“Assurance encourages us in our combat; it delivers us not from it. We may have peace with God when we have none from the assaults of Satan.”John Owen, The Golden Book of John Owen, 227.
On Sunday morning I briefly touched on the saying, “Once saved, always saved.” This saying is often used to summarize the truth that the invincible power of God guarantees that once God causes a person to be born again, Peter’s living hope from 1 Peter 1:3, that that person cannot be, in the end, lost. This is an often misunderstood and sometimes abused doctrine. This truth is often used to imply that one who has professed faith in Jesus Christ is going to heaven no matter what the fruit of his or her life has been. Even more damagingly, it can be used to assure us of the eternal destination of a relative that is currently living in open rebellion against God. As a result, our interactions with them are centered around how they should morally reform their life instead of their need for salvation. Sadly, moralistic advice can bring further condemnation for those who have not been given new birth. Just as Paul describes his own experience in Romans, “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.” (Rom. 7:10–11)
Instead, when interacting with those who seem to have turned away from God, we should offer the counsel that Paul offers to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor. 13:5) The biblical teaching about the security of our salvation in Jesus Christ is exactly what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:5. We are guarded by the power of God, but the power of God works through faith. The power of God looks like enduring faith in Jesus Christ. Because of this, we understand that our continuing faith in the Son of God is a direct result of the power of God in our lives. We are being guarded by the power of God, through faith. That is why the saying, once saved, always saved, can be so misleading. It is true that once you have been caused to be born again to a living hope in Christ Jesus, you are guarded by the power of God, but God’s guarding power works through faith, not around it.
Therefore, we must examine our faith to see if it bears the fruit of repentance. We look closely and ask ourselves if we are trusting in Christ by obeying his commands. This is a vital part of our Christian life. We should not only counsel others with Pauls exhortation to the Corinthians (“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor. 13:5)) But we should also take Paul’s counsel to heart ourselves. We should examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. We should look to see the evidence that God has placed in our lives. We should look to see the great mercy of God shining like a sunbeam through the clouds of our imperfect faith. Then, we will have hope when all hope seems lost because we know that God is keeping us by his world creating, world sustaining power, and it’s all of mercy. And, it’s the mercy of God that is our ground for invincible joy.
Striving side-by-side for your faith in the gospel,