[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: VII. Salvation

Lesson: D. Sanctification and Perseverance

Objective: To understand the process of sanctification and the eternal security of perseverance.

Scene 1: I was saved once ...

Well ... I don't go to church and am not very active, but I went forward and prayed once at a Billy Graham crusade. I really haven't thought much about it since then.
Scene 2: I thought he was ...
My son accepted the Lord when he was 6. He seemed to enjoy Pioneer Club and the Youth Group, and got baptized. But ever since he went off to college ...
These scenarios are fairly common. It may happen around the time of family events, such as when a family member is getting married and everyone wants to know if the prospective spouse is 'saved'. In other cases, the behavior of a child changes dramatically when he goes to college, or graduates from college, and is no longer under the direct control of the parent. These scenes simply make the point that we expect Christians to behave a certain way, to live a godly life. When the godly life is not apparent, we wonder if they are really saved, or if they lost their salvation. We will discuss these topics in this chapter.

1. Review of Definintions

These descriptions are worded differently than the short definitions in the last chapter, although the words are the same. There is a broad scope of meaning within these terms, and different descriptions are sometimes useful in gaining a fuller understanding.

2. Sanctification

"Sanctification is a progressive work of the Holy Spirit in the believer that purifies the life and conforms the whole man to the image of Christ as the Word of God is believed and obeyed. It begins at regeneration, continues throughout the believer's life on earth, and reaches its competion at the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ." (Bible Fellowship Church Article 16) Sanctification is work of the Holy Spirit, which we as believers cooperate with by believing and obeying the Word. The time is from the moment of belief and we continue being saved until the Rapture. The purpose of sanctification is that process by which we gradually become more and more like Christ.

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."(2nd Corinthians 3:18) When Paul wrote this verse, he stated it as a fact for Christians. Moses came down from Mount Sinai with his face glowing, reflecting the glory of the Lord. But the glowing on his face started to fade. Moses put a veil over his face to hide it, and to hide the fading of the glory. But our reflection of the image and glory of the Lord is not fading, but growing clearer and clearer. This is why we are to be unveiled, and people should be able to observe our life showing the Lord's glory.

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, ..."(1st Thessalonians 4:3-4) Paul stateed that it is God's will that we be sanctified. Often we wonder what God's will is for our life, and we look for specific things like a new job. But this part of God's will is plain, we are to live holy lives that show God's glory. Specifically, we are to be loyal to our spouse, or if single, to remain chaste until married. While the glory comes from God, we are to learn to control ourselves, and that takes work.

"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."(John 17:17) Jesus prayed that God would sanctify us by the truth, which is God's word. Regular Bible reading is one way to take in the word, which will change our thoughts and make them more like God's thoughts. "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."(1st Corinthians 6:11) In another sense, Paul told the Corinthians that they had already been sanctified and justified. We were made holy or sanctified when we were first saved, yet we continue to grow in holiness.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Being made new takes place in our mind and attitude. We then have to make an effort to put off the old self, simply stop doing what we know is wrong but has become habit. We also have to put on the new self, for instance, by deliberately caring for others and doing what we know is good and right, but which we don't normally bother with. We must do these things even when we don't 'feel' like it, and sometimes when we really would rather do something else (like give in to selfish desires).

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."(1st Thessalonians 5:23-24) Finally, God himself has an active part in our becoming holy. The idea of sanctification, or holiness in our life, is connected with perseverence, or being kept blameless. The statement that God will do it applys to both Sanctification and Perseverence. God is of course stronger and more consistent than we are, and it is good for us that ultimately both sanctification and perseverence depend upon Him.

3. Perseverance

Can I lose my salvation? The Roman Catholic View:

"Mortal sin: It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1861)
The official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is that a saved person can commit a mortal sin, and be under the condemnation of hell. The lapsed Catholic is then to repent and obtain God's forgiveness to again be in a saved condition. What is a mortal sin? It is any breaking of the moral law contained in the 10 Commandments. That includes telling a lie, committing adultery, or coveting (desiring and seeking after something that belongs to someone else). If a lapsed Catholic dies before repenting, they apparently are to go to eternal hell (not purgatory, which would be temporary).

It would be fair to ask, "Do Catholics really believe that?" Perhaps every individual Catholic does not, but the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, signed by the Pope and taught by the priests. That document makes this doctrine clear.

Most protestants believe that the Bible teaches perseverence, that every person who is saved will be kept in a saved condition by God. That God will never allow a saved person to 'lose' their salvation. Certainly this is an important question, for if we can lose our salvation we should know about it and what to do. On the other hand, if we cannot lose our salvation, we can have an honest peace and contentment in our faith, free from the fear of hell for a single lie or another sin in a moment of weakness.

"Salvation is the work of God, from its commencement to its consummation. Those regenerated by the Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit become partakers of the divine nature. They are preserved by the power of God so that they shall never totally or finally fall away, but shall persevere unto the end." (BFC Article 17) This statement of faith states that perseverence is the work of God, not simply from the efforts of the believer. It also indicates that a believer will not totally or finally fall away. Certainly believers sin, and for periods of time they may stray. But God limits the 'stray', and a straying believer will be taken to heaven at death, never condemned to Hell.

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."(Romans 8:29-30) Since God determined ahead of time (predestined) that we would be conformed to Jesus image, it must happen. The process from calling to justifying and glorifying is entirely the work of God, not man. "... he has given us his very great and prescious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith ..."(2nd Peter 1:4-5) Peter refers to perseverence as a promise of God. Because it is a promise, we take part in this and escape evil. On our own strength, we are simply not up to the task. However, since we are working with God, and He has promised the victorious life, we are to make every effort we can 'to add to your faith'.

"... Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."(Philippians 1:6) Paul was confident that the Phillippians would persevere, that God would complete what He started in the life of each believer. "... who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."(1st Peter 1:5) Peter says we are shielded by God's power until the rapture (which is the revelation of salvation in the last time).

"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."(John 10:28-29) Jesus said, "I give them eternal life". It is a gift of God, not earned. And that gift cannot be taken away, neither Satan or the Old Self or even our own will is enough to destroy the gift of eternal life. "He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."(1st Corinthians 1:8) Paul reminds us that God will keep us strong. Yes, we are weak, and prone to sin. Yet, God will keep us strong. As we grow old, we may even become forgetful or feeble minded, or perhaps wonder if we can continue to stand firm through a continuing battle with disease. Yet ... God will keep us strong.

But what about people who are apparently really evil, who were once part of the Church yet now teach heresy and do evil things? "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."(1st John 2:19) John said that they were never really Christians at all. They deceived themselves and others. We should be careful in judging this, because believers do wander and sin. Yet, everyone who has truly trusted in Christ for salvation will be kept. The false teachers of John's time had never really trusted, but perhaps simply went through the motions. Being baptized as an infant is not enough, nor is taking the Lord's Supper, or even simply repeating a special prayer. Yes, we can trust Christ by being led in prayer, but the person has to decide to put their trust in Jesus."But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command."(2nd Thessalonians 3:3-4) Paul was confident that the Thessalonians, Christians that he had to criticize and instruct in the faith, would be strengthed and protected by the Lord. Even imperfect believers, some sinning, were still protected. Of course God does discipline, and he sends teachers such as Paul, but it is ultimately the Lord who preserves us and not our own effort.


Written Assignment:

If you are sure that God will take you to heaven no matter what you do, why bother living for Jesus now?

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 39, 57 and 58; BFC Articles 16 and 17.


Key Verses:

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."(2nd Corinthians 3:18)

"... Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."(Philippians 1:6)

"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."(John 10:28-29)

Additional References:

"Sanctification is a progressive work of the Holy Spirit in the believer that purifies the life and conforms the whole man to the image of Christ as the Word of God is believed and obeyed. It begins at regeneration, continues throughout the believer's life on earth, and reaches its competion at the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ." (Bible Fellowship Church Article 16)

"Salvation is the work of God, from its commencement to its consummation. Those regenerated by the Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit become partakers of the divine nature. They are preserved by the power of God so that they shall never totally or finally fall away, but shall persevere unto the end." (BFC Article 17)


All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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