by Rick Pidcock
When I believed that I could lose my salvation, my belief was indeed driven by what I saw in Scripture. To this day, I cannot deny that there are alot of “If you” statements in Scripture. So what happened to these verses? Did they just disappear? Am I conveniently ignoring them simply because they do not fit into my theological system? I’d like to use this post to share with you how even those “If you” statements ultimately point us to our hope in God.
Let’s take a few of these passages one at a time, and then show how they ultimately point us to grace.
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”–Matthew 24:13
This verse explicitly says that only those who endure to the end will be saved. It was one of the most logical verses then for me to use in order to prove that there are certain people who will not endure, and ultimately end up losing their salvation.
Now I could conveniently become a dispensationalist and say that this verse does not apply to the church. However, if I were to do that, then I would be giving God a multiple personality disorder when it comes to salvation, as if during some periods of time He is Arminean, and at other times He is Calvinist.
Left to itself, completely divorced from the greater context of Scripture, we could run wild with speculation about this verse. So for now, let’s be content to say what it simply says–namely that those who endure to the end will be saved.
“If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.”–2 Timothy 2:12
Once again, you can’t get more clear than, “If we deny Him, He will also deny us.” The typical response that many eternal security proponents would use to answer this verse was to insert the word “blessings” after the word “us.” But it doesn’t say that He will deny us blessings. It says that He will deny us.
Again, taken completely out of the greater context of Scripture, this verse seems to be clearly promoting the view that a Christian can get to the point where he can deny Christ and lose his salvation. So for now, let’s be content to say what it simply says–that if we deny Him, He will deny us.
A few very significant problems arise here. The first problem is my knowledge of myself. I know that my heart, my will power, and my faith are very fragile. How do I have any confidence that I will not deny Christ? And the second problem is the vagueness of where the line would be of denying Christ. James 2:10 says that if I fail in one point, that I am guilty of breaking the whole law. So if I were to fail in one point, then I would be breaking the law of denying Christ, and would thus lose my salvation.
Are you feeling the fear and helplessness beginning to strangle you?
How do we know that we will not deny Him? How do we know that we will endure? What assurance do we have?
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.”–Colossians 1:21-23
This is yet another passage that seems to be saying that we will be saved only if we continue in the faith. But if you take a closer look, is that what it is really saying?
Notice the language here. It says, “And you…He has now reconciled…if indeed you continue in the faith.” In other words, you can know that you have now already been reconciled, if you continue in the faith. Continuing in the faith is not the condition for being reconciled. It is the proof of being reconciled. It does not say that you will be reconciled if you continue. It says that you have been reconciled if you continue.
That may provide some temporary relief. But we’re still stuck with some of those other verses that I mentioned earlier. So what do we know for sure at this point? We know that those who persevere to the end will be saved, and that persevering to the end is the proof of being reconciled.
Here is where we examine our hope. The truest Arminean will take these verses and run with it. He will do everything possible to make sure that he continues in the faith and does not deny Christ. He will set up extra safety precautions to make sure of this. He will punish himself if he fails. And he will live in an ever deepening state of depression and fear. Then he will try to save others by forcing his fears and safety precautions on them. And in the end, his only hope for peace will be to push everything out of his mind.
But is that the good news that Christ died to give us? Is that the truth that sets us free? Is that the “rest” that Christ promises? How do we know that we will persevere?
1. The Father predestined us to persevere before the world began.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”–Romans 8:29-30
God knew a certain group of people before the world began with a personal, experiential, relational knowledge. His foreknowledge is not merely knowing about us, or what we would do. It is the type of knowledge that a husband and wife have of one another. And for those that God knew specifically in this way, He predestined that they would be conformed to the image of His Son. Then He called us with an effectual call, and declared us righteous in justification.
It also says that He “glorified” us. But how can it say that in the past tense, if it is something that has not yet happened? This is a greek usage that uses the past tense as the strongest guarantee of a future event. It means that it is so sure to happen, that it has basically already happened. And it all began with the Father predestining us to being conformed into Christ’s image before the foundation of the world.
2. The Holy Spirit is transforming us.
“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.”–2 Cor. 3:18
We did not will ourseves into Christ. The Holy Spirit transformed our souls by breathing life into us (Eph. 2:4) and granting to us the gift of repentant faith (Eph. 2:8; Acts 13:48).
Now He is transforming us to be more and more like Christ. Because we are “being transformed,” it is something that God is doing in us. Even our response of repentant faith is something that God produces and causes in us (Ezekiel 36:26-27). He is the Potter that is molding us by His sovereign grace as vessels of mercy into His image (Rom. 9:21-23). And as He transforms us, we behold the glory of the Lord.
3. Christ will sustain us.
“So that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”–1 Cor. 1:7-9
The word “sustain” means, “to make firm, establish, confirm, make sure.” In other words, Christ is making sure that we will be guiltless in the day that He returns.
4. The Sovereignty of the Trinity guarantees completion.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”–Phil. 1:6
Salvation is the sovereign work of God. It originates and finishes in Him. If He began the work of foreknowing, predestining, calling, and justifying you, then He will bring it to completion. Not might. Not try to. Not hopefully. But He will do it.
So what about those who claim to know Christ, but ultimately deny Him?
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”–1 John 2:19
Those that ultimately deny Christ leave the presence of believers, but were never truly “of us.” If they were of us, then no doubt, they would have continued. Why? Because every Person of the Trinity guarantees that every person of the chosen and predestined Body of Christ will continue to the end.
It is true that only those that endure to the end will be saved. It is true that those who deny Christ will be denied by Him. But our hope for perseverence lies not in our will, effort, obedience, or faith. It lies in a sovereign Trinity that guaranteed before the foundation of the world to begin and complete the work of salvation in His chosen people. Thus, as Sovereign Grace pastor Mark Alderton says, “Reconciliation guarantees continuation.”