Recently a reader of this blog wrote to one of my regular contributors, Dr. Clay Nuttall. The reader’s email to Dr. Nuttall appears first followed by Dr. Nuttall’s reply. Because of the helpful teaching in Dr. Nuttall’s reply I share it publicly (with his permission) for your consideration.
I ran across your email address on the blog for “In Defense of The Gospel.” I was hoping to get an email address for Lou Martuneac. I have recently read his book and I have a couple of questions to ask. I was raised in a salvation by works Gospel, and through out the years this has caused me much turmoil and fear. In reading Lou’s “In Defense of the Gospel.” I started to rethink my theology. I have been researching this for about 6 months now, and have come to the conclusion that Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. However there are a couple of verses in the Bible that still have me concerned.Dear LV:
First in Rev 2:11 The Church of Smryna was experiencing extreme persecution even up to the point of death, and Jesus tells them in v 11 that “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” If my understanding is correct the second death is a reference to Hell. Is Jesus not insinuating that if the church did not overcome that they would be hurt by the second death?
The second scripture that gives me concern in Matthew 24:13. Where Jesus said that “they who endure to the end will be saved.” I am hoping that someone can enlighten me as to what these versus actually mean if overcoming and endurance to the end is not necessary for salvation. I pray that someone will email me back and help me to understand this. I have had so many sleepless nights over this and am in dire need of some guidance. If you cannot help me can you please get me in touch with someone who can?
Thank you for writing and I am pleased to hear that you are searching the scriptures to see if these things are so. The Bible gives us mountains of evidence that salvation is by grace alone through faith. So what do we do with isolated text that seem to teach otherwise? The answer is that one verse is a question, not an answer. The answer is in the whole not in the part.
I teach hermeneutics and biblical apologetics. Dealing with exceptions is not a problem if we see it from God’s point of view and what we learn is that an exception is not the rule.
So when we come to isolated texts like Rev. 2:11 we have a question that makes us go to all the scriptures for the answer. This text does not tell us that if we overcome we will be saved. What the whole of scriptures teach is that those who are saved are the overcomers. There are hundreds of illustrations like this. For instance Acts 2:38 does not teach one has to be baptized to be saved, it does teach that baptism should follow the newly saved person. Mark 16:16 does not teach that baptism saves. This very verse when you read all of it tells us that person is damned because they don't believe not because they are not baptized.
How do I know this? Because all the mountain of truth in the NT tells us that salvation is about God not man. It is by God’s grace not the impossibility of mans works. Eph. 2:8-10 clearly tells us that salvation is the work of God not the work of man.
Salvation is individual between God and one person. In Rev. 2:11 it is not the “church” that is working toward salvation. The “second death” is for all who are unsaved and it is the lake of fire at the end of time. (Rev. 20:14-15) The reason why these saved people in Smryna avoid the second death is because the are saved and are overcomers. This puts salvation in the hands of God “salvation is of the Lord.” Our responsibility is to believe, God’s responsibility is to save. If we were required to be saved by our effort or works, we would have to be perfect with no failure at all. This is exactly what Romans 3:23 teaches. One sin would make us short of the requirement. Here “the glory of God” is the Lord Jesus Christ the perfect lamb of God.
Matthew 24:13 is a perfect example of why one text is a question not an answer. If one has to endure for their salvation and it would be grace plus works but that is impossible (Romans 4:4; 3:24; 3:20; Gal. 3:3 and hundreds of verses)
So what is Mathew 24:13 about? The answer is in the context. This text is not about the salvation of the soul. The word saved is used in many ways. Here it is the salvation of living people, or saving their lives. How do we know that? The text is about people living in the tribulation period and about living through this horrible 7 year period. That is what the text says. If it taught you had to work to keep your salvation you would have to tear most of the NT out and toss it because it would be false.
I beg you to rest in the work of the Lord Jesus who “finished” your payment for sin. We never could provide enough works to earn or keep our salvation. Please remember we go to the Word to find out what God has clearly said in the whole not the part. We do not go to the word to challenge what God teaches in the whole. It is the devils trick to make us focus on a question rather than rejoice in the answer of God’s Grace, love, mercy and goodness. Sleep well my friend, rest in His grace and He will provide the power to be an overcomer.
I am pleased with your desire to know what the text says. Please feel free to ask any other questions.