I’m always happy to answer questions about a sermon I preach. In fact, I think it’s a good sign when people ask questions. Questions show that you are not just listening, but listening critically. You should never automatically believe what someone says about the Bible, no matter how trustworthy a person he or she is. For those two reasons I’m happy to encourage you to ask questions as well as answer two question that came up after Sunday’s Sermon.
Both questions stem from our conversation that only those who abide in the teaching of Jesus have eternal life. Furthermore, one of the way’s abiding in the teaching of Jesus is proven in ones life is through participation in the Christian community. Like I said Sunday, willingly cut yourself off from the Christian community and you have no reason to think you have eternal life. You can’t love and follow Jesus and not love the brothers, the church. Here are the questions that arose from Sunday’s message.
1) Am I saying you can lose your salvation? No, I do not believe that an individual can be saved and then lose that salvation. I’m not going to argue for the doctrine of eternal security here (that’s a post for our ‘what we believe series’), but I do want to make it clear that I do not believe John is teaching that you can lose your salvation. Remember, John is writing that we might know we have eternal life. To make that argument John puts our attention on the present. What are you doing now? Are you currently living out the practical implications of Jesus’ message–like being a part of a Christian community? For John, solid confidence in eternal life is not found by appealing to a decision made or prayer in the past. For certain, past decisions and prayers are important, but the way you know you believe the message of Jesus is to consider how it impacts your life. That’s why John says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us” 1 John 2:19. Those who went out did not lose their salvation. They never believed, and their lack of believe was demonstrated by their leaving the Christian community. One reason this is hard to hear is because all of us know people whom we love dearly that have publicly confessed belief in Jesus but have since walked away from the church. We want to believe they have eternal life. But according to John, willingly leaving the church strips ones confidence that they have eternal life. It is evidence that you have not believed the message of Jesus and so never had eternal life.
2) Does salvation happen in a single moment? This is a separate but related question. One reason we have difficulty following John’s argument is because we have misunderstood the totality of salvation. For many Christians salvation is something that happened, a moment in their past when they were saved. They heard the gospel, believed the message of Jesus, and were saved. Now, there’s something right and wrong in that line of thinking. It is true that if you believe the message of Jesus your sins are forgiven and you have new and eternal life. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Salvation, however is not a simplistic one moment thing. There are several biblical words and ideas that represent salvation: conversion (Acts 15:3), regeneration (Titus 3:5), justification (Romans 5:18), adoption (Romans 8:15, 8:23), sanctification (Romans 6:22), perseverance (Mat. 24:13), glorification (Romans 8:30). Some of those things have already happened; namely, conversion, regeneration, actual adoption, and justification. Two, sanctification and perseverance, are ongoing in the life of a believer. And two, the fulfillment of adoption and glorification, are yet to happen. Salvation then is much bigger than a single moment in our life. Put your faith in Jesus and you were saved, are being saved, and will be saved. Your salvation began in the past, but it will not be completed until Christ returns, the dead in Christ are raised, and the Kingdom of God is fully consummated in the new heavens and new earth. And the great truth is that the God who began the good work of salvation in you will bring it to completion. You can see then why John puts emphasis on the present, which includes sanctification and perseverance–currently the most visible works of God’s salvation in our life. If you are not continuing in your belief in Jesus (perseverance) or growing in holiness (sanctification) you have no reason to think God ever began the great work of salvation in your life.
*If you have questions about any of our Sermons you can email us, ask us after the sermon, or write your question on the guest info portion of the bulletin and drop it in the offering plate.