I Corinthians 15:2
"By which also ye are saved,
if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you,
unless ye have believed in vain."
Paul is not saying these people are lost or saved. It is not his responsibility to say who is saved or who is lost. He desires the Corinthian church members to examine their own salvation because their eternity is their responsibility.
This scripture is talking about "perseverance." Perseverance (endurance, forbearance, persistence, resignation, patience) is the responsibility of the saved person to stand for Christ until the very end. Preservation (protection, security, safety, shelter,) is the responsibility of God toward the eternal security of the saved.
The following scriptures prove that superficial believers will always go away, and true believers will always stay.
Superficial Believers will always go away
1. John 8:30,31, "As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed:"
We might conclude from these verses that these people were saved, after all, the Bible says they "...believed on him." But if you continue reading this chapter, you will find these superficial believers tried to kill Christ, but he "...went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by." John 8:59. They went away from Christ because they were superficial believers, not true believers.
2. John 15:4-6, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branches cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
Jesus is not saying that abiding (living, dwelling, remaining) in Christ brings salvation. He is saying that because a person already has salvation, he will abide (live, dwell, remain) in Christ. If the person does not have salvation, he will not abide in Christ.
3. Romans 11:19-22, "Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shall be cut off."
This passage is a warning to the Gentiles whom God grafted into the vine when He cut the Jews off. God can cut the Gentiles off just like He cut off Israel. In this case, what God does depends on what the Gentiles do.
True Believers Will Never Go Away
1. John 15:9, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love."
It is our responsibility to continue in the Father's love. God will not force His love upon us, nor will He force us to continue in His love. If we are true believers, we have a burning inward desire to be in the very center of God's love. If we are not true believers, we may continue for a while, but in the end, we will go away from Christ. Then others will examine our fruits, and realize we were never in the love of Christ to begin with.
4. Acts 11:23, "Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord."
Paul did not exhort God to cleave to these people (he knew God would do His part), he exhorted the people to cleave to God (that is their responsibility).
5. Acts 14:21,22, "And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."
Paul did not say that through much tribulation they must enter into the family of God, for they entered into that family through the tribulation of Christ on the cross. It is through much tribulation in this world that they enter into the "reign of God" in the millennium, and in eternity.
Compare the word "if" in I Corinthians 15:2 to:
1. Colossians 1:21-23, "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister."
Paul is not reaching a conclusion as to the salvation of these people. He is leaving it up to them to examine the fruit of their own lives with the Word of God to see if they are continuing in the faith, or moving away from the hope of the gospel.
2. Hebrews 3:6, "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."
Hebrews 3:7, "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,"
Hebrews 3:12, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
Hebrews 3:14, "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;"
Paul is saying exactly the same thing to the Hebrews as he said to the Colossians, and to the Corinthians in I Cor. 15:2.
The conclusion is:
If believers don't hold fast until the very end, they are not true believers, for true believers have nowhere else to go. See the Gospel of John, chapter 6. This chapter talks about those "seekers" of Christ, but they were seeking for the wrong reason. They desired earthly security, while Christ offered spiritual security. In verse 66, many of the disciples went back from following Christ because they were not true disciples. Now read verses 67-71, "Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve."
Why did Judas betray Christ? Because he was a superficial believer, not a true believer. Why didn't the true believers go away? They had nowhere to go.