Now the Word of Warning
The passage before us today presents us with some of the most contested verses in all of Scripture. On the one hand, to use this passage against others in a debate over whether or not one can lose one’s salvation is to miss the point of the passage. The Preacher was not writing for the purpose of bringing up a theological point over which the Church might argue for centuries to come. On the other hand, the Preacher is issuing a stern warning that every believer must take very serious, such that spouting mantras like “once saved always saved” only manifest aversions to do so—which then begs the question, “Why the aversion? What are you afraid of?” As I have said before, the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints should not be used to short-circuit those passages where the Bible would admonish us to, well…persevere. Let me put it this way: I have more reason to believe that a person is saved who may occasionally doubt his salvation and weep over his struggles and failures to live a holy life than I do another who is so confident over his salvation that he never gives it a care in the world, though he pursue not a holy life nor grow in grace such that anyone else could ever tell a difference in his life.
That said, there is no question but that the Preacher is serious about his subject. He has used the illustration from the Old Testament about the wilderness generation who failed to enter God’s rest. They came to Kadesh-Barnea and for fear refused to trust God and conquer the land (Numbers 13-14). The Preacher concluded, saying, “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (3:19). This means that there is a direct relationship between our actions and our belief; indeed, we act on our beliefs. A person can say he has accepted Christ, that he is born again, saved, but if his deeds prove not his profession—well, this warning is meant for him. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Nor does their even doing mighty works like casting out demons ensure their place (Matthew 7:21-23). The works our Lord looks upon with favor seem to have more to do with works of mercy (Matthew 25:31-46) and crucifying the flesh that we may gain those virtues which produce those works of mercy (Romans 8:5-17; Colossians 3:1-17).
Those who are truly saved persevere to the end; but, those who are truly saved are walking with the Lord, growing in grace, sloughing off sin, showing the fruits of the Spirit, and ministering to other people.