The certainty of salvation?

Hello

It has been a while since I have been on RZIM Connect and so am uncertain if this question has been asked already. If it has I am happy to be directed to the discussion thread. My question is based on some of the passages in 1 John and I would appreciate others views and advice.

1 John 3:4-10: Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

My question is around the certainty of salvation if you are a Christian who continues to willingly live in sin. I understand that there is often a sanctifying process that God does in believers, and so a new Christian (and old one) will undergo and continue to undergo a maturing process. But the passage in 1 John seems to be clear that when we are ‘born of God’ the desire or propensity to sin is removed from us because of God’s indwelling presence. However, many Christians continue to battle with the continuing falling into sin and some long-term Christians may be willingly living lives which are very much opposed to that expected of a transformed life in Christ. Another passage of Scripture which seems to point to the same message in the 1 John passage is Galatians 5:16-26 where Paul says in the second half of verse 21, after giving a list of the works of the flesh, that those who do the things of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I understand that scripture needs to be read in the context of the whole letter but I would appreciate others understanding of these passages as I am sure there are a lot of people who may be living willingly in sin or perpetually falling into the sin and are wondering if their salvation is actually secure.

Thank you very everybody’s time in considering my question

Blessings

Brian

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Hi @Brian_Upsher

Thank you for this question. It is a question all of us sinners ponder when we come across verses you mentioned, like 1 John 3:4-10. Let me try to share a bit of foundational Soteriology (study of salvation) and the context of 1 John 3:4-10 and then I will conclude the takeaway point so we don’t get sidetracked from your question.

Since you understood the sanctification process, I assumed you already know, but for the sake of others who doesn’t and stumbles upon this thread, allow me to lay it out first:

3 Tenses of Salvation

  1. Justification: we have been saved from the penalty of sin.
  2. Sanctification: we are being saved from the power of sin.
  3. Glorification: we will be saved from the presence of sin.

As Christians, we are in the Sanctification period. The reason a lot of Christian are uncertain of their salvation is because their understanding of Salvation is one-dimensional. Whereas the 3 tenses of salvation let us understand that there are 3 inseparable facets of salvation. We can’t take one or two facets, and present only 1 facet of Salvation. It will create confusion and misunderstanding.

The good news is, ALL the 3 tenses of Salvation is guaranteed when we believe and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. The 3 tenses also helps us understand the 3-fold aspects of Sin that we have been, are being and will be saved from. The penalty of sin (which is eternal death), is to be of no doubt settled. It is the power of sin that as human are struggling and conquering with the power of the Spirit, to be more and more like Christ. and lastly the presence of sin will only be settled at the final harvest. (I won’t go into more detail explaining this doctrine, as it is a very widely-acknowledged doctrine, you should be able to easily google it)

1 John 3:4-10 Context
The context here is John was warning about the AntiChrist in 2:18 onwards. Verse 26 says: I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. Astray from what? the promise of eternal life in Christ(v25). Prior to reinstating the promise the Apostle John explains the difference between antichrist and true believers in v22-24. The antichrist denied Jesus is Christ/Savior, and if we want to be true believers, abide in that relationship we have with Jesus and the Father through the Holy Spirit(v27), so that we will be confident of His 2nd coming(v28).

The Goal of the Context
1 verse before chapter 3, which is 2:29, John clearly states: “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” This helps us discern the fake believers from the true believers.

Unto Your Question
The key word to understanding that question is “keep on”. The major difference here between a genuine believer who is still struggling with sin and a fake believer who keeps on sinning is the attitude(heart). The fake believer is blatantly, unabashedly, without shame, in direct rebellion, without remorse, or simply put an unrepentant attitude towards sin…They will keep on sinning, they care not for rebukes or reproaches from other believers. They are freely practicing (intentionality) it, as if grace is a licence to sin. It’s the “I know it’s sin, so what?”

Whereas the genuine believer who is struggling with sin or addiction or any kind of bondages, has a repentant attitude towards sin. They feel bad, they sincerely tried and failed but willing to try again, they confess, they admit, they seek help, they feel guilty and apologetic about it. They are not practicing, but struggling with sin, with the faith that grace is inspiring him to overcome sin. In short, “I know it’s sin, so help me.”

Reading the same verse from the AMP version really helps a lot to flesh out our understanding:
1 John 3:4 AMP
Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlesness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect - being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will).

1 John 3:9-10 AMP
No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.
By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow believer in Christ).

Conclusion:
This text is differentiating the difference between fake and true believers. Fake believers has unrepentant attitude and deliberately keep on practicing sin. True believers, going through sanctification, being set apart unto holiness to be more Christlike, is struggling against the power of sin, and is repentant and sincerely trying to overcome sin with the Spirit.

I hope that helps you with your question.
Blessings in Christ

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Yep that was very comprehensive! great job. I always think of believers as people who live their lives with convictions, sensitive to honoring God out of gratitude for His great sacrifice. We sin but it affects us and it doesn’t bring us joy. Even when we struggle with some habitual sin that maybe has not been revealed to us yet (like possibly misrepresenting the character of God in some way) it is never our intention to heart the heart of our savior. I’m sure I don’t do it all right but I know I am saved because I only want to bring glory to God with my life. He is my King and Jesus my savior who paid the price that I was incapable of paying

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In my experience, it helps to think of salvation not as something you get FROM God, but as a relationship you share WITH God.

From beginning to end, salvation is all about us being reconciled to our Creator, enjoying eternity (both now and forever) with Him, and doing what we can to foster this same relationship in others.

Salvation is not a mansion in heaven (although it does involve that). Heaven just happens to bes God’s mailing address.

Salvation is not a Get Out Of Hell Free card (although it does involve that). Hell just happens to be set aside for those who eternally reject God’s sovereignty – along whom the saved are no longer numbered.

Salvation is about God loves you, you love God, and this relationship takes precedence over every other aspect of your life and every decision you will ever make – kinda like marriage, but way better.

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