Ruling elder, Agros Church
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)
At first glance, this passage can easily be understood as addressed those who are not yet saved but who will be saved in the future. This is not the case. Paul’s use of the greek word hēmin, a plural personal pronoun meaning, 'us', includes the author, Paul, in 'to us who are being saved'. The implication of this language indicates that Paul is not talking about the people group who are yet to be saved, but those who have already been justified. Paul further explains this concept in his epistle to the Church in Philippi:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
Paul is not making a case for a works-based salvation here. Rather, he is indicating that there is another component to “salvation”. Though the justification of the believer is completely accomplished on the cross, there remains more to Christianity on Earth than just being justified. If this were not the case, the Christian could go on sinning, or in a horrifically extreme example, take their own life and enter immediately into eternity, not having to undergo the turmoil of a corrupt world. That is not to say that Christ’s work is not complete on the cross, rather, that He will continue working in those that He has justified, saving them from the power of sin active in their life. This is a great comfort to Christians! Paul affirms Jesus’s departing words to His church:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
Paul affirms two distinct concepts Jesus leaves His disciples with:
1) Teaching them to observe all I that I have commanded you. And 2) behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. In the Gospel of John, John quotes Jesus:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
(John 14:15 ESV)
This clearly demonstrates that there is an active component to Christianity, and Paul affirms this concept throughout his epistles. Further, Christ confirms in Matthew 28 that He will be the actor upon the believer that empowers the work of sanctification, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. That is to say, that although the justifying work of Christ is fully accomplished in the believer, He remains with the believer until the very end, equipping each for every good work and providing the increase. Sanctification is the receipt, the proof, the evidence, in every believer that Christ has indeed purchased them by His life, death and resurrection. It is because of this truth that is found throughout Scripture that matters of faith and practice are considered essential as a necessary evidence of justification in the believer’s life. As a result, any doctrine espoused that teaches a recitation of a prayer in one moment seals a person for eternity is utterly refuted. Jesus does not lose those that He has called, but molds them and shapes them according to His lovingkindness until they die or Christ returns in judgement on the last day.
This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.
(John 6:65 ESV)
The very nature of the regeneration of the believer by God, the effectual calling, necessitates that God sustain the belief of the Christian until the very end. If God has the power to create man, to wake him from death, sin, and misery, and restore him into right standing before Himself, He most certainly has the power to sustain their belief and carry them along for the remainder of their life. If God was inadequate to do such a work, He would be no God at all, for man’s will would be stronger than His. It is in this truth that we affirm God’s will is stronger than man’s, and that He will accomplish the work He set out to do in the life of the believer.
Declaring end from beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:10 ESV)
That is to say, that a God who promises eternal life to all those who believe, would be a liar if that promise should fall flat, and the believer did not receive eternal life. Thus we affirm that the believer is “being saved”, or sanctified, and will continue to be, until the end of their life. This is the most warm of comforts to the believer, especially the one who is struggling through doubt or tormented by lack of assurance. The God of salvation is mighty to save, and it is in this truth that the believer can find comfort that He will be gracious to them all of their life!
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