Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj
November 16 is the International Day of Endurance.
A prominent worship leader with a popular worship band said that he was leaving the Christian Faith. That was just barely three weeks after a popular author of a best-selling book that called generations of Americans to sexual purity (‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ was the book’s name) did the same.
Are you, my believer friend, tempted to give up faith? Don’t!
There is a cure for those who won’t choose to endure! What cure? It is to learn once-again in a memorable way what the Bible teaches on spiritual endurance!
Do you know that the Bible calls for spiritual endurance, repeatedly? It does so using three approaches:
- COMMANDS THAT CALL FOR ENDURANCE
The New Testament writers call believers to endure in their salvation using a POSITIVE approach in the following Scriptures: ‘But all of you who endure to the end shall be saved’ (Math.10:22); ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples’ (John 8:31, RSV); “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is dead wood, gathered up and thrown on bonfire” (John 15:56, MSG); ‘Keep your eyes open for spiritual danger, stand true to the Lord’(1 Cor. 16:13); ‘ For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end’(Heb. 3:14); “Don’t quit, even if it costs your life. Stay there believing. I have life-crown sized and ready for you”(Rev. 2:10); “Keep tight grip on what you have ,so one distracts you and steal your crown” (Rev. 3:11). Starting from 1 Corinthians 10:12 – ‘So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!’ –
How do we persist in our salvation? Systematic Theologian J. Rodman Williams explains: We do so by our abiding (1 John 2:24-25; Heb. 2:1,3.Jn 15:3-4,6,7), we do so by our continuing (Col. 1:21-23; Rom. 11:11,22; 1 Tim. 4:16), we do so by our enduring (2 Tim. 2:10-12; Heb. 10:34-39,Matt. 24:12,13), we do so by our firmness (Heb 3:1-6, 2 Pet. 1:10-11,5-7;2:1,20,21) and we do so by our faithfulness (Rev. 2:10, 2:4-5, Heb 3:1-6, Heb. 6:4-8).
We are not talking about salvation by works here. We are talking about guarding our salvation by continued faith, exactly the same way we were saved by faith in the first place. I learnt truth from Apostle Peter who wrote: “who (those born again, v.3) by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (I Pet. 1:5, ESV). We are saved by faith. And we guard our faith by faith. Yes, we are saved by faith and not works. But if that faith is alone and does not propel us to endurance, that faith is not real, saving faith (the message of the book of James is this very thing – James 2:20,26).
There is another way this very same truth is taught in Scripture. Let me explain: Without holiness no one will see God (Heb. 12:14). And nobody can live holy – say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions – unless they are enabled by the grace of God (Titus 2:11,12). So a grace-enabled life helps us to live holy and endure in our salvation!
We just saw how the New Testament calls the believer for endurance using a POSITIVE approach. The New Testament also calls us to endurance using a NEGATIVE approach:
2. CAUTIONS THAT CALL FOR ENDURANCE
We can think of several Scriptures in this regard:
2 Peter 3:17 says, “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall your secure position.” Peter couldn’t have stated this better.
2 Peter 3:18, in fact, expresses the same warnings in the positive terms: ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ If there was no real possibility of a believer permanently backsliding, that one has to admit Spirit-inspired writers of scripture were joking here or I dare say, lying! But they were not. They were calling each one for spiritual endurance by writing these words! In a discussion like this, we cannot leave out the famous passage in Hebrews 6:4-8. Commenting on this key text, Grant R. Osborne says, ‘In conclusion we must say there is no more powerful or detailed description of the true Christian in the New Testament, yet one has to be stone-blinded not to note that they were in the real peril of falling away.’ Osborne further points out that if this passage was found in Romans 8, it would be considered as the most eloquent summary of the blessings of a believer! He summarizes brilliantly the danger of apostasy so persuasively and passionately presented in the book of Hebrews this way: Pay attention, lest you drift away, 2:1-4; do not harden your heart, lest you fail, 3:1-19. Fear not lest you fall short, 4:1-13; Press on, lest you fall away, 5:11-6:12; Hold fast lest you die, 10:19-39; be careful, lest you fall short, 12:1-17.
After having called the believe to endure spiritually, using both a positive as well as negative approach, the New Testament goes one goes one step further. We will discuss that in the next point.
3. CHARACTERS WHO SHOWED NO ENDURANCE
In the parable of the Sower, Jesus spoke of those ‘who believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away’ (Luke 8:13). Jesus clearly predicted, ‘At that time many will turn away from the faith. The love of most will grow cold’ (Matt. 24:10, 12). 1 Timothy 4:19 is blunt: some have shipwrecked their faith! Demas – a fellow-preacher in Paul’s ministry team – deserted Paul and perhaps even the faith for ‘he loved the world’ (2 Tim. 4:10). Peter described some teachers in the church who had known the way of righteousness yet turned their backs on the sacred commandment that was passed on to them (2 Peter 2:20-22). If they had turned their backs of the sacred commandments then without a shadow of doubt they had their faces set on the commandments – they were believers – once upon a time! But they became apostate. Finally, Revelation 22:19 shows that some believers can have their names removed from the book of life. Another example of actual apostasy could be Ananias and Sapphira. F.F.Bruce writes, “We cannot be sure that they were not believers, unless we are prepared to say that no one who is guilty of a deliberate deceit cannot be a true Christian. The thrust of the Simon the Socerer narrative in Acts leads us to conclude that there was a possibility of serious sin by the members of the church which could lead to their exclusion from eternal life, but at the same time there was a possibility of their repentance and restoration. In the Bible the root word for faith and faithfulness is the same. One can’t have one without the other.” Yes, Simon the Socerer is another real example of a New Testament believer character who did not endure. Acts 8:13 is very clear – Simon himself believed and was baptized. But as he had become ‘captive to sin’ (Acts 8:23), he needed urgently repent before it was too late (Acts 8:22).
But these characters who did not endure are matched by those who did. Stephen endured. And Church throws up more names in this regard: Polycarp, Tyndale, etc. Some recent additions have been: John Allen Chau (North Sentinel Island Missionary Martyr), the Coptic Christians slain by the ISIS (you have seen a WhatsApp video of their slaying – haven’t you?)
4. COUPLED WITH PROMISES ARE ENDURANCE CALLS (if you carefully notice)
As I bring this essay to a close, I want to encourage you by saying that Jesus has prayed for your spiritual endurance! Jesus prayer was that the Father would “keep” the disciples (John 17:11, 15, 24). The very fact, Jesus is praying for them is proof that Jesus understood the real danger of them being lost for otherwise they would not need to be guarded through Spirit-enabled, grace of God-enabled endurance. According to Howard Marshall, John 17 should not be seen in isolation from John 15:16 and John 16 which warn the disciples about ‘falling away’.
The promise of John 10:28, 29 that no one can pluck us from God’s hand should not be divorced from John 10:2 where Jesus gives the condition for this promise: “my sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” It is to be noted that all the verbs in this verse – especially ‘hear’ – is in present indicative sense in Greek original. Robert Shank notes, “The honest characteristic of the Greek present indicative is that it denotes the action is in progress.” There the incredible promise – “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them away from me” – is only of whom Jesus can say, “My sheep keep listening to my voice, and they keep following me!”
Wuest’s translation of John 5:24, where-in he correctly retains the present tense (‘having eternal life’) argues powerfully against using it as a text against spiritual endurance: “Most assuredly, I am saying to you He who habitually hears my word and is believing the one whom he has sent me, has life eternal …..” David Pawson brilliantly flows along this thought-line when he preached from Hebrews, that “these people [the Old-Testament believers of Hebrews 11) was still living by faith when they died”(Heb. 11:13). This clearly shows that faith should be a present possession for a believer – in other words, the believer must endure – in order to make the wonderful eternal security promises found in the New Testament work for him.
Apostle Paul wrote these glowing words of confidence: “I know him in whom I have believed and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I committed to him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). This did not mean that Apostle Paul did not believe in ongoing spiritual endurance. The same Paul wrote these glorious lines of promise which certainly indicate while he was certain that God would keep him, he also never forgot his responsibility to endure enabled by God’s grace. I Corinthians 9:27 talks about how serious Paul was when it came to exercising Spirit-empowered self-discipline with regard to ongoing, sexual, bodily purity (a stubborn failure in this, meant disqualification for Paul). Paul also worked out his salvation – needless to say, enabled by the Grace of God – with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). The Paul-penned sure promise of salvation in I Corinthians 3:15 – ‘he himself will be saved’ – is not absolving anyone from the need to endure. Otherwise why would there be a warning for those who fail to endure right below that promise, penned by the same Paul (See I Cor. 3:16,17; 6:13; 9:27).
The second last verse of Jude read this way: “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault” (Jude 23 NLT). What a glorious promise! To whom was this given? It was given to those who “keep (themselves) in the love of God” (Jude 21). Yes, the ‘God-can-keep-you-from-falling’ is for those with a Spirit-empowered willingness to endure in the love of God!
(This article was published in Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Aim magazine, November 2020 issue. Duke is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, G4 Mission. This is a reader supported ministry. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org).