Theology Blog


Some believe gratitude is the most fundamental virtue, because the thankful person chooses to celebrate reality rather than resent it. It's in Jesus Christ that we get the clearest explanation of ultimate reality (John 1:18, NASB, 1995). After Jesus Christ was revealed to the world, the Holy Spirit of wisdom carried along the Apostles and prophets to write—instructing believers in Jesus who to be grateful to, what to be grateful for, why we are to be grateful, where and when to be grateful, and how to be grateful.

First, we must consider who we are grateful to.

We are to be grateful to the Triune God

When someone else helps us partake in some type of good, we know it's polite and proper to thank them. But God wants us to recognize this: "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17).  Our God is the ultimate source of all goodness. When I visit art museums and see a painting that's well done, I'm stunned by its beauty. But then I'll typically walk a little closer and read the description that reveals who painted it. I begin by being impressed by the painting, but I recognize that I'm impressed with the painter's mind and skill, so I seek to read more about him or her. In the same way, when we receive good things, we must not fail to be thankful to the source of it all.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we don't give thanks to same impersonal deity. Jesus taught us to pray to our Father (Matthew 6:13). And the Apostle Paul so often says, "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Colossians 1:3a). We thank the Triune God, and when we know what God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, has done for us, we have a clearer view of what to be ultimately thankful for.

We are to be thankful for the spiritual blessings we have in Christ

Like James, the Apostle Paul acknowledges that everything comes from God: "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude" (1 Timothy 4:4). God is Pure Existence. He is Pure Goodness. So everything He made participates in Existence and His Goodness. He gives existence to all things, so everything is good. Everything has value. Yet some things have higher value as they contain higher levels of goodness or existence. For example, human beings have a have a higher level of existence than rocks. We're more like God or reflect God more than inanimate objects that aren't personal or rational. And so when Apostle Paul thanks God for created things, he emphasizes God's most valuable creatures on earth, which are human beings. Specifically, Paul always gives thanks for his fellow believers in Jesus (Ephesians 1:15-16). Throughout Paul's letters, his thankfulness for God's people is an aspect of his thankfulness for all the spiritual blessings he has in Christ Jesus. He writes, 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:3-5).

Believers in Christ become a part of a new family, and Paul is thankful for all his brothers and sisters who are all on their way to glory with him. Since we are all on this journey together, the author of Hebrews tells us, "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28). We hear about this ultimate reason to be thankful when the Lord gave His disciples authority to cast out demons to demonstrate that the kingdom of God was near. Jesus says,"Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven" (Luke 10:20).

All good things, experiences, and human relationships come from God, and we are to be thankful to God for these. But there's something that we must stir up our heart for gratitude more than anything else. We have union with the Triune God! Knowing God is eternal life (John 17:17). Yet since God is the source of all good things, if we are in Him, then that means we have everything else. As Paul says, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). God give us infinitely more than what we deserve, and that leads us to consider why we are to be grateful.

We are to be grateful, because of His grace

Our very existence is a gift. God's causing us "to be" moment by moment, although we still defy Him. We don't give Him the worship and honor that's due. Although the Son of God created man's mouth, man used their mouths to mock their Creator. Although the Son of God created man's hands, they used their hands to slap Him and scourge Him. But remember the grace of God: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-9).

From a human point of view, we can be grateful even when we get what's due to us. If we purchase a good from a small business, we can still say thank you to the owner. Nevertheless, this would be a just exchange. Each party gets what's due to them.  But how much more thankful should we be to God since we sin against Him, and yet He still sent His Son to die for us so that we could be forgiven? We don't receive God's just penalty for sin. Instead, we receive His mercy and grace. Since we are saved from eternal judgment, our praise to Him and for Him shall never end.

We are to be grateful in all times and in all circumstances

 Imagine how much more joyful followers of Christ would be if they obeyed this command: "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Colossians 3:17). Here's another simple and profound instruction: Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) If you want to know God's will for you, here it is: In everything, give thanks. This doesn't mean we give thanks for everything in the sense that we thank God for the injustice in the world. We give God thanks for everything that is good, but we don't thank God for evil in and of itself, because evil is the absence of good. Evil is the corruption in good things. Although we don't thank God for evil, we thank God in the midst of injustice and evil. Why? Because we know what the Scriptures promise us about Christ's victory over sin, death, and evil. We also know that every trial we face in this world will allow us to better enjoy the age to come: For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

If we truly believe all this, how should this look in our daily lives?

We are to display our gratitude with our attitude and actions

How do we say "thank you" to God for His grace? We start by cheerfully praising Him, saying "thank you" (Hebrews 13:5). But we don't stop there. Everything we do is a response to his grace:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11-14).

May the Holy Spirit guide you in doing the deeds that please our Father and reflect His Son.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Pastor Anthony Miller

What is Eternal Salvation?

We need salvation when we're unable to help ourselves. The Bible speaks of salvation in many ways. For example, the book of Exodus records God saving His people from slavery. In the book of Daniel, God even saved men from lions (Daniel 6:20-23). Yet our greatest need is salvation from sin. All of us do evil, but God is too pure to accept it (Habakkuk 1:13). Therefore, none will experience the joy of God's presence unless they are saved from their sin. Humans need to be made pure like God is.

A hopeless man in prison once asked how to be saved. The Apostle Paul answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31). The man and his family had a great celebration after believing this amazing news (Acts 16:33-34). He didn't ask, "What must I do to stay saved?" But this is the topic at hand. Is there anything a person can do to lose their eternal salvation? The Christian church has disagreed about this profound question throughout history.

The teaching that eternal salvation can never be lost is known as eternal security. Some Christian believers call it once saved, always saved. According to this view, God will not fail to bring all Christians into His loving presence. All believers will enjoy unending spiritual blessings.


What is God's Purpose for Eternal Salvation?

We are convinced that God has a certain purpose for eternal salvation. Romans 8:28 tells us that God the Father makes sure all things work out to benefit those who love Him and are "called according to His purpose." According to Ephesians 1:4, God's goal is to make sinners into people who are "holy and blameless before him." However, Jesus teaches we must be "born again" first (Jn. 3:7). In other words, a sinner's heart must be made new in order to know God (John 17:3). We are also told in John 1:12-13 that reborn believers become children of God. These children reach their full maturity when they are given new perfect bodies to live with God forever (Rom. 8:23). Jesus says in John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" Let's see how God does this.


How Does God Accomplish Eternal Salvation?

Romans 8:28-30 says,

"28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

In verse 29, "foreknow" does not mean that God looked into the future to see what people would do. God can't learn about people's actions. Why? He knows everything from all eternity. Instead, this verse suggests God always "knew" them as His people before they were born.  

Verse 30 lays out the chain of events of God's saving acts. All of God's foreknown people are predestined to become more like Jesus. To 'predestine' means to preplan a destiny. When God calls the predestined people at a specific time in their life, He draws them to belong to Christ (cf. Romans 1:7; John. 6:44). At this moment, a person now believes God's message of salvation. God counts their faith as righteousness, so they do not have to pay the eternal penalty for sin (Romans 4:5). Another explanation of this can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:21. It says, "For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we [Christians] might become the righteousness of God." With this said, we know Jesus, the Son of God, was not a sinner. Yet Matthew 27:46 records God treating Jesus as a sinner. How? The Father sends the Son to suffer the penalty of sin on the cross. On the other hand, while all true believers in Christ are still sinners, the Father now treats them as sons (1 Jn. 3:1). What an amazing exchange for sinners! The conclusion of verse 30 is that all those who are justified (i.e., declared righteous) by God are also glorified. This is so certain that it is written in the past tense! Glorification is the point when the foreknown, predestined, called, and justified people receive their new bodies to dwell with God forever (Phil. 30:20-21). There are none who are foreknown, predestined, called, and justified who are also not glorified!


What are God's Promises of Eternal Salvation?

Not only did God tell us about His purpose in salvation, but He also leaves us with many promises about it. Our confidence in God's promises is based on His unchanging nature. God proclaims in Malachi 3:6, "For I the LORD do not change." The Apostle Paul says in Titus 1:2 that the hope of eternal life is something "God, who never lies, promised before the ages began."  Ephesians 1:13-14 tells reborn believers they are "sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is our guarantee of our inheritance. . . ." Jesus' disciple Peter tells Christians that this inheritance is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:4-5). Here is another way to put it:

    (1) Romans 11:29 says "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."

    (2) Ephesians 2:8 says salvation is "the gift of God."

From these verses, we can conclude:

(3) God's gift of salvation is irrevocable. He will never take it back.

Jesus also insists in John 5:24 that anyone who believes in him already crossed from death to life. He promises in John 6:40 that "everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." His promise in John 10:28 goes like this: "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand." The next verse declares no one can snatch them out of Father's hand either. Still, some Christians insist they have the free choice to fall out of God's hand.


How Do We Answer Objections to Eternal Salvation?

Some argue that salvation is received freely, so it can be renounced freely. However, Norman Geisler notes in the third volume of his Systematic Theology that certain human free acts are also one-way actions. An example is the decision to commit suicide. A person doesn't have the power to reverse their situation in that case. In the same way, a Christian can't undo the work that God has already done in their life. The Gospel of John reminds us that salvation originates with God rather than human decision (1:13). Philippians 1:6 also states that God completes the work of salvation that He began. It's God's power that keeps Christians in relationship with Him on earth and in heaven.

Others say eternal security is dangerous, because it gives Christians an excuse to live in sin. The Bible speaks to this in Romans 6:1-2: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Also, Titus 2:10-12 tells us that God's grace teaches us to deny our sin and live upright lives. The fear of losing salvation doesn't need to be the motivation for avoiding sin. Loving God is the motivatation for avoiding sin as 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drived out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." Believers are not supposed to fear death or hell. Indeed Jesus came to "free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (Hebrews 2:15).

We acknowledge that the Bible is clear in Hebrews 12:5-8 that the heavenly Father disciplines His children. Jesus tells us in John 15:4 that believers need to continue to trust him in order to grow. Without growth leading to good works, we can also lose heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Yet though our fellowship with God may be temporarily harmed (1 Jn. 1:6-7), our relationship with Him stays secure based on what Christ has done on our behalf (Rom. 5:1). "For by one offering He has perfected all time those who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).


God's Eternal Love is the Basis for Eternal Salvation

We believe a Christian can't lose their eternal life. If you lose something eternal, then it wasn't eternal to begin with. It's God's purpose to adopt believers into His family, and God will never un-adopt them. God's eternal love for His children should help us "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:18-19).