God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:9
The Christian church at Corinth was plagued by all kinds of problems. The members were contentious, quarreling, and divided into factions (1:11–12). They refused to discipline a member guilty of the unmentionable sin of incest (5:1–2), they took disputes between themselves before secular courts (6:1), they practiced sexual immorality (6:12–20), and more.
Yet Paul, notwithstanding the serious problems among the believers at Corinth, rejoiced in the gracious gifts the Spirit had imparted to them. They have, he said, received grace (1:2, 4), the riches of the Word of God (1:5), an abundance of the blessings of the Spirit (1:7), an eager anticipation of the Second Coming (1:7), and a strong assurance of their ultimate participation in the bliss of heaven where they will be pronounced "guiltless" in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:8). Wow! Would that we all might have their problems.
How could the Apostle gush so over this sinful congregation? This is an important question, for we are as sinful as the Corinthian church was—perhaps even more so. Is it possible for sinning Christians like us to be forgiven, to be declared guiltless, and to enter into holy fellowship with Christ? On what grounds could we base such a blessed assurance?
God is Faithful
Our God is faithful, true, and constant. He keeps His promises. Our perseverance is not based on strength of purpose or on indestructible faith, but on the faithfulness of God. He has pledged His Word to the eternal salvation of those who rest in Christ for salvation. His promise is sure. If He has promised to give certain persons to His Son, deliver them from the guilt and corruption of their sins, their deserved condemnation, and then make them partakers of eternal life, it is certain He will not allow them to perish!
God is faithful, so the bow remains a sign of the covenant, the seed of Abraham blesses the nations, the Son of David sits upon His eternal throne, and His elect are called—selected and brought out—from a doomed world. God's faithfulness, which has already called His elect to a state of grace, will promote them to the state of glory. But how do we know we are in the number of those given to Christ?
How do we know we are numbered among the elect? We know that God has chosen us because we have been called. "Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom 8:30).
"Calling" refers to the election of God by which we are appointed to salvation. This is the effectual call of the Spirit, by which the soul has been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God's dear Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13). Praise God for this actual, inward, effectual call, by means of the Word and Spirit, which brings the sinner out of his sin and death into grace and salvation, by the Lord Jesus. The “call” includes the enlightening of our minds spiritually and savingly to understand and receive the truth of God, the removal of our heart of stone, and the gift of a heart of flesh. By the call our wills are renewed, and by God's power we are determined and enabled to experience and embrace Jesus Christ (Eze 11:19; 36:27; Deut 30:6; Phil 2:13). Has this happened to you? Have you been “called”—enabled to see Christ, renewed, changed, given faith and repentance by which you have embraced Him as your Savior and Lord?
Ah—we know that we are numbered among the elect because we have been called. But how do we know we are called?
God Calls Us into Holiness
We know we are called by the change that comes over us in our doing, saying, and thinking. We are becoming holy in heart and life. We are becoming like the Lord Jesus. We have been called into union with Him, and are being changed into His image. Having been freed from the dominion of sin and Satan, we are now called and increasingly enabled to participate with Christ in His feelings and views, His trials and sufferings, His heirship to the inheritance and glory which awaits Him, in His triumph in resurrection and future glory. Our desires are now to glorify Jesus Christ, our sovereign Lord; our devotion is to Him. As members of His body, we partake of His character, sufferings, and glory. Having been intimately united to the Son of God, we can never perish!
So we ask, how can persons apostatize and perish who stand in this relationship to the Son of God? They cannot. They are saved once and for all. Praise God, He has given His people new hearts, fixed on the one thing needful—the Christian's greatest desire: Christ! This in turn leads to Christ-likeness—living life in obedience to the Word and Spirit. Such an emphasis on the godly life is indispensable to true Christianity. In the words of Matthew Henry, “The devout and pious soul ‘thirsts for God, for the living God as a thirsty land.’ It ‘longs, yea, even faints for the courts of the Lord,’ and for communion with God in them."
Indeed, beloved, our faithful God has called us unto holiness, and that holiness is not a dry, scholastic, perfunctory exercise, but a fervent and earnest seeking of the face of Christ through His Word. "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of HIs Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (I Cor 1:9).