Written by Vladimir Moss



     A verse from today’s epistle expresses perfectly the tension that lies at the heart of the Christian life: “The solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His’, and ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity’” (II Timothy 2.19).


     On the one hand, the elect are chosen by God from before the foundation of the world, and their election is irreversible, being based on God’s perfect knowledge of all His creatures. He does not need to look at their external works because He knows their inner hearts; He knows that they love Him above all, and has chosen them accordingly. And as a result of that, as the Lord says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10.27-29).


     This is infinitely comforting. Whatever happens to us in our lives, and whatever our sins and mistakes and misfortunes and the enemies arrayed against us, we will remain God’s, the apple of His eye, surrounded by His all-powerful protection and destined for eternal life, if we belong to the chosen. The Lord said that in the last times the temptations will be so great that “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24.22). “False christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if it were possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24.24). But it is not possible. The elect will not be deceived, they will remain faithful to the end, “storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may hold of eternal life” (I Timothy 5.19)…


     On the other hand, we cannot be sure that we belong to the elect… Some of the saints were assured during their earthly lifetime that they were saved; but these were rare exceptions. One of them was St. Paul, who wrote shortly before his death that he had fought the good fight, and finished the race and kept the faith (II Timothy 4.7). But his general counsel to Christians was: “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10.12). So we may think we are standing firmly in the faith of Christ, when in fact we are fallen away from Him, or about to fall…


     The only sure sign that we belong to the elect is that we “depart from iniquity”. For faith is dead without good works, the works of repentance that prove our departure from sin. As long as we remain in iniquity, we can hope that we belong to the elect – indeed, we must hope – but we cannot be sure. For how can we sure that we shall produce works that truly signify repentance, a repentance acceptable to God? Therefore, says St. Paul, “everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they [worldly athletes] do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (I Corinthians 9.25-27).


     So the tension exists, and will continue to exist for every Christian until his soul leaves his body and he stands before the judgement seat of Christ. Until then, he must hope, but can never be completely sure, that he belongs to that flock which St. Peter addressed as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1.2)


February 7/20, 2021.

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