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Posts Tagged ‘Abiding in Christ

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.

Watch Out For Antichrist or Antichrists?

Note: The purpose of this post is not to debate the issue related to whether there will be a future leader named by many as “the Antichrist.”  I know many godly people believe this to be true.  I respect their view while I do not hold to that view.  The purpose here is not to elaborate upon the debate over the antichrist as a person.  I am simply wanting to make a point that deception is current.

The word “antichrist” appears only in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3 and 2 John 7.  In fact, the antichrist is not even called “the antichrist.”  Notice 1 John 2:18:

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Notice that John doesn’t say, “the Antichrist” but antichrist.  It lacks the definite article to be translated “the antichrist.”  1 John 4:3 goes even further about antichrist:

And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

Notice that John says that antichrist is already in the world!  That is 2000 years ago and John says that antichrist is now in the world.

2 John 7 tells us who the antichrist is:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

These antichrists then were people who were heretics.  They were false teachers (1 John 2:19).  They claimed to be preaching the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42) but they did not abide in their teachings (2 John 9-11).  They forsook the faithful teachings of the apostles (Jude 3-4).

Many in our day want us to be careful to avoid “the Antichrist” but I believe we should avoid antichrists.  The world, since the dawn of the Church, has been full of false teachers.  Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 24:4-5 that many would come in His name.  His warning is not for a far off generation but those to whom He was speaking to (Matthew 24:34).  Even among His own apostles, Jesus was warning them to know that false teachers and false christs would come (antichrists).  These antichrists would come in the power of Satan to deceive many (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

I pray that our heart would be careful to search all things.  No teacher is above error.  I enjoy listening to various Bible teachers and reading their works but we must test all things by the Word of God.  Scripture must be the final authority for it alone is the inerrant and infallible truth of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The Word of God is the truth of God (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17).  Jesus told us to abide in His Word (John 8:31-32) and His Word keeps us saved (James 1:21).  The Word of God protects us from doctrinal error (1 Timothy 4:16) and from sin (Psalm 119:11).  The Word of God cuts us and exposes us before God (Hebrews 4:12-13).  The Word of God convicts us of sin and reveals to us the path of righteousness.  How vital for us to love the Word of God and to abide in its truth!

As we abide in the Word, the Word keeps us focused on the Lord Jesus.  We hear His voice (John 10:27).  Scripture is the voice of God.  The Bible should be how we question all things.  I don’t care if the teaching comes from your favorite trusted theologian.  Turn to the Word of God to test their teachings.  Don’t accept blindly what a teacher tells you.  Turn to the Word of God to make sure they are faithful to the Word of God.  Don’t be deceived by a teacher who quotes a lot of Bible verses without also opening the Word of God to make sure what the teacher is saying is faithful to the Word of God.  Acts 17:11 tells us that the Bereans examined Paul’s teachings by Scripture to make sure what he was saying was true.  The Bible calls them “noble-minded” for this.

Instead of looking for “the Antichrist,” we should be looking for antichrists.  Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-30 that wolves would arise from among them to deceive the church.  These antichrists among us are whom we should be careful to avoid.

My advice: abide in the Word.  This is the only sure guard to keep us from falling.  We can know truth from error by learning and hiding the Word of God in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15-16).  The Word of God alone is able to protect us from antichrists and I am thankful to God for His holy Word.

The Apostles’ Doctrine

I wonder if I were able to walk in the typical Western church, could they explain even the basics of the faith?  Could they explain how to born again?  Could they explain to me justification by faith?  Could they explain to me the Trinity?  Could they explain to me the deity of Jesus Christ or His virgin birth or His vicarious atonement?  Could the average church member explain to me what the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible is about?  Why the blood of Jesus is necessary for salvation?  What happens when a person dies?

These are all basic questions.  We read in Hebrews 6:1-2 about “elementary principles” (NKJV) and the writer tells us what they are: repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  These, he says, are basic, elementary principles but could the average Sunday morning attendee even begin to explain those teachings?

In Acts 2:42 we read that the early Church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (NKJV) which is now our New Testament.  I am stuck on that term: steadfastly.  Do we?  In many churches that I know of in my little area, we see a moralistic therapeutic message coming forth.  God wants us happy and blessed.  God wants to give you purpose.  God wants to help you in your troubles without asking too much (except your money to the church) and He wants to shower you with blessing upon blessing.  Doctrine is clearly avoided.  The music is kicking.  The light show is awesome.  But sadly the elementary principles of Hebrews 6:1-2 or the apostles’ doctrine of Acts 2:42 is missing.  Emotionalism and emotional encounters with God are encouraged above faithful study of the Word of God.  Prayer is taught as simply getting stuff from God.  Repentance, sin, holiness, perseverance, grace – all these are avoided.  Too theological to be mentioned.

Even among so-called “fundamentalist” churches I find that the fundamentals are lacking.  Yes the Bible is taught.  Yes God is emphasized but the apostles’ doctrine is avoided.  Clear teachings such as justification by faith, sanctification, righteousness – these are avoided for more camp meeting style sermons that are designed either to make me feel guilty or pump me up.  Sound theology is avoided.  Where are the sermons on the apostles’ doctrine?  Where are the sermons even explaining the apostles’ doctrine?

I know that in our zeal to avoid being “head” Christians without passion for God from our heart, we seem to have let the key teaching on doctrine to be avoided.  I know of churches that even teach verse by verse (or more like section by section) through books of the Bible and these are seeker churches but the problem is that they avoid doctrine or at least they avoided any theological controversy.  For example, I know of a local, growing seeker church where the “lead pastor” (which I thought was Jesus according to 1 Peter 5:4) is teaching through Ephesians.  The problem is that he avoids any theology in the text.  He brushed over predestination and election in Ephesians 1.  He has avoided the deep emphasis on theology in Ephesians 1-3.  He is simply highlighting the book it seems and trying to apply the book without giving the sound doctrine found therein.  All application!  And he has taken the book of Ephesians and rather than making it all about God, he has made it all about you.

The fact is that we need sound doctrine.  There will be people in hell who went to hell thinking they were right with God (Matthew 7:21-23).  They will stand before the throne of God in their own confidence thinking that they believed the right things but they didn’t.  They were in a cult or taught wrong about Jesus.  We are not justified by works nor by death but rather by faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and only in the biblical Jesus (Galatians 1:6-9).  It is possible to believe in “another” Jesus who is no Jesus at all (Matthew 24:4-5).  We must examine ourselves constantly to make sure we are in the faith, the true faith (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  Our salvation is not based on our emotional encounters with God or through our experiences but by faith in the biblical Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

My advice to Bible teachers is simple: preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).  Don’t avoid theology.  Don’t avoid the apostles’ doctrine.  It is necessary and vital to our salvation (1 Timothy 4:16).  We must remain in Christ and His Word to be His disciples (John 8:31-32, 51).  We must not seek to entertain but to explain the meaning of Scripture which is able to save us (2 Timothy 3:15; James 1:21).  Our duty is not to make people laugh or keep them coming with our cute sermonettes but to explain Scripture.

To the faithful disciple I would advise you to stay in the Word.  Memorize Scripture.  Read theology books.  Pray the Word of God.  Be faithful to Jesus (Revelation 2:10).  Take up your cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23-25).  Love Jesus more than life and more than all (Luke 14:25-35).  Abide in the Word of God and you’ll never fear.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/26/2012 at 8:30 AM

The True Sign of Maturity in the Lord

We must remember that the true sign of maturity in the Lord is not in our theological understanding.  I have known men who were astute in theology but their lives were full of sin.  I have known men who would prepare sermons on Saturday night and then to reward themselves they would go down to the gas station and purchase pornography.  To simply know theology is not to know God.  To know facts about Christ is not the same as knowing Christ.  To talk about prayer is not the same as praying.  To talk about evangelism is not the same as actually talking to the lost about Jesus.  I could go on and on.

Galatians 5:22-23 is the best measuring tool for someone who claims to be maturing in the Lord.  Pride has a way of deceiving us and making us think that just because we know more than the “average” Christian (which is sadly not much) or because we read our Bibles today then we think we are doing pretty good.  The reality is that we can do the motions of Christianity but miss Christ.  To really grow in Christ is to be expressing the fruit of the Spirit as seen in Galatians 5:22-23.  The passage reads:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Are these showing in your life child of God?  You can quote from the Greek text all day long but if the fruit of the Spirit is not showing in your life, what is the point?  The fruit of the Spirit shows that we are in the vine (John 15:1-11).  Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 11:16, “If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.”  Our fruit flows from being grounded in the root of Christ.

Never confuse knowing with doing.  Never confuse knowledge with a relationship with God.  Never confuse knowledge with the fruit of the Spirit.  As we abide in Christ by faith, the Spirit of God helps us bear the fruit but we must abide in Christ.  Not in a book but in Christ.  Not in the Greek text but in Christ.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/04/2012 at 8:10 AM

Are There False Converts?

I was listening to brother Ray Comfort’s teaching, True and False Conversion the other night while working.  I do recommend the teaching.  While we don’t agree eye to eye on all points, Ray Comfort’s passion for holiness is heard in this teaching.  He looks around at the church and sees so many who are not Christ-lovers.  They are abiding in sin, playing games with the world, and never seeking after righteousness.  Comfort calls them “false converts.”

Are there really false converts in the modern Church?  Of course there are.  Comfort does a good job of showing in the teachings of Jesus that there would be sheep and goats (Matthew 25:32), wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), and many who will say on the day of Judgment that Jesus is Lord but He will not be their Lord (Matthew 7:21-23).  Comfort walks his hearers through Mark 4:1-9 and the parable of the sower with Jesus’ own explanation of His parable (Mark 4:14-20).  He shows from Mark 4:14-20 who the true and false converts are.

Several points he makes are solid.  Comfort points out that salvation is a work of the Spirit of God.  No Arminian would disagree.  We believe that the Holy Spirit takes the gospel and He opens the sinners heart to receive the Word of God.  While the Spirit is not mentioned in John 6:44, no doubt He is the one who leads us to the Father to be saved through the Son (Acts 16:14-15) as Jesus said that He would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11).

Next Comfort points out that if a person is truly saved, we will not need to baby sit them to keep them saved.  Some think that we need to take a new disciple and take them away from temptation and away from the world and away from their old friends but Comfort says that if a person is truly saved, temptation drives us to Jesus and not away from Him (Mark 4:20; Romans 5:1-3; James 1:2-5).  Comfort points out that true salvation leads one to build on Jesus so that when storms come from the world or from temptation, we are on solid ground in Christ but not so with the false convert (Matthew 7:24-27).

The differences I had with his teaching were not that there are false converts.  I agree that there are many false converts.  However, Comfort holds to eternal security and therefore he believes that every person who turns away from Christ was a false convert.  He points to Judas Iscariot.  He points out that Judas was not a believer who fell away.  He says that Judas was a false convert.  He turns to John 6:66-71 and points to Peter as a true disciple who falls into sin but comes back but Judas was never saved to begin with.  He points to Luke 22:31-34 as proof that Jesus was praying for Peter but not Judas.  He points out that Judas is called a thief in John 12:6 and not that he became a thief.  Judas was a thief the whole time he was with Jesus.  He was a false convert.

From this, Comfort holds that a person can seemed to be anointed, seem to preach the gospel (as Judas did), and seem to do great things for the Lord but inwardly they are like Judas, a thief and a false convert.  He points to Acts 20:30 to wolves who will arise inside the church to deceive people from Christ.  They are wolves who appear to be sheep (Matthew 7:15).  No matter how long a person may “serve” Christ, if they do not remain faithful to Him, they are a false convert.  They were never born again.

I know some Arminians who would agree with Comfort on this.  They, like Comfort, hold to eternal security but only if a person remains faithful to Jesus.  If they fall away, they were never saved to begin with.  I have dealt with such teaching before on this blog and will not labor back over that.  I actually could sit under that teaching (and by the way, I do appreciate Ray Comfort even if we don’t agree on this issue) better than under the radical, “once saved, always saved” teaching that allows for continued sinning without repentance.

However, I believe that Scriptures do teach apostasy and that it is something we should beware of.  If we hold to the “never saved to begin with” theory, we must do something with the warning passages such as Matthew 18:21-35 or 24:4-5, 13 or Luke 8:21 or John 8:51 or 15:1-8 or Acts 13:43 or Romans 11:20-22 or 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:21 or 2 Corinthians 1:24 or Galatians 5:1-4 or 6:7-9 or 2 Peter 2:1-22 and so many more.  We must do something with the warnings issued by Jesus in Revelation 2-3 where He gives specific promises to overcomes and warnings to those who fail to abide in Him.  We must do something with the entire book of Hebrews!  We must view these warning passages as hypothetical or twist them to mean something than they clearly mean if we hold that a person can never fall from grace.

Further, I believe that such a view never truly gives assurance of salvation.  I have no problem teaching that a person must continue in the faith since this is all through the epistles (see Colossians 1:21-23 for example).  We should urge disciples to continue seeking Jesus always and always placing their faith and hope fully in Him and His cross for our salvation and never in our works (Galatians 3:1-5).  We should preach perseverance of the saints and not preservation of the sinner.  We should point out that there is never any promises of eternal life given to those abiding in sin.  None.  We should preach that the disciple of Jesus is called to victory in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:12-13, 37).  This leads to assurance that we are saved (Romans 8:14-17 in the context of Romans 8:12-13).  To tell people, “if you don’t continue in the faith, you were never saved to begin with,” how can this not lead to a lack of assurance?

Are there many promises given in the New Testament to the keeping power of God?  Yes!  I trust in them!  Yet every single promise is given to those who are in Christ Jesus.  Each passage assumes that disciples are in Christ Jesus through faith (John 10:27-29).  We are protected by God’s power through faith (1 Peter 1:5).  This faith is ongoing.  It not momentary.  It is not false. It is a continual trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ for our salvation.  We have the promise of 1 John 2:24-25 if we remain in Jesus by faith.

I do appreciate Ray Comfort greatly and praise God for his service to the kingdom of Christ.  His books on evangelism are excellent resources for all believers.  Both Arminians and Calvinists and everyone in-between can learn much from this man of God.  I just disagree with him over his teaching that anyone who turns away from the faith was never saved to begin with.  I don’t believe this faithfully deals with the warning passages of the New Testament and leads to a lack of assurance of our salvation.  The question before us is the same that the Puritans use to ask themselves daily, “Am I trusting today in the cross of Christ or in my own flesh?”  That is something we should all yearn for, that complete trusting in Jesus alone for our eternal salvation (2 Peter 1:10-11).

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