Monday, March 2, 2015

Perseverance in in the Faith and the Assurance of Salvation

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23 ESV)

Sunday I shared how I understand the conditional clause in v. 23 that starts with 'if indeed.'  Here is what I said, Reconciliation does not leave us hanging but initiates in us moral change that leads to our ultimate moral perfection. We, who are now sinful are promised to be holy and blameless and above reproach, presentable to God without the fear of standing in the presence of a holy God. All of us are strugglers on a journey toward perfection, found in his presence. On that day we will cease from striving, we will cease from being disgusted with our sin, and we will cease from sinning. What a glorious promise that is. But there is a hitch. That promise is conditional, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.” This causes some of us trouble but it should not. Remember that Paul is writing a letter to address a church troubled by false teachers threatening to lead the church astray from the truth of the gospel and faithfulness to Christ. This letter addresses this issue and in it Paul appeals to them to remain faithful to the true gospel. The promise of future glory is conditional upon remaining faithful to the gospel, described as 'stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.' This passage and passages like this all over the New Testament tells us that a one time act of faith in Jesus Christ that makes us eternally secure in final salvation irrespective how we life is unbiblical. What it does tell us is that perseverance, remaining faithful to Christ, is an affirmation of the reality of that initial act of faith. So while I think Paul is confident that they will persevere (see Col 2:5)  yet he is also confident that they must persevere (See Col 2:18). He wants them to live with the confidence that they have final salvation but he is also warning them not to take their salvation for granted. The New Testament writers are always promising and prodding. Promising them that their salvation is secure in Christ and prodding them to continue in Christ. Here he is prodding us forward, to keep moving along in our faith. When churches become imbalanced in either promising or prodding, people either fret over their salvation which leads to despair, wondering if they will ever make it or they become so lax over their lives that they have a false sense of security. Those who truly come to faith in Christ become God's children and will always remain God's children but not outside of persevering in the faith, remaining faithful to Christ and growing in Christ. Paul is warning us to move along in our faith but not to question our faith.

No comments:

Post a Comment