What is the purpose of the warning passages in Scripture?

There are passages that provide warnings all throughout the Scriptures. Some warnings are about sin or against false teaching. Others alert us to the schemes of the Devil or signs of the end times. For the sake of keeping things simple in this article, we will discuss two major warning categories: warnings related to salvation and warnings related to sanctification. These two categories go together.

A person can profess Christ and not be a Christian; a person can profess to teach the gospel and be leading others astray. Jesus gives a classic warning about this in Matthew 7:21–23: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" All believers are charged to examine themselves to see where their faith truly lies (2 Corinthians 13:5).

What are the signs of a true believer? Look for a transformed life. No one who has truly been saved will continue habitually sinning without repentance (see Hebrews 6:4–6 and Hebrews 10:26). If you profess to be saved but have no evidence of the Holy Spirit's transformation in your life, you may have been taught a false or incomplete gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul describes perseverance in the faith as the evidence of true lasting salvation: "You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place" (1 Corinthians 15:1b–2, NLT). True believers will not forsake Christ or deny the truth of the gospel. All believers will experience attacks from a world that doesn't believe in Christ, but true believers will not reject Christ; their faith will not be shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:18–20).

As you may have already gathered, salvation and sanctification go hand in hand. While salvation happens once, sanctification is an ongoing process. Even true believers will sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8–10). Sanctification does not mean that we have to be "perfect" from the point of salvation onward; it means that when we make a mistake, we acknowledge our sin, and we seek His empowerment to continue living a life that glorifies Him: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:3–5).

When we are living in sin, we are enslaved to it; when we are children of God, though we may sin, we quickly turn from our sin and continue living in Christ's freedom (Galatians 5:1; Philippians 2:12–13).

It is a sign of spiritual health to notice areas in our own lives that need to be sanctified and to be forgiven and freed of those things. This pattern should continue progressively throughout our lives. Hebrews 10:14 says: "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Christ's sacrifice and our salvation happened once, but the sanctification process is ongoing. The sanctification process is the way that we progressively continue becoming more like Christ; it is how we prepare for eternity with Him.

We can be confidently assured that we have salvation in Christ (1 John 5:13). Jesus is the "perfecter" of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and God will complete the work that He has started in us (Philippians 1:6). Those who do not truly believe are charged to repent and turn to Christ for salvation, and those who believe in Jesus are charged to live the holy and sanctified lives that God calls all believers to live. These are the underlying purposes of the biblical warning passages.

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