November 10, 2009

Does “Final Salvation” Serve as a Cover for Works-Salvation?

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

In the scores of articles at this blog each is accompanied by a discussion thread. Some articles generate no comments, some a few comments others can exceed 100 comments. Unfortunately every thread comment is lost over time as new articles push the preceding article and its thread further down into the archives. Among these hundreds of thread comments occasionally a comment is posted that in my opinion merits repeating as a main page article. Just such a comment was posted in the thread under the previous article, Is the Term “Final Salvation” Necessarily Wrong?

Pastor Tom Stegall is the author of The Gospel of the Christ: A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel… .
This year I ran an extended series of excerpts from The Gospel of the Christ beginning with Stegall’s introduction to the series, then ironically closed with the Foreword to his book. The “Lordship Salvation” Label was one of my personal favorites and it has some bearing on our current discussion.

Pastor Stegall has been reading the articles in which I’ve been discussing Dr. Dave Doran’s The Gospel and Separation series from his personal blog. In the “Final Salvation” article/thread he posted an extended comment with a Q&A exercise that I believe was a helpful contribution to our previous discussion of the close proximity of Lordship Salvation and Roman Catholicism. The most disconcerting statement and arguably closest to Romanism among many coming from advocates of Lordship Salvation is the following by John Piper.

There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.” (What Jesus Demands From the World, p. 160).
For the record on this matter I am repeating here a comment I made in the previous thread.
It is statements like these…where some men find MacArthur and Piper in their LS message treading dangerously close to a Roman Catholicism like message. I don’t believe they have gone there, but these statements are very alarming and by and large given a complete pass by Reformed men in IFB circles. Not one of these extreme statements have ever been explained, edited or eliminated. They have in fact been reiterated and reinforced by the men who make them such as MacArthur, Piper, et. al., for two decades.
With that I offer for your consideration Ps. Tom Stegall’s thread comment turned article.


Does “Final Salvation” Serve as a Cover for Works-Salvation?

I am so grateful that this topic of “final salvation” is being addressed here. This is a critical subject. So often this phrase serves as a cover for Works-salvation. Bible-believing Christians need to be far more discerning these days than we have been. It is truly disturbing to read the statements of so-called “evangelical, fundamental” or “Protestant” leaders these days that sound perilously close to Romanism.

Kev raises a great question, “
Isn’t this usage of ‘final salvation’ by Lordship Salvationists just the ‘escape clause for closet Catholicism’?!” I would say, technically “No,” but practically “Yes!”

As one who was saved out of Catholicism and who was definitely trusting in his own works and righteousness before being born again by God’s grace, I will tell you it sure hits me as diluted Catholicism when I read the Lordship Salvation statements of leaders like John Piper, John MacArthur... .

Here is an interesting spiritual exercise. Try to guess whether the following quotes come from a Calvinist author, Arminian, or Roman Catholic (the answers are found at the bottom):
1) “Endurance in faith is a condition for future salvation. Only those who endure in faith will be saved for eternity.”
Arminian, Calvinist or Roman Catholic?

2) “
The Scriptures repeatedly exhort us to persevere, to ‘hang in there.’ It is only the one who endures to the end who will be saved.”
Arminian, Calvinist or Roman Catholic?

3) “
There is no cleansing from sin, and no salvation, without a continual walking in God’s light.”
Arminian, Calvinist or Roman Catholic?

4) “
We cannot ‘earn’ our salvation though good works, but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life.”
Arminian, Calvinist or Roman Catholic?

5) “
The kingdom is not for people who want Jesus without any change in their living. It is only for those who seek it with all their hearts, those who agonize to enter. Many who approach the gate turn away upon finding out the cost. Lest someone object that this is a salvation of human effort, remember it is only the enablement of divine grace that empowers a person to pass through the gate.” . . . “While justification and sanctification are distinct theological concepts, both are essential elements of salvation. God will not declare a person righteous without also making him righteous.”
Arminian, Calvinist or Roman Catholic?

And Now for the Answers:
1) [Calvinist] R.C. Sproul,
Grace Unknown, 198.

2) [Roman Catholic] Joseph Kindel,
What Must I Do to be Saved?, 79.

3) [Arminian] Guy Duty,
If Ye Continue, 141.

4) [Roman Catholic]
Tract, Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth, p.23

5) [Calvinist] John MacArthur,
The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 183, 187.

By showing this, I don’t mean to deny that legitimate differences exist between Protestants (Arminian or Calvinist) and Roman Catholics, especially over the role of the sacraments in salvation, but I think any honest reading of these quotes also shows that their respective doctrines of salvation ultimately end up in the same place: you better have works that go with your enduring faith if you want to arrive at “
final salvation.”

The modern state of affairs among Evangelicals (such as Piper & MacArthur), Reformed Fundamentalists..., and Roman Catholics is so abysmal and confusing these days regarding salvation, perhaps a new theological term ought to be coined to lump them all together:

Roman Calminians!


Please continue to, Final Salvation” is Dependent on Christ’s Life

Editor’s Note:
In the original thread comment there was a reference to Dr. Dave Doran. In a follow-up conversation with Ps. Stegall prior to posting this article we agreed that the references to Dr. Doran from the original thread comment should be dropped for this article. Dave Doran leaves no blatant statements like the examples above. There are none of the extreme statements from Brother Doran, which can be easily demonstrated from MacArthur, Piper, Washer, Chantry, Lawson, et. al.

18 comments:

  1. The only sense in which I can accept "final salvation" is in the sense that I am currently guaranteed salvation from the final judgment but I have not yet actualized it. It will be finally actualized at the moment the judgment from which I was saved by God's grace takes place. Something like that.

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  2. Hey Stephen:

    Long time no hear, good to see you back.

    Your, “something like that,” is IMO pretty much exactly like that.

    Thanks,


    Lou

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  3. Is it just me or does "Roman Calminians!" sound like an expensive but yummy dinner at a fine restaurant?

    Kev

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  4. RE:Roman Calminians!

    Great exercise and most revealing. Thank you Bro. Stegall.

    As to the question:Does “Final Salvation” Serve as a Cover for Works-Salvation? The answer of the "Roman Calminians" sounds like a resounding "Yes", IMO.

    Though they play different instruments, they all play in the same band following the same basic harmony and theme, i.e. "final salvation" as dependent on the contribution of some form of human effort or "work". But I think that what is shown goes a little deeper than their defective view of a divided salvation, the future "final" portion of which can only be secured by personal individual works to go with an endurance in faith.

    The more unifying factor , IMO, also uncovered is a faulty understanding of the nature of, source and/or basis of saving faith. The words "endurance in faith": "those who endure";"one who endures"; "continual walking";"faith will be rewarded"; "change in their living"; all point to an exchange of "final salvation" on God's part for a successful faithfulness on man's part. This "faith" in essence is a faith in itself, i.e. "faith in faithfulness", or the confidence in a human ability (with help perhaps) to persevere, hang in there, hold out, live a changed life,agonize, etc. Faithfulness in itself becomes a thing of merit deserving of a reward, the thing upon which faith rests for expectation of any "final salvation".

    Contrast this with a passage by A.T.Pierson in "The Bible and Spiritual Life" pg.237.

    "On the Human side of Salvation and of all man's relations to God, faith is the one thing on which all else depends, and hence most necessary to be understood.
    The nearest approach to a definition, proper, is found in two places, Lk.1:45 (margin): "Blessed is she that believeth that there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord;" and in Heb.11:11,"....she(Sarah) judged HIM FAITHFUL WHO had promised". In both these cases these godly women are commended because they held fast to God's good faith, and reckoned on it."
    He continues; "A definition might perhaps be framed, somewhat thus:Faith is such confidence in the Faithfulness of God. as leads to a reception of His testimony, to such love and trust as becomes a personal bond of union with Him, and a corresponding obedience and testimony. It begins in a simple act of reception, than which no act can be simpler. It grows by the exercise of confidence more and more implicit, of dependence more and more absolute, and obedience more and more cheerful and unquestioning."

    He goes on to cite Is.26:3,4;"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength."

    This Pierson more literally renders this to read "Thou will garrison him in peace. peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, Because in Thee he trusteth.
    In Jahovah trust ye forever! For in Jah Jahovah Is the Rock of Ages."

    Faith is the simple reception of the universal testimony of Scripture as to the absolute and exclusive trust worthiness,faithfulness and all-sufficiency of God, coupled with the reception of Scripture's equally universal testimony as to the utter unreliability, instability and insufficiency of man in every circumstance (unless upheld through implicit faith in Christ alone),
    This is the faith that brings assurance of the Salvation of God in Christ, First, "Final" and all in between.

    "Faith in faith" is false confidence resting on the sands of human (lack of) ability. No wonder the currant state of affairs among those who promote it is so abysmal and confusing.

    And I haven't even mentioned the presumptive, dogmatic tone that runs thru these "Roman Calaminian" statements.

    PS Kev, it may sound good but you best not eat it. Your analogy did make me laugh.
    Tim V.P.

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  5. Stephen, you said:

    The only sense in which I can accept "final salvation" is in the sense that I am currently guaranteed salvation from the final judgment but I have not yet actualized it. It will be finally actualized at the moment the judgment from which I was saved by God's grace takes place. Something like that.

    Stephen, I agree with your main point that we are awaiting "final salvation" only in the sense that it is already guaranteed to believers but not yet actualized for us.

    There are some verses that speak of salvation in the future sense with respect to God's judgment (Rom. 5:9; 1Thes. 5:9; 1Cor. 3:15). I think that means we are exempted from the wrath to come. In a sense it's guaranteed but not actualized because the judgment hasn't happened yet.

    But I wouldn't limit the idea to that (actually the three examples I cited are each unique). I think the emphasis in Scripture when it uses "salvation" in the future sense is generally more broad than salvation from future judgment. Some verses I've reflected on are Romans 13:11; 1Thes. 5:9-10; Heb. 9:28; 1Pet. 1:5; and verses that otherwise speak of awaiting rapture or glorification without necessarily using the word "saved" (such as Rom. 8:18ff).

    -- Greg

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  6. Greg, thanks for the thoughts. I confess I'm not quite sure what you're getting at except for possibly the obvious -- that "salvation" can have different meanings depending on what context is in view. I'll try to clarify what I meant though and maybe that'll help... or not.

    The context of this article, which discusses "final salvation" as it relates to "works salvation", seems to imply that the salvation in view is of the final judgment variety. Salvation in it's other senses doesn't pair well with "works [x]" -- namely, I've never heard of "works rapture" or "works glorification" so it seems to me that those other senses of "salvation" are not what's currently in view. If this were a discussion of "salvation" which included those other senses as well then, yes, the term/concept of "final salvation" would necessarily have different senses as well.

    Bearing in mind that I may have missed your point partially or entirely I'll stop now before I expend my fingers to address what you may not even have been getting at.

    idotg,
    Stephen

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  7. Stephen, my point is just that what we could call "final salvation" isn't limited to the idea of salvation from judgment. In 1Pet. 1:5, for example, it's equated with Christ's return in a context that has nothing to do with judgment.

    So I was trying to say that I think I agree with your point but wouldn't word it the way you did when you said, "The only sense in which I can accept 'final salvation' is in the sense that I am currently guaranteed salvation from the final judgment but I have not yet actualized it."

    -- Greg

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  8. I don't like the term "final salvation". It implies that until it's final, it's somehow probationary - which is an oxymoron.

    Ephesian 2:6 sees us as already seated in "heavenly places". For once we are born again, our salvation is secured and final at that very moment, as we have been eternally saved from the penalty of our sins and assured of our home with the Lord.

    There is a future element of our salvation, but that is not a determination of whether we'll be in the Kingdom of God, but rather when we receive our glorified bodies and eternal reward.

    PE

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  9. Dear Phil, Stephen, Greg, Jan, Tim & Kev:

    I appreciate each of your comments.

    What struck me about this term “final salvation” was articulated well by a pastor whom when he first saw it wrote me, “(My)…first impression is that we should use biblical terms and language when we are discussing Bible subjects - otherwise things tend to get skewed. ‘Final salvation’ seems like man-made lingo to me.”

    Final salvation,” in an innocent form can refer to the believer’s ultimate glorification. At its worst it means what Piper and MacArthur suggest, which is eternal salvation, reaching Heaven, is NOT complete unless one lives out his faith in obedience to the Lordship of Christ. This is simply another stark example of Lordship’s man-centered, works based message that frustrates grace. It is an aberration of truth.

    I have been hopeful, and remain hopeful Dave Doran would repudiate and distance himself from the obvious problem with Piper’s quote, which was:

    There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.”

    From the first article in this series I wrote, “If Dave Doran, like Piper, considers '…real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation,' then I am hopeful he will say so in such a way there is no mistake about it or repudiate Piper’s statement.

    To date Doran has not expressed any reservation with Piper’s articulation of “final salvation.” Why would anyone hesitate to disconnect oneself from such language if he had reservations with the works salvation that is obviously being implied?

    Finally, I really appreciate the way Ps. Stegall displayed the striking similarity of what is coming from Calvinist (LS) men, Arminians and the Roman Catholics.


    LM

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  10. Ephesian 2:6 sees us as already seated in "heavenly places". For once we are born again, our salvation is secured and final at that very moment, as we have been eternally saved from the penalty of our sins and assured of our home with the Lord.

    Phil-

    I completely agree with you. This is precisely the point I take issue with from Piper. Romans 8:30 also indicates that we who are justified are already glorified. This of course is because Christ is already glorified. Therefore, so are we who are in Him. This is (obviously) positional at this point in history and will be experiential at some future time. However, when Piper says without obedience now we will not be “finally saved” he can only mean that obedience is an ingredient in an unfinished work which is currently in process. How can our salvation be in process when Jesus Christ is not in process but already glorified and we are glorified already in Him? We do not get in Him through experiential sanctification. We become experientially sanctified as the Spirit molds us into His image BECAUSE we are ALREADY in Him. And that is the relationship between sanctification and salvation. It is entirely appropriate to say we will not be finally saved if we have not been justified. It is entirely inappropriate to imply that we will not go to heaven unless we are living a certain way, as Piper does.

    I hold the view that what is in process is the experiential outworking of our finished salvation in molding us into the image of Christ. To that end I could be fine with Piper (on this issue) if he wanted to say that if there is no obedience or other evidence of our HAVING BEEN saved then we likely HAVE NOT BEEN saved but this is not what he says. He says if we are not obedient today then we WILL NOT be saved finally.

    These are clearly two entirely different messages. Scripture makes the direct connection between our justification and our glorification. But when Piper draws the connection between our sanctification and our glorification what he does is make a direct connection between our sanctification and our justification as if our justification was based on our sanctification. It implies that our justification is based on our experiential sanctification and not the other way around. In other words, instead of our sanctification being dependent on our justification, ALL of our salvation becomes contingent upon our experiential sanctification. He distorts the relationship between the aspects of salvation and forces experiential sanctification to be an ingredient and therefore a cause of our glorification-final salvation, and therefore it is made an addition to our justification through faith in Christ's blood.

    It could be, and probably is, argued that this is not what he means. Then he should not say what he does not mean. And he should not be allowed to get away with what he has said.

    JanH

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  11. Phil wrote

    I don't like the term "final salvation". It implies that until it's final, it's somehow probationary - which is an oxymoron.

    Exactly. It's the "implied" separation between what must then be called "Initial Salvation" and "Final Salvation."

    This DISCONNECT takes the conversation away from what most Christians are familiar with - how Justification is accomplished - and puts it on the very UNDER TAUGHT question of "how shall we then live?"

    This clever tactic then makes the first dependant on the last. The argument for works APPEARS to be removed from discussion about Justification, and the very reasonable expectation of Christian work becomes the primary discussion.

    If the men who put this teaching on Christ's Church were not saved I would be tempted to think this is right out of Romans 1:30. They have "invented" a new form of doctrinal evil.

    Kev

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  12. Jan/All:

    What follows will be subdivided in two parts to accommodate word count limits in these threads.

    You wrote, “It could be, and probably is, argued that this is not what he means. Then he should not say what he does not mean. And he should not be allowed to get away with what he has said.

    For the sake of those who may begin viewing this thread late in the discussion and wonder who you refer to (in your extended comment two comments prior to this), that is John Piper and what he wrote is,

    There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.” (What Jesus Demands From the World, p. 160).

    The obvious meaning of what he wrote screams works FOR salvation. Of course the cries of “misrepresentation” come when these extremes are pointed out. Why is it these statements have never explained, edited or eliminated by the men like Piper who make them? In fact they have reinforced and reiterated them over the years.

    Jan, you asked, Why does Piper (JMac) “get away with” these things? Two thoughts:

    1) Because of their popularity they go *almost entirely unchallenged by their peer group and followers. There are some Calvinistic men in my IFB circles who are troubled by statements like these, will confide they find these troubling, but will not say so in any public venue.

    Among them are some who are passionate about formalizing ties with men like Piper and MacArthur. In the **first article of this series one man noted here that he had been to one of MacArthur’s Shepherd’s conferences and saw Dave Doran with his church staff in attendance there. Doran is among a group of Calvinists in IFB circles who want to foster stronger ties with the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. IMO, they will not raise any public concern about these kinds of dangerous (public) statements, even if they have serious reservations with them, because to do so would interfere with formalizing their fellowship with these men.

    They are willing to and in fact tolerate and/or ignore disturbing doctrinal stances like Piper’s acceptance of the Charismatic sign gifts as active for today, and worldly methods of ministry from men like Piper and MacArthur. They will not “admonish” (2 Thess. 3:15) these men, preferring to over look these things that they would never allow for or tolerate in their own ministries for the sake of forming a fellowship with the “ conservative” evangelical men who are like-minded on Calvinism.

    In the original article of this series the following comment was shared in the thread with which I heartily concur and have been saying for two years+/-,

    Clearly, the Calvinism link between some of the Historic Fundamentalists and some of the Conservative Evangelicals produces an affinity where there might otherwise be almost no connection.

    Continued in the next…

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  13. Continued from the previous

    2) The other reason Piper can get away with statements like the one under consideration is because there are many who agree with what he wrote- understanding and agreeing with what the obvious meaning and implication is.

    This spread of Lordship Salvation (LS) has been very subtle, but with disastrous results. Statements like this one from Piper are expressions of Lordship Salvation.

    There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.” (What Jesus Demands From the World, p. 160).

    IMO, “final salvation” is “man-made lingo,” which can, apart from clarification, be used as cover to make for Lordship Salvation’s works based message more palatable. This is when the spread of LS becomes insidious.

    LS is corrupting the doctrine of believers across a broad spectrum of the evangelical and fundamentalist camps. Believers who are unsuspecting are at risk. Others, more mature in the faith, influenced by high-profile men and Calvinistic presuppositions have drifted from a balanced biblical view of salvation: justification, sanctification and ultimate glorification. LS is works based and man centered. It corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).


    LM

    *An exception being when MacArthur was challenged over and he subsequently retracted and disavowed his earlier teaching on the eternal sonship of Christ. His former teaching on that caused a major rift in the IFCA.

    **The Gospel and Separation: A Series by Dr. Dave Doran

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  14. Good comments and I'll chime in my agreement that I'm not comfortable with the term, at least not the way Piper and so many other use it as quoted here. As Greg pointed out, and I agree, there certainly ARE valid uses of the term. However, in this context, I think it's apparent that the term is used in a sense that's completely inappropriate.

    Applying this to the original question then, I'd have to say "yes" to that, in the context quoted, it's a cover for works salvation... or at the very least it's a strike at assurance of salvation which sows doubt, not confidence. At issue, for me, is that Piper's statement points to something nebulous and undefined as the standard of "final salvation" when he says "a measure". What's "a measure"? It's not defined so if one subscribes to this then one can never be certain if they've met the standard. They can hope, but they can't be certain. It's a breeding ground for doubt.

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  15. 1)Because of their popularity they go *almost entirely unchallenged by their peer group and followers.

    *An exception being when MacArthur was challenged over and he subsequently retracted and disavowed his earlier teaching on the eternal sonship of Christ. His former teaching on that caused a major rift in the IFCA.


    Lou-

    This is a bit OT but just for knowing-

    concerning your asterisked comments, it was George Zeller who took on JM on this issue and won it (sort of). Pastor Zeller wrote a rather large document for the IFCA on 9 of the issues where MacArthur and the IFCA had doctrinal differences. One of those issues was Eternal Sonship. MacArthur indeed has since issued an official retraction of that position. However, he has not made completely good on it.

    The doctrinal statements of his church and college, under the section “God the Son,” still say:

    “We teach that, in the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity laid aside His right to the full prerogatives of coexistence with God, assumed the place of a Son, and took on an existence appropriate, propitiatory, and redemptive.”

    Also, when asked in 2006 to explain his view on Christ's Sonship he answered:

    Let me make it real simple. He is eternally God. Jesus Christ is and always will be the eternal God—a member of the Trinity. He is eternally One of Three. And I don't have any problem with calling Him the eternal Son therefore. But I do understand that there is a uniqueness to His incarnation in that the Scripture says, "This day have I begotten Thee." And that's related to His incarnation.

    Which is an awful lot of words to almost but not quite say that Jesus Christ is eternally the Son of God.

    The account of that can be found here:

    http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/sonship/sonjm12.htm

    JanH

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  16. Jan:

    Thanks for the expanded commentary on MacArthur and his eternal sonship, which caused the huge flap in the IFCA over it. Brother Zeller and I communicate fairly often and we have discussed this amongst ourselves. I did not do the fill in so that I could keep this thread on the “final salvation” issue. To reiterate, however, I’m glad for what you contributed. I'll forward it on the Brother Zeller.

    BTW (to all), Brother Zeller and I have been discussing off-line some of the “final salvation” remarks and its various implications. I recalled another exhaustive study he has done on another of MacArthur’s troubling views that IMO has some relevance to this discussion of “final salvation”. He gave me permission to repost it, which I will in several installments. That series will close this year’s new publishing at my blog.

    In December I plan to do a Best of 2009 series to round out the year.

    Kind regards,


    Lou

    Here are some links to Zeller’s site on the subject of the eternal sonship of Christ and MacArthur’s doctrinal misstep on it.

    The Eternal Sonship of Christ

    MacArthur’s Original Denial of Eternal Sonship in His Published Books

    George Zeller's Response to MacArthur's New and Revised Position on Christ's Sonship (1999)

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  17. Good comments. As others pointed out, even the "final" or "future" aspect of our salvation should be seen from the context of our secure position in Christ.

    Colossians 3:3-4
    (3) For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
    (4) When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

    Philippians 3:20-21
    (20) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
    (21) who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

    As sure as a believer can say he's justified, he can say he will be glorified. And if he can't say he's justified, he isn't believing the gospel.

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  18. Hi Greg,

    You noted;
    And if he can't say he's justified, he isn't believing the gospel.

    This is such a terrible truth.

    Kev

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