When you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 6:20-23 (ESV)
I am fully aware that holiness preaching and teaching are largely being abandoned by the modern Western Church in favour of teaching that tends to avoid any offense. The watering down of the full gospel message of Christ has led many to also abandon teaching on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus (Luke 6:46; John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6) and what it means to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Holiness is something we must pursue (Hebrews 12:14-15). By the power of the Spirit of God, the disciple is able to overcome sin (1 Corthians 10:12-13) and while none of us will ever be perfect by our own strength (Proverbs 20:9), it is still our duty to pursue holiness (Philippians 2:12-15).
Some within the Church seem to desire to teach the preservation of the sinner rather than the duty to persevere in the faith. To some, perseverance amounts to works salvation. While the Bible calls the disciple to persevere (2 Peter 1:5-11), many feel that we should not call people to walk in obedience to Jesus but instead we should teach that they are free by God’s grace and God’s grace is so vast, so full of acceptance and love that the “child of God” can live anyway they so choose.
However, I am convinced (and many other Arminians are as well) that the Scriptures call for the Christian to persevere in the faith (Hebrews 6:4-19). We believe the Bible proclaims that Jesus has freed us from sin not so we can return to living in sin (2 Peter 2:20-22) but in order for us to serve the Father and one another (Galatians 5:13). I believe the Bible calls us to holiness in all our lives from the beginning of our salvation until the very end (Matthew 5:48). God did not save us from sin in order that we might now be “free to sin” but rather he set us “free from sin” (Romans 8:1-4). To return to living in sin will lead only to death (Romans 8:12-13; James 5:20). We are called to perseverance and not preservation.
When I read the New Testament I see the call to persevere from the beginning to the end. I had a professor in college who made a profound statement to me at the time and it still remains with me. He said, “There are no promises of assurance for the person living in sin.” I know of many “Christians” who have struggled with sin and have longed at the same time for assurance from God of their eternal destiny. One friend of mine in particular seemed to never be able to overcome his sin of lust. He later turned into a Calvinist more out of the emphasis on grace and on the teaching of eternal security in general. Obviously, many Calvinists will oppose my friend’s understanding of what it means to be a Calvinist in the true sense, but my friend felt justified within Calvinism to live a life of sin in which he still does to this day. He found the teaching of preservation of the sinner a welcome gospel to his ears (2 Timothy 4:3-4). However, to repeat my college professor, “There are no assurances of salvation for the person living in sin.”
In the future I will have a post on different sins in the Scripture. Contrary to popular teaching today, I don’t believe the Bible teaches that all sins are the same in the eyes of God. You will hear someone say that murder, rape, lust, adultery, etc. are the same as lying, not reading my Bible, doubt, etc. This is simply not true and is very misleading. This leads people to believe that their viewing of pornography is no different than telling a “white lie.” Not all sin is the same (1 John 5:16-17). Nevertheless, we must stress that the Bible calls the disciple to hate sin and abandon their life of sin (John 8:1-11). While Jesus has died for our sins and we are sanctified in him (Hebrews 10:10), the call is to persevere and keep our focus on him until the very end (Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:1-29). Perseverance is all through the New Testament but preservation of the sinner is not.
[Link to original post and comments on Roy Ingle’s blog, Arminian Today]