Quiet uneasiness during our group Bible study is the best way I can describe how some of the retirement home residents responded to reading parts of Peter’s message. Coming from different church backgrounds, Peter’s words cut across what some of them had heard in sermons, namely that once people are saved they are always saved.
Yet, Peter’s message seemed clear enough:
- “make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things you will never fall, …” (2 Peter 1:10);
- “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end…” (2 Peter 2:20); and
- “be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position” (2 Peter 3:17).
While those of a non-Calvinistic bent might smile and wonder why the resistance, yet in some cases they also turn a deaf ear toward the deafening roar of a select set of scriptures.
Armed with their understanding of “saved by grace through faith,” Jesus’ separation of the sheep from the goats based upon behavior (Matthew 25:31-46) merely disperses into oblivion under the all powerful eraser “not-saved-by-works.”
Similarly, along with Peter’s statement to “make sure your calling and election,” Paul’s insistence to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) becomes a meaningless statement to be functionally ignored. Blissful forgetfulness seems to resolve the problem.
Must we understand such apparent incongruities as the result of divine paradox or mystery? Hardly.
When such straightforward teaching conflicts with what is held to be true, a healthier approach entails questioning whether one’s own doctrinal starting point truly aligns with scripture.
There is a harmonious and seamless understanding of salvation in scripture. Some texts describe the principles for entering into becoming God’s saved people. Other contexts, directed towards God’s people, warn them against losing what they have received.
The basic story that unfolds from scripture is: In order for people to be saved, they must trust in Jesus and in his blood by being baptized. Salvation is then granted as an undeserved gift. God instructs his people to fulfill their divinely given function as those serving him. Yet, God removes from among his people those who reject walking in his path.
This may not sync with everything heard in pulpits across America, but it does enjoy a congruency with scripture. Furthermore, there is no longer any need to dismiss parts of scripture.