Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
You may have heard of the doctrinal teaching that some people have come to call “the perseverance of the saints.” It is a beautiful doctrine that attempts to capture the keeping power of God over His chosen ones. Jesus said, for example, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). Romans 8:29-30 similarly offers to us what some have called “the golden chain of salvation,” affirming that anyone whom God “predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” God’s promised to glorify those He has chosen is so certain that Paul speaks of it in the past tense.
Sometimes, however, this precious doctrine gets reduced to a dogmatic mantra: Once saved, always saved. Too often, this slogan is misconstrued to mean that as long as someone has prayed the right prayer or said precisely the right thing, they are heaven-bound, no matter how they live. This way lies a complacency that the same Scripture which tells us that no one can snatch a believer from Jesus’ hand warns us against: “Take care,” the writer to the Hebrews warns church members—“brothers”—because it is possible to have an unbelieving heart that leads us to “fall away from the living God.”
How do we hold this assurance and this warning together? By understanding that it is actually as we persevere through the Spirit’s power that God continues His work of salvation in us.
The ground of our salvation is always the work of Jesus Christ, never our own. But the evidence that we are truly in Christ is the fact that we continue to the end. Christ Himself said that it is “the one who endures to the end” who “will be saved” (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13). And how do we continue to the end? Only by God’s persevering grace, which He has given to us in Christ through His Spirit and which is bolstered in us by the “means of grace”—the Scriptures, prayer, the fellowship of other believers, and so on.
Today, if you find yourself believing that “Once saved, always saved” means you don’t have to obey God or pay attention to the Bible’s warnings, know this: that is nothing more than a parody of Christian assurance. It is those who heed the warnings who are those the Lord is keeping. Yes, there will be struggles along the way. But be sure always to take care to cling closely to Christ and lay claim to whatever means He has given you to enable you to endure to the very end.
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.