The reason I entitled this post thusly is because I was dialoguing with a Roman Catholic following my first post on Roman Catholicism, and he mentioned a text that I cover in this post. I hope that he reads this; and I hope to have some good interaction on this; and I hope this is helpful and edifying to those who can be delighted by it. And so I continue…
Some point out the warning passages as evidence that someone can actually walk away from the faith and ultimately end up in hell, but this is simply not so. An examination of the contexts of these passages will once again vindicate my claim. The only thing that you can gather from the warning passages is that if someone walks away from the faith then they were never actually saved to begin with.
Take I John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."
The warning passages were written to those whom the authors were actually quite hopeful about. They were warning their recipients, but they were sure that those reading were not of the sort who would "fall away." The writer to the Hebrews made sure to mention the fact that he didn't expect his readers to "fall away." He said, "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation. (Heb. 6:9)" So, the writer apparently didn't believe that "falling away" was something that "belonged to salvation." In other words, if you had true salvation that was brought about by God, you wouldn't "fall away."
Another passage that is frequently twisted by Roman Catholics is Philippians chapter 2, verse 12:
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," (Php 2:12 ESV)
A Roman Catholic will attempt to utilize this verse in teaching to have a fear of losing your salvation, but by simply reading and contemplating the very next verse, this erroneous perspective falls apart:
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Php 2:13 ESV)
I actually commented on this passage once before elsewhere, so I'll just post it here instead of writing it all over again:
"Paul tells believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Why? According to the RC understanding, it is because we need to be worried about maintaining our standing in God's favor. This seems like a feasible understanding of the text, too. Never mind if Paul informs believers in verses such as Romans 5:1 or Philippians 1:6 that we are at peace with God and that He will bring us through this life in a good standing with Him. That is, it seems feasible unless Paul indicates another meaning behind it.
So what does Paul say within the context of Philippians 2:12? Well, how bout we read it with the next verse?
Php 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
So, it seems as if Paul is telling believers to "work out [their] salvation" in this way "FOR (or because, or for this reason) it is GOD" doing these things in them-- not themselves. God forbid we should get the false assumption that we have anything to do with our salvation. GOD has done, is doing, and WILL DO all of it. We are simply recipients of His grace who have the privilege of being used by Him to bring Himself glory and praise. How sweet the sound of that grace!"
And here's something for further reflection: Paul points out the fact that God gives the will AND the work in verse 13. First of all, what do you think this means? It seems to me that Paul is saying that God is actually performing the works through us that bring Him pleasure. In other words, believers are instruments in God's hands that are used to accomplish the things that He likes to see. I realize that others have a slightly different understanding of this, but I think that this is the most legitimate reading. The main point, though, is that if God is the one performing the actual works that believers do, how can we fall short of the promised reward? This is the point of Paul's warning; if we don't have the desire or the works, we should be very afraid to the point of following the exhortation in II Corinthians 13:5--Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Each of us should reflect upon both of these passages and respond to the Spirit's leading, whether that means falling on our faces before God in humble repentance or singing to God the praise in our hearts for the great work of salvation He has, is and will perform in us. He is worthy of all our praise!