I received the following questions:
I understand that it was God’s initiative of grace towards us that we even stand a chance at being saved. And, that it is through faith, the work of God, that we do get saved. The work of God seems to be that we esteem Him for who he is. And, that is evident in how we live our lives. By taking God at his Word, and responding accordingly. But it was God’s work that we are saved, yet, we have the choice to follow Him. Therefore, I have reason to believe that this is neither Calvinistic nor Armenian.
One thing that I didn’t realize until I asked a friend, is the act that Jesus did on the cross is all-sufficient for me. That any sin that I have done or will do, Jesus paid it on the cross when he said, “It is done.”
However, I didn’t fully comprehend this. It really bothered me that I have recurring sins. In fact, it got to the point that I felt like giving up. And, for a moment, I did. Until, a minute later, someone asked me a question. And, the answer to the question however, had to do with God. And I thought, what was the point of holding that opinion if I did not follow God. And, what is the point of anything else in life without Jesus. I believe Jesus is the only thing in life that makes anything worth doing. However, by giving up for that moment, I felt that I was worthy of what is mentioned in Proverbs 1:28 or being treated like chaff like in John 15, or God wouldn’t love me because I haven’t been faithful in keeping all his commandments like mentioned in 1 John. However, I talked with a pastor who pointed me to the verse James 4:8. He told me that just because I fell in the mud, doesn’t mean that I was “playing” in the mud and totally rejecting God like Proverbs 1 seems to be referring too. Because, if anything, realizing just how horrible my sins are had made me draw closer to God, and just to the realization that nothing else is worth living for. So, even though I am not perfect, more and more I realize that I can not expect to fix everything at once and be perfect. That won’t happen until Jesus comes back.
Please let me know if there is something wrong with my or the pastor’s logic concerning this. And, if you could, reassure me that I can still follow God, because there is still the nagging thought of what if I am wrong about my ability to be saved.
I agree with your assessment of Calvinists and Armenians. Both take a set of wrong assumptions to get to their conclusions. The Calvinists assume that God determines everything. They discount the fact that God allows His creatures to make choices. The Armenians assume that God leaves all decisions in the hands of His creatures. They do not acknowledge the fact that it is not just that we accept God, but that He accepts us. Once He has identified us with Himself by His grace and through our faith, He will not “un-identify” us. So I agree, both Calvinists and Armenians are wrong. Basically, they try to reason their way to truth, rather than learning the truth exclusively from the Bible.
Yes! The fact that the work that accomplished your salvation is over and done is the great truth of being “in Christ.” Once we are identified with Him, God raises us together with Him and seats us together with Him in the most exalted positions (Ephesians 2:6). He does this even when we are going along with the evil flow of the world around us. Once we are “in Christ,” we are as secure before God as Christ Himself is! This is what is set forth in the first two chapters of Ephesians.
Only when God makes us new will we have total victory over sin in our lives.
One thing that you have to fix in your mind as an important principle is the fact of the right division of Scripture. In the Old Testament times, God could take His Holy Spirit away from people, as He did from Saul. If one who was righteous turned from God, he could die in his sins. However, these people were not “in Christ” like we are. Ephesians is the book that sets forth our position today before God. He has identified us with Christ, so He looks at us as He looks at Him. We are blameless before Him because of His love for us.
Another major mistake that those who do not believe in eternal security make is that they do not distinguish between the loss of salvation and the loss of rewards. God has always held out the possibility of rewards to His people for faithful service. Our position in regard to this is set forth about as clearly as anywhere in II Timothy 2:11-13.
11. This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
When we believe in the record God gave us of Jesus Christ, He places us into Him and positions us as “in Christ.” When He does this, He counts us as having died with Him on the cross. So once He has done this, we can be assured that we WILL live with Him. There is just no doubt about this. There is nothing we or anyone else can do to change it.
12. If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
However, God wants us to endure in walking after Him. If we do this, He will reward us. Rather than just living with Him, we shall also reign with Him, in this case. This is a special privilege that is only for the faithful.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
This is the opposite of walking worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1.) If we deny Him access to our lives and live instead for ourselves, then He also will deny us any place in reigning with Him. This does not change the fact, however, that if we died with Him we WILL live with Him.
13. If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
Once we have believed in Jesus Christ and God places us “in Him,” even if we turn around and decide we don’t even believe anymore, and thus are unfaithful to Him, He still is faithful to us. In other words, He will not take our salvation away. This is because we have not just identified ourselves with Him. He has also identified Himself with us. To deny us life, then, would be as if He denied it to Himself, since He is identified with us. Therefore, we cannot lose our salvation.
I think it is instructive to put this in outline form. These three verses give us what we could call an introverted outline. In other words, the passage is set up like this:
A. If we died with Him (by believing)—we will live with Him
B. If we endure (in our walk)—we will reign with Him
B2. If we deny (in our walk)—He will deny us reigning
A2. If we stop believing—He will not deny us life
Thus, these three verses set forth clearly this idea of the difference between our life in Christ and our rewards for faithful service.
It is not your ability that saves you! None of us has the ability to save ourselves. The only thing we could do is die for our own sins…and then, where would we get life? But the blessed truth is that Christ died for us. He asks only faith in return. When we believe in the truth about Him…that He is the Christ (the One designated as Savior by God) and the Son of God (God’s representative in human form,) and that He died for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead, then we will be identified with Christ’s death, and our penalty for sin will be forever paid.
Your pastor is correct in that you can always come back to God. God does not want us filled with guilt about our slips, or about our momentary doubts. Being in Christ means freedom. The weight of responsibility is lifted from our shoulders and placed upon Him. We can be assured of God’s eternal love for us. He wants to see us succeed in our walk after Him, as a loving father wants to see his child succeed. If we do succeed, He will proudly reward us. If we do not, He will allow us to live still, and will teach us better. Yet He will never show His wrath against us. We are His beloved children now and forever. That is the truth of being “in Christ.”