Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Faith on Trial...Characteristics of a Child of God

How do you know for sure that you are a child of God and that your assurance is biblically based? In other words, if you were on trial, having to defend your faith and prove that your faith is in line with God’s Word, could you give undeniable evidence?

In Acts 26:1-32, Paul gives a defense of his faith before King Agrippa, and in Acts 26:19-23 there emerges the characteristics of a child of God that are in line with God’s Word and are the biblical proof that gives us assurance that we have eternal life.

So let’s examine these characteristics in verses 19-23 and see if our faith passes the test and is biblical saving faith.

The first characteristic of a child of God is obedient participation with revealed truth (19) – “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision.” The child of God walks in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ as Lord. “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7). Obedient participation with the revealed truth of Jesus Christ as Lord is obedience to the Gospel. Not obeying Christ as Lord, which is revealed in the Gospel, is to prove disobedient and is a characteristic of a counterfeit Christian. “…the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9). Our Lord Jesus said the same thing when He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

The second characteristic of a child of God is continuing perseverance in truth (20) – “but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” Persevering in truth with a continued life adjustment to truth is evidence of genuine repentance and saving faith. To turn away from the truth and not practice the truth for whatever reason(s) is evidence of not having really received and believed the truth. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him; the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6). See also 1 John 3:7-10. Our Lord Jesus also said this, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free….Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death” (John 8:31-32, 51). Not continuing in the truth, not persevering in the truth, or not abiding in the truth is a characteristic of a counterfeit Christian – “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). And also, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot [practice] sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness [continuing obedience to the truth] is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:9-10).

The third characteristic of a child of God is accepting persecution for the sake of truth (21) – “For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death.” It was because of Paul’s obedient participation with revealed truth (that Jesus of Nazareth is both Christ and Lord) and continuing perseverance in that truth that he was hated by those who rejected that truth. The first two characteristics of a child of God inevitably lead to the third characteristic – being persecuted for the sake of truth. “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:13-16). Our Lord Jesus also said this, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18-21). And the apostle Paul also wrote these words which are in line with this third characteristic of a child of God, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendent of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10).

The fourth and final characteristic of a child of God as found in our text is only preaching nothing but the truth (22-23) – “So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” The child of God preaches nothing but the truth and does not go outside of what God has revealed in His word. This truth is clearly stated in many places in the Bible and especially in 1 John 4:1-6 – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” See also for further study John 5:39-47; 8:42-47; 13:20; and 15:20-21.

When giving a defense for the hope that is within us we need to always show that we are obedient to truth, continuing in truth, accepting persecution for truth, and only preaching the truth – after all, this is what marks a child of God and gives him or her biblical assurance of salvation!

If you were on trial, having to defend your faith and prove that your faith is in line with God’s Word, could you give undeniable biblical evidence?

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