I have a beard so you may find this hard to believe, but I shave every day. Most men do. I understand many women also shave regularly. Perhaps you were shaved at one time, but that doesn’t mean you are shaved now. You have to work to stay shaved. You may profess a belief in shaving but faith without regular shaving works shaves no one.
Shaving is a tricky business. You need to hold fast when you shave. You have to work out your shaving with fear and trembling because only he who stands firm to the end will be shaved.
I’m grinning as I write this. Why? Because apparently being shaved and being saved have much in common. You have to work hard at both of them. At least that’s what some people think. I know this because I spent the month of January doing a massive study on the subject of eternal security.
(I know what you’re thinking, What a great way to spend a month. It was! I love to study.)
My goal was to study every single New Testament scripture that speaks to the issue of our eternal security. All told, I found 300 scriptures that are used either to support or attack the idea of “once saved, always saved.” I then filtered every scripture through the lens of Jesus and his finished work to see what I might learn. And what did I find?
Lay down your razors because once shaved, always shaved. Haha!
Seriously, in my heart I have always known that I am secure in my Father’s love – he holds me, he keeps me, and he will never let me go. But many people are not secure. They’ve been told they have to abide, continue, hold fast to end, overcome, obey, endure, and otherwise do things to stay saved. Naturally, this unsettles them. What if I don’t do what God expects of me? What if I stumble at the last hurdle? What then?
If this is you, this series ought to help. I’m going to look at some of the toughest scriptures I can find. And after we unpackage these scriptures in light of who Christ is and what he has done for us, you’re going to be so blessed. You’re going to want to shout and thank Jesus from the roof-tops.
But before we jump in to this Bible study, let’s take a moment to polish our spectacles and check for cracks in the lenses.
Get your glasses checked here
What you look through determines what you see. If you look at the world through a cracked lens, everything will appear to be fuzzy and distorted. Similarly, if you have a distorted view of God, everything you read will be filtered through your distortion.
The Bible was written in such a way to confound the wisdom of the so-called wise. It contains scriptures that appear to contradict one another making it impossible to be used as a rule-book. The only way to get life out of the written word is to filter all you read through the Living Word – who Jesus is and what he has done. That’s what I am going to try and do in this study.
However, I am well aware that I am stepping into an ancient minefield of divisive and ugly Christianity.
Consumer health warning
In my study I visited countless websites and online ministries devoted exclusively to one side of the issue or the other. In many cases, what I saw was not a pretty sight. Mocking rhetoric, ad hominem arguments, and provocative metaphors like the shaving one I sent up above.
Of course I am going to try and rise above all this and stay on the high ground. But to be honest, I’m not confident that I can. If you have followed E2R long enough you may have seen me responding to critics in all my stinking flesh. There have been occasions when I have put winning ahead of loving and I am not proud of that.
The problem is, God made me a debater and I’m good at it! I’m good at arguing. I confess I sometimes use my superpowers for carnal, unloving purposes and there’s a fair chance that will happen again. Please forgive me when I do.
Four blind spots in the theology of the insecure
Now that I have confessed my weaknesses to you, I want to humbly suggest that those who preach insecurity (i.e., your salvation is not assured and you must work to stay saved), have four blind spots. (Don’t be threatened. We all have blind spots. The sooner you see yours, the better.)
These four blind spots, or cracks in the lens, if you like, are as follows:
Since they don’t know what makes the new covenant new, insecurity preachers typically interpret conditional statements in the New Testament as threats, rather than promises. They read them just as they would in the old covenant:
“You have to (insert activity here) in order to receive (insert reward here) or to avoid (insert punishment here).”
Since their theology of mixture affects all they say, they argue that your eternal security hinges on you and what you do rather than Christ and what he has done. A classic example is the commands of Jesus which are interpreted as instructions you must obey or you will lose your salvation. I will return to this issue of obedience in the new covenant in a forthcoming post.
2. Hell is for under-performing Christians
Insecurity preachers wear hellfire-tinted lenses, meaning, they see one consequence for everything we can get wrong: eternal condemnation. I’m not diminishing the seriousness of hell but I want to tell you there is no condemnation for those who are one with the Lord. You may think that God will kick you out but he promised he wouldn’t. As we will see in the next post, the chances of a saint losing their salvation are the same as the chances God will break his promises, i.e., zero.
I don’t doubt for a second that there are serious consequences to wandering, going astray, falling from grace, etc. But the consequences are clearly spelled out in scripture and for the saint none of them is hell. I’ll list 14 consequences in a forthcoming post.
3. Salvation comes in a box
Insecurity preachers seem to think that the gift of salvation comes in a box, meaning, it’s something you have to hold on to or lose. You might think, then, that such folk would be preoccupied minding and not losing their own salvation boxes, but they are not. Instead, they are busy attacking other people’s boxes with doubt and strife. They seem to derive security by making others feel less secure. It works too. Fearful, insecure Christians lap it up revealing their distrust in God’s awesome grace. This is the tragedy of our age.
Happily, salvation is not a box. It is the miracle of new life. It is Christ himself living in you. Paul said, “Christ is your life” (Col 3:4). Whether you hold onto him strongly or weakly, he holds on to you, and the good news is he will never let you go (Joh 6:37). If you were to wander and go off track, Christ won’t kick you out for he’s a good shepherd who knows his sheep and won’t lose any (John 6:29, 10:14). And he won’t come after you with a rod to break your leg either, for he’s our compassionate high priest who deals gently with those going astray (Heb 5:1-2).
4. Some sin is excusable
Those in the insecurity camp think there are different classes of sin, that they are capable of avoiding willful sin, and that God is not troubled by their unintentional sins. This would be laughable if it wasn’t so widely believed.
Sin is sin. If God kept a record of sin, who could stand (Psa 130:3)? The good news is not that God has forgiven only some of your sins – the ones you did by accident – but that he has forgiven all your sin for all time! Am I promoting grace as a license to sin? Of course not! I’m saying be Christ-conscious instead of sin-conscious. Since God keeps no records of your sins, neither should you.
I have been brief here but in this new series I plan to go slow. I want you to see clearly from scripture how secure you are in the Lord. “But, Paul, what about this scripture and that scripture?” Patience, my young Padawan. We’ll get there. (If you want to see the scriptures I plan to address in this series, check out this page.)
Just for fun we’ll start at the ending. In my next post I want to put my best cards on the table and show you 12 promises from the Lord that you can take to the bank. Stay tuned!