Commentary on "John's Letter to the Chosen Lady"
Day 4: Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Today’s lesson states that “there’s no such thing as ‘once saved, always saved,’” and that “false teaching can lead to the loss of one’s eternal life.” False teaching is indeed dangerous: it can wreak havoc in people’s lives and in the church, and it can hinder people from experiencing freedom and joy in Jesus. However, the idea that believers in Jesus can lose their salvation does not follow from this passage or any passage in scripture. That teaching is designed to undermine peoples’ security in their relationship with Jesus. Trust and security are the foundations of all healthy relationships, and especially our most important relationship with Jesus Christ. I will first refer you to the teaching of Scripture on eternal security and then I will address what verses 8 and 9 mean.
Jesus speaks directly to the issue of eternal security:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:27-30).
Jesus’ meaning is plain: we who belong to Him are secure. Both he and the Father guarantee that no one can snatch us out of His hand. Paul also speaks regarding our security in Christ:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
God wants his children to live in freedom from fear. If we trust in Him, we have no reason to be afraid of anything, especially regarding our security in our relationship with our loving Father. One of the most-repeated phrases in the Bible is “fear not!” Jesus gives us His peace and tells us not to fear:
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (John 14:27).
When someone in the church turns their back on Christ and leaves, some may conclude that they lost their salvation, but the Bible teaches that they did not repent and believe in the first place. John writes:
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us (1 John 2:18-20).
Verse 9 might seem to imply that since one who “goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God,” he lost his salvation. The correct interpretation is that he does not, and never did, have God.
Verse 8 instructs us: “watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” Believers do not need to fear losing salvation, but they can lose their reward in heaven. Paul writes:
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Notice that “he himself will be saved,” though his work was burned up and he suffered loss. Judgment day for believers is for rewards, not condemnation. Paul summarizes our security in this statement:
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
God’s sovereign foreknowledge destined us who believe to receive salvation, and nothing can snatch us from His hand, separate us from His love, or change His mind. “For I, the LORD, do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Let those of us who know Jesus rest in our security in Him.
Copyright 2009 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised September 15, 2009. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Glendale, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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