Every Wednesday we’ll post something having to do with doctrine and purity. Hope it helps.
Eternally Secure, Perpetually Striving
One of Christianity’s longest running arguments has to do with the believer’s security. If one has been born again, can he ever lose his salvation? If so, how? And, once lost, can it ever be retrieved?
I’m not entirely settled on the issue myself. Some of my favorite scriptures (and indeed, ones I draw no small comfort from) bolster the “once saved, always saved” position. “No man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hands” (John 10:29) for example, and “There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”(Romans 8:1) Ditto for “He is able to save to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25) and “ye who are kept by the power of God.” (I Peter 1:5) Indeed, if we’re saved, as Paul told Titus, “not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5) then my works, righteous or not, don’t figure into the salvation equation. But I’m also sobered to consider Christ’s warning that if a man does not abide in him he is “cast forth as a withered branch and thrown into the fire” (John 15:6) and Paul’s description of some as “having damnation because they’ve cast off their faith.” (I Timothy 5:12) Save it; I’ve heard all the pro and con interpretations of these verses, so I know exactly how both Calvinist and Arminianist would explain them. All of which leaves me preferring the idea of eternal security (who wouldn’t?) while not being entirely convinced of it.
You’re in good company, wherever you stand. My all-time hero Charles Spurgeon was true-blue Calvinist firmly holding to the once-saved-always-saved position. Yet my spiritual father and favorite Bible teacher Chuck Smith does not fully endorse the position and my denomination, the Assemblies of God, officially rejects it. So honestly, I can’t see this as an essential doctrinal issue, and while debating it can be enlightening, I hope none of us would break fellowship over it.
I prefer, instead, to focus on what we do know about future judgment, including this: The great white throne judgment described in Revelation, at which those whose names aren’t written in the Book of Life are consigned to eternal damnation (Revelation 20:11-15) isn’t the only judgment people face after death. There’s also, for the believer, the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10) before which we who’ve been born again will stand, and at which we’ll face bestowal of, or loss of, eternal rewards. (I Corinthians 3: 12-15) And while heaven or hell won’t be the issues we face there, the believer’s gain or loss at that hearing will be momentous.
So Jesus encouraged us to lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20) referring to heavenly rewards in quantities (Matthew 5:12), and Paul compared our earthly life to an athletic contest in which competitors strive for a crown:
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”(I Corinthians 9:25)
No wonder, then, he (Paul) referred to himself as a man who “presses on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) Surely he of all people knew his good works could never save him, but he likewise knew he was in a race, striving to give it his best to please His Lord and receive the rewards he’d been encouraged by that same Lord to go for. He was saved, and eternally secure in that knowledge, while still zealous to be a faithful, diligent steward of the temporal gifts and responsibilities he’d been given.
Us, too, I hope. It’s discouraging to hear a believer say “If I’m saved and that’s unchangeable, why should I bother resisting sin? Why not kick back, enjoy whatever I want, then go home to Glory with my fire insurance policy all paid up?” That shows a remarkably immature view of our relationship to God, and a general ignorance of the fact that eternity isn’t just about heaven or hell, but also – and largely – about the eternal rewards, or loss thereof, given for faithful stewardship in this temporal life.
I’m secure. I’m striving. No contradiction there, only a deep, and ever deepening, desire to run this race, finish this course and say, as Paul did shortly before his own was finished:
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (II Timothy 4:8)