Other Issues Concerning Salvation

Salvation is very unsure.

Philippians 3:10-21 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; {11} If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. {12} Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. {13} Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, {14} I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus……{20} For our conversation (ie citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: {21} Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

The usage of the word if is confusing. Did Paul doubt that he might be excluded from the resurrection of the dead and therefore not be saved? Firstly, when Paul talks about the resurrection of the dead, he is talking about the rapture. This event is described more clearly in the following verses.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. {14} We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. {15} According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. {16} For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. {17} After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. {18} Therefore encourage each other with these words. (NIV)

Therefore, the if expresses Paul question as to whether he will be able to experience the rapture in his lifetime. It does not reflect his doubt if he will be saved. Paul wanted to experience fully Christ’s suffering even to the point of His death (verse 10). Verse 11 simply says that if God is willing, Paul may even experience this resurrection in his lifetime. There is no doubt in Paul’s mind that he is going to heaven.

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (NIV)

1 Cor 9:24-27 24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (KJV)

This verse is sometimes used to show that even Paul has to constantly work for his own salvation so as not to be a “castaway”. However, by “castaway”, Paul did not mean losing his salvation. He feared losing the crown or reward. This is clear from verses 24 and 25. The word “castaway” which in Greek is “adokimos” can refer to “losing one’s salvation” depending on the context. The word literally means “tested, but not approved”. It comes from the Greek word “dokimos” which means “tested, and approved”. The “a” in “adokimos” is a negative prefix which gives it the opposite meaning. Let’s see the usage of “dokimos”.

Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried (Greek, dokimos), he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (KJV)

In this case, the man who is tested and approved (Greek, dokimos) receives his reward. In 1 Cor 9:27, the one who is tested but not approved (Greek, adokimos) will not receive any prize stated in verse 24. In this regard, the NIV Bible gives a clearer translation compared to KJV.

1 Cor 9:27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.(NIV)

1 Pet 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,

Some people interpret this to mean that we must keep growing till we attain salvation. In this verse, “grow up in your salvation” doesn’t means “growing till you attain salvation”. It means “growing till your death when you will experience salvation”. One version renders this correctly by saying “that you may be enabled by it to grow till you attain salvation”.

Peter earlier confirms that salvation is the result of the act of believing. Therefore, he cannot be saying in 1 Pet 2:2 that we need to attain salvation through spiritual growth.

1 Peter 1:8-9 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

2 Peter 1:5-11 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; {6} and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; {7} and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. {8} For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. {9} But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. {10} Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, {11} and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Peter is writing this to believers. The readers have faith (verse 1,5), they have been given all things pertaining to life and godliness (verse 3). Therefore, Peter is not telling them that they have to do all these things if not, their calling will not be sure. For the purpose of doing all those things listed is so that they may not be ineffective or unproductive (verse 8). Peter is teaching that a life characterised by these great Christian virtues will carry with it a visible confirmation to all who observe it that these people are truly called and chosen by God. This is what Peter has been repeatedly teaching in his letters.

1 Peter 2:11-12 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. {12} Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

1 Peter 3:15-16 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, {16} keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Salvation can’t be free because of its terrible consequences.

Some have argued that if salvation is absolutely free, without any effort on our part, then it would lead to abuse. In other words, a person could claim to believe in Jesus while holding on to his old sinful habits. Therefore it is inconceivable that God intended salvation to be this way in view of its adverse consequences.

While it is true that since salvation is free it could lead to abuse, this is by no means a reason why it cannot therefore be free. Paul himself realizes the potential of grace being abused.

Gal 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature…(NIV)

1 Pet 2:16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil…(NIV)

Paul’s understanding of the abuse of grace does not stop him from preaching salvation through grace. It only resulted in him urging the believers not to take advantage of the position. In conclusion, it can be said that the fact that grace can be abused actually proves that salvation is free. If salvation involves our obedience to Christ by doing good, how can it possibly be abused?