Thursday, December 9, 2010

Always Saved? Part II

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

This passage in Galatians clearly contrasts the life without Christ and the life with Christ. The characteristics found in verses 19-21 are those of a person who is without Christ. The true believer ought to display the characteristics found in verses 22-23. We are to have “crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof". However, we know we are not without sin (1 John 1:8), and we know that when we do sin, we can have our fellowship with God restored (1 John 1:9). But what about the believer who falls back into a repeated pattern of sin, whose life begins to resemble the characteristics of the flesh described above. Is the passage in Galatians telling us that such a person has lost his salvation when it says, “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”?
To answer this, we need to consider what the word “salvation” means. Salvation means deliverance from the power and consequences of sin. This deliverance begins at the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and continues until the day Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6). Deliverance is both an accomplished fact and a process. Our lives are still affected by sin and will be until the day Jesus returns. This is a bit of a paradox. I have been saved for eternity, but I still battle with sin in my life now. I need to experience each day God’s deliverance from sin. How much I experience this deliverance depends upon my willingness to yield to the Holy Spirit. Each day I have the opportunity to grow closer to Christ, each day as I surrender to the influence of the Holy Spirit, I experience more of the blessings that are mine in Christ’s kingdom. In contrast, each day I do not surrender to the influence of the Holy Spirit, but instead walk according to my own fleshly nature, I do not receive the blessings of God’s kingdom.

The believer who has fallen back to live mostly in the flesh is most miserable indeed. He is not receiving the blessings which are his inheritance as one of God’s own, yet he cannot be truly happy in his life of sin because of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit within him. The question is whether the Holy Spirit ever leaves the child of God making him no longer a child of God. Scripture tells us that the Spirit can be “grieved” (Ephesians 4:30--saddened, given grief) and quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19—His influence is suppressed). The disobedient believer may be removed from this world (Acts 5:1-10; 1 Corinthians 11:29-32), but nowhere in the New Testament do we see the Holy Spirit being removed from the believer In fact, in Ephesians 4:30 where it says, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption”, there is no warning to the believer that he might lose the Holy Spirit, but rather an affirmation that he is sealed by the Holy Spirit. Consider this, if one seals an envelope, it is sealed. That which is inside the envelope cannot break the seal. The Holy Spirit seals the believer in Christ. The believer cannot break that seal. Only the One Who made that seal, God himself, can break it, and He will not.

So then, does a child cease being a child of God, because of sin? If so, we all are constantly falling out of that position because according to I John 1:8 we all do continue to sin. Some address this by saying that we are no longer God’s child when we do great sin or habitually sin. This type of supposition completely destroys any security in Christ. For if one accepts this idea, then how do I know what the limit is? How can I ever be sure I have not sinned away my salvation?

Consider John 3:3 which states that a believer is “born again”. 2 Corinthians 5:17 calls the believer a “new creation”. Can a child once born be then unborn? Can a new creation be uncreated? The position of the believer as described in Scripture is a permanent one. Consider the parable of the “prodigal son”. The son spends his inheritance. He loses all, turning from his father, until he languishes in the misery he made for himself, and finally comes to his senses and returns to his father who never gave up on his son. Did he stop being his father’s son at any point in the story? Of course not. And so it is with a believer who wanders away from God. He may be disciplined (Hebrews 12:7-8). Or God may choose to take him home early (1 Corinthians 11: 29-32). But in either case, a true child of God never ceases to be a child of God.

Notice the reference here is to a “true child of God”. There are those who associate with Christians, act like Christians, and think they are Christians. These are so Christian like that they even have convinced themselves, much less those around them that they are children of God. These are those that are the “stony ground” described in the parable of the sower. These are those that live a Christian-like life until they fall away when it no longer suits them. These are they that never had any root. They were never born again. They may have said a prayer. They may have gotten active in church, but only God knows their true heart. These have not lost their salvation, for they never had any to begin with.

So, how can one be sure he is a child of God? John 1:12 tells us if any will receive Him, meaning Jesus, he has the power to become a child of God. To receive, means to accept Him as Lord and Savior, giving your life to Him. Romans 10:13 says whosoever shall call shall be saved. The Bible is clear God calls us, we receive. So blessed are the words of John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Only God can save. Only God can keep.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Once Saved—Always Saved (or is Eternal Security a Biblical Doctrine?)

“How can you say that a Christian cannot lose his salvation? You are teaching that a person can do whatever he wants and still get to heaven?” The words were spoken in an angry tone after a church service during which I had spoken on the topic commonly referred to as “eternal security”. The person responding was clearly agitated and insisted that my teaching was giving people a blank check to do whatever they want with no fear of eternal repercussions. I assured her that this was the farthest thing from my intentions and that a true believer will not want to continue on in sin because he now has the Spirit of God within. However this lady was not fully convinced. She went on to give examples of those she knew that were once believers, but now were living in the deepest sin. My answer to this was one that is commonly given in such situations—that such a person in so living was demonstrating that he had not been truly saved in the first place. The individual confronting me seemed placated at this but kept saying, “Just so long as you’re not giving people permission to sin.”

This incident has caused me to more carefully scrutinize what I believe according to Scripture and to consider how I express the Truth to others. As the apostle Paul, I certainly do not believe that we have permission from God to do whatever we want once we have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. When confronted by this very issue, Paul said, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein (Romans 6:1-2)?” Paul’s point is that we have been saved from sin. We have been released from its bondage. Consequently, why should we want to go back? “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)”, are Paul’s words to the Philippians. Taken in context, we realize Paul was not saying that their salvation depended on their work, nor does this fear and trembling referred to in this passage say that they were to fear losing their eternal salvation. The term work refers to exercising or making full use of our salvation which is our deliverance from sin. The fear and trembling refer to the danger of falling back under the influence of sin.

We tend to confuse the terms eternal life and salvation. Salvation means deliverance from sin and the consequences of sin. Eternal life is one of the results of salvation. Those who use Philippians 2:12 to prove that our continued salvation is dependent on us, often fail to quote the following verse which says, “For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.” God is the One who works out the salvation from sin in our lives. The emphasis is on God here and not on us. Paul never advocated that Jesus brings us salvation us, but we have to keep it. In fact, Paul emphasized that God saves and keeps in Philippians 1:6 where he states, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ.”

The point of all this is that it is God who saves and keeps. Romans 8 states that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-38: 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 thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that 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 creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.) I am thankful for a salvation from which I cannot be separated.