False Conversion

(Continued from previous post)

This argument seems to set the decisive moment about whether and when someone is saved at the time they confess faith. They either pass or fail at that moment, with no second chance at growing after a less-than-stellar moment of conversion. According to the argument, those who lack the “real saving faith” at that moment are not saved, period. (Because if they are still saved but later do not demonstrate the necessary deeds during trials, then they will lose their salvation which is the possibility that this argument tries to preclude.) In that case they are doomed without recourse, since if they are not saved at that moment of opportunity when they think they are — with everybody congratulating them while the Holy Spirit flunks them quietly — they really don’t have the sense of urgency to do what they can to turn the situation around. Besides, justification is by faith, not works, so they are still doomed regardless of what they do. This argument seems to imply that if someone is not “up to standard” at the moment of conversion then nothing can help them make up for it. In that case all the encouragement about attending church, reading the Bible etc. appear moot in terms of salvation, because if they do have the “real saving faith” then nothing can knock salvation off them (once-saved-always-saved), whereas if they don’t then no amount of efforts can save them.

What you described is a case of false conversion, someone who thinks he/she is saved, but who really lacked saving faith. What happens to them? If the church is doing her job, she would follow up the individual, visiting him to see whether he has assurance of salvation, encourage him to attend worship, and teach him to pray, read the Bible and join fellowship or a cell group. They would monitor his progress to see if there is any change in his behavior, as evidence that he has been “born again”. People progress at different pace, but if after a period of time there is still no sign of life they would doubt whether his “conversion” was genuine in the first place.

What next? His Christian friends, assuming they are concerned about his spiritual well-being, would question his “faith” and witness to him as if he were an unbeliever, since his conduct leads them to such a conclusion. Is he doomed without recourse? Not necessarily, because although “once (genuinely) saved, always saved” is true, the converse “once lost, always lost” is not true. That person may not have any sense of urgency to repent, but neither has any non-believer until the Holy Spirit convicts his heart.

All of us start out rebellious – it’s in our fallen nature. The false convert has an extra hurdle of self-delusion, thinking he’s saved when he’s not, but it’s not insurmountable. With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Mt 19:26) He may send other Christians besides his friends, even total strangers e.g. a short-term mission team, to witness to him. I take “the Lord does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9) at face value. “Any” would include “false converts”, so it is not hopeless as you’ve described.

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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)