by Jeff Paton
The Bible is full of promises, exhortations, and warnings. Promises emphasize God's work towards us, while exhortations and warnings are our responsibility towards God. The following word study is intended to stress the obligation of mankind in the salvation process. To limit this study to a reasonable scope, I will be dealing exclusively with God's exhortations and warnings from the New Testament.HOLD defined: 1 a: to have possession or ownership of at one's disposal b : to have as a privilege or position of responsibility; 2 a: to have or maintain in the grasp b : to support or keep from falling or moving; 3 a: to prevent from leaving or getting away. Vi 1 a: to maintain position: refuse to give ground b : to continue in the same way or to the same degree.
For the sake of brevity I will limit the discussion to the preceding definitions.
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" 1 Timothy 6:12.
What is the meaning here of "lay hold on eternal life?" This epistle is written to believers as the verse in question and the surrounding context will prove. So, the eternal life of these individuals is not a possession that has not yet been in their grasp, but that which must be maintained or prevented from getting away.
Some have translated this phrase "lay hold" as "hold tightly to" (Living Bible), "keep your grip on" (Phillips), "take hold of "(NIV, NEB, RSV). To "lay hold of " or, "take hold of " leaves the reader wondering if the eternal life is something yet to be acquired, or worse yet, earned by fighting the good fight (as the Jerusalem Bible and the TEB seem to imply by translating as "win for yourselves" and "win eternal life"). While it is true that this possession of eternal life is yet to be bestowed upon us in all its finality, ( 1 Jn 2:24-25 ), we cannot take the "winning" of eternal life as an issue of merit.
"Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust" 1 Timothy 6:19-20a.
Once again, the context is plain and clear that believers are once again
exhorted to "lay hold" on eternal life. The meaning of this passage is
also fixed by Paul's admonition to Timothy to "keep" that which has
been committed to his trust. The interpretation of the "keeping" that
Timothy is to ensure is a divided issue. Some say that this is an exhortation
for Timothy himself to stay in the faith, and some say that it is a charge to
Timothy to ensure that his flock is kept through the dangers of vain disputes or
trust in riches. Either way, the facts remain the same concerning this
"holding on". His hearers, including himself, must continue in the
faith to lay hold on the promise of eternal life.
"But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" Hebrews 3:6. The meaning of this passage is clear and unambiguous. If we do not hold fast to the end, there is no promise of eternal life.
"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" Hebrews 3:14. Holding on through to the end is our responsibility and not God's. Our being made partakers with Christ is conditioned upon our continuance in an obedient faith and trust in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." Hebrews 4:14.
The warnings in Hebrews were written to encourage Christians to stay faithful under intense persecution. They were in imminent danger of apostasy from the faith. If a believer has nothing else to do about his salvation once it has been given to him, why then, does the writer of Hebrews continually stress holding on if there is no danger?
The word "if" means "on the condition that," "allowing that," or "in the event that." I will allow the reader to research this word on their own. "If" is a small word, but if it is removed as a condition, we no longer have a Bible.
Gen. 4:3-7; Lev. 26:3-28; Lev. 26:40-42; Deut. 11:26-28; 30:17; Josh. 24:20; 1 Sam. 7:3; 12:14, 15; 1 Chron. 28:6-9; 1 Kings 11:11-13; Jer. 7:5-7; Matt. 6:14; 16:24-26; Jn. 8:31-51; 15: 6, 7, 10; Rom. 8:13, 14; 11:19-24; Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 2:1-3; 3:6,14; 6:4-8; 10: 26-31; 10:38, 39; 12: 7, 8; James 1:22-27; 2:8, 9; 2 Pet. 1:4-10; 1 Jn. 1:9; 2:3; 2:24; 3:7, 8.
If you do not complete the condition, you cannot enjoy the promise.
More conditions! I was told that my security and salvation were unconditional! My friend, God cannot remain, abide, continue, or endure for us anymore than he can repent and believe for us! Proof that we have a conditional salvation will be shown by a study of verses containing these words.ABIDE defined. To remain, continue, stay, or to be steadfast. As you read the following passages, ask yourself if God really does require us to remain faithful to be able to receive eternal life! Jn. 15:1-11; Rom. 11:23; 1 Cor. 7:24; 1 Jn. 2:6; 2:10; 2:24, 27, 28; 3:6; 3:14; 3:24; 2 Jn. 1:9.
CONTINUE defined. Abide, remain, stay, or be steadfast. As you read these passages you will see that there are no blessings to those who do not continue. Jn. 8:31; 15:9; Acts. 13:43; 14:22 (why exhort them if this were not possible?), Rom. 2:7; 6:1; Gal. 2:5; 3:10; Col. 1:23; 1 Tim. 2:15; 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:14; 1 Jn. 2:24.
ENDURE defined. Remain, continue, or be steadfast. Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Jn. 6:27; 2 Tim. 2:3; Heb. 12:7; James 5:11.
The point of this whole exercise is to show that an unconditional security or salvation is just a myth. Theological trickery may explain away these truths, but to those who desire to gain the prize of eternal life, no substitute for the word of God will do.