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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Secure in Him

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). After describing his thankfulness to God and his joy in the Philippians’ continuance in the gospel, Paul in this verse rejoices in their future, confident that God will keep and sustain them, continue to work in and change them and bring them to glory. Put differently, God began a work of spiritual transformation, and He will not abandon what He started in them but will bring it to its desired end: glorification and eternal life with Him. This is not a probability or likelihood but a promise and certainty. It is not the usual modus operandi, but has exceptions. It is a guarantee that all who have been born again of the Spirit will be saved and enter Heaven’s gates; none who have truly repented and believed in Jesus and His finished work on the cross for their salvation will fall away and be lost. They are eternally secure in God and will persevere to the end. This teaching is not only established in this verse but is found throughout the Bible (e.g., Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; John 6:39-40, 10:27-29, 17:12; 1 John 2:19; 2 Timothy 2:18-19, 4:17-18; 1 Peter 1:4-5). Those who are truly in Christ now can have confidence that God will keep them, never let them go and bring them to be with Him forever.

There are objections to this, of course. How can I know, for example, that this applies to me and not only to the Philippians? But remember that Paul’s confidence in this verse is not based on the people at all but on God, “he who began a good work in you.” It is a certainty based on who God is, that He is not half-hearted but deliberate in what He does. He has a purpose and never fails to finish what He starts (Romans 8:29-30). Other passages that discuss God sustaining His people to the end are immediately followed by assurances that “God is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:24). God’s faithfulness and purpose in salvation ground a hope and promise that is for all believers.

Others may believe that God does work to sustain them, but that they are still free to fall away and apostatize. But if that were true, it would have already happened. Our love for Christ is so small. Do you not see your heart in those words, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave to God I love?” One bad day, one sleepless night is enough to show us how terrible our hearts are and how spiritually destitute we are without Jesus. We truly do need Him every hour. And this is to say nothing of attacks from demonic forces, which we would be helpless against apart from Christ. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If any part of our perseverance rested on our spiritual strength and love for Christ, we would have been lost a long time ago. Additionally, when we look back at our Christian walk, we see how many times we could have easily fallen away were it not for God’s sovereign hand. It is only by grace and grace alone that we have continued in the faith — and will continue to the end.

This leads to us an important truth: it is ultimately God’s hold of us, not our hold of Him, that keeps and sustains us to the end. While we are called to actively persevere (Hebrews 10:36), it is not our efforts that ensure our salvation, but He who sustains (1 Corinthians 1:8) and guards us (1 Peter 1:5). Our power to keep ourselves is absolutely pitiful, but God’s keeping of us is power and effectual. If you can fall away, God’s keeping could not guarantee that you — or anyone at all — will be saved. But that’s not how the Bible sees it. While the connection between free will and God’s sovereignty is complex, Jesus clearly thought that if God holds someone, they could never fall away and perish. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).

Additionally, Christians may backslide and wander, but it is He who ensures that their “faith may not fail” and that they will return (Luke 22:32). The Shepherd will bring back His wandering sheep “for it is not the will of my Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14). Christians are called to holiness, but praise God that He “remains faithful” even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13). We could have no hope otherwise.  

When we imagine we are strong, this teaching seems superfluous, annoying even. But when we see our real condition, that we are hopelessly weak, that we cannot continue in the faith for a year, a day, a minute without Him, nothing could be more relieving and comforting than to know that Christ keeps us every moment and will never let us go. A man may scoff at a boat if he thinks he can swim to shore. But the despairing, drowning man cries with joy to see it. Let it drive us to our knees in worship, how He keeps us and grows us in Him day by day, knowing with the certainty Paul had that we will in but a little while be on our knees praising Him face to face in Heaven. “O love that will not let me go!” 

Andrew Sveda is a senior at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, majoring in political science and theology. In his free time, he enjoys writing (obviously), reading and playing the piano. He can be reached at asveda@nd.edu or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.