I was driving home from helping my son install some ceiling fans, and as I was listening to Free Bird, it occurred to me that some within the Christian faith claim the Bible teaches “perseverance of the saints”. I know – an errant thought, but stick with me for a minute.
But first, let’s look at the verse that stirred my thinking during the middle of Free Bird, and then we can delve into the dark crevices of my thoughts.
1 John 2:19
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Perseverance of the saints is not a troubling teaching in my mind, but to be practical, we have to admit that it is a time dependent truth for each of us. Some believers will use this verse to claim that only true Christians remain faithful, and with that I have no argument. True believers continue to believe.
The time component is what sticks in my craw, when I hear that some believers that are living today, claim that they are in a contract with the God of the universe that is iron clad, and without conditions. That initial faith is their ticket to heaven. They will end up in heaven no matter what happens, no matter what they do, or no matter what occurs in their faith.
Let me try to explain it as I heard it in my head as I was conversing with myself on the way home – Don’t worry – I turned Free Bird off during my self conversation!! Carl – admit it – You were talking to yourself!
Carl – 1 John 2:19 teaches that true believers continue in the faith
Anti-Carl – Yes that is true, and those that left the faith were either never a believer, or that they abandoned the faith.
Carl – Oh I am sure the author intends the reader to see those who did not continue in the faith to have never been a believer
Anti-Carl – So you say, but lets get practical. Are you a believer?
Carl – Of course.
Anti-Carl – How do you know you will continue? Can you foresee the future?
Carl – Of course I cannot see into the future, but God will keep me. He has promised.
Anti-Carl – Many folks have claimed a promise from God and yet have walked away. What makes you better than them?
Carl – They were liars, even self deceived.
Anti-Carl – Again, the only assurance you have of eternal life is that you have faith at the point of death. Until that time, you cannot guarantee anyone of your continuance, since it is expressed in action (continuing with believers) as opposed to simply a feeling or a belief. It seems the security you boast in is highly time dependent and somewhat fragile until the end.
Carl – I refuse to hear you anymore!
Remember, dear reader, that the Lord’s promises are many times conditional on our heart response, our obedience, our listening and doing. Our faith is not to be based on head knowledge alone, but on a willing heart that seeks to follow Him.