Your Striving Can End Today
I knew a man who pursued Christian knowledge. He strove to live for God. Great light flooded his mind on many subjects, and he delighted to share this treasure. But, he encountered Bible verses that he couldn't penetrate. Peace eluded him. He works for God's smile so that He will be welcomed home later.
After searching, I found some Bible passages that may have burdened him. I want to remove the fears of others like him. When any of us doubts that Jesus' sacrifice was enough to save us, we struggle for salvation assurance. This produces endless anxiety and fear, and God grieves to see us live like that.
One Bible passage that I hadn't understood, and others may struggle with, is this: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance,” (Heb. 6;4-6 KJV). I've learned that we have been given a hypothetical argument. It is saying that if it was possible for us to fall away, there would be no way for us to return.
If we just read this passage on its own, it appears that God's gift could be lost. But that's not true. I looked up cross references for Hebrews 6:4 , and one of them is Matt. 13:20,211. Jesus told the parable of the sower, referring here to those who have stony soil. These people lacked saving faith. Like the stony soil, their hearts received the seed of the Word of God and embraced God with joy. But their new “faith” didn't survive the heat of persecution. The seed of the gospel could not get though the rocks to the deep rich soil and produce the strong roots needed to grow. They couldn't lose what they never had. Only those who receive the seed of the gospel into the good soil are saved, and their lives produce fruit that accompanies salvation, (Matt. 13:23). We are given these comforting words: “we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak, (Heb. 6:9 KJV).”
We show by our lives that we're saved. In 1 John, we are told at a true believer obeys God and loves his brother. We do not love the world; The Holy Spirit teaches us; he helps us discern good from evil. We are righteous and do not habitually sin. We show sacrificial love to fellow believers. True faith in Jesus' redemption is ours. God answers our prayers. We have the witness of God in our hearts, and we keep ourselves pure. God is so good and faithful to assure us that we belong to him.
I was confused by the passage of Heb. 10:26-31, like many others. But after studying it, I discovered that it's another hypothetical argument like Hebrews 6:4-6. The author used it to warn us not to live like unbelievers. Not because any of us could lose our salvation, but because we would lose heavenly rewards. (Hebrews 10:35). A few verses later, he assured them that they are not those who fall away, who lack saving faith. They are of “them that believe to the saving of the soul,” (Heb. 10:39 KJV).
Another puzzling verse is in John 15, where Jesus seems to be saying that a believer who does not abide in him could be “cast...into the fire...and burned,” (John 15:6 KJV). Jesus was teaching us that unless we abide in Jesus, our branch (our life) will wither and die. The believer is not burned, but his works will be burned2. He won't receive any rewards. This man will still go to heaven; he will be saved from hell, but “as though by fire,” (1 Cor. 3:15 KJV).
A Christian can be sure that he is saved. God says to those whom he has reconciled to himself, “If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23 KJV).” That worried me until I found in Strong's Concordance that the Greek word for“if” in this verse can mean “forasmuch as, if, that”3 Paul is speaking to believers; Those who move away from God have not lost their salvation. But, sin has harmed their fellowship with God, as the withered branch pictures in John 15:7. The emphasis here is on God's work of salvation, not our work. Jesus has reconciled us to God and is sanctifying us. He will faithfully complete his work (Philippians 2:6) and present us to God “holy, and unblamable and unreprovable.” They will continue. In fact, “forasmuch as” fits the meaning best for verses 21-23. It means “since”, since you continue. True Christians continue. (Col. 1:22 KJV). This is God's wonderful work in us.
For some, “work[ing] out [our] salvation with fear and trembling,” (Phil. 2:12 KJV) means living in fear and striving after doing good works, as the next verse tells us to do. But this isn't true, because the previous verses tell us about Jesus' humbling and his glory afterward. With his example in mind, we should live our lives with an humble reverence for God. We are promised that he will work in us to do good works that he wants us to do now. Paul tells us that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38,39 KJV). We can trust that nothing can separate us from God's love.
When God gives in love this most precious gift, it is securely ours. He will never take it back. When we tremble at the thought of losing it and do good works to keep it, we are trying to mix works and grace. We are redeemed by grace, and God will keep us safe until the end. “For by grace are ye saved, and that not of yourselves, it the gift of God,: not of works, lest any man should boast, (Eph. 2:8,9 KJV). Jesus gives us eternal life, not temporary security dependent on our efforts. If our works could save us, then Jesus didn't need to die for us on the cross. Paul tells us that if our salvation is by grace “then it is no more of works: otherwise is no more grace. But if it be of works, there is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” We either trust our works to save us, or we trust in God's wonderful salvation.
Jesus gives to those to believe in him “eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my hand,” (John 10:27-29 KJV).
Heb. 6:17-19 also affirms our safety in the Father's hand. First, God assures us that God's counsels do not change. He is immutable. Second, God can't lie. We can take him at his word. Knowing these things, we can “have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth within the veil,” (Heb. 6:19 KJV). We can be sure, just as we can trust God himself.
We can also trust that we are his forever, because when God saves each of us he puts a stamp of ownership inside—the Holy Spirit. His presence is a promise that Jesus will return to complete the his work in us. (Ephesians 1:7) The Holy Spirit is “the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Nothing will ever change the truth that we belong to Jesus. We can confidently hope and wait for Jesus to return and gain our inheritance. Then we will see Jesus and become like him because “we shall see him as he is,” (1 John 3:2 KJV).
We can trust Jesus. Right now, he is our high priest in heaven interceding for us. “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them,” (Heb. 7:24,25 KJV). Jesus will keep us saved; our salvation will never end, because Jesus' intercession will never end.
We are forever in the care of the Father. May God give us his peace as we read and meditate on his word.
1 Hendrickson Publishers, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Peabody, Maryland, 1982, 160.
2 McGee, J. Vernon, The Best of J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville:Thomas Nelson Inc., 1988), 117.
3 Strong, Henry, Strong's Concordance, https://biblehub.com/parallel/genesis/1-1.htm