faith in Jesus, demonstrated in genuine love for Christ through obedience. My greatest fear, for many people whom I know, is that they will be among those to whom Jesus says, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws” (Matt. 7:23 NLT). For Jesus confesses, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter” (Matt. 7:21 NLT). Please, do not let this moment of grace pass you by. Trust in Christ Jesus and you will be born again and/or reconciled to the Lord. You will then love Him in sincerity and with humility, obeying Him from the heart. Do not be deceived: Our Lord will return (Maranatha), and those who do not love Him will be without hope of being redeemed or saved (anathema).