Are You Sure?

When a person first comes to faith in Christ, they are on fire for God, and they are so overjoyed with the salvation that God has provided.  But then life sets in.  Years go by, struggles arise, temptations triumph, and that first love is lost.  As a result, we begin to wonder whether we truly are saved, especially when we fall into sin.  Could we lose our salvation, we ask.  Could we somehow separate ourselves from God because of something we have done or failed to do after we have believed?

The apostle Paul certainly believed you could not.  He wrote to the Colossians—a church he had never met—and said that they were “have been made complete” in Christ (Colossians 2:10).  This idea of completeness is also found in chapter 1, verse 28.  Now the Colossians struggled with the idea of Asceticism, or the idea that they had to do something to maintain their salvation, such as fulfilling the law or severe discipline of the body (Colossians 2:8, 16, 18, 20-23).  They thought they were saved, but they still struggled with sin, so they wondered if there was something else they needed to do in order to be “Truly saved.”   In answering their doubts, Paul acknowledged that they had “been firmly rooted,” but were now “being built up in Him,” in Christ, which signified that he understood their struggle and growth (Colossians 2:7).  However, he called them “complete” in Christ, as if there was nothing else that needed to be done.  Why?

The answer, we find in the letter to the Ephesians, is that salvation has nothing to do with us at all.  Yes, we must come to Him in faith, but really salvation is entirely a work of God.  In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul describes the glorious Trinity, then in chapter two, he shows why Gentiles are just as saved as any Jew.  He points out in verses 1-3 who we all were apart from Christ (he includes himself in the list also).  He calls us “dead,” but then uses action words such as “Walked,” “lived,” and “indulged” to describe our former lives (Ephesians 2:1-3).  That is what we did.

And then we read those glorious first words of verse four: “But God.”  How awesome and wonderful that expression is.  We were dead in sins, but now God has “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5).  In verses 4-9, there are no action words that describe what we do, but they all depict the wonderful work of the Trinity in saving men and women.

God’s plan of salvation was motivated by love.  After noting that God “is rich in mercy,” Paul says that God acted because “he loved us” with such a deep, fathomless love (Ephesians 2:4).  He would later say in this same letter that “the love of Christ…surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).   The Lord’s love for us is so rich, so deep, so great, we cannot even truly know it, not in this life.  It is the one thing that motivated our Awesome, Holy, Just God to offer the only Person who has ever pleased Him fully for a bunch of dead rebels like us who spat in His face.  It makes no sense why He would do it, but He Did, may He be praised!

Because of that great love, He conducted our salvation in grace.  Twice in these few verses the phrase “by grace” appears (Ephesians 2:5, 8).  You see, Christ did not have to lay down His life for us, but He did it voluntarily (John 10:17-18). He “existed in the form of God,” surrounded by thousands and thousands of angels who praised Him continually for who He was, but laid it all aside and “emptied Himself” of that glory for us (Philippians 2:6-7).  “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). 

It was through that death that He bore the penalty of death that we deserved and purchased our redemption.  God “caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” in order that “we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21).   Christ Jesus bore our sin; there was nothing that we did, or even could do, that would remove our sin from us.  It was all an act of grace.

And then Paul really gets down into the meet of why we can have assurance of the finished work of Christ.  He says that God has “seated us with Him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6).  This is not saying that somehow Christians have a heaven on earth or that this is the Millennial Kingdom, not at all.  He is not speaking about a physical sitting down.  Instead, He has in mind our spiritual condition. 

Formerly, we “walked according to the course of this world,” but now we are “seated…in heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:2, 6).  There is an entire and complete distinction between our old life and our new life in Christ.  We once followed Satan, “the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience,” but now we have been “sealed” by “the Holy Spirit of God” and called to be “filled” with Him (Ephesians 2:2; 4:30; 5:18).  We are born to a new life, have a new home, and follow a different Spirit.

And this is because our salvation is settled in heaven.  That is what Paul is saying.  Nothing on this earth or in this life can ever, ever “Separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39).  Peter writes that God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope” and “to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).    Our salvation is settled in heaven and nothing can ever revoke that.  Furthermore, as a guarantee of that inheritance,  God has “sealed” us by the Holy Spirit “for the day of redemption,” and He is our “pledge” (Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 5:5).  God has saved us, secured our position in heaven, and given us the Spirit as a seal upon our hearts.

After all of this, after this beautiful description of God’s word, do we come back into play.  There were action words of what we did, then we find what we are to do only after we are saved, after we believe that is (Ephesians 2:1-3, 10).  The “good works” in verse 10 are not how we are saved, but what we are to do as result of salvation.  Jesus said that we would know believers “by their fruit,” and James said that “faith, if it has no works, is dead” (Matthew 7:20; James 2:17).  This is not to say that our works somehow maintain our salvation, but they are the result of genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now we might rightly think that this sounds scandalous.  I mean, God saved us and no matter what happens we cannot lose it.  That sounds like license to sin.  It is not, but Paul dealt with the same issue when He wrote.  There were some who asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1).  Paul blows this out of the water when he emphatically cries, “May it never be!” (Romans 6:2).  God did not save us so that we could live however we pleased, but He saved us from the death we deserved because of sin.  Therefore, we are no longer to continue in that old life.  The Bible says, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that the body of sin might be done away with, that we would no longer be slaves to sin” Romans 6:6).  Yes, we are saved and nothing can change that, but that does not mean we are to go on sinning deliberately.  God has saved us from sin, and because of His love, His grace, and His Spirit, we should not continue in the old life to which we have now died.

That does not mean that we are perfect or somehow sinless.  Paul told the Philippians that God “Would perfect” them throughout time until Christ returned (Philippians 1:6).  He told the Colossians that they were “being built up in Him,” in Christ (Colossians 2:7).  Our growth in Christ, our sanctification, is a process, but our salvation is finished upon the Cross.  Our Lord Jesus paid the ultimate price, satisfying God’s righteous wrath because of His love for us.  He acted through grace, and now we live in Him, having the seal of the Spirit upon us.  Our salvation is complete, and nothing can ever change that.  What hope that gives us in dark, troubled times.   No matter what we go through here below, we have a home firmly settled in heaven.  What peace that gives, and what motivation that should give us to share Christ with everyone.  It does not matter what we have done, Christ saves all.  We all deserve death, Paul described in verses 1-3, but God has provided salvation.  Let us tell the world about it.

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