Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
After the apostle Peter wrote that famous list of things which we should “add to [our] faith” (2 Peter 1:5-7), he counsels us, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Is this a warning to you, true Christian, that if you fail to make your calling and election sure, then you will abandon your calling from God, negate your election, and fall out of Christ’s and the Father’s hands and become unsaved again, and un-regenerate again? No.
God’s election and effectual calling of individual sinners to salvation is not indefinite, tentative, temporary, mutable or reversible. God does not change and his people are therefore secure in his eternal unchangeableness (see Malachi 3:6).
But the question is, are you one of God’s elect? Has God drawn you to Christ by his irresistible grace?
Until you have really begun, as Peter exhorts, to add to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity, then perhaps you will be unsure of salvation, in those times when you stop and think.
Do it: turn aside from shallow and worldly thinking to really examine your heart and life for marks of grace.
Where is the evidence that you are saved?
Has your life changed?
Is there, in your soul, genuine Christian spirituality? Then there will be, in your life, genuine Christian practicality. It cannot be any other way.
It is not good enough to merely profess, “I have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Please understand what the apostle James says: faith without works is a dead faith, and a dead faith is not the faith of a saved person (See James 2:14-26).
Let us not be like those of whom the apostle Paul writes: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
And let us not be like those about whom Peter warns: “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:21,22).
We are required to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10), as though tying it in with a knot securing it with a seal. But we are not being exhorted to save ourselves either by our own faith or by our own works.
Now then, is it the case that if true Christians neglect to “make…sure,” then they will lose their salvation? No, because the distinguishing mark of true Christians is that they do strive to make their calling and election sure, despite many failures.
Or is it the case that if true Christians neglect to add these things (virtue, etc.) to their faith, then they will fall, losing their salvation? No, because the distinguishing mark of true Christians is that they do add these things to their faith.
They do. Do you?
Are you persevering in these things in the authentic Christian life?
Continuing in the Faith
Those who deny God’s preservation of his saints also point to Colossians chapter 1 for proof of their position. They say to us:
“The apostle Paul writes to those who were reconciled to God the Father ‘in the body of [Christ’s] flesh through death’ (Colossians 1:21-22). Then he warns them that if they did not continue in the faith and if they moved away from the hope of the Gospel then they could lose their salvation (v.23). So their faith would save them if they continued in the faith—but if they lost their faith and hope in the Gospel then they would lose their salvation. As a Calvinist, you cannot argue here that these were not actually saved people (but merely children of Christians, or temporary adherents of the church at Colosse), because you Calvinists say that Christ reconciles only the elect to God—and Paul says that they were indeed reconciled.”
But what Paul actually says is, “And you…hath he reconciled…if ye continue in the faith…” (verses 21-23). It is not that they were reconciled to God the Father by Christ’s death, and yet they could lose their reconciliation if they did not continue in the faith. But rather, their continuing in the faith proves that they had actually been reconciled to God.
Similarly, the epistle to the Hebrews also says, “But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. …For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:6, 14).
There are those, sadly, who for a while profess to be Christians but who later prove that they were not, when they give up their profession and reject Christ and his Gospel. Notice Paul’s stress on the fact that it was Christ who redeemed the Colossian converts to God—not their faith (see also Colossians 1:14).
Christ is the Saviour of those who possess the kind of faith that continues—the kind of faith in Christ that perseveres and grows and manifests in holiness. He has not saved those who merely profess to have faith but who do not manifest good works and who later prove that they were not true Christians after all by turning their backs on him.
The reconciliation to God that Christ accomplishes will inevitably present all those whom he has reconciled to God to be “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (v.23).
Those who continue in the faith (and bear the marks of grace) are those who have true faith—the kind that perseveres. And these true Christians are preserved by God in this state of continuing. God’s preservation of the saints is the cause of the perseverance of the saints.
Serious Warnings to Stimulate Serious Self-Examination
These reconciled people are those who take seriously the warnings that we have been considering.
These warnings stimulate such self-examination in true Christians as will inevitably drive them to repentance and renewal in the Christian life, all by the indwelling gracious work of the Holy Spirit.
Warnings against error and sin have always been an integral part of pastoral preaching throughout the history of the Lord’s people. In Paul’s own exemplary preaching of “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” he always accompanied it by “warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (verses 27,28).
Paul issues such a warning to the Christians at Corinth: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
Notice, firstly, that the apostle does not say that saved people who later forget the Gospel (or cease believing in it) will lose their salvation. He says they are saved if they keep the Gospel in memory. Those who keep the Gospel in their memories are saved, but those who cast it aside as not worth continuing to think about, thereby demonstrate that they are not saved, and indeed, were never saved.
Paul points out that there are some people who have the Gospel in their minds for a while—who think about it and who understand it—but who are not saved.
They may even think, for a while, that they are themselves Christians. But their so-called belief is only tentative and not a serious, fully-committed faith that bears the fruit of godly obedience and service.
They appear to others as though they are true Christians. But sooner or later their belief proves to have been only temporary—a belief in vain, of which Paul warns.
Secondly, consider Paul’s awful “unless” in that argument. His conclusion is: those who “believed in vain” are not saved—they were never saved all along. Those who are saved are those who retain their belief in the Gospel of Christ.
Therefore, a person’s temporary “receiving” and “standing in” the Gospel is not a true mark of grace. The distinguishing mark of grace is the kind of faith in Christ that continues and grows and does bear spiritual fruit—the kind of faith that perseveres and is evidenced by faithfulness and good works.
All this was taught by the Lord Jesus Christ himself in his parable of the sower. He described different kinds of ostensible faith:
“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matthew 13:20-22).
But there are also those who do persevere and bear fruit:
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (v.23).
The stony-ground hearer and the among-thorns hearer were not true Christians who later lost their salvation. They had no root in themselves. They gave up on following Christ when they saw it would give them trouble or would cause them persecution from those who hate Christ and Christianity. They cared more for the things of this world than to give them up for Christ. They turned back to the world, not really willing to part with their sins. Salvation didn’t interest them so much after all.
Be warned: don’t be like them!
To be continued.