Once you were alienated from God and were hostile in your minds because of your evil deeds. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence— if indeed you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope of the gospel you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:21-23 BSB)
The hope of salvation and reconciliation is found in Christ and it is received through faith. Here Paul stressed the harsh realities of our sinfulness and the great blessings of God’s salvation in Christ.
How lost we were
The fundamental problem of the human race is its alienation from God. We do the things we do because we do not know Him. Sin has broken the relationship and since Adam and Eve sinned, the entire human race has passed down this trait through the millennia. We are not good people with a small problem. We are a people created to be like God that how have a broken and marred visage of the Creator in place of what once was.
We are like a sculpture of a great artist that has been knock off its pedestal and lies in the dust broken and fragmented. If one looks closely enough we may still see the beauty of the original creative act of God, but it is marred and scarred. We are “alienated,” meaning estranged and shut out of the fellowship of God. And “hostile in our minds” to Him, at cross-purposes to His holy purpose. Rather than doing the good God created us for, we do the evil that is against Him.
Other passages, Ephesians 2:1-3, for example, expound on our fallenness and our lostness without Christ. Yet God loved us. Let it be clearly understood that there was nothing in us that commended us for redemption and salvation other than the love of God for us. We were not “good but misunderstood” nor “on the road to improvement.” Humanity has made some great strides but there is still the mark of sin and selfishness across them all. With every great human invention and accomplishment, there are some among us who will scheme to use these things for evil.
How greatly Christ has saved us
Yet as deep as our sin goes, so the grace of God in Christ Jesus goes deeper and raises us higher. God has “reconciled” us to Himself in Christ in order that He may present us “holy, unblemished, and blameless.” This is a remarkable statement and it is in complete contrast to what the average person thinks or imagines — even the average Christian.
Too many imagine that we humans just needed a little help, and that that is what Christ offers us — an example, an inspiring life, a new teaching, some encouragement. Or they think that God just got us out of the ditch or the hole that our sin had put us in, and now we are give the possibility to scale the heights to the city of God — or some imagery like this.
But the gospel proclaims something very different. It proclaims that God took it entirely upon Himself to do what is necessary to completely and entirely cleanse us from sin, from the slightest vestige of sin, and to present us “to himself” in a blameless state. That phrase “to himself” is all important here, for the grace of God must be accomplished not just in our eyes to feel as though we are justified or forgiven, but in His holy and all-knowing eyes. Only if we are made holy in God’s eyes, in His estimation, are we truly saved.
The work of the Spirit is to bring conviction to our hearts of our need of salvation and to lead us to believe in Christ with a sense of urgency. This is exactly what Christ spoke of in John 16:8-11, when He said:
And when He comes, He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because they do not believe in Me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world has been condemned. (John 16:8-11)
The conviction of “sin” is our awareness of our need of grace. The conviction of “righteousness” is the assurance that Christ is the answer for our sin and that there is righteousness available in Him as a covering for our sinfulness (Rom. 1:17). The conviction of “judgment” is the inner awareness of the urgency of the matter, that judgment is sure and we must trust in Christ today. Death and hell (if we face eternity without Christ) are just around the corner.
If you continue in faith
The only thing that we can do to receive this gift of salvation and reconciliation is to repent of our sins and believe in Christ. That repentance and faith are required, that they are two sides of the same response of the heart, is clearly taught elsewhere in scripture (Acts 2:38, for example). In this matter of being saved we are entirely helpless and must throw ourselves on the mercy and grace of God in Christ. Our faith, regardless of the doubts associated with it, if there is any genuine faith that God can notice we are saved.
Let us be very clear on this point, that the only Person in the universe able to determine if the faith in any heart is sufficient is God Himself. Faith must rise above a notion or an emotion, or the mental ascent that we have a problem, or even the logical acceptance of the gospel that it “makes sense” that God has paid for our sins in taking them upon Himself in the cross. All of these things might be present in the mind, but unless they rise to the point of God’s standard of repentance and faith, the gospel becomes like the seed that fell on the infertile soils of the path, the rocky ground, or the thorny ground (Luke 8:4-15).
We are clearly warned to be sure that we are in the faith.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Can’t you see for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you actually fail the test? And I hope you will realize that we have not failed the test. (2 Cor. 13:5-6)
The believer can know that he is saved and this knowledge is based on the promises of God’s Word and the inner witness of the Spirit. Salvation is not based on putting in some type of performance report of good works — that is a false teaching, that we are saved in part by God’s grace and in part by our works. We are only saved by grace through faith.
But there is another test to show us whether or not we are saved, and that is whether or not we continue with God in our faith. Notice the wording of the text above:
…if indeed you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope of the gospel you heard… (Col. 1:23a)
The statement is not that they are saved if they continue in good works, though someone who believed would have some fruit to show for his faith. But the key issue is faith, “not moved from the hope of the gospel you heard.” All that they or any of us could do was to hear the gospel and to believe in Christ.
Can a believer lose his salvation?
This is a commonly asked question, and the only resolution for the matter, that I know of, is to study and understand the scripture and then take your stance on what it says. There is a disagreement among Christians, on whether someone may lose his salvation or not.
Let it first be acknowledged that those who say that someone may lose his salvation, that among them no credible teaching would suggest that any sin at all, even the most fleeting unholy thought, would cause one to be damned to eternity all over again. Unholy thoughts flit through our minds all the time, and some take momentary hold of our thoughts — the irritation we may feel toward the driver that cuts us off in traffic, for example. If that impure thought condemns us to hell all over again, then there is no hope whatsoever, and no assurance of our salvation.
But credible teachers know this and do not say that these impure ideas that come to our minds automatically cause us to lose our salvation. Rather it must be some sin that is of a great significance, and it usually comes down to someone renouncing Christ. It must be more than a momentary moral lapse, so what else could it be other than a complete and utter renouncing of Christ?
The question, then, is whether a true believer can or will renounce Christ. This renouncing must be done in the heart toward God and cannot be merely a misuse of the Lord’s name — such spoken sins are already forgiven and covered in the blood of the Lamb (Matthew 12:32).
Five facts of scriptural facts have led me to believe that a true believer cannot lose his salvation for a true believer, despite his tendency to lapse in his Christian walk will not deny Christ.
First, there is no place held out in the judgment for those who formerly believed and ceased to do so. In the final judgment, and in all of the end times judgment passages, there is no judgment for those like this. It is always believers and non-believers. For example, Christ said:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 BSB)
The statement by Christ is not that He once knew them, or they once believed, but that He never knew them. Even preachers may pretend faith that is not truly held in their hearts.
Second, In John’s epistle, in dealing with those who left the fellowship, he said: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Again, the emphasis is on the fact that these people who renounced the faith were never truly believers in the first place.
And Jesus in His Olivet Discourse said: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders that would deceive even the elect, if that were possible” (Matt. 24:24). In other words, though some who are part of the general church or Christian community, perhaps due to their family’s involvement, might be led astray, but the true elect, or the truly saved, will not be.
Third, the passages that warn of falling away always speak of a group being deceived or hearts becoming hard, (2 Tim. 4:3-4 and 2 Peter 2:1-3), but they all speak of people in general, and do not address individuals. The passage above in Colossians 1:22-23 warns the church as a whole that they must remain true to the gospel as a church if they wished to continue as a church in the future. They must preach Christ and the cross of Christ and urge people to repent and believe, or they will cease to exist as a church.
Fourth, a true Christian may be deceived and misled and confused and even convinced to be involved in something that is wrong and ungodly, but this does not mean that God has finished with him. The passage of 1 Corinthians 11:30, “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep,” describes God removing some believers from the earth through death because of their sin. But the phrase “fallen asleep” refers to a Christian’s death rather than to a non-believer. God did not send them to hell, but took them to heaven sooner than He would have otherwise. Whenever a Christian brings shame a reproach to the name of Christ, and when God’s patience is exhausted, then God reserve the right to remove them from the earth.
Sometimes otherwise good Christian people get caught up in supporting the wrong things. In the 1950’s when America was dealing with the segregation of blacks and whites, a seminary professor was asked what it would take for the school to allow black students to study there. He replied, “The deaths of about three good men,” and he was referring to three of the seminary trustees who, though otherwise were good men, had become obstinate about the matter of integration. Those men died the next week!
Fifth, there are numerous passages that describe salvation in permanent, inalterable terms, and not in the sense that they may be taken back or changed again. For examples:
John 1:12-13: But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.
John 8:34-36: Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 10:28-29: 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.
John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Eph. 1:13-14: In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
2 Cor. 5:17: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!
1 Peter 1:5: who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Eph. 4:30: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Jude 1:24: Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you unblemished in His glorious presence, with great joy…
Eph. 1:5: He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,