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Secure As We Endure

This entry is part 21 of 54 in the series

"One Thing Have I Desired"

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The unconditionality of God’s grace is what leads us to the belief that the same grace that chooses also secures. Here is a further motivation for communing with God: our relationship with him is secure and permanent.

To be in Christ is to be as secure in your relationship with God as Christ’s is with the Father. As certain as Christ’s position is before the Father, and as certain as Christ’s position in Heaven is, so is a Christian’s position, because he or she is in Christ.

Consider what this security means.

1) There is no possibility of our being condemned, if we are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Christ has already been condemned for us on the cross. Christ has already been made a curse for us on the cross. A sin will not be punished twice by a just God.

2) No accusation, persecution or tribulation can remove us from Christ. Christ has already taken care of the charge-sheet against us, and is now on our side (Col 2:13, Romans 8:31-39).

3) God himself pledges never to forsake the relationship, and to never allow anyone to pluck us out of his hand (Hebrews 13:5, John 10:27-29).

4) We have eternal life already (1 John 5:12-13). If it were possible for us to have Christ’s life and then lose it, such life would certainly not be eternal in quality. It would be temporary: a life that began and died within us. To be in Christ, to have the Son, is to presently possess life that will not end.

5) Our inheritance is reserved, and glorification in Christ is guaranteed (1 Peter 1:4-5,1 Peter 5:10 Romans 8:30). If our justification has occurred, then our glorification is inextricably linked to it.

6) God gives us a guarantee of this by the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 4:30). God assures us that he will remain with us and work in us till the day of Christ by having the unchanging Holy Spirit take up permanent residence within us. A deposit of his own Spirit dramatically announces that God will not abandon us, anymore than he would abandon himself.

No condemnation by God, no separation from God, no desertion by God, no cessation of eternal life, no halt of God’s work in us, and a guarantee of glory given by the presence of the Holy Spirit: this is the security we have in Christ.

If marriage is the picture of our perichoresis with Christ, we might do well to ask: how permanent is marriage meant to be? Is not the permanence of the marriage covenant exactly what provides the stability and security for husband and wife to keep communing with each other and working at their relationship? If your actions on a given day could end a marriage, what chance would any marriage have? In any relationship, security produces a healthy desire to please, not appease. Once again, a sense of security strengthens our desire to remain in God’s presence.

Then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:17-22)

Passive or Active Assurance?

The objection to the truth of security in Christ is that it may promote lawlessness and passivity. Paul himself anticipated that kind of objection (Rom 6:1, 15, Gal 5:13). Certainly, some have misunderstood the nature of faith in God’s security, thinking that such promises can be assumed to apply because of a one-time act of faith.

This would be false. God promises to save and glorify those who trust his Son. The way we know that we have truly believed to salvation is by a present-tense faith which continues to trust and obey. We see this most clearly in Colossians 1:21-23:

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Notice that Paul regards God’s past work of reconciliation and his future work of glorification as a completed and guaranteed act, performed by God. Paul then places a condition on the reality of those works for believers in verse 23. God’s completed works are true of us “if we continue in the faith.” Verse 23 is not speaking about retaining your salvation; it is speaking about possessing your salvation. It is not a condition to keep yourself saved; it is the condition you must meet to prove yourself to be saved. If that faith is absent, there is no reason to think you have been reconciled or will be presented before God one day. We can know that we have been placed in Christ, if we continue to trust in Christ.

For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end (Hebrews 3:14)

The faith that saves us at the start is the faith that saves us to the end (Col 2:6-7). We must continue to trust Christ as our Lord and Saviour throughout our lives. When we speak of the Christian life as the life of faith, we do so intentionally. To abandon the life of faith is an act of spiritual asphyxiation.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14)

Those who ‘fall away’ from the faith reveal that they did not fall away from an actual position, but from an apparent one. Believers with genuine faith do not deny Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. They do not turn from him as their righteousness and only hope. They do not go back to false religion, humanism, atheism, or legalism. This kind of apostasy is what the warning passages of Hebrews condemn (Hebrews 6:4-8, 10:26-31).

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David de Bruyn

About David de Bruyn

David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary and Minnesota and the University of South Africa (D.Th.). Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa. He also blogs at Churches Without Chests.

9 Responses to Secure As We Endure

  1. Thanks David. You seem to have covered it all, yet I would like to ask about faith once more: since we are “saved by faith through grace”, what if that faith is no longer there? You seem to take the position that if someone lost faith, it wasn’t real faith to start with. Do the Scriptures not contradict this position?
    1) “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1.Tim 1:19) – the same expression is used by Paul in 3:9 and then in Titus 1:9, to indicate the preservation of something one already has.
    2) “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (Tit 5:8) – it seems impossible to deny something one has not previously held.

    As a consequence, salvation would be lost whenever the mechanism of salvation, which works through faith, becomes dysfunctional. A marriage can be dissolved by either side. If one party loses faith and trust in the other, the marriages becomes dysfunctional and may well end in a divorce.

  2. Martin,

    Good question. The answer lies in whether Scripture has the category of ‘apparent’ faith. If it could be shown that the Bible distinguishes between a kind of faith that professes, but lacks genuine possession, then we would be looking at a pseudo-faith in the passages you quote.
    I think James answer this definitively, when he speaks of ‘faith by itself’ or ‘faith without works’ which is dead. Here we see a part of faith, recognisable as faith, but not the whole and genuine article, making it dead, false or pseudo-faith.

    The nature of genuine faith is that it is given by God and is sustained by God, (Jude 1;24, 1 Pet 1:4-5, Phil 1:6). The Arminian will of course say I am begging the question in saying that true faith endures to the end, assuming my true/counterfeit view of faith in my premises. My response is that the passages which seem to show conditional salvation (Heb 6, John 15) are ambiguous, whereas the Scriptures that show eternal security (John 10:28, Rom 8) are unambiguous. We ought to interpret the unclear passages using the clear passages, not the other way around.
    With that in mind, it seems most consistent to me to uphold a distinction between true and false faith (best illustrated in the parable of the soils, I think) and view eternal security as true of those with true faith, rather than conditional security as true of any faith.

  3. I think one of the clearest examples of this is in John 8.31-47.

    Verse 31 says Jesus is addressing “Jews who had believed in him,” but the whole discourse is about how they are seeking to kill him and are of their father the devil because they are slaves to sin.

    Unsaved believers!

  4. Thank you David – I expected there would be a rebuttal to my argument.

    Considering Scott’s example, I find it problematic since it is taken from an era before Pentecost, i.e. before the enactment of the New Covenant. Jesus is here speaking to people who are still under the Old Covenant, trying to prepare them for the new that is yet to come. As such, they are obviously not yet believers and also not saved by the blood of Christ. Jesus himself puts Peter’s salvation in the future (Lk 22:32).

    On what you wrote, I’d like to try to distinguish different kinds of faith. I think it is legitimate to say there is a) saving faith and b) faith as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The former is basic faith in the existence of God, his love for us and the sacrificial death of Christ who took our sins away. The latter is the result of a knowledge of Christ that springs from on-going revelation and walking with God over time. I can only see one degree to a) but surely, various levels or depths of faith for b).

    If we lack a), we can obviously not be saved. If we lack b), we are still immature but will hopefully keep growing. Which of these is James talking about when speaking of works? I would submit it is b). Likewise, many think that Hebrews 11 is about b). Of course, lack of b) eventually shows something, too – either we were never saved or we lost it. Jude, as it seems to me, speaks of yet another aspect in his letter, i.e. the object of faith (the faith delivered to the saints) as opposed to a faith in a false gospel. It follows that faith in such a gospel cannot save.

    Jn 10:28 seems to be qualified by the preceding verse, which says those who will be saved are they who follow him. Clearly, anyone who would decide at some point not to follow Jesus anymore would then be excluded. Romans 8 (38-39?) seems to be taken out of context: rather than a promise of eternal security, it is an affirmation of the love of God even in the midst of troubles and persecutions. It may be that Paul was preparing his fellow Christians for the persecution that was to come, encouraging them not to deny their faith (a possibility according to Paul, see 2.Tim 2:12, and according to Jesus, see Lk 12:9).

    If Paul says that faith was reckoned to Abraham unto righteousness (Rom 4:9), and is so to anyone who believes and that we also stand by faith (11:20; 2.Cor 1:24) then this is about a continuing faith, not just an initial faith for salvation. Gal 3:9 seems to settle it: we are with Abraham as long as we are of faith – a faith that works by love (5:6). Col 1:23 further encourages us to continue in the faith. 1.Tim 5:12 seems to link this initial faith with the on-going faith, and speaks of those who have cast off their first faith, therefore having damnation. It does not say they never came to real faith but that they rejected it. 2.Tim 2:18 states our faith can be overthrown. This, in turn, fits in with Paul saying he kept the faith (2.Tim 4:7) and also with the parable of the sower (Mt 13) where they believe initially but then no longer.

    So, at the risk of repeating the perpetual discussion around these questions, should we not see salvation as a process, rather than just an event? The Bible speaks of having been saved, as well as that we shall be saved (Rom 5:10; 1.Cor 3:15; 1.Tim 2:15). There is a journey in-between, as in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Process.

  5. Martin,

    Certainly salvation is a process, begun by the event of regeneration. And without doubt, faith must endure to the end for a person to be saved. The real questions are: 1) is the nature of salvation something which can be terminated or undone 2) is the means of sustaining this process, in the final analysis, something which we do?

    On the first point, I struggle to understand how one could be ‘unjustified’, i.e. declared guilty again, or unregenerated, i.e. eternal life dying, or unsealed, i.e.e the Spirit being torn off us before the day of redemption. If salvation is a process which can cease if we remove ourselves from Christ, then Scripture has used metaphors which easily mislead us into thinking that a very complete work is performed and imputed to us at the moment of initial faith, one which will continue to work itself out, and will not fail (either the work, or its fruit, our faith). Once again, the onus is on those who believe salvation is conditional to explain how Christ’s work can be ‘unimputed’ or God’s verdict rescinded, since clear Scriptures give us the idea that the work is full and complete, whereas ambiguous Scriptures give us the idea that it is only as complete as our faith is strong. That leads to the second question.

    By way of illustration, let us imagine we are in an elevator. The elevator has a big red button labelled ‘up’. Upon pushing the button, the elevator, with a jolt, lurches upwards. If the button is kept depressed, the elevator keeps ascending. If you lift your finger, the elevator jolts to a halt. If you make it to the top floor, what was the mechanism by which you made it there? Your now aching finger. Though the elevator provided the actual transportation, it was passive unless your finger began and sustained the work. We can credit you and your finger for your arrival on the top floor. To picture faith as the means of ‘keeping ourselves in Christ’ is rather similar. Christ is the saving vehicle, but He will save you and complete the saving process only as long as your faith keeps you in Him. Step out (release the button) and you die. So in the final analysis, what takes you to Heaven? Oh, all will be quick to say the grace of God and Christ alone, but if we push hard enough, it is clear that in this way of thinking, grace is potential and Christ is potential, and self-sustained faith is the decisive mover and final cause. Even if we agree that the Holy Spirit is the source of faith, if we say such faith can fail, then we are attributing such a failure to ourselves and not the Spirit, meaning, in some ways, our arrival in heaven is equally to be attributed to ourselves.

    To adjust the illustration: There are two elevators. One looks attractive only to one genuinely drawn by God. The others all get into the other elevator, and exit at various floors, not being willing to keep the red button pressed for the long haul. In the other elevator, a kind and bulky stranger stands next to you, with his hand over yours. At just the moment you feel you can no longer keep the button pressed, he pushes down on your finger and enables you to keep pressing. When you reach the top, it is because you kept pressing. But you kept pressing because you were enabled to do so, so no glory to you or your pressing ability.

  6. Well put. You reduced it to the central questions 1) and 2). Does ‘saved by grace through faith’ mean we contribute towards salvation by exering our faith or does God do it all? Do we even have to push the button?

    These are the moments when I’d like for Paul to resurrect a little earlier so he can explain a few things :-)

  7. Martin,

    If you resurrected Paul to ask him whether faith is a work (or “contribution towards salvation” in the way that Calvinism wants to make it), I think he’d probably just sigh and point you to Romans 4.

    There, the division is pretty clear between works and faith: In fact, he contrasts them directly.

    Paul seems to have no problem whatsoever in saying that, on the one hand, Abraham has faith. It’s HIS faith, and HE is the one doing the faith-having (so yes, he does have to “push the button”). And on the other, it’s ALL on God’s grace that counts that faith as righteousness.

    Paul spells it out as plainly as possible. I literally can’t imagine how he could make it any plainer, without just repeating himself over and over. The only confusion comes because Calvinists like to accuse Arminians of making salvation dependent on works, and the only way they can do that is by classifying faith as a work…even though Paul explicitly denies that categorization.

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