Perhaps surprisingly to some of our readers, the answer to all of these questions is, “No.” Let us understand.
We read in Titus 3:4-6: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared… according to His grace He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit [which] He poured out on us ABUNDANTLY through Jesus Christ our Savior…”
We read in 1 Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His ABUNDANT mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
We read in 2 Peter 1:10-11: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will NEVER stumble, for so an entrance will be supplied to you ABUNDANTLY into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
We read in Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
At the same time, we read 1 Peter 4:17-18: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God, and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is SCARCELY saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’”
How do we harmonize these and other passages, which may at first glance indicate a contradiction?
In our Q&A on John 3:34, we pointed out that this “pivotal Scripture does indeed reveal that God gives His Holy Spirit by measure” to those who are being called in this day and age (with the only exception of Jesus Christ who had been given the full measure of the Holy Spirit.)
We continued: “We read in 1 John 4:13 that God has given us ‘OF’ His Spirit… He did not give us His Spirit without measure… When a man or a woman is ordained to the office of deacon or deaconess, they receive an extra portion of the Holy Spirit to accomplish their responsibilities… When God’s ministers are raised in rank through an ordination and the laying on of hands, they will at that time obtain still more of God’s Holy Spirit to enable them to fulfill their added responsibilities, including spiritual discernment to make right decisions (compare Matthew 16:19; 18:18)…”
But this does not mean that God does not grant abundantly the necessary and needed measure of the Holy Spirit to EVERY converted Christian. The opposite is true. That is why we read in Titus 3:6 that God gave ABUNDANTLY of His Spirit to each and every one of us. Paul says in Ephesians 5:18 to every Christian, to “…be filled with the Spirit.” But he also warned: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
We stated in our Q&A (referred to above):
“Christians who have God’s Holy Spirit may not always draw the same measure of God’s power in their lives. Rather, it is our challenge to submit to God’s guidance so that we can ‘be filled with’ and ‘stir up’ the gift of God. We are to live and walk according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4; Galatians 5:16), and set our minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). God gives us of His Spirit so that we can overcome our human nature, society and Satan the devil. We are to grow in God’s knowledge, which only His Spirit can give us. But when we are not diligent in obeying God, He will not bestow us with more of His Holy Spirit. In fact, when we continuously refuse to obey Him, He may take His Spirit away from us.”
In our Q&A on qualification for the Kingdom of God, we explained that we were predestined before we were born to be called in this day and age. But we also showed that this does not make our salvation “a fait accompli.”
We stated in that Q&A:
“Paul tells us in Colossians 1:12 that ‘the Father… has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.’ The Authorized Version states that He has ‘made us meet,’ which actually means, that He has made us ‘fit’ or ‘sufficient’ or ‘able’ or ‘worthy.’ Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 that God made him and others ‘sufficient as ministers of the new covenant.’…
“All of this does not mean, however, that we cannot lose out. The Bible contains many warnings against taking our calling lightly. It is our responsibility to accept God’s gifts and use them. For instance, we are being admonished that we are to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, and that we are to seek it as a first priority (Matthew 5:6; 6:33). And so, even though the Father has qualified us to inherit salvation, we must continue in that process of qualification. We must make sure that we DON’T DISQUALIFY ourselves…
“God has qualified us to inherit the promises, but we must continue in that qualification process to ensure that we don’t become disqualified and that we don’t judge ourselves unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46).”
We also stated the following in our free booklet, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?” :
“We also read in 2 Peter 1:2-11 that God’s divine power has given us ALL THINGS pertaining to eternal life. If we do our part, we will never stumble. God will provide us ABUNDANTLY an entrance into His kingdom. As long as we are determined to make our calling and election sure, we WILL win!… In 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5, we read that the ‘Lord WILL establish you and guard you from the evil one,’ and that Paul and his coworkers had ‘confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and WILL DO the things we command you.’”
This, then, brings us to the question as to how to understand passages such as 1 Peter 4:18, stating that the righteous one is “SCARCELY” saved, while other passages tell us that God has given the righteous one ABUNDANT blessings to enable him to enter the Kingdom.
We stated in our booklet on Predestination:
“It says, ‘scarcely.’ It does not say, ‘barely.’ The context here is suffering (compare verses 12-16, and verse 19). Paul said that we must enter God’s Kingdom with many tribulations, or much suffering (Acts 14:22). The Greek word for ‘scarcely,’ molis, is defined, among other things, as: ‘with difficulty, with much work’ (Strong’s, No. 3433). Others say that it means, ‘with toil and fatigue.’ The Revised English Bible reads: ‘It is hard enough for the righteous to be saved; what then will become of the impious and sinful?’
“Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says that the word is associated with difficulty. In Luke 9:39, it is translated as ‘hardly,’ describing the difficulty in casting out demons. The Interlinear Bible also renders the word as, ‘with difficulty.’
“So, then, 1 Peter 4:18 does not tell us that our salvation is a big question mark in God’s eyes—that we may not make it, and if we do, it will be just barely. Rather, God is convinced that we will make it—but we do have to withstand trials and persecution and temptations.”
Other commentaries cross-reference 1 Peter 4:18 with passages describing fiery trials. God is telling us that entering the Kingdom of God requires our willingness to suffer for the Kingdom and endure difficult trials and serious temptations.
In our free booklet, “Paul’s Letter to the Philippians,” we discuss Philippians 1:6 in context, where Paul is stating his conviction and confidence that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
We explain that “Paul makes an important point in Philippians 1:2-7… that our salvation is not ‘automatic.’ We must prove to God through our conduct, as the Philippians did and were challenged to continue to do, that we are willing to obey Him and that we are living worthy of the gospel. God is not going to grant us eternal life if we flagrantly disobey Him. In fact, Paul warns us in Hebrews 6:4-8 that such conduct may lead to our eternal death.
“God does WANT those whom He calls to salvation to be in His Kingdom—His Family. He is confident that His disciples WILL ‘make it’ into His Kingdom… When God calls us, He ENABLES us, and therefore KNOWS that we CAN finish our race successfully. Our ability, sufficiency, or qualification come from God: We cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws us to Him (John 6:44, 65); we cannot repent unless the Father grants us the gift of repentance (Romans 2:4); we cannot really and truly believe unless the Father grants us the gift of faith (1 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 12:2); and we cannot live a righteous life unless the Father grants us the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17).
“All of this does not mean, however, that we cannot lose out on salvation. The Bible contains many warnings against taking our calling lightly. It is our responsibility to accept God’s gifts and use them. For instance, we are admonished that we are to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, and that we are to seek it as a first priority (Matthew 5:6; 6:33). And so, even though the Father has qualified us to inherit salvation, we must continue in that process of qualification…
“Paul encourages and warns the Church in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6: ‘Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are DISQUALIFIED. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.’
“As Paul was confident that he would ‘make it’ into God’s Kingdom, he expresses the same confidence in regard to the Philippians… We must have the same confidence today if God has called us. At the same time, we must prove to God that we mean ‘business,’ so that our confidence is established on evidence—fruits worthy of repentance and the gospel—not only on wishful, unjustified thinking and illusionary hope.”
To summarize, the Scriptures that are quoted at the beginning of this Q&A do not contradict each other, but they complement each other. They must be read together. Even though God gives each and every one of us a sufficient and abundant amount of His Spirit, He expects of us to use it and, through faith and obedience, to be more and more filled with His Spirit. And while God is very confident that we will enter the Kingdom of God, and while He is promising and offering us abundantly every help and blessing needed for this purpose, He expects of us to accept and use His free gifts, and to live worthy of and not reject our calling—even and especially in times of sore trials and tribulations.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link