Friday, May 28, 2010

A Question of Eternal Security, Part 5

Biblical justification (salvation from sin’s penalty) occurs once; having been done it is finished. Sanctification is the ongoing process of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives as He conforms us into the image of God’s Son. Sanctification can be described as salvation from sin’s power in our daily lives, Philippians 2:12. This is not to be confused with salvation from sin’s presence, which no Christian will experience here on earth; that is glorification and will occur the instant we enter Heaven and are perfected by Christ, 1st John 3:2. John further urges believers that everyone who holds this hope would purify themselves (obey God’s command for holiness,) 1st John 3:3.

Regrettably, not every Christian avails himself of the Spirit’s purifying presence and power, and no Christian always avails himself. Salvation from sin’s penalty is justification; salvation from sin’s power is sanctification. Every born-again believer experiences the first; a legal acquittal due to Christ’s meritorious sacrifice. Not every born-again believer experiences sanctification to a great extent. Yet those whom Jesus saves (justifies) cannot be lost. “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” John 17:11-12. If conditional salvation is true then Christ’s intercessory prayer was unheeded; Jesus prayed that none would be lost. Read again John 6:37-40. Falling away defies the very concept of grace, which pleads our inability to do anything to save ourselves. Grace is God’s loving and condescending mercy upon an unworthy recipient, due solely to His own desire and will. We receive such a gift because God deems it. Its reception, retention, and consummation revolve entirely around the grace and merit of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12); He died so that those called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15, the sealing of the Spirit; see John 7:39); He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26); by God's will believers are sanctified through Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10); He offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10:12), and by His one offering He has perfected us forever (Hebrews 10:14). Finally, the writer compels his audience to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,” Why? “He who promised is faithful,” Hebrews 10:23. We are compelled to trust in the One who died for us, because such trust would never be misplaced. Scripture does not describe trust in a God who would, after accepting Christ’s offering for my sin still find me guilty despite Jesus’ cleansing blood and cast me away. Notice the tenor of the verse is an urging to trust a God who cannot fail; there is comfort in Him.

Stressing obedience as a requisite for keeping one’s salvation and still calling it grace reveals a misunderstanding of the doctrine of sanctification, which follows salvation. Grace, by definition, is the unmerited favor of God. If you receive it, it is yours forever; if you reject it you remain eternally lost. In Titus 2:14 we read, “[Christ] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed (note again the universality of the phrase ‘every lawless deed’) and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them,” Ephesians 2:10. Works are the out-flowing of salvation’s reality, not a requirement for its maintenance. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (and the gifts of God are irrevocable!), not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9. Boasting is excluded by the law of faith because a man’s works do not count toward (or against) one’s salvation, Romans 3:21-27. Works enter after one is saved, and are the outgrowth of the Holy Spirit’s abiding influence in us. Paul informs believers that works are profitable to men (meeting the needs of others), and works are the fruit believers will bear, Titus 3:8, 14. This is not a determinant of salvation, but of reward. To him who works wages are not counted as grace, but debt, and God is no man’s debtor, Romans 4:4. To implement works into grace transforms “grace” into works; the two cannot mingle, Romans 11:6. Works happen to be the leaven that germinates and strangles one’s faith when one adopts the viewpoint of falling away. “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law (any law of your invention), then Christ died in vain,” Galatians 2:21.

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross,” Colossians 2:13-14. We have been forgiven all trespasses. The handwriting of requirements was the list of our sins, like a convicted criminal being executed. Christ took them all (our Lord does nothing halfway) and nailed them to the cross. When our Lord died there on Calvary our sins died with Him. When the darkness loomed overhead, our Sin-bearer was paying the infinite cost of all the sin of the world, for everyone who would ever live, and every sin ever sinned. To those who come to the Sin-bearer, the debt is paid. It is finished. Your sins were written there as well, and Christ died to put them away, and take them out of the way. It shames Him by teaching others that He did not finish the task His Father set Him to.

In Ephesians we read, “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,” 1:7. John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1st John 1:9. We have access to immediate forgiveness at any given time through Christ, our Advocate and Mediator, 1st John 2:1. We are dead to sin, Romans 6:11. Having been put to death with Christ we are no longer answerable to the law, which imputes sin to us, Romans 7:4, 6. Paul writes, “He who has died has been freed from sin…knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives He lives to God,” Romans 6:7, 9-10. If we have been born again, we have been set free from sin, Romans 6:18, 22. So the penalty of death which sin brings to men (Romans 6:23; 1st Corinthians 15:56) has been removed in Christ, Colossians 2:13-14. We have, “died to sins,” 1st Peter 2:24. Being in Christ, which every believer is from the first moment we believe, sin has no dominion over us because it has no dominion over the Lord who purchased us. We are subjects of Christ, not sin and death.
To be Continued.

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