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Why salvation in Jesus Christ is once and for all!
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This essay is one in a collection of articles on salvation. The Bible does indicate that the believer is secure. Arminianism disputes this and believes that a believer can fall away and lose his salvation. Many other believers affirm the eternal security of the believer. There are many passages in the Bible which are used to promote the eternal security of the believer and others passages used against it. Obviously one side is right and the other is wrong. I believe in the eternal security of the believer and I am endeavouring to defend this teaching. I will examine some of the texts used against the doctrine (time does not permit me to examine them all, there are numerous passages that appear to maintain both positions). The most common objection to the doctrine of eternal security is not exegetical but pragmatic. Anti-eternal security advocates object that we provide a licence to sin if we teach this doctrine. In reality, these objectors do not understand the grace of God any more than those who abuse the same teaching. It is Gods grace that has brought us salvation, and the same grace which teaches us to live holy lives, not to live to please ourselves. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14) The Bible does not spur us to holiness by threatening us with a lost salvation. Instead it appeals to us on the basis of our salvation: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3) The same gracious words were spoken to the Corinthians: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Here Paul is saying “do not be like the unrighteous. That is what some of you were, this is how they behave but you have nothing to do with these sins”. The term “unrighteous” designates an unsaved person. The Corinthians, however, were sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints (c1v2) despite the fact that they were guilty of the sins listed here. The case of disobedient believers will be looked at later. Another example of beseeching us to holiness is found in Ephesians 5: But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of
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disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. (v3-12) Again Paul contrasts believers from unbelievers, not with a threat of a lost salvation if they do not behave, but simply saying “because you are light in the Lord and not a child of disobedience do not be partakers with them”. We now turn our attention to a defence of eternal security. When someone is saved, God gives that individual to the Lord Jesus Christ for security. As a good shepherd, the Lord makes sure that his sheep do not get lost. The most airtight verses confirming this are found in Johns gospel: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (6:37-40) Some Arminians argue that the continuous tense of the word “believe” means that we have insecurity if we stop believing. This ignores the first part of the statement: God gives you to Christ once for all and if you end up lost again, Christ has failed in doing his fathers will. Christ, as the good shepherd, keeps his flock safely. This is shown later in Johns gospel: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.(10:28-29) Christ can lose none of his sheep. Arminians lay emphasis on the words “and they follow me” indicating that only if his sheep follow him will they have eternal life. That exegesis doesn't hold water as Christ did not word it as a condition – he said that it was characteristic of his sheep to follow him. It does not say, as the Arminian argues “My sheep, if they hear my voice and follow, will have eternal life”. They follow him because they have eternal life – not the reverse. So far we have seen the work of the Father and The Son in our salvation. The Holy Spirit also has a role in our security. In Ephesians 4:30 it asks us to “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption”. A seal was a mark of ownership, and the seal of the Spirit indicates Gods mark of ownership upon you. We are sealed until the day of redemption, not “until we sin so badly”. We see here another gracious entreaty to holiness – because the Spirit has sealed us until the redemption, we are asked not to grieve him. There is no threat of “unsealing” attached. An eternal security passage par excellence is found in Romans: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am
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persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39) This marvellous truth is only for believers, and is written as an encouragement to them as they are undergoing persecution for their faith. Nothing, including ourselves, can separate us from Gods love. Peters first epistle contains another verse on the preservation of believers: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5) Literally translated this means that our inheritance is certain and that as heirs we are constantly guarded by Gods power. As John Nelson Darby stated: If the inheritance is preserved in heaven for us, we are kept by the power of God all through our pilgrimage that we may enjoy it at the end. Sweet thought!-we are kept here below through all our dangers and difficulties; and, on the other hand, the inheritance there, where there is no defilement or possibility of decay. But it is by moral means that this power preserves us (and it is in this way that Peter always speaks), by the operation in us of grace, which fixes the heart on objects that keep it in connection with God and with His promise. (Compare 2 Peter i. 4.) We are kept by the power of God through faith. It is, God be praised, the power of God Himself; but it acts by sustaining faith in the heart, maintaining it in spite of all temptations above all the defilement of the world, and filling the affection with heavenly things.1 The phrase “by faith” must not be ignored in this passage. That is the other side to the issues of security and assurance. The words of the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrate the practical outworking of this faith: Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33) A believers confession of Christ is an evidence of his faith, not an additional work to add to the price of his redemption. To disown Christ now will mean that Christ will disown that individual when he stands before Gods throne. This passage is set against the Pharisees who constantly denied the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as compared to the disciples who confessed his name constantly. Believers have lapses also. Peter denied Christ three times, and other believers in the past have denied Christ. The aorist tense of the verb “deny” most likely indicates someone who denied Christ throughout his entire life rather than referring to one act of denial. Christ foreknew that Peter was going to deny him before his crucifixion and prayed that his faith would not fail, indicating that Christ is preserving those who are his. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him,
1 John Darbys Synopsis of The New Testament. Page 4 of 9
seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25) In Matthews gospel we have another verse which illustrates the character of faith in the believer: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt 7:21-23) This verse says that those who “do the will” of God The Father enter into heaven. We assert again that this is characteristic of a true believer, not a condition. In context, Jesus is making his followers aware of false prophets and it is these false prophets that he is primarily speaking of (v1520). Jesus said you would recognise these people by their fruit. The fruits of prophets and teachers are their their prophecies and their teachings. It is not primarily to be determined by their outward behaviour or their lives. It is these who receive a condemnation from the Lord as they practiced this iniquity. Jesus is not here speaking about pew-warmers or inactive believers but professors of religion involved in ministry. John Gill helpfully points out regarding these prophets: Judas, for one, was capable of pleading all these things; he had the gift of preaching, and a call from Christ to it, and yet a castaway; he had the power of casting out devils, and yet could not prevent the devil from entering into him; he could perform miracles, do wonders in Christ's name, and yet, at last, was the betrayer of him. These pleas and arguments will be of no use to him, nor of any avail to any at the great day. It may be observed, that these men lay the whole stress of their salvation upon what they have done in Christ's name; and not on Christ himself, in whom there is salvation, and in no other: they say not a syllable of what Christ has done and suffered, but only of what they have done.2 They pleaded with the Lord on the basis of their works, not upon the grace of God. Their words are very different from that the of the hymnwriter Augustus Toplady: Not the labors of my hands can fulfill thy law's commands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.
John Gills Exposition of The Entire Bible, Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario. Page 5 of 9
Section Two: Backsliding
In the last section we saw the balance between the preservation of believers and their perseverance. Obviously, believers do fall into sin and backsliding is a possibility. Every saint is a sinner. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and yet had an alcohol problem. Lot lacked character and pitched his dwelling next to Sodom, even offering his young daughters to these wicked men, and yet the apostle Peter referred to him as “righteous”. King David committed both adultery and murder. Solomon fell due to his lust for women. Sin in a believers life does not make them lose their salvation, but it does rob them of their blessings from, and communion with, God. Christians are out of fellowship with God will cry as David did: When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. David experienced Gods displeasure and consequently his discipline. Because of this discipline David confessed his sins: I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. Gods hand upon David was evidence that he still belonged in the family. What happens if a believer does not repent and exhausts Gods patience? King Saul did exactly this – he reigned in Israel for 40 years and for most of them he was disobedient. The final straw came when he consulted the witch from Endor to speak to Samuel – God is angry and so is Samuel: And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.(1 Sam 28:15-19, emphasis added) God took Sauls life but was promised that he would be with Samuel in the presence of God the next day. This is not a premature reward in any way, as to lose your life on earth is to lose any further opportunity for rewards in the eternal state. The Corinthian believers also incurred Gods condemnation when they took the Lords Supper in an unworthy manner: Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we
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would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:27-32). As with King Saul, the salvation of the Corinthians was secure and their destruction of their bodies was so that they would not be condemned with unbelievers. The same is the case with two other cases of disobedience: It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor 5:1-5) This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Tim 1:18-20). This discipline is remedial, not final rejection from God or from Christian fellowship. I believe that the above are examples of the “sin unto death” that the apostle John spoke of (1 John 5:16). Gods discipline can be very severe and a Christian is not free to sin and get away with it.
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Eternal Security: Misunderstood Passages
There are a number of other verses used by Arminians to teach that a true believer can lose his salvation. Time only permits a selection of verses to examined so this chapter will look at a selection of them. Pauls second letter to Timothy contains a hymn which was used in the early church: It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. The phrase “if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him” likely refers not to our positional truth of being “dead with Christ” but those who are physically martyred for his cause. Those who are still alive are suffering with him and will have a great reward. There are many who have lapses in faith and deny Christ (such as Timothy and Peter). Christ remains faithful to them as they belong to him, and he cannot deny himself. Confessing Christ is not an addition to faith but a result of faith. Faith implies fidelity - those who renounce Christ finally only demonstrate that they have never been saved. It is not our works for Christ that saves – Christ saves us. Because true believers have the Holy Spirit, they can discern the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of error and we are exhorted to use that discernment. These false teachers which Jesus warns us about deny are unsaved and prove that by deserting them: Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (1 John 2:18-19) These false teachers deny the title of Christ (v22), the humanity of Christ (4:3) and the deity of Christ amongst other heresies. Some will even come in Christs name as the end of the age approaches (Matt 24:24). True believers will not be taken in by these deceivers. There are other verses which are used to teach “conditional salvation” in Matthew: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matt 10:1622) Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall
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wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matt 24:9-13) This verse does not teach that one must endure in order “to qualify for salvation” as some maintain. It says “he that endures to the end shall be saved” - but saved from what? The context is about believers being hated and put to death and that those who are still standing when Christ returns will be rescued – not all are going to be martyred. As The Complete Jewish Bible translates it: “Everyone will hate you because of me, but whoever holds out till the end will be preserved from harm.”3. Another verse which is often used against eternal security is in Revelation: He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Rev 3:5) Arminians hasten to add to this verse, saying, “and if you don't overcome your name WILL be blotted out” and then emphasize that at the expense of the positive statement it affirms. They then fail to state who it is that overcomes. The verse itself does not say who the overcomer is, but John, who wrote the book of Revelation, did elsewhere: I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:12-14) For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5) The believer is the overcomer. Again, Arminians stress the continuous tense of but overlook the fact that this follows the new birth, which is an act done by God once and for all. This is actually a positive affirmation that the overcomer will not be blotted out of the book of life. Why does Christ make this statement? In the city of Sardis it was common practice to strip Christians of their citizenship and thus remove their names from the city register. Jesus is making a contrast to this, affirming to them that they will never be blotted out his book. Information This article was written by Christopher Skinner and is available on the Scribd electronic publishing site at http://www.scribd.com/chris-skinner which contains the following essays in the same series: God So Loved The World. Whosoever Will, Whosoever Won't. God's Election of Saints. Predestined to Hell? No! A Study of Romans 9 Eternal Security: The Warnings in Hebrews
3 The Complete Jewish Bible, copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. www.messianicjewish.net/jntp. Distributed by Messianic Jewish Resources. www.messianicjewish.net. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Page 9 of 9
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