Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Philippians 1:6 reads, "I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Paul later encourages them to hold fast to the word, "so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run or labor in vain." The underlying theology in the context of this passage is eternal security -- once saved, always saved.
Some translations start verse 16 with the words "holding fast to the word of life," and some "holding out the word of life." They're both correct. The Greek word that appears here is epecho which can mean "to hold fast" or "to offer." Paul is urging the Philippians that as God's children (v. 15), they affirm the genuineness of their faith by following through for the cause of Christ all the way to the end.
"Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead," he writes, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." If you've started the race, you must finish it. Otherwise, your head has never actually been in the race. "Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained." (Phil. 3:13-16)
Before I met my darling wife, I had previously been engaged to a young woman who would later abandon her beliefs. She had once been active in her church and a respected ministry leader, ambitious and passionate. But like Demas mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:10, she was too in love with the world and it pulled her away.
At the end of our relationship, a mutual friend of ours said to me, "I used to believe in eternal security, that once you were saved you were always saved. But having watched what's happened between the two of you, I don't know that I believe that anymore. I believe it's possible for a person to truly believe and then lose their salvation."
"Consider it this way," I replied. "If you claim that you found the greatest love in the universe, and at any point in your life you truly believed that Jesus Christ was the greatest love, and that by His amazing sacrifice you've been saved from death and have eternal life, how could you ever possibly walk away from it? There are only two possibilities: either Christ is not actually the greatest love, or you never actually believed it."
One could argue, "Or you're a masochist." But who would say, "Yeah, I know Jesus Christ is Lord, and He died on the cross for my sins, and if I refuse to believe in Him I'm going to hell, but eh, I think I'd rather have hell"? That's ridiculous. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:3, "No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, 'Jesus is accursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit."
As I said in a recent sermon, the power of the Holy Spirit is not so easily dismissed. If you walked away from the Spirit, then you never had the Spirit. Christianity is not something you just "try out." You're either in Christ or you're not. "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," it says in Hebrews 12, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith."
Consider also 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 where Paul writes that it's the gospel message "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." So if you didn't hold fast to the message of Christ, it was just to satisfy some self-serving desire for spirituality.
If you're a person who has ever said, "I used to be a Christian," were you really? Wasn't it just a circumstantial faith? It was something you did because it was convenient for a moment, but then your interests changed. Perhaps you said it was because of your parents. To follow Christ isn't a momentary religious period or experience. It's an I'm-all-in, I-give-up-myself, never-turning-back life change.
Eternal security does not mean that just because you've prayed a prayer, you're now guaranteed for all eternity and can act whatever way you want and you'll still get to go to heaven. It's following the Good Shepherd, knowing His voice, and you'll never be snatched from His hand (John 10:27-28).
Do you believe in eternal security? Why or why not?