The subjectivity of being saved is the foundation of the “free grace” movement within the church, and it dates back to medieval times, as well as during the times of the Reformation; in fact, it has adherents in New Testament times, which is why the Apostle Paul addressed it (Romans 6, particularly vs. 1 and 15, with the rest of the chapter expounding on why such statements must be met with the strongest of negatives).
The Puritans had much to say on this subject, as well as prior, and modern, commentators, preachers, pastors, and theologians within the entirety of this present church age, but what does the Scripture speak of on this topic?
“He who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13; John 6:27; 1 Corinthians 13:7; 1 Peter 2:19).
These are but a very few of the relevant verses, but they are those which I have chosen to show the character of that which the Scriptures speak. Of course, context should and must be considered in the exegesis and application of these verses; however, how much have we chosen to limit the application and exegesis of Scripture in these, and many other, instances?
Now, consider, for we are so quick to judge: How many of those saints throughout the multifaceted history of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ have proven that to judge hastily on such a matter is not only unwarranted, but sin, on our part?
Go further: Have you read, or known of, any saint (or one you considered a saint), who has not ended the race well (think HARD before you answer this one, it is a loaded question)?
Think hard upon this question, for it is one of the most serious matter; have you known of, or read of (or both) a saint who has gone over to eternity whom you would not consider worthy of such, by their ending in this life?
At this point, an example is in order: I invite the reader to read this brief biography of Adoniram Judson, put together by John Piper possibly for (he may have done it as a private study, then shared it at the conference) the 2003 Bethlehem Conference For Pastors (or listen to it, as the link provides):
It should prove very educational to those inclined to judge mortality, immortality, and morality, based on the vagaries of this sordid, often tepid, life; based on subjective observation, rather then the objective Scriptures of our great God and Savior.
Note: I am NOT saying that one who is saved will never show such; quite the contrary! What I AM saying is that, though one (or two, or three) should show that which we would adjudge as pagan and worldly, yet has shown formerly they have gone beyond profession to belief (by view of verifiable fruits of grace, to our manner of viewing as the Scripture prescribes), we are to hope against hope, believe all things, know that God is sovereignly in control, and so, holding fast to the Scriptures, pray for such an one, for that one is the sheep we would deem as lost, but which the Lord, in His infinite and eternal knowledge, always had ordained would be His from before the foundations of the world.
To simplify matters, I am saying that a saint can, and often will, stray for a time (and I use the term as the Scriptures of our Lord do, for our sake, for He is outside of time, though He has intersected it for our sakes and understanding – witness His unfathomable Word, which His Spirit yet makes plain to us for first, His glorious sake, and secondly, for our sakes), yet those who are His will indeed come back to their first love, repent, forgive (and be forgiven by saints they have wronged), and serve the Lord Jesus Christ as those members of His body which they have been placed as – there will be regrets (who could not regret wasted years, months or days of non-service to God?), and there will be sorrow, yet the wandering sheep will always, without doubt, return to their eternal Shepherd, for such cannot but be the case, as He has said (John 10:27-29).
Here, then, is the distinction, which all who call themselves by the name of Christ would do well to heed, as even the most learned pastors and theologians have given heed:
Those who are Christ’s will NEVER perish, as He has said, so we must never give up hope for them, for to do such is to go against God, and such is folly most heinous and dire. We must pray and know that which is His will, NOT because we subjectively deem it to be so, but because He has stated it, and His truth is as objective a ground for our prayers in such a matter as He is the object of our faith by His decree – both are the same, neither can be assumed, but are grounded upon Scripture, the infallible Word of the One and Only God.
If we are blessed enough to see such return to the fold, we are blessed beyond mortal measure, for He has shared a piece of eternity with us at such a time; even as we are blessed to see a sinner accept Christ by the Spirit’s regeneration, so is this such that we are to rejoice with heaven!
I am not speaking to apostasy here, but of those who have strayed without denial of our Lord – their present behavior may be ungodly and even worldly, yet their sorrow for their sin will remain, and the Lord will bring them back to Himself and His covenant people.
In cases of doubt, we need to remember this admonition and command:
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15: If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.