by Jeremy Walker /
Read all the posts published to date in this 16-part series on the essential truths of the Christian faith.
HOW DO WE REMAIN IN CHRIST TO THE END? Part 2
Last week we began to explore the Bible’s answer to the question of how anyone manages to remain in Christ to the end. Having been born fallen and lost in Adam, then redeemed and saved in Christ, can a Christian then be lost again? Introducing that all-important topic, we focused on the need for believers to embrace God’s purposes and rest on his promises.
Accept God’s Providences
Move on with me to the providences of God. The divine government of the entire world is conducted with the end in view of the final salvation of the people of God. So Joseph can assure his brothers, giving us a window into the wise and sure designs of the Lord, that even the things that they meant for evil, God intended for good (Genesis 50:20 NKJV). The same kind of assurance is offered on the broadest scale by the apostle Paul when writing to the church in Rome: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28–29 NKJV).
When God calls for the purpose of conforming to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ—not just a gradual increase in likeness, but working toward a final and complete transformation—then he orders all things to work together for that good and holy and sure purpose.
God will work out all his purposes, including those for his redeemed people, even though his providences may seem to run counter to his promises. As surely as Joseph would be elevated above the brothers who threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave, so surely the worst that any child of God experiences is a means in the hands of his heavenly Father to conform him now to the image of Christ and to move him inexorably toward the glory that lies ahead.
We must not forget that some of these things fall very firmly into the category of fatherly chastening. The writer to the Hebrews compares God the Father’s loving treatment of his adopted children with the behavior of a godly and gracious earthly father: “For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10–11 NKJV; see also Isaiah 54:7–8 NKJV). Sometimes those experiences that are most painful are most profitable in God’s plan for our sanctification—our increasing holiness—so that we learn to say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71 NKJV).
Rejoice in God’s Provisions
Think also of the provisions of God. These might be thought of as a subset of his providences, but they are worthy of consideration in their own right. This is the purposeful and deliberate giving of all that is needful for the standing fast and holding to the end of every one of God’s children. He has provided everything we require. At its most basic, the gift of God’s son has secured everlasting life: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV). Not only his atoning death but his abiding life ensure that we shall be saved: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10 NKJV).
Paul can therefore hit us with a barrage of questions designed to strip away all fears and remove all doubts:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:31–34 NKJV)
Perhaps the sweetest assurance of all is that Christ himself is with us. Before he ascended into heaven he spoke to his disciples, issuing commands and offering comforts:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:18–20 NKJV)
This promise of his ongoing presence he fulfills in various ways, primarily through the presence of his Holy Spirit in the heart of every saint and in the church at large, though we should not forget his intercessory prayers on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25 NKJV). But he also, as the Good Shepherd of the sheep, supplies needful things in the church as a means of caring for his flock, taking account of all the challenges and demands of kingdom life in a fallen world:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11–16 NKJV)
Alongside of such ministers and their various labors in speaking the truth, Christ has provided other means of grace and avenues of blessing. These include baptism and the Lord’s supper, prayer and song, with various aspects of the fellowship of the saints in the embrace of his church. The Lord gives all these to promote the well-being of his people and to strengthen and to nurture the spiritual life granted to them. While there are individual battles to fight, and a personal journey to make, it is with and among the people of God that the pilgrim’s progress takes place.
We should never lose sight of the corporate dimension of this journey. We stand and we fight and we go both individually and collectively, members together of the one body. Our fellow travelers, and our various supplies along the way, are all part of God’s provision for us. In Christ and from Christ we find all that is necessary for the people of Christ to stand fast.
Obey God’s Precepts
Furthermore, we must take into account the precepts of God. It would be far too easy to remove these from the equation, but to do so would not only be foolish but potentially fatal. Signs indicating the right path and warnings to stay away from the cliff edge keep the traveler from falling to his death. In the same way, God tells us how to live in order that we might keep on the way of life.
He sends to us teachers in order to instruct us how to live in safety and security, communicating his truth: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21 NKJV). These teachers warn and teach in all wisdom in order that they might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28 NKJV). He commands us to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10 NKJV) and equips us to do so. Noticeably, most of the assurances and commitments to which we have referred above come to us in immediate connection with calls to obedience (see, for example, Ephesians 6:10–13 NKJV; Colossians 3:5 NKJV, Colossians 3:12 NKJV; 2 Thessalonians 2:13–15 NKJV; or Hebrews 10:12 NKJV, Hebrews 10:23–26 NKJV). God’s promises and provisions should never be isolated from his precepts.
Trust in God Himself
Our confidence and our comfort are rooted in the determinate purpose and saving activity of God Almighty. We cannot escape the personal nature of this, nor that all three persons of the Godhead are actively and intimately involved in this work. This is a salvation of trinitarian scope and power.
It is God’s will that all those given to the Son should be kept to and through the last day (John 6:39 NKJV). The eternal life of the saints is the life of those who are held in the hand of the Son and of the Father, who are one (John 10:28–30 NKJV). God does not forget us; in the person of the incarnate Son, our names are inscribed on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:15–16 NKJV). The Lord Jesus prays for his people that their faith should not fail in the face of particular trials and temptations, and he does so for each one as required (Luke 22:31–32 NKJV, Hebrews 7:25 NKJV). By the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, the children of God are sealed until that day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13–14 NKJV, Ephesians 4:30 NKJV). We are held in the grip of the Almighty, kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5 NKJV).
Part 14 of a 16-part series drawn from Anchored in Grace: Fixed Points for Humble Faith, by Jeremy Walker.
Jeremy Walker serves as a pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, England, and is married to Alissa, with whom he enjoys the blessing of three children. He has written several books and has blogged at Reformation21 and The Wanderer.