Perseverance

(Continued from previous post)

5) How much perseverance (v.15) would reflect real faith? In other words, how does anyone know whether they have “made it”?

I think you are asking the wrong question. Salvation is not a matter of how much we have worked to earn it, or how much we have persevered to maintain it, it’s a matter of what God has done to save us and promises to do to keep us there:

  • Rom 8:30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
  • Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rom 8:30 is an unbreakable chain from being predestined to being glorified, and Rom 8:38-39 assures us that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God.

  • 1 Co 1:8-9  who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Php 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.
  • 1 Thes 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
  • 1 Pet 1:5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

These 4 verses all tell us that what God has started in our lives, He is faithful to bring to completion. We are not dependent on our strength to persevere, but on God’s power to preserve us.

Then what about all those verses that seem to tell us that salvation is dependent on our endurance or perseverance e.g.

  • Mt 10:22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
  • Lk 21:19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
  • Rom 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
  • 1 Tim 4:16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
  • Heb 3:6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

What is the relationship between perseverance and faith? Perseverance bears a parallel relationship to faith as works – both perseverance and works are the evidence of faith. Real faith will produce good works and perseverance. They go together. Just as you can say “faith without works is dead”, you might say “faith without perseverance is dead”, that kind of faith is useless. An analogy in human physiology is that of life and brain waves. Life always produces brain waves. No brain waves means the life is gone, dead. The brain waves do not produce life, but are the evidence that the person is still alive. Similarly perseverance does not produce eternal life, but shows that the faith is real and the life everlasting.

(To be continued)

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Gospel Presentation

(Continued from previous post)

3) Why do we preach belief only but not perseverance (v.15) as part of the gospel?

We preach belief because that’s the model in the NT e.g. in Acts:

  • Acts 2:38, 40 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
  • Acts 3:16, 19 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. … Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
  • Acts 8:35-37 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 
  • Acts 10:42-43 And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
  • Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
  • Acts 16:30-31 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
  • Acts 17:3-4 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
  • Acts 17:30-31 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

In all 8 evangelistic sermons to non-believers, whether by Peter, Phillip, or Paul, the focus is always on believe in Jesus, not perseverance. Do they preach perseverance at all? Yes, but to disciples, not to non-believers:

  • Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

The sequence is therefore first faith in Christ to be saved, then strengthen their faith to persevere. We do it not to sugarcoat the gospel, but to follow the natural order of first new birth, then nurture.

4) While justification is by faith, faith by itself without deeds is dead, but we don’t mention it as part of the gospel presentation. Why?

Faith is “proven” by works to show that it is “saving faith”:

  • Jas 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
  • Jas 2:17-18 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
  • Jas 2:20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
  • Jas 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
  • Jas 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
  • Jas 2:26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

It’s not that we don’t mention deeds as part of the gospel. We do, but we are careful to point out that “works” is a result of faith, not a cause for our salvation. We emphasize this because the teaching of world religions, as well as the prevalent secular worldview, is that you save yourself by doing good deeds, which is wrong.

We know the value of good works:

  • Mt 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
  • Eph 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
  • 1 Tim 2:10 [adorn themselves] … but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
  • 1 Tim 5:10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
  • 1 Tim 6:18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

We just don’t want non-believers to confuse “works” as a means to salvation. It isn’t. It is an “end”, not a “means”.

(To be continued)

Overcoming Worldliness

worldly 1

Q. Christians nowadays are very worldly. What is the cure for worldliness?

A. Before we get to the cure, let’s understand the disease. The word “worldly” translates the Greek word “kosmikos“, and means “having the character of this present corrupt age”. It appears 5 times in the NASB:

1 Tim 4:7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
• 1 Tim 6:20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—
• 2 Tim 2:16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,
• Titus 2:12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
• Jude 1:19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

Note that the opposite of “worldly” is “godly”. So the cure for “worldliness” is “godliness”.

Now what does the Bible say about godliness? The word “godliness” appears 15 times in the NASB. I won’t list them all here as you can look them up in a concordance, but the relevant ideas here include:

1. Godliness has to be pursued and comes with discipline:
1 Tim 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
• 1 Tim 4:7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;

2. It is most profitable in conjunction with contentment:
1 Tim 6:6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

3. It is manifested by good works and holy conduct, not just talk:
1 Tim 2:10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
• 2 Pet 3:11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

So to avoid being a worldly person, we have to aim for godliness, be content, and practice it. And what does the Bible teach about contentment? There are two levels.

1. The first is being content with what we have: our wages, our food, our clothing; and not desire what we don’t have:
Lk 3:14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”
• 1 Tim 6:8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
• Heb 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

2. The second level goes higher, being content in whatever circumstances we are in, including difficult times, times when we are in need and suffering:
2 Co 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
• Php 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

The reason one is content under such desperate conditions is because he is totally focused on Christ, who promised He will never desert us or forsake us.

So my long answer is that to overcome worldliness we need to be centered on Christ and develop a close walk with Him. To do so is to become a godly person who has overcome the world.

Worship Jesus but Not Saved!

good works religion

Q. What will happen to a person who worships Jesus as his God but fails to recognize the principle of salvation?

A. Your question applies to many Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, who worship Jesus as God, but have not placed their trust in Him alone as their Lord and Savior. There are also cults (e.g. Mormons) and religions (e.g. Hinduism) who worship Jesus as one god amongst many, not the one true God. Neither group believes in salvation by grace through faith.

What happens to them? They will present their case before God on the basis of their good works, which are never enough:
Rom 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight;
• Rom 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
• Gal 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

I never knew you 1

They will be judged and found wanting:
Mt 7:22-23 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
• Mt 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
• Lk 13:27 and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’

These folks are especially pitiable because they think they are already saved when they are not. That’s why we have an urgency to share the gospel with all willing to listen.