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Need for Perseverance
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...because of the Possibility of Apostasy

           In the course of my presentation in the first three lessons, I shared three key beliefs that I perceive to be like beautiful scenes or precious gems, except that they must be pictured with the mind’s eye.  The first key belief might be entitled, “We Live by Faith” (2CR 5:7).  [This is also HD#1 as explained in Lesson 11.]  Everyone lives by faith or free thinking/willing rather than by absolute certainty or coercion.  No one is infallible—not a pope or a genius or you or me.  This means that every soul chooses/wills to believe whether life has a purpose or not.  Once presented with the experience or revelation of God (OT), a person chooses whether to believe God exists or not, and if given the Gospel (good news) of Christ (NT), whether Jesus is Messiah or not.  It is pointless to try to straddle the philosophical fence by claiming to be an agnostic or not to know, because no one knows anything with absolute certainty.  Any finite mortal who claims to know something should mean that he/she believes with a sufficient or reasonable degree of subjective certainty, i.e., the reasons for believing seem logical. 
 

            The second beautiful belief is “God is Love” (1JN 4:7-8, HD#6).  The fact or rational belief that God loves means God is not tricky.  In Acts 13:10 the apostle Paul says that the devil is “full of all kinds of deceit and trickery . . . perverting the right ways of the Lord.”  And James 1:13 states that God “does not tempt [trick] anyone.”  God wants no one to choose to disbelieve in Him and experience hell (2PT 3:9), so He does not hide the way to heaven.

            The third spiritual gem (and creedal motto, cf. Lesson 3) is “Jesus is Lord” (ACTS 16:30-31, PHP 2:11).  Reality and history have meaning as God’s plan of salvation and human reaction to that plan.  However, if Christianity were a hoax or false, then life would be a farce!  (1CR 15:14-19)  How could anyone believe in anything ever again if millions of people were deluded for hundreds of years about such a wonderful hope?  Only a tricky God would allow that to happen.  Pre-Christian and antichristian (mis)conceptions can be explained as ignorance or sinfulness, but a deceptive Deity cannot be—unless God were hate—which would be worse than cosmaterialism or atheism!  The truth of Satanism is that evil, the devil and demonic souls exist, but they have no power except what a loving, almighty God allows (HB 2:14-15).

 

         The previous lesson discussed the distinction between kerygmatic (primary/necessary) truths and didachaic (secondary) doctrines.  My understanding of reality is that God blesses souls who choose to believe or love the truth with eternal joy.  The NT teaches that God wants all Earthlings to learn and believe the kerygma or Gospel of Christ Jesus.  The remainder of this series of lessons assumes that the reader is a moralist (GN 2:17), a theist (GN 17:1) and a Christian (GN 22:8&18) or at least open-minded enough to consider becoming such.  Before proceeding, let us summarize/review the rationale for choosing these options.

          Genetics may one day prove that our behavior is biologically determined or preprogrammed, but at this time it appears that humans have moral free will.  Physics may someday prove that the universe is eternal, but the current “big bang” theory of a unique universe is compatible with the biblical creation account.  Finding the cure for mortality might reveal God is irrelevant, or having a close encounter with space aliens who had no salvation history might make one question God's existence, but these have not happened and may never happen.  The body of Jesus has not been discovered in a tomb in Palestine/Israel.  Also, there is no more coherent history of mankind’s search for meaning and no higher concept of morality than the canon of writings known as the New Testament.
 

         Thus, logic (common sense) and the course of history lead truthseekers to conclude:  there must be an ultimate or objective meaning for existence or else life (characterized by KOTH per Lesson 1) is a farce; the best evidence regarding ultimate reality points to the existence of a loving God, who is not tricky in revealing (progressively or in at least three stages:  before Abraham, from Moses to Jesus, and after Christ) His will for humanity (although He does not abrogate volition by zapping people who refuse to seek it); and God’s plan (in the final stage) is for all truthseekers to fellowship forever in a heavenly home prepared by the atoning death of Jesus, God’s Messiah/Christ.  If my thinking is flawed, then I apologize as I pledge as sincerely as I can to remain open to being converted to the belief that life is a farce because there is no God in heaven.

Just as unsaved sinners do not experience complete hell on earth, saved sinners/saints/believers do not necessarily “live happily ever after” on this earth when they repent of evil/Satanism.  While we look forward to the proverbial “pie in the sky by and by”, we receive only a taste of heaven (HB 6:5) in the here and now.  Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (JN 15:11, also see JN 10:10 & 14:27a), but he also knew that his followers might suffer for his sake (MT 5:10, 1PT 4:12-19).  In order that Christians do not become discouraged, they need to understand that salvation has three stages or time components.  They were saved from ultimate hell at the moment of deciding to accept Jesus as Lord (EPH 1:13, RV 3:20), they are (being) saved or perfected morally while remaining loyal to Jesus (JM 1:3-4), and they will be saved bodily on the day of resurrection (ZCH 14:1-9, 1THS 4:16).  However, although it is God’s will for everyone to be saved (1TM 2:3-4, 2PT 3:9), He allows souls to resist His intention and reap just condemnation (GL 6:7-9, RM 3:4-8). 

 

Some people wonder whether God’s will includes a specific plan for their lives, including a particular career and spouse.  It may be that some (like Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9) receive a special calling to serve the Lord in a specific way or to marry a certain person.  However, the majority of Christians (like myself) do not report experiencing such a miraculous revelation, and so they are free to choose whatever morally respectable vocation (1THS 4:11-12) or spiritually compatible spouse (if any, 1CR 7:8-9, 2CR 6:14) appeals to them.  Every soul’s general calling has been revealed or taught in the Holy Scriptures, which is to experience the miraculous fullness of Christ or become a Christ-like (EPH 4:1-2, 2THS 1:11-12) and Spirit/love-filled (GL 5:6, 14-16 & 22-23) person.

 

The spiritual union between believers and Christ is comparable to marriage (EPH 5:23-32).  Just as a husband and wife may need to renew their commitment until they part at death, the NT indicates that Christians also need to reaffirm their saving faith daily (LK 9:23, 2CR 4:16) or maintain an attitude of humble confession and thanksgiving continually (1THS 5:17-18).  They need to build upon their initial faith in Christ by learning how to become like Him or achieve His fullness.  Then they will neither take God’s grace for granted nor repent of their decision to serve Him  as Lord.  In other words, perseverance is an implicit and integral part of kerygmatic faith, and Christians need to persevere in their acceptance of the kerygma and to keep on learning the didache until the day they die (2THS 1:3-5, 2PT 1:5-8).

 

The need for perseverance prompts this question:  Is it possible for a Christian to repudiate his/her saving faith and become apostate or again bound for hell?  Before seeking to answer this question, we should remember that although perseverance is necessary for salvation, the didachaic teachings a Christian learns while persevering are essential to believe for moral maturation but not in order to be/remain saved.  Although the kerygma is simple enough for a young soul to understand, the discussion of the details of the didachaic doctrines—including this lesson on the possibility of apostasy—can become rather complicated and controversial.  Thus, a Christian needs to be humble or Spirit-filled before tackling such issues, keeping in mind that whichever position a Christian takes on any secondary doctrine, he/she should fellowship with those having a different interpretation who affirm the kerygma and manifest divine love.  This realization should help Christians to relax and enjoy their freedom in Christ as they learn and discuss what they believe with others (cf. the section on the Christian creed in Lesson 3).

 

The issue of apostasy has been debated ever since Augustine of Hippo developed his doctrine of predestination about A.D. 400.  Romans 8:38-39 seems to say that it is impossible for a Christian to fail to persevere.  Paul writes:  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life . . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  We also read in John 10:27-29 that Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; . . . no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  (Also, see EPH 1:11-14, 1JN 2:19, ACTS 17:26, PS 135:6 & PR 21:1.)  However, there are numerous verses in the NT which indicate that it is possible for a believer intentionally to will to separate him/herself from Christ and become a slave of the spirit of antichrist, which is named Satan (GL 5:1, RV 12:9).  The classic passage that teaches the possibility of apostasy is Hebrews 6:4-6:  “It is impossible for those who have . . . shared in the Holy Spirit . . . if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again.”  Another verse in this vein is Galatians 5:4:  “You [Christians] who are trying to be justified by law . . . have fallen away from grace.”  (The reader should also see RM 11:22, 1CR 15:2, CL 1:22-23, 2THS 1:4-5, 2TM 2:12, HB 3:6&14, 10:35-36, JM 1:12, 2PT 1:10-11, 2:20, 1JN 2:24-25 and RV 2:10.  These Scriptures are quoted at the end of this lesson.)

 

Some Christians say that the biblical exhortations to persevere do not imply the possibility of apostasy but are only a means God uses to keep believers from repudiating their Faith.  I find it difficult to accept this interpretation for three reasons.  First, the plain sense of many verses of Scripture including those listed in the preceding parentheses suggests that it is possible for a believer to commit apostasy, and saying that this understanding is false seems to make God tricky.  Second, God’s plan of salvation from the miserable consequences of choosing to reject Him makes sense to me only if people are morally accountable or free, and free will seems meaningful only if a person can choose between essentially opposite options, as in Deuteronomy 30:19:  “I set before you today life and death, blessings and curses.”  This is the same choice that was set before Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (GN 2:16-17) and before that to Satan in heaven (LK 10:18).  I see no reason to think that this choice is not eternal, because it is this choice which creates:  free will (faith in Christ or antichrist), moral responsibility (love the Lord or hate Him) and meaningful life (taste of heaven now and hope for eternal joy rather than misery now and ultimately hell).  And 1 Corinthians 13:13 says “these three remain”.  Third, Jesus said “The truth will set you free” (JN 8:32), and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (JN 8:36)  As a disciple of Christ I feel free, and I find every day fraught with significance as I fight against evil in a war that has ultimate consequences for the destiny of my soul.

 

If Christians retain the same freedom they had as non-Christians to accept or reject Christ’s Lordship, then the second most important truth to learn in life after the gospel/kerygma is the necessity of persevering in accepting Christ as Lord and in learning God’s Word (LGW) until we die in order to achieve our God-given purpose in life, the fullness of Christ.  [Please note that I will employ the abbreviation LGW to signify this truth.]  The doctrine of perseverance or LGW serves like a bridge from the kerygma to the didache, so it is logical to harmonize the diverse biblical statements on this issue before proceeding to other didachaic topics.  The passages cited previously that seem to support predestination may be harmonized with those supporting free will or volition as follows:

1.  Romans 8:38-39 -  “anything else” refers to powers other than one’s own will.

2.  John 10:27-29 -  being “unsnatchable” does not disallow a person from choosing to jump out of the “Father’s hand”.

3.  Ephesians 1:11-14 -  what is “predestined” is God’s plan to choose or elect anyone who desires to be “in him” or to satisfy GRS.  Thus, being “marked in him with a seal” does not abrogate MFW.

4.  1 John 2:19 -  when synthesized with verse 24 must mean that those who repudiate their Faith do not eternally “belong”.

5.  Psalm 135:6 -  in light of “volitional verses” (such as DT 30:19 & MT 23:37) means that God “pleases” to permit limited free will.

6.  Proverbs 21:1 -  in order not to make God responsible for the sins cited in the rest of the chapter must mean that the “king’s heart” or will is choosing to cooperate with the  Lord’s “hand” or directions.
 

           The didache consists of much information, so what should we learn next after the doctrine of perseverance?  We find so many teachings that are important, and it seems that everything needs (for achieving spiritual maturity, the fullness of Christ) to be learned at once.  Christian theologians have found it helpful to organize the biblical teachings into eight topics, each of which has two questions—one kerygmatic (k.) and one didachaic (d.)—with which it especially deals as follows:
  
 
        
1. God the Father/Creator (patrology) -  Does God exist and save? (k.)  What is God’s will/word for humanity beyond the requirement for salvation? (d.)
        
2. God the Son (Christology) -  Who is God’s primary revealer, if not the Jewish Messiah? (k.)  What does Christ reveal beyond the kerygma? (d.)
         3. God the Holy Spirit (pneumatology) -  Why does God interact with physical creation? (k.)  How does God fellowship with saints/saved souls? (d.)
         4. Humanity (anthropology) -  How may souls be saved? (k.)  How should saved humans believe and behave? (d.)
         5. Salvation (soteriology) -  What is salvation and the requirement for obtaining it? (k.)  What are the details of the dynamics involved in salvation? (d.)
         6. God worshippers (ecclesiology) -  How should souls worship God? (k.)  How should worshippers cooperate in order to accomplish their mission? (d.)

         7. History (historiology) -  What has occurred in the past related to salvation? (k.)  How can knowing history help us now? (d.)

         8. Future (eschatology) -  Will Christ come again and take Christians to heaven? (k.)  What significance do future events have for us now? (d.)

 

Each of the topics concerning the triune God corresponds especially with one of the topics concerning human souls.  God as Father (or Parent) created and recreates humanity, Christ is God’s Messiah or means of saving humanity, and God’s Holy Spirit indwells and empowers Christian humanity as they worship and cooperate.  A ninth category is logic (hermeneutics), the principles a person uses to interpret the Bible or any communique about reality.

 

My intention in this lesson series is not to reiterate truths found in tomes on theology or philosophy.  Rather, I merely desire to share a few insights regarding these subjects that seem to be neglected or to need greater emphasis by students of reality (truthseekers) these days.  I have attempted to be succinct so that busy readers who are investing valuable time in mining for spiritual gold will be rewarded with a rich vein.  My hope is that truthseekers who are working the puzzle of reality will find many truisms that will elicit shouts of “Eureka!”  The main truisms that have been connected up to this point have included the three unavoidable beliefs, three watershed decisions, and three beautiful beliefs.  To these were added three crucial doctrines:  God is just (theodicy), the gospel (GRS), and perseverance (LGW).  

 

At this point let us note a fact that is not beautiful but is most obvious:  This life is not heaven yet!  In fact, at times it can seem quite the opposite.  In between conversion and heaven, God allows our journey to go through various places we would rather not visit:  the ghost town of job loss, the quarantined ghetto of disease, the burning village of divided families.  But let us take heart from the words of Paul in Philippians 4:12-13:  “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation . . . I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  What is Paul’s secret?  I think it is this:  treat every negative experience as an opportunity for learning some truth that will help us to become stronger persons and better witnesses for Christ.  Financial problems teach us to value spiritual riches and to rely on God (1TM 5:6-10), physical ailments teach us to appreciate a healthy immortal life in heaven (2CR 12:7-10), and unhappy relationships motivate us to resist the devil, even though we feel as if God has forsaken us (JM 4:7-10, MT 27:46).  The paradoxical truth is that we experience joy amid suffering (1PT 4:13).  While not desiring to suffer or praying for problems, mature Christians have a Christ-like attitude so that tribulations only make them merely joyful rather than overjoyed!  Christians are joyous because they realize that suffering is only for a season and for good reason:

1. Pain and sickness due to mortality teach us to center our lives on God and the hope of immortality, 
2. Pain resulting from sinful behavior leads the wise to conform to the character of Christ (HB 12:4-11, RM 8:29),
3. Relying on God’s grace and truth in the midst of undeserved troubles glorifies Christ (2CR 4:7-11) and shows the value of LGW,
4. Troubles serve to keep mature saints humble (2CR 12:7-12), and
5. God’s Holy Spirit comforts those who suffer and thereby demonstrates His love (MT 5:4, 2CR 1:3-4). 
 
As Paul also wrote (in RM 5:3-4), “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Our hope is that we gain heaven (PHP 1:21), which is worth any grief occasioned by Faith (1PT 1:6-9, 2CR 4:16-18, HB 12:2).  Yes, this life is not heaven yet, although our continual prayer is for God’s will to be done on earth in our lives, but I encourage you to keep on believing God and fighting evil until God’s kingdom comes.  Do not be discouraged, but rather relax and rest in God’s love as you remember what is really important in life. 
 

My motto is this:  Love to learn and learn to love.  Yes, making money is a necessary struggle, but remaking oneself is more important.  Becoming wealthier would be really nice, but becoming nicer is real wealth.  For this reason we should value truth as treasure more precious than gold.  As St. Paul stated in Colossians 2:2-3:  “My purpose is that they may . . . have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  Every soul has the capacity to fulfill God’s will regarding salvation and eventual perfection.  We have free will; God provides the way, so let us “just do it”!

SCRIPTURES THAT TEACH THE POSSIBILITY OF APOSTASY

MT 10:22, "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."

RM 11:22, “22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”

1CR 15:2, “2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

GL 5:4, “4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

CL 1:22-23, “22But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”

2THS 1:4-5, “4Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.  5All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.”

2TM 2:12, “ 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us;”

HB 3:6&14, “6But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

HB 6:4-6, “ 4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”

HB 10:24-28, “24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

HB 10:35-36, “35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

JM 1:12, “ 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”  

2PT 1:10-11, “10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

2PT 2:20, “20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.”

1JN 2:24-25, “24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.”

JUDE 21,21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” 

RV 2:10, “10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.  Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”