Home > Brandenburg, The Gospel, The Lord Jesus Christ > If Ye Continue (Colossians 1:23)

If Ye Continue (Colossians 1:23)

I recently had a protracted conversation with a Wesleyan Methodist on eternal security.  He used Colossians 1:23 as a proof text for the conditional security of salvation.  I had the same verse whipped out in my week long debate with Larry Hafley from the Church of Christ to dispute the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer.  The verse does present the candidates for reconciliation and presentation before God the Father.   Jesus both shed His blood (v. 20, represented by the cup in the Lord’s Table) and died (v. 22, represented by the bread in the Lord’s Table) to reconcile to God those who “were sometime alienated from and enemies of God by their wicked works,” which is “to present them holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight” (vv. 21b-22).

Who will Jesus reconcile and who will Jesus present holy before God’s presence?  Those who “continue in the faith and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (v. 24a).  What about those who will not continue in the faith?  Well, it is correct to say that they will not be reconciled to God nor presented holy before God in the final judgment.  So, in order for someone to be saved, he must continue?  Yes.  If he does not continue, he will not be saved?  That’s right.  So it’s not enough for someone only to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be reconciled to God, but he also must continue doing the works of God in order to be presented holy before God?  No.  No?  That’s right.  No.  It seems like it follows though?  It does not follow.  And this is where the Wesleyans, the Nazarenes, many Charismatics, freewill Baptists, and the Church of Christ all fail.  They say it follows that someone must keep on doing good works in order for him to be saved.

The one being saved will do good works.  He must do good works.  The works don’t save him, however.  They have nothing to do with his salvation.  It’s that when a person is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, he will continue in the faith.  Genuine faith will persevere.  It will continue.  It will overcome. It will bring forth fruit.  It will conform to the image of God’s Son.

The first part of v. 23 is a conditional clause.  Conditional clauses function as a part of a predicate in that they give a condition under which the action of the verb can take place.   As we look for a verb in v. 22, we see that the verb must either be “reconciled” or “present.”  I believe the condition fits best with “present,” since it is closer in proximity.  Jesus will present someone to God holy, etc., if that person continues in the faith.  People who get presented holy are the ones who continue in the faith. Those who do not continue in the faith do not get presented like that.

I’m parking on this technicality because I think it is important for you to know.  I’m explaining a textual nugget for you.   The New Testament was written in Greek.  The Greek language of the New Testament has four classes of conditional clauses.  These are all clearly and unmistakeably marked in the language itself by certain combinations of words.  Working from the fourth to the first, the fourth class is the most rare and it is the condition of assumed possibility.   The third class is the condition of assumed probability.

Example:

If at any future time this condition is met, then this will follow.

The second class is the condition of assumed unreality, that is, the assumption of an untruth for the sake of argument.

Example:

If this would have been, then that would have followed.

The first class is the condition of assumed reality, that is, the assumption of truth for the sake of argument.

Example:

If this is true (and I’m assuming it is), then this will happen.

The condition in Colossians 1:23 is the first class condition.  The writer is assuming this condition to be reality, to be true.   In other words, you should assume that anyone who will be presented to God holy, that anyone who is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, will also continue in the faith.  Why?  Because believers do continue.  He’s not continuing in order to be reconciled.  He’s continuing because he’s been reconciled already.  Those who Jesus reconciles will also continue in the faith.  It  isn’t just possible that a person who is reconciled will continue in the faith, and it isn’t just probable.  It is the assumed reality of the reconciled, of those whom Jesus will present before God, that they will continue in the faith.

I often ask this question:  “If you have to keep doing good works in order to be saved, then who is doing the saving, you or God?”  The answer is, of course:  you.   Wesleyans and Campbellites and others add to grace and nullify grace.  As Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1-4, Christ will profit them nothing, He is made of no effect unto them, and they have become debtors to do the whole law, when they add continuing works as a basis of reconciliation.

How can you tell a true Christian?  He has prayed the sinner’s prayer?  No.  He claims to be a Christian?  No.  He’s got the date of his profession of faith written in the fly leaf of his Bible?  No.  His mother swears that he’s a saved person?  No.  He came forward at the invitation and went to the side room to accept Jesus?  No.  How?  He continues in the faith.

Jesus’ and the apostles’ teaching was riddled with this truth.  Those branches which are not cut off and thrown into the fire are those that abide in the vine (John 15).   In the parable of the soils in Luke 8, someone may receive the Word with joy, but if he has no root, he will fall away under trial.  In 1 John 2:19, John wrote that those who are of the believers would no doubt continue with believers.  If you are not with us, then you are not of us.  Jesus knew the hearts of men, and so we read in John 8:30-31:

As he spake these words, many believed on him.  Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.

We are not to assume that just anyone who has made a profession of faith is saved.  As a matter of fact, we should only consider to be saved those who Jesus and Paul would have considered to be saved.  And they will continue in the faith.  Fundamentalist and evangelical churches are filled with unconverted because we have assigned a true conversion to those whom Jesus never would.

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  1. J. Paul Hornick
    January 20, 2010 at 7:43 am | #1

    Just a quick question: if one decides that he will no longer believe, is he still secure? Personally, I agree with what Dr. Cloud wrote on the subject several years ago – I do not know if it is still available on his website, but it may be found in his CD-ROM libraries.

  2. January 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm | #2

    Amen! Good works are the necessary result of genuine Salvation. They are not the cause, they are the consequence.

  3. January 22, 2010 at 9:52 am | #3

    Bro. Hornick,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Someone who “decides” he will no longer believe never believed in the first place (1 John 2:19; 3:6), because faith endures. It’s like love in Scripture, it’s of God. Faith is of God and it is enduring. That is how it is described. What did Dr. Cloud write on the subject?

  4. J. Paul Hornick
    January 22, 2010 at 10:01 am | #4

    I cannot remember the exact words that Dr. Cloud wrote, but the idea is that those who are candidates for security are those who continue to believe, and this is manifest by the works of righteousness which is not they who do them but Christ through them. Since God is in the eternal present tense (meaning that the past and future are known perfectly to Him), from His point of view, those who went out from us were not of us. This is what the true Wesleyans believe (not the hyper-Wesleyans which is what I believe this article actually spoke against).

    One other question I have is how you would harmonize this article with Hebrews 10:29.

  5. January 22, 2010 at 2:06 pm | #5

    Bro. Hornick,

    I think the way you are stating this does not ring of scriptural language and then doctrine. Someone’s assurance comes from continuing to believe, but one of God’s children will continue to believe. Security doesn’t come from continuing to believe. Security comes from God, not from our continuing.

    I believe you are wrong in viewing 1 John 2:19 as something representative of God’s eternal point of view. This is John writing from his point of view. It is God’s Word, but John inspired by God. The language of the verse says that the person was never saved in the first place. He didn’t lose it. You might be right on the Wesleyans versus hyper Wesleyans, but I don’t think so. This is, I believe, a Wesleyan point of view.

    The audience of Hebrews 10:29 is those who have received the light of the Lord, understood the gospel, and then apostatized from it. It’s the same audience as all the warning passages in Hebrews. Someone who turns away, and, therefore, does not continue, apostatizes. That would be how the two texts harmonize. In most cases a person can’t then ever be saved. That’s what Hebrews shows. That’s the danger of an unconverted person living in the midst of believers, hearing all the preaching—he hardens his heart. That’s what Hebrews is warning about. Jesus also dealt with this a lot in the gospels, the very reason why He began to teach in parables.

  6. J. Paul Hornick
    January 22, 2010 at 7:33 pm | #6

    If I am not mistaken, you are saying that it is our belief in God rather than belief in our belief that makes us secure. In that, I heartily agree. Since the command to believe is always present tense, it is a continuous action, thus we continue to believe in God, and we are then secure – is that what you meant?

  7. J. Paul Hornick
    January 22, 2010 at 8:45 pm | #7

    This is what Dr. Cloud wrote concerning who has eternal security:

    “It is important to further emphasize the fact that the doctrine of eternal security does not promise safety for anyone who merely professes Christ. In the following study we see that the Bible connects eternal security only with the true believer, the one who has been born again, and differentiates him with the mere professor. Who has eternal security — (1) Those who continue in the word (Jn. 8:31,32). (2) Those who follow Christ (Jn. 10:27-28). (3) Those who bring forth fruit (Jn. 15:2; Lk. 3:9). (4) Those who are led by the Spirit of God (Ro. 8:14-15). (5) Those who have been born again (2 Co. 5:17; Ep. 2:10; Ga. 6:15). (6) Those who are sanctified from an unrighteous way of life (1 Co. 6:9-11). (7) Those who have demonstrated their election (1 Th. 1:4-10). (8) Those who depart from iniquity (2 Ti. 2:19). (9) Those who maintain their confidence in Christ (He. 3:14). (10) Those who have an undivided, convinced faith (He. 4:10,11). (11) Those who evidence the “things that accompany salvation” (He. 6:9-12). (12) Those who are looking for Christ’s return (He. 9:28). (13) Those who remain patient and steadfast in tribulations (He. 10:35-39). (14) Those who are in the truth and continue in the truth (1 Jn. 2:19-21; 2 Jn. 1-2). (15) Those who are purifying themselves (1 Jn. 3:1-3). (16) Those who love the brethren (1 Jn. 3:14).”

  8. Matt Conrad
    January 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm | #8

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    You wrote,

    “So it’s not enough for someone only to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be reconciled to God, but he also must continue doing the works of God in order to be presented holy before God? No. No? That’s right. No. It seems like it follows though? It does not follow. And this is where the Wesleyans, the Nazarenes, many Charismatics, freewill Baptists, and the Church of Christ all fail. They say it follows that someone must keep on doing good works in order for him to be saved.”

    That’s actually a misrepresentation of what many and I think most Arminians (especially Free Will Baptists) believe. You took a giant leap from continuing to believe and being not moved away from the hope of the gospel, to doing the works of God in order to be presented holy before God. Most Arminians denounce works as being part of salvation at all, yet presented with so many warnings from the Scriptures to true believers to not depart from the faith, they naturally come to the conclusion that it must be possible, and that apostasy can only be committed by people who have actually been saved. They simply take heed to the warnings at face value. They believe in the assurance of salvation yes, but the possiblity of a true Christian falling away and being lost eternally.

    I think a fair study that would represent most Arminians beliefs can be found at http://www.pfrs.org/osas/index.html

    By the way, I’m still waiting on your comments about the rapture issue at http://www.answersinrevelation.org

    Matt Conrad

    Matt Conrad

  9. January 25, 2010 at 9:53 am | #9

    Matt,

    Thanks for commenting. I recognize that these, of which I have talked to many, would say that works aren’t a part. But what is continuing in the faith? You have made faith a work for which you are responsible. Believers will continue because of the work of God. When you say that they can lose salvation by not continuing then you make salvation dependent upon the work of God. I believe that the “we must continue or lose it” doctrine adds works to grace.

    Regarding eschatology, answering this will require a lot of time. I have written and preached on this subject much, but it is matter of reading and answering. I will do that at some point. Thanks for reminding me. It would help me to spend a month on it here on Jackhammer—so I could get both accomplished at once. Maybe we’ll do that at some point.

  10. Matthew
    March 10, 2011 at 9:44 am | #10

    I personally agree that true & Genuine beleivers can fall away in their faith , as the bible says so. I’m not saying that those who are unfaithful will Lose their salvation. No, they will lose their rewards, Not their salvation.

    Now, Regarding your comments, The famous Theory that “He was never saved to begin with” is not coherent with the bible..and not specially with 1 Col 1:23; because Paul addressed them as “beleivers” 1:4 ; if you continue in the faith’’ means that they once has experienced a Genuine saving faith. I can cite a number of paassages of true belivers who have departed from their faith and of course NONE of them is described as having Lost their Salvation…

    In any way.. Perseverance doesn’t secure our salvation , it’s rather a sign/manifestation that a christian is saved…Perseverance has nothing to do the Security of the beleiver, as we all deserved hell.. ALL!.. we are secured through Christ’s perseverance *Righteousness . If our salvation is conditioned enduring till the end.. therefore we all deserved our tickets to heaven,,, and what you are erasing here is “the Doctrine of Grace” // EPH 2:8 Note that your are saved BY GRACE “through faith” .. faith is only an agent where God can apply the righteous works of Christs on us. …

    SALVATION CANNOT BE LOST….. How can we judge others and say these persons deserves hell.. Bible says if someone says he is without sins, he is a liar! .. All have sins…Christians do sins, like David who commited aduktery, murder..and many other big sins.. but none one verses says he lost his salvation; instead he prayed that THE JOY OF HIS SALVATION BE RESTORED Ps 51:4-12.

  1. November 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm | #1

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