Father, as we come now to look into Your Word, we ask that You would give us eyes to see the truth that is taught in Your Word. And I pray for these men that You will use Your Word to conform them yet further into the image of Christ. Fill me with Your Spirit. Put Your hand upon me for good that I could be an instrument used this morning. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Okay, take your Bibles, Romans chapter 11, and we are going to look at just verse 22 because this is a very important verse for us to understand. So, Romans 11 verse 22, as we continue our walk through the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul writes, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”
So, what does this mean? And what does it mean for us? Occasionally, as I go through teaching a book in the Bible, I come to a verse that unexpectedly just grabs me by the lapels and pulls me forward. And that is what happened with me in this verse. When we sent out the memo, I would be covering verses 22 through 24, and I thought that would be too few verses. And so, as I began writing out some notes for this, verse 22 just really dominated my thoughts. So, that is what we are going to look at today.
In order to understand this verse, just to remind you a principle of interpretation, a law of interpretation. You never take one verse and read through the one verse the entire rest of the Bible. You do the very opposite. You bring the entire rest of the Bible to bear upon one verse. The tail is not wagging the dog; the dog is wagging the tail. And in order to understand this verse, we need to understand the full counsel of God and the full breadth of what the entire rest of the Bible teaches.
And there are two truths, two doctrines that are necessary for us to understand in order to rightly interpret this verse, and those two doctrines are the doctrine of election, sovereign election, and the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. And those two truths are inseparably bound together. The doctrine of sovereign election has been taught in Romans 8, especially in Romans 9, the entire chapter is about sovereign election, and again now in Romans chapter 11. The doctrine of election states that before time began, before the foundation of the world, God chose those whom He would save, and He passed over the rest and left them in their sin; and so, God set His heart upon those whom He chose to give to His Son to be His chosen bride.
Inseparably connected with that is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, that all of the elect will persevere in their pursuit of personal holiness and godliness. There are many truths that would be placed in between those two doctrines in what we call the ordo salutis, the order of salvation. Other subsequent doctrines of the death of Christ, the conviction and calling and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, justification, sanctification, the beginning of sanctification, all that leads up to the perseverance of the saints, which goes beyond the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer. That is only one part of the perseverance of the saints.
The eternal security of the believer is what has been reduced down to a pithy little saying, “Once saved always saved.” “Once a believer always a believer,” and that is true, but there is more to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints than simply the eternal security of the believer. The perseverance of the saints says that those who are secure in their salvation, not only will they never fall away from grace, but they will also continue to live a godly life, and their election will be made sure by the necessary fruit of Christ-likeness that will be produced in their lives. Therefore, you can identify who the elect are after they have come to faith in Christ because there will be a radically changed life that they will continue in until the day they die. So, it is a very important doctrine for us to understand.
So, let us just hop into this because I really want to cover the whole New Testament if I could possibly have the time to do this. So, just taking verse 22, with careful Bible study methods, I have divided it into five sections, okay? And we will take them in the order in which they appear in our Bible.
The first thing I want you to note is “The Consideration,” “The Careful Consideration,” because verse 22 Paul begins by calling us to give careful attention to something. He says, “Behold then the kindness and severity of the Lord.” This is so important that Paul begins this verse with the word “Behold,” and you need to behold the word “behold.” The word “behold” means to look at something very carefully. It means to inspect something with scrutiny. It means to give attention to, to examine something, to consider with the mind. So, I don’t want us to just blow past this when Paul is waving a red flag and drawing our attention to what follows.
So, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God.” Those two divine attributes are the heads and tails of the same coin. In the center is the holiness of God, and there is holy kindness and there is holy severity with God. I also want to draw to your attention to the word “and.” Many times the word “and” can be of utmost importance. The word “and” welds these two together and we cannot consider one without considering the other. This is not either/or; it is both/and. And in order for us to have a right understanding of who God is, we cannot sacrifice one at the expense of the other.
And the tendency today is to be so locked in on the kindness of God that the severity of God is just not politically correct. It is inappropriate discussion on Sunday morning from the pulpit, and nothing can be further from the truth because if we only lock in on the kindness of God and not the severity of God we have really created a caricature of God that is demeaning to Him. And so, I want to take both of these one at a time and I want to do it as quickly as I can.
The kindness of God is really synonymous with His saving grace. It is synonymous with His saving mercy and His redeeming love. Specifically, a word study of the word “kindness,” which was used earlier in Romans 2 verse 4 is the goodness of the heart of God towards those who are helpless and in great need of His help. The word “kindness” means His benevolence in action, and it encompasses really Romans 1 through 8. That one word “kindness” is an umbrella over Romans 1 through 8; electing grace, predestinating grace, calling grace, justifying grace, sanctifying grace, glorifying grace. All of that is represented in the word “kindness,” which is a very endearing word for His saving grace. And we need to behold the saving grace of God.
But he then adds “and.” So, don’t lose sight of this either, “the severity of God.” And Paul makes no apologies for adult conversation here. He has no apology for the severity of God. And the meaning literally of the word “severity” means to be cut off, to be cut off abruptly and sharply and decisively, not a slowness about it, and another synonym would be “sternness,” “roughness.”
So, on one side is the gentle, gracious kindness of God, but on the other side is the sharp, stern severity of God to drop the hammer, and both of these are necessary in order for us to have a right understanding of who God is. And these have been joined together in Romans 9, for example. They are joined together throughout the entire Bible and throughout the entire book of Romans, but just to isolate one little place, just turn back to Romans 9 for a second just so you can see the kindness and the severity of God just back to back in one verse.
In Romans 9 verse 14, we read “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.” There God’s redeeming love is His kindness and His reprobation in the doctrine of divine hatred, and I take this in a literal way, is the severity of God. If you would look at verse 18 in the same chapter of Romans 9, you read, “God has mercy on whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires.” There again is the kindness and severity of God in just one verse. And if you look at verses 22 and 23 in Romans 9, I just want you to see this that Paul who is a master teacher, he is a black and white teacher. There is very little gray with Paul. He draws a sharp line in the sand and distinguishes the kindness and the severity of God. In Romans 9:22, he talks about “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” That is the severity of God, and then in verse 23, “vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.” There is the kindness of God.
So, we all deserve God’s severity. There is not a person who has ever been born into this world who does not deserve the severity of God. Just one sin against a holy God merits the death penalty of eternal death. So, we understand the severity of God. Quite frankly, what is hard to get our arms around is the kindness of God, but God has demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And so, there is this undeserved kindness of God. And so, Paul begins this verse by saying, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God.” And we cannot sacrifice one at the expense of the other. We cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. They are of equal importance, and they are both equally true, and they are both equally necessary to understand the holiness of God.
So, this leads now secondly to “the condemnation.” So, come back to Romans 11 and verse 22, and Paul now addresses those who receive God’s severity. He says, “To those who fell, severity.” “Those” refer to unbelieving Jews in this larger context of Romans 9, 10, and 11. It is very obvious. And in fact, in verse 11 earlier, he talked about those who stumble to as “fall,” and this is a reference to unbelieving Jews and it says, “who fell.” This Greek word for “fell” means to descend from a higher place to a lower place. It means to descend from an erect position to a very prostrate position. And so, unbelieving Jews fell into the severity of God. This does not mean that they fell away from salvation because no one can lose their salvation, Romans 8:29 and 30. That was abundantly clear. There is no need for us to retrace our steps on what is so obviously taught in the Bible. No one can fall away from grace, fall away from salvation. That is impossible.
So, what is this “falling away” here? Well, that’s what the word “apostasy” means. It means a falling away. And they have fallen away from the place of privilege with God, privileged to hear the Word of God, privileged to make some sense of the Word of God in a general way. They have fallen away from the place of opportunity with God. They have fallen away from being relatively near to God and close to God. In fact, in Ephesians 2, which I read to you last week, Paul wrote that “Jesus came,” in Ephesians 2:17, “and preached peace to you who were far away,” that is the Gentiles, “and to those of you who are near,” that is the Jew. It doesn’t mean that they were saved. It just means they were near. They were close to, but had not yet come all the way to saving faith in Jesus Christ. And because of their blatant rejection of the gospel in the first century and their crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, they have fallen away from the privileged place of blessing to be near to the promises of God. And God has severely now cut them off, so much so, as we saw earlier in Romans 11 verse 8, God gave them a spirit of stupor. Please note the devil didn’t do this and they didn’t give it to themselves. It was God, the holiness of God, that gave them a spirit of stupor, means it rendered them intellectually incapable of responding to the gospel. And God gave them eyes to see not. God blinded any spiritual sight that they would have had. And ears to hear not; God deafened their ears. This is God who was doing this, because they have committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for which there is no forgiveness. And that is taught in Matthew chapter 12.
So, this is a very severe condemnation in which they find themselves. You just can’t get there from here. You have hit the point of no return with God. And so, the word “severity” here, the second time it is used in verse 22 means they fell under a fuller measure of condemnation and justly so. God would cease to be holy if this was not so. They justly deserved to receive the severity of God. And I will give you four reasons why they justly deserved to receive the severity of God.
Number one, because of Adam’s sin that has been imputed to them in Romans chapter 5. And when Adam sinned, they sinned, and his sin was charged to their account. Second, because of their sin nature, because of what they are. Third, because of acts of sin, because of what they do. And fourth, because of the sin of unbelief and rejecting the free offer of the gospel in Jesus Christ. And for those four reasons, they deserve the severity of God just like any Gentile deserves the severity of God.
And this severity of God is found in Hebrews 10 verses 30 and 31, in which God says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” “The Lord will judge His people,” “His people” referring to the Jews. “It is a terrifying thing,” verse 31 says, “to fall into the hands of the living God.” That is not in the Old Testament, by the way. That is in the New Testament. And so, this is the condemnation that we see in verse 22. And it should sober each and every one of us. God is not a celestial grandfather just patting sinners on their head and asking them, “Could you try a little harder and do a little better?” No, God is actually cutting off, blinding, and deafening eyes and ears with those who play fast and loose with the truth when it is presented to them. It is a very rare thing for someone to be converted on their deathbed. It is a very rare thing for someone to be converted in their seventies or in their sixties or in their fifties if they are not already converted. It is a very rare thing because they have hit the point of no return with God.
Now, third, I want you to see “the compassion.” We are back in Romans 11:22 and I just want to give careful attention to this verse and not to hydroplane over this verse and just skim the surface. This is a Bible study and I want us to get down into the roots of this verse. Now, “The Compassion” is in the middle of verse 22. We continue. Paul writes, “But to you, God’s kindness.” So, God is not a socialist who gives everybody the same amount and gives them the same thing. It is not a one size fits all treatment with God. God gives severity to some and God gives kindness to others. So, when he says, “but to you,” the “you” refers to believing Gentiles in this passage. They receive God’s kindness.
So rather than them falling away and falling down, God does the very opposite with these Gentiles. They are lifted up by His gracious hand to the place of salvation. And for God to give them kindness–they actually deserve severity just like unbelieving Jews deserve severity, but because of God’s electing grace, because of His redeeming grace, and because of His regenerating grace, God gives them not what they deserve. God withholds what they deserve, and instead, God gives them what they do not deserve but what they so greatly need, which is salvation. This is nothing more, nothing less than the saving grace of God.
And we read earlier in Romans 9:15, God said, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion.” He does not have mercy upon all, and He does not have compassion upon all. He gives mercy and compassion only to those whom He has chosen to give mercy and compassion. So, this should be cause for us who have received God’s compassion to be greatly humbled and to be overwhelmed with the kindness of God toward us. There is nothing better about us than an unbelieving Jew or an unbelieving Gentile. It is simply that God by His sovereign will chose to bestow upon us kindness rather than what He has given to others, severity.
Now, this gets to the heart of why I want to dig down into this verse. All of that is simply to lead us now to number four, “The Continuation.” And what we see here is all who receive God’s kindness will continue to live in His kindness, and the major emphasis here is upon the word “continue.” I hope that is in your translation. Paul continues that you can identify those who receive God’s kindness. He says, “If you continue in His kindness.” In other words, you have received God’s kindness if you continue in God’s kindness. I am sure that you can see that here. The “you” refers to Gentiles, refers to believing Gentiles.
The word “kindness” is a compound word in the original language. When you take Greek in seminary, the very first word they teach you is this word. You learn how to conjugate a verb, and it is the Greek word meno, m-e-n-o, which means “to abide.” It is translated in John 15, “Abide in Me, and I in you.” There is a prefix put in front of meno, epi, e-p-i, which intensifies the abiding, and the idea is that you will continue to abide, you will continue to remain. And the word “abide,” synonyms would be “to continue in,” “to remain in,” “as you rely upon.”
So, he says here you have received God’s kindness in justification, in the beginning of sanctification, and you can have the assurance of your glorification if you continue in His kindness. Now, let me tell you what this is not teaching and then I am going to tell you what it is teaching. This is not teaching that you have to continue in His kindness in order to be saved. No, what it is teaching is that if you are saved you will continue in His kindness. God is giving more than just forgiveness. God is giving far more than just the cancellation of the penalty of sin. God is actually radically changing your life from the inside out, and it will be a lifelong on-site project that God will carry out in your life. There will be times of disobedience, yes. There may be seasons of apathy, yes. But on the big picture, God will be so at work in the life of the one who is truly converted to Christ that even if there is one step back, there will be five steps forward that God will continue to advance your sanctification because Philippians 2 verse 13, “It is God who is at work within you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” And that is what this is teaching.
So, in the life of everyone who is elected by God from before the foundation of the world and called out of the world within time into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they will, they will, they will continue in His kindness. This is the biblical doctrine of what we call “the perseverance of the saints,” that they will persevere in the pursuit of holiness. They will persevere, some slower than others, some faster than others. There are many different circumstances that are brought to bear upon the acceleration of some people’s Christian growth and maturity and the stagnation or slower development of other people’s spiritual growth. And we could talk about that at some point; but nevertheless, the ball is being moved down the field towards the end zone. And even if there is a 5-yard penalty, there is going to be a 15-yard gain, and there is going to be this continual advancement as it would be put on a chart of growing towards Christ-likeness. So, that is what this is clearly teaching.
Now, I want to give you the fifth and final heading which is “The Counterfeits,” and that is at the end of verse 22. And Paul recognizes that there are people who profess to know Christ and who have supposedly prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, raised a hand, joined a church, been baptized, but they do not continue in the Lord’s kindness. They fall away. So what are we to make of them? Well, Paul addresses that at the end of verse 22: “Otherwise,” meaning on the other hand, by stark contrast, “you,” and here the “you” refers to professing Gentiles, who say, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but who continue to live in choosing sin over obedience to Christ, who profess Christ but do not possess Christ. “Otherwise, you will be cut off.” And to “be cut off” here is to be cut off by God from the place of blessing, not to lose your salvation but you have crossed the line with God and God will give you a shove in the direction that you are wanting to go and you will not return back to this place of blessing.
And I will give you a cross-reference here, and it is Hebrews 6 verses 4 through 6, which is one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. I never do a conference anywhere around the world and there is a Q&A but that somebody does not raise the hand. I need to have the answer just queued up on a microphone or on a playlist where I could just speed dial the answer. In fact, I was just asked this in Cebu City in the Philippines and I gave like a twenty-five-minute answer. I am going to give you a very shortened version of this.
Hebrews 6 verses 4 through 6. This is referring to someone who has never been saved, who was a Jewish person. That is why the book of Hebrews is called, hello? Hebrews. That is why Philippians is called “Philippians.” Hebrews is called this because it is addressed to Jews who have not yet come all the way to faith in Jesus Christ, who are in the church but as they count the cost of what this is going to cost them to commit their life to Christ they have not yet come all the way to faith in Christ. They know that they will be de-synagogued. They know that there will be a funeral service held by their family, they will bury their clothes, and it will be as if you are dead to your family. They will be cut off from all business relationships. You will be ostracized. And so, they are holding back from coming all the way to faith in Christ.
And there are five warning passages in the book of Hebrews, and you take them all together as a unit. Hebrews 2:1 through 4, Hebrews 3:7 through 4:13. Right here, Hebrews 6, then Hebrews 10:26 to 31, and then Hebrews 12 in the latter middle part of the chapter. I preached this one time at John MacArthur’s church, all five of these in one sermon. There were so many people in the elders’ prayer room that they couldn’t contain people who were concerned for their souls, and it spilled out into the sanctuary, and they are having to recruit more elders to come and talk to people. These are potent verses, not to be trifled with.
So, this is the middle of the five. And in Hebrews 6 verse 4, this is addressed to unbelieving Jews who have not yet come all the way to faith in Christ. If you don’t understand that, the book of Hebrews is not going to make any sense to you. “For in the case of those,” verse 4, “who have been enlightened,” because they’ve heard the truth of the gospel, “and have tasted of the heavenly gift,” they have tasted but they haven’t swallowed. They have tasted but they have not digested.
I was at the grocery store the other day and a person had a little piece of cheese on a toothpick. And they said, “Here, you want to taste this?” They were trying to get me to buy in for the whole amount, and I passed on it because there were things in that piece of cheese that were touching the cheese. So, I couldn’t go there.
So, these have merely tasted, but they hadn’t swallowed. “And have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” That is the only troublesome part of these verses. They have only been made partakers of the influence of the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And if this was the only verse in the entire Bible, I would go, “Okay, yeah, this is a believer.” But as I read the entire rest of the Bible, it is impossible to come to that position. Verse 5, “And have tasted the good Word of God.” Again, they haven’t swallowed it. They have only tasted it. And at the end of verse 5: “And the powers of the age to come.” They have heard some sermons on prophecy and heaven and the end of the age and the second coming of Christ and the world to come, and that has been intellectually stimulating for them and that has been rather enlarging of their interest in spiritual things.
Verse six, “And then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance,” meaning to the point of repentance though they had not come all the way to repentance. “Since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” And so, their life is described in verses 7 and 8. “The ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles and is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned,” in hell forever. Verse 9, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things of you.” So, verse 9 begins addressing true believers. Previous verses 4 through 8 are unbelievers. That is just very obvious.
So, what Paul is addressing in Romans 11 verse 22 when he says here, “Otherwise, you will be cut off,” he is recognizing that in the church at Rome, as this letter will be read, there will be some tares among the wheat. There will be some Judases among the twelve. There will be some bad fish caught in the same net with the good fish. There will be some foolish virgins who fail to trim their lamps sitting next to wise virgins who did trim their lamps with oil.
And so, he is saying, “Listen, if you’re one of these who is not continuing in the faith and continuing in the kindness of the Lord, and one of these like in the parable of the sower and the four soils, and one of these that just kind of pop up overnight, and then you fall away very quickly and you do not continue and you are someone who only had temporary faith, which is not true saving faith, it is only a pseudo false faith, you are going to be cut off and you are going to be cast down into hell. And it will be shown that you were never ever born again to begin with, because the faith that fizzles before the finish had a flaw from the first. It was not true saving faith.” And I have seen them my entire life.
I graduated from seminary in 1980, and so that is however many years that is that is approaching forty years. I have inherited churches with church members like this who are members of the church, they are just not members of the kingdom of heaven, and they know how to play the game very, very well. They know the vocabulary. They know how to find things in the Bible. They have a personal relationship with the pastor. They just don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And maybe momma and daddy were members of the church, and they may have their last name on a little plaque on something down at Fellowship Hall, but they do not know the Lord. It is Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
So, what is the distinguishing mark of the true believer that separates him from the professing Christian but who is in reality an unbeliever? It is perseverance in the faith. Anybody can be excited, go to summer camp, and be excited about spiritual things. Anybody can just have an initial burst of energy. It is not how you start the race; it is “Do you finish the race?” Because the elect of God will finish the race. And I am speaking very dogmatically here, and I need to, because the Scripture is very clear. And we live in a part of the country where, I mean there is a church on every corner. There are a lot of churches that are filled with unregenerate, unconverted church members. But it is not unique to Dallas, Texas. It is around the world.
Now, with the time that I have that remains, lick your fingers and get ready. I want to just fly through the New Testament as quickly as I can and load your boats. So Matthew chapter 10 and verse 22, Matthew 10:22. I am just going to have to hit these on the run. Jesus is talking about discipleship here. “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” This is not saying, hear me clearly on this, this is not saying that you won’t be saved until the end. This is not saying you have to endure to the end in order to reach a plateau of salvation. What this is saying is, is if you are truly saved, you will endure in your faith and in your obedience and in your pursuit of godliness all the way to the end.
Come to John chapter 8 and verse 31. You are going to have to turn quicker than that now. I am not hearing enough pages turning. John chapter 8 and verse 31, “If you continue in My Word, you are truly disciples of Mine.” Hello? “If you continue, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” Now, this is in contrast, go back to John 6 and verse 66, with false believers, false disciples. “As a result of this,” and the “this” refers back to the previous verse, sovereign grace and sovereign election. “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” They didn’t continue, and it shows that they were just like a weed that popped up overnight and then fell away once the hot noonday sun arose. And verse 67, “Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ And Peter said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have words of eternal life.'” The elect continue; the non-elect fall away and will not walk with the Lord any longer.
John 15 verse 6. I have got these in consecutive order to make it easy. John 15 verse 6, “If anyone does not abide in Me,” and here’s our Greek word meno, which means “continue” or “remain,” “as you rely upon.” “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” Those who do not continue in their abiding give evidence that they were never converted to begin with.
Come to Romans chapter 2 and verse 7, Romans chapter 2 and verse 7. “To those who by perseverance.” There is the word for endurance, the marathon, all the way to the finish. They are not running little fifty-yard dashes. They are persevering in the marathon of the race of faith, “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” It is those who persevere in doing good are those who will step into the fullest and final measure of eternal life which is life with God in heaven.
Come to Romans 5. What I want you to see is in verse 3, but I want to start in verse 1, “Having been justified by faith.” So, please note the verb tense there, “having been.” It has already happened, “having been justified by faith.” He is addressing this to people who are already in right standing with God. “We have peace with God,” in other words, the warfare with God is over, “through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into His grace. It is only an introduction with justification. There will then be sanctification in which it will be more than just an introduction. It will be a continuation in grace. “In which we stand, and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” Now, verse 3: “And not only this, but we also.” So, all this is a package deal. It is not a multiple-choice where you get to pick and choose a few of these. These are all links in the same chain that are welded together. They are inseparably bound together. If you get the first link, you get the whole chain. “And not only this, we also exult,” meaning rejoice, “in our tribulations,” referring to the difficulty that comes to us because of our walk with Christ, “knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance.” Verse 4, “and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” And hope here refers to a certain assurance of salvation. You see perseverance there in your Bible. It is a necessary component part of all true salvation.
Now, 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 2, 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 2. Paul is talking about the gospel in verse 1, “The gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you stand.” So, he is addressing this to believers who have heard the gospel. They have received the gospel by faith, and they now stand in the gospel. They are anchored immovably, eternally in the gospel. Now verse 2, “by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
You will have believed in vain if you do not hold fast to the Word of God for the duration of your life here upon the earth. Saving faith did not originate with you. Saving faith is the gift of God that He gives to the elect when they are regenerated, and He gives a faith that will never stop believing. He gives a faith, it may weaken at times, it may stumble, but it will never stop believing and it will never stop moving forward by faith in obedience to the Word of God. So, he says here in verse 2 as clear as a bell. You may know that you are saved and you may know that you have received the gospel and are standing in the gospel, not because you walked an aisle and raised a hand and signed a card, hell is full of people like that, but because you hold fast to the Word of God and you will not let go. And in reality, God has a hold of you and He will not let go.
Now, come to Colossians 1. This is even clearer if that is even possible. In Colossians chapter 1, let me start in verse 21. What I want you to see is in verse 23. In verse 21, he talks about their state before conversion. He says, “You were formerly alienated,” meaning you were a foreigner to the kingdom of God, “and hostile in mind,” you were in opposition to God, “and engaged in evil deeds.” That is across the board for every unbeliever. “Yet,” verse 22, “He has now reconciled you in His flesh.” You are reconciled to God. You are no longer alienated from God. You are now reconciled to God. And He will, verse 22, “present you before Him holy and blameless.” Now, verse 23 starts with that big word “if.” You can know this is true, if indeed, which just further emphasizes this, “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away,” that is another way of saying not falling away, “from the hope of the gospel which you have heard.”
Conclusion: Everyone who has been reconciled to God continues in the faith. How long do they continue? As long as they are on this earth, until their dying breath they will continue all the way.
Now, let us keep it going here. 2 Thessalonians 1 verse 4, “We ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.” This is just the mark of every believer. This isn’t restricted to the believers in Thessalonica as if they have some grace that the rest of the churches do not receive. No, the mark of the elect is that they persevere in the faith even in the midst of persecutions and tribulations.
Come to Hebrews chapter 3. You’ve got to see this in Hebrews. I mean this is so clear. And men, this is an important doctrine that we are nailing down right here. Hebrews chapter 3 and in verse 6, “Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are,” referring to believers. We are the house of God. We are the temple of God. “If,” here is this word ‘if’ again, “we hold fast our confidence and boast of our hope firm,” how long? Until the end. The mark of the true believer is they hold fast to their confession and to their pursuit of godliness firm until the end. I am going to tell you again, the faith that fizzles before the finish had a flaw from the first. It was a bogus faith.
Now, look at verse 14, and the writer of Hebrews here is trying to shake loose these unconverted Jews who have only come halfway to Christ but they haven’t come through the narrow gate. He is saying, “Listen, it is all or nothing. You just can’t sit here in church and listen to the Word of God and say, ‘Amen’ and shake your head. You’re going to have to lay hold of this, and if you truly lay hold of it there is no going back. You have burned your bridges behind you. You are not going to become a Christian and stop being a Christian if you’ve truly believed.” So, verse 14, “We have become partakers of Christ if,” here is the word ‘if’, “we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm,” how long? “Until the end.” This is the perseverance of the saints.
Come to Hebrews 12 verse 1. So, this is what Paul says in Hebrews 12:1, “Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Endurance, hupomone, to bear up under the pressure and the stress and the strain as we move forward by faith. It is not a hundred-yard dash. It is not a fifty-yard dash. It is a marathon all the way to the end.
Alright, come to 2 Peter. We are going to get this in. I think there is a glare on the clock. I am having trouble reading it. Alright, 2 Peter 2 verse 20, “For if, after they,” and please note he is not saying “we.” There is a difference between when the apostles say “we” and “they.” “We” is us; “they” is them. “We” is us on the inside of the kingdom; “they” is those on the outside of the kingdom. “For if they have escaped the defilement of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them.” In other words, they morally cleaned up their life, but they were never regenerated on the inside.
I have seen many people, they get married, they have kids. They go, “You know, I just need to get my life in order.” They come and join the church. They have just never been born again in their heart. And so, there is an initial moral step. You know, they will join a Sunday school class, get into a couples’ class, and they begin to walk in a moral direction, but then they go on the road as a salesman. They fall back into temptation. Next thing you know, you never see the guy. The wife is coming to church by herself. So, what do we say about this guy who gave his testimony to the elders and signed a card and checked a box, but now in fact, he may have joined a cult over here someplace? Was he saved and lost his salvation? No. Was he saved and can just now live like the devil the rest of his life? No. He was never saved to begin with. He just went back to the entanglements of the world, which is his first love. You say, “How do I know this?” Well, let me just make it quick. Verse 22, he describes this person, “It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to his vomit,’ and ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallow in the mire.'”
Listen, the dog returns to his vomit because he loves vomit, and the pig returns to the mire because he loves mud. And the one who made a moral outward change in their life, but were never changed on the inside, it is just a matter of time. They are a ticking time bomb. It is just a matter of time until they go back to the mud and they go back to eat the vomit. Why? Because that is where their heart is, that is what they love. So, what we are seeing here is the perseverance of the true saint. They are not a dog going to their vomit. They are not a pig going to the mud. They are a sheep following the Shepherd into green pastures and beside still waters. That is what sheep do as they follow their shepherd. And their Good Shepherd doesn’t lead them to vomit; He leads them to green pastures.
Now, I have got to give you this. Come to 1 John 2 verse 19. Give me just a little sudden death here, 1 John 2 verse 19. Everybody loves sudden death, right? I didn’t get an “Amen.” So, verse 19. Thank you, thank you! “They.” Now, please notice it is not “we,” it is “they.” That means they are on the outside. They are not one of us. Oh, they were in the building with us, but their heart was never lined up with us. Their soul was never knit to our soul. “They went out from us,” meaning they fell away from the church, “but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained,” you could say, ‘continued’ with us. “But they went out, so that it might be shown that they all are not of us.” This is the perspicuity of Scripture. This is the lucid clarity of Scripture.
Now, I have one last verse. Alright, Revelation 14 verse 12, and I will wrap it up with this, though I have got more. Revelation 14 verse 12, “Here is the perseverance of the saints.” How do we know who the saints are? Well, number one, they persevere. Number two, “who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” All true saints will continue to keep the commandments. “Keep” is a present tense verb. It is a habitual lifestyle. Sure, there will be times, individual isolated times, when they don’t obey the Lord. That will be true of me today and you today at some point, but it is not talking about the perfection of your life; it is talking about the direction of your life. You are now headed in a new direction, and you will keep the commandments. You will. That is an indicative statement. And you will keep your faith in Jesus. You will not punt on first down. You will continue to have faith in Jesus to the end. And even if you are put in tribulation and persecution for your faith, God will give you dying grace and sustaining grace that you would persevere.
So, we got all these verses in, and I had other verses as well, but I want you to see when you pull all these together, now Romans 11 verse 22 is abundantly clear. “Otherwise, you will be cut off.” He is not saying that a true born-again believer will be cut off. He is saying, “Otherwise, if you do not continue in His kindness, you will be cut off” because you were never in His kindness to begin with. You deserve the severity that will fall upon you.
Well, I have got to end this, and I am sure there is a bunch of questions and feedback. We will just have to pick it up next year. This is the last study, but I could not go speeding past this verse without pulling over and parking and teaching theology. Every expositor must be a theological expositor and teach sound doctrine as he works through books in the Bible. And this is a critically important doctrine because you know people at work and you know people in your family who started well but they never finished well, and they have left the track, they have left the stadium.
So, what are we going to do? Well, we need to have discernment spiritually to know we got to go to them with the gospel. And we have got to have even the boldness to say, “Have you examined yourself to see if you are in the faith?” Is there the fruit of a changed life that we see beginning with attitudes even before we get to actions? Because in everyone who is born again, there will be this kindness of the Lord seen in their life. There will be the overruling principle of love that will dominate their life as they will love God and they will love their neighbor as themselves, and the kindness of God shown to them will be a kindness that they will now in turn show to others. Otherwise, they have reason to give serious thought as to, “Are you truly one who has received the kindness of the Lord?”
Well, I need to close in a word of prayer because I see the clock. Thank you for hanging in with me here for the coin toss and sudden death.
Father, give us understanding of these verses. I know we have taken in a lot here, but this is incredibly important that we understand this. So, I pray for my brothers here that You will open the eyes of their understanding, and by the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit shine light to understand what the Scripture is teaching in this. Father, may we persevere, may we continue in the kindness of the Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.