Guest Blogger: Zac Ethridge
What is saving faith? Does someone have to persevere to the end to have eternal life? If so, how do we persevere to the end?
Hebrews 3:14 says, “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Confidence in what, we might ask? Well, certainly not ourselves! The confidence is in Christ and his work! Hebrews 10:19 says that “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” But the word “if” is so important. We have only become true believers “if we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” True salvation has a confidence in Christ that produces persevering repentance.
Saving faith will always reveal itself through perseverance.
But what about eternal security? You may be thinking, I thought Baptists believe in “once saved, always saved?” Well, I don’t believe you can lose your salvation. There seems to be an unbreakable chain of events in Romans 8:30—“…those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Or as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Or as Jesus said in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
So I do believe in “once saved, always saved.” But, as Pastor Chip Dean once told me, we do NOT believe in “once prayed, always saved.” Jesus said on two occasions, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, 24:13). Just because someone walked the aisle or repeated a prayer doesn’t mean they have saving faith. The truest measure of faith is obedience. Faith is the root and obedience is the fruit. If you have real saving faith it will reveal itself through persevering obedience. That doesn’t mean our obedience is perfect (it’s definitely not), but it does mean that the trajectory of our lives is toward Christ and repentance.
So if perseverance is required, how do we persevere? Start by not assuming your own perseverance. Paul wrote, “Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Be diligent! Casual Christianity won’t inherit the Kingdom. The devil loves it when people sleep walk through life assuming they are saved. He loves it when unbelievers have a false assurance and wake up in eternity to find out they are lost. These verses are meant to make sure we don’t do that! Below are three essentials to perseverance.
Those who crossed through the Red Sea didn’t enter the promise land because of unbelief (3:19). This text warns us not to have an unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12). Unbelief seems to be less about what our minds think and more about what our hearts love. True saving faith is more than just an intellectual agreement with a series of facts about Jesus. Saving faith is an embracing of those gospel truths. It’s a treasuring of Christ. If you are wondering whether or not you have saving faith, the question to ask is: do you really love Jesus? I don’t mean do you love salvation or heaven or blessing? I mean do you really love Him.
Unbelief was the condition of their hearts, but rebellion was the condition of their lives (Hebrews 3:15-18). Emphasizing obedience may not sound like a gospel of grace to you, but it is part of the gospel the New Testament teaches. Jesus’ gospel was repent and believe (Mark 1:15). Peter’s gospel in Acts was repent (Acts 2:38, 3:19). Paul said we “should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20).
So often we want salvation without actually surrendering to God. But that’s not the gospel God has offered to us. Heaven is a holy place, ruled by a holy God, and populated by a holy people. Here’s what I’m getting at: Anyone who isn’t serious about dealing with his sin in the present isn’t serious about entering heaven in the future.
Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today.” We need each other! We have to start taking collective responsibility for each other’s perseverance. You need to give other people the green light to speak into your life. The goal is to make it to “the end” (Hebrews 3:14) but the command is to exhort “every day.” The point is this—The only way to persevere to the end is to live for Christ one day at a time.
So, here are some questions to ask in closing: What are you doing to cultivate a heart of faith? What steps are you taking to repent of sin and obey God? And finally, who’s exhorting you and who are you exhorting?