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Eternal Security? Yes and No.
I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints, but let them not turn back to folly. (Psalm 85:8; see also Psalm 103:17-18)
Eternal Security is not a subject that acquiesces to the wisdom of this world and the mind of man (Psalm 94:11; 1 Corinthians 3:18-20). For example, Calvinists are on one side of this subject, and Arminians are on the other. Both are "mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). God's works are great, and His thoughts are very deep (Psalm 92:5; Isaiah 55:8-9), and this is one subject that finds the words of Romans 11:33 quite apropos.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
On more than one occasion, Scripture teaches what appears to the human mind to be concepts that cannot be simultaneously true. "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14). But, when one becomes converted (see What Must I Do To Be Saved) and becomes like a little child (Matthew 18:3), spiritual matters are accepted, because God's word is believed (John 8:47), whether the concepts seem logical or not (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I. His Judgments
To begin with, the Word is very clear that the judgment of God is (Luke 13:1-5; 16:19-25; Romans 1:18), and will be, according to works (Romans 2:5-10). Even though it is true that salvation is "not by works of righteousness (see Salvation Not By Works) which we have done" (Titus 3:5), it is also true that God,
"will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness-indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 2:6-10)
In other words, those who patiently and continually ("patient continuance") do good ("doing good"), those who have good works ("who works what is good"), those who make it their goal in life ("seek for", Philippians 3:11) to have eternal life ("immortality"), these are the ones whom God will save ("eternal life"). He will render eternal life to them based upon ("according to") their works ("deeds"). But, those who seek after what they want ("self-seeking"), and do not obey the Word of God ("the truth"), these will go to hell ("indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish"). Jesus said,
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth-those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28-29)
Jesus' words prove certain that the actions of one's life (a person's deeds, works) will dictate where a person will spend their eternity. Those who have done good, will have eternal life. Those who have done evil, will go to hell. Jesus similarly said,
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)
In other words, God will judge each person and either justify them (salvation), or condemn them (hell), based upon what came out of their mouth.
This righteous judgment of God which is based upon what a person has done (i.e. how they have lived) is graphically portrayed in the words of Christ in Matthew 25:31-46.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Then He will also say to those on the left hand, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me." Then they also will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?" Then He will answer them, saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me." And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Here, people are sent to hell or granted eternal life solely based upon their actions. Truly, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26), and truly God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7-8).
For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
Paul said, "we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him" (2 Corinthians 5:9). Why?
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
This verse has been mutilated by the false Christian world (e.g. The Believer's Study Bible, p. 1653; The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1770-1771). Typically taught, the judgment seat here (bêmatos in the Greek) is viewed as a place of rewards with no condemnation in view. The problem with this view is, this Greek word for judgment seat, bêma, is used for a judgment seat in which condemnation is, or may be, meted out (Matthew 27:19, 26; John 19:13; Acts 18:12, 16, 17; 25:6, 10).
Moreover, the "bad" in this verse is typically interpreted as "useless" not "moral evil," as MacArthur says,
These Gr. terms do not refer to moral good and moral evil. (The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1771)
This is a lie. In the Greek, in the Critical Text, phaulon is used and it is always used in Scripture in the sense of moral evil (see John 3:20; 5:29; Romans 9:11; Titus 2:8; James 3:16). In the Majority Text (and Received Text) kakon is used, and this term is used for either harmfully bad (see Luke 16:25; Acts 16:28; 28:5; Revelation 16:2) or wickedness (see Matthew 21:41; 24:48; 27:23; Mark 7:21; 15:14; Luke 23:22; John 18:23, 30; Acts 9:13; 23:9; Romans 1:30; 2:9; 3:8; 7:19, 21; 12:17, 21; 13:3-4, 10; 14:20; 16:19; 1 Corinthians 10:6; 13:5; 15:33; 2 Corinthians 13:7; Philippians 3:2; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:12; Hebrews 5:14; James 1:13; 3:8; 1 Peter 3:9-12; 3 John 11; and Revelation 2:2). MacArthur, through his deceit, sways people away from the true fear of God (2 Corinthians 5:10-11; 1 Peter 1:17).
When Paul said,
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10),
he had in view the same kind of judgment as we've seen already (Matthew 12:36-37; 25:31-46; John 5:28-29; Romans 2:6-10; Galatians 6:7-8). This is why Paul penned,
Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men (2 Corinthians 5:11, see also 2 Corinthians 5:14 for the motivation of love as well).
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31), and be found with an ungodly unrighteous life (e.g. Matthew 7:21-23). For
each one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).
Now, how can this be? Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), how can anyone reap what he has sown (Galatians 6:7-8), be judged according to his deeds (Romans 2:6-10) and not be condemned? Would not all men reap corruption (Galatians 6:8, i.e. hell, e.g. Isaiah 66:24) on the day of judgment, since "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10)? How is the righteous judgment of God reconciled with His salvation?
When the Lord saves a soul, when He causes them to be "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3), He imputes righteousness to them (Romans 4:6). This God given righteousness (Romans 3:22) not only includes the forgiveness of sins (Romans 4:7-8), but also practical righteous living (John 8:31-36; Romans 6:18-22; 8:1-2; 10:10; Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, on the day of judgment, those who are His will not only have their sin already washed away by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7) so that there will be no condemnation (Romans 8:1), but, granted they live any length of time, they will also have behind them a life filled with the righteousness of God (Romans 10:10). In other words, their words, thoughts, and actions will have exemplified a godly holy life (Psalm 15), and they will be justified, just as Abraham was justified (James 2:21-24), by works (Romans 2:13; 8:4). By faith, one is accounted righteous (Romans 4:3), and the result of this faith produces godliness (Titus 1:1).
Therefore, it behooves every believer to "make their call and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10), because we, "call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work" (1 Peter 1:17). Therefore we ought to conduct ourselves throughout the time of our stay here in fear (1 Peter 1:17), because the warnings are numerous.
II. His Warnings
Throughout the word of God, particularly in the New Testament, God warns over and over again that an ungodly life cannot be lived without the consequence of the lake of fire (e.g. Revelation 21:8). In Matthew 6:14-15, 18:21-35; and Mark 11:25-26 (note also Luke 6:37; 17:1-4; and 2 Corinthians 2:10-11) Jesus points out that you cannot be unforgiving (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3) and still yourself be forgiven by God. If you are not forgiven by God, the wrath of God is still upon you (John 3:36), and if you live in this condition unto your death, you will go to hell (Revelation 21:8)!
Moreover, note what Jesus said in Mark 9:43-48.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched- where "Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched- where "Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire- where "Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."
Why this serious and repeated warning? Because it's true! Sin is a serious issue, and it is not to be taken lightly. If there is something in your life that encourages you toward some kind of evil ("causes you to stumble"), be it outright wickedness, or the evil of getting your eyes off the Lord (e.g. Zephaniah 1:12), cut it off! Because, if you don't, if it succeeds in turning you away from the Lord, and you continue in sin, you will lie down in torment (Isaiah 50:11; 66:24). For Scripture warns that "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9).
In Matthew 10:28, Jesus was speaking to the twelve apostles, those who followed Him and believed in Him, and He warned them,
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (see also Luke 12:4-5)
Likewise, in Matthew 24:45-51 Jesus gave this warning in the context of His return:
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, "My master is delaying his coming," and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus made it very clear that it doesn't matter what someone may claim to believe or claim to be (Matthew 7:21-23), if you are wicked (i.e. unjust, evil, unrighteous) you will be cast into the fire.
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:41-42)
So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:49-50)
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus warns that if you are lazy (verse 26) and do not bring to God a profit (verses 24-27) you will go to hell (verse 30). In Matthew 22:2-14 Jesus gives this warning:
The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, "Tell those who are invited, 'See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.'" But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, "The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding." So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, "Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?" And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, "Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen.
What does the "wedding garment" represent? It represents "the righteous acts of the saints" (Revelation 19:7-8). This man was found without the required "righteous acts" in his life, and he is therefore bound hand and foot and cast into hell (Revelation 21:8). The scariest part about this parable is the fact that he actually made it into the wedding hall! For all practical purposes, it appeared that he had inherited the kingdom of God. Yet, when examined, he is rejected and cast to the abode of hypocrites, that place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:51).
III. His Exhortations
God is not joking when He says,
For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person [sin makes a person unclean, e.g. James 4:8; 1 John 1:7, 9], nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:5-6)
And so He exhorts, "Therefore, do not be partakers with them" (Ephesians 5:7). Why? Because if you do, the wrath of God will come upon you too! As Ezekiel says,
When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die. (Ezekiel 33:13)
When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. (Ezekiel 33:18)
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
As 2 Corinthians 5:10 is so often perverted, so is this passage commonly twisted to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16; e.g. The Believer's Study Bible, p. 1632; The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians, copyright 1984, p. 214-216). Some say that what Paul is talking about is "the race of soul winning" (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians, p. 214). The truth is, Paul is speaking of the race of faith (Hebrews 12:1) which is unto eternal life, as Romans 2:7 says, "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality." There is a crown of life given to those who run with endurance, to those who truly love Him (James 1:12; Hebrews 10:36).
Even in the context of soul winning (the previous passage, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23), Paul said,
I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
When he says, "that I may be partaker of it with you," he is saying he does these things that he also might reap the benefits of the gospel, which is what? Salvation! Paul knew the reality of, "I believed therefore I spoke" (Psalm 116:10; 2 Corinthians 4:13). If a person really believes, they will endeavor to win souls (Proverbs 11:30).
Therefore, when Paul says, "lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified," he was concerned about the welfare of his soul, because disqualification equals perdition. Disqualification is far more than being disqualified "from Christian service," as MacArthur teaches (Strength For Today, by John MacArthur, copyright 1997, October 2). Every time this Greek word (adokimos) for "disqualified" is used, it always refers to a wicked lost state (see 2 Corinthians 13:5-7; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16; Hebrews 6:8). So Paul exhorts the Corinthians to run the race so as to win! And in the next chapter he exhorts, "let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12).
In Philippians 2:12 Paul urges, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." In 1 Timothy 4:16 Paul exhorts Timothy to,
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
The Greek word here for "save" is "soseis," and it means exactly what it says. Paul instructs Timothy in the importance of making sure he is living a godly life and teaching sound doctrine. How important is this? If he is faithful in it, he will ensure the salvation of both himself and those who take heed to what he says ("you will save both yourself and those who hear you").
The book of Hebrews is filled with God's exhortations to make sure we are in the faith, endure to the end, and inherit the promises (i.e. eternal life). For example,
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation. (Hebrews 2:1-3a)
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:7-13)
These words are to the "brethren", i.e. believers. In fact, the entire book was written to believers (Hebrews 10:32-34). Some false teachers wickedly dissuade people from the serious warnings and exhortations given in this book. John MacArthur is one false teacher who does this. In his commentary on this book he writes,
We must understand that three basic groups of people are in view throughout this epistle. If one does not keep these groups in mind, the book becomes very confusing. If, for example, as some have said, it was written exclusively to Christians, extreme problems arise in interpreting a number of passages which could hardly apply to believers. And because it so frequently addresses believers, it could not have been written primarily to unbelievers either. So it must have been written to include both. (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Hebrews, copyright 1983, p. xi; see also The MacArthur Study Bible, copyright 1997, p. 1895, "Interpretive Challenges")
MacArthur goes on to describe three groups,
GROUP I: HEBREW CHRISTIANS
GROUP II: HEBREW NON-CHRISTIANS WHO ARE INTELLECTUALLY CONVINCED,
GROUP III: HEBREW NON-CHRISTIANS WHO WERE NOT CONVINCED.
The problem with these groups is, two out of the three do not exist, and are nowhere found in the book of Hebrews. MacArthur pulls these groups out of the air (the prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:1), and places a delusion upon all who follow his deceit keeping them from the serious warnings and exhortations which God gives. Like,
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)
The writer here includes himself in this warning. He says, "For if we . . . ." There is no other "group" here. This is an exhortation (Hebrews 13:22) to believers that they had better fear (Hebrews 4:1), "lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:11).
So, the writer of Hebrews exhorts,
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven. (Hebrews 12:25)
Peter likewise exhorts believers with these words:
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:17-19)
The righteous are "scarcely saved." Only a fool (James 2:20) would think that you can live an unrighteous life and still make it to heaven. Thus, Peter exhorts,
You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)
IV. His Reality
Romans 11:36 says that all things are "of Him and through Him and to Him." There is no reality, but God's reality. Even if something doesn't exist, the Lord "calls those things which do not exist as though they did" (Romans 4:17). God speaks nothing but truth (Titus 1:2). Therefore, when His word says something, it is reality. It is truth, even though it may not mesh with our idea of what really exists.
With the subject at hand, God's word reveals several things that are true that are extremely pertinent to eternal security and salvation. These things stand as true, because His word is true, and He means what He says. Even though we may find it hard to reconcile one matter with another, when God says something, it is nonetheless true (John 10:33-36). To begin with, there is such a thing as:
A. Temporary Faith
As the exhortations above imply (e.g. 2 Peter 3:17-18; etc.), a person can actually be in the faith for a time, and then no longer believe. Some may argue that when this happens, the person never really believed in the first place; their faith was false. No doubt, there is such a thing as false faith (Matthew 7:15, 21-23; 2 Corinthians 11:13, 26; Galatians 2:4; 2 Peter 2:1). But, Scripture also teaches that a person can actually believe, have a temporary faith, and then fall away. A clear example of this can be found in Luke 8:13.
But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.
Christ says that they "believe for a while." He does not say they appear to believe, or they have a false faith, but rather they "believe," but it is only "for a while." It is temporary faith.
In 1 Corinthians 15:2 Paul says to the Corinthians, "unless you believed in vain." Contrary to what some think (e.g. Charles Stanley, Handbook for Christian Living, p. 174), a person may believe, but the result of their faith has no eternal benefit. They may believe for a while; they may temporarily have faith, but it is all in vain. And why? Because they do not continue to believe.
Paul, in dealing with the Galatians, wrote,
Have you suffered so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain? (Galatians 3:4)
I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. (Galatians 4:11)
The Galatians had been swayed toward a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), and Paul was concerned that the things they had originally suffered for Christ, and his efforts in getting them to follow Christ, might all turn out to have no good eternal consequence. In other words, they would end up in hell after all. Why? Because if they believed the true gospel for a while, but then were swayed to following a false gospel, in this, they would have turned away from Christ (Galatians 1:6) and no longer believed the truth. And this leads to hell, because Christ takes "vengeance" "on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
This reality (temporary faith that results in no eternal benefit) was a continual concern for Paul. To the Philippians Paul wrote,
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Here again, Paul is concerned about his labor (his efforts in leading people to Christ), that it might end up having no eternal benefit for them. It could all be in vain, if they did not hold "fast the word of life." In other words, if they did not continue to believe, they would end up in hell. If they only had temporary faith, they would end up in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). But, if they did "hold fast," this would cause rejoicing in the day of the Lord, because they made it and inherited the promises (Hebrews 6:11-12).
Likewise, to the Thessalonians Paul wrote,
But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you-even I, Paul, time and again-but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. (1 Thessalonians 2:17-35)
Paul was very concerned that his efforts in leading the Thessalonians down the narrow road of faith might end up having no eternal benefit for them ("our labor might be in vain"). This is why he longed so to see them that he might "establish [them] and encourage [them] concerning [their] faith" (1 Thessalonians 3:2). When Timothy had come back from visiting them, Paul was greatly encouraged to hear that they were standing strong in the faith, and so he wrote,
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you- therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 3:6-8)
Paul says, "For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord." Paul was exuberant ("For now we live") about the fact that they were having abiding faith, continued belief. Why? Because "he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13).
Furthermore, Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness- besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? (2 Corinthians 11:27-29)
Why such "concern for all the churches" and such zeal and indignation about someone being caused to stumble? Because,
we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12),
and our salvation is still being worked out (Philippians 2:12).
This is why the apostles exhorted believers to continue in the faith (e.g. Acts 11:23; 13:43; 14:22), and Jesus said, "By your patience possess your souls" (Luke 21:19). 1 John 5:13 says,
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
Paul wrote Timothy,
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16)
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. (2 Timothy 2:12)
But you must continue in the things which you have learned . . ." (2 Timothy 3:14)
And to the Romans Paul wrote,
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:22)
Temporary faith, which is a reality (Luke 8:13), will get no one to heaven. Trust and obedience (Hebrews 3:18-19) to Christ must continue (Colossians 1:21-23; Hebrews 3:14).
B. Temporary Grace
Along with the reality of a temporary faith, Scripture also reveals that the grace of God can be temporarily received and possessed. For example, in 2 Corinthians 6:1 Paul exhorts the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain.
We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. (2 Corinthians 6:1)
Paul pleads with them. This is no small matter! This is an eternal, life or death, hell or heaven matter! If they receive the grace of God in vain, and die in such a state, they will burn forever (Isaiah 66:24).
To the Galatians Paul wrote,
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
Here is depicted the reality of being in the grace of God, and then falling from it, i.e. being no longer in it. This is a horrifying reality! It is the "grace of God that brings salvation" (Titus 2:11). Therefore, if someone was once in the grace of God, but then fell from it, they fell from that which was saving their soul! They fell from a place of favor and no condemnation (Romans 8:1), God's grace, back to a place of wrath and indignation (John 3:36). A graphic illustration of this is found in Matthew 18.
Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matthew 18:21-35)
In this parable Jesus points out the seriousness of making sure we forgive. If we don't forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15), and we'll be tortured by the Father if we live this way (Matthew 18:35).
In this parable, the servant is actually forgiven of his debt, but then, based upon the servants lack of grace toward others, the Master overturns his decision of forgiveness, and requires payment. What does that depict? Someone can actually be forgiven of their sins; they can actually be in the grace of God, but if they fail to show mercy towards others, the forgiveness is retracted and condemnation is meted out (Mark 11:25-26).
So there is not only temporary faith, but there is also temporary grace and temporary forgiveness. This is all consistent with the fact that a person can be temporarily in Christ.
C. Temporary Branches
In John 15:1-6 Jesus said,
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Here Jesus speaks of being in Him, in Christ, but not remaining (not abiding). Some might argue that the branches that don't remain were not really "in Christ," but this goes directly against what Christ says. He says, "Every branch in Me," not "Every branch that appears to be in Me." The significance of this is quite profound. A person can actually be in Christ, yet, if they do not remain and bear fruit, they will end up in hell (John 15:6). Hebrews 6:4-8 illustrates this.
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
These who fall away have been "enlightened." They have come "to the knowledge of the truth," which comes with salvation (1 Timothy 2:4). They have "tasted the heavenly gift." What is the heavenly gift? Is it not God's grace (Ephesians 2:8)? Is it not eternal life (Romans 6:23)? These have "tasted" of God's gift. They've experienced it.
Note further it says they "have become partakers of the Holy Spirit." The Greek word for "partakers" is "metokous" and it is used of true believers who have become "partakers of the heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1), "partakers of Christ" (Hebrews 3:14), and "partakers" of the chastening of the Lord (Hebrews 12:8). Furthermore, these who fall away have also "tasted the good word of God." Scripture says,
the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
But, these in Hebrews 6 received the word, like those in Luke 8:13.
These also tasted "the powers of the age to come." At least in part, this would be the power of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5) and righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). In other words, they've experienced the power of the practical righteousness of God which comes to all and is on all who believe (Romans 3:22).
These people have been in Christ in an intense way, and yet they fall away. According to the passage, they bear no good fruit (Hebrews 6:8; John 15:2) and end up in hell (Hebrews 6:4,6,8; John 15:6). This is no hypothetical scenario that never takes place; this is God's word. He is speaking truth (reality). This is about real people who have been in the faith, but then fall away.
Hebrews 10:26-31 paints a similar scene, and in this passage, the depth of being "in Christ" is revealed. Note verse 29.
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
It is apparent that, whoever falls under these verses (Hebrews 10:26-31), the grace of God was upon them ("insulted the Spirit of grace"), and they were actually sanctified, i.e. made holy, "by the blood of the covenant." In other words, they were in the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13), the covenant enacted by Christ through His blood (Hebrews 9:11-12), but they ended up choosing sin rather than continuing in the faith.
So, the reality is, Scripture teaches that faith (Luke 8:13), forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35), the grace of God (2 Corinthians 6:1; Galatians 5:4), being in Christ (John 15:1-6), and being set apart by the blood of Christ, i.e. sanctification (Hebrews 10:26-31), can all be lost, simply by not continuing in the faith (Romans 11:22).
Another reality akin to this is the loss of your "part."
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
This is no idle threat from John. This is a real threat, and what it reveals is something being taken away that is actually there! In verse 19, the Greek word for "take away" is from aphaireô, and it is always used in Scripture for taking away something that is actually there to take away (Matthew 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 1:25; 10:42; 16:3; 22:50; Romans 11:27; Hebrews 10:4). No matter what Greek text you might follow (The Critical and Majority Text have "tree of life" rather than "Book of Life"), John here indicates that a person can actually have "his part" of the Book of Life (or tree of life) be taken away. In other words, he actually has a part that is his, but it's taken away! Whether it is the Book of Life or the tree of life, both are a reference to eternal life (Genesis 3:22; Revelation 20:11-15; 22:2, 14)!
In the book of Revelation, several times over Christ says, "To him who overcomes . . ." or "He who overcomes . . . " and He makes promises that accompany salvation (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21). Who is it who overcomes?
Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5)
These are the only ones who overcome. Those who believe, that is, those who believe and do not stop believing. These are the ones who overcome.
V. His Security
Now, after all that we've seen so far, God's judgments, His warnings, His exhortations, and His reality, Scripture also teaches that His salvation is eternally secure for those who are:
A. Born of God
Who are those who believe and do not stop believing? Who are those who continue in the faith, and do not fall away? Those who are born of God.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith. (1 John 5:4)
Those who are born of God are those who will endure to the end (Matthew 24:13), who will not fall away (Hebrews 10:39), who will not fall for a false gospel (Galatians 1:6), who will stay in His goodness (Romans 11:22), who are forgiving (Matthew 5:7; 18:21-35), who remain (abide) in Christ (John 15:1-5), because they are those who overcome the world. They overcome anything and everything that might come their way that would pull them away from Christ (Romans 8:37). This is so profoundly true that 1 John 3:9 goes so far as to say,
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
The one thing that will destroy a soul is sin (Romans 6:23). This is the only thing that will keep anyone from heaven. Be it through some kind of sinful living, unbelief, or following after some kind of deception, it is all sin, and this is the only thing that would destroy a soul (Matthew 1:21; Mark 9:42-48). Therefore, when 1 John 3:9 says that those who are born of God "cannot sin," what this is telling us is that it is impossible for those born of God to fall away (Hebrews 6:4-6). They cannot sin. If they cannot sin, they cannot turn away from Christ (Galatians 1:6). They cannot "sin willfully" (Hebrews 10:26). They are incapable of being unforgiving (Matthew 18:21-35). They are incapable of believing in vain (1 Corinthians 15:2). They are incapable of insulting the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29, 39). It is impossible for them to fall from grace (Galatians 5:4), or receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1), or to be an unprofitable servant (Matthew 25:14-30), or to live an unrighteous life (1 Corinthians 6:9), or to ever be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Those born of God cannot sin (1 John 3:9).
The desire of the righteous is only good (Proverbs 11:23).
An evil man seeks only rebellion (Proverbs 17:11).
Even though those born of God still have the sinful flesh (1 John 1:8-10) that desires only evil (Romans 7:18), their spirit nonetheless has been made alive (Ephesians 2:5) and is no longer evil. It desires only good (Proverbs 11:23) and therefore never desires evil. Their spirit is alive and has Christ living in them (Galatians 2:20), and He desires only good, never desires evil, and He cannot sin; and so neither can they (1 John 3:9).
Therefore, as Paul wrote, though in the flesh "nothing good dwells" (Romans 7:18), one who is born of God, his spirit "wills to do good" (Romans 7:21). It only wills to do good (Proverbs 11:23) and thus, "cannot sin" (1 John 3:9). The consequence of this power of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:5) is that they are incapable of practicing unrepentant sin. Thus, they will never fall back into a lifestyle of sin. They will indeed still stumble into sin (James 3:2), but not live unrepentantly in it (1 John 1:7-10; 3:7-8). For more on sin in a believer's life, please see "Not By Works" under IV. The Flesh Stays Sinful.
1 John 3:9 gives the reason someone born of God "cannot sin." It is because "His seed remains in him." Daniel D. Corner, a man of Arminian persuasion, says just the opposite.
God's seed, his word, impedes sin if hidden in our hearts (Psalm 119:9-11). However, as one might not remain in the vine (Jn. 15:6), God's seed might not remain in the person who gets born of God! (The Believers Conditional Security, by Daniel D. Corner, copyright 1997, p. 383, italics and bold in original)
Here Mr. Corner makes God out to be a liar. God says, "His seed remains in him" (1 John 3:9). Mr. Corner says, "God's seed might not remain in the person." Who is speaking the truth? Dan Corner or God? God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2). God says of those who are born of God that the word of God, "His seed" (Luke 8:11; Galatians 3:16; 1 Peter 1:23), remains in them.
1 John 5:18 further says of those who are born of God:
We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.
He who is born of God keeps himself. Where does he keep himself? He keeps himself in the love of God, as Jude says, "keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). 1 John 5:18 says the wicked one can not touch him. In what way? Paul had a messenger of Satan that touched him (2 Corinthians 12:7). In what way does the wicked one not touch him? The answer is found in Romans 8.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
Satan is included in the concept of either "angels" or "powers" or "any other created thing." The wicked one can in no way separate those who are born of God from the love of God. What this means then is, that those who are born of God are eternally secure, and will never experience the fires of hell; because "He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death" (1 John 5:4; Revelation 2:11).
What is the context to Romans 8:35-39? Those whom God has "predestined" (Romans 8:29-30). Those who are "elect" (Romans 8:33). The elect of God will never be separated from His love. They are eternally secure.
Scripture teaches that God has made vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy (Romans 9:11-23), and He has thus predetermined the eternal destiny of every individual of mankind before time began (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; Revelation 17:8; 20:15). And, His counsel will stand (Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21). Nothing can thwart the will, counsel, and predetermination of God (Isaiah 46:9-10). Therefore, the elect will make it. They will endure to the end. God's sovereignty demands it.
Romans 11:36 says, "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things." Everything, no matter what it is, is "of Him and through Him and to Him." Therefore, if someone inherits eternal life and enters the Paradise of God, it is by God's doing that this happens. If someone is cast to hell and burns in torment for all eternity, it is God's doing. Because "He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens" (Romans 9:18). Even if a person turns away from God, it is God who caused it to happen. "He hardens," as Isaiah asks,
O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear? (Isaiah 63:17)
He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. (Romans 9:18)
Someone might argue against this by quoting 1 Timothy 2:3-4.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
This is quite amazing and perplexing for the human mind, but God chooses not to give people a heart to obey Him, even though He longs for them to be saved and obey Him. For example, in Deuteronomy 5:29 the Lord says,
Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!
Yet, later in Deuteronomy Moses points out that,
the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day. (Deuteronomy 29:4)
Even though God longed for them to have a heart in them that they would fear Him (Deuteronomy 5:29), He chose not to give them a heart that would do so (Deuteronomy 29:4).
Likewise, God "desires all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4), yet He has only chosen to save a minority of them (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 9:27-28; 11:8-10). This decision to destine people to hell (Romans 9:21-22) or heaven (Romans 9:23), has nothing to do with whether the person has "done any good or evil" (Romans 9:11). It is "not of works" (Romans 9:11). It is solely based upon the "purpose of God" (Romans 9:11). Jesus said to His disciples, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16), and David reveals a person's life is all set in order, determined by God, before the person is ever on the scene.
And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
David's life was already written down and predetermined ("fashioned") before David was ever born. Indeed, all things are "of Him and through Him and to Him."
C. Christ's Sheep (John 10)
Note how Jesus describes His sheep. He says,
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. (John 10:27-29)
Jesus gives the characteristic of His sheep. They follow Him. They do not follow something or someone else (John 10:5), but they faithfully follow Him. They are not of those who fall away (Hebrews 10:39), because He says "they shall never perish." And, He says, no one can alter this, not even the devil himself ("no one").
1 Peter 5:8 warns,
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Satan would indeed, given the opportunity, snatch Christ's sheep out of His hand and destroy them (John 10:10). But, Jesus says this is impossible. Truly Christ's sheep are eternally secure, because being snatched out of His hand would come through some kind of Satanic attack, be it deceit (Revelation 12:9) or temptation (1 Thessalonians 3:5). But, Jesus says, "no one is able to snatch them."
The Arminian Dr. Chris Jakway makes this into "no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand against our will" (The Believer's Conditional Security, by Dan Corner, foreword by Jakway, p. iii). This is not what Jesus said, and goes directly against the truth of Christ's words. Jesus' statement reveals that Christ's sheep do not "will" to be away from Him. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27).
So, those who are born of God (1 John 5:4), those who are elect from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5), these are eternally secure. They can never and will never lose what has been theirs from eternity past (2 Timothy 1:9).
VI. His Conclusion
If this is so, then why does God give so many warnings and exhortations to those who believe? Why not relax and just accept that those who are elect will make it, and the rest will not, and who cares anyhow, because it has all been predestined before time began? No one can change God's plan, so why bother even being concerned? In fact, why did Paul suffer so (2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 11:23-29)? And why was he so concerned about the churches (2 Corinthians 11:29)?
According to man's wisdom, this might be a "logical" conclusion. That is, to give no care about the salvation of souls, since it's all by God's hand anyway (Romans 11:36). But, Paul reveals the wisdom of God.
Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)
Paul suffered "for the sake of the elect." In other words, he suffered for those who would definitely make it. Why? For their salvation, and that their salvation would be with eternal glory. Because Paul knew, even though indeed, the elect will be saved and nothing can change that (Romans 8:28-39), he also knew that:
This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. (2 Timothy 2:11-12)
Though the elect will certainly make it (Romans 8:29-39), yet these words, for the elect (Paul says "we"), stand true as well. This is hard to mesh into the mind of man (2 Peter 3:16), but nonetheless, God works the impossible (Romans 4:17). We might typically think that since God is doing it all, then we need to do nothing. But, in reality, just the opposite is true. As Paul said to the Philippians,
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
Why do we need to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling"? Because God is working in us, and He is doing whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3)! Therefore, since God is doing it all (Ephesians 2:1-10), we had better live it out! Doesn't that make good logical sense? It may not to some, but it makes very good Biblical sense. "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men" (1 Corinthians 1:25).
This good Biblical sense can be seen further in what Paul says in Philippians 1:6 and 2:16. In Philippians 1:6 he says that he is,
confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Yet, in Philippians 2:16 he exhorts them to hold "fast the word of life, so that [he] may rejoice in the day of Christ that [he has] not run in vain or labored in vain."
Likewise, remember Paul's concern for the Thessalonians how he was very concerned that "by some means the tempter had tempted [them], and [their] labor might be in vain" (1 Thessalonians 3:5)? Well, in this same book Paul wrote that he knew of their "election by God" (1 Thessalonians 1:4). In other words, he knew they would make it (Romans 8:29-39)!
Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews in chapter 10 gives one of the most serious warnings in Scripture to the believers he was writing to, and he even includes himself in the warning (Hebrews 10:26); but at the end of the chapter he writes:
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
The writer of Hebrews is saying, "If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26). "But we are not of those" who would do such a thing ("who draw back to perdition")! How about that for some good human logic! It just doesn't fit with the wisdom of this world, but this is God's wisdom, foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:23).
The likely human response might be, "Why did you bother warning us then, if we are not those who would do such a thing!" The Answer? Because you need to be warned, so you don't do it (Hebrews 10:36; 13:22). Is this hard to understand? Perhaps Paul's time at sea might help.
20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.22 "And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.23 "For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve,24 "saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.'25 "Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.26 "However, we must run aground on a certain island."27 Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land.28 And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms.29 Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come.30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow,31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved."32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off. (Acts 27:20-32)
In verses 22-25 Paul assures the people on the ship that God gave him His word that no life would be lost. If you understand that God does not lie (Titus 1:2) and He does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19), then you would understand that it was impossible for Paul's prophecy not to come true (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). In other words, there would indeed be no loss of life. Yet, at the same time, Paul says to the centurion, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved" (Acts 27:31). The centurion could have foolishly answered Paul with, "What does it matter, you said we would have no loss of life." But, instead, the centurion took heed to Paul's warning, and the ropes were cut.
God simultaneously works the impossible. Those who are His, elect from the foundation of the world, will indeed inherit eternal life. But, at the same time, they must "work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). If they do not, they "cannot be saved" (John 3:36 NAS; 4:24; 15:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:8).
VII. Our Response
So what should be our response? We should do what Paul told Timothy to do - lay hold on eternal life.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:12)
Eternal life, salvation, is not something to passively ponder. It is to be pursued (Romans 2:7). It is to be laid hold of, grasped and held fast (1 Corinthians 15:2; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Hebrews 3:6, 14; 4:14; 6:18; 10:23; Revelation 2:13, 25; 3:3, 11). Paul wrote,
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:8-14)
This is the Christian life, and this is the only life that ends in eternal life. One that has forsaken all (Luke 14:33) and diligently pursues the Lord and His salvation (Hebrews 11:6). Because, we have not only been saved (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 8:24; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5), but we are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 2:11; 7:25; 1 John 1:7,9; 2:1); and we shall be saved in the future (Romans 5:9-10; Hebrews 9:28). Salvation is not only an initial act of God (Ephesians 2:1-5), but it is a continual on going act of God (Philippians 2:13) that must be lived out (Philippians 2:12). If it is not, the soul will not land in Paradise (Revelation 21:8; 22:14-15).
a true church, P. O. Box 130, Moodys, OK 74444