Chapter 9, Continued from Chapter 8
“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor.2:13)
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SALVATION IN CHRIST
THE ISSUE OF THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER
I mentioned briefly something from my personal experience at the end of chapter 8, namely how God has been improving my Christian character. HE brings me into the « wilderness » of afflictions and testings, and speaks to my heart… Now I would like to elaborate on this point by referring to some great Biblical principles:
1. Towards Perfection
a) Those who preach the “the victorious life” are accused as teaching the false doctrine of “sinless perfection”. That is a pure and simple distortion! The truth of God, however, remains: “Sinless perfection” does not exist, but a victorious life is possible and it is required. The believer can be delivered of the state of “flesh”, such as from bad habits, passions, covetousness etc. It is a commandment for believers! It is, therefore, a requirement according to the Word, and it is, consequently, possible. God can save perfectly! It is written, “[…] He is able… to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them” (Heb.7:25). The Word of God says: IF any man sins, if any man falls into a sin (1John 2:1). The possibility to fall into a sin exists but a life of “ups and downs” is not a normal Christian life! Here is how the Word of God describes the normal life: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, LET US GO ON TO PERFECTION; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (Heb.6:1). Elsewhere, Paul says, “… and this also we wish, even your perfection” (2Cor.13:9). The true believer is not perfect but tends to perfection, to improvement… to practical sanctification. Paul wrote, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, (I run – GR) if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward (I run – GR) the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philp.3:12-14). And if Paul was running for the prize of the high calling, how much more should we!
b) What counts is not if it just happened to lose a battle but if we are committed to win the war! Jeremiah the prophet wrote, “… Thus said the LORD; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?” (Jer.8:4). Is it a normal Christian life to be a slave, for example, to anger during twenty years or to lies or to greediness or to hypocrisy, or, or? The Bible declares, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal.5:24). It also indicates, “Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1Joh.3:9). One cannot have a victorious life unless one gets rid of the burden of sin and has not made up his mind to follow faithfully Christ! We cannot run the race with an overcoat on. Sin is the enemy of faith.
c) I repeat: The true believer is not perfect, but tends to perfection, to improvement… to practical sanctification. Let me repeat part of what I have just what said of Paul, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after…” (Phil.3:12-14). Let us pay also attention to some other scriptures: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us which are saved (GR: are being saved) it is the power of God” (1Cor.1:18). Saved from what? Does it not refer to a continuous cleansing and sanctification process? “Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this you shall both save yourself, and them that hear you” (1Tim.4:16). (We will come back later on the meaning of this last verse).
d) Is it allowed to have the name or “label” of a Christian but not the nature of a Christian, given that we have been given exceeding great and precious promises so that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped ‘the corruption that is in the world through lust’ (2Pet.1:4)? The true Christian is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new (2Cor.5:17). God has declared that « […] this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people» (Heb.8:10 and Ezek.36:26). God is asking from every Christian to follow « … peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord» (Heb.12:14). God has given man a glorious place and destiny (Eph.2:6-7). HE has predestinated him to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom.8:29). The Christian is not allowed to defame his Savior with a sinful or superficial way of living… and honor Him with his lips but his heart be far from Him (Mat.15:8-9)!
2. Work out our salvation
Let us now examine the Biblical expression: “…my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT (GR: κατεργάζεσθε) YOUR OWN SALVATION with fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12). To make this concept understandable, let us use as an example: The case of a tanner (a skinner) who deals with the skins of animals to make them useful for any profitable use! This phrase means continuous improvement tending to progress and perfection: When Paul was with them they were trying to do their best to improve their spiritual situation, they were trying to “work out” their salvation. Not to be saved, because they were already saved, but to improve their attitudes, to tend toward their perfection. That means that they were to try to think, to act, to speak and live according to God’s commandments and exhortations and not live with the habits they used to have in the past. And, he exhorts them to act in the same way even while he was absent. This exhortation is in harmony with the whole spirit of the Bible: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be…” (Rev.22:11-17). It is also in harmony with the exhortation: “But as he which has called you is holy, so be (GR: become) you holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy » (1Pet.1:15-16). If the believer does not pay attention to these commandments in fear and trembling he risks falling into sin or doing stupid things which will dishonor His Savior! “A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring” (Prov.25:26). If the believer wants to do the will of God with his whole heart, then all his conduct will be in accordance with the will of God! Everything depends on the will of man to ‘will’ to repent, to ‘will’ to commit himself to God and to ‘will’ to love Him with all his being!
There are many exhortations in the Bible which speak about the “working out” of the spiritual world of the believer! Just a few examples:
- “And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Rom.12:2)
- “Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John.15:2).
- “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1Cor.15:58) .
This continual improvement cannot be achieved unless one obtains and maintains the testimony of a good conscience! (2Cor.1:12)
Now – after having dealt with the need and the way of salvation and practical sanctification as well as with the conditions or terms put by the Lord Himself for those who want to be true or genuine Christians – I believe it is necessary to slowly but surely prepare ourselves for examining the dangers of losing what God has freely offered to believers:
I will begin even from this chapter – but in general terms – examining the position of those who believe that all believers risk losing their salvation.
Before I continue, I repeat once again that I am taking the position of those who argue that all believers risk losing their salvation! Later in this series, I will also take the position of those who argue that “once saved always saved”! Unreasonable? Contradictory? Let the Word of God speak to us…
Paul, in his epistle to the Galatian BELIEVERS, tells them, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed on you labor in vain” (Gal.4:11). Why? Because they believed that they had to turn again to the weak and beggarly elements in which they were in bondage and begin again observing days and months and time and years! (Gal.4:8-10). Paul discerned that they were in danger! Continuing his epistle, he tells them that he was travailing in birth again until Christ is formed in them! He was standing in doubt of them (Gal.4:19-20)! Was he afraid and worried because of their financial situation or about their salvation? Christ was not yet formed in them! Which were the basic conditions so that Christ be formed in them? Be circumcised? Speaking in tongues? Surely not! The basic conditions were: Love Christ with all their heart, with sincere repentance, with a total trust in Christ and with total commitment to God! They had to take up their cross and follow Him! And with something else extremely important: Love for the truth above everything else and faith which works by love (Gal.5:6)! It is good to remember what Paul said to Timothy, “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside to vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm (1Tim.1:5-7). The apostle Paul wrote a similar word for certain women: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan.” (1Tim.5:14-15). What do you think? Did he write these facts in vain? On the contrary, “… they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal.5:24). Such believers are guided (governed, led and brought) by the Holy Spirit: It is written: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye” (Ps.32:8). God does not entrust His Holy Spirit to everybody but only to those who belong to Him and obey Him (Acts 5:32).
Paul, at the end of his epistle to the Galatians, exhorts them by saying: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal.5:1). Such exhortations and certain other ones were addressed to churches that were recently planted and established. They were not sent to his fellow apostles! They are, nevertheless, valid for all churches throughout the ages. For this reason believers should give heed more abundantly to the things they have heard, lest in any way they should slip away (Heb.2:1).
We conclude, therefore, that believers should be sober and vigilant, because their adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour (1Pet.5:8). Satan tries to take advantage of them (2Cor.2:11). In addition, there shall arise false Christs and false prophets who shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect (Mat.24:24). For this reason, Peter exhorts all believers who know all these things to take care not to be led away along with the error of the wicked, lest they should fall from their own steadfastness (2Pet.3:17).
- 3. One of the main sources of information…
Let us begin with a general but extremely important statement of the Bible:
The apostle Paul says to his brethren in Christ, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom.8:8-14).
I would add, at this point, another verse of great importance: “But if your brother be grieved with your meat, now walk you not charitably. Destroy not him (do not bring to PERDITION – GR) with your meat, for whom Christ died” (Rom.14:15). (Of course it does not only refer to food or drink but to all bad attitude, which could offend our weak brother). And again: “And through your knowledge shall THE WEAK BROTHER PERISH, for whom Christ died” (1Cor.8:11).
4. A fatal misinterpretation of a passage of the Bible
One of the Bible passages or verses that have been misunderstood – source of a widespread confusion – is the following that I open as a parenthesis: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1Cor.3:11-15). Amen, amen and amen!
The apostle Paul speaks, in this passage, about a man’s work, about a man’s fruit and NOT about a man’s sins. Let this point be clearly understood, right from the beginning. He speaks about his work, his ministry and his ministerial activities – call it whatever you like. Now, IF THE BELIEVER – whether an official Christian worker of the Gospel or a simple Christian – commits sins and does not sincerely repent, his sins will not be burned (that is, forgiven) (1Cor.3:14-15). Let me repeat it in another way: If a Christian and much more a Christian worker leads a life in sin or sins and illicit compromises, a life which is not worthy of the high Christian calling of the Gospel, but sins, his sins cannot be “burned” – that is be “forgiven” – unless he repents, confesses them sincerely and rejects them before God and, if necessary, before men.
5. IF, IF, IF………
a) If a Christian tells lies (Eph.4:25; Acts 5:1-11; Rev.21:8) and does sinful compromises;
b) If he makes promises individually or publicly and does not keep them (Rom.1:31);
c) If he thinks one thing, says another thing and does another thing (Ps.17:3);
d) If he invents ways to always excuse himself or justify himself (Luke 14:18-20);
e) If he is not a man of principles and values but a man of opportunities (Ps.15:2, 4);
f) If he does the work of God negligently (Jer.48:10) or behaves like an employee who does just enough in order to avoid being fired by his boss;
g) If he criticizes, condemns, slanders and divides people (Ps.15:3; Mat.24:49; Rom.1:30) instead of praying for their repentance and salvation…
h) If he is dishonest and does not pay his taxes (Rom.13:7);
i) If he has the tendency to judge and not to forgive (Luke 6:37; Rom.2:1 and 1Cor.4:5);
j) If he lords over the flock that God has entrusted unto him (1Pet.5:2-3);
k) If he preaches Christ for envy and strife (Php.1:15-16);
l) If his faith and love are feigned, that is with hypocrisy (Rom.12:9 and 2Tim.1:5);
m) If he has a form of godliness, but is denied the power thereof (2Tim.3:5);
n) If he is an evil worker… whose god is his belly and whose glory is in his shame, who minds earthly things (Php.3:2 and 18-19);
- o) If by good words and fair speeches he deceives the hearts of the simple (Rom.16:18);
p) If he, through covetousness, makes merchandise with feigned words of those who listen to him (2Pet.2:3);
q) If he is unlearned and unstable and wrests the scriptures to his own destruction (2Pet.3:16; 2Cor.2:17), etc.
Some of my readers could add some other kinds of sins… Then, I put the question: Are these kinds of sins going to be burned (that is be forgiven), IF he does not REPENT SINCERELY AND CHANGE HIS WALK ON TIME? None of those who consider the feelings of “guilt” as a mental disease and who have ESPECIALLY deleted from their vocabulary the word “repentance” is going to be saved! Jesus Christ has not repeated in vain His declaration: “I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall ALL likewise PERISH. [………] I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall ALL likewise PERISH » (Luke 13:3-5).
Conclusion: If a Christian and much more a Christian worker leads a life which is not worthy of the Gospel and his high Christian calling, his sins cannot be “burned”, that is be forgiven, and he will be saved as through fire, unless his sins are confessed and rejected. Our known sins must be wholeheartedly confessed and rejected in order to be forgiven!
To be continued…