Perseverance of the Saints
By Shawn Leach
*The following is part of Shawn’s commentary on Colossians that will appear in our Grace NT Commentary which we hope to release at the end of this year.
Effective discipleship cannot take place without a proper understanding not only of who Christ is but also of who we are in relation to Him. Motivation to live the Christian life comes from our realization that although we, like the Colossians, once were alienated and enemies of God by both what we thought and how we acted, we have now been reconciled in the body of His flesh through death.
Paul could have simply said that we have been reconciled in His body through death. That he means the flesh of Jesus is surely emphatic. This reconciliation could come only through the fleshly body of Christ and not through anything else. Perhaps the false teachers, like Greek philosophers, were telling the Colossians that the material world is evil? If so, Paul takes great care to show that God Himself sent His Son to be born literally in the flesh so He could die in the flesh.
The ultimate aim of this reconciliation is not simply to grant us access into the kingdom. It is so much more than that.
Paul’s goal for the Colossians is the same as Christ’s goal for us: to present them holy and blameless and above reproach. While all believers are considered holy (hagios) in their positional standing the moment they believe the good news (Heb 3:1; Rev 20:6), only through faithfulness in their day-to-day lives are believers holy in their conditional standing or experience (Rom 12:1; Eph 5:27; 1 Pet 1:15-16; 2 Pet 3:11). The fact that believers have to be told to be holy and blameless and above reproach testifies that it is not automatic but must be sought after.
The phrase in His sight refers to our standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ (Bema), the place all believers will stand to be recompensed for how we lived the Christian life (2 Cor 5:10; Rom 14:12). This Bema Seat will not decide whether or not we get into the kingdom, since that was decided the moment we placed our faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life (John 3:16-18; 5:24). Only believers will be present at this event, and the purpose is for each believer to be paid back for their level of faithfulness to God. Some will be rewarded richly (Luke 6:35; 1 Cor 3:14; Col 3:24; Heb 10:35) while others may suffer loss and regret (Matt 25:24-30; Luke 19:20-26). Throughout our earthly experience our goal should be to live and finish well so that we might hear those beloved words of Matt 25:23, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
To be presented as holy at the Bema is conditioned (if we…) upon our continuance in the faith, grounded and steadfast. This points to our need not only to keep believing the right things, but also to act on them as well. Finishing the race with excellence was never guaranteed, even for the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 9:27; cf. 2 Peter 3:17). Those who insist that all true believers finish well both with their doctrine and with their behavior fail to take into account the numerous Scriptural warnings that such perseverance is never automatic (Luke 8:11-15; Gal 1:6; 2:4, 14; 4:9; 5:1, 4; Eph 4:14; 6:10-11; Col 2:4, 8; 1 Thess 3:2, 5, 8; 1 Tim 1:19; 4:1; 6:10; 2 Tim 2:12, 17, 25; 4:4; Tit 1:9, 13, 15). Saints do not always persevere, and Paul desired to remind the Colossians of this fact so that they would not be moved away from the hope of the gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ was preached to every creature under heaven, meaning without discrimination.