Salvation, a journey requiring perseverance

My wife and I were discussing theology over lunch earlier today. I shared with her my thoughts on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints to the effect that even though our final salvation is assured, it is still necessary for us to strive towards the goal (see Philippians 3:12-14). And then she said – I’m paraphrasing here, but this is essentially what she said – “Reaching the destination requires that you finish the journey.” Of course! Just because it’s divinely certain that you’ll arrive at the destination set by God for you doesn’t mean you can dispense with the hard work of “journeying” all the way up to the finish line. The journey is an integral part of reaching the destination. No journeying, no arriving at the destination. No perseverance to the very end, no final salvation. Thus, a person cannot sit still on the road or, worse, turn back towards where he came from, and still expect that he’ll arrive at the place he’s destined for. Just because God has promised that we will certainly arrive at our heavenly destination someday does not mean we should no longer strive with all our might to reach it.

There’s really something static about the concept of salvation that many proponents of eternal security hold to. Something like this: Have faith, sit back and relax ( or, worse, sin all you want!), arrive. I think salvation involves a dynamic element – the element of perseverance – which in no way diminishes the absolutely certainty that all those who have truly believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will finally be saved (i.e., glorified, see Romans 8:23-25). Something like this: have faith, persevere to the very end, arrive.

I prefer the term perseverance of the saints over eternal security. The saints will persevere. If they do not, it means they were never saints to begin with. The saints persevere because God preserves them. But God preserves them (in part, at least) in and through their perseverance!

P. S. Just to be clear: The fact that we still need to persevere in order to be finally saved doesn’t convert salvation into something we earn or merit by means of our works. Salvation is a free gift of grace received by faith, not earned by works, from first to last. Perseverance is simply one of those “better things” that inevitably accompany or belong to the state of being truly saved (see Hebrews 6:9), the lack of which only shows that one never really belonged to Christ in the first place (1 John 2:19).

P.S. Although on the surface, we do the hard work of persevering, it’s still God who mysteriously and powerfully works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12, 13).

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Notes on Perseverance of the Saints

(These are essentially the notes I wrote in preparation for a bible study I did on Romans 8:28-31.)

Perseverance of the Saints is to be preferred over the term eternal security because the former includes the latter without doing away with the reality that the saints do persevere and will persevere. The saints persevere because the Lord preserves them, and the Lord preserves them in and through their perseverance.

A digression is in order at this point in order to see the connection between perseverance and the broader salvation of which it is part. It is necessary that we adopt a cosmic perspective on salvation: we must see it as something that spans the whole of eternity. We must realize that it is so much bigger than we are and involves divine determinations and incontrovertible exercises of divine power that make the possibility of losing one’s salvation simply unthinkable. Without this cosmic perspective, i.e., if we confine our limited, finite, and puny minds only to the consideration of earthly things, wherein we find so much human weakness, frailty, and sin, we cannot help entertaining the possibility that salvation might be lost. The solution is to enter, as much as is granted to us, into the vastness of the divine mind and see salvation as the great and glorious thing that it is, determined by God in eternity past, executed by him in time, and now awaiting certain completion when Christ returns, the results of which will last throughout eternity. All throughout, our salvation is upheld by Almighty God who watches over it from beginning to end to ensure that “not a single hair of our head will perish.” It is for this reason that in verse 31 Paul makes the triumphant statement, “If God is for us, who can be against us!”

Continue reading “Notes on Perseverance of the Saints”

Remaining in the Truth

(Outline of devotional given to the Men’s Group of Ikthus East – Bacolod City last July 6, 2019)

1 John 2:24-27 ESV

[24] Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. [25] And this is the promise that he made to us-eternal life. [26] I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. [27] But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie-just as it has taught you, abide in him. Continue reading “Remaining in the Truth”

What does God seek?

light sunset people water
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“Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:13-14) Continue reading “What does God seek?”

Anointed by the Holy One

(A devotional given to the Men’s group of Ikthus East Bacolod.)

TEXT: 1 John 2:18-26

INTRODUCTION:

The apostle John wants us to distinguish between those who are truly God’s children and those who aren’t. At the same time he wants to protect us from false teachers. God’s children have received an anointing from the Holy Spirit: spiritual discernment. They are able to taste and see spiritual truth. Continue reading “Anointed by the Holy One”

Doomed or Delivered?

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Judgment is indeed according to works. On the day of judgment the books will be opened and we shall be judged according to all that we’ve done. But in that case we’re all doomed because what we’ve done is deserving of eternal death. We can do nothing but sin (Luther). All our good works are filthy rags, since they are not animated by perfect love for God and neighbour. And even if our good deeds outweigh or outnumber our bad, “one sin outweighs much good.” One does not escape punishment by pleading that he has kept all the commandments save one. It is precisely because he has broken that one that he is being punished, even if he has kept all the rest.

Left to ourselves we are doomed. But Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. His work swallows up all our works, good and bad. Our sins are but a drop in the ocean of his righteousness. His righteousness covers all our unrighteousness. His work and his righteousness are imputed to us and are ours if we put our faith in him. Christ himself is our righteousness. And on judgment day, when called to account, we present to God our work, although it is not ours but his, but ours nevertheless because it was done for us and imputed to us. In fact, even now judgment has been rendered in advance regarding us. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. He who believes in me shall not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.” The future judgment will be nothing more than a public confirmation of the favourable judgment which has already been passed upon us by virtue of what Christ has done for us.

Does this mean that “fearing God” and “keeping his commandments” no longer have any place in our lives? Far from it. On the contrary, all the more they have become an essential part of our every waking moment, because those who put their faith in Christ alone and are saved by faith alone are children of God, and to his children God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son, and the Spirit’s work is to instil the fear of (i.e., reverence for) God in the hearts of God’s children, and to move them to keep his commandments out of love and not out of servile fear. In fact, he inscribes God’s laws upon our hearts.

The conclusion of the matter is: Fear God and keep his commandments. How shall we obey this? By believing in his Son Jesus Christ and receiving him into our hearts as our Lord and Saviour. “This is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent.” And if you have already done so then go and keep the commandments with all your might, for you are not powerless to do so. As God’s child you have the Holy Spirit who will empower you to do God’s will from the heart, not in order to be saved, but out of love and gratitude to him who has saved you by grace alone through faith alone. Amen.

Don’t merely live under the sun. Live under the Son!

Dynamics of Change

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

[17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

[18] And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

INTRODUCTION

Change is moving from who you are now to who you have not yet become. It can refer to character, location, status, circumstances. It can be for better or for worse.

What change are we referring to? Spiritual change. Conformity to Christ’s image. Growth in Christ-likeness. Bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading “Dynamics of Change”

How are we justified before God?

Galatians 3:6-14ESV
[6] just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? [7] Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. [8] And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” [9] So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. [10] For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” [11] Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” [12] But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” [13] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- [14] so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Continue reading “How are we justified before God?”

God Chose

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“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30) Continue reading “God Chose”