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Surely, you have heard someone say, “Once saved, always saved.” But what about those people who come to church for awhile and then decided they want nothing to do with Christianity. Surely, those people who have committed apostasy are not going to go to heaven are they. So then what should we concluded…that they were once saved, but because of their sin they have lost their salvation. May it never be! The very notion that someone can lose their salvation because they committed a certain sin implies that their salvation is contidition on their not committing that particular sin. But that does not square with the rest of scripture: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). 

As I mentioned yesterday we must remember that salvation is ultimately not a work of man, but a work of God upon the human heart. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6) Because Paul accepted the reality that it was God who had began a good work in the Phillippian believers, he could confidently assert that He would also finish that which He began. So then assert that someone can lose their salvation is at best ignorant and at worst blasphemous. If you believe that a person can lose their salvation, you must either believe that salvation is ultimately not dependent upon God, but upon man (he did something that caused God to withdraw salvation). Or you must believe that God is somehow insufficient for the work of salvation (ironically, either way you believe God is insufficient). You must conclude that God lacks the resource, the will, the power, the desire to finish the work which he began or else you must simply call God a liar. “Yes, God I know your word says ‘He who began a good work in you will perfect it’. But look at all the people who have been Christians and then denied the faith either in word or in deed. Clearly, they cannot be saved. You cannot still be working in their life.”

And to some degree that person would be right, God is not working in their life. However, they have made the wrong conclusion. God is not currently working in their life, because He was never working in their life. “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19) This truth should either be of great encouragement to us or great concern. If God is working in your life to sanctify you and conform you into the image of His beloved Son, you should be greatly encouraged that God is faithful and that which He begins, He sees through to the end (What a great reason to give Him thanks and praise). On the other hand, if God is not currently working in your life, you should know that God has never been working in your life, and you should seek Him for mercy…beg Him to begin a work in you…plead with Him to see the glory of the gospel…ask Him to grant you the repentance that leads to life.

It was interesting as I was finishing up a book by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones this morning, he made reference to what I had begun to discuss in my last post about God being the One to work out our salvation. He wrote:

“In the first chapter he says that the is ‘confident of this very thing that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (verse 6). ‘I want you,’ says Paul, ‘to think of yourselves as Christains in that way. You are the people in whom God has started to work; God has entered into you, God is working in you.’ That is what Christians really are. They are not just men who have taken up a certain theory and are trying to practise it; it is God doing something in them and through them. Or listen again in the second chapter, verse 12 and 13: ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.'” (Spiritual Depression, 291)

I don’t think that I could have expressed connect and made the distinction more clearly myself. He tells us that Christianity is some philosophical position, some way of thinking, that men choose to follow and then to live out, but rather it is the story of God working in and through His people.

You see even the Apostle Paul did not negate human responsibility, but he understood that human practice was dependent on and the result of God’s action. As we read in Philippians 2:12-13, we are indeed to work out our salvation. In fact, we are called to do so “in fear and trembling.” But let us not lose sight of the very next verse that tells us why we should be afraid, “for it is God that worketh in you.” ‘Do not stop putting forth effort,’ Paul says, ‘but rather you should work all the harder knowing that God works in you.’

It is this way of thinking that separates Christianity from every other religion though, even the false forms of Christianity. All religions promote that we must work out our salvation, upon that point none of them differ. They all call us to do something or to believe something. But Christianity differs at this very point. While all others say, ‘work out your salvation,’ True Christianity says, ‘yes work out your salvation, but know that that you are working it out because God Himself started something in you and it is actually Him that is working it out in you.’ Do you see the difference? If your “religion” is not first and foremost a work of God in your heart, then it is really nothing more than a form of human pretense. It is a man wrought religion and not a religion that has been wrought in God. In fact, Jesus Himself indicated that was the true demonstration of who believed and whom was judged in John 3. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light (Christ), so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (Jn. 3:21).

All the more reason for us to search our own hearts to see if our experience of “religion” shows itself to be contrived by human effort and human wisdom, or if it manifests itself as a work of God in our heart through the Spirit whom He has given us.

It has long been debated how it is that salvation comes about. There are some who would assert that God has made possible the way of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and all that remains is for us to embrace it by faith. Others have asserted that God actually saved some through the death and resurrection of Christ and all that remains is for God to act in that persons to bring them to faith.

No God fearing Christian would ever assert that faithwas not a necessary condition of salvation. The questions that have long driven debate among theologians was how does faith come about and what relationship does faith have with works. Can a person believe the gospel and then later loose their salvation? Does knowledge of the gospel and believing that is true equal faith? Is faith a work of man or of God? How does a person come to faith? What must one believe? As time permits over the next few months I hope to answer some of these questions faithfully from scripture.

For now let me leave you to consider Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” I would like to make three quick observations:

  1. “I am confident” – Paul states that he is confident about the future of the believers in Philippi. Why is that Paul is confident? Isn’t there the possibility that they might stop believing at some point?
  2. “He who began a good work” – Paul is not concerned about them giving up the faith, because He does not see it as something that they have done in the first place, but rather a work of God in their lives. Paul seems to understand that they came to faith not because they were somehow smarter or better than other people but rather because God did something in their lives to bring them into the faith.
  3. “will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” – Since Paul sees their salvation as having been a work of God, he can be confident that what God has begun, He will also finish. God will continue to grow and strengthen the faith of those in whom He has begun to do a good work.

I would draw one final conclusion from this verse about the nature of the faith of those who have “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Tim. 1:19). If a person’s “faith” does not last until the “day of Christ Jesus,” it is evidence that their faith was not a “work of God,” but rather “work of man.” It seems fair to conclude that there is a faith then that springs forth from men that will not save and there is a faith that springs forth from God that results in salvation. We must endeavor then to distinguish that faith which is a genuine work of God from that faith which is born out of the hypocrisy of the human heart.

“but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised” (Romans 4:12)

As I was studying Romans 4:12 the other day I was struck by the consideration of “the steps of the faith of our father Abraham.” Paul’s point in the argument of Romans here is to make clear that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness prior to the receiving of circumcision (a work). But I had to ask what did the steps of Abraham’s faith look like?

He did not boast about His faith. Abraham never seem to be a man who boasted about having faith. He never went out and said, “Hey, look at me I am a follower of God.” Ironically, when Abraham did interact with those outside his immediate circle, he was at times prone to lie to them (bout His wife). He never went around telling everyone, “Hey, you would never believe the promises that God has made to me.” He seems to have just been an ordinary man whom God saw fit to bless.

His faith was “wordless.” What I mean by wordless is that Abraham did not describe his faith to others. I don’t seem to recall Abraham going around and talking to people about God’s sovereignty or His immutability or His kindness or any other attribute. I should note, however, that Christians today are called to defend “sound doctrine,” which calls for the use of words (see 1 Tim. 6:3, 2 Tim. 1:13  and Titus 2)

His faith was “living.” I chose the word living to highlight the use of Abraham in James 2 as an example of someone who did not have “dead” faith. You see Abraham’s faith was primarily reflected in his actions and conversations with God. God calls Abraham out Haran, Abraham goes (Gen 12). God tells him He will have a son, he believes and continues trying to have a son, although with his wife’s maidservant (Gen 15-16). God tells him to circumcise every male as a sign of the covanent, he does it (Gen. 17). God tells Abraham of His intent to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham calls on God to demonstrate His righteousness by preserving the righteous (Gen. 18-19). God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham goes and tries to do it (Gen 22). Abraham’s faith was demonstrate through the life that he lived, thus it was a living faith. A faith that evidenced itself deeds and not merely words.

Let this be a fresh reminder to all of us who claim to believe in Jesus Christ. Does our faith demonstrate itself through our actions? Or just in our words? We talk about a sovereign God, but do we act as though He is sovereign? We say he is omniscient, but do we live as though He knows every thought and deed we have done, are doing, and will yet do? We say he is righteous and just, yet do we live as though the sins we commit will be rightly judged? We say that there is forgiveness with Him and that our sins have been forgiven, but do we act like we have been forgiven?