Article: Do Not Be Turned Out of
the Narrow Way!
By Walter J. Chantry
Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but
that you may be rewarded fully.
2 John 8 (NIV)
It will surprise no careful reader of the Bible that many warnings are
given to true Christians. Not all biblical alarms are sounded because
great dangers threaten the unconverted and worldly. In addition to
the text which heads this article we find Revelation 3:11, ‘I am
coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your
crown.’ In another place our Lord said, ‘Because lawlessness will be
increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures
to the end will be saved’ (Matt. 24:12-13).
Images of a Christian’s Salvation
We recall that a sudden work of grace comes to the heart of each one
who is saved. Instantaneous transformation of the inward man is
called the new birth, or birth from above, in Jesus’ teaching as
recorded in John 3. Paul spoke of the same divine operation upon a
human soul in Romans 6:11 as a resurrection unto life in Christ.
Immediately, one ‘has passed from death to life’, as it is put in John
However, some make the mistake of dwelling on this sudden change as
the only biblical representation of salvation. In his Sermon on the
Mount Jesus spoke of both a narrow gate to life and beyond that a
narrow pathway to be walked (Matt. 7:13-14). A farmer sowing
seed is the vivid illustration of those who preach the gospel of the
kingdom. Some receive the message from this ‘farmer’ with great joy
but very quickly fall away. Others spring up soon, only to have the
Word of eternal life choked out by the worries of this
life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Yet some upon hearing the
gospel endure long enough to bear fruit.
This emphasis held Jesus’ attention on the night when he was
betrayed. At the time (John 15:1-12) our Lord taught
the necessity of remaining or ‘abiding’ in union with himself,
just as a branch continues to be attached to the vine in order to
produce fruit. Fruitless branches are taken away and cast into the
The Teaching of Perseverance in Faith and Life
It is clear that the Bible is not teaching that everyone who makes a
credible profession of faith in Christ will certainly be saved in the
end. Some may confess Christ in the same terms that genuine
Christians do. They believe God has saved them. Furthermore, it may
appear to us and to all the church that they possess a very high
degree of proper feeling and enthusiasm toward Christ and his Word.
Yet all of us have been shocked that some of these folks eventually
abandon sound doctrine, moral living, or both. Some of the greatest
enemies of true religion once seemed to be stalwart Christians.
Commenting on this John said, ‘They (antichrists) went out from us,
but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have
continued with us’ (1 John 2:18-19).
Endurance in Christian truth and life is an evidence of the
authenticity of our faith. Without this continuance other seeming
signs of having become a Christian must be called into question.
Jesus taught in John 8:31-32:
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you
will know the truth, and the truth
will set you free.
As Hebrews 3:14 asserts,
We share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original
confidence firm to the end.
True believers persevere to the end.
It is not that perseverance joins faith as a second instrument of
receiving salvation. Rather when the sole instrument, faith in
Christ, is given to a believer, then perseverance is a quality of and
an evidence of that saving faith.
Enemies to the Christian’s Faith and Life
Because true faith must be enduring faith, there are
enemies of Christ who wish to discredit the Saviour and faith in him
by preventing our abiding in him. Scripture represents this
hostile threat by means of varying figures of speech.
The Strategy of Antichrists
Many passages of the New Testament describe the Christian life as
running a race to receive a prize. Near the end of his life Paul used
this illustrative language to describe his own experience:
I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there
is laid up for me the crown
of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will award
me on that Day, and not
only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Tim.
To the Corinthians Paul wrote:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only
one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises
self-control in all things. They do
it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I
do not run aimlessly . . .
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after
preaching to others, I myself
should be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
The Epistle to the Hebrews urges, ‘Let us also lay aside every weight,
and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the
race that is set before us’ (Heb. 12:1).
The contrivance of Satan, the great antichrist, and all his lesser
antichrists, is to prevent disciples of Jesus from gaining the prize
which belongs to the winner of the race. If only they can make
contestants ‘lose what they have worked for’ (2 John 8), even
the crown of life; if only antichrists might ‘seize your crown’ (Rev.
2:11) if only they could ‘disqualify you’ or make you ‘run
aimlessly’ (1 Cor. 9:24-27)!
The Preferred Weapon to Disqualify Runners from Receiving the Prize
Jesus’ parable of the sower tells us that persecution, worries of
life, and prevailing sins such as covetousness do keep some plants
from bearing fruit. We see a sad illustration of this in Demas who
forsook the apostolic band, having loved this present world. Yet in
the New Testament epistles, in almost every instance of warning to
Christians of the danger of losing one’s crown or one’s reward, the
stratagem that is being used to disqualify them is actually false
doctrine or teaching.
In 2 John, where the warning is of suffering loss and not gaining a
full reward, John speaks of ‘many deceivers who have gone out into the
world’ (verse 7). In particular these men deny that Jesus is the
incarnate Son of God (verse 7). The apostle had previously said that
‘grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the
Father’s Son’ come in connection with holding the truth (verses 1-3).
Those who do not abide in the teaching of Christ do not have
God (verse 9).
The recipients of John’s letter were now in a church where one who was
seeking power and leadership was opposing the apostolic gospel (3
John). So this danger of losing a full reward was a very present
one with them.
In Galatia (Gal. 5:7) and Philadelphia (Rev. 3:11) the
saints were assaulted by Judaizers who wished to turn men aside from
salvation by grace alone to salvation by works. These teachings are
not vastly different from that proclaimed by advocates of the ‘New
Perspective on Paul’ which is currently troubling the churches. The
danger in Colosse of being disqualified for the race (Col.
2:18) came from new doctrines, ‘insisting on asceticism and worship of
angels, going on in detail about visions’. Such doctrines introduce
subtle changes in teaching which lead people astray from the course of
the Christian race and beguile men away from the reward they had
originally set out to gain.
Even while the apostles Peter, John and Paul had active ministries,
these doctrinal deceptions were threatening their flocks. Warnings
had to be sounded then. Today should be no different.
Our pulpits must instill doctrinal precision in their biblical
teaching and preaching. This is not only an important consideration
for those who fill pulpits (gospel ministers) and those who guard
pulpits (elders). This should be a major concern of all who are
seeking a church to attend and to join with in membership. Questions
need to be pondered such as: Does this church show deep interest in
doctrine? Does its ministry regularly teach doctrine and warn of
changes in doctrine by other voices that could snatch away our crowns?
In these times congregations are less stable than in former years.
Populations are constantly shifting. Some are compelled to move
because they work for vast corporations who move them about. Others
migrate into new regions for reasons of their own choice. However,
this movement uproots multitudes from the churches which once taught
them. In new communities they are confronted with a confusing menu of
places to worship. If you have been part of a church which
conscientiously held to a confession of faith linked to the Protestant
Reformation, you should more deeply appreciate that stabilizing aspect
of church life. With new faces ever entering our congregations, the
systematic re-teaching of doctrinal foundations is of the utmost
importance. New fads in teaching are desirable neither for our own
steadfastness in the faith nor for the reliability of our
Quite apart from Christians’ moving to new regions, there is a
restless moving from church to church by those who continue living in
one place. It is a sort of religious ‘musical chairs’. We do
consciously make changes in other important features of our lives. We
may move up to a more spacious home as our families grow. Or we may
move down to smaller quarters as we age and the children leave home.
This is only a practical necessity. But what is behind the moving
from church to church? Some questions to ask yourself might be:
1. Is one church’s insistence on doctrinal clarity like an
uncomfortable garment which has
become too tight?
2. Is forceful teaching of the moral commandments becoming too
demanding of my
3. Have I come to love a more ‘relaxed’ atmosphere in worship?
4. Does that mean that the new church has become more inclusive
of a variety of
doctrines and lifestyles?
5. Is that safe for me if I am in a race of endurance in which I
intend to win the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus?
6. Do I need to pummel myself, as do serious athletes, or as
Christ did, he who
suffered unto blood, striving against sin?
Are you trading up in your religion, or trading down?
If you ran well for a time, what now hinders you? Since you are
moving so much from church to church, do you now tolerate doctrines
and habits of life you once would not have countenanced? Is it
possible that in a few years you will make a further move
Could it be personality, entertainment, comfort in not needing to
think deeply or search your heart so thoroughly, that are driving
you? Does the new style of church life you have chosen prod you to
stand fast, to run so as to win? Are you open to new doctrines which
move you toward the world you once forsook?
Some, however, who are changing churches, are moving up
spiritually. They have gone from congregations that have drifted away
from doctrinal carefulness. At one time their churches had
effectively preached the Scriptures. Now they have become shallow and
careless, leaving hungry hearts dissatisfied. These believers are
moving toward churches with serious worship, careful study of
God’s Word and confessional standards. All movement is not into
doctrinally dangerous territory. Some want to be helped by their
church’s teaching to run the race with patience. Some want early
warnings of false doctrine which may ‘cut in on them’ and disqualify
them for the crown. What is it that you deem important in a
‘Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that
you may be rewarded fully.’
‘Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your
‘Those who endure to the end will be saved.’
‘Buy the truth, and sell it not’ (Prov. 23:23)!
An article from the Banner of Truth Magazine, February 2009