Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Can Salvation Be Lost? (Part III)

Christianity is not a religion of works; it is the religion of grace. Ours is not a faith where we make ourselves worthy of salvation; ours is a faith in God’s granting us salvation because of Christ’s worthiness. It’s not what we do; it’s what He did.

So does this mean that a Christian can do whatever he likes, and he’s safe?


Even Paul recognized that there would be those who would ask this question:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)

“God's grace has covered all my sin - I'm in the clear!!” There are many who call themselves Christian and take God's grace as a licence for immorality. Paul, in this passage, says NO! We have “died to sin, he says” - a true believer has put his sinful nature to death. The chains of sin have been broken in the life of a true Christian. To continue to serve sin would be proof that one is still sin's slave - and no man can serve two masters.

Yes, Christians are saved by grace. It is a gift of God, completely undeserved, totally unearned by human behaviour. God's grace does NOT depend on how good we behave. BUT -- Paul also says we are saved by grace THROUGH faith. God's grace works through genuine faith. And James, in his letter, tells us what true, saving faith looks like. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” he says (2:17). A faith that does not reveal itself through actions is no faith at all. It is a dead faith. It is a false faith. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (2:14) No!

So many Christians I know have a firm understanding of the relationship of works to faith. They say, correctly, that true faith will show itself by good works. Why is it so hard to go one more step and see the application of this Biblical truth to the question of salvation? A saved person will prove his salvation by his faith, and thus by his works and the fruit of the Spirit.

So though grace does not depend on good behaviour, good behaviour certainly depends on grace. Or, in other words, we are unable to honour God without His grace - and if His grace is in our lives, that grace WILL produce good behaviour. Genuine faith produces genuine fruits in a person's life. Jesus said, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:18-20)

We have a similar saying these days: “If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” A true Christian will be identifiable by his fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. A true Christian will prove it by his lifestyle.

A person who says he holds to “once-saved, always saved,” and thinks he can sin without consequence, provides serious grounds to doubt whether he is saved at all. A saved Christian will have the Holy Spirit – he will have been regenerated, had his heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh. The Spirit will, over time, change the person to be more and more like Christ. And so a truly saved Christian abhors sin; he hates evil, detests wrongdoing, despises that part of his nature that tends toward sin. A true Christian fears sin and works to avoid it - not because he fears punishment and hell, but because sin is repellent to him. A “Christian” who thinks sin is of no consequence does not have God's view of sin - and this begs the question: has he truly repented, if he doesn't appreciate just how horrible sin is?

Now, this doesn’t mean that a Christian who stumbles is lost and is not saved. As long as we live in this world, we will have a sinful nature and will feel its effects. Christians will struggle with sin, and temptation, as long as they have a sinful nature - remember James' words? He who claims to be without sin lies. But a true Christian will not persist in a lifestyle or pattern of sinful behaviour. For a saved Christian, sin will always result in conviction by the Holy Spirit, and will always lead to repentance. An unrepentant sinner cannot be a Christian.

So we see that the Biblical position – that held by the Reformers – is the “middle ground” between two extremes: one which holds that one’s own efforts to keep himself in a “state of grace” is vital for salvation, and the other which claims that salvation merely requires belief in Christ and that sinfulness doesn’t matter anymore afterward.

A true Christian will watch for sin in his or her life, continually confessing it to God and praying for His grace to fight it. A true Christian strives to live a truly holy life, not to earn or keep one’s salvation, but because sin offends him or her, because it is repugnant and disgusting to him or her. True Christians, that have been washed in the blood of Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, love Christ their Saviour like a bride loves her bridegroom. No girl wants to be filthy and repellent to the man she loves, and no Christian wants to appear soiled and dirty with sin before the Bridegroom of the Church.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) THIS is the Christian motivation for holiness – love, not fear of the loss of one’s salvation. And this heartfelt, abiding love for Christ, this disgust for sin, this deep respect for God’s holiness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit – and a mark of a saved Christian.


Blogger Brad Jones said...

Jeff, I posted a small response to your comment on my blog...hope it helps

6:19 AM  

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