Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

 

I came across this video a long time ago and it touched me very deeply then. Several years have gone by since I have seen it when I happened on it today. With out surprise I found myself watching it again with the same joy and wonder I was filled with when I first watched it. It is with that joy that I share it with you today! Enjoy!

Answer: Very sadly, there is a higher percentage of suicides during the Christmas season than any other time of the year. Whether you are contemplating suicide, or know someone who is, or just want to know how to minister to someone who is considering suicide – we hope this article is helpful to you.

Our hearts go out to those who have thoughts of ending their own lives through suicide. If that is you right now, it may speak of many emotions, such as feelings of hopelessness and despair. You may feel like you are in the deepest pit, and you doubt there is any hope of things getting better. No one seems to care or understand where you are coming from. Life just is not worth living…or is it?

If you will take a few moments to consider letting God truly be God in your life right now, He will prove how big He really is, “for nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Perhaps scars from past hurts have resulted in an overwhelming sense of rejection or abandonment. That may lead to self-pity, anger, bitterness, vengeful thoughts, or unhealthy fears that have caused problems in some of your most important relationships.

Why should you not commit suicide? Friend, no matter how bad things are in your life, there is a God of love who is waiting for you to let Him guide you through your tunnel of despair and out into His marvelous light. He is your sure hope. His name is Jesus.

This Jesus, the sinless Son of God, identifies with you in your time of rejection and humiliation. The prophet Isaiah wrote of Him in Isaiah 53:2-6, describing Him as a man who was “despised and rejected” by everyone. His life was full of sorrow and suffering. But the sorrows He bore were not His own; they were ours. He was pierced, wounded, and crushed, all because of our sin. Because of His suffering, our lives can be redeemed and made whole.

Friend, Jesus Christ endured all this so that you might have all your sins forgiven. Whatever weight of guilt you carry, know that He will forgive you if you humbly receive Him as your Savior. “…Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you…” (Psalm 50:15). Nothing you have ever done is too bad for Jesus to forgive. Some of His choicest servants committed gross sins like murder (Moses), murder and adultery (King David), and physical and emotional abuse (the apostle Paul). Yet they found forgiveness and a new abundant life in the Lord. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Why should you not commit suicide? Friend, God stands ready to repair what is “broken,” namely, the life you have now, the life you want to end by suicide. In Isaiah 61:1-3, the prophet wrote, “The LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Come to Jesus, and let Him restore your joy and usefulness as you trust Him to begin a new work in your life. He promises to restore the joy you have lost and give you a new spirit to sustain you. Your broken heart is precious to Him: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:12, 15-17).

Will you accept the Lord as your Savior and Shepherd? He will guide your thoughts and steps—one day at a time—through His Word, the Bible. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8). “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure” (Isaiah 33:6). In Christ, you will still have struggles, but you will now have hope. He is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you in your hour of decision.

If you desire to trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, speak these words in your heart to God: “God, I need you in my life. Please forgive me for all that I have done. I place my faith in Jesus Christ and believe that He is my Savior. Please cleanse me, heal me, and restore my joy in life. Thank You for Your love for me and for Jesus’ death on my behalf.”

Understanding Ephesians 5

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Q&A, Salvation
Tags: ,

Q. I have been reading your site now for about 4 years. In fact my day is incomplete until I have had a chance to consider the God-given wisdom in the answers you provide to the questions so many of us have regarding Scripture. I am forever thankful for your ministry.  Once again I find myself “blown about by the winds of doctrine.” I know … I KNOW that God requires nothing more from us for salvation than our faith in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus. Most days I am comfortable in that belief, however, this morning in my devotional time, I read a passage that I have read many times before yet today, it struck a nerve.

 

If Paul is addressing believers in the Ephesian Church, then why in chapter 5 does he warn that anyone who is guilty of the sins listed in verse 3 will not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God?

A. First you must understand that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians contains two messages.  The first one, chapters 1-3, consists of all the things the Lord has done for us and how they bring eternal benefits that can never be revoked.

Ephesians 4:1-6:9 explains how we should express our gratitude for this by the way we live. His point in chapter 5 was that because of our inheritance we should be imitators of God (behaving like He would) and not imitators of the immoral, impure or greedy people around us who have no inheritance.  He said that although we used to be like them we aren’t any more and so we shouldn’t act like they do (Ephes. 5:8). Chapter 6:10-18 explains how we can use God’s power to help us resist the ways of the world.

But one thing the letter doesn’t do is make our ongoing assurance of salvation contingent upon our behavior.  Otherwise Paul couldn’t have said our inheritance is guaranteed (Ephes 1:13-14)  or that from God’s perspective we’re already seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Ephes 2:6-7) or that our salvation is by grace, not by works (Ephes 2:8-9) because that would have made the letter self contradictory.

Getting What We Want

Posted: December 4, 2010 in Q&A, Salvation
Tags:

Q. I have never understood John 12:39-40 and other verses that speak of the same thing. Why would God blind people so they wouldn’t understand, or harden their hearts? This verse says “so they would not see…or understand…and be converted..” Why?

 

A. We have to understand that we determine the course of our lives by the choices we make.  We demonstrate our wishes through the persistence of our choices, and God helps us bring them to their ultimate conclusion.  For those who wish to spend eternity with God, He gave His own life to make it possible.  For those who wish never to hear about Him again, He provides an eternity completely devoid of His presence.  Either we agree to let His will be done in our lives, or He will agree to let our will be done.  It’s our choice.

The passage in question actually begins in John 12:37 where the context is established;

“Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.”

Since He knows the end from the beginning, God knew that when He sent His Son to Earth, He would be rejected.  When the people persisted in their rejection, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence, He helped them take their desires to their ultimate conclusion by making it impossible for them to accept Him.

In John 12:42 we read , “Yet at the same time many, even among the leaders, believed in Him.” By comparing verses 37 and 42 we can see that God was helping both believers and unbelievers gain what they most wanted.

After answering recent questions on the Age of Accountability, I concluded that the Q & A format doesn’t lend itself to providing a comprehensive answer. Here’s the rest of the story.

 

Becoming An Adult

In the Jewish culture, becoming an adult is one of the watershed events in a person’s life. At age 12 for girls and 13 for boys Jewish children reach the age of accountability. It’s a point in their life that has both spiritual and physical significance, because they’re approaching puberty at the same time. So as they make the transition from child to adult they also become responsible for their own sins.

They acknowledge their accountability in a ceremony called bat mitzvah for girls and bar mitzvah for boys. Now it’s not that children don’t sin before puberty, it’s that they’re not held accountable for their sins. Judaism teaches that fathers are responsible for the sins of their children until they come of age. That’s why in the bar mitzvah ceremony, the father will often pray in effect, “Lord thank you for giving me this son, and thank you for relieving me of any further responsibility for him.”

We see hints of this transition, and its consequences, in Romans 7:9. Being a Jew who was obviously still alive at the time, Paul wrote, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died”.   (The word for without also means “apart from”.)  Since he was physically alive he had to have been referring to the spiritual, or eternal life for which he had been qualified before coming of age.

The phrase “The commandment came, sin revived, and I died” means that as soon as Paul became old enough to be accountable for his sins he was scheduled for death, it being the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). The Greek word for revived indicates Paul’s sin nature had always been there, but for accountability purposes it’s like it was dormant while he was a child. As soon as he came of age, it woke up again, immediately disqualifying him from eternal life.

No official written references to the method for conducting bar or bat mitzvah ceremonies existed during Paul’s time. But the practice was obviously well known enough that Paul could expect his Gentile readers to understand what he was talking about. Since Paul was adamantly opposed to following tradition for its own sake, he must have known that belief in an age of accountability was legitimate from God’s perspective.

Reaching the age of accountability transformed children into adults but also robbed them of eternal life. Since there was no longer someone else upon whom to place the burden for their sins, they became responsible themselves and an execution order was immediately entered against them from Heaven. It took their obedience to the Law and their annual participation in the ceremonies of Yom Kippur to delay this execution, and then only if these were accompanied by the belief that God would send the promised Messiah to redeem them for good.

Becoming A Child

We get the rest of the story from the New Testament. For Christians the watershed event is likened to becoming a child. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3) What He meant was unless adults can somehow unburden themselves of the responsibility for their sins, there’s no way for them to enter God’s Kingdom. Since children are not held accountable for their sins, adults have to become like children.

In the very beginning of his gospel account John explained how we do that. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

Believing that the Lord’s death paid the full penalty due us for our sins gives us the authority to become God’s children, and in that way we unburden ourselves of the responsibility for our sins. This is what it means to be born again.

Adoption

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Both this passage and Romans 8:15-17 convey the idea that adoption into the family of God is truly the most important event of our lives. God sent His son to die for our sins so we could receive the right of adoption. According to John 1:12-13 belief in Jesus gives us the authority to claim this right and when we do God adopts us as His children and we become heirs to his estate. When this happens the execution order is canceled (Colossians 2:13-14). The responsibility for our sins is transferred to Jesus (Isaiah 53:5) and once again we’re not responsible. At that point we’re born again as a child of God and have eternal life. According to 2 Cor. 5:17 we actually become a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. This is what happened to Paul, and has happened to every other born again believer as well.

This is not a new idea and was first acted out in the garden. Adam and Eve were created with eternal life. God told them if they disobeyed (sinned) they would die. But they disobeyed and were scheduled for death. God promised a redeemer to save them, and by believing God they were born again and restored to eternal life.

The Law is the story of death, because it wasn’t given to save anyone, but so that in trying to obey it man could see his need for a Savior (Romans 3:20). Being perfect it actually served to condemn imperfect man to death (Romans 7:10-13).

Grace is the story of life because by faith in the Redeemer man can be born again into eternal life, even though he doesn’t deserve it (Ephesians 2:8-9). By the power of the Holy Spirit, David understood this 1,000 years ahead of time when he wrote,

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him, and in whose spirit is no deceit (Psalm 32:1-2). Only by God’s Grace can we qualify for eternal life again after losing it when we reached the age of accountability.

No place in either the Old or New Testaments is the exact age of accountability specified. The ages of 12 and 13 I mentioned above come from Jewish culture and were chosen for reasons that have more to do with tradition than the Bible. But from both these sources it’s clear that we’re all born as children of God, not responsible for our sins, and having eternal life. When we’re intellectually mature enough to understand the sin/salvation issue we become accountable for our sins and are subject to spiritual death. When we accept the Lord’s death as payment in full for all our sins, we are born again and go back to being children of God, no longer responsible for our sins, and are restored to eternal life. We’ve come full circle.

Q. In your article about miscarriage, you wrote, “The Bible says life begins at conception (Psalm 139:13-14) and children under the age of understanding have eternal life (Romans 7:9).”  I fail to understand how Romans 7:9 has anything to say about the age of children, or their understanding.  Please explain.

A. The general context of Romans 7 is Paul’s claim that rather than save him, the Law exposed the extent of man’s sinfulness, condemning him to death.  Being a Jew who was obviously alive at the time, he wrote, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Romans 7:9).   (The word for without also means “apart from”.)  Since he was physically alive he had to have been referring to spiritual, or eternal life.  In Judaism children are not accountable under the Law, therefore their sins are not counted against them.  They have eternal life.

When they reach the age of accountability, they become responsible for their sins. They acknowledge their accountability in a ceremony called bat mitzvah for girls, usually held at age 12, and bar mitzvah for boys age 13. This is what Paul meant by saying, “The commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” So as soon as Paul became old enough to be accountable for his sins, he was scheduled for death, already as good as dead.

No official written references to the method for conducting bar or bat mitzvah ceremonies existed during Paul’s time. But the practice was obviously well known enough that Paul could expect his readers to understand what he was talking about. Since Paul was adamantly opposed to following tradition for its own sake, he must have known that belief in an age of accountability was legitimate from God’s perspective.

See also: http://www.rickferguson.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/coming-full-circle/

Q. Re: Does He Want To Bo Saved.  So if a lost tribe in Africa has never heard the Gospel you are saying they get a pass on God’s judgment? My 2 sons have always been tripped up by this very question and I have never heard it answered this way.

 

A. No one gets a pass.  Romans 1:18-20 says that in the creation God has made His presence so obvious that man is without excuse.  2 Peter 3:9 says that God doesn’t want any to perish but for everyone to come to repentance.  Matt. 7:7-8 says that anyone who seeks Him will find Him, and Hebrews 9:27 says man gets only one life time to do so and after that faces judgment.

The only solution is that every one has to receive at least one bonafide offer of pardon in his or her lifetime.  No one can die in ignorance.  The fact that we don’t understand how this could happen is irrelevant. God’s character demands it, His love requires it and His power is sufficient to make it happen.

Q. I have zero doubt Jesus died on the cross for MY sins- personally for ME.  He is my Savior and for me that is unshakable.  I had a discussion with a good friend, who is a good and compassionate person but does NOT believe Jesus died for him.  He believes we should live as Jesus preached, but he does not buy the fact that Jesus died for us.  His reasoning, which was impossible for me to refute, is the untold millions of people that have never had the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus—if an undiscovered tribe of people is some far off land has never heard the name Jesus, is that whole tribe doomed to hell?  How to I answer this question?

 

A. Your friend has an excuse but it’s not a reason.  In the first place, it’s illogical.  If he had terminal cancer would he refuse a cure because other people haven’t been cured? It shows he doesn’t know what it means to be saved.

Second, his opinion that untold millions have died without hearing the gospel can’t be supported in Scripture.  Spending just a few minutes studying the character of God will show that being just and righteous and loving God couldn’t require something of us and then condemn us to hell simply because we didn’t know about the requirement.  A just God can not judge His creation for failing to meet His requirements if He hasn’t informed them because it wouldn’t be fair. A righteous God can’t do it because it wouldn’t be right.  And a God who loves us enough to die for us would want to be sure everyone knew how to avoid judgment because He loves us.

Your friend’s reasoning is without merit and shows that at some level, conscious or subconscious, He really doesn’t want to confront the issue.

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

If you follow our “Ask a Bible Teacher” feature, you know how many comments I’ve received lately that question the Doctrine of Eternal Security (aka Once Saved Always Saved or OSAS). Based on their content I’ve concluded that many people neither understand OSAS nor have they considered the alternative.

 

Let’s Begin At The Beginning

It’s time to set the record straight once and for all. What does it take to be saved? I think the best answer to that question is the one the Lord gave in John 6:28-29.

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Here was a perfect opportunity to list all the things we have to do to meet God’s requirements. Jesus could have rattled off the 10 commandments. He could have repeated the Sermon on the Mount. He could have listed any number of admonitions and restrictions necessary to achieve and maintain God’s expectations of us. But what did He say? “Believe in the one He has sent.” Period. It was a repeat of John 3:16, confirming that belief in the Son is the one and only requirement for salvation.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

A few verses later in John 6:38-40 He said that this wasn’t just His idea, as if that wouldn’t be enough, but that His Father was in complete agreement. And not only would our belief suffice to provide us with eternal life, but that it was God’s will that Jesus lose none of those who believe. You and I have been known to disobey God’s will, but has Jesus ever done so? And isn’t He the one who’s been charged with the responsibility for keeping us? Let’s read it.

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40)

Just in case we missed this promise, Jesus made it again even more clearly in John 10:28-30. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Father and the Son have both accepted responsibility for our security. Once we’re in Their hands, no one can get us away.

I have purposely only used words straight from the Lord’s own mouth to make this case because I can already hear the choruses of “Yes Buts” mounting as those who refuse to take them at face value get ready to trot out their favorite verses denying Eternal Security, misinterpreted though they are.

The one characteristic of God’s that gives us the most comfort is knowing that He can’t lie or change His mind or contradict Himself. He can’t say something in one place and then say something entirely different in another. He’s consistent. If He says that we’re saved solely because of our belief in Him, and that He’s accepted responsibility for keeping us so, then we can count on that. As we’ll see, anything in the Bible that seems to contradict these simple, straightforward statements has to be talking about something else.

But first, since He puts so much emphasis on belief, let’s take a closer look at that word. What does He mean when He says “believe”? It must be more than just a casual thing because reliable statistics show, for example, that 85% of those who come forward to “receive the Lord” at a crusade or other evangelistic outreach never form any connection with a church or Bible Study or in any other way demonstrate a relationship with the Lord afterward.

And Jesus spoke of the seed that fell on rocky places. He said, “This is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.” (Matt. 13:20-21) If these people were saved and then fell away, all His promises above have been broken. There must be more. So what does it mean to believe?

The Greek word for believe is “pistis.” According the Strong’s Concordance, it’s a “conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it.” In connection with the Lord Jesus, it means “a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God.”

The Apostle Paul gave us valuable insight into the nature of this belief. He wrote, If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

This isn’t just some intellectual thing that carries us away on the words of a captivating speaker, only to leave us flat a short time later. It’s a conviction that’s formed deep in our heart, the realization that Jesus is not just a man. He’s the Lord Himself, and He took upon Himself the penalty due us for our sins, which is death. And to prove that God counted His death as sufficient, He raised Jesus from the dead to be seated beside Him in the Heavenly realms. (Ephes. 1:20) Since God can’t dwell in the presence of sin, and since the wages of sin is death, every one of our sins has to have been paid for. If even one remained unpaid, Jesus would still be in the grave. We have to believe that Jesus rose from the grave in order to believe that we will.

It’s that kind of belief that gets you saved and keeps you that way, because it sets in motion a chain of events that’s irreversible. There are four links in this chain. You supply two and the Lord supplies two. You hear and believe, and the Lord marks and guarantees.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

The word translated “deposit” is a legal term. Today we would say Earnest Money. It’s a down payment that constitutes a legal obligation to follow through with the purchase. If you’ve ever bought any Real Estate, you’re familiar with the term. If not, here’s another example. It’s like we’ve been put on “lay away.” The price has been paid and we’ve been taken off the display shelf until the one who has purchased us returns to claim us. In the mean time we cannot be bought by anyone else, because we legally belong to the one who has paid the deposit. “You are not your own,” we’re told. “You were bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

All of this happened at our first moment of belief, before we could do anything to either earn or lose our position. The man on the cross beside Jesus is the prototype for this transaction. Having done something bad enough to get himself executed, he was promised a place in Paradise solely because he believed in his heart that Jesus was the Lord of a coming Kingdom.

Paul made it even clearer when he repeated this incredible promise in 2 Cor. 1:21-22. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

This time He removed all doubt as to just Who it is that keeps us saved. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. What could be clearer?

Union And Fellowship

If the Doctrine of Eternal Security is so clear then why all the disagreement about it? I’ve found two reasons. The first is the two-sided nature of our relationship with the Lord. I call one side Union. It’s Eternal and Unconditional, based only on our belief. Ephesians 1:13-14 describes our Union with God, sealed and guaranteed. Once we’re born again, we can’t become unborn. It’s good forever. The Holy Spirit is sealed within us from our first moment of belief until the day of redemption.

I call the other side Fellowship and it’s a bit more complicated. Fellowship is that state of continual closeness to God that enables Him to bless us in our daily lives, by making things happen for us and protecting us from attack. It’s like He’s teamed up with us to give us a supernatural advantage. Fellowship is defined by 1 John 1:8-9 as being both Earthly and conditional upon our behavior. Even as believers, as long as we’re here on Earth we’ll continue to sin. Since God can’t abide in the presence of sin, our unconfessed sins interrupt our Earthly relationship with Him and may deprive us of blessings we might have otherwise received. We’re still saved in the eternal sense, but out of Fellowship here on Earth.

When we’re out of Fellowship, we’re legitimate targets for our enemy’s mischief, just like Job was. His sin was self-righteousness and because he wouldn’t confess it, God had to let Satan afflict him in order to bring him to his senses. For a New Testament illustration, look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32) Like the younger son, we’ll still belong to our Father’s family, but won’t receive any of its blessings while we’re out of Fellowship. And like both Job and the Prodigal, when we return to our Father and confess our sins, we’re immediately purified from all unrighteousness and restored to Fellowship.

One reason that many Christians live such defeated lives is that having only learned about the Union part of being a believer, they only know that God has forgiven their sins and that they’ll go to be with Him when they die or are Raptured. They don’t realize that they still need to confess every time they sin to stay in Fellowship. And so, being deprived of God’s providence, they may become discouraged and even stop praying and attending church. Other believers, who don’t understand the dual relationship either, look at the mess they’re in and think they must have lost their salvation. Like Job’s friends, they look in God’s Word for confirmation, and by taking verses out of context, believe they have found the proof.

Union and Fellowship are not just New Testament ideas. In the Old Testament, even when Israel was being obedient in thought and action, doing their best to please God, the priests still had to sacrifice a lamb on the altar every morning and every evening for the sins of the people. 1 John 1:9 is the New Testament equivalent of those daily sacrifices for sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. It was written for believers who are already saved, but are in danger of being out of Fellowship because of their sins.

The Gift And the Prize

The other reason people get confused is that there are two types of benefits in Eternity. The first is the free Gift called Salvation that’s given to all who ask in faith irrespective of merit and guarantees our admission into the Kingdom. Ephesians 2:8-9 is the model, saying that salvation is a Gift from God.

The second consists of Heavenly rewards we can earn for the things we do as believers here on Earth. Philippians 3:13-14 are good verses for explaining this. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. In addition to the Gift, there’s a Prize.

A gift is something given out of love, irrespective of merit, and is never taken back. A prize, on the other hand, is something we qualify for and earn. And if we’re not careful we can lose it. (Rev. 3:11) Paul had already received the Gift of salvation, it was behind him. Now he was focused on winning the Prize as well.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he explained the difference in greater detail. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

No Olympic athlete was satisfied just to have qualified to participate in the games. Everyone wanted to win the victor’s crown. Likewise, we shouldn’t be satisfied just to have received the Gift of salvation. We must now live our lives as believers in such a way as to win the Prize as well.

The Bible calls some of these prizes crowns, and while the athlete’s crown soon wilted away (it was a wreath of ivy) the crowns believers can win last forever. They’re worth making some sacrifices for. That’s why Paul said, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor. 9:27) The crowns are identified as the Everlasting Crown (Victory) in 1 Cor 9:25, Crown of the Soul Winner in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thes 2:19, Crown of Righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8, Crown of Life in Jas 1:12 and Rev 2:10, and the Crown of Glory in 1 Peter 5:4.

The difference between the Gift and the Prize is also seen in 1 Cor. 3:12-15. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

At the judgment of believers, the quality of our work on earth will be tested by fire. Only work that survives the test will bring us a reward. But notice that even if all our work is destroyed in the fire, we’ll still have our salvation. Why? Because it’s a free Gift, given out of love, irrespective of merit.

The Lord mentioned other rewards as well. In Matt. 6:19-21 He advised us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There are things we can do as believers while here on Earth that will cause deposits to be made to our heavenly account. Some believe that this passage refers to the way we use the money we’re given. Do we use it to enrich ourselves, stacking up possessions that far exceed our needs? Or do we use it to further the work of the Kingdom? Here’s a hint. Our tithe is what we owe to God. It’s what we do with the money we have left that really counts. And with the measure we use, it will be measured to us. (Luke 6:38)

To summarize, in the New Testament there are verses like Ephesians 1:13-14 that talk about Union. There are verses like 1 John 1: 8-9 that talk about Fellowship. There are verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 that talk about the Gift and there are verses like 1 Cor 9:24-27 that talk about the Prize.

Those that stress belief, explain the permanent nature of our bond with God, and are directed toward eternity are Union verses. Those that involve grace and faith are Gift verses. Those that require work and are directed at the quality of our lives on Earth are Fellowship verses, and those that require work and involve eternal rewards are Prize verses.

When you view Scripture from this perspective, all of the apparent contradictions disappear and you no longer have to wonder why God seems to be saying one thing here and something different there. The issue becomes one of correctly identifying the focal point of the particular passage you’re looking at. Determine the context by reading verses around it, and assign it to one of the four categories.

Give Us An Example

Hebrews 6:4-6 is a passage often cited in opposition to Eternal Security. The entire letter is to Jewish believers who are being enticed back into keeping the Law, so the context is New Covenant vs. Old. And in verse 9 the writer hints that he’s been talking about things that accompany salvation. That tells us that verses 4-6 are not related to salvation but things that accompany it. More importantly the idea that a believer could do something to irretrievably lose his salvation is in direct contradiction to the very clear promise that the Holy Spirit is sealed within us from the very first moment of belief until the day of redemption.

So what could these believers be in danger of falling away from due to their sins? Fellowship. And what could prevent them from being restored? The practice of Old Covenant remedies for sin rather than invoking 1 John 1:9. They’d be relegating the death of the Lord to the same status as that of the twice-daily lamb. The Law was only a shadow of the good things to come, not the realities themselves. Once the Reality appeared, the shadow was no longer effective. And what would be their penalty? Living a defeated life, bearing no fruit, all their works burned in the judgment of 1 Cor. 3. But still saved? Yes. Hebrews 6:4-6 is a Fellowship passage.

Suppose There Is No Security?

In closing, let’s look at the alternative. What are we faced with? If Hebrews 6:4-6 for example applies to our salvation then if we ever sin after being saved we’ll be lost forever with no way back, because the Lord would have to be crucified all over again to retrieve us. The New Covenant would be worse than the Old, not better. They were condemned for their actions. According to Matt. 5 we’d be condemned for our thoughts. They couldn’t murder. We couldn’t even be angry. They couldn’t commit adultery. We couldn’t even have a lustful thought. Think of it. No anger, ever. No lust, ever. No envy, ever. No idolatry, ever. No favoritism or discrimination, ever. No impure thoughts or deeds of any kind, ever. Is this the Good News, the incomparable riches of His Grace? Did God become man and die the most painful death ever devised only to put His children into an even more untenable position than before? Are we saved by grace only to be placed under the constraints of an even more severely administered law? I can’t believe so.

Some take a more moderate view of this saying that God would never take back the gift of salvation, but that we can return it. To justify this position they have to put words in the Lord’s mouth. When He says in John 10:28, “No one can snatch them out of my hand,” they have to insert the phrase “but us” after “no one”. Same with Romans 8:38-39.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. They have to insert the phrase “but us” after “in all creation”.

None of this defense of Eternal Security is intended to condone sin. As an indication of our gratitude for the gift of salvation, believers are continually admonished in Scripture to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God. Not to earn or keep it, but to thank the Lord for giving it to us. And to help us do that, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us to guide and direct us, and to pray for us. Since the Spirit of God lives in us we are no longer controlled by the sin nature and can choose to please God by the way we live. And even though we do this out of gratitude for the Gift He’s already given, which is Union with Him, He blesses us both here on Earth (Fellowship) and in Eternity (the Prize).

Q. How do we know that we are saved for sure? I have read and heard of pastors and church workers who confessed that they got saved in the churches where they were ministering.  I’ve also heard about others who after doing great things for God openly denied their faith in Him.  I know that those who truly trust in Him alone for salvation will be saved and experience His transforming power. I am just not sure anymore about my faith if it is the right kind or not considering my failures and sins.  How can we know for sure then in the light of these things that we are indeed saved and not just deceiving ourselves?

 

A. If you’re saved you don’t have to worry about the kind of faith you have, because the faith that saved you is not from you but was a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Everything you’ve told me is from your head, but the faith of God is in your heart.

You can know you’re saved because Jesus said everyone who asks for salvation receives it (Matt. 7:7-8). Our observable behavior is irrelevant because God knows what’s in our heart.  And remember, if you didn’t have failures and sins in your life you wouldn’t need a Savior. You could have saved yourself.   Because you have them, you’re just like the rest of us.

I would advise you to stop trying to evaluate your situation on the basis of things you’ve heard about others and ask the Lord, who is the author of your salvation, to give you peace about it.  Salvation is not a matter of understanding, it’s a matter of believing.