On Perseverance and Warnings Against Sin

I was recently asked a great question by a discerning (or at least curious) reader of this blog about a statement I made at the conclusion of a sermon on Jesus’ teaching on lust from Matthew 5:27-30. Eric asked,

The article said, “…are you willing to risk your soul for a look of lust?”
Does this comment assume that I will lose my salvation if I have sinned by lusting after a woman?

Below is my response which I posted today:

Eric,

I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your question. I typed a lengthy response yesterday, then clicked “Submit Comment” and the response disappeared. So I’ll try again.

I honestly don’t recall all that I was thinking when I wrote those words (which were part of a sermon which I preached over a year ago). But I know what I believe about this issue, so I think I can answer the question.

First, I don’t believe that a true believer in Christ can lose their salvation by committing any act of sin. We are all sinners and sin daily. I don’t, however, believe that we should use this fact as an excuse to sin. I further believe in allowing the strong words of Scripture to stand. Therefore, when I come across the strong warnings in Scripture (such as the famous ones in the book of Hebrews), I don’t water those texts down. I preach them as forcefully as they are in the text. I follow Dr. Tom Schreiner and Ardel Caneday in their book on perseverance The Race Set Before Us who argue that the warning passages in Scripture function as the means by which God preserves His elect. Thus, I believe that to water down the strong warnings in Scripture against sin is to cut people off from the God ordained means of perseverance in their lives.

I understand that this is not as nice and neat as we would like our doctrine of perseverance to be. But I believe this approach takes seriously both the promises of security and the warnings of Scripture.

In short, I do not believe that true believers ever ultimately fall away. But I believe in preaching the warnings in such a way that the sinner cannot remain comfortable in his/her sin. This allows the tension in Scripture to stand and I believe is the means by which God preserves His people.

What are your thoughts?

Preachers, Pastors, Scholars, Theologians, Students: What do you think? Did my original question in the sermon overstate the case? Should I let the tension stand as I have done or not?

2 comments

  1. Steve,

    Well put. I must admit in my own ministry a tendency to soften the warning passages not wanting to cause unnecessary doubt. However, the point about tension is a good one. We are warned so that we WILL persevere.

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