Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…
Romans 16:25 NASB
I heard someone make a statement about “free will” that gave me reason to think: “Love is only love if it is given freely, so God always allows us the possibility of not loving Him.”
That might make sense on earth, but what about heaven? Will we retain some capacity beyond life on this earth to reject God’s love and willfully sin against Him? The answer to this question makes the difference between heaven being something we will look forward to and being something that we will eventually lose. For if we can still sin, then given enough time – and eternity certainly would provide enough time – sooner or later each of us will. Having already destroyed the paradise called Eden, we will either run the risk of destroying the paradise called heaven or run the risk of being removed from heaven and consigned to hell.
So, what does the Bible say about this? The theology of the average Christian about heaven is very weak – often little more than sentimental thoughts of a beautiful place, no pain, and “seeing Mama up there.” As sweet as that may sound, “seeing Mama” again is not the biblical emphasis on heaven.
We are established in Christ as new creations by the grace and power of God. Several times the New Testament writers used words indicating a fixed and “established” reality of our souls. Our “position” in Christ is of only partial interest concerning gaining assurance of salvation’s security, since Satan and angels fell from their high positions. But the notion of being “established” is different and carries with it the idea of permanency. The Greek words of sterizo and stereoo and bebaioo are normally translated “establish” but sometimes “strengthen” is also appropriate. In addition to Romans 16:25, we find them in,
1 Thess 3:13 (ESV): …so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
2 Cor. 1:21 (NIV): Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
1 Peter 5:10 (Young’s Literal Translation): And the God of all grace, who did call you to His age-during glory in Christ Jesus, having suffered a little, Himself make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle [you].
You may notice that I used three different translations to make the point, for they all vary in how they translate these words depending on the context. Each of the contexts of the verses above is about eternity and the clear concern is for their permanent establishment in God. The challenge with interpreting and translating the Scriptures is that, like language today, the writers used words that could be bent a bit into meaning other things, such as “established” could also be used to convey “strengthening.” Though these are similar ideas, in other areas they are miles apart, such as someone seeking to “strengthen” a defensive position of soldiers in the field of battle compared to “establishing” an immovable fortress. So is our salvation more like the troops strengthened and encouraged to stand in the field, or more like the impregnable fortress?
The clear point that each of these scriptures makes is that God takes responsibility for both the strengthening and the establishing of our souls and spirits. (See also Rom. 1:11; 2 Thes. 2:17; 2 Peter 1:12.) For some Bible students the matter ends right here, and for all of us on some level the matter should end here. Faith accepts what God declares and if He declares that He will perfect us so that we might be established then we should accept this. But this does not prevent us from exploring how He will achieve this, for it is taught in His Word. What can we glean from Scripture on this topic?
Simply this: We shall be “glorified” (Romans 8:28-30). Our glorification includes receiving our incorruptible body (1 John 3:2) but also a transformation of our soul and spirit. We shall have complete knowledge (1 Cor. 13:12) and that knowledge will be about the wisdom and love of God. We shall be made complete in love (1 John 4:16-18) and see the glory of God also connected with the concept of love (John 17:24). The complete and pure knowledge of the love of God for us along with the clear understanding of the plan and purpose of God for our lives and for the universe will serve to redirect our thinking toward the will and purpose of God.
We shall live in life, and life shall be in us, complete and wholly (1 John 5:12 and John 5:21, 24). We read: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21). Christ was speaking not merely of conscious existence after death but of possessing the life of God. The deepest fears and unholy motives of our souls will be removed – the tempter also will be removed from the scene never to rise again – and we will be made complete. Wounds that had become scars will be removed, even the scars of our souls will be removed, and our redemption shall be complete.
We are not saved by our works but by the grace of God, but the evidence of the grace of God working in our hearts and lives is the different and holy way we begin to think and feel. Is there a place in your life where evil still has a stronghold? If you want to rediscover the joy of your salvation, renounce Satan and all of the evil influences of your heart and submit yourself to God.
Lord, we praise You and thank You for the great salvation You have prepared for us. Strengthen us in our hearts in accordance with the establishment of Your grace within us. Amen.