2001-09-10 - Perseverance
Summer Questions: 16
Matthew 10:22 And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
"My question is this: In a SS class I teach, we have been having a discussion about the concept of "Once saved, always saved." I am not sure I can agree with this philosophy, however, the Bible teaches that Christ has died for all our sins; past, present and future. I believe that once someone is "saved" and comes into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, that their life will be changed and the Holy Spirit will dwell in them. But what about those that say they have been "saved" but their daily words and actions reflect no sense of a personal relationship with Christ? What will be their place at the day of judgment? I believe that one can "harden their heart" over time as a result of some action that turns them away from or against God. Will they still have a place in heaven?"
There are two questions here, I think. The first one is about, "once saved, always saved." The second concerns who will make it into the Kingdom of Heaven. I will dispatch of the second question, first. We cannot make these kinds of judgments this side of eternity. There exists both a visible church, which consists of those we see in church, and an invisible church which is the true household of believers and saints redeemed.
Who is a part of the visible church we can see, but those who are part of redeemed (invisible church) is not so clear. Many people exhibit a temporary faith, a good beginning, pious feelings, or external changes to their lives, which are only there for a while. We can't judge the faith of anyone because only God knows their hearts. "...For He knows the secrets of the heart." Psalm 44:21 He alone knows who will be in heaven.
The first question regarding, "once saved, always saved," does in many ways continue along this theme. The promises of Christ in John 6:37-40 are that He will cast no one away who comes to Him, and that He will lose none of those to whom He has been given. Therefore, if we come to Christ in repentance and faith we can be sure, not that we will not fall away, but that He will not leave us. Perseverance is based on Christ and His ability to sustain those who the Father has given Him, John 6:65. Perseverance is based less on what we do, and more on the God who gives His Children the strength to persevere.
You mentioned that our salvation is past, present and future. I would like to attach some verses to each of these three. Our salvation is past because it has been accomplished, Ephesians 2:8. It is present, 1 Corinthians 1:18, because we are still being perfected and conforming more and more to Christ. It is future, Hebrews 9:28, because one day this salvation will be perfected.
I believe the, "once saved, always saved," concept because I think that Scripture teaches it. Paul says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 If God begins a work of grace in any soul, He has promised to see it through to the end. As we said above, there is such a thing as a temporary faith or of a faith of external works where the trust and dependence is not upon Christ, but resting somewhere else. This is the faith that does not last and the only reason why we would be confused about, "once saved, always saved." We see people follow the faith for years and then simply walk away. I would submit that such folks have only had temporary faith and not a faith that is centered and grounded in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was an old church father who tried to sum up some various aspects of life. Regarding ourselves he said, Ego deficiam, or, on my own I will surely fail or miscarry. Regarding the world he said, Ego decipiam, or, I will surely deceive all that I can. Regarding Satan he said, Ego eripiam, or, I will snatch them and carry them away. Regarding Christ he said, Ego custodiam, or, I will keep them, I will never fail them nor forsake them. This is the Savior that we come to with our sin. We come to one who will never fail us or forsake us. His promise is that when we come to Him in faith and repentance that He will be our safety and security, not just for a few months or years, but forever.
So lastly, let me restate part of your question, "But what about those that say they have been "saved" but their daily words and actions reflect no sense of a personal relationship with Christ?" I think we need to begin to ask ourselves whether someone who does not exhibit signs of being saved really ever was saved if they finally fall away. There are lots of reasons to join the church and not all of them have to do with salvation. It not for us to judge, Matthew 7:1. But it is for us to be wise in understanding that where there is a lack of evidence of faith there may in fact be no faith; even if a form prayer was once said at such and such a time.
Part of salvation is showing fruit of a changed life, Colossians 3:9, 10. Part of salvation is that we put aside the things from our past, 2 Corinthians 5:17. When this does not become part of salvation we should not be surprised when someone falls away from the faith. When this happens, it should not challenge the concept of "once saved, always saved." Christ has promised to lose none that the Father has given Him. He has not promised to protect pretenders or those who only exhibit a temporary faith. These are not and never were His Children, but we know that all those who are Children of God are protected by Him and are never lost from the faith.
Soli Deo Gloria,