Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Eternal Security

The True Security of the Believer

In my previous post I wrote on the issue related to the security of the believer.  Many who hold to unconditional eternal security believe that a person is not truly saved if they continue for a time in unconfessed, unrepentive sin.  They believe that a person living in sin proves that they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19 as their basis).  They also, at the same time, hold that a person can dwell in a season of sin but remain a child of God and will come under the discipline of the Lord to bring them back to faith (Hebrews 12:3-11).  Sometimes the Lord might even allow a person in sin to die (1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:29-30) to keep them from completely falling away.

Within all this, I see no true assurance of salvation.  I know unconditional eternal security advocates teach that they have the assurance of their salvation above those of us who hold to individual apostasy but I don’t see it.  Allow me to explain.  The unconditional eternal security view is that a person is “once saved, always saved” so long as they don’t go back to living in sin less they prove they were never saved to begin with.  A person living under this, when confronted with temptation to sin, has two choices.  First, a person can choose to sin but this might mean that they are not truly saved.  Or secondly, they can choose not to sin but if they are a true child of God, the sin would not matter in the first place.  So the unconditional security believer is faced with a choice here and its not biblical.  They can either embrace the idea that a person sinning (even for a season) is not truly saved or they can embrace the idea that sin has no power over the child of God no matter what.  I have seen both played out.  Both lead to lack of assurance.

The reason that sinning leads to a lack of assurance is simple: sin destroys and kills (Romans 6:23; James 1:12-15).  Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2).  Sin is to be avoided at all cost (Matthew 5:29-30).  We are told to not sin (1 John 2:1).  We are told to stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34).  The grace of God doesn’t allow for us to live in sin anymore (Titus 2:11-12) and the grace of God allows us to flee from sin now that we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6).  Nowhere in the New Testament is assurance given to anyone living in sin.  In fact, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to leave her life of sin (John 8:11).  Jesus told the man healed in John 5:7-9 to not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to him (John 5:14).  That is pretty strong words.

Yet the true security of the believer is found in one place: in following Jesus.  Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-39 that we are to love God with all our hearts, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  I suppose none of us would say that we do that perfectly.  I don’t.  Yet Jesus still loves me.  He proved His love on the cross when He suffered and died for my sins (Romans 5:8-9).  Jesus gave His life for my sins (John 3:16) so that I could have peace with God through His blood (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 1:7; 2:14).  The blood of Jesus is what washes my sins away by the grace of God and as I abide in Christ though faith, the blood of Jesus continues to wash me (1 John 1:7).  True security is not found in me simply not sinning.  True security is found in Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).  True security is found in abiding in Jesus and not merely me trying not to sin anymore (John 8:31-32).  True security is found when I keep my eyes on Jesus as my great high priest and not on my works (Hebrews 7:25).  True security is found by loving Jesus and abiding in Him through faith (Romans 8:37-39).

My obligation is to stay focused on Jesus, keep Him as my faithful and beloved priest who prays for me before the Father.  Paul the Apostle taught in Romans 8:12-13 that those who live according to the flesh will die but those who live by the Spirit will live.  The Spirit of God helps the child of God to overcome sin (Galatians 5:16-17).  Yet when we fall into sin, the Spirit convicts us and points us to the Savior who died for our sins (John 16:8-11).  The Spirit doesn’t give us assurance while dwelling in sin but He does give us assurance as we abide in Christ through faith (Romans 8:14-17).

I want true security but it doesn’t come by dwelling in sin.  It doesn’t come by my own good works (Titus 3:5).  Assurance comes in Jesus (2 Peter 1:10-11).  True assurance is found when we remain in Christ through faith trusting in His grace and mercy to help us overcome sin and when we fall into sin that His grace would help us get up and keep going.  Over the years I have seen many, many, many people turn away from Christ.  Some of them perhaps were never saved to begin with.  Many others seemed totally committed.  I know that God saves us by His grace and not by our works (Ephesians 2:8-9) so I know that just because I saw good works doesn’t mean that they were saved (Matthew 7:21-23).  Yet many of these people were earnest for the faith, defended the faith, preached, evangelized, studied and memorized Scripture, etc. but in the end, their love for a sin was their downfall.  Some of them fell into sexual sins and chased a man or woman instead of Christ.  Some of them made idolatry their focus often loving money above Christ.  Some of them simply grew weary of fighting against their temptations and gave in.  The only reason that I am still here today serving Christ is not because I was better than they (some of them were often better Christians than I have been over the years) but I am here only because of grace.  I don’t make a claim to my works or to eternal security.  I only make a claim that the grace of God has kept me all these years and I pray that God’s grace will keep me for many to come.

In Psalm 32 David recounts his own conviction of sin.  David acknowledges the blessing of forgiveness (vv 1-2) and then he recounts his own conviction of sin (vv. 3-4) that led to his confession and repentance (v. 5).  David acknowledged that the Lord was his hiding place (vv. 6-7).  The focus for the believer should be on God (vv. 8-11).  That, my friends, is true security!

One final thought.  By no means am I perfect.  I often look in the mirror and wonder why God loves me.  Yet He does!  The cross reminds me of God’s love over and over again.  I have fallen into sins many times in the past and will continue to fall.  While sin is not my goal nor my desire, I know that I am a human and I sin (1 John 1:10).  Sinning always destroys ones assurance of your salvation.  Only those who are foolish enough to believe that sinning has no power and who have a conscience seared by a hot iron will not feel guilty for sinning but woe be unto them (1 Timothy 4:1-2).  Sin produces death (James 1:15). Sin may be enjoyable for a season but it always produces heartache, loss, and woe.

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.

Is It Okay To Fear Falling Away from Christ?

I am wondering about this question.  I know that the Bible promises much to believers about out security in Christ (Romans 8:37-39).  I know that Jesus promised to abide with us forever (Matthew 28:20).  I know the promise of the Lord to finish what He has started (Philippians 1:6).  I know the promise of God to forgive me of my sins when I confess them to Him (1 John 1:9).  I know that the Lord promised that no one could snatch us out of His Father’s hands (John 10:29).  I know the promise of Jesus that He would never cast me out (John 6:37).  I know the promise of Jesus as well that whoever believes has eternal life (John 6:47).

And yet I equally know that we are to fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 11:20-22).  We are to live a life of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).  I know the grace of God empowers the believer to forsake sin (Titus 2:12-13).  I know the promise of God is faithful to not only forgive us of our sins but destroy the power of sin in our lives (Romans 6:6).  Those who are slaves of sin are not His children (John 8:34-35; 1 John 3:4-10).  Romans 8:12-13 warns us that we have an obligation before God to not live according to the flesh lest we die.  Jude 21 tells us that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God.  Even the Lord Jesus warned us to make every effort to enter by the narrow door (Luke 13:24).  Paul the Apostle spoke of disciplining his body lest after he preached to others, he might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

So here is my question again: is it okay to fear falling away from Christ?  I am not being so presumptuous as think that I could never fall away from Christ.  I think of 1 Corinthians 10:12 and how Paul warned us to be careful lest we fall.  I don’t look down on those who have committed great sins and turned away from the Lord and think, “That could never be me.” That would be the pride of Peter and the Apostles (see Matthew 26:31-35).  I can turn away.  I can become engrossed in sin.  I could live a double life of sin.  I could be committing adultery on my wife, stealing from my job, filling my mind with worldliness.  I could be drifting along without prayer, without the Word, without the church, without true discipleship.  I could be faking it to others.  That could be me.  I pray its not but it could be.

I do rejoice in knowing that the promises of God are true.  I rejoice and believe that there is assurance and security in Jesus.  Yet I know that there are no promises given to those living in sin.  To say that I love Jesus but live a life of sin is not acceptable before a holy God (1 John 2:3-6).  My words and actions must go together (James 2:14-26).  This doesn’t mean that I earn my salvation.  Again, Jesus alone is Lord and He alone is the One who died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Yet the Bible is clear that we are to persevere in the faith, to hold fast to Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:11-12).  We must fight for holiness.  I see nothing in Scripture to suggest otherwise.  This is a battle and Satan wants me to turn away from Christ.  Satan wants me to live for me, to do what I want, to be my own god.  This was Satan’s lie to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:4-5).

On the one hand I live in comfort knowing that the Lord is faithful to watch over me and I am saved in Him and secure in Him.  On the other hand I fear the Lord and don’t want to turn away from following Him.  I sense the wickedness in my own heart (Jeremiah 17:9).  I know I am capable of great sins.  I fear that.  I don’t want to ruin the Lord’s name.  I don’t want to be another casualty of war.  I want to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in all that I do (Colossians 3:17).  I have a long way to go to get there.  For now, I trust in Christ alone to save me and I trust in Him to sanctify me (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  I know that without Jesus, I would surely turn away and live a life of sin.  The Scripture is clear that we are to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).  I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me to turn away from evil and live a life that exalts Jesus Christ my Lord.

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.

For Those Who Believe in Eternal Security: Be Balanced With Your Teaching

I admit up front that I don’t hold to the doctrine of unconditional eternal security.  I do hold to conditional eternal security.  I believe that if we are in Christ and remain in Him by faith, we will never fail to have eternal life and never will be cast out from Him.  I believe this is the balance of Scripture.  On the one hand are many passages that speak to our security in Christ but the key point is in Christ.  There is no security apart from Christ.  This is why I believe  that the condition for salvation is always faith (John 6:29; Romans 4:5).  Faith in Christ is our security for it is Christ that saves us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9).

That said, I know that some may still hold to eternal security.  After all, there are precious promises given to us as children of God about His keeping power (see John 10:27-29; Romans 8:37-39; Jude 24-25).  I love the promises that God has given in His Word to keep us.  I receive them, meditate on them, and love them.  I agree with you (those who hold to eternal security) that God’s Word is clear that He will keep us (Philippians 1:6).

But may I simply ask that you do me one favor and be balanced when you preach this doctrine.  Through many conversations I have had with people in evangelism, I believe one of the greatest threats to eternal salvation is the unbiblical notion that we are “once saved, always saved.”  This teaching has produced so many false converts.  I meet people on the streets who claim to be going to heaven because they once prayed a prayer or once were baptized.  They claim that they are forever a child of God because of their “salvation experience.”  These people are clearly Titus 1:16 or 1 John 2:3-6 yet they claim to be washed in the blood and bound for glory because someone once told them that they were “eternally secure.”

Now I know that some of my Calvinist friends preach that if the person does not persevere, they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  They point out that Jesus had false disciples such as Judas and others (John 6:60-71).  They point out that there are even false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).  There is another gospel that can be preached (Galatians 1:6-9) and those who follow that false gospel are not saved though they claim otherwise.  Jesus said that false disciples would be proven by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).  Only those who do the will of the Father are truly saved (Matthew 7:21-23).

Yet the problem becomes the issue of assurance.  How can I know that I am saved right now?  Can I be sure that I will be saved next year at this time?  Those who hold to unconditional eternal security will say “yes” to this.  Yet if that same person is not walking with Christ at this time next year, they were never saved to begin with because they failed to persevere.  So why not balance your teaching on eternal security by emphasizing that a person must continue in the faith (thus a condition is added)?  Just as Paul preached in Acts 14:22.  Just as Paul preached in Romans 11:20-22.  Just as Paul preached in 2 Corinthians 1:24.  Just as Paul preached in Colossians 1:21-23.  Just as Paul preached in Philippians 2:12-15.  Just as Paul preached in 2 Timothy 3:14.

The preaching then would look like this: you are saved in Christ and secure in Him provided you continue in the faith in Christ alone.  Don’t turn away from Christ for idols of this world (1 John 5:21), or sins of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17).  Don’t turn away from Christ for a false gospel that does not save (2 Corinthians 11:2-4).  Make sure you are in the faith always (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  Obey Jesus as Lord (Luke 6:46-49; James 2:14-26).  Abide in Him (1 John 2:28) and don’t go on sinning (1 John 3:4-10).  Repent of your sins (Matthew 3:8) and stop sinning (John 5:14; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:34).  Love the gospel and worship your King (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Forgive your brothers and sisters (Matthew 18:21-35).  For we have His promises (2 Timothy 2:11-13):

11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

Praise God for His grace and His security but let us also cling to Him alone for His grace and His security.  Let us balance this teaching out a bit.

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.

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