1 Corinthians 15:1–2 (LEB)

1 Now I make known to you, brothers, the gospel which I proclaimed to you, which you have also received, in which you also stand,

2 by which you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the message I proclaimed to you, unless you believed to no purpose.

To many people, this passage seems to show God gives salvation, so that He can take it away afterwards. A simple reading implies the fact that the Gospel saved us but does not continue to save us unless we hold fast to it. Some use this passage to say believers can lose their salvation. Others say that it shows that those who are considered believers prove to be false because they did not stick with the Gospel. Neither of these views satisfies the details of the text in its context. Though some in the Corinthian church were beginning to deny the resurrection of Christ, it is very clear from the passage that the apostle Paul is sure about their position: they had “received” and “believed” the Gospel he had preached to them (the past tenses denote a completed action) and they now “stand” in that Gospel (the present perfect tense indicates a past action with continuing results in the present). There is no question that Paul’s letter addresses the Corinthians as genuine believers. However, the statement “you are being saved” in the present tense clearly depends on the condition “if you hold fast that Word,” referring to the Gospel. Does this mean the readers can lose their salvation or prove they were never genuinely saved if they do not “hold fast”?

The view that Paul is telling the readers that they can lose or disprove their salvation comes from rigidly defining the expression “you are being saved” as an escape from hell. As we have seen before, the basic definition of “saved” is delivered or preserved and is used in the Bible for deliverance from several things like: negative emotions, sinful thoughts, depression, anxiety, sickness, poverty, death, enemies, danger, sin. This requires us to ask ourselves, “Delivered from what?” As the letter to the Corinthians shows, these believers had many sin issues from which they needed to be free. Which parts of ourselves are in the process of being saved? The human spirit is saved instantly and for eternity at the time of the new birth, while the soul and body are being saved here on earth by the continuous renewal of the mind with the Word of God. The sequence of thought is essential: Paul preached the Gospel, the Corinthians received it and now stand in it. What’s left for them is to experience that salvation in an ongoing sense, thus Paul uses the present tense “you are [being] saved.” If Paul had been speaking of hell, he would have perhaps expressed himself in a much more natural and normal way about their final salvation, using the future tense: “you will be saved.”

Ongoing deliverance from sin and its effects on the believer’s life has a condition: one must “hold fast” to the Gospel repeatedly and consistently. This is not an assumed accomplishment or a hypothetical condition but a real one. Paul says the Corinthians must continue to follow the truth they learned from the Gospel to experience its saving effects in all the areas of their lives. This is not a condition of eternal salvation from hell but a real condition of deliverance from sinful habits, sickness, and poverty here on earth. It is, therefore, possible for believers not to hold fast to the Word of God in certain areas or periods of time. The New Testament shows how believers not always persevere or hold fast to the truth (1 Timothy 5:14–15; 6:20–21; 2 Timothy 1:5; 2:17–18, 24–26; 4:9–10, 14–16). Take for example the subject of healing from diseases. From the moment we hear the Gospel on healing, namely that Jesus has already paid in full for the healing of every disease, we must keep the conviction of this truth, always strong in our heart, by constant meditation on it, that we may be cured of any disease that attacks us and in the shortest possible time.

The word “saved,” then, is being used to describe the experience of living out the truths of the Gospel, which flow from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are not only the basis of one’s salvation from hell, but it is also the basis of one’s identity and living as a Christian. In Romans 6:2–5, Paul teaches that believers’ union with Christ is the basis for a life of victory over sin. As He died and rose, so also those who are in Him have died to sin and have been raised with Christ to walk in a new life.

 

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Session 10 – Continuing in Faith (Saved for Eternity) – June 5th, 2024

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