Today in our study of 1 Thessalonians, we turn to the doctrine of perseverance and our personal assurance of salvation. Following the method of the text, we will begin by basing our assurance in the eternal decree of election. If we were chosen by God to salvation from eternity past, it follows there is a purpose in God to bring us to the full fruition of our salvation which is glorification in heaven.
As Baptists, it has been one of the tenets of our faith from the beginning to teach that we are eternally secure in Christ. Though we may differ in some degree on many issues, there is unanimity among Baptists on this doctrine. The great Baptist confessions and our greatest preachers have always affirmed this. However, there has been a shift in theology that has produced shallow teaching and the grounding of our assurance has been largely lost. Our preservation in Christ is taught but the requirement of our perseverance is not. Assurance of salvation has been reduced to an almost wholly inadequate catch phrase, once saved always saved. Before we are through with this study, we will address the harm of this phrase and then present it in its true biblical perspective.
I thought I might approach this briefly in this article that the once saved always saveddoctrine is rightly attacked by those who believe it teaches salvation is like a downhill runaway truck. We only need to be saved and it does not matter what happens next, our destination is secured. The salvation truck runs on its own, which we should know is a recipe for disaster.
This is not the biblical perspective. We are told in Philippians 2 to work out our salvation. Not to work for, but to work out our salvation. God does not intend for us to drift to heaven, but to be actively rowing there using Christian graces. These graces are supplied by God and are the means of our preservation. We press on because God ensures that we will use these graces—all Christians do.
There are several means God uses which include prayer and the word. There are too many self-assured Christians who never pray and never read the word. They also rarely attend the fellowship of the church. Some make the decision that the way in which the word is taught is not suitable to them and because they do not like the format they will not attend. This is self-actualization which makes the end of the gospel the promotion of self rather than the glory of God.
God uses means to keep us in His grace. The neglect of means will cause Christians to fall into grievous sins such as those experienced by some great patriarchs of the Bible. David fell into gross sin, but because he was a true believer, he repented with bitter self-loathing. Thus, we see continual repentance is also a means of persevering attachment to Christ.
I propose to show in this study that those who neglect the means of perseverance have no proof they are true believers. They rely on the coasting truck, the drifting boat, and the lazy approach to finally reach heaven. Those are not the means and will indicate the person has a false profession of faith.
On what do you base your profession? Is it because of an act in the past and the preacher passed on his pronouncement of once saved always saved?It is shaky ground and is never the concrete basis for assurance in the New Testament. Make sure you get this right. If you die with false assurance, you die without salvation.
Pastor V. Mark Smith