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The Perseverance of the Saints, part 2

November 3, 2015

Grace to you! Last week we saw that some Christians think you can lose your salvation and some believe you can never lose your salvation. But we pointed out that the historic teaching of the perseverance of the saints brings together the bible verses both sides seek to use for their positions. The tension in scripture we find is this: we are told that God will keep forever those who trust in Him but people are also warned about the danger of falling away from the living God. So how do these various passages fit together and what do they mean for us today?

Let’s consider a couple of points. First, we have to determine whether the scripture is speaking from God’s viewpoint or an outsider looking on type of view. For example, when a passage speaks about God completing what He started (Phillipians 1:6), it is speaking from God’s standpoint. God who not only knows but has ordained the beginning and the end can speak confidently that He will “lose none but raise them up on the last day.” (John 6:39)

But if a scripture verse is written from a human’s eye viewpoint, then it can speak with some uncertainty about a person’s final destiny. Consider how Paul talks about how Christ has reconciled us a completed action but then adds the conditional phrase “if you continue in the faith.” (Colossians 1:21-22) Wait a minute Paul! How can you say I am saved but then say only “if you continue in the faith”?! Paul says this as an outsider looking at a person’s life. Paul doesn’t know what God knows. How do I know someone is a Christian? Only by them persevering or continuing in the faith. A true believer will never quit following Jesus. From my viewpoint, I can’t ultimately see inside someone’s heart to know if they are bona fide true believer in Christ. So I can say like Paul that I see that you are a Christian “if you continue in the faith.” Since I have limited knowledge about your true eternal state, I’d have to speak conditionally. When God looks at us, He can say fully what He will do for His people. As a limited human being like Paul was, I have to speak conditionally about your eternal destiny in terms of you persevering in following Jesus.

Second, salvation is conditional if understood in the right way. Along the same lines as above, our faith is ever trusting. It’s not that we just at one time believed in Jesus, but we keep on believing in Jesus. “The just shall live by his faith.” (Romans 1:17) Salvation is conditional in that a person has persevering faith. It’s not that someone was truly saved and then could lose it. It’s that those who were truly saved will keep on believing from when they first came to Christ until they meet Christ in glory! Those who don’t continue in faith show they never were Christians in the first place! (See 1 John 2:19) Next week we will look at how the warning passages about the possibility of falling away relate to our Christian lives.

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