By Robert Stroup
In Scripture, our salvation is spoken of in three tenses. Past tense as in Titus 3:5 – “according to his mercy he saved us ” Present tense as in Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved … “And future tense as in Romans 5:10 – ” … much more we shall be saved by his life. “The Bible clearly teaches that our ultimate salvation is yet future! It will not be unconditionally secure until we either die in the Lord or are translated at the last trump. None of us who are living are once and for all saved. There is still the possibility, God forbid, of failing.
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” (Romans 8:24-25). When we reach heaven our need for hope will cease. But, as of today, we are still clinging to that future hope. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:3).
With spiritual battles yet looming on the horizon we cannot lay down our weapons. In these perilous last days, we dare not relax our vigilance. “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.” (I Kings 20: 1) It was only when his battles were over at the end of his life that Paul wrote – “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness…” (II Timothy 4:6-8). He had not always spoken this way. Earlier in his walk he had said things like, ‘I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”(1 Corinthians 9:27).
In Philippians he stated that he was aware of the fact that he had not yet arrived – that he had not yet attained – that he realized that he still needed to pursue his hope – and thus that he was still “pressing toward the mark.” He told the Ephesians that their only hope of standing in their evil day was to “put on the whole armour of God. “While it is true that our salvation is not fragile – it is equally true that it is not automatic. Jesus said, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-13). Our salvation must be seen through to its completion. Paul explained to the saints at Philippi that they would have to “work out (their) own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Many take the matter of their salvation far too lightly. No one is going to be saved by accident. No one is going to just casually stroll into heaven without effort. Jesus spoke of the kingdom as being something that must be pressed into – something that “the violent” would have to take by force. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. ” (Luke 13:24). Salvation is not a matter that can be taken for granted or accepted casually. For “how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).
In Scripture the Christian walk is likened to a race. This race, however, is not a short run – it is not a sprint. It is not a 100 yard dash. This race is a marathon! That is why such words as patience and endurance are used in describing what will be necessary to finish it. This “race is not to the swift.” (Ecclesiastes 9: 11). The winner won’t be a “flash in the pan.” The writer of Hebrews said, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1). I am grateful for the witness of those faithful saints who have gone before us. They showed us the way. They pressed – they strove – they put on and kept on their armor. They went to church when it wasn’t convenient. They prayed when they didn’t feel like it. They stood true in the face of compromise and persecution. They fought a good fight. They kept the faith. They patiently endured to the end. They finished their course victoriously. And now, at last, their salvation is secure once and for all.
But we have a ways to go yet. We still have battles to fight. We can’t take off our harnesses yet. No – not until that day when we see Jesus face to face. Until then we must continue to doggedly “fight the good fight of faith.” We must resolutely “lay hold on eternal life. ” (I Timothy 6:12). Rest assured! If we are faithful to the end “we shall be saved.”
Rev. Robert Stroup is the District Superintendent of the Indiana District, United Pentecostal Church International, and Pastor of Pentecostals of South Lake in Merrillville, Indiana.
Indiana Apostolic Trumpet / August 2007 3