The Doctrines in Christian Theology Part Two
The Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints (Remaining a Christian)
The perseverance of the saints, also known as eternal security or, once saved, always saved, is the doctrine that those who are truly born again will persevere in faith and good works until the end of their lives. The perseverance of the saints is a doctrine that gives believers great hope and assurance in their salvation and encourages them to live a life of faithfulness and obedience to God.
Here are some points to elaborate on this Doctrine:
- The perseverance of the saints is based on the promises of God, who has promised to keep and preserve His people until the end. This promise is grounded in God’s faithfulness, not in the merit or worthiness of the believer.
- The perseverance of the saints is not a license to sin or a guarantee of a trouble-free life. True believers will experience trials and challenges, but they will also have the power of the Holy Spirit to help them overcome and persevere.
- The perseverance of the saints does not mean that believers cannot fall into sin or apostasy. However, those who do fall away were never truly born again, to begin with (1 John 2:19).
- The perseverance of the saints is not based on the believer’s strength or ability but on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
- The perseverance of the saints is a source of great comfort and assurance for believers. They can have confidence that their salvation is secure in Christ and that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
- The perseverance of the saints should motivate believers to pursue holiness and obedience, knowing that their efforts are not in vain and that they will be rewarded for their faithfulness.
- The perseverance of the saints should also motivate believers to share the gospel with others, knowing that God uses the proclamation of the gospel to call His elect to Himself
- The doctrine of perseverance is closely related to the doctrine of election, which teaches that God chooses specific individuals for salvation before the foundation of the world. Those elected will inevitably persevere in faith and good works because of God’s grace.
- Some Christians object to the perseverance doctrine because they believe it leads to complacency or antinomianism (the belief that Christians are not bound by moral law). However, proponents of the doctrine argue that true believers will not use their security in Christ as an excuse to sin but rather as a motivation to live a life of obedience.
- The doctrine of perseverance is also closely related to sanctification, which teaches that believers are being progressively transformed into the image of Christ. While believers may struggle with sin and temptation, they will ultimately be conformed to the likeness of Christ as they continue to walk in obedience to Him.
- The doctrine of perseverance is not a license to neglect the means of grace, such as prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other believers, and participation in the sacraments. Instead, believers should use these means to grow their faith and strengthen their assurance of salvation.
- Some Christians struggle with doubts about their salvation or fear losing their salvation if they sin or fall away from the faith. The doctrine of perseverance provides comfort and assurance to these believers, reminding them that their salvation is secure in Christ and that they can trust in God’s promises to keep them until the end.
- The doctrine of perseverance also reminds Christians that they are part of a community of believers who share in their struggles and joys. By persevering in faith and good works, believers can encourage and strengthen one another as they journey toward their ultimate goal of being with Christ forever.
Overall, the Doctrine of Perseverance provides assurance, comfort, and motivation for believers as they seek to live a life of faithfulness and obedience to God. It reminds them that their salvation is based on God’s faithfulness, not their own merits, and encourages them to persevere in faith and good works until the end.
The Doctrine of Death and the Intermediate State
The doctrine of death and the intermediate state deals with what happens to believers and unbelievers after death but before the final resurrection and judgment.
Here are some key points about this Doctrine:
- Death results from sin, and every person will die. Death separates the body and the soul, and the body returns to dust while the soul enters the intermediate state.
- The intermediate state is between death and the final resurrection. It is a temporary state, as all people will be resurrected at the end of time.
- According to the Bible, there are two destinations in the intermediate state: heaven and hell. Those who have trusted in Christ for salvation will enter the joy and rest of heaven, while those who have rejected Christ will experience the torment of hell.
- Some Christians believe in purgatory, which is a temporary state of purification for believers who have not fully paid for their sins in this life. However, Scripture does not support this belief and is rejected by many Protestant denominations.
- Believers in the intermediate state are conscious and experience joy and rest in the presence of Christ. Unbelievers, conversely, are conscious and experience torment and separation from God.
- The intermediate state is temporary, as all people will be resurrected at the end of time. Believers will receive glorified bodies free from sin and death, while unbelievers will receive bodies raised for judgment.
- The doctrine of the intermediate state provides comfort to believers who have lost loved ones, as it assures them that their loved ones are now in the presence of Christ and experiencing joy and rest. It also serves as a warning to unbelievers, urging them to repent and trust in Christ for salvation before it is too late.
- The Bible teaches that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24:15). All people, believers, and unbelievers, will be raised from the dead and face judgment before God.
- The intermediate state is not a state of soul sleep, where the soul is unconscious and unaware of its surroundings until the resurrection. Instead, Scripture teaches that believers in the intermediate state are conscious and aware of their surroundings and experience joy in the presence of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:23).
- The Bible teaches that the final judgment will have degrees of reward and punishment. While all believers will enter heaven’s joy, some will receive greater rewards based on their faithfulness in this life (Matthew 25:14-30). Similarly, while all unbelievers will face eternal punishment in hell, some will experience greater degrees of punishment based on their sins (Luke 12:47-48).
- The doctrine of the intermediate state reminds us that we are not alone in our journey toward eternity. Believers who have gone before us are now in the presence of Christ, and we can be encouraged and strengthened by their example of faith and perseverance (Hebrews 12:1).
- The doctrine of the intermediate state also reminds us of the urgency of the gospel message. Since we do not know when we will die, we must always be ready to face judgment before God. It means we must repent our sins and trust Christ for salvation while we still have time (Hebrews 9:27-28).
Overall, the Doctrine of Death and the Intermediate State reminds us that our time on earth is temporary and that we will one day face judgment. It also provides assurance and comfort to believers, reminding them that death is not the end and that they have a glorious future ahead of them in Christ.
The Doctrine of Glorification (Receiving a Resurrection Body)
Glorification is the final stage of the process of salvation in Christian theology. It refers to the transformation of a believer’s physical body into a glorified body like that of Christ’s resurrected body, which will be free from sin, sickness, and death. The concept of glorification is based on several biblical passages, including Philippians 3:20-21, which states, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control.” Similarly, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 speaks of the transformation of our bodies into something imperishable, glorious, and powerful.
Glorification is the final step in the process of sanctification, which begins at the moment of conversion and continues throughout the believer’s life. At the time of glorification, believers will be resurrected and given a new, glorified body that is perfect and free from sin, sickness, and death. This will happen at the second coming of Christ when he returns to judge the living and the dead. Glorification is closely related to the idea of resurrection, which is the belief that the dead will be raised to life again, either to eternal life or eternal judgment. In Christian theology, glorification refers to the resurrection of believers who will receive glorified bodies like Christ’s resurrected body.
The Apostle Paul describes the nature of the glorified body in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, where he speaks of it as imperishable, glorious, and powerful. He also says that the glorified body will be spiritual, not a natural body, which means it will be ideally suited for the spiritual realm of heaven. This does not mean the glorified body will be immaterial or non-physical but perfectly adapted for the eternal, spiritual realm.
The Bible also teaches that believers will be freed from the effects of sin, sickness, and death at the time of glorification. In Philippians 3:20-21, Paul says Christ will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body. This transformation will include the removal of all physical and spiritual imperfections, as well as the eradication of death itself. In 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, Paul says, “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.'”
The glorification of believers is a crucial aspect of Christian hope, which is the confident expectation of salvation and eternal life with God. The hope of glorification assures believers that their bodies, currently subject to decay and death, will be transformed into something perfect and eternal. This hope also motivates believers to live holy and righteous lives, knowing they will one day stand before God in a glorified state.
In conclusion, glorification is the final stage of salvation, which involves the transformation of the physical body of the believer into a glorified body like that of Christ’s resurrected body, which will be free from sin, sickness, and death. This transformation will take place at the second coming of Christ when he returns to judge the living and the dead, and it is a central aspect of the Christian hope of eternal life with God.
Here are some key points to summarize this Doctrine:
- Glorification is an aspect of God’s work of salvation. The Bible teaches that salvation involves more than just forgiveness of sins and a changed heart; it also includes transforming the believer’s physical body. Glorification is the final step in this process, in which the believer’s body is transformed to be like Christ’s resurrected body.
- Glorification is a bodily resurrection, not just a spiritual one. Some people mistakenly think that believers will be freed from their physical bodies and exist only as spirits at the time of glorification. However, the Bible teaches that believers will be resurrected bodily at the time of glorification, and their physical bodies will be transformed to be like Christ’s glorified body.
- Glorification is a future event, not something that has already happened. Although believers experience spiritual transformation and growth in holiness during their lifetime, they do not receive their glorified bodies until the second coming of Christ. It means that glorification is a future hope for believers, and it motivates them to endure the trials and hardships of this life, knowing that their ultimate destiny is secure.
- Glorification is a gift of grace. Like all aspects of salvation, glorification is not something that believers can earn or achieve on their own. Instead, it is a gift of God’s grace given to those who trust Christ for salvation. It means that believers can have confidence in their glorification, knowing that it is based not on their merit or works but on the finished work of Christ on the cross.
- Glorification involves both continuity and discontinuity. On the one hand, the glorified body will continue the believer’s current physical body in that it will be the same body that died and was buried. On the other hand, the glorified body will be discontinuous with the current physical body in that it will be transformed and perfected in ways that are currently unimaginable.
- Glorification is a public event. Although glorification involves the transformation of individual bodies, it is not a private or individualistic event. Instead, it is a public event that will take place when Christ returns in glory. At that time, all believers will be raised and transformed together, and the whole world will see the glory of God displayed in his people.
- Glorification is a source of comfort for believers. The hope of glorification is a source of great comfort and encouragement for believers, especially in times of suffering and persecution. Knowing that their ultimate destiny is secure and that they will one day be transformed into perfect, immortal beings gives believers the strength to endure even the most difficult trials and hardships.
- Glorification is a mystery. Although the Bible gives us some information about what the glorified body will be like, there is much that we do not know or understand about this event. Glorification is ultimately a mystery that is beyond our comprehension and understanding. This should not discourage us, however, but rather inspire us to worship and praise the God who has promised us such a glorious future.
The Doctrine of Union with Christ
Union with Christ is a key concept in Christian theology that refers to believers’ spiritual connection with Jesus Christ. This union is not merely a metaphor or a figure of speech but a natural and vital connection God establishes through faith in Jesus Christ.
Here are a few key aspects of the Doctrine of Union with Christ:
- Union with Christ is a central theme in the New Testament. The apostle Paul, in particular, emphasizes the reality and significance of union with Christ in his letters. He uses a variety of metaphors and images to describe this union, including being “in Christ,” “united with Him,” and being “members of His Body.”
- Union with Christ involves a spiritual transformation. When a person places their faith in Jesus Christ, they are united with Him in a spiritual sense. That means they are spiritually joined to Christ in a transformative way as the Holy Spirit conforms them to Christ’s image and character.
- Union with Christ is both individual and corporate. Although union with Christ is a personal and individual experience, it is also a corporate reality. Believers are not united with Christ in isolation but are part of a larger body of believers united to Christ.
- Union with Christ has both present and future aspects. The believer’s union with Christ begins at the moment of conversion, but it is not fully realized until the future when Christ returns, and believers are glorified. In the meantime, believers experience the benefits and blessings of their union with Christ, such as forgiveness of sins, adoption into God’s family, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
- Union with Christ is the foundation of Christian identity and mission. Because believers are united with Christ, their identity is fundamentally shaped by Him. Their mission and purpose derive from their union with Christ as they seek to follow and serve Him.
- Union with Christ is a Trinitarian reality. The union of the believer with Christ is not just an individual relationship between the believer and Christ but is rooted in the triune nature of God. God the Father has chosen believers in Christ before the foundation of the world, and the Holy Spirit is the agent of our union with Christ. Thus, union with Christ is a work of the entire Godhead.
- Union with Christ is both positional and experiential. Positionally, believers are united with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection and are declared righteous by faith in Him. Experientially, believers grow in their union with Christ as they abide in Him, obey His commands, and rely on His Grace.
- Union with Christ is the basis of Christian hope. Because believers are united with Christ, they share in His resurrection and victory over sin and death. Despite suffering and adversity, this gives them a confident hope of eternal life and a new creation.
- Union with Christ is the basis of Christian unity. Because all believers are united to Christ, they are also united to one another. It means that all divisions between believers are ultimately illusory and that the unity of the body of Christ is a spiritual reality that transcends all human differences.
- Union with Christ is a call to discipleship. Because believers are united with Christ, they are called to follow and imitate Him. This means seeking to conform to His image, living in obedience to His commands, and engaging in His mission to seek and save the lost.
- Union with Christ is a mystery. While the Bible teaches the reality of union with Christ, the exact nature of this union is beyond human comprehension. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:27, union with Christ is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This mysterious reality points to the deep intimacy and transformative power of the believer’s relationship with Christ.
- Union with Christ is a lifelong process. While the believer’s union with Christ is established at conversion, it is also an ongoing process that continues throughout the believer’s life. As believers abide in Christ and grow in their relationship with Him, they experience the fruit of the Spirit and are transformed more and more into His likeness.
- Union with Christ is not just a spiritual reality but has practical implications. The believer’s union with Christ should impact every aspect of their life, including their relationships, work, and values. Because believers are united with Christ, they are called to live in a way that reflects their character and priorities.
- Union with Christ is a source of comfort and assurance. The reality of union with Christ assures believers that they are secure in their relationship with God and that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ. As Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Union with Christ is a foretaste of the future. While the believer’s union with Christ is a present reality, it is also a foretaste of the future glory that is to come. As believers are united with Christ, they share in his resurrection and look forward to the day when they will be fully transformed into His likeness and see Him face to face.
In summary, the Doctrine of Union with Christ is a multifaceted reality with profound spiritual, practical, and eschatological implications. It is a mystery, a lifelong process, a source of comfort and assurance, and a foretaste of the future glory that awaits believers. A union with Christ is a rich and complex theological concept that touches on many aspects of Christian faith and life. It is a spiritual reality established by God through faith in Jesus Christ and is a crucial foundation of Christian identity and mission.