I’ve said before in this blog that the job of the expositor is to let the text of Scripture reveal the main idea and then speak about that idea. It is not (especially on a Sunday context) the normal habit to pick out a few key topics out of the text that might not fit into the main theme/idea of the text. Those times are reserved for more specific doctrinal studies, blog posts (like this one), or classes where nuances of ideas might be discussed.
That happened this past Sunday. The main idea in 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 is about Christian perseverance and the dangers of sinful cravings. So, my job on Sunday, was to preach/teach about that. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some challenging questions that might arise from things in this text. So, let me take some time in this blog to write about those things.
Can a Christian lose their salvation?
When you read this text, especially when you see that the Old Testament people were “overthrown in the wilderness” or “were destroyed by the Destroyer”, it creates some challenges for us. Were these people Christians? What happened to them? And what does this mean for us? Is it possible for us to be lost, be found, then be lost again?
Well, the good thing for us is that Scripture is full of things that are helpful. Let me just run through several thoughts about this (in no particular order) that I hope will help clear up the confusion:
- If we are “dead in our trespasses” and God “makes us alive”, it is impossible for us to become “dead in our trespasses” again. In other words, if God’s power saves us, God’s power will keep us.
- Further, if we were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” and He is the “guarantee of our inheritance until we require possession of it” (Ephesians 1:13-14), then no one (that includes us) has the authority to break the seal of the Holy Spirit. This seal is under the authority of God and kept by the power of God.
- Finally, if God “chose us before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) and “in love, predestined us for adoption as sons” (Ephesians 1:5) it makes no sense that God would not have the power to make sure we get home.
So, what about those who fell? Or what about the person who claims Jesus, but doesn’t seem to live like it? Or what if a person says they “walked away from the faith” even after years of serving Christ? Again, here’s my response in no particular order:
- Being a Christian is more than “claiming” to have faith in Jesus. Christian faith will produce a change in life (albeit different from one person to the next).
- Being a Christian is a “long-term” issue. As I said yesterday, it’s about long-term faithfulness. This does not mean perfection but it does mean that over the long haul, there’s a “face turned upward” to God. True Christians will persevere to the end.
- God is the ultimate judge of a person’s salvation. I know of several who at one time seemed to be walking with God and they have seemingly walked away. My response: only God knows what He’s doing with them and when I get to heaven, I’ll find out. Personally, I think we’ve done lots of danger to people when we’ve told them they’re not Christians or we’ve acted as their judge. A better response, in my opinion, is to bring the concerns you have about the way the person is living, to the person, and trust that God will do His work in them to turn them. Then…leave them in His hands.
- Now, with that said, while we’re not the judge of each other’s salvation, I do think we’re called to do some fruit-inspecting. And when the fruit is rotten, we should address that with the person. And go farther, if necessary, according to Matthew 18:15-21. But our goal of this is bring them face-to-face with the danger that’s in front of them (very similar to Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10).
- Finally, all of us, and I mean everyone of us, should be on guard against self-righteousness and pride, in thinking “we’d never fall” or “we’d never do something like that”. Galatians 6 is a good warning: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” (italics mine)
One last thing on this: the book of Hebrews does a great job of showing us the danger of not persevering and being captivated by our sinful cravings. And the lesson of the early chapters of Hebrews is this: ““Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8, 15; 4:7). What a great lesson…today, today, today…over and over again.
“Once saved always saved vs. Perseverance of the saints”:
These phrases are often misunderstood so let me attempt to write on this briefly. First, there is a difference between these two statements in modern Christianity: the first one seems to say, “once I say I believe in Jesus, I’m good”, while the other states, “Christians will make it to the end, being Christians”. Second, there is a similarity in these statements, if understood correctly. It might be better to say, “once truly saved a saint will persevere to the end” or to say “once truly saved a Christian will always be saved”. Finally, there are two concerns on different sides that we need to address: 1) there’s the danger of giving false assurance to false converts. The church does this more often than we admit and it’s a practice that must be stopped. This has caused many to have the false impression that because something seemed to have happened when they were younger, yet they have no faith experience when they’re older, they’re “ok spiritually”. This is a concern that the church must really think about. 2) there’s the danger of true converts doubting their salvation all the time. Listen, if you’re concerned about your salvation, chances are, you’ve got nothing to be concerned about, because you wouldn’t be concerned about it, if you weren’t. So, we’ve got to find a balance here and Scripture seems to do that for us: true Christians will make it to the end. They will persevere, turn from sin, and will not be held captive to rebellious, willful sin.
Coming up next:
This coming Sunday, we will talk about being loyal to Christ as we look at 1 Corinthians 10:15-22.
From the Cheap Seats:
- It is a very special run that Manchester City is on right now. And one of the things I’m watching for is signs of complacency or “looking too far ahead”. I learn lots of life lessons from sports and it’s very interesting right now to hear Pep Guardiola (City’s manager) say “this game is our focus”. It reminds of things I just wrote about…today, today, today.
- I’m eager to get OSAA sports going. I feel awful for our student-athletes, especially since they seem to be in the “less vulnerable” population. At UVC, soccer officially begins today and I’m looking forward to watching my friend, Chris Guastaferro’s last soccer season as the UVC head coach. Chris has done a great job and I’m glad my son has played for him. Even though he’s a Chelsea fan:).
- I missed last weeks’ blog, but for your viewing enjoyment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLbpuFK5Bps. I know my team stinks, but these sights and sounds are awesome!
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.