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Salvation versus Discipleship – Part 4: Sureness Of

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This is Part 4 of a five-part series on the topic of Salvation versus Discipleship. Part 4 will focus on the sureness of salvation versus that of discipleship. Salvation and discipleship are not the same and how well we understand the differences will affect how well we understand the Gospel. Let’s get into it. 

Recap of Parts 1 and 2:

First a quick recap. In Part 1, we showed how having a correct understanding of salvation and discipleship is critical for correctly understanding and communicating the Gospel. Some people, for example, because they don’t understand these differences, take verses that have to do with discipleship, which occurs after a person is saved, and mistakenly apply them out of context to salvation, thinking that those things a disciple of Jesus is commanded to do are things that a person must do to get saved or to stay saved. The result is often a distorted, unbiblical, works-based view of the Gospel of salvation.

In the five parts of this series, we’ve been going through 12 key differences between salvation and discipleship.

In Part 1, we looked at the first 5 foundational differences. 

In Part 2, we looked at the rewards of salvation versus the rewards of discipleship.

Then in Part 3, we looked at the role of repentance in salvation versus in discipleship.

The remaining parts of this series include:

Part 4: The Sureness of Salvation Versus Discipleship

Part 5: Timeline View of Salvation Versus Discipleship

So let’s dive into Part 4: The Sureness of Salvation Versus the Sureness of Discipleship. I’ll address each of these separately, beginning with:

The Sureness of Salvation

Eternal security is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. The Bible is extremely clear regarding the sureness of salvation, that salvation is a gift from God that is given through faith in Jesus, that it is based entirely on the promise of God and can never be lost. There are many, many verses that prove this.

So let’s review some of these verses that prove eternal security. Then we’ll look at some warning verses that warn us not to fall away and some judgment verses that those who commit certain sins will not inherit the Kingdom to show that these types of verses do not threaten our eternal security. 

Verses That Support The Eternal Security of the Believer

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Jesus declared that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. No other conditions are given here for eternal life other than to believe in Jesus. The original Greek is even stronger in that it does not contain the word “should.” 

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24

Notice that the ONLY condition listed for salvation is to believe in Jesus. And for ALL those who believe, Jesus declares that they have already crossed over from death to life (past tense, it’s already happened) and they WILL NOT be judged. God isn’t waiting until the end of each person’s life to make a final decision. Eternal life begins the moment we place our faith in Jesus. In all of the New Testament, there is not one instance of someone crossing back from life to death.

“And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.” 1 John 2:25

The Apostle John declares with no uncertainty that eternal life is based entirely on the promise of God, not on anything we do to earn it or to keep it. When God promises something, you can be sure that He will not go back on His Word.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

This promise of eternal life is given by God’s grace, which means “unmerited favor.” We didn’t do anything to deserve the gift of eternal life. It is not based on our behavior, either before salvation or after salvation. This means you can’t lose it. Salvation is based on the free gift of God’s grace that operates through faith as we place our trust in Christ.

“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:12-13

John tells the church that whoever believes on the name of the Son of God has eternal life. He says that this is something we can know with certainty. Notice the present tense of his statement: Whoever has the Son, HAS eternal life. Eternal life is not something we get later after we die. John says we have it (present tense) the moment we trust in Jesus. John wouldn’t write to reassure believers, telling them that they HAVE eternal life, that they can know this with certainty and count on it, if there was a possibility that they could lose it. 

Jesus speaking: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. John 10:27-29

Jesus declares that those to whom He has given eternal life “SHALL NEVER PERISH” and that no man shall pluck them out of either His hand or the Father’s hand. Now, some who believe you can lose your salvation say that while no one can cause a believer to lose their salvation, it is possible for a believer to remove himself or herself from Jesus’ hand, giving up salvation by renouncing their faith in Jesus. But this verse doesn’t allow that. The phrase, “no man” includes every man, including the believer.  I’ll explain how this works in more detail when we look at warning verses. But for now, this next verse summarizes the reason why a believer cannot remove himself or herself from the Father’s hand:

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,” Jude 24

Notice that it is God who has taken it upon Himself to keep us from falling away. It is never up to us to keep ourselves from falling, to keep ourselves saved. If we cannot save ourselves, then we cannot keep ourselves saved either. God declares that He will keep us saved and will present us before His presences faultless, with exceeding joy. If it’s up to us to keep ourselves saved, then we will all fail, because every believer still battles with sin. Instead, salvation is based on the promise of God, and staying saved till the end is also based on the promise of God. That’s why God deserves ALL the glory.

“…waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:7-8

Again, it is God who takes it upon Himself to confirm and uphold us, to keep us from falling from the faith, that we may be blameless in the day of Christ.

“Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:5

It is God’s power that keeps us eternally secure, not our own works of obedience. 

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” Philippians 1:6

God promises to complete the work He started in each believer and not give up on us. Paul says that we are to be “confident” of God’s faithfulness in this.

“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

No conditions are placed on this promise. We are eternally secure because God will NEVER leave us or forsake us. It doesn’t say, “I’ll never leave you as long as you remain obedient.” No. There are no conditions on this statement. That’s because salvation is based on the promise of God, not on our own obedience or works of obedience. 

“…after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

The moment a person believes in Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells that person and “seals” them until the day of redemption. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came and went from people. Samson and Saul are examples. But in the New Testament, we began a new dispensation, a new Age of Grace. And in this present age, the Holy Spirit does something that never happened before: He permanently indwells a believer in Jesus and places His seal upon them. Paul describes this seal as “the earnest of our inheritance.” An “earnest” is a partial payment that is given to guarantee the full payment at some future date. For example, when you buy a house, you typically give an earnest money deposit to the seller, which is a small amount of the total purchase price, as a guarantee that the full payment is coming. When we are saved, God gives His Holy Spirit to us as His earnest deposit, guaranteeing that the full payment, which is our eternal bodies, will be received as some future date.  Nowhere in the New Testament do we ever see the Holy Spirit break that seal and leave a believer. If fact, this verse promises that the Holy Spirit will NOT break that seal even up to the day of redemption, when God redeems us and gives us our eternal bodies. If we remain sealed until then, that means we can never lose our salvation.

Notice in this second verse in Ephesians 4 that even when we grieve the Holy Spirit, such as through sinning, that the seal is not broken. We remain sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption, and nothing will change that.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38

No creature, which includes the believer, shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ. Our eternal life is eternally secure.

“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:5-7

The moment we are saved, we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Paul was speaking to believers, telling them that they were already seated with Christ in heaven. Notice how this was written in the past tense as something that had already happened. God isn’t waiting until the end of our lives to make some final decision about whether we’ve been obedient enough or good enough to inherit eternal life. The moment we believe in Jesus, we are seated with Him in heaven. Nowhere in the New Testament does it ever mention that a person was “unseated” because of their disobedience as a believer. In fact, this verse promises that we will remain seated with Christ so that God can show His riches and kindness toward us in “ages to come.” 

“But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6

All of these verses declare that, the moment we believe in Jesus, not only are we given eternal life, but we are adopted into God’s family. We become children of God. And God never abandons His children. He remains faithful till then end, even if we are not faithful (2 Timothy 2:11 – God remains faithful).

Jesus speaking: “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5

“Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:5

I put these two verses together because a lot of people who believe that you can lose your salvation will point to Revelation 3:5 and say it proves that only those who overcome will Christ not blot out their name from the Book of Life. And they say that an “overcomer” is someone who overcomes sin and lives obediently to Jesus, making our obedience a condition for salvation, saying that those who do not “overcome,”who do not live obediently, will lose their salvation. But in saying this, they fail to connect this verse with 1 John 5:5, where the same author, John, defines what it means to “overcome.” John clearly says that an overcomer is someone who simply believes in Jesus. That’s it. And to all those who simply believe, Jesus promises that He will NEVER blot out their names from the Book of Life. Jesus places no other condition for salvation other than to believe in Him. This verse in Revelation is in fact proof of “once saved, always saved.”

Jesus speaking: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40

In these two verses, Jesus promises that He will not lose even one person who places their faith in Him, but will preserve them and raise them up on the last day, speaking of our eventual resurrection where we will be given eternal bodies. Once we place our faith in Jesus for salvation, keeping our salvation does not depend on us, but on the promise and preservation of God. 

All of these verses, and there are more I could list if I took the time, prove one thing: that our salvation can NEVER be lost. God never contradicts Himself, so if it were possible to lose one’s salvation, then all of these verses would have to be false. That’s simply not the case. Our salvation is eternally secure, because salvation is based on the grace and the promise of God and His power to keep us saved, not on our obedience.

But let’s look at two other types of verses in Scripture that appear to contradict the doctrine of eternal security. Those are:

  • Warning Verses, where God warns believers not to fall away. 
  • Judgment Verses, where God promises that no one who commits certain types of sins will inherit the Kingdom of God

Warning Verses

Many times in the New Testament, God warns believers to stand firm in the faith so that they do not fall away. Does that therefore mean it is possible for a believer to fall away from the faith? After all, why would God warn us if it were not possible to fall away? 

Here are a few examples of such warning verses:

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith,” 1 Corinthians 16:13

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
1 Corinthians 10:12

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip…How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation;” Hebrews 2:1, 3

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13

“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;” Hebrews 3:14

“…to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard…” Colossians 1:22-23

There are many verses like this in the Bible, warning believers to stand firm in the faith.

Do these warnings mean that a believer could lose his or her salvation if he or she does not stand firm? No, absolutely not. That would contradict all of the verses which we just went through which reassure us of our eternal security.

Then why would God continually warn us if it were not possible to fall away and lose one’s salvation? The answer is that Scripture itself is one of the many means by which God keeps believers in the faith.

To understand this, we need to remind ourselves that it is not up to us to keep our salvation. God has taken that responsibility, as shown in this verse from Jude and others that I listed earlier:

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,” Jude 24

It is God Who keeps us from falling, not our own efforts. So, how does God do this? There are many ways or means God uses to “keep you from falling.” These include:

  • Warnings in His Word, like those I just listed
  • The work of the Holy Spirit inside a believer
  • Warnings and encouragements from other believers
  • Teaching in the church
  • The Body of Christ working in your life
  • Chastisement or discipline from God or through the church
  • Allowing unpleasant consequences of sin to happen, such as the loss of a job
  • Allowing sickness or disease
  • Angels working in our lives
  • Intercessory prayer, both from people and from Christ Himself
  • Lifting God’s protection, allowing spiritual oppression into our lives
  • Or, if all else fails, an early death

These are some of the many ways God uses to keep believers in the faith.

When we become a Christian, God does not eradicate our free will. Technically, we could choose to fall away. But God works in our lives using all of these means and others to prevent that from happening so that His will is accomplished, namely that none are lost, without violating our free will, so that we freely choose to stay in the faith. If all of these means still don’t work, God may simply end our lives and take us home early before we are irretrievably lost. That would be a “sin that leads to death,” spoken of by John in 1 John 5:16-17. God will end our lives early rather than lose one of His children to Hell.

What about people who have left the faith? Didn’t they freely choose to give up their salvation? The Apostle John addressed this in 1 John 2:19:

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” 1 John 2:19

John spoke to the church about those who had left, apparently renouncing their faith. He said two things:

  1. That those who left were never saved, i.e. “they were not of us.”
  2. That if they had been saved, “they would no doubt have continued with us.”

There was NO DOUBT in John’s mind that a saved person would have remained. That’s because it is IMPOSSIBLE for a saved person to fall away, because God has taken the responsibility of keeping ALL of His children in the faith. He will never let any of His children go and that should be a great reassurance to us. While it may appear that a person has fallen away, we do not know the beginning state of that person, whether they were ever saved, or the ending state where that person, whether they will come back to the faith. God does. And He uses all of these various means, including warnings in Scripture, to keep us from falling in a way that does not violate our free will. God never abandons His children. He is faithful.

So are these warnings real? Yes. Technically, it is possible for a believer to fall away. But that’s never going to happen because God has taken it upon Himself to preserve His children through His power. 

So just because God lists a warning in Scripture does not mean it is possible to lose your salvation. That would invalidate the many verses that clearly state that we are eternally secure in our salvation. God is merely using those warnings to teach and encourage His children to choose correctly, in a way that doesn’t violate our free will. If these warning verses are not enough, then other means listed above will be used to chasten and keep a believer from falling away. God will not give up and knows how to keep His children. Not one will be lost. 

Judgment Verses

There are a number of verses in the Bible that appear to prove that a saved person could lose his or her salvation by sinning:

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

Is it possible, then, for a saved believer to lose his or her salvation by sinning? No, absolutely not. Then why are these judgment verses in Scripture?

To understand this, we have to understand exactly what happened at the cross. The moment we place our faith in Christ, all of our sins – past, present and future – are nailed to that cross and are paid for, 100%. 

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you ALL trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross;” Colossians 2:13-14

When God then looks at the record of our lives, even though as believers we may – and in fact, DO – intentionally sin and commit the very sins that are mentioned in these judgment verses, those sins will not be listed on God’s record of our lives because all of those sins have been nailed to the cross. They have already been paid for by Christ and have been removed from our record. So God’s Word is true, that “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” But in the case of a believer in Christ, there is no longer any record of such sins that we have done. Christ has paid for them all.  

When God looks at our lives, for those who have placed their faith in Jesus, He only sees the righteousness of Christ. That is the grace, or unmerited favor, that God has bestowed on us. The Bible refers to this as “justification,” the act of God declaring a sinner to be “just” or “righteous,” because they have placed their faith in Christ and, therefore, their debt of sin has been paid. And because our sins have been paid for by Christ, God removes the record or stain of those sins from His record books.

In our legal system, we have another word for this: Expungement.

Expungement is a court-ordered process in which the legal record of an arrest or a criminal conviction is “sealed,” or erased in the eyes of the law. It is also called “setting aside” a criminal conviction.

This occurs when

  • A person is found guilty of a crime
  • Then the merciful judge agrees to “expunge” the guilty person’s record, usually because the judge decides that the guilty person’s debt has been sufficiently paid
  • As a result, the conviction is then “set aside” and ALL TRACES of the crime are removed from the record books. Their record is now clean, even though they committed the crimes.

If that person then went to apply for a job, for example, and the employer checked his or her record, there would be no trace of a criminal past. This is what God does for us: God nailed our sins to the cross and then expunged all traces of sin from our record.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

“I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isaiah 43:25

So when we read judgment verses like Galatians 5:19-21, as believers, we need to read them in light of the cross. The verses are true. God is holy and no one who is found guilty of such sins will inherit the Kingdom of God. But for the believer in Christ, all traces of such sins have already been removed from our record. They have been expunged and we have been justified before God. 

We see this in 1 Corinthians 6, where Paul first says:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

But then Paul continues by saying:

“And such were some of you. 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. 1 Corinthians 6:11

God is not bound by time. He sees our end from the beginning. He knows every sin we have done and ever will do. So He’s not waiting till the end of our lives to see if we are worthy. Instead, after we placed our faith in Christ, He washed us, sanctified us, and justified us. He expunged our record and removed all traces of sins that would condemn us. To God be all the glory for this.

Does this mean, then, that a saved believer can commit any sin and still be saved? Yes. And we have proof of that in Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul wrote to the church about a saved believer who was engaging in sexual immorality and was unrepentant. 

“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.” 1 Corinthians 5:1

Then Paul declares judgment on that saved believer:

“For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed…to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:3, 5

Paul declared that this believer in the church who was engaging in unrepentant sexual immorality would be turned over to Satan for the “destruction of his flesh.’ In other words, he would be put to death. But then Paul clearly says that the man’s spirit would still be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. The man would NOT lose his salvation. That’s because all of his sins, including those he had not confessed or repenting of, were already nailed to the cross and were completely paid for by Jesus. Even this unrepentant, sexually immoral man would be saved because he placed his faith in Jesus. He was committing the very sins mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21, where it says “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Yet, Paul declared that he would still be saved. That’s because the moment he placed his faith in Christ, all sins – past, present and future – were expunged from his record, not just the ones he repented of, but all sins. There was no sin left for God to judge. They had all been nailed to the cross.

That is why Paul declared to the Galatian church:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
(bondage: referring to placing yourself again under the law, from which Christ has set you free)

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

What liberty was he speaking of? The liberty we have in Christ, knowing that all of our sins – past, present and future – have been removed from our record, so that we are no longer under the law that condemns us. So when we now sin as believers, our salvation is no longer at risk. We have liberty, because all of our sins been nailed to the cross.

However, in the presence of this liberty, Paul also gives a word of caution, lest we think that, as believers, we are free to sin with abandon: Paul warns us to not to use this liberty as an occasion for the flesh. 

As saved believers, when we willfully sin, God responds by first warning us through His Word to stand fast in our faith. That’s why those warnings are there. But if that is not enough, He then begins to discipline or chasten us more and more severely until we respond. In the case of this Corinthian believer, he was about to be put to death early on account of his unrepentant sin, even though his soul would still be saved. Fortunately, for his sake, we know from 2 Corinthians that he eventually repented and was not put to death. But he was very close to having that happen.

When we sin as believers, we can suffer in this life, possibly even experience an early death and then lose rewards in the next life when we get to heaven. So we should not test God in this by willfully sinning. But even when we fall under God’s discipline, we can rest with confidence that we will never lose our salvation. That’s because salvation is based on the promise of God and His faithfulness to keep us saved. Our salvation is not based on our own works of obedience. God has already blotted out or expunged all of our sins so that our record before Him is forever perfectly clean.

So to sum up, we can rest with confidence on the sureness of our salvation, that it can never be lost.

But what about discipleship?

The Sureness of Discipleship

Whereas our salvation is eternally secure (Once saved, always saved), discipleship is not. When it comes to walking as a disciple of Christ, we are always in danger of falling, not to fall so as to lose our salvation which can never be lost, but to fall so as to fail in living as Christ. 

The Apostle Paul expressed his frustration at failing to live perfectly as a disciple of Christ:

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:18-25

There are many verses that warn us of the dangers and challenges as we try to walk in our discipleship to Christ:

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Revelation 2:4

After we are saved, we begin the process of discipleship and face many challenges, as we grow to maturity, becoming more and more like Christ. It is a lifelong journey that will never be completed until we are in our resurrected eternal bodies. God’s Word reminds us that the world, the flesh and the devil are working against us every day to keep us from becoming mature disciples of Christ and effectively carrying out God’s will. So every day, there is a risk that we may fail as disciples of Christ. Yet that failure does NOT in any way mean we will lose our salvation, which is eternally secure. God may chasten us in our failures and we may experience the consequences of our failures, but God will never leave us or abandon us. God does not abandon His children. He remains faithful.

The key then to being a successful disciple of Christ is to learn to depend on God and to walk in His strength.

“…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

To sum this up, the way to keep from failing at discipleship is to learn as Paul did how to abide daily in Christ and let Christ live through you. As Paul says,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 So the sureness of salvation and discipleship can be summed up like this:

Salvation: We are eternally secure and salvation can never be lost

Discipleship: We are in constant danger of failing in our discipleship to be like Jesus and, therefore, need to repent of sins, put to death the deeds of the flesh, abide in Christ daily and allow Christ to live through us.

With that summary, that concludes Part 4, the Sureness of Salvation versus Discipleship.

We now have one section left in this series where we’ll wrap up the entire series with a graphical presentation:

Part 5: Timeline View of Salvation Versus Discipleship

….   

Finally, I do this in all my videos, if you are not 100% sure that you are saved, that if you died today, God would welcome you into heaven, I urge you to make your commitment to Jesus secure right now. Here’s a prayer for salvation that you can pray. But keep in mind that a prayer does not save you. You are saved only when you place your trust in Jesus alone, believing in your heart that He died to pay your debt of sin to God and that He rose from the dead to show you the eternal life that He offers. This prayer, then, is just a way of formalizing that decision, putting a stake in the ground, saying that you are trusting in Him and never going back. If that’s what you would like to do, please pray with me:

“Lord, I have sinned and I need you to save me. I believe that Your Son Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins and that He rose from the dead to show us the new eternal life You have for us. I believe solely in Jesus to save me, that He paid my debt of sin 100%. Please forgive my sins and save me now, Lord, according to your promises. In Jesus Name.”

If you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, know right now that you are eternally saved.

So if you notice on this, we have on the left-hand side, Salvation, which is believing in Jesus as Savior. And on the right-hand side we have Discipleship, which is living for Jesus as Lord. In the middle is where people make a decision to believe in Jesus and are spiritually born. All their sins are forgiven and they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is on the left-hand Salvation side that the only repentance a person can do is to repent of their unbelief. They cannot repent of sins until the Holy Spirit is in them, on the right-hand side. On the left-hand side, they can be aware of their sins and we need to talk to people to make them aware of their sinful condition. And they can feel grief and remorse over the sin in their lives. But they can’t turn from it. They can’t save themselves. They can only repent of their unbelief.

But then the good news is that God helps us. Once we are spiritually born and the Holy Spirit is in us, then, as part of discipleship – living for Jesus as Lord, becoming a Spirit-filled Christian – that we learn to repent of our sins, turning away from sin and walking in holiness, becoming living-sacrifices for Jesus. 

So what does this mean in terms of sharing the Gospel? Simply this:

NEVER

 Tell An Unbeliever That They MUST
Repent of Their Sins
And Turn From Them

To Be Saved

That would be taking something that happens only in discipleship, AFTER salvation, and trying to apply it TO salvation. This would be telling someone to do the impossible, for it is totally impossible for an unsaved person who does not yet have the Holy Spirit in them, to turn from their sins. That is not the Gospel. But some Christians and churches make it the Gospel, because they don’t understand the difference between salvation and discipleship or the work of the Holy Spirit. They simply take a verse like 1 John 1:9, where John tells THE CHURCH, those already saved, that they need to confess their sins, and apply it way out of context to the unsaved. 

 For those of you who know you are saved: Did you repent of ALL your sins and turn from sin BEFORE you were saved? No. It doesn’t work that way. 

When you tell an unbeliever that they must repent and turn from their sins to be saved, all you are doing is putting a great wall between them and God, a wall that’s impossible for them to get through. The only thing that’s going to do is lead them into despair or further unbelief.  

Does God want an unsaved person to repent and turn from their sins? Absolutely! But that’s not going to happen without the Holy Spirit being inside of them. So when witnessing to the lost, don’t put that wall there. Don’t put that barrier there that says you must repent and turn from all your sins to be saved. That will happen AFTER they are saved.

As Christians, we need to realize that the lost CANNOT save themselves. They cannot repent of their sins and turn from them before they are saved because they do not yet have the Holy Spirit. Confessing sins and turning from sins is for the church, not the lost. Save the lost first. Then God will work inside each of them to help them turn from sin. 

John wrote:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

John wrote that to the CHURCH, NOT the unsaved. So don’t quote this as a requirement for salvation! The unsaved can only REPENT from their UNBELIEF to BELIEVING in Jesus. So we need to help them:

  1. Recognize their lost condition (sinfulness before God)
  2. Believe in Jesus

We need to GET THEM SAVED FIRST!

And then, AFTER salvation, God’s Holy Spirit in them will help them get rid of sin. That is the process of SANCTIFICATION. That happens in DISCIPLESHIP. 

So, as far as salvation and discipleship are concerned, the role of repentance is to

  • SALVATION: Repent of UNBELIEF to BELIEF in Jesus
  • DISCIPLESHIP: Repent of sinful behavior leading us toward holiness

 

So, that concludes part 3. We now have two sections left in this series:

Part 4: Sureness of Salvation Versus Discipleship

Part 5: Timeline View of Salvation Versus Discipleship

We already looked at a small piece of the timeline in this lesson, but we’ll develop it more in Part 5.

….   

Finally, I do this in all my videos, if you are not 100% sure that you are saved, that if you died today, God would welcome you into heaven, I urge you to make your commitment to Jesus secure right now. Here’s a prayer for salvation that you can pray. But keep in mind that a prayer does not save you. You are saved only when you place your trust in Jesus alone, believing in your heart that He died to pay your debt of sin to God and that He rose from the dead to show you the eternal life that He offers. This prayer, then, is just a way of formalizing that decision, putting a stake in the ground, saying that you are trusting in Him and never going back. If that’s what you would like to do, please pray with me:

“Lord, I have sinned and I need you to save me. I believe that Your Son Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins and that He rose from the dead to show us the new eternal life You have for us. I believe solely in Jesus to save me, that He paid my debt of sin 100%. Please forgive my sins and save me now, Lord, according to your promises. In Jesus Name.”

If you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, know right now that you are eternally saved.


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