SALVATION BY FAITH
Question: If a person is not at all saved by works, and if faith is the only condition, why then were the people in Matthew 7:22-23 cast out? They preached and healed and must have known the Lord Jesus also. Paul said believing in the heart and confessing with the mouth brings in salvation. Why then are they cast out? (A son of repentance)
Answer: When we read the Gospels, the most important thing is to not confuse eternal life with the kingdom of the heavens. Eternal life is different from the kingdom of the heavens. The entire Gospel of John proves that eternal life is obtained by believing. The kingdom of the heavens is obtained by works (Matt. 11:12, etc.). Eternal life means that we are saved from perdition. The kingdom of the heavens is the heavenly portion of the millennium. (The earthly portion is for the Jews and the Gentiles.) The kingdom of the heavens is where the saints rule as kings with the Lord Jesus in the millennium. This is a prize to be gained through works. Those in Matthew 7:22-23 will not lose their eternal life, but they will lose the kingdom of the heavens; that is, they will not be able to rule with the Lord for a thousand years. The Lord said He did not know them, because at that time and place, He could not know them. This is like a judge whose son has broken the law. While he is judging his son, he cannot recognize him as his son. Workers of lawlessness in the original means "those who do not keep the law," or "lawless ones," or "those who do not act according to rules."
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
Question: The slaves who received the talents seem to have received the grace of salvation already. Why were their talents taken away from them later when they did not gain any more, and why did they have to end up gnashing their teeth? It seems that eternal life is related to works. I would like very much to accept the word of justification by faith, but I would like to understand more about it. Please help me. (A son of repentance)
Answer: The talents in Matthew 25 refer to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and not to salvation, because there cannot be different grades of salvation implied by five talents, two talents, and one talent. Even though the slaves in Luke 19 all received a mina, if the first mina refers to salvation, then the minas that were gained should also refer to salvation. If so, how can you explain the ten minas and the five minas that were gained? Therefore, the talents cannot refer to salvation. They refer to gifts, because the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be increased by our working faithfully. These gifts were given to the disciples when the Lord Jesus departed from this world. What the slave loses is the gift of the Holy Spirit, not eternal life. Furthermore, we have to know that Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27 refer to the same judgment. There are four judgments recorded in the Bible: (1) the cross, which has passed; (2) the judgment in the air concerning the conduct of the believers; (3) the judgment on the earth concerning the nations; (4) the judgment of the great white throne for the resurrected dead people. The judgment mentioned here must be the second, the judgment in the air concerning the conduct of the believers. This judgment is covered in detail in 1 Corinthians 3. Verse 15 says that even though a believer’s works shall be burnt, " he himself will be saved." Therefore, although that slave will lose the prize, he himself will still be saved. As to why there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, there are two reasons: (1) he sees that others have gained the Lord’s heart, and (2) he has wrongly judged the Lord (Matt. 25:24). The destiny of this kind of slave is the outer darkness outside the cloud of glory in the air for a thousand years.
GOING INTO THE CAPITAL AND KEEPING THE FEAST
Question: The Lord’s brethren advised Him to go into the capital to keep the feast because it was an important occasion. The Lord answered that His time was not yet come and asked His brethren to go. Then He went up in secret. Why? (Pao, Nanking)
Answer: This verse is recorded in John 7. The Lord’s brothers (1) did not believe in Him (v. 5), (2) were wrong in their advice (v. 4), and (3) did not really want the Lord to go into the capital to keep the feast, but were asking Him to make a show of Himself in the capital (v. 3). Therefore, the Lord did not listen to them. Moreover, the death of the Lord Jesus was according to an appointed date (Dan. 9:26). At that time, the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill the Lord (John 7:1). If the Lord had not been careful, He would not have died on the cross, which was a Gentile method of punishment. The method of the Jews was stoning. His brothers thought that the Lord had no need to be afraid of the Jews and that He should take the feast as an opportunity to enter the capital and display His great talent. This was the urging of Satan, and our Lord did not take heed to it. Verse 10 gives other reasons. The Lord did not go in public; neither did He go in secret, but "as it were" in secret. He was careful, because the Jews could kill Him on the way up, thus keeping Him from reaching the capital and causing Luke 13:33 not to be fulfilled. He went later because (1) His time had arrived, (2) His brothers being gone, He could go alone quietly without being noticed, and (3) John wanted to show that He is God and that God cannot be directed or taught by man. Herein lies a lesson: The Lord knew that He should go into the capital, yet until the Father had instructed Him, He would wait for the right time. When He went to the capital, He did not do so because of His brothers’ words, but because of the Father’s commandment. We should learn from this.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 07: The Christian (5), Chapter 15, by Watchman Nee)