Recent circumstances have reminded me again of the importance of the biblical warnings. Here I have in mind those passages of Scripture that warn saints that they must continue in the faith or else be damned. Colossians 1:21-23 is one such example.
Typically, when these passages are considered, the tendency is to immediately jump on the Arminianism vs. Calvinism ship and debate the matter long into the night, focusing largely on the question, “Can a Christian lose their salvation?” The issue, of course, is tremendously important, but what is often forgotten is the more immediate point of the passage itself. After answering the larger theological question, arriving no doubt at a Reformed conclusion (wink, wink), we often fail to return to the text and ask ourselves the more pastoral or practical question, namely, “How or when should the warnings be used?”
For here’s the thing. If Paul was an Arminian, he wasn’t afraid to tell Christians that they must continue or else. And conversely, if Paul was a Calvinist, he wasn’t afraid to tell Christians that they must continue or else. Either way, the warnings are employed, and they’re employed fairly often.
I draw your attention to this because it isn’t uncommon for Christians to lose sight of this fact. We tend to shy away from unsheathing these potent warnings because we think that Christians shouldn’t be warned in this way. Therefore we fixate ourselves on the more nebulous question, “Is the person really born again?” Perhaps they’re not. Perhaps they are. Sometimes sinful saints and sinful pagans are hard to distinguish during certain periods of their life. But rather than trying to figure out if so and so is born again, maybe it’s time to carefully and wisely warn the person that the deeds of the flesh are obvious, and that those who live in such a way will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19; Eph 5:5).
Remember that the warnings are also part of God’s word and part of the apostolic approach to dealing with Christians. The right use thereof can prove to be a vital means in steering wandering sheep back onto the narrow path. Even today I heard a story of a pastor I know who sat down a young man heading towards destruction (the party life, etc.). The pastor soberly warned him that if he continued living this way, he would be doomed. And today, having crossed paths with my wife, he told her that this particular pastor expressed to him exactly what he needed to hear. It shook him to the core and he repented.
So let us not forget that Paul was a Calvinist who warned Christians that they must continue in the faith or else be damned.