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The Conditional Texts

There are over 85 New Testament passages that speak of conditional security of the believer.  The Church has struggled with what to do with them.  There are basically three approaches.  First, we make them all be only speculative.  They are not real.  They are just there to hypothetically warn us.  The second approach is to say that they speak to those who are not true disciples of Jesus.  These are false converts and the Lord is giving these warning texts to warn false disciples.  The final approach is to hold that the apostasy texts speak of very real warnings to disciples.  Disciples are to remain faithful to Christ Jesus from the beginning to end.

I hold to the final view.  Most Arminians do.  If you heard a sound Arminian preach the warning texts, they would sound very much like Calvinists do who hold to perseverance of the saints but we would differ with the Calvinists over whether apostasy is true or not.  Calvinists such as John MacArthur hold that true saints will persevere to the end but he believes that false converts will be shown by leaving the faith (1 John 2:19).  This is a popular view and I admit that I have more in line with this view then with the view of radical “once saved, always saved” teachers such as Charles Stanley or Tony Evans.  Ray Comfort, whom I greatly love, holds to MacArthur’s view.

The problem I have with this view (of perseverance of the saints) is twofold for me.  First, most Calvinists (and some Arminians who hold to eternal security) preach hard on the assurance of our salvation (Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:4-6) but they don’t preach as hard on the necessity of perseverance.  I fear that some do this wanting to promote assurance while failing to preach the full council of God.  The Scriptures are balanced in showing us that we are saved by faith and kept by faith (1 Peter 1:5), that we are secure in Christ Jesus (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39) but we must remain in Christ (1 John 2:24-25; Jude 21).  The balance view of Scripture is that God saves us and He keeps us (Jude 24) but He also warns us to continue in the faith (Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23; 2 Peter 1:10-11).

The second problem I have with the view above of MacArthur or Comfort is that it doesn’t truly promote assurance.  A person would wonder each time they sin whether they are not elect or not.  After all, as MacArthur preaches, the true elect will persevere and those who fail to persevere were never saved to begin with.  How can one have assurance then apart from preaching necessary perseverance?  Surely we should preach as Paul the Apostle did in Acts 14:22?  The promise of Jesus in John 8:51 is that if we keep His Word, we will never see death.  We will die naturally in this world (Romans 5:12) but we will never die for eternity if we keep His Word (John 3:16-17).

The truth is that the conditional texts do not scare me.  They do not make me feel less saved.  They do not make me believe that i am working to keep myself saved.  In fact, just the opposite happens to me.  I thank God for the conditional texts.  I am thankful that God cares enough about my soul to warn me to continue in the faith.  I am thankful that God’s Word warns against sin (Galatians 6:7-9) and His Word calls me to forsake my sins while trusting in Christ and His grace to help me overcome sin (Titus 2:11-12; 1 John 2:1-2; 3:4-10).  I am thankful for the work of the Lord Jesus in saving me from sins by His grace and through faith in His blood (Romans 3:23-24).  Yet I equally fear Him just as He said (Luke 12:4-5).  I humble myself before the Lord Jesus and confess that I not only need Him for my salvation but I need Him for holiness as well (Luke 14:11).  Jesus alone is my salvation and I will never cease to need Him (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

My advice is this: preach both the security and assurance we have in Jesus and preach the warning texts as well.  Preach the balanced view of Scripture.  Charles Spurgeon had written over his Pastor’s College: “Holding fast I am held.”  That should be our motto as well.  Jesus is our salvation.  We are not saved by faith in an ism but through faith in the living Person of the Lord Jesus (Romans 10:9-10).  Our salvation is not based on what I do but upon His works (Titus 3:5-7).  I am not striving to enter the kingdom by my works but His work (John 6:29).  I hold fast to Him.  I cling to Him.  I love Him above all others (Luke 14:25-27) and I pray to remain steadfast in faith in Him (Colossians 2:6-10).  I pray that nothing captivates me like Jesus (1 John 2:15-17).

The Contrasts in John 3:36

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
– John 3:36

There is a clear contrast here in John 3:36 between the child of God (Romans 8:15-16) and the child of Satan (John 8:44).  The child of God does just what Jesus commands them to do here: believes in the Son and the result is clear, we have eternal life.  This wonderful assurance of our salvation is based on the finished work of Christ (1 John 5:11-12) and not ourselves.  Even “faith” is by the gracious work of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  I have no problem preaching that the work of salvation is all of God and His marvelous grace (Romans 11:6).

On the other side are those who disobey or refuse to believe in the Son.  The NKJV has “does not believe” here instead of “does not obey” as in the ESV.  The Greek word here is Apeitheo which would be literally translated as “no persuade” from “a” meaning “no” and “peitho” meaning “persuade.”  The Greek has more than a mental persuasion but one in which the hearer is unpersuaded in both their mind and life.  The unbeliever then is not just a sinner in mind (mentally) but in their actions (physically).  The sinner is corrupted through and through (Ephesians 2:1).  They are sinners in both their thoughts and actions (Genesis 6:5; Romans 1:28-32).

Some have wondered about why John would not speak of good works here in contrasting the saint and the sinner?  The truth is that the saint does obey the Son when the saints repents of their sins and comes in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.  The saint understands clearly that our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and that we deserve the just wrath of God against our sins yet the saint trusts in Christ alone to save them and thus we do the work that God desires for us to do (John 6:29).  Our good works then flow from our salvation and to bring about our salvation (Ephesians 2:10).  Good works can never produce salvation (Titus 3:5-7) but good works show our true salvation (James 2:14-26).

The sinner proves their rebellion against the Lord God in both their minds and actions.  They don’t just ignore God but they despise Him in their sins.  Their only hope is the same as ours: faith and repentance.  We must preach the gospel to the sinner for them to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  No one comes to faith apart from the preaching of the gospel to the sinner (Matthew 28:18-20).  We must warn sinners that they are under God’s just wrath apart from faith in Christ.  A time will come for them to die and face judgement before a holy God (Hebrews 9:27).  As one commentary I read stated about this wrath from God: the failure to believe in the Son of God does not bring condemnation but rather continuation in this wrath (Romans 1:18).  The sinner faces God’s condemnation now for their sins and not merely for their rejection of the Lord Jesus.  The sinner is storing up for themselves wrath (Romans 2:5).

The saint then has many reasons to rejoice that Jesus has saved us!  Let us be thankful for His kind sacrifice for our sins.  Let us also warn sinners of the wrath to come.  They must repent and turn to Christ alone to save them by His grace alone though faith alone.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/09/2015 at 7:30 PM

Why Do Calvinists Despise Unlimited Limited Atonement?

I have a friend who posted from A.W. Pink, Pink’s infamous (from my viewpoint) talk on John 3:16 in which (like John Owen before him) Pink insists that John 3:16 does not teach that Jesus died for the world but rather the world here must be mean the elect that God has chosen out of the world.  If John 3:16 means that Jesus died for all men then all would be saved (this is their reasoning) and since all are not saved then it follows that Jesus did not die for all men and thus John 3:16 is not saying that Jesus died for the whole world but rather that He died only for the elect that God has chosen out of the sinful world.

And Calvinists rejoice in this view!

But why?  Why do Calvinists rejoice that John 3:16 doesn’t teach that Jesus shed His blood for all people?  What hope can they give lost sinners that they can be saved?  What comfort does it bring Calvinists to read John 3:16 and say to themselves, “This is not referring to all but only to the elect.”  Do they ever wonder then if Jesus perhaps did not die for them?  Remember that both Augustine and Calvin taught that God sometimes gives sinners a false assurance that they are saved but in reality He will condemn them to eternal hell because He simply did not choose them.

However, one could argue that Calvinists despise unlimited limited atonement for several reasons.  Some are obviously better than others. Let me offer just a few.

1.  It’s Not Biblical.

This would be the standard answer from your more intelligent Calvinists.  They honestly believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus shed His blood only for the elect and unlimited passages such as John 1:29 or John 3:16-18; Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 19; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2.  They believe that if this doctrine were true, Jesus shed His blood in vain since most people are not saved.

Calvinists often will reply as well that when Jesus died on the cross, He truly saved people on the cross.  They believe that all the Old Testament saints were now saved through Christ’s work as well as the New Testament saints yet to come.  The doctrine of definite atonement (or particular redemption or limited atonement) is said to have been completed on the cross.  However, nearly all Calvinists believe that the atonement must be appropriated by faith.  In other words, while they teach that the elect were justified in Christ at the cross, the elect only become the elect through faith.  Ask any normal Calvinist when they were saved and they will reply the same as the Arminian, “At this point in time when I repented of my sins and placed my faith in Christ.”  Yet this is a denial of the Calvinist doctrine if in fact the elect are not eternally justified in the mind of God.  If Christ shed His blood for the elect and Calvinism teaches that the elect are saved in Christ at the cross then the elect are never born with sin.  They are eternally justified before God because of Christ.  The elect were saved at the cross and thus none need to repent in time.  This is the logic of Calvinism if you carry it out.

The Arminian answer is simple: Christ shed His blood for all people and all can come and be saved.  However, only those who repent of their sins and place their saving faith in Christ Jesus are saved and thus the elect (1 Timothy 4:10).  The Bible even mentions that some are lost despite Jesus shedding His blood for them (Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Peter 2:1-2).  Calvinists often say that all whom the Lord loves (or chosen) will be saved yet Jesus loved the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21 yet he was not saved.  Salvation is by faith (Romans 5:1) and not unto faith.

2.  Comfort in God’s Choosing.

Some Calvinists find comfort that the Bible teaches that Christ shed His blood only for the elect and they consider themselves His elect.  Calvin wrote about false assurance that God gives to the non-elect so the non-elect actually believe they are elect but in reality are not:

“Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them.

For more on this subject view this blogpost.

Calvin taught that God does not give us reasons why He allows people to believe they are the elect when they are not.  In the end, as always with the Calvinist doctrine of election, the choice is purely arbitrary.  While I don’t believe that the Calvinist view of election is the same as in Islam, both views end with a sovereign God choosing merely based on His own choice whom He will save and in both Calvinism and Islam, God does allow people to falsely believe they are the elect.  I have been told many times that I am not part of the elect because of my rejection of Calvinism (since Calvinism is seen as the gospel among some Calvinists).  I have been told that I have a false assurance and that I am lost.

For some Calvinists, the doctrine of election brings comfort to them since they believe that God looked throughout time and chose them.  From my vantage point, it seems God has favored Europeans and Westerners for most of the history of the Church.  Thankfully, God must now be finally choosing to save non-whites as He is saving people all across Africa and Asia.  Yet perhaps He is not and just giving these poor sinners a false assurance of their election.

The Arminian answer is simple: you can have assurance that you are part of the elect through faith in Christ (John 6:37) and in perseverance in faith (2 Peter 1:10-11).  The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).  The Word of God also bears witness to our adoption (1 John 5:13).  We can know that we are saved because of the work of Christ (Hebrews 9:14) and not our works.  If you are trusting in Christ alone to save you from the wrath to come, you are part of the elect of God!  You can have the assurance that Jesus shed His blood for you because of the doctrine of unlimited limited atonement.  The reason that we are seeing so many souls come to faith in Christ in Africa and Asia is because of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17) and the lack of faith in Europe and the West is because of the rejection of the true gospel.  Where the gospel is preached, God is faithful to save (Romans 10:13; cf. Acts 2:38-39).

Conclusion

I want to close by writing about how we should now preach.  Calvinist evangelists preach just like Arminians do when calling sinners to repentance.  I have yet to hear a Calvinist evangelist truly preach Calvinism to the lost.  I have found that Calvinism is often taught after one repents and not before.  When Calvinism is preached, it can lead to despair (see the case of Joseph Hawley, the uncle of Jonathan Edwards).

In reality, the Bible is clear that God wills the salvation of all (1 Timothy 2:4).  His will is for people to repent (2 Peter 3:9).  The Bible says that God does not delight in the death of the wicked but that they should turn and live (Ezekiel 18:32).  Jesus shed His blood for all sinners but only those who place their faith in His saving work are the elect of God.  All others go to hell because of their own sins and their own unwillingness to repent of their sins.

Romans 3:23-25 is clear:

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

We receive salvation by grace through faith.  Let us preach this truth to all creation (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

The Circular Reasoning of Unconditional Eternal Security

Unconditional eternal security is not a point that I get on much.  After all, I believe in conditional eternal security in that I believe that if we are abiding in Christ (John 15:1-11) then we have no fear (1 John 4:18).  We fear God (Proverbs 1:7) and abide in Christ alone for salvation (Romans 11:20-22).  I don’t live with a fear that I am going to “lose my salvation” since Christ is my salvation and He prays for me (Hebrews 7:25).

That said, I do reject unconditional eternal security.  This is the teaching that a person is “once saved, always saved.”  It comes across in various ways.  Some Calvinists teach that a person must persevere in the faith or they are not a true disciple.  While I have more sympathy for this view and can tolerate this view, I believe that such a view will lead to a lack of assurance in salvation.  Ironically, Calvinists in the 17th century had a great debate over the doctrine of assurance as some Calvinists (particularly hypers) felt that a person can never have assurance of salvation in this life because of unconditional election.  Arminianism has always held that a person can have the assurance that we are saved if we abide in Christ Jesus through faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).  1 Peter 1:5 is clear that we are guarded through faith.  2 Peter 1:10-11 teaches us to make our calling and election sure by abiding in Christ.

Others (such as some Baptists) teach that a person is eternally secure or “once saved, always saved.”  The idea is that God promised salvation to those who believe and He will never take that promise back.  They point to passages such as John 3:16 or John 5:24 or John 6:39 or John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 and they rejoice in the security of the Lord.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God, they say, and so we need not fear that we will be cut off.  Further, what father would reject his children?  Earthly fathers love even their rebellious children and they remain children no matter what they do.  This teaching is meant to bring security in our salvation, a joy from knowing that God loves us and will never cast us away, but we should still repent of our sins (1 John 1:9) lest we lose fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:2).  Sinning can never lead to apostasy but can lead to losing rewards (1 Corinthians 3:15) and to loss of fellowship but we never lose the gift of eternal life.

In both cases above, sin no longer matters.  This is a fundamental point.  The question is what happens to disciples who sin?  Does sin effect our relationship with God?  Does God not see our sins after we are in Christ?

First, it is clear in Scripture that God’s people are to be a people of holiness.  Jesus set the standard in Matthew 5:48.  We are to be a people of holiness and righteousness (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Hebrews 12:14 tells us that we are to pursue peace with all men (Matthew 18:35) and holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  2 Corinthians 7:1 is clear that God has given us promises to obtain holiness.  We are to forsake sin (John 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  Romans 6:11-23 establishes why the disciple should forsake sin.  The very nature of repentance is turning away from sin and turning to God (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19).

Secondly, 1 John 1:9 makes no sense if in fact sin does not have any bearing on the disciple.  Why must we confess our sins if in fact sin doesn’t really do anything to the disciple?  I can hear the OSAS advocate saying, “Yes sin does effect us by breaking fellowship with God according to Isaiah 59:2.”  But the point is that sin doesn’t effect me eternally.  In fact, I could indulge in sin the rest of my life if OSAS is true and the only consequence would be lack of fellowship with God and possibly a loss of rewards but when it comes to sinning, I get to indulge in the flesh (in a worldly view) while obtaining heaven when I die.  Yet Galatians 6:7-9 is clear on this issue:

7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Romans 6:23 is also clear that the wages of sin is not a loss of fellowship or rewards but leads to death.  James 1:12-15 is equally clear on this issue:

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Sin brings forth death.  What kind of death?  Some will even say that God will kill you before allowing you to continue in sin and rebellion.  In other words, God takes you home to heaven quicker if you sin.  What?

In reality, we are to forsake sin and pursue holiness.  Jesus sets His people free from sin (Matthew 1:21; John 8:34-36).  Jesus is able to deliver us from all sin (1 Corinthians 10:13).  1 John 2:1-2 tells us that God does not want us to sin but if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father who gave His life for our sins (Galatians 1:4).

Lastly, does God not see our sins?  Those who embrace OSAS often teach that God no longer sees our sins but He only sees the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Many Calvinists teach that both the passive and active righteousness of Christ is imputed to us.  In other words, all of Christ is imputed to us.  Therefore, God sees only Christ when He looks at us.  God sees both the sinlessness of Christ and His active obedience (His perfect obedience to the Father) when he looks at a disciple.  Is this true?

I don’t doubt that God imputes righteousness to us.  I disagree that the active righteousness of Christ is imputed to us.  There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest such a teaching.  We are called to follow Christ’s example (1 Peter 2:21-24) but this is not the same as having Christ’s active righteousness imputed to me.  I must obey God and follow the example of Jesus’ obedience (Hebrews 5:8-9).

In Revelation 2-3 Jesus saw the sins of His people.  Jesus was not blind to their sins.  The disciples in Revelation 2-3 could not use “I am hidden in Christ” to ignore their sins.  Jesus rebukes them and calls them to repentance (Revelation 2:5).  Most of the New Testament letters were written to correct theology and even to rebuke people for sinning (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Hebrews is full of warnings to disciples.  I would urge you to sit down and read the book of Hebrews and note just how often the writer warns the saints and calls them to look to Christ.  He calls them to stay true to the Lord.  He calls them to forsake sinning.  He calls them to love the gospel.

Conclusion

Here is the bottom line for me: do you love Jesus more than sinning?  I do.  I hate sinning.  I love the Lord Jesus.  He is precious to me.  He is my life (Colossians 3:1-4).  I long to be sanctified through His Word (John 17:17) and I am thankful that in Christ, I am sanctified and being sanctified (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  The issue for me is not about how much sin can I get away with.  The issue for me is to draw closer to Jesus through faith.

I have found that those who want to know how much sin they can get away with or those who want to debate over the issue of eternal security are typically struggling with some sin and they just don’t want to let their sin go.  They want to continue in their sinning while claiming Christ and heaven.  They want the assurance of their salvation while living in sin.  There are no promises given of assurance of salvation for those abiding in sin.  In fact, we must look at 1 Corinthians 10:12.

The circular reasoning of unconditional eternal security is that a person is saved from the penalty of sin but not the power of sin and furthermore those who continue in sin lose nothing in the big scheme of things.  This only leads to antinomianism.  One cannot preach holiness to the people of God while turning around and telling people that they are unconditionally eternally secure no matter what sins they may commit.  This only leads to more sinning.

I don’t live in fear of “losing my salvation” since Christ is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  I didn’t find my salvation.  Jesus found me!  I am secure in Christ and I love Him and long for Him.  While I acknowledge that I could fall away, I rejoice that Christ is my passion.  Christ is my high priest and I seek Him earnestly.  While I am not blind to my sins, I am quick to repent of my sins when the Lord brings conviction of sin (John 16:8-11).

I pray that you readers are seeking God.  Don’t be deceived by the flesh.  Seek God earnestly.

Hating Sin

Within the heart of every disciple of Jesus should be an intense hatred for sin.  We despise not just the sins that we sin in the world but we detest even more so the sin that we sin in us.  We hate the sin of pride, the sin of hypocrisy that we sin in us.  We long to be like Jesus in all that we say and do (1 John 2:6) but we see that we are often far from that perfect standard (Matthew 5:48).

And I believe this is a great assurance that we are truly saved.  This hatred for sin.  There is no denying that the Bible forbids us from dwelling in sin (1 John 3:4-10).  Paul the Apostle teaches us in Romans 6 that having been baptized into Christ Jesus, we are now free from sin and its power.  We are free to be slaves of righteousness.

However, I still see sin in my life.  I don’t mean that I wake up and commit sin.  I hate sin.  But I still find the Holy Spirit placing His gentle hand upon me and revealing to me my own arrogance, my own pride, my own self-righteousness and my sins of the tongue (James 3:1-12).  There are seasons it seems where the Spirit will give me that assurance that I am focused on Christ and He truly is my reward but then there are times where the Holy Spirit reveals to me my sins.  I have learned to love those times.  I have learned that the Holy Spirit is doing this out of love for me and not out of condemnation (Romans 8:1).  I remember that Hebrews 12:5-6 and I keep coming back to that text as the Spirit opens my wicked heart up to show me what I need to repent of.

Repentance is an ongoing process.  I have been a disciple of Jesus for over 20 years and I find that He is still working on me.  The Spirit of God is still in the process of making me more like Christ.  I don’t doubt that I am much different from when I first repented.  I have come a long ways.  Yet I still have far to go.  I might not struggle with what I struggled with as a 17-year-old when I was baptized into Christ but I am still far from what I want to be.

We live in a sinful fallen world.  We live in a world with sin all around us.  Satan uses these tools to attract the world to its destruction.  For the disciple of Christ, we hate this world (1 John 2:15-17).  We long to be clothed in perfect righteousness where we will not struggle with sin.  We long to forever with our Lord and away from this sinful world.  Yet we remain here and we have to fight against sin.  We do this not by our own will power but in the power of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17) and through the hope that we have in the gospel.  Our salvation is based on the work of Jesus Christ and what He has done (John 19:30; Ephesians 1:7).  Our salvation is based not on our works but upon the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).  This does not take away our personal responsibility before God but empowers us toward holiness (Titus 2:12).  Holiness flows from grace (Ephesians 2:10).

I pray that all disciples of Jesus will hate sin.  I pray that we all would long to be like Christ in all that we are (Ephesians 5:1-2).  God calls us to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is accomplished one step at a time.  Along the way, I trust the Lord to be faithful to His promises and sanctify me (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

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 Fruit & Proofs of Authentic Christianity

The following is taken from the MacArthur Study Bible.  This is good to show people who profess to be going to heaven, disciples of Christ while living in blatant sin.  I have been encountering such people much lately in evangelism.

  1. Love for God (Psalm 42:1; 73:25; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:7)
  2. Repentance from Sin (Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10)
  3. Genuine Humility (Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6, 9)
  4. Devotion to God’s Glory (Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7; 48:10; Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
  5. Continual Prayer (Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18)
  6. Selfless Love (1 John 2:9; 3:14; 4:7)
  7. Separation from the World (1 Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; 5:5)
  8. Spiritual Growth (Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16)
  9. Obedient Living (Matthew 7:21; John 15:14; Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22; 1 John 2:3-5)
  10. Hunger for God’s Word (1 Peter 2:1-3)
  11. Transformation of Life (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And I would add a few more to that including holding firmly to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:13-14; 1 John 4:1-6; 5:2; 2 John 9) and to forsaking a life of sin (John 5:14; 8:11; Romans 6:1-4, 11-14; 8:12-17; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 12:21-13:5; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 John 2:1-2; 3:4-10).  I know that some would see repentance as forsaking a life of sin and I would agree but I believe that this point is not clear in the MacArthur Study Bible.  

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