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Posts Tagged ‘Security of the Believer

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.

Strange Fire Book Review: Chapter 9

You can find the original post to this book review here.  I have been reviewing Dr. John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire.  This post will focus on chapter nine of the book.

In this chapter Dr. MacArthur deals with the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation.  This chapter marks the beginning of section three of the book in which MacArthur is going to teach the reader on the true ministry of the Holy Spirit in comparison to the false teachings he sees in the charismatic movement.

There is really nothing new here in this chapter.  The viewpoint MacArthur gives is basic and Pentecostals would agree with what he wrote here though they would differ with him over his view of the sealing of the Spirit at the end of the chapter.  Pentecostals would agree with MacArthur that the Holy Spirit is essential to salvation.  It is the work of the Spirit to draw the sinner to the Savior (John 6:44) by the conviction of sins (John 16:8-11).  It is the work of the Spirit to regenerate us (Titus 3:5-7) and to cause us to be born again (John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:3).  It is the work of the Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23) and to give us the assurance of our salvation (Romans 8:16).  The Spirit seals us as children of God (Ephesians 1:13-14).  The Spirit keeps us by His grace (Romans 8:38-39).

There is little to disagree with here.  I agreed with MacArthur in nearly every part he wrote of regarding the Spirit’s work.  I am thankful to God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  I would take an exception with MacArthur only in regard to his view of the sealing of the Spirit.  Here MacArthur takes the position that we are “eternally secure” in the Spirit.  Of course, he fails to mention that he believes that if a person lives in sin, they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  He believes on the one hand that the Spirit gives us the assurance of our salvation but then he would deny, in essence, this assurance by teaching that a sinning person is probably never saved to begin with (1 John 3:4-10).  I agree that a disciple of Jesus must forsake sin (2 Timothy 2:19) and I agree that the Spirit helps us sanctify us (2 Thessalonians 2:13).  I agree that a person can know that they are saved but I believe this is through faith in Christ Jesus and faithfulness to Him as Lord (Matthew 7:21-27; 1 John 2:3-6).  I agree that the Spirit seals us but the sealing here is a pledge, a guarantee that we are in Christ Jesus.  This comes by faith (John 1:12-13; 6:29; Ephesians 2:8-9) and we are kept by faith (2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 1:5).  MacArthur would say that our faith comes from the Spirit but the faith is not God believing for us but us believing because of the work of the Spirit.  Arminians would agree in that the prevenient grace of God enables the sinner to believe.  We need the aid of the Spirit to believe and to keep believing but living in sin shows our rebellious hearts and leads only to death (Romans 6:23; James 1:12-15; 5:19-20).  We are called to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17) and not live in sin.  The Spirit helps us to do just that, to be holy and to remain holy as He is holy.

That withstanding, this chapter was a basic premier on the work of the Holy Spirit toward the world and in the life of the disciple of Christ.

Eight Steps to Glory from Jack Cottrell

The following comes from Dr. Jack Cottrell’s text, The Faith Once For Allon which he briefly speaks on the God’s faithfulness in regard to our salvation.  He mentions the “eight steps to glory” from Romans 5:1-11.  I truly enjoy Romans 5:1-11 much and have often sat meditating on these precious verses.

Dr. Cottrell’s eight steps to glory are:

  1. The eternal, infinite love of God, which provides –
  2. The saving work of Jesus Christ, which is the object of –
  3. Our faith, through which we have access to –
  4. The grace of God, which includes –
  5. Justification (forgiveness), which gives us –
  6. Peace with God (reconciliation), which results in –
  7. Hope (assurance of salvation), which results in –
  8. Joy, in anticipation of the glory of God!


Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/20/2014 at 11:34 AM

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.

Why “Never Saved To Begin With” Doesn’t Always Work

We all have known someone who claimed to follow Christ for years.  Some of them were prayer warriors, evangelists, pastors and teachers, elders, leaders, examples to the flock, deeply committed to sound doctrine, etc; and yet they fell away.  Some of them went into cults while others fell into immorality and sin.  I have personally known many people who once were bedrocks for the gospel and today they are shells of what they use to be.  I have personally prayed with, evangelized with, and worshiped with people who today are not following Christ.  And it is possible that, according to Calvinism, you are one of those people.  It is possible that you could fall from grace and turn away from Jesus though this would prove, according to Calvinists, that you were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  After all, it is possible that both you and I are people found in Matthew 7:21-23 or John 6:66.  We must not be prideful about this as Paul the Apostle points out in 1 Corinthians 10:12.

For the most part I think that “never saved to begin with” is just an easy answer to a hard question.  After all, I would admit that there have been many I have met and even discipled in the church whom I thought were not truly saved.  It is true that people can be false converts and never have repented of their sins.  Repentance is largely played down these days in the seeker sensitive church era that we are in.  Rather than preaching Matthew 3:8, we preach easy believeism and call people “saved” whom have never truly repented of their sins nor seen the need to repent (1 Timothy 1:8-11).  We have failed to call people’s attention (almost weekly in our sinful society) to 2 Corinthians 13:5 and asked people to make sure they are walking in the grace of God.  Hebrews 3:12-13 exhorts us all:

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 10:19-25 has three “let us” points that the writer wants to make.  Each of them are discipleship in nature.  Notice the text:

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The purpose of meeting together for the disciple of Jesus is not to listen to a sermon nor to sing songs.  It is to help us continue in our fight, to be encouraged by other disciples in this race.  We need other disciples to help us remain disciples of Christ because of this sinful world that we live in and walk in (1 John 1:7).

However, back to my point in this post.  I find that the old “never saved to begin with” is not a pat answer for every person who turns away from Christ.  It may sooth us but it doesn’t really answer the question.  Why is it that a person can be deeply committed to Christ outwardly (none of us but God alone can see their heart; 2 Timothy 2:19) and then embrace a life of sin to reject the gospel?  What happened to them?  Where did they begin to lose the battle against the flesh and the world (1 John 2:15-17)?  It is not a theologically issue since I have known both Arminians and Calvinists who have turned away from Christ.  I have known evangelical pastors who left their wives and children and churches for a woman.  I have known evangelical men who have embraced homosexuality.  I have witnessed women fall prey to ungodly men time after time after time.  And to simply say they were never saved to begin with is a pat answer but in my heart, I have watched these people and have seen them preach the gospel, seen them weep over the lost, seen them pray, seen them teach the Word, sat for hours with them and talked theology.

I believe that apostasy is very real.  I believe the warnings of Scripture are there to truly warn us not to forsake Christ for the flesh or this world or lies (Galatians 1:6-9; 6:7-9).  I believe the promise of God is seen in Romans 11:20-22 where we read:

20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

We need to stand before the disciples of Jesus and preach that He is faithful to His promises (Romans 8:38-39) but we likewise must continue in the faith (Acts 14:22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 12:21-13:5; Galatians 5:1-4; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-15; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-4; etc.).  As the writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 2:1-4:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Or as Jesus Himself said in Revelation 3:5-6 to the church in Sardis:

5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Jesus calls us to be His elect and also to be faithful to Him (Revelation 17:14).  Let us admit right now, no matter where you stand on the issue of eternal security, that salvation is found in Jesus alone (John 14:6).  All unbelievers will be cut off for their rebellion against a holy God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-12).  Salvation is found only in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23) and to be outside of Jesus is to be lost (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Salvation is a work of God (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9) that He wrought in our souls by faith in His Son (Titus 3:5-7).  Salvation is not accomplished by my power.  Jesus has done the work of salvation (Hebrews 10:10, 14) but we must abide in Him to be saved (John 15:1-11).  Let us agree on these issues.

I do pray often for those whom I have known who have turned away.  It does break my heart that so many have turned away from Christ.  Only God knows their hearts and can judge whether they were ever saved to begin with.  I do know that they must repent of their sins (Hebrews 10:19-39).  I do know that sin will destroy lives (James 1:12-15; 5:19-20).  I do know that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and we must repent to be reconciled back to the Father (Psalm 32:1-5; 1 John 1:9).  Repentance is not merely feeling sorry about our sins but turning from them toward Christ (Galatians 5:16-17).  If we are called of God, we must be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Holiness is not optional but is only accomplished by the grace of God working in us (Ephesians 2:10).  I do fear God (Proverbs 1:7) and I do hate my sins.  I do long to be just like Jesus Christ in every way.  I do long to follow Him completely and forever.  I do pray that He would continue to help me to hate sin and pursue Him with all my heart (Mark 12:29-31).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/06/2013 at 8:21 PM

When People Want To Argue Over Eternal Security….

The following are my own observations about those who want to argue over eternal security.  I have learned over the years the following about these types of folks:

  • They could be struggling with sin and they want to appease their guilty conscience into believing that no matter what they do, no matter how sinful they become, they are still a child of God and He will never let them go.  
  • They want to justify family members or friends who are living in sin but once claimed to be a believer.  They want to find comfort and hope that these sinning people will be allowed into God’s holy presence.
  • They have a pet sin that they once tried to battle but now just give in to this sin.  I have seen men like this who struggled with pornography but eventually just gave in but they still want to claim Christ, claim His righteousness all while abiding in sin.
  • They were deluded into believing that we are justified through faith but kept by works and so they struggled.  Then some person came along and told them about “once saved, always saved” and the battle was over but sadly they now give in to sin.  This destroys their conscience.
  • They somehow believe that eternal security is the gospel.  If you believe in apostasy, you are a heretic.  Yet this leads to a view of sin that makes it bad but not deadly.
  • They simply detest “warning” passages of Scripture such as Hebrews 6:4-20 or 10:19-39 (and many, many more).

Yet the opposite is true as well that…..

  • True saints of God know that we are secure in Christ (1 Peter 1:5).  
  • True saints of God love Christ above the world, the flesh and sin (1 John 2:15-17).
  • True saints of God confess their sins and repent of them (Matthew 3:8; Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:9).
  • True saints of God know their salvation is completely dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11; Acts 15:11; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Galatians 3:1-5).
  • True saints of God know that eternal life is not a life apart from Christ our Lord (John 8:51).
  • True saints of God have no problem with Bible teachers calling us to remain faithful to Christ (Acts 14:22-23).
  • True saints of God know that biblical righteousness is both imputed and makes us practically righteous as well (1 John 3:8).
  • True saints of God hate sin and love holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).
  • True saints of God know that we cannot have Jesus as Savior without Him being our Lord (Luke 6:46-49; 1 John 2:3-6).
  • True saints of God rejoice in security passages (Romans 8:38-39) but also balance them with warning passages (Romans 11:20-22).
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