This article will respond to a sermon point made on 3/24/13 by an occasional preacher. He said, “We need to fight the enemy of our souls, to keep our salvation.” The central text he used was the Hezekiah/Sennacherib/Jerusalem siege in II Chronicles 32. The speaking venue was at the Christian Congregation in Arlington Heights, Illinois. I disagree with the statement and intend to address:
1. What salvation is
2. Who already keeps it, according to Scripture
3. Who the enemy of our souls is
4. What could it possibly mean to fight this enemy
What is salvation? I begin with the first scripture that comes to mind. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). These were the words of Paul to the Philippian jailer who asked him, “What must I do to be saved?” What is missing from Paul’s answer is something like: “But you cannot keep this free gift unless you fight the enemy of your soul. Indeed, we all have to.” The burden that our modern speaker has placed on the shoulders of the believer in Christ is enormous. Salvation is in relation to sin. In turning to Christ a person escapes the penalty from sin by virtue of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye are healed” (I Peter 2:24). The repentant convert is told in Scripture, “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 5:8). For the preacher in question, however, the burden is ours as a Christian to go out and do something to keep our free gift.
What does Scripture say about keeping our salvation? “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25). What is apparent is that God takes care of making his own people worthy to appear before him.
Now, who or what might be the enemy of our souls? From the First Epistle of John, I understand those to be the world, the flesh, and the devil: in a simplified form, those three. The Christian should have plenty of resources in his spiritual arsenal to fight these enemies, such as found in Ephesians 6 (the armor of God). These arms are available exclusively to the believer and are given their power by God. The scripture passage does not hint somehow that failing to put the armor to use will invalidate God’s original declaration of righteousness, but it does talk about the concept of “after having done all to stand”. From the context, it is clear that the standing is not a keeping of salvation but rather an advantage over the devastation that sin causes in one’s life.
Conclusion: though it is certainly a war with plenty a spiritual battle, the Christian experience is based on a different definition of salvation than what emanated from the pulpit in question.