In the last post I began to give my answer to the question, “Will anyone who has been truly born-again ultimately end up in hell due to habitual, willful rebellion and unbelief?” In order to understand the context of my theological perspective on this issue, I shared some biblical facts that we must take seriously. I focused on 3 main facts:
- Those who live in willful rebellion against God have no biblical reason to hope for anything but God’s wrath.
- God warns His children against apostasy in the Bible, and we must receive such warnings with fear and trembling.
- The regenerated heart still contains the root of sin within it and is only kept out of open rebellion against God by the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit.
CAN Vs. WILL
I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.
For those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
This is the will of the Father who has sent Me, that of all whom He has given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life. They shall never perish, nor shall anyone snatch them from My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them from My Father’s hand.
Jesus taught that as many individuals as God determined to bring to faith in Jesus Christ He also determined to raise to eternal life on the last day. And He assures us that He cannot fail in this. The apostle Paul emphasizes that the end (being “glorified” with Christ on the last day) is as certain as the beginning (predestined, called, justified) by writing it in the past tense. He is “confident” that the same one that began the work of salvation would bring it to a perfect completion. He reasons that if God sacrificed His Son for His chosen people, how will He refuse to call, justify and glorify them.
These biblical facts cannot be ignored. And we would do well not to try to explain them away. We might not understand how God can solemnly warn His children against apostasy in one passage and then solemnly promise to keep them from apostasy in another, but we must accept the facts as God presents them. After submitting to, and trusting in, God’s Word, then we can set about trying to understand it.
In a previous post I presented my view on the depravity of man. I explained that human beings apart from God’s persuading grace CAN repent of sin and trust in Christ. They have a rational mind, an active will, a spiritual being and a working conscience by which they are capable of responding to God’s offer of salvation. But they never WILL! Their humanity is not broken in some metaphysical sense but is functioning daily. Their problem is not being broken, their problem is that they are EVIL! They hate God’s truth. They hate His law. They hate His ways. They hate Him! So, though they CAN come, they WILL NOT come to Him for eternal life.
With this line of reasoning in mind I will answer the question we started with in the last post, “Will anyone who has been truly born-again ultimately end up in hell due to habitual, willful rebellion and unbelief?” From my perspective, the biblical answer to this question is no. I believe that there is nothing in the nature of a truly saved individual that will automatically cause him to continue walking with God until the end. Sin is still present and can still deceive and harden his heart. But I do not believe that God will allow this to happen. God may sometimes humble and discipline His children by allowing them to fall into sin in order to show them the sin and deception that still lurks in their hearts, but I do not believe God will leave them in it. The Lord’s words to Peter are instructive: “Then the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to have you to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have repented, strengthen your brothers’” (Luke 22:31-32)
God is Able
Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with rejoicing, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
Endure discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline? If you are without discipline, of which everyone has partaken, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers, and they corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed disciplined us for a short time according to their own judgment, but He does so for our profit, that we may partake of His holiness.
God is ABLE to preserve His children in faith and holiness. God is able to persuade a rebel to submit to Him, and He is able to persuade a hostile heart to love Him. Since this is so, is it hard to imagine that God cannot make those who have trusted in His Son and tasted of His love, to persevere in love and faith?!
An overseer then must be … one who manages his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence. For if a man does not know how to manage his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?
1 Timothy 3:2-5
God requires that elders in the local church must have obedient children. Paul reasons that a man who is incapable of leading children to live obedient lives, is not qualified to take care of God’s children. So, if God expects men to know how to raise godly children, should we imagine that the Creator of souls is unable to lead His children to eternal life by living lives of love and faith?! Never! God is ABLE to keep us from falling!
God is Faithful
May the very God of peace sanctify you completely. And I pray to God that your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
He will strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by Him you were called to the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9
But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will do the things which we command you. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:3-5
God is not only ABLE to keep us on the narrow road until the very end, He is FAITHFUL to actually do so! Our confidence and hope is not found in our own ability to guard our own hearts, though we must do so. For Scripture says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). No, our confident hope is in God, for it is written: “Except the Lord build the house, those who build labor in vain; except the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, and to eat the bread of hard toil, for He gives sleep to His beloved” (Psalms 127:1-2). We guard with diligence, but we rest in hope that He is the One Who is making such diligence effective. We “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” but we can do this in hope because we know that “God is the One working in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
The Bible presents two things that seem to be at odds with one another, divine sovereignty and human responsibility. These are not philosophical concepts for systematic theologians to debate about; they are divine realities for the Christian to experience daily. I don’t know if these realities can be explained in a way that removes all tension satisfactorily, but they can be experienced without any contradiction in the lives of true disciples. Hope and godly fear are not at odds in the Christian life.
To Be Continued…
In the next post I will continue to look at some issues surrounding this topic. But in the meantime I encourage you to meditate on some of the passages I shared above and consider what they mean for your Christian walk.