Regular readers to this Q and A section recognize that I am willing to vigorously defend the faith and doctrines we promote and teach. But, I am not prone to enter into debate. There are plenty of ministries dedicated to Christian apologetics where substantial and edifying debates are available.
We are at a stage in this ministry where it has become increasingly necessary and important to declare the truth, unashamed and without compromise. So, rather than debate or bog down in endless discussions that lead to division and strife, we put the Word forward and leave the consequences to God.
Recently, however, I was sent an email inviting me to comment on a discussion between a fellow and his pastor. The assumptions and arguments presented in the email attracted my attention, given our current studies on Sunday morning. We are teaching and defending Perseverance of the Saints and Eternal Security. So, this particular series of questions and proof texts was well timed. I decided to post this discussion for our reading audience because I do believe that the exchange will prove to be edifying and God-honoring.
So, with that bit of introduction, we will plunge in —
Q – Greetings,
Please excuse the length of this email. I would normally not engage in this sort of debate, but I think the subject matter requires a solid defense. So, I beg your indulgence right at the top.
I have been asked to respond to a series of questions and conclusions drawn by D. and forwarded to Dr. B. I will tell you in all candor, D., that my comments on the whole are going to agree with your pastor more than they agree with your assumptions. We will examine the details after some initial comments.
The primary disagreement, as I understand it, has to do with whether a “born again” Christian could commit a sin so heinous that he could lose his salvation. The examples cited were things such as child rape, murder, sodomy, etc. resulting in a prison sentence. The question continued, “Will such a Christian go to heaven?”
D.’s summary of Dr. B.’s answer read, “Yes, absolutely. Once saved, always saved, no matter what. It does not matter what the sin was, or how grave the offense was, God can forgive anything, and He has already forgiven every possible sin that we have committed, we are committing and we will commit in the future. God’s grace is much greater than any sin that we could possibly commit.”
D. objected, “It depends. If we truly repent, God is faithful … However IF AND ONLY IF the Christian who committed the murder, rape, etc, REPENTS and asks God for forgiveness, through the Blood of Christ, can such forgiveness be granted by our Heavenly Father. Otherwise, IF the Christian who committed such murder, rape, etc, does NOT repent, and in fact REFUSES to repent (after much labor by the Holy Spirit to convict him of his sin) and physically DIES IN HIS SIN, he most likely HAS FORFEITED his salvation.”
That appears to be the essence of the disagreement. Let’s start with a couple of large concepts and deal with the details later. For sake of clarity, we must define a few basic terms. Bear with me please, because these fundamentals will weigh heavily in our conclusions.
First, what do we mean when we use the term “Christian”?
The short answer is that a Christian is someone who is looking to Jesus Christ for their salvation, believing that Jesus will keep them from judgment, hell and damnation. Now, how a person arrives at that saving faith is the subject of much debate. For starters, the Bible describes men in their natural state as worms, sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, incapable of doing any good thing that would please God, incapable of stirring themselves up to seek God, self-willed, rebellious, stiff-necked, children of unrighteousness, walking after the lusts of the flesh and altogether unprofitable. Yet, there is a school of thought that insists that these dead, sinful, rebellious creatures will turn their own hearts and minds toward God and accept His offer of salvation. They will recognize their sinfulness and repent, causing God to respond in mercy, forgiving them and depositing His Spirit within them.
The other school of thought says that inasmuch as God views all mankind as desperately wicked, dead, incapable and at enmity with everything holy, it would take a positive activity on God’s part in order to regenerate, awaken, inhabit and draw people to Himself. Left to themselves, sinful men not only would see no particular error or wickedness within themselves, they would have no interest in the things of God nor would they comprehend their need for a Savior. Consequently, God must actively pursue sinners and provide for them everything necessary for their salvation.
I am convinced that the latter of these two views is the Biblically accurate one. God indeed provides everything necessary for salvation. Regeneration, faith, repentance, forgiveness, redemption and our ultimate glorification are all gifts from God.
Salvation, plain and simply, is a Godly enterprise, not a human enterprise.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:27-30)
Notice that Paul’s concept of salvation regarded every phase of the process as not only God-inspired and God-wrought, but also in the past tense. These are completed activities in the mind of God. He loves, He foreknows (having an intimate relationship in advance), He predestines, He calls, He justifies and He glorifies. The very faithfulness and veracity of God are intimately involved in this process.
Okay, with that groundwork, let’s look a couple of the implications of the argument before us. Assume for the moment that it is true that salvation is solely a work of God. It was authored by God as a means of glorifying Himself. His primary motivations in saving people were His eternal love and His unerring grace. As such, the salvation God authored is eternally secure and as sure as the very eternal nature of the Creator. Salvation of God’s people is, therefore, a certainty.
Nevertheless, the other side of the aisle will insist that God simply made salvation a possibility. Individual men and women must implement, validate and secure His offer of salvation by their works, their individual righteousness, or their faithfulness.
And, there’s the rub.
The security of salvation must either be dependant on God’s faithfulness or the steadfastness of the individual Christian. The two concepts are mutually exclusive; it must be one or the other.
If salvation is dependant on the individual human – he decides to be saved, he stirs up his heart, he exercises faith as a matter of his will – then unquestionably the security of that salvation is dependant on the consistency of that person. If he changes – say, if he commits murder, rape, etc. – then his standing with God would necessarily change. That’s logical.
However, if salvation was instituted by God, empowered by God, sustained by God and an intrinsic part of God’s character and nature, then in order for a saved person to be lost, God Himself would have to change. And, that is an impossibility.
“For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” (Mal. 3:6)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16-18)
Okay, back to large concepts for a moment. The Biblical language of salvation includes notions of God’s electing grace, His everlasting love, His predetermination and foreordination, and His ability to make vessels to honor and to dishonor. Jesus tells us that He gives everlasting life to those that are saved. He said that no man could be snatched from His grip because both they and He are in the Father’s hand, who is greater than all.
Interestingly, we find no parallel language where men are concerned. The will of the man, his ability to achieve righteousness, his strength and activity are never mentioned where salvation is concerned. It is utterly and completely God’s enterprise. It is Christocentric – Christ being “the author and finisher of (our) faith.” It is the work of the Spirit, who draws us and seals us until the day of redemption.
So, to make a point of this, if God intends the salvation of any man, He indwells that man, deposits His Spirit in the man, adopts him into the family of God, changes his heart, forgives his sin and applies the full redemptive power of Christ to that man’s account. So, for that man to be lost, it would require more than just a change, a fall, a sin, a crime from the man. It would require a change from and in God who would return that man to His previous state of darkness, deadness and guilt. It would require the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit and the supplanting of Christ’s redemptive work.
But, the Biblical language of salvation goes even beyond that. The names of God’s people were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life “from the foundation of the world.” Likewise, Christ was established as the means of their salvation, the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8) Scripture also tells us that God does all things in accordance with the good pleasure of His own will.
“Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,'” (Isa. 46:9-10)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:3-7)
Why is this so important? Because whatever God does, it is complete. Nothing can be added to it. God is not swayed by the opinions or machinations of humans. The armies of Heaven and inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing before Him. He will do all His will, and none can stop His hand or ask Him what He is doing (Dan. 4:35). So, when He determines the salvation of person, it is a finished, completed, secure determination.
Like it or not, agree or not, this is how the Bible describes salvation. Again, as the cause does not change, likewise the effect cannot change. There is no sin that saved men may commit which will surprise or repulse God, causing Him to change his original intention or direction and cast off the person He has made the recipient of His mercy and grace. Otherwise, salvation is not a matter of grace, but a matter of obligation. God would be obliged to keep people who perform well and equally obligated to cast off people who fail to live up to a standard.
But, God provides the necessary grace, the necessary faith and the necessary repentance that result in the full and certain salvation of His people. Their lack of performance cannot change His intention. Rather, when they sin, He will chastise them. Whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every child He receives (Heb. 12:6). But, He will never caste them off entirely.
Why? Because they are His. They are His Son’s inheritance. When a sheep wanders away from the fold, the Good Shepherd goes looking for the stray, hoisting him up on His shoulders and returning him to the security of His protection. That is the Biblical picture time and again.
Now, to get to the heart of this matter, D. insisted that God would only forgive if the sinning Christian repents. I agree. However, God’s children do repent – always. There is no such thing as a genuine, Spirit-filled, blood-bought Christian who rebels completely and utterly against the God that saved him.
Christians do sin. That’s a Scriptural fact of life. But, they will also repent of their sin because it is God who gives them both the will and the ability to repent. Again, dead sinners do not repent because they see nothing wrong with their actions. But, God will cause His children to react in accordance with His decrees and requirements.
These verses make that point sufficiently, I believe –
“Him [Christ] God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31)
“When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:18)
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” (2 Tim. 2:24-25)
Here’s the first essential point: Christians who sin will indeed repent. But, they will repent because they are indeed Christians. The Spirit within them will drive them to the repentance God both requires and provides.
The second essential point is that God does not change. He does not change His purpose or His intention. Being omniscient, His knowledge of every saved individual extends not only to his or her most intimate thoughts and desires, but also to every action they will commit in this lifetime. So, to beg the question, what sin would so surprise or appall God that He would be required to forego the eternal destiny of someone He had committed to saving?
In the end, it is really is a matter of theological perspective. D., you appear to believe that the will of individual men supersedes the will of the Father. But, I would disagree. And not to be smug, but so would the apostle Paul.
Your salvation was secured for you 2,000 years ago when Christ agonized over your sin and bore the brunt of God’s wrath on your behalf. He labored over the inception of the New Covenant of salvation by grace through faith. And, I am convinced that He actively, completely and utterly secured the whole and final redemption of His people. To say that He labored and was tormented with you in mind and yet left the final end of your eternity up to the fickle whim of your mortal, sinful lusts and actions is to charge Him with folly. It is to say that He intended to save you but He failed to close the deal. He left the possibility of your eternal demise hanging in the balance, waiting for you to make the final determination.
But that, my friend, is neither the Christ nor the salvation presented in the Bible.
The salvation rendered by Christ was so complete, so efficient and sufficient that the author of Hebrews would exclaim, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb 10:14)
Do we truly understand that? The single offering of Christ perfected us forever. We are set apart (hagiazo – sanctified) by God for His own use and purpose. And, to guarantee that His purpose would not fail, God ordained a sacrifice sufficient to not only forgive our trespasses and iniquities, but capable of securing our complete, eternal perfection. We are perfected forever in the counsels of Heaven. That is such good news!
So, will a Christian sin? Yes. Will he commit horrible sins, like denying his Lord (as Peter did), murder (as King David – the man after God’s own heart – did), drunkenness (like Noah), adultery (like David, again), whore-mongering (like Judah did, with his own daughter-in-law, no less!), etc. etc. etc.? Possibly. Paul admitted that the law of his members, that old Adamic nature, was with him even when he delighted after the law of God in his heart. Christians battle sin, that’s a fact. And, Christians repent of sin.
The Holy Spirit keeps God’s people. That’s part of His job, if you will. He is the earnest, the down payment, of our inheritance and we are sealed with the Spirit until the day of our redemption (2 Cor. 1:21-22, Eph. 1:13-14). You see, Christians are not their own, they are “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). And, God if faithful, He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).
And, thank God, the determining factor in our eternal security lies not within ourselves, but in the immutable, unchangeable, gracious decree and power of our God.
Okay, all that being said, let’s examine the particulars of your email. Again, I apologize for the length of my reply, but it is commensurate with the length of your inquiry.
D. writes: – Otherwise, IF the Christian who committed such murder, rape, etc, does NOT repent, and in fact REFUSES to repent (after much labor by the Holy Spirit to convict him of his sin) and physically DIES IN HIS SIN, he most likely HAS FORFEITED his salvation as explained in many many passages in the New Testament written by the Holy Spirit to New Testament Christians, including: Hebrews 10:26,27 “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, NO SACRIFICE FOR OUR SINS IS LEFT, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and a raging fire…”
Jim – When we read the book of Hebrews, we must remember its historic audience and purpose. It was written by a Hebrew author (likely Paul and/or Barnabas) to a Hebrew readership – hence the title, “Hebrews.” The book is a contrast between the legal requirements of Moses and the finished work of Christ. It used to be, under the Law of Moses, that with each new sin, a new sacrifice could be offered to atone for one’s actions. But, by way of contrast, the Hebrews’ author wanted his Hebrew readers to understand that such methods were abated. That is the subject of this entire chapter. Once they understood the truth of the New Covenant and Christ’s full atonement, they were without excuse. Their sinfulness would result in judgment. There was only one safe haven, only one sure covering – Christ Jesus. And, that was his point.
The author made certain that his readers understood their sinful estate and lack of ability to atone for themselves outside of Christ’s finished work. Remember that it was this same author in this same book who declared that Christ perfected forever those were set apart for God’s purposes. So, if this passage you cited indeed teaches that genuine Christians could sin sufficiently to lose the perfection, this is a decidedly confused epistle.
Read that chapter again, in context, and I invite you to read our commentary on the book of Hebrews, available at our website, Hebrews Chapter 1. You will find that the subject is not the potential loss of salvation, but a warning for Hebrews to abandon the Mosaic system and run to the shelter of Christ.
D.’s second citation: 2nd Peter 2:20 – “For, if after they have escaped the defilements of this world, through the redeeming knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they again get entangled and are overcome by them, their final state is much worse than their initial state. For it would have been much better for them, not to have partaken of the way of righteousness, than to have turned away from the holy commandment given to them. It has happened to them according to the proverb: A DOG returns to ITS OWN VOMIT, and a SOW after WASHING, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
Jim – Context matters. Peter was not directing his accusations toward converted Christians. In fact, he told us right at the beginning of the chapter what his subject was – “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
Now, don’t be quick to jump on the phrase “even denying the Lord who bought them.” Peter was one of the three elders of the Jerusalem Church. Even though he was instrumental in bringing Gentiles into the covenant, his primary ministry was among the diaspora, scattered Jews, to whom he addressed his epistles. In the historic context, God bought the nation of Israel, yet there were members of the nation who denied Him. That’s Peter’s primary meaning here. The word translated “Lord” in this verse is “despotes” (δεσπότης). It is the root word from which we get the modern term “despot.” Modern translations have rendered it “Master,” in order to distinguish it from Kurios, or Lord. Peter is not saying that saved individuals can deny their Savior, Christ. He is saying that historic Israel denied their Master, God, who had bought them out of Egypt.
There had always been false prophets among God’s people, Israel. And, to the day of his writing, false teachers continued to introduce heresies. And, many followed after them. But, he assured his readers, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.” (v. 9)
Peter went on to describe the false teachers – “But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption.” (v.12) He said that they “cannot cease from sin.” They were incapable of quitting their rebellion against everything that is Godly. In verse 19 they are described as “slaves of corruption.”
But, here is their worst crime. They used enticing, empty words and the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, to allure their followers, who had escaped others who lived in error. Just as it appeared that these people might escape their sinful ways, the false prophets would suck them back in.
Now, Peter had taught the scattered Jews about Christ. It’s not as if they were without knowledge. But, they were again entangled in fleshly lust and were far worse off for knowing the truth and denying it.
But – and here’s the important question – did Peter conclude that these were saved Christians who foolishly followed the false prophets and lost their salvation? No. He described them as dogs and pigs. He did not say that they were sheep that became dogs and pigs. They were always dogs and pigs. And, their return to their vomit and mud only confirmed what Peter pronounced. Sheep do not return to their mud and vomit. Dogs and pigs do.
So, will sheep follow false prophets? Absolutely not. Jesus was firm on that point.
“To him [Jesus] the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:3-6)
Sheep follow their Shepherd. Dogs and pigs go back their old ways, even after hearing the truth about Christ. Why do they deny Him and turn away? They are not sheep. That’s a very important distinction and it lies at the heart of Peter’s words. Far from being evidence that Christians can sin and lose their salvation, this passage from Peter is proof positive that dogs and pigs cannot convert themselves by means of self-will.
The next part of D.’s email was a copy of the correspondence sent to Dr. B. While it may not have been D.’s intention that I answer on Pastor B’s behalf, I feel compelled to point out the inconstancies and errors of his argument, not to belittle D. (who I feel is a sincere and inquiring Christian), but for the truth’s sake.
D. wrote: Hi Dr. B.
I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss with you, if I may, something which came up at our Friday night’s meeting, particularly on the subject of “Once Saved, ALWAYS Saved”.
Please forgive me for being so frank, but I think that the notion of “Once Saved Always Saved” is in fact directly contradictory to the Word of God.
Jim – Surprisingly, D., I agree with you – but with explanation. The modern concept of Once Saved Always Saved has taken on a life of its own. And, it has morphed into a sad caricature of the original article. Most people who use this phrase say that salvation is simply a matter of coming forward in a church, confessing to some level of culpability and saying the “sinner’s prayer.” Then, secure in that profession, the new convert can revert to living like hell, all the while repeating, “Once saved always saved.”
That sort of easy-believe-ism runs rampant through modern churches that refuse to burden their congregants any genuine responsibility before Christ. And, I am on your side. Those sorts of conversions do very often result in dogs returning to vomit and pigs to their filth. But again, those are not genuine converts. Those are people who made an empty profession and were falsely assured of their standing before God’s justice.
However, that is not the same as eternal security. Eternal security is bound up in the character and performance of God, not people. At the risk of redundancy, those whom God has saved cannot lose their eternal destiny any more than God Himself can change.
Men who endeavor to save themselves will fail in that undertaking. Men who are the recipients of the unfailing grace of God stand secure on the solid rock of Christ’s finished work.
That’s a big difference.
So, while the modern OSAS concept is contradictory to God’s word, our eternal security in Christ is utterly Scriptural.
D. continued: If we search the New Testament Scriptures we discover that:
Christians CAN in fact loose/forfeit their salvation
Christians CAN [give up]/[sell out] their salvation
The Holy Spirit CAN be taken away
Deliberate keep on sinning leads to spiritual DEATH
Christians CAN be devoured by the Devil
Christians CAN reap eternal destruction
Christians CAN drink their eternal damnation
Christians CAN be dis-inherited by GOD from salvation
Christians CAN be over-taken by Darkness(Devil).
Christians CAN be thrown-out of the Mouth of God.
Jim – Assuming that your proofs are forthcoming, I will only say that I reject these notions out-of-hand.
Q – The one scripture (Romans 8:35-39), which was provided as justification of the “Always Saved” doctrine, has little or nothing to do with our salvation. The words “salvation” or “eternal life” or “redemption” are nowhere to be found in this text. It’s however clear that this text speaks of the God’s “Unconditional Love,” His “Eternal Love.”
Jim – This is simply shortsighted. Context matters. Verses 28 to 30 are also part of this passage. I quoted them above. They are the platform on which verses 35-39 stand. And, those verses declare God’s absolute sovereignty in loving, knowing, calling, predestining, justifying and glorifying His people. If that isn’t talking about salvation, I don’t know what is. Paul’s declaration that nothing is capable of separating us from the love of God in Christ Jesus is based on his previous statements concerning the surety of God’s saving activity.
Secondly, be careful about the ground rules you establish early in this conversation. Remember that any standard you set for your opponent must necessarily be met in your own arguments. And, if you can dismiss Paul’s premiere statement on our security in Christ because he doesn’t mention the particular words “salvation” or “redemption” in that particular sentence (though he extolled these ideas a scant five verses earlier), then make sure that every passage you cite as proof text includes the exact words you claim they support.
You will notice as we go through your proofs, that you fail to meet the very same criteria you criticize your pastor for. That’s simply unfair – and it utterly undermines your argument. It’s a common error in debate and, unfortunately, in Bible discussion.
Q – Love does not necessarily imply salvation on our part, it merely implies intent/action on God’s part. To suggest that this text means “once saved, ALWAYS saved” means in my opinion to simply BRUtalize the text. The text says that no External force can separate us from His Love (NOTE: NOT from his Salvation).
We can however be separated from our salvation by something internal, like living in Un-confessed Sin and an Un-Repentant Heart.
Jim – This is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Nowhere in Paul’s words in Chapter 8 do we read the slightest hint that something internal in a saved man can undermine his salvation. However, you impose that idea on Paul’s theology.
Paul has gone to great lengths to prove the security of salvation, concluding that nothing at all can separate us from the love of God in Christ. No one can lay anything to our charge. God has justified us; Christ has died for us and rose to make intercession for us. If God is for us, who can be against us?
Yet, you conclude (without evidence from the text, mind you) that Paul’s whole treatise on our eternal security can be voided by the will of the individual who may choose to sin beyond God’s reach or recovery. That’s very poor exegesis. In fact, it is not exegesis at all. It is groundless opinion.
And, you make a great effort to separate the concepts of God’s love from salvation. But, Paul concluded that God’s eternal, unchanging love is the motivation behind His eternal, unchanging redemption. So again, the fact that the word “salvation” does not appear in verses 35-39 does not change the subject of this entire passage, which indeed is salvation.
Q – The Bible cannot be explained through just one verse, and God is not an Autocrat which forces everyone who believes in Him into Heaven (the Devil believes and is frightened as well – but he is not saved (Jacob 2:19)).
Jim – We will assume that you are referring to James 2:19, not Jacob.
This is a classic use of pejorative language. It has emotional appeal, but fails to prove anything. God may not be an “autocrat,” however you choose to define that word. But, He does claim to be the Sovereign, the Potentate, the King, the Almighty, the all-knowing, the all-present, and the One who decrees all things after the pleasure of His own will. The only God you will discover in the pages of Scripture describes Himself exactly that way.
As for God forcing believers into Heaven. That’s simply misguided thinking. God regenerates dead sinners, calls them to Himself and inhabits them, changing their stony hearts and making them both capable and willing to serve Him. People do not arrive in Heaven because of their willfulness. They arrive in Heaven in accordance with His will. He does not force them; He draws them. And, they come willingly. In the day of God’s power, His people are willing (Psalm 110:3).
It is absolutely true that the Bible cannot be explained via any single verse. I am a great advocate of context. However, in a few moments you will appeal to a string of out-of-context single verses that you will claim as proof of your position. And, we will find that not a one of them states your premise.
Remember, the ground rules you establish for your opponent will boomerang if you do not also stick to them.
Q – Salvation is through Christ via one’s personal choice. Just as a child can give up his birthright, a parent can give up a child and no longer recognize that child so can a Christian give up his salvation through deliberate pattern of sinning and an Un-Repentant Heart.
Jim – Your logic is: A child can give up his birthright. Therefore, a parent can give up a child. Ergo, a Christian can give up his salvation.
That’s a false syllogism. It does not follow. A child forgoing a birthright is not synonymous with a parent giving up a child. And, neither of those premises prove that Christians can give up their salvation.
I also notice that you failed to provide us with a single verse (or more importantly, consistent passage) that teaches that salvation is through Christ via one’s personal choice. In fact, you find just the opposite woven through the warp and woof of the Bible. We have turned everyone to our own way. We will not repent because we see nothing wrong with our natural state. Only if God awakens us to our desperate estate and need for a Savior will we come to Him.
Study, compare and contrast these two verses, words from Jesus’ own mouth –
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44
No man can get to God except through Christ. But, no man can (lack of ability) come to Christ unless the Father draws him. Where in that paradigm is personal choice? You cannot choose unless the Father first chooses. You cannot choose unless the Father enables you to choose. And, you cannot resist the choice of the Sovereign. That’s the Biblical paradigm.
Plus – and this is vital to our discussion – the terms “free will,” “free agency,” or “personal choice” are conspicuously absent from Scripture in the context of salvation. Man is represented as free to sin, but never free to perform righteous acts or to motivate himself toward God. Your insistence that salvation is the result of free choice is utterly and completely without Biblical defense. And, I’ve noted your lack of proof texts in this regard.
As for a child being able to give up his birthright, a birthright is an earthly inheritance passed down from fathers to their eldest son. Esau gave up that inheritance for a mess of pottage. Big error. However, that did not cause Esau to cease being a son. Son-ship cannot be willingly abandoned. It is a matter of fact. I have a son. He will always be my son. He has no other earthly father but me. He may deny me and move as far away from me as possible. He may even take me to court to divorce me as his legal guardian. But, nothing can change the fact that I am his father.
In your false syllogism you have concluded that simply because earthly sons can extricate themselves from legal and familial obligations, Christians can necessarily take themselves out of their relationship with God. But, the reason God chose the term “Father” from the infinite descriptive titles available to Him, was to help us understand that the Father and His children are inexorably bound to each other, even though the children may stray. That’s the whole point of the parable of the prodigal son.
So, to iterate, we cannot form our theological concepts according to the everyday behavior of people – fathers, sons or otherwise. If we follow that course of logic we will end up concluding that because my father drove a Rambler, God drives a Rambler. We can only develop our theology from a careful, considerate reading of the Word.
Q – The theory of “Once Saved Always Saved” has unfortunately caused a lot of damage in the church, in placating many Christians that deliberately live in adultery, theft and immorality, falsely led to believe by their human pastors that no matter what, they will always go to heaven. This may help to explain why the rate of Dead Christians in our churches is at all time high and why divorce and adultery are near the same levels as those found outside.
Jim – I agree with the most of this statement, provided you will differentiate between the modern concept of OSAS and the Biblical doctrine of eternal security. On the other hand, I do not agree with the concept of “dead Christians.” Perhaps you’ve seen crowds of lifeless people gathered in church buildings, but one of the primary attributes of genuine Christians is that they have been raised to a newness of life, and that more abundantly. Christians, by definition, are alive in Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life. In fact, as you read the gospels you realize that no one ever died in Christ’s presence. Everywhere He went and everywhere He is, life abounds. You may have seen dead people who have made a profession, but you have never encountered a “dead Christian.” That’s an oxymoron.
Q – What a tragedy, since GOD IS HOLY and nothing un-clean can enter into the kingdom of Heaven. (1 Peter 1:15) Unconfessed sin is un-cleaned sin. There is no forgiveness without repentance. (1John 1:9)
Jim – It is true that God is Holy and nothing unclean will enter His habitation. According to Paul, that is the reason for the cataclysmic change when this corruptible will put on incorruptibility and this mortal will put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:50-54). But, that is most obviously an activity wrought by God, not by our will or effort.
Remember primarily that God justifies sinners. That’s an intrinsic part of His gracious gift to us. When you assert that God can and will only forgive those sins we confess, you are walking a slippery knife-edge.
Here’s what I mean. We would both agree that in order to be saved, men must be as righteous and holy as God Himself is. However, you seem to be implying that we must achieve that righteousness through self-effort, lack of sinfulness or dedication to repentance. The Biblical source of our righteousness is Christ’s own spotless purity imputed to our account. Just as Adam’s sin was imputed to all mankind (proven by the fact that all people die), our sins were imputed to Christ (who was personally innocent) to pay the penalty demanded by God on Calvary. Consequently, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and God looks upon as He looks upon His Son. We are “accepted in the beloved” not on our own merit.
Notice how concisely Paul spelled this out –
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:3-7)
Notice particularly Paul’s take on personal holiness. God chose us in Christ before the worlds were formed, determining that we should be spotless and blameless before Him. Why? He loved us with an everlasting love. So, we will be blameless “in love.” Before we were born, before we did anything good or evil – indeed, before the first man was created or fell – God predestined us to be His children. And the method of adoption was Jesus Christ.
Now, were these things determined by the will of men? Nope, there were no men around to vote, act, rebel, repent, or determine anything at all. Rather, God decided these things “according to the good pleasure of his will, to the glory of his grace.” We are accepted in His Son, whom He loves perfectly. We have redemption through His blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement. Our sins – all of our sins – are forgiven. Not just the confessed ones. God in His omniscience knew all of the sins His people would commit before there was the first man. And, what motivated such sweeping forgiveness? Confession? No. It was “the riches of His grace.
Now, let’s take the opposite tack for a moment. If we follow the implications of your statement concerning “unconfessed sin,” then it is vitally necessary that we carefully catalog and admit the minutiae of our every failing. And, if we neglect to remember or mention any trespass, no matter how small, that sin remains on our account and we fail to achieve the righteousness God requires. As you said, there would be no forgiveness without repentance. So, we are heaping up a load of unforgiven sins inasmuch as we cannot possibly remember and mention every thought, word and deed that falls short of God’s perfection.
Let’s carry that thinking to its logical extreme. Salvation is then no longer a matter of grace. It is based on merit, on performance, on repentance and on staying clean. And, Christ’s vicarious suffering failed to achieve the very thing it purposed to accomplish – our eternal perfection. His efforts would be voided by our failure to confess some sin that would necessarily be charged to us – “unconfessed sin is un-cleaned sin” – keeping us from the perfection God requires and driving us helplessly from His presence.
So, work hard not only to live above sinfulness, but also in order to remember and confess every failing. Do you honestly think that you could live up to such a standard? I think not.
Our sin is not cleaned because we confess it. Our sin is cleaned because Christ paid the penalty due it. We will appear before God utterly cleansed because of Christ’s work of redemption.
Yes, 1 John 1:9 does say that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But, John was emphasizing God’s faithfulness, not our ability to confess. Confession is not the foundation of our salvation or how we achieve purity. For example, John also wrote in the same epistle –
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)
We are purified by hope, according to this verse. We are purified and made righteous by the faith that is in us and the finished work of the One who redeemed us.
Be very careful, my brother, that you do not end up advocating works-based righteousness or legalism. Keep Christ and His work at the center of your thinking.
Q – Repentance does not mean simply sounding off, “I am sorry”, but implies a complete turning around and honest effort to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Jim – I agree entirely.
Q – I have complied a list of multiple scriptures to document that salvation is not assured to those who deliberately, i.e. by choice refuse to walk in the light and have resorted to HIJACKING salvation, thus continuing to live in darkness.
Jim – Once again, pejorative but ultimately empty language. There is no such thing as “hijacking salvation.” There are false professions made by people who do not know God. They have not hijacked anything. They simply deceived themselves.
Nevertheless, we agree that those who deliberately sin and love the darkness will not be saved. But, that does not describe Christians. It describes evil, rebellious men who walk after the lusts of their flesh.
Q – Hebrews 10: 26,27 – Christians can loose their salvation. “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, NO SACRIFICE FOR OUR SINS IS LEFT, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and a raging fire…
Jim – We have addressed this passage already. For sake of shortening an already lengthy reply, I will defer to my earlier comments.
Q – Mathew 25:1-12 – The Parable of the 10 Virgins – Christians can lose salvation.
The Kingdom of heaven (i.e. talking about Christians), is like 10 virgins, which took their candles and have come out to meet the Bridegroom(Jesus Christ). But the Bridegroom said unto the 5 virgins: Truly I say unto you, I DO NOT KNOW YOU.
NOTE: Non-Christians could not possibly be “virgins” because they have not been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said that 5 of the virgins (i.e. christians) were left out where there is crying and gnashing of teeth.
Jim – I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you’ve made a real hash of this parable. First off, you have concluded that both the 10 virgins and the Kingdom of Heaven each refer to Christians. However, as Christ recounted this parable among the Israelites, the Church and Christianity itself had not yet appeared in God’s economy. Christ had not yet died and resurrected, and the Holy Spirit had not yet indwelt those “ordained to eternal life” (Acts 13:48).
Importantly, this is a primary example of your failure to follow the rules of engagement that you yourself set for your pastor. While the words “salvation” and “redemption” failed to appear in his citation from Romans 9, the words “Christian” or “church” fail to appear in Matthew 25:1-12. Inasmuch you excoriated him for equating salvation with love, you must equally refrain from equating the kingdom and virgins with Christians. You have imposed them onto a text where they are neither mentioned nor implied.
We should be careful when interpreting parables. They must be understood within the confines of Christ’s original audience and the historic setting of His telling. The only kingdom of which His listeners would be familiar was the kingdom of restored Israel, which would come to fruition when the Messiah appeared, as predicted by Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and several of the minor prophets. When Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven,” his listeners would have imagined a physical, earthly kingdom over which God’s anointed King would rule.
Jesus had just told them a similar parable wherein the Master of the house was going to leave and return in judgment. So, he began his next parable with the phrase, “At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins…” This parable has to do with Christ’s return to judge the nation of Israel, those to whom the promised Kingdom belongs. In His previous parable, the Master returns to find some servants caring for the household and others acting cruelly. The evil servants will be cut in pieces and assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. Likewise, the parable of the ten virgins tells of five who were ready, watching and prepared when the bridegroom comes. But, the five others miss His arrival.
Now, at the end of that parable, Jesus spells out His purpose in telling it – “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” That is Jesus’ interpretation of His own story. He did not say, “Therefore, be careful, or you will lose your salvation.” Then, He proceeded with a third parable (of the talents) with substantially the same outcome.
This parable does not teach that Christians can lose their salvation. It teaches that Jesus will return in judgment to establish His kingdom. Israel, who is waiting for that kingdom to be erected, is warned to watch and be diligent because they do not know the day or hour when He will return.
And, that’s the sum of this passage.
Q – John 15:1-6 – Christians can lose/forfeit their salvation. I am the Vine, you are the branches, and my father is the gardener.
If anyone does NOT ABIDE in me, he is like a branch that is THROWN AWAY, and withers/dies; such branches are picked up, THROWN INTO THE FIRE, and BURNED.
NOTE: One cannot be a branch in the vine unless one has been born again, i.e. one is already a Christian, he was planted in the vine (Jesus Christ); so a Christian can be thrown into the fire.
Jim – The events of John 15:1-6 occurred as Jesus was preparing for His crucifixion. In fact, it culminates with His high-priestly prayer. The words He spoke were directed at His twelve apostles, not the church at large or all Christians to come. He warned them that they would be hated and put out of the synagogue, which would ruin them socially. They struggled to understand His words when He told them that in a little while they would see Him no more and then after a little while they would see Him again. He spoke all these words after the institution of the Lord’s Supper, before He prayed in Gethsemane.
Prior to leaving them, Christ instructed that God requires fruit-bearing from His people. Jesus likened Himself to the vine that feeds the branches so that they will bear fruit. God was the vinedresser who prunes the fruitful vines in order that they will bear more fruit. No branch can bear fruit unless it remains connected to the vine. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
He told his eleven remaining apostles that they were clean because of the word He had spoken to them. But, He also warned that any branch that did not remain in Him and bear fruit would be cut off, thrown away and cast into the fire. Now, in that context, given the intimacy of the conversation and the select audience to whom He spoke, He could only have been referring to Judas, who would appear at the end of His prayer to betray Jesus with a kiss. Judas was the only branch among them that had been cut off.
“Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)
To read more than that into Christ’s words, especially to conclude that He was teaching that saved, redeemed Christians could be cut off and burned, is to go beyond the scope of the text.
Moments later, as He began His prayer, Jesus said, “”Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”
There’s that language again. We cannot avoid it. Jesus has authority over all of mankind and He gives eternal life to as many as the Father gave Him. This is God’s enterprise.
But, you would have us believe that Jesus could give eternal life to those whom God ordained before the foundation of the world, and then that person could be lost due to some failing of his own ability. Jesus declared just the opposite. He did not give them “temporal life” that they were ordered to
sustain. He gave them (past tense) eternal life. That eternal life was established and placed by Him, not by the will of the saved person.
Q – Hebrews 12:15,16 – Christians can give up/sell their birthright/their salvation.
Be careful brothers that none of you may stray from the grace of God… Be careful brother that non of you may be an adulterer or worldly like Esau, who for a meal sold his birth-right.
NOTE: This implies that a Christian CAN give up/sell out his salvation. God cannot force anyone into his kingdom. Salvation is by personal choice.
Jim – We’ve covered the difference between birthright and son-ship. I will refer you to my commentary on Hebrews on our website as concerns this passage.
But, let me state again that this is the same book and same author who declared that Christ “perfected forever” those who are sanctified by God. And, once again, the passage does not mention the words “Christian” “give up,” “sell out,” or “salvation.” That is not the author’s topic. You have forced that onto the passage
It is certainly an appeal for Godly living and the avoidance of “profane” thinking – failing to discern spiritual things. But, it does not say that Christians can be lost. And, again you insist that salvation is by personal choice. But, you are hard-pressed to supply chapter and verse for that assertion.
Lastly, God does not need to force people into His kingdom. He allows them in and draws them in. They come quite willingly.
Q – Ephesians 4:30 / Psalm 51 / Hebrews 2:1 – The Holy Spirit can be taken away.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.
David: Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.
That is why brothers we must hold fast to the things we have heard, so that they may not be TAKEN AWAY from us.
Jim – I am amazed that you would appeal to Paul’s grand treatise to the Ephesians concerning God’s absolute sovereignty in electing, foreordaining and predestinating salvation as proof that men can undermine those eternal decrees by his own stubborn sinfulness. And, much more astoundingly, the verse you’ve chosen states categorically that the Spirit of God is our guarantee of salvation!
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:30-31)
The word “seal” in that verse is “sphragizo.” Strong defines it as “to stamp with a private mark or signet for security and preservation.” The Holy Spirit will never abandon us. The Spirit is the seal that secures us until our final redemption. Christ Himself said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)
Paul instructed the early church to be careful of their conduct. He warned that speaking unwholesome words would grieve the Spirit. But, he did not say that it would cause the Spirit to leave.
Secondly, there is a world of difference between the spirit of God, the spirit of Holiness that indwelt the tabernacle of God in David’s day, and the Holy Spirit that indwelt the apostles at Pentecost. The Spirit of Holiness filled the temple, but the Holy Spirit of the New Covenant fills the individual redeemed person, making them the temple of God.
Often times, when Israel failed to follow God’s directives, He would take His Spirit away from them, refusing to send the cloud of glory and accept their sacrifices. That is decidedly different from the indwelling of Christians that acts as their eternal surety. So, David’s words in Psalm 51 fail to support your contention.
Be cautious when you mix-and-match old and new covenant passages. Make sure they are speaking of the same thing and they are in fact complimenting one another. That’s another common hermeneutical mistake.
Thirdly, in Hebrews 2:1 the author adjures his Hebrew readers to give earnest heed to what they are being taught, and not neglect the greatness of the salvation God has confirmed to them. It says nothing at all about God taking His salvation away from Christians.
D – Hebrews 3:12 – A sinful heart CAN SEPARATE us from GOD
Be careful brothers, so that none of you may have an evil and un-believing heart, which SEPARATES you FROM the Living God.
Jim – You are being led by your presuppositions. You are starting with your conclusions and searching for out-of-context phrases that appear to support what you assume to be true.
Chapter 3 of Hebrews is addressing Israel as a group. The author reminds them of Moses, who was over their house. He reminds them of how their ancestral fathers proved and tempted God though they had seen His mighty works. God declared that that generation always erred in their hearts, so they would not enter into His rest. Then, in your verse of choice, the author warned the Hebrews not to follow that pattern, to take heed in case any of them had wicked hearts, proven by their departure from the living God.
This passage does not say that Christians (in whom God has made a heart of flesh and taken up residence) can suddenly revert to their wicked hearts and therefore be cast away from God. It was a warning to Hebrew readers that those among them who indeed were wicked would be manifest in their departure from God. Those are two quite differing concepts.
Q – Romans 6:15-16 – keep on sinning leads to spiritual DEATH.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace! By no means! Don’t you know that…. you are slaves to the one whom you obey, whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to DEATH.
NOTE: This is not written for Non-Christians, since they are already dead in their sins. This is written for Christians, that keep on sinning which leads to spiritual DEATH.
Jim – In Romans 6, Paul is contrasting grace and the Law. At the end of chapter 5, he said that the law entered so that the offense would abound. But, where sin did abound, grace much more abounded. As sinned reigned in death, the grace of God in Christ abounded in eternal life. Chapter 6 opens, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!”
That is the context. Paul was dealing with errant thinking that would turn grace into license. So, the balance of the chapter is devoted to the realization that through Christ’s righteousness, imputed to us, we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. We are not to say, “It’s all under the blood” (as is commonly extolled) and use that as our excuse for sin. Rather, we are to recognize the sacrifice of Christ and refuse to live by the lusts of the mortal flesh. And, sin shall not have dominion over us because we are not under law, but under grace (v. 14).
Then, in verse 15, Paul reiterates his original point. Shall we continue in our sin because we are no longer under the law? God forbid! Whomever we serve, that is to whom we belong, whether to sin or to Christ. He continued, “But God be thanked…” that we have been set free from the bondage to sin and are slaves to righteousness.
And then, just to make sure that everyone understood why he spoke in such fleshly terms, he concludes, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.” (v.19)
That is the subject and point of Paul’s polemic. Notice that nowhere in this context did he mention salvation, free will, or human decision. Neither did he mention the loss of salvation. Instead, he contrasted the law, which could never bend to save fallen sinners, and the righteousness that comes by faith in the risen Christ. One path (the law) leads to death. The other path (Christ) leads to eternal life.
But again, nowhere in this passage does Paul say that anyone ordained to eternal life, filled with the Spirit, cleansed from their sin and eternally perfected is capable of falling backward into his old state and end up lost.
It’s simply not in there.
Q – Romans 8:6 – waking in the flesh leads to spiritual DEATH
Walking after the flesh LEADS TO DEATH, but walking after the things of the Spirit of God, leads to life and peace. For walking after the flesh, is enmity towards God….
NOTE: No Enemy of God can inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
Jim – I admit again that you have chosen a most surprising passage to prove your point. It is undeniable that no enemy of God can inherit Heaven. That’s axiomatic. It proves itself. But, that is demonstrably not Paul’s point in this passage.
Romans 8 opens with, “There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is quite the opposite of the point you are striving to make. The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ has made us free, continues Paul, from the law that engendered sin and death. Those who are in Christ are utterly free from sin because of His finished atonement, and therefore no condemnation can be placed to their charge.
His contrast continues into verse 6, where Paul declares that to be carnally minded leads to death, but to be spiritually minded leads to eternal life.
But, the very next verse utterly undermines your entire contention. “For the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
Paul’s entire theology was based on the realization that natural men – carnal, fleshly men – cannot subject themselves to the will or law of God. The holy righteousness of God and the dead, lustful flesh of men are at absolute enmity against each other.
Yet, you would have us believe that carnal, fleshly men are capable of choosing against their natural inclinations and grasp the very thing they so despise. That is more than illogical; it is wholly and utterly contradictory to the tenor of Scripture.
And, as has become your norm, you have used a proof text that fails to address your subject.
Q – 1 Peter 5:8 – Christians can be devoured by the Devil.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO DEVOUR. Resist him, standing firm in faith.
NOTE1: The Devil is not looking for Non-Christians, since they are already dead they are already his. The Devil is looking for Christians that he may devour.
NOTE2: If once saved, always saved were true, then the above verse must be a mistake, since why should we worry about being spiritually devoured by the Devil, that would be impossible, i.e. once saved ALWAYS saved.
Jim – In this regard, I will take the same approach that Jesus took when He was tempted by Satan (who, by the way, quoted out-of-context Scripture in his effort to confound Christ). My response, then, would be:
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1 John 5:18)
You see, our protection from the evil one is not dependant on our ability to perform righteously. It is guaranteed by the strength of our Savior. When Jesus was accused of driving out demons by the strength of Beelzebub, he answered –
“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.” (Luke 11:21-22)
His meaning is clear. Christ is the stronger man who takes up residence in people who were once the abode of evil. The stronger man takes away the devil’s armed protection and breaks up the spoil he thought he had secured. But, nowhere in Jesus’ words did He state or even imply that the weaker devils could conquer the stronger man and retake their lost real estate.
Throughout the Bible we find that Satan must be given permission to touch or tempt those that belong to God. That’s the point of the first chapter of Job. That’s why the demons requested that Jesus allow them to inhabit pigs (Mat. 8:31). That’s why the devil could not take Judas (the son of perdition) until Jesus allowed it at the last supper.
You know, I must make mention of a grievous error, here. You have charged your pastor with leading people astray by teaching OSAS. And yet, you have quite cavalierly concluded that born-again, Spirit-filled Christians could not only lose their salvation, but that they could become the habitat of devils. And, the only hope you offer them is their ability to resist sin. That’s a very hopeless position, given that none of us has such inherent strength.
Our security, once again, is wrapped up in the boundless strength of God who keeps us safe and secure from our enemy. Yes, we may sin. We may, through the weakness of our mortal flesh, trespass and presume against His grace. But, nowhere – nowhere – in all of Scripture are we told that God will turn His back on errant Christians and turn them over to Satan’s dominion.
And, being in that God never taught such a thing, it is an awful and debilitating thing to advance among believers. This particular idea deserves our strongest rebuke.
As for 1 Peter 5:8, this is the same Peter who understood that it was Jesus’ prayer of intercession on his behalf that secured him from Satan’s desire to have him. I cannot imagine that he would then write to the Church and adjure them that they could be devoured by the devil if they failed to perform to some standard.
The context of this passage make Peter’s meaning clear. He was talking about the physical suffering and persecution that the early Church endured. He concluded that those trials of their faith were the work of Satan. Here is the passage in its context –
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:6-11)
We are to be humble before God, casting our worries on Him, because he takes the oversight and care for us. We are to walk circumspectly, carefully, because our adversary actively plans to trip us up and destroy Christianity at every turn. But, we are to resist him. James tells us that when we resist the devil he flees from us (James 4:7). That resistance takes the form of steadfast faith, realizing that Christian brethren all over the world are experiencing the same suffering.
Now, that’s where your thesis falls apart. If Peter was indeed saying that Satan could spiritually devour Christians, causing their separation from God and ultimate damnation, then that is the exact state of Christians all over the world. You can see the dilemma.
Fortunately, that was not Peter’s intention. He was saying that Christians suffer in this lifetime. And, the source of that suffering is Satan, our adversary. But, that is part of this Christian pilgrimage and not any surprise.
Peter made that point clear earlier in this same epistle –
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
So, once again, you have read things into the text that simply are not there. Your conclusion was that Peter was teaching Christians to be careful not to lose their salvation and become fodder for the devil. But, Peter’s conclusion was, “the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
The trials of Satan were merely God’s method of completing, establishing, strengthening and settling His people. To Him – not the will of the individual, but the good pleasure of God’s unchanging will – is all glory and dominion forever and ever!
And, once again, there is that language about dominion. God rules. God is in control. God will perform every one of His decrees in accordance with His own will and pleasure. And, that includes the salvation of those He has eternally destined to salvation.
Let me underscore one particularly important point that is missing from your presentation. The Biblical authors will usually draw their own conclusions. We must read and assess the whole body of their arguments in order to understand and align ourselves with those conclusions. The danger when we take single phrases and interpret them according to our suppositions is that we end up abandoning the contextual force that the original authors intended. And, that leads to error every time.
Q – 1 Corinthians 11:23 – Christians can be damned.
So whoever (christian or non-christian) eats this bread or drinks this Lord’s Cup in an unworthy manner, is guilty of the body and of the blood of Christ.
So whoever eats and drinks, eats and drinks his own damnation, if he/she does not distinguish the body of Christ (i.e. living in sin and taking communion).
Jim – I will assume that you are referring to 1 Cor. 11:29.
This one is easy and would have required only the slightest research on your part to understand. But, I’ll do the work for you. The word translated “damned” in 1 Cor. 11:29 is the Greek “krima.” It means, a judgment or penalty. That is why every other major translation of the verse renders it “drinks judgment to himself.” It speaks of temporal judgment, which Paul lists in the next verse, “For this reason many are weak and sick among, and many sleep.”
This temporal judgment is not for the purpose of ultimate condemnation, as the next verse attests, “But when we are judged (krima), we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” God intends this temporal judgment to chasten His people, for the purpose of keeping them from the ultimate judgment the world will undergo.
Once again, the whole context undermines your argument, rendering your conclusions utterly moot.
Q – Galatians 6:7 – Christians can reap eternal destruction.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature will REAP DESTRUCTION; the one who sows to please the Spirit, will from the spirit reap eternal life.
Jim – This verse could not be plainer. The context has to do with giving. Verse 6 states, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” Then, Paul used an example from agriculture – a wise choice in that largely agrarian culture – and tells his readers that their giving reflects their spiritual well being. You will reap what you sow. In this context, “sowing” is the act of giving good things to the one who teaches the word. If you spend your money on your own flesh, it reflects your corrupt nature and you will reap corruption. But, if you spend your money on spiritual things, you will reap spiritual life, because sacrificial giving is a true barometer of a person’s spiritual state. And, God is not mocked. He knows what you have and he knows how you spend it.
So, Paul’s conclusion is, “Let us not be weary in well doing, for we shall reap in due season.”
This passage concerns one thing and one thing only – giving to teachers. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Christians losing their salvation.
You are now officially grasping at straws.
For further reading on this subject, may I offer our book “A Guide to New Covenant Giving” available on our website.
Q – Galatians 5:19 – Christians can be dis-inherited from the Kingdom of God.
The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity … I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will NOT inherit the kingdom of God.
NOTE: This verse must be a mistake if the doctrine of “once saved ALWAYS saved” were to be true. Christians who choose to disobey and hijack their salvation will simply go to heaven in spite of what this verse says. What a tragedy to contradict the Bible.
Jim – This verse does indeed describe works of the flesh. That’s all it does. It does not say a single, solitary word about Christians being disinherited from the kingdom. Fleshly men who continue fleshly sin will not see Heaven. That’s without debate. But, when speaking of Christians, Paul concluded in this same passage, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (v. 24)
Again, read the whole section and let the author draw his own conclusions.
Q – 1st John 2:6 – For Christians – the “always” saved part is simply not so.
Whoever claims to abide in Him, he MUST live like Jesus lived.
NOTE: If “once saved always saved” were true, we could just take our salvation and run, i.e. live any way we wanted. However the Bible says that is not so, i.e. we MUST live like JESUS lived.
Jim – Again, you’ve missed the original author’s point. John simply stated that the evidence of genuine conversion is the Christian life.
“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:5-6)
The NIV sees that as a continuation of the original thought –
“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”
But, in either translation, the essence of John’s point is that the evidence, the proof positive, that we are in Christ is that we will walk after His example. To overstate the obvious, this verse and passage say nothing at all about Christians losing their salvation.
Q – 1st John 2:4 – For Christians – the “always” saved part is simply not so.
Whoever claims: I know Him, and that person does not obey his commands, that person is a Liar and there is NO TRUTH in him (i.e. Jesus is not in HIM).
NOTE: If “once saved always saved” were true, we could just take our salvation and run, i.e. live any way we wanted however the Bible says that is not so, i.e. we MUST obey his commands.
Jim – That verse is the second half of a contrast. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
Those who indeed “know” Christ – which is to have an intimate relationship with Him – will follow after Christ’s commandments. Those who do not keep Christ’s words, even though they claim to know Him, are liars. One group has the truth in them; the other does not. It’s just that simple.
This is a contrast. John did not say that saved Christians could have an intimate relationship with God and be the benefactors of His saving grace and yet deny Him and fall into destruction.
Q – Jacob 4:4,7 and John 12:35 – For Christians – they can be Over-Taken by DARKNESS.
Jesus said: Walk as though you have light, so that you may not be over-taken by darkness.
Jim – I am unfamiliar with the book of Jacob. I looked at James 4:4,7 but I cannot connect them to your statement. So, I will pass by that citation.
The passage from John reads – “Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:35-36)
Your assertion that Christians can be overtaken by darkness is patently absurd in light of everything we’ve discussed thus far. Jesus referred to Himself as the light. Those who follow Him will become “sons of light.” Those who walk in darkness will lose their way. While the light was in the world (and the darkness “comprehended it not” John 1:5), men were adjured to follow Him. Some would, some wouldn’t.
And, to emphasize my point, Jesus did not say to walk “walk as though you have light or you will be overtaken by darkness.” He said, “Walk while you have the light.” That’s a big difference.
Again, Jesus posed a contrast between children of light and darkness. His words were instructive and compelling. But, this passage says nothing at all about Christians losing their salvation.
Q – 1st John 1:9 – For Christians – the “always” saved part is simply not so.
IF we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.
NOTE: If “once saved ALWAYS saved”, we would not need to confess our sins to be saved, why would we need to, since we are ALWAYS saved no matter what. However the Bible says that we MUST confess our sins in order to be forgiven, otherwise we may NOT be forgiven.
Jim – We have answered this in detail above.
Q – 1st John 1:7 – For Christians – the “always” saved part is simply not so.
IF we walk in the Light, just as He is in the Light … the blood of Jesus Christ, His son cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
NOTE: If “once saved ALWAYS saved”, were true, we would not need to walk in the light, we could simply walk any way we chose to. However the Bible says that IF, a big IF, we WALK in THE LIGHT, He is faithful to forgive us our sins, IF we walk in darkness (i.e. any way we choose to), He does not have to forgive us our sins.
Jim – This passage reads – “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)
By now you should be able to recognize the contrast in that passage. This passage says nothing at all – as indeed all of your proof texts have failed to demonstrate – about Christians losing their salvation. It is a contrast between false professors and true converts. True converts show the fruit of their conversion, they walk in fellowship with one another and their sins have been completely cleansed by the blood of Christ.
Q – I am writing to you about this since I was sad to hear yet again that no matter what we do God’s Grace is Infinite and greater than any sin that we could commit, including murder, adultery, etc. Yes, God can forgive but only those that truly Repent and turn away from their sin. Furthermore God’s grace is not abusively infinite, so that one cannot just ignore God’s word, hijack Christianity, and simply keep on sinning, and saying I’m sorry every day.
Jim – You have contradicted yourself. You say that you were sad to hear yet again that God’s grace was infinite and greater than any sin. Then, you admit that God can forgive. He can forgive, I point out, because His grace is actually and genuinely “infinite and greater than any sin.” That fact does not make me sad; it makes me overjoyed.
Forgiveness, in every case, is a matter of grace, not obligation. God is never required to forgive anyone. The deciding factor in whether God will indeed forgive (by His infinite grace that is greater than any sin) is God Himself. You would insist that it is our willingness to repent. You have placed salvation firmly and squarely in the hands of individual sinners. Your theology is what I refer to as “sinner-centric,” with the will of the individual being the determining factor. But, the Bible advocates the exact opposite position, declaring that Christ has all the power, all judgment, all grace and will receive all the glory.
Personally, I dislike language such as “abusively infinite” when applied to the character, nature, or works of God. God’s absolute authority and infinite grace are the bedrock of all Christian doctrine. There is no such thing as God being “abusively infinite.” When we discuss Biblical thing, we must use Biblical language.
I trust that my examination of your assumptions was not overly harsh. But, the truth requires a rigorous defense.
By way of instruction, I would say that you have proven yourself incapable of properly handling God’s word. My advice would be to spend more time in study and learning from people like Dr. B. A little humility will go along way. Do not be so quick in your opposition, because your arguments may prove to be groundless or misguided and your credibility quickly undermined.
The primary guilt you possess in this regard is a tendency that is all-too-common among the current crop of Christians. They start with assumptions – philosophical presuppositions, things that they assume to be true. And, then they hunt and peck through the Bible searching for out-of-context phrases that may support what they have already concluded.
One of the most difficult things in the world to do is to read the Bible without being led by our suppositions. Genuine Bible hermeneutics require us to study what the original authors stated and align our theology in accordance with their conclusions.
But again, that’s very hard to do. It requires discipline and it requires humility. It requires us to forego our whimsical notions of what God “ought” to be like. It requires us to stand toe-to-toe with His revelation of Himself and allow Him to be whatever He declares Himself to be, and to act however He shows Himself to act.
Q – Thanks for your help in this regard,
Jim – Well, given the tone and tenor of this exchange, I hope you don’t regret writing and asking for help. I mean you no harm and I hope that my words convey the love I have for God’s word and the truth of salvation by grace through faith.
Feel free to write if the urge strikes. I am always willing to discuss these things. Perhaps we can keep our future correspondence to more “bite-size” chunks, though.
Thank you for your patience in wading through this response.
I pray that God’s richest blessings will be yours and that His grace will ever be your guide.
Yours for His sake,