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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Theology Q&A

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Dr. J. Rodman Williams answers theological questions, exclusively on

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9. Sanctification, Perseverance

Category Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 QA Index




Will a person who once firmly believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but then turned from Him, enter Hell or Heaven?

Why should a person who "once firmly believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior" but has turned from Him want to go to heaven? For heaven is the place where Jesus is glorified and all people rejoice in His presence. An unbeliever would hardly be comfortable there.

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The Wesleyan persuasion has a doctrine of "entire sanctification." They separate this from salvation as a second work of grace. Can you explain your viewpoint on this?

I have difficulty with this Wesleyan doctrine. While it affirms rightly the goal of "entire" or total sanctification in the whole person -- body, soul, and spirit -- it is too much to say that by a second work of grace "sin ceases to be" (Wesley's words). The Scriptures remind us that "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us," but "If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9).

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For the last two years, I have had nothing but heartache and trial -- God placing me in the impossible and carrying me through. At times, I feel I have reached the end of the lesson and now I can do anything, but then I slide here and there back into temptation and my wants. After sanctification do we still struggle to behave as God wants ... or is it foreign for us to sin?

Sin is basically foreign to the believer since the Holy Spirit dwells within. However, the flesh is still there often warring to a high degree against the Spirit. This should make us rely more on God to give us the victory.

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Is sanctification an immediate experience when somebody becomes a Christian? Can a born again Christian live a sanctified life here on earth?

First of all, sanctification is experienced in the new birth. Paul writes about the born again experience, "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Thus immediate sanctification is part of the experience. We are holy, therefore, by virtue of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us and dwells within.

Still there remains sin in every life which calls for further sanctification. Thus sanctification is also a process day by day. Concerning this matter, Paul writes, "Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God" (1 Corinthians 7:1).

For further information, see my Renewal Theology, 2: chapter 4, "Sanctification."

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Can you ever lose your salvation? Because I have done so much bad after I became a Christian that I think I have lost my salvation. I'm really scared. I don't want to go to hell but I fear that is my fate. Please help me.

Yes, it is possible to lose your salvation. There are many places in the Bible that warn of this happening. However, if you truly repent all is not lost. The fact that you are deeply concerned is a positive sign. I suggest that you make earnest confession to the Lord of your sins and believe that He will forgive them and reestablish you.

For further help, see Renewal Theology, 2: chapter 5, "Perseverance.")

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  What is the meaning of "progressive sanctification"?

Paul writes: "Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). In one sense every born-again believer has already been sanctified, "You were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). It is against the background of this initial sanctification in salvation that we are called upon to devote ourselves to ongoing sanctification. Whatever remains in the carnal self we should find intolerable and seek both cleansing and removal. Paul again speaks elsewhere "by the [indwelling] Spirit put to death the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13). We cannot put to death the flesh in our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit we can-if we are really serious about it. Day by day there can be progress in sanctification, and living a life more pleasing to our Lord.

See Renewal Theology, 2: chapter 4, "Sanctification," for further help.

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  Can a Christian lose his/her salvation?

The security of our salvation rests not in ourselves but in God. He has given us a new life in Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Thus there is strong security from God's side; the undergirding of salvation is His doing not ours. We should not therefore be anxious as if some slip on our part will quickly cost us our salvation. No, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). However, salvation may be lost. There are grave warnings in Scripture, for example, Jesus' own words: "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" (John 15:6). Again, "If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume…"(Hebrews 10:26). Our security is truly in God; however, all may be lost if we fail to abide in Christ and go on willfully sinning.

For other warnings in Scripture relating to believers, read 1 Corinthians 10:12; Colossians 1:21-23; Hebrews 2:1-3, 3:12-14, 6:4-8; 2 Peter 2:20-22-also see Renewal Theology, 2: chapter 5, entitled "Perseverance."

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  If you have been saved, but you sin every day-some you think worse than others, can you lose your salvation if you pray and ask for forgiveness every day?

Salvation may be lost only by those who persistently and willfully go on sinning. If a person genuinely seeks God's forgiveness and His way, salvation will not be lost.

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  So is our security in us or God for maintaining our salvation?

You said our security is in God-but then you said if we go on sinning we will lose our salvation. It sounds to me that our security is based on us and whether we sin or not-not in God as you say. For if it were up to God, he would never let us go.

Our security is in God means that it is not primarily a matter of our achieving such by our own efforts. If that were the case, we would never be secure. However, we may forfeit that security by our own apostasy (see Renewal Theology, 2: pages 130-136).

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  Could you please explain Hebrews 6:4-6?

This passage points up the ominous fact that even full-fledged believers-"those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the power of the age to come"-if they "then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance." Why? "Since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame." The falling away is total; there is no hope of repentance. The end is "being burned" (verse 8). Compare Hebrews 10:26-27-"If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment." A tragic end: "impossible to renew them again to repentance"-"no longer remains a sacrifice for sins"-total loss. Little wonder that Hebrews earlier says: "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (2:3).

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  What is the meaning of "sinning willfully" in Hebrews 10:26?

The word "willfully" (Greek-ekousias) may also be translated as "deliberately." The Amplified Bible includes both translations: "If we go on deliberately and willfully sinning…." The point made in Hebrews is that by willfully, deliberately, persistently continuing to sin "after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment."

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  How should we then live?

First, as Christian believers we should ever move forward, rejoicing in our great salvation. Since God delights to forgive, when we turn to Him in sincere confession, He will surely cleanse us from all unrighteousness and establish our way. Second, we should give serious heed to the New Testament warnings about possible falling away. These warnings are declared not to create fear and anxiety, but they are God's counsel not to neglect what has been so graciously given us. Third, we can continually give thanks to God for what He has done and intends to do. He is fully able to keep us to the very end. To God be the glory!

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