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When Do We Know They Are Not One of Us?

1 John 2:19 is a cornerstone passage for those who hold to unconditional eternal security and even those who hold to perseverance of the saints.  This verse is said to teach that those who go out from us (from Christians) proves they were never said to begin with.  I differ with this view in that I see 1 John 2:19 in context speaking about false apostles or in this case antichrists who claimed to be apostles like John but their teachings proved they were not apostles.  They went out from among us (apostles) but they were not of us (apostles); for if they had been of us (apostles), they would have continued with us (apostles).  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (apostles).

My question here is when do we know they are not one of us from the eternal security view?  At what point can we declare, “Never saved to begin with?”  I have even heard many exponents of eternal security teach that a person might be living in sin and the Lord will either discipline them to bring them back to Christ (Hebrews 12:3-11) or He will even allow them to die before they completely apostatize (1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 11:29-31).  I have heard eternal security teachers teach that a person living in sin can still be saved and so we are not to judge someone harshly.  They point to the examples of David or Samson as proof that a saint can live in gross sin and still be a child of God.

I have often said that eternal security leads to antinomianism.  How can it not?  The idea that we must be holy is not a true teaching among eternal security teachers.  Yes they preach holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) but they often make statements contrary to holiness teaching such as “we all sin every day” and they view Romans 7 as the highest form of Christian living.  Further, they teach that sin has no effect on the believer so they ignore the Bible’s call to forsake sin (1 John 2:1-2).  They instead teach that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus even though we are warned over and over again not to get a hard heart, not to go back to living in sin, not to forsake Christ.  We are called to perseverance but these teachers teach preservation of the sinner.

This is not a perfection teaching.  I am not advocating that Christians are sinless or that we can obtain sinless perfection though some in the past have advocated such a position.  The Trinitarian hero Athanasius of Alexandria held to perfection.  He taught that saints of God in the Bible had obtained such a state such as Job or Noah.  While I am not advocating that position, I simply point out that Athanasius is viewed as a hero today despite his teaching on perfectionism.  I believe that Christians do sin.  I know.  I sin.  I don’t wake up and seek sinning.  I don’t want to sin.  I don’t try to sin.  But I have sinned.  I am thankful for 1 John 1:9 (which would be pointless if sin has no power over the disciple of Christ).

My point here is not to rail on eternal security.  I know godly people who believe in this doctrine.  I have also known people who used the doctrine for their own flesh.  I have known men who justified pornography by claiming eternal security.  I have known men who committed adultery by claiming eternal security.  I have seen churches ignore church discipline because its possible that the sinning person is truly saved and just needs the Lord’s discipline to come back to faith.  I have seen people “walk the isle” and say “the sinner’s prayer” and be told that they are saved and bound for heaven and are now eternally secure no matter what.  I have heard preachers tell people that they can even become an atheist and God will drag them into heaven kicking and screaming that they don’t want to go.

My point here is to simply ask the probing question, “When is someone deemed never saved to begin with?”  The lines seem blurred.  You could read Revelation 21:7-8 and ask a person who holds to eternal security if these people are not going to heaven and they will likely say, “No they are not.”  “But what about saints who do these things?  Are they still saved or are they never saved to begin with?”  “Well that is tough.  Only God knows a persons heart.  We can’t judge them.  We must leave that to God.”  “So are these people who do the things in Revelation 21:8 saved?”  “No.”  “But you just said that people who do these things might be saved?”  “Well yes we can but we shouldn’t and if we do, it might show that we are not saved to begin with.”  “Can you do these things if you wanted to?” “Yes I could I suppose.”  “Would that make you lost?”  “No because I am eternally secure!”  “Well would that prove you are not saved to begin with?”  “No I am eternally secure!”  “But what about others who do these things, why are they not eternally secure?”  “They possibly are!  God knows!”  “But you said that Revelation 21:8 are lost since they go to hell.”  “Yes they are but Christians can do these things too.”  “Should Christians do them?”  “No” “Why does it matter if they are eternally secure as you claim?”  “Because if a person does them they might not be truly saved.”  “But what about their eternal security? It doesn’t sound very eternal nor secure?”  “Those who are saved will persevere until the end for God keeps them but if they don’t persevere, they were never saved to begin with.” “And if a person does the things in Revelation 21:8 are they proving they are not saved to begin with if they claim to be a disciple?”  “Well only God knows.”

Do you see the circle of eternal security?  It doesn’t produce the assurance of one’s salvation.  I have often argued that if a person is seeking Christ, we have no fear (1 John 4:18).  Jesus said that if we abide in His teachings, we are His disciples (John 8:31-32).  As disciples, we have no fear (Romans 8:38-39).  Those who abide in Christ know that He is their high priest, their salvation, their security (2 Peter 1:10-11).  I fear the Lord because He is holy God (Romans 11:20-22).  I stand in awe of His grace toward me (Romans 6:1-4).  His grace teaches me to hate my sin (Titus 2:11-12).  God’s grace doesn’t give me a license for sinning (Jude 4).

True security is found in persevering in Christ.  True security is not found in teaching people that sin has no power over them.  We must teach the people of God to hate their sins, forsake their sins, confess their sins, and examine themselves (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  Holiness is the heart of God (Hebrews 12:14).  We are holy in Christ and being made holy though Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14).

May the Lord help us all to hate our sins, forsake our sins, kill our sins, and confess our sins.  Our sovereign Father is faithful to help us (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He is faithful to forgive us when we sin (1 John 1:9).  May we run daily to the Lord Jesus and remain faithful to Him always.

The Need for Revival

It doesn’t take much to look around at the wickedness that abounds and to know that we need revival.  So many don’t care about the Lord nor give thought to Him.  Even as I have preached in the open air that all people will die (Hebrews 9:27), so few take thought of their lives and the fact that we are but vapors (James 4:14).  Every person living today will be dead yet they don’t stop to consider this fact even as people die all around them.  So few take the time to consider their lives and to see that they have violated the law of God and deserve His just punishment against sin (James 2:10-12).  They don’t know what awaits them when they die and they don’t seem to care.

Even worse is the state of the Church.  So many are just showing up for their “Sunday services” and give no thought to God during their week.  They don’t pray.  They don’t share their faith.  They don’t worship the Lord Jesus in all they say and do (Colossians 3:17).  They say they love the Lord Jesus and are thankful for His saving work on the cross but they don’t live their lives reflecting HIs grace nor His love (John 14:21).  They would claim heaven but they don’t live like heaven (Matthew 1:21).  They would say that Jesus saved them from their sins while still living in sin (1 John 3:4-10).  The “preachers” are not preaching the gospel but are often found preaching peace and prosperity in the midst of sin.  These preachers are not preaching repentance nor holiness but are preaching a “happy clappy” message that does not save nor sanctifies its hearers.  Jesus is the offended One in their midst and He is often shunned in favor of being popular (Luke 6:26).  The burden for the lost is largely missing.  Where are the tears for the lost?  Where are the tears for those who have not repented of their sins?  Where are those who will call out to God for the lost (Romans 10:1)?

We also lack the urgency in prayer for the lost.  Where are the intercessors for the lost?  Jesus said in Matthew 9:38 that we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He might send out laborers in His harvest.  Where are those who will do this, who will pray for the workers to work the harvest fields?  Paul the Apostle urged prayer for the lost in 1 Timothy 2:1-7.  Where are those who would obey the words of the Apostle and pray?  We are taught by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:10 to pray for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven yet where are those who do this besides those who just repeat the words over and over again without pondering them?  When was the last time you spent hours in prayer just praying for the lost?  Where are the tears for the lost who are bound for hell apart from the grace of God?  Paul the Apostle said he had great sorrow and continual grief in his heart for the lost (Romans 9:2).  Do you?  Do I?

In Ezekiel 9 we read how Ezekiel saw a vision in his time of a man clothed with linen (an angel) and an inkhorn at his side and the Lord told him to go through the midst of the city (Jerusalem).  The Angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Christ) goes through the city and makes the people of God.  We read in Ezekiel 9:4 that He did this to those who “sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it” (NKJV).  What a picture!  The elect of God here are those who are within the city of God who are weeping and crying and detest the wickedness that is around them.  These elect do not share in their sins nor do they face the judgment coming (Ezekiel 9:5-7).

I don’t know what the future holds for our wicked world.  I have optimism that  the Lord will send a revival and that many will be saved from the wrath to come.  I pray Psalm 110:1 for the world.  Yet I also know that God is a holy and righteous God who cannot tolerate wickedness.  His grace and mercy are evident around us while people go on sinning.  I believe 1 Peter 4:17.  I believe that the Lord is calling to His faithful to abandon sin, to live lives of holiness (Hebrews 12:14).  I believe the will of the Lord is for His people to be holy people who love Him and worship Him in all we do.  I believe the Lord is gracious to send a heart for repentance to His people.  I pray that I would be one of those as in the time of Ezekiel 9:4 who sigh and cry over all the abominations.  I pray that I don’t join in with the sinning of the world.  I long to be holy and pure.

I am thankful for the goodness of God revealed in Christ Jesus.  I am thankful that Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  I am thankful that Jesus saved me (Galatians 1:4) and that He saves me from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). I am thankful that Jesus is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  I rejoice that I am saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by my works of righteousness (Titus 3:5).  I worship Him who alone is worthy for His intercession for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).  This salvation is not by my doing but by His going (Colossians 1:13-14; 2:12-13).

Yet I see the need for revival.  I see the great need for the people of God to pray for revival.  What will turn the lost back to the gospel will not be our creativity but the Lord Himself.  What will stir the hearts of those who sit in the churches but are lost will be the Spirit of God.  I pray that the Holy Spirit moves in power upon His Church and that many sinners will hear the gospel and be saved (Romans 10:17).  Jesus came to save sinners (Luke 10:19) and I pray that He glorified in the saving of sinners.  Jesus can truly save a sinner.  He saved this sinner.  Jesus is still saving this sinner from sin.

Oh join with me in praying for revival!  Join with me in praying for the gospel to transform the saints of God.  Join with me in allowing the Holy Spirit to stir your heart toward revival.  Pray for God to be glorified among His saints and for sinners to hear the gospel and be saved.  Rejoice in the mercy of God that saved us and rejoice that God is merciful toward sinners (2 Peter 3:9).  Rejoice that He is patient with the lost (and the saints) and He wants to call all to repentance.  Pray for the Lord to be praised by His saints without fear and with great boldness even before sinners (Acts 4:29).  Pray for the kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/19/2015 at 1:36 PM

Adam Clarke on Apostasy

There has been much spoken against the doctrine of what is called free will by persons who seem not to have understood the term. Will is a free principle. Free will is as absurd as bound will: it is not will if it be not free; and if it be bound, it is no will. Volition is essential to the being of the soul, and to all rational and intellectual beings. This is the most essential discrimination between matter and spirit. Matter can have no choice, spirit has. Ratiocination is essential to intellect; and from these volition is inseparable. God uniformly treats man as a free agent; and on this principle the whole of divine revelation is constructed, as is also the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. If a man be forced to believe, he believes not at all: it is the forcing power that believes, not the machine forced. If he be forced to obey, it is the forcing power that obeys; and he, as a machine, shows only the effect of this irresistible force. If a man be incapable of willing good and willing evil, he is incapable of being saved as a rational being; and if he acts only under an overwhelming compulsion, he is as incapable of being damned. In short, this doctrine reduces him either to a puncture stans, which by the vis inertiae is incapable of being moved, but as acted upon by foreign influence; or, as an intellectual being, to nonentity.

The power to will and the power to act must necessarily come from God, who is the Author both of the soul and the body, and of all their powers and energies; but the act of volition and the act of working come from the man. God gives power to will: man wills through that power; God gives power to act, and man acts through that power. Without the power to will man can will nothing; without the power to work, man can do nothing. God neither wills for man, nor works in man’s stead, but he furnishes him with power to do both; he is, therefore, accountable to God for these powers.

It is only in the use of lawful means that we have any reason to expect God’s blessing and help. One of the ancients has remarked, “Though God has made man without himself, he will not save him without himself;” and therefore man’s own concurrence of will, and co-operation of power with God, are essentially necessary to his preservation and salvation. This co-operation is the grand condition, sine qua non, of which God will help or save. But is not this endeavoring to merit salvation by our own works? No: for this is impossible, unless we could prove that all the mental and corporeal powers which we possess come from and of ourselves, and that we hold them independently of the power and beneficence of our Creator; and that every act of these was of infinite value, to make it an equivalent for the heaven we wished to purchase. Putting forth the band to receive the alms of a benevolent man, can never be considered a purchase price for the bounty bestowed. For ever shall that word stand true in all its parts, “Christ is the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.”

It is not for want of holy resolutions and heavenly influences that men are not saved, but through their own unsteadiness; they do not persevere, they forget the necessity of continuing in prayer, and thus the Holy Spirit is grieved, departs from them, and leaves them to their own darkness and hardness of heart. When we consider the heavenly influences which many receive who draw back to perdition, and the good fruits which, for a time, they bore, it is blasphemy to say, They had no genuine, or saving grace. They had it, they showed it, they trifled with it, and sinned against it; and therefore are lost.

What a comfortable thought it is to the followers of Christ, that neither men nor demons can act against them but by the permission of their heavenly Father, and that he will not suffer any of those who trust in him to be tried above what they are able to bear, and will make the trial end in their greater salvation, and in his glory!

Slothfulness is natural to man; it requires much training to induce him to labor for his daily bread: if God should miraculously send it, he will wonder and eat it; and that is the whole. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate,” is an ungracious word to many; they profess to trust in God’s mercy, but labor not to enter that rest. God will not reverse his purpose to meet their slothfulness: they alone who overcome shall sit with Jesus on his throne. Reader, “take unto thee the whole armor of God, that thou mayest be able to stand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.” And remember that he only who endures to the end shall be saved.

If to “watch” be to employ ourselves chiefly about the business of our salvation, alas! how few of those who are called Christians are there who do watch! how many who slumber! how many who are asleep! how many seized with a lethargy! how many quite dead!

You have many enemies; be continually on your guard; be always circumspect: 1. Be watchful against evil. 2. Watch for opportunities to do good. 3. Watch over each other in love. 4. Watch that none may draw you aside from the belief and unity of the gospel.

He that is self-confident is already half fallen. He who professes to believe that God will absolutely keep him from falling finally, and neglects watching unto prayer, is not in a safer state. He who lives by the moment, walks in the light, and maintains his communion with God, is in no danger of apostasy.

Will it avail any of us how near we get to heaven, if the door be shut before we arrive? How dreadful the thought, to have only missed being eternally saved! to aim well and yet to permit the devil, the world, or the flesh, to hinder in the few last steps! Reader, watch and be sober.

For want of a little more dependence upon God, how often does an excellent beginning come to an unhappy conclusion! Many who were on the borders of the promised land, and about to cross Jordan, have, through an act of unfaithfulness, been turned back to wander many a dreary year in the wilderness. Reader, be on thy guard. Trust in Christ, and watch unto prayer.

He who changes from opinion to opinion, and from one sect or party to another, is never to be depended on; there is much reason to believe that such a person is either mentally weak, or has never been rationally and divinely convinced of the truth.

The apostle shows here five degrees of apostasy: 1. Consenting to sin; being deceived by its solicitations. 2. Hardness of heart through giving way to sin. 3. Unbelief in consequence of this hardness, which leads them to call even the truth of the gospel in question. 4. This unbelief causing them to speak evil of the gospel, and the provision God has made for the salvation of their souls. 5. Apostasy itself, or falling off from the living God, and thus extinguishing all the light that was in them, and finally grieving the Spirit of God, so that he takes his flight, and leaves them to a seared conscience and reprobate mind. He who begins to give the least way to sin is in danger of final apostasy: the best remedy against this is, to get the evil heart removed; as one murderer in the house is more to be dreaded than ten without. Every believer in Christ is in danger of apostasy while any remains of the evil heart of unbelief are found in him. God has promised to purify the heart, and the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. It is, therefore, the highest wisdom of genuine Christians to look to God for the complete purification of their souls; this they cannot have too soon, and for this they cannot be too much in earnest. Who can adequately describe the misery and wretchedness of that soul which has lost its union with the Fountain of all good, and, in losing this, has lost the possibility of happiness till the simple eye be once more given, and the straight line once more drawn?

How strange is it that there should be found any backslider! that one who once felt the power of Christ should ever turn aside! But it is still stranger that any one who has felt it, and given, in his life and conversation, full proof that he has felt it, should not only let it slip, but at last deny that he ever had it, and even ridicule a work of grace in the heart! Such instances have appeared among men.

Where there are so many snares and dangers, it is impossible to be too watchful and circumspect. Satan, as a roaring lion, as a subtle serpent, or in the guise of an angel of light, is momentarily going about seeking whom he may deceive, blind, and devour; and, when it is considered that the human heart, till entirely renewed, is on his side, it is a miracle of mercy that any soul escapes perdition: no man is safe any longer than he maintains the spirit of watchfulness and prayer; and to maintain such a spirit, he has need of all the means of grace. He who neglects any of them which the mercy of God has placed in his power, tempts the devil to tempt him. As a preventive of backsliding and apostasy, the apostle recommends mutual exhortation. No Christian should live for himself alone; he should consider his fellow Christian as a member of the same body, and feel for him accordingly, and love, succor, and protect him. When this is carefully attended to in religions society, Satan finds it very difficult to make an inroad on the church; but when coldness, distance, and want of brotherly love take place, Satan can attack each singly, and, by successive victories over individuals, soon make an easy conquest of the whole.

“But he that lacketh these things:” he, whether Jew or Gentile, who professes to have faith in God, and has not added to that faith, fortitude, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and universal love, “is blind,” his understanding is darkened, and cannot see afar off, shutting his eyes against the light, winking, not able to look truth in the face, nor to behold that God whom he once knew was reconciled to him; and thus it appears he is willfully blind, “and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” — has at last, through the non-improvement of the grace which he received from God, his faith ceasing to work by love, lost the evidence of things not seen: for, having grieved the Holy Spirit by not showing forth the virtues of Him who called him into his marvelous light, he has lost the testimony of his sonship; and then darkness and hardness having taken the place of light and filial confidence, he first calls all his former experience into doubt; — questions whether he has not put enthusiasm in the place of religion. By these means his darkness and hardness increase, his memory becomes indistinct and confused, till at length he forgets the work of God on his soul, next denies it, and at last asserts that the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins is impossible, and that no man can be saved from sin in this life. Indeed, some go so far as to deny the Lord that bought them; to renounce Jesus Christ as having made atonement for them; and finish their career of apostasy by utterly denying his godhead. Many cases of this kind have I known; and they are all the consequence of believers not continuing to be workers together with God, after they had experienced his pardoning love.

Here (2 Peter ii, 22) is a sad proof of the possibility of falling from grace, and from very high degrees of it too. These had escaped from the contagion that was in the world; they had had true repentance, and cast up “their sour-sweet morsel of sin;” they had been washed from all their filthiness, and this must have been through the blood of the Lamb; yet, after all, they went back, got entangled with their old sins, swallowed down their formerly rejected lusts, and rewallowed in the mire of corruption. It is no wonder that God should say, “The latter end is worse with them than the beginning:” reason and nature say, “It must be so;” and divine justice says, “It ought to be so;” and the person himself must confess that it is right that it should be so. But how dreadful is this state! How dangerous, when the person has abandoned himself to his old sins! Yet it is not said that it is impossible for him to return to his Maker; though his case be deplorable, it is not utterly hopeless; the leper may yet be made clean, and the dead may be raised. Reader, is thy backsliding a grief and burden to thee? Then thou art not far from the kingdom of God; believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.

The backslider’s soul, before influenced by the Spirit of God, dilated and expanded under its heavenly influences, becomes more capable of refinement in iniquity, as its powers are more capacious than formerly. Evil habits are formed and strengthened by relapses; and relapses are multiplied, and become more incurable, through new habits.

A soul cut off from the flock of God is in an awful state! His outward defense is departed from him; and being no longer accountable to any for his conduct, he generally plunges into unprecedented depths of iniquity, and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. Reader, art thou without the pale of God’s church? Remember, it is written, “Them that are without, God judgeth.”

The backslider’s affections and desires are no longer busied with the things of God, but gad about, like an idle person, among the vanities of a perishing world. Swept from love, meekness, and all the fruits of the Spirit; and garnished, or adorned, decorated with the vain showy trifles of folly and fashion. This may comprise also smart speeches, cunning repartees, &c., for which many who have lost the life of God are very remarkable.

In a state of probation every thing may change. While we are in life we may stand or fall. Our standing in the faith depends on our union with God; and that depends on our watching unto prayer, and continuing to possess that faith that worketh by love. The highest saint under heaven can stand no longer than he depends upon God, and continues in the obedience of faith. He that ceases to do so will fall into sin, and get a darkened understanding and a hardened heart; and he may continue in this state till God come to take away his soul. Therefore, let him who most assuredly standeth take heed lest he fall, not only partially, but finally.

When probation ends, eternity begins. In a state of trial the good may change to bad, the bad to good. It is utterly absurd to say that the day of grace may end before the day of life. It is impossible; as then the state of probation would be confounded with eternity. The Scriptures alleged by some in behalf of their sentiment are utterly misunderstood and misapplied. There can be no truer proverb than, “While there is life there is hope.” Probation necessarily implies the possibility of change.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/14/2014 at 11:13 AM

The Antinomianism of Eternal Security

I was browsing a popular Calvinist site and they stated the following about belief in personal apostasy (though they word it as “losing your salvation”):

If Jesus always does the what pleases the Father of the Father and the will of the Father is that Jesus lose none and that those who are given to Jesus will be raised (to glory), then how is it possible for Jesus to lose somebody by them losing their salvation?” This is a serious issue because there is a hidden danger in the issue of being able to lose one’s salvation. That danger is that you maintain it by keeping the law.

The writer of this post pointed to passages such as John 6:37, 39.  I know they would also point to many more passages that speak of the security we have in Christ.  However, I agree with Dr. Michael Brown here when he wrote in his book, Hyper-Gracewriting about the issue of eternal security:

“How then do we sort things out?  It’s really very simple.  God’s promises are to believers – to those who want to follow the Lord and whose lives belong to Him – not to rebels who have chosen sin and rejected His Lordship.”

Brown goes on to write,

“Find me one verse anywhere in the Bible – just one – that gives assurance of eternal life and blessing to an unrepentant rebel who is living in willful, persistent sin, denying the Lord in an ongoing, hardened way.”

I agree.  The Bible does not offer assurance of salvation to those who reject Christ and His Lordship over our lives.  There are no promises given to rebels.  The promises of God are given only to those who have a saving faith in Christ Jesus.  All of the promises about the security of our salvation are given to those who are already saved, already abiding in Christ.  But the warnings as well!  The many warning passages are given to the very same people who are trusting in Christ alone to save them.

Consider the John 6 passages that the above writer cites.  John 6:40 is key.  It reads:

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

The Greek is emphatic here that the one believing is believing.  The one believing in Jesus has eternal life and the promise is that Jesus will raise them up on the last day.  But the passage states nothing about what should happen if the person does not believe.  Mark 16:16 is clear on this: the one who does not believe will be condemned.

1 John 2:24-25 calls our attention here as well:

24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

Notice that the Calvinist above states that belief in apostasy is dangerous because, in their view, this will lead to keeping the law to keep oneself saved.  In other words, there is nothing we can do to keep ourselves saved.  We must have an antinomian view when it comes to “keeping saved.”  There is nothing we can do.

Is this what the Bible teaches?  I am not suggesting that there are “works” that we must do to keep ourselves saved.  Obviously works do not save us before faith in Christ and they do not after faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; cf. John 6:29).  However, works do display our salvation (Ephesians 2:10).  James 2:14-17 is clear on this:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

While works do not produce salvation, they do flow from salvation.  Salvation is not laziness.  Salvation is not resting in a past experience to get us to heaven (“I said the prayer” or “I was baptized”).  Salvation is not hope in concepts or in doctrines.  Salvation is faith in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).  Our salvation is based on Him and Him alone.  We look to Him and He empowers us by His grace to serve Him as Lord.  Salvation is a radical transformation of the entire person (2 Corinthians 5:17).

How then do we “maintain” salvation?  By looking to Christ.  By keeping our faith in Him.  Paul preached to the disciples in Acts 14:22:

strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Paul the Apostle wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:24 about saving faith and security:

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

I love what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-16 (NKJV):

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

Notice that it is God who works in us to produce good works (v. 13).  Yet there is a synergism to our sanctification.  None will debate this other than hyper-Calvinists.  God works in us but we too must obey God (John 14:15).

The book of Hebrews is full of warnings about remaining faithful to the Lord (Hebrews 2:1; 3:6-19; 4:1-16; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-16; 12:1-29).

I would believe that most Calvinists would agree with me (perhaps disagreeing over various warning passages) but the belief in eternal security as stated above would not produce a joy in resting in Jesus and being faithful to Him.

In conclusion, we Arminians preach that we are saved by faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) and we are kept through faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:5).  We make our calling and election sure by abiding in Christ (2 Peter 1:3-11).  Good works flow from being saved.  They do not produce nor keep us saved but are signs of salvation.  Jude warns us in Jude 20-21:

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

And if we do this we have the promise of Jude 24-25:

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

May we not turn the grace of our God in a license for sin (Jude 4) but let us keep our eyes on Jesus and lay aside all the weight of sin (Hebrews 12:1-2).

 

How Does One “Fall from Grace”? From Jack Cottrell

In Dr. Jack Cottrell’s systematic theology text, The Faith Once For All, he concludes that the Bible teaches conditional security of the believer rather than unconditional security of the believer.  His point is not only that we are justified through faith (Romans 5:1) but we remain justified by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ.  One then falls from grace when faith in the blood of Jesus dies.  Thus the call of the New Testament is to continue in the faith (Colossians 1:21-23), to keep our faith despite what we may face in this world (1 Peter 1:3-9), to keep our faith in Jesus until the very end (2 Peter 1:10-11) and to remain steadfast in Christ Jesus (Jude 21).  The promises of God regarding our assurance of our salvation are precious to the child of God and we must trust them (Romans 8:38-39) but to ignore the warning passages of Scripture in favor of “security” passages would pit Scripture against Scripture.  We should accept both as truthful.

Dr. Cottrell lists three ways in which we fall from grace.  I will cite them with limited comments.

1.  Faith may be put to death through an act of spiritual suicide (spiritual, not physical).  This happens by a deliberate decision to stop believing in Christ and His saving work, thus renouncing the Christian faith.  This seems to be the focus of the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-23; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-15; 12:1-29).

2.  A second way faith may die is through slow starvation (spiritual, not physical).  When we fail to add to our faith (2 Peter 1:5) and when we fail to abide in the teachings of the Christ (John 8:31-32) or fellowship of the saints (Acts 2:42), our faith can become weak and left alone, can die from starvation.  This would be the dead faith of James 2:26.  If we fail to extend our roots (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21), we can fall away.

3.  The third way that faith may die is through strangulation by sin.  Romans 8:13 is clear that if we are controlled by our flesh, we will die.  We are not to abide in sin since we have been freed from it through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:1-4).  We must guard against sin overtaking us again (2 Peter 2:20).  The grace of God has been given to us to help us overcome sin and not abide in it (Titus 2:11-12).  Sin only leads to death (James 1:12-15).

In conclusion, Dr. Cottrell believes that the promise of God is to keep us (1 Peter 1:5) but the disciple of Jesus must also make an effort through personal responsibility to remain faithful to the Lord.  I have met people who claimed to be “once saved, always saved” despite 1 John 2:3-6 being true of them.  Sadly, the Church often has erred on the issue of assurance by either teaching that a person is secure no matter what (unconditional) or they have erred in teaching that just one sin will cause you to “lose your salvation.”  Both are wrong.  We must be balanced biblically on this issue.

Apostasy (or Whatever) is Always Tragic

I have been a disciple of Jesus since 1992.  Over those years I have seen many people come and go in regard to Christianity.  I could tell you one sad story after another of people who fell away from the faith.  We could debate whether they were ever saved to begin with but what is the point?  Apostasy (or whatever) is always tragic.  It should break our hearts to meet “former” Christians who once seemed to love the Lord, hungered for His presence, spent countless hours in prayer, and witnessed to others.  Some of my friends who have fallen away include men who once preached the gospel (whether they were saved is another issue but they did preach the gospel in truth).  I have known guys I went to college with who once loved to gather and pray and today they are shells of what they once were.  I have had friends ruin their marriages by adultery and left their wives for other women (and their faith as well).

Apostasy is always tragic.  Whether you deny they were saved or not, let’s agree here that they must repent.  We long for them to repent!  I pray you do.  We should not gloat over a person falling away from Christ.  We should weep and it should warn us as well (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Humility must be maintained when it comes to how we view “former” Christians.  Proverbs 16:18 reads, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Proverbs 18:12 reads, “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”  Galatians 6:1 reminds us to watch ourselves when we are dealing with someone caught in any transgression.  Galatians 6:3 is clear: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  We must guard against the temptation to look down on those who fall away.  We can become prideful and think that we will never sin like they have sinned.  We boast they were are secure in Christ and that  nothing will ever turn us away from following Jesus (like Peter in Matthew 26:33).  But beware of this. Beware of pride and an attitude that says, “I will never fall into the same sin they did.”

I assure you that those who have turned away from Christ, at some point, probably never dreamed they would.  I can still remember the prayers of one man I know who fell away and how earnest he was in his prayers.  This man would go witnessing with me in college.  He would often cry out for revival in our nation.  Yet today he is living in complete rebellion against God.  He wants nothing of the kingdom.  Nothing!  He claims to be agnostic now and believes Christianity to be nothing more than a joke.  Yet if I could go back to 1996 and talk to this man I am sure he would have said that he loved Jesus, would never fall away and would assure you that he would always be a child of God.

I am not writing this to scare you or myself.  I pray daily for the Lord to help me hate sin.  I don’t want to sin (1 John 2:1).  I want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Yet I see that it is easy to slip into pride and think that I won’t fall away from Christ.  I won’t give in to sin.  I will be strong when temptation comes. I will stand secure in Christ.  I pray that I will but I must rest in Christ alone to help me.  I cannot overcome sin by my will power.  I cannot overcome sin by promises.  I overcome sin by the grace of God (Titus 2:12).  I remain steadfast in Christ through faith in Him and a focus upon Him (Hebrews 12:1-2).  I fear Him lest I deny Him (Romans 11:20-22).

I don’t live in insecurity.  I do trust the promises of God to keep me (Jude 24-25) but I also look to Jesus alone to help me overcome (1 John 5:1-4).  I know that I am not saved by my works but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save me (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7).  My salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:3-6) and I rest in His work (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:10, 14) knowing that He saved me and He is sanctifying me for His glory (Ephesians 1:3-14).

For those we know who have turned away from Christ, let us pray for them to repent.  Whether they were never saved to begin with is another issue altogether.  We believe that a person is saved through Christ Jesus but they must remain in Christ to be saved and remain saved.  Even my Calvinist brethren teach that a person who does not persevere in the faith is not a true disciple of Jesus and I agree.  A true disciple of Jesus is one who keeps their eyes on Jesus and looks to Him alone to save them, to keep them, and to give them eternal life (John 8:51).  Let us pray for those who have turned away to truly come to know this Savior and find rest in Him.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/16/2014 at 8:07 PM

Short Thoughts on Apostasy

Someone asked, “Must one hold to apostasy to be an Arminian or can one hold to eternal security and be an Arminian?”

I have met both.  I personally reject the teaching of eternal security apart from a living faith in Christ.  I do believe that in eternity, we shall forever be sealed to our Master but for now, I hold that a person is saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and kept by faith (1 Peter 1:5).  I know the Calvinist will counter that the faith we have comes from God and thus He is able to keep us but none will deny that our faith is well our faith.  God doesn’t believe for me.  Certainly I agree that His grace enables me to believe and I am saved by His grace but this does not negate personal responsibility (a point that nearly all Calvinists agree with me on).  We are responsible to believe and through belief, we are saved but this faith is not a dead faith.  It is not a faith in facts about the gospel or faith in the writings of Arminius or Calvin.  Our faith must be a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (James 2:14-26).  The gospel produces works (Ephesians 2:10).

The problem is that there are many apostasy passages in the New Testament (not to mention the countless warnings in the Old).  We must do something with them.  In my estimation we have three options.  We can:

  1. Ignore the warning passages altogether.
  2. Make the warning passages not aimed at disciples of Jesus but either unsaved or “half-saved” (as I have seen taught on the warning passages in Hebrews).  Teach they are hypothetical and can never really happen to the truly saved.
  3. Accept the warning passages as real and deal with each of them as such.  This is my approach.

I have met Arminians who say that if you hold to “once saved, always saved” you are in grave error since you will no doubt teach that sin has no bearing on the life of a disciple.  These Arminians fear that eternal security will lead to cheap grace and antinomianism.

I have also met those who have told me that I am not saved because I reject eternal security.  They believe that such a view as mine leads to “works righteousness” since I teach that perseverance is necessary for final salvation.  I have met most of these guys on Twitter and they are relentless in tweeting over and over and over again that if you hold to apostasy, you are not saved.

Charles Spurgeon had written on the doorpost of his college, “Holding fast, I am held.”  That is my motto as well.  Where can I go?  Jesus is the one who gives life (John 6:68).  I cling to Him (John 8:51).  I long for Him (John 15:1-11).  I know I am held in Him by His grace (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39). I look to Him alone to save me and keep me (Hebrews 12:1-2; Revelation 3:5).  I know I am hidden with Him (Colossians 3:3).  He is my life (Colossians 3:4).  I have no fear in Him (Romans 8:1).  I am confident in Him (Philippians 1:6).  But I do fear Him (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 11:20-22).  I do not want to abuse His grace (Titus 2:12; Hebrews 10:26-31).  I pray that I would be able to say with Paul the Apostle in 2 Timothy 4:7:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

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