Christianity 201

August 20, 2018

“They Were Never Saved to Being With”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Again, we’re back at the website BibleKnowledge.com and a look at an interpretation of scripture which is quite common. This article has a long continuation with an examination of several other passages. I encourage you to read the first part here at least, to get you thinking, but you might want to start instead by clicking the title below and then you’ll at least have the remaining parts on your screen to, at the very least, skim over.

“Never Saved”: How Christians misuse Matthew 7:21-23

by Deidre Richardson

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Matthew 7:21-23 is a passage used by Christians to refer to those they believe “were never saved to begin with,” the phrase goes. According to the passage above, there are those who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” (v.21), “prophesied” (v.22), “cast out demons” (v.22), and “done many wonders” (v.22), but are not known by the Lord. In the end, the Lord will say “I never knew you.” The words of Matthew 7:21-23, as spoken by our Lord, seem difficult to believe. How could those the Lord “never knew” prophesy, cast out demons, and do many wonders “in His name”? According to Jesus in the verses above, these individuals believed they were saved and called Jesus “Lord,” but they did not live out their faith. Jesus would agree with James when the half-brother of Jesus says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14, 20, 26).

We can understand that it’s not enough to say “I believe in Jesus”; we must also live in accordance with what we believe. There must be a trail of good works that characterize our lives in Christ. After all, believers do have the Holy Spirit, who not only sanctifies them but enables them to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22). And yet, it is not right that we use Matthew 7:21-23 to describe everyone who doesn’t endure until the end in faith. Jesus is talking about those He “never knew,” which means that these individuals “never” did anything to show the world they were saved. They never had any good works to speak of that pointed others to Jesus. They never lived the life they claimed they experienced. They were saved “in name only,” to use a phrase with which we’re all familiar.

And yet, there are other Christians who aren’t saved in the end for other reasons. Not every condemned person who isn’t saved is lost in the end because they called Jesus “Lord” and lived like hypocrites. Some former believers were real about their faith; when they depart from the faith, they do so for other reasons — perhaps an unanswered prayer, a sin struggle that they pray God removes, yet He doesn’t, and so on. And there are those that the Lord “knows” for a while, and then they leave due to something such as persecution they endure as a Christian. Some folks do not want the persecution that Jesus says comes with being a follower of Christ. There are other reasons for why Christians depart from the faith, but in the case of Matthew 7:21-23, those who call Jesus “Lord” are those who don’t do what God commands. Remember what Jesus says about those who follow after Him?

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26, NKJV)

Those who follow Jesus must “deny Himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Those the Lord says He “never knew,” those Jesus calls “workers of iniquity,” are those that were never saved. They never had a relationship with the Lord because they never denied themselves, never took up their cross, never followed Christ. They only claimed to know Christ. And the most interesting part of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 is that these individuals prophesied, cast out demons, and did other wonderful works in Jesus’ name. They did works consistent with someone who has the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in their lives. And yet, despite all their spiritual giftedness, and the work of the Spirit in prophecy, demon possession, and other works, these individuals were never saved.

When it comes to exegesis, one cannot just take one passage and run with a theological position; he or she must examine Scripture as a whole to determine if one verse is being placed above the rest of Scripture (if Scripture opposes the verse) or if one verse of Scripture is being sidelined because of the remainder of Scripture (is the verse a particular option or for a particular person or group?). Are there exceptional cases in Scripture that are not normative for faith and practice? Scriptural interpretation is not as easy as we often make it out to be.

When it comes to Matthew 7:21-23, the same can be said. We have taken these three verses and plastered them on every particular case where a person falls away from Jesus or departs from the faith. Not everyone who falls away was a “fake believer” who was only masquerading as a Christian.

Matthew 7:21-23 points to those who were never saved, but there are a ton of verses within Matthew’s own gospel that point to the contrary: that is, those who fall away were genuinely saved. To this end, we’ll approach the New Testament to determine what verses out there clash with Matthew 7:21-23. The purpose of this exercise is not to show that the traditional Christian interpretation of Matthew 7:21-23 is wrong per se, but to make the case that we can’t take these three verses and chalk every apostasy case up to “they were never saved to begin with.” We’ll place Matthew 7:21-23 alongside these verses to show that they are talking about different situations, not the same ones. Christians have misused Matthew 7:21-23, but we need to know how we’ve misused the passage…

…don’t stop; if you want to gain a deeper understanding on this, keep going at this link!

(passages examined in the continuation include the parables of the sower and soils, the wise and foolish virgins, the wheat and the tares, Jesus saying ‘I did not know you,” and several other selections)

December 8, 2017

Continuing in the Faith: Two Perspectives

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.
 – Luke 17:33

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. – John 16:13

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Phil. 3:14

Today’s post was intended to be a return to Blogos.org for the usual type of devotional article you see here. However, I stumbled across this article — the link “letter from the editor” got me curious — and while some of this isn’t new to many readers here, I hope you will take the time to read this and notice the balance this writer achieved between what can be two divisive doctrinal viewpoints.

Which view is right for you?

Are you confused by Calvinism and Arminianism and which to believe?

By Jim Allen

Calvinism and Arminianism are two major branches of Protestantism that follow separate theological views, pulling the true Gospel apart into two camps of faith. While the views differ in how one attains and continues in salvation, they do agree on the core of Christendom, which is faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). It is also true that most believers know nothing about either of these two doctrinal views when saved.

I was one of them. I had no clue. Not until sometime later did I learned about these two views and then became entirely confused by which one was correct. Of course, the adoption of Calvinism or Arminianism can influence how one lives out his or her Christian faith.

Beyond a personal influence, these two branches of Protestantism have split the church for nearly five hundred years. But, here’s the thing. Got Questions got it right by recognizing Calvinism and Arminianism are too demanding for anyone to understand. They correctly said both views fail to fully explain God’s role and man’s role in the mysteries leading to salvation. More precisely:

Human beings are incapable of fully grasping concepts such as these because the theology is deep and demanding. Yes, God is absolutely sovereign and knows all. Yes, human beings are called to make a genuine decision to place faith in Christ, and these two facts seem contradictory to us, but in the mind of God they make perfect sense. (Source)

Can these two opposing views ever be brought into alignment with Scripture? I have read the arguments for and against Calvinism and affirm some aspects are biblical while other aspects fog the brain. At the other end is Arminianism, which also has views that battle against the teachings of the Bible.

While the conversation between these two views is not the most important topic in Christianity, it’s a worthwhile discussion in having. This article makes no attempt to uphold one view over the other or reconcile opposing verses of either view; but rather, its purpose is to look beyond the teachings of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius to the centrality of the true conversation.

Is Calvinism or Arminianism the right conservation to have about salvation? I would propose neither because the right answer for salvation is a message that has been longstanding since the Resurrection. The message of Christianity is far more than adopting a view to walk out one’s faith. Christianity is about entering into a living and loving relationship with the Lord of Glory. Jesus said it’s all about exchanging a life we can never keep for one we can never earn (Luke 17:33).

The Apostle Paul wrote about the exchange. Paul said our change begins when God changes us into a new person by changing what we think (Romans 12:2). But, what we think and believe can be skewed by what other men think and believe. Men can hold us captive to their view (by what they teach) instead of God’s view, and herein the peril.

Was the greater problem for Calvin and Arminius a tendency to pitch their tent of understanding (about salvation) around selected verses that supported their personal beliefs? Did they set aside, gloss over, and debate away verses that didn’t agree with those views? Some think so.

Of no surprise and as a result, the number of opinions supporting Calvinism or Arminianism is vast. The Internet is overflowing with books and articles and charts and testimonies supporting one view over the other. Reading the arguments for one will convince you until you read the rebuttal given by the other. It’s all very confusing, troubling, and unnecessary. It’s not the conversation we need.

Even more so, the Bible makes no attempt to distinguish the Gospel into two opposing views. There is no reason to redefine the Gospel. Jesus didn’t split hairs and the apostles were never inspired to write other than what they did. The Bible is a finished work. It stands on its own. It needs no clarification.

Dividing the Gospel into different views is the work of men, a work never intended by the Lord of Glory. He made everything simple, and we receive it by faith. Man makes everything hard, and we debate it until entirely confused. Is Calvinism the right answer for salvation? No and neither is Arminianism.

The right answer for salvation is for a believer to make it a personal quest, to view the Lord of Glory through the lens of the Bible, and to discover for themselves the deep caverns of unveiled truth (John 16:13). When revealed, the believer will be encouraged to continue in the faith.

Calvinists call “continuing in the faith” irresistible grace. Armenians call it making a commitment of faith. Whatever you call it, it’s the high call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). This is the conversation worth having.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

In closing, there is no greater call than to hear the One calling from above (1 Peter 2:25); and, there is no greater conversation than with the One who is the lover of the soul (John 10:28).


*Calvinism is named for John Calvin, a French theologian who lived from 1509-1564. Arminianism is named for Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609. (Source)


Linked scriptures are in the ESV. We selected three and quoted them at the top of this article, and those are NIV.

January 20, 2017

The Tension between God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility

Today we’re paying another return visit to Shane Idleman, founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. To read this at source on the church blog, click the title below. This subject may be familiar to many of you, but possibly new to others. This article provides a good window into both sides of an ongoing discussion.

“Can I Lose My Salvation?”

A common question for many is, “Can I lose my salvation?” I’ve heard both sides of the argument, and only God truly knows a person’s heart, but I can share a few thoughts. The reason there is a debate is because the Scriptures teach that salvation is a gift from God that cannot be earned, but they also offer warnings about falling away. There should be a healthy tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. This issue should not create a spirit of division, elitism, or theological superiority.

One school of thought suggests that salvation cannot be lost, as in losing your car keys, but that it can be left, as in walking away from it. This may be why Jesus spoke of the man who said in his heart “my master delays His coming; therefore, I will turn from living a godly life”. When the master returned unexpectedly, the servant was banished because he chose to turn from what he knew to be right.

In another passage, Jesus said, “You have left your first love,” when speaking to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:4). James 5:19-20 adds, if anyone wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, a soul is saved from death. If anything, these Scriptures, and many more, reinforce the fact that we have certain responsibilities.

1. We must look at the context of such verses. For example, in James 5 the context is a believer who is sick because he or she wandered from God (a pattern of sin) – from alcohol and drugs to lying and slander, and from sexual sin to the sin of pride – the warnings, convictions, and rebukes were all ignored. The elders become involved in hope that confession and repentance take place, and that faith-filled prayer releases the person from God’s chastisement (cf. Hebrews 12:5-7). The believer is heading toward physical death as the result of wandering from God, but if repentance takes place, they will be restored – the soul is saved and his ongoing pattern of sin (multitude) is covered, concealed, and dealt with. This verse is not about salvation, but disobedience.

We should never turn from what we know to be right. Jesus encouraged His followers to be watchful, prepared, and ready for His return. Are we watchful? Are we prepared? Are we ready? (Read Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 21:34.) The Scriptures offer a healthy tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

The other school of thought suggests that some passages are dealing with people who never fully surrendered to Christ. As a result, they fell away. They heard the gospel, but never fully embraced it and turned from their sins; they only had “intellectual” knowledge of salvation. According to this view, the real question isn’t, “Can a person lose their salvation?” but, “Was the person really saved to begin with?”

Titus 1:16 and James 2:14 both conclude that many people “say” that they know God, but deny Him by their lifestyle. I John 2:19 suggests that those who acknowledge Christ initially, but deny Him later, are not saved to begin with: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.

2. Who holds us together? If we must maintain our salvation, what happens if Alzheimers or some other mind-debilitating disease sets in and begins to twist, corrupt, and pollute our thinking? Is all lost, or are we held together because we are a child of God? I am convinced, like Paul, “that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing can separate us from God, but we should never ignore the strong warnings about turning from Him.

When it comes to salvation, we all agree that God gets all the glory and all the credit. Salvation is His work. We are never outside of His sovereignty and control: “It is God who makes us stand firm in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:21).

Our salvation is guaranteed based on the assurances found in Scripture, but we also must “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (cf. Philippians 2:12). My goal is to be faithful to the command to preach, witness, and proclaim while understanding that God does the drawing, saving, and sealing.

3. At the heart of the division is Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Sadly, brother is shooting brother and sister is wounding sister. Have we forgotten how to show grace to those in the Body who we disagree with? Those who believe you can lose your salvation should not chide those who believe in eternal security – “once saved always saved” is by no means a license to sin – it’s a belief in God’s guarantee. But on the flip side, those who embrace eternal security should not mock those who disagree.

I can hear it now, “But what about Hebrews 6:4-6.” It says, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Based on my understanding of terms such as “enlightened,” “tasted,” and “shared,” they are not necessarily words linked to salvation. Judas Iscariot was enlightened—he knew a great deal. He also tasted and shared in the ministry of Christ, but we all know his fate. When he fell away, repentance was elusive. His fate was sealed. However, this verse should force all Christians to take inventory.

We all sin and fall short, but the important question to ask is what is the condition of your heart—have you truly repented and believed in Christ as your Lord and Savior, or are you trusting in false assurance? This may be why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?

Our actions reveal a great deal about our relationship with Christ. A.W. Tozer said: “When people find that after being in the church for years they are not making much progress, they ought to examine themselves and wonder whether they have been truly converted.”

Has your heart become so hard as to reject Jesus Christ? If so, you can change that today. I’m aware that I’m driving this point home, but I’d rather err on the side of speaking too much about a committed relationship with Jesus than too little. It’s never too late to get back on track: “Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord (Micah 3:7). God is sovereign but man has a responsibility to repent and return.

 

 

July 11, 2016

Saved Believers Persevere to the End

Hebrews 3 12-14

Today we’re paying a return visit to Bob Dellinger’s Bible in a Year Blog where this appeared a few months ago. As always, click the title to read at source.

Firm to the end

Just as there are two sides to every coin, so there are two sides to the doctrine of the security of the believer. On the one side we see boldly imprinted the hands of Jesus, who has promised that no one may snatch away those whom the Father has given him. But there is a flip side, and on the reverse of the coin another image stands out: the persevering believer. Both of these images are true, and both are necessary. There can be no security without Jesus, and there can be no salvation without perseverance in the faith.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 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.  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:12-14

Look at the dangers the writer of Hebrews describes. There is the unbelieving heart that causes one to fall away from the living God. There is the deceitfulness of sin that hardens some against God. There is the loss of original confidence that leads to the loss of our sharing in Christ. Are these dangers only a threat to unbelievers? The writer of Hebrews is speaking to the community of believers when he proclaims this warning, and therefore I think it is meant for the church. The exhortation is clear: persevere.

My point is not to deny the promise of Jesus that no one may snatch believers from his hand. But I want to stress the equally important flip side of that truth. Saved believers persevere to the end. If we do not finish the race, we will not gain the prize. We can argue about how we are able to persevere, and whether failure is an option, but there can be no disagreement that keeping our faith to the end is a prerequisite for salvation.

Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance. Hebrews 6:11-12

Look at the qualities that Hebrews uses to describe the life of the believer: diligence, faith, perseverance. We don’t obtain the promise by being lazy, but by the hard work of imitating those who have remained faithful to the end. Jesus assures us that our work will be successful, but it is work nonetheless. Is it only man’s work? Am I teaching a doctrine of salvation by works? No, not at all. It was God’s grace that opened the door to our salvation. It was the Holy Spirit that convicted us of sin, and the blood of Jesus that covered our sin. It was God’s mercy that kept death at bay until we confessed, and the Spirit’s power that enables us to resist sin. I cannot persevere without God’s help, but I must persevere by God’s help to the very end in order to enter the narrow door to salvation.

God has designed his church so that its members endure to the end in faith by means of giving and receiving faith-sustaining words from each other. You and I are the instruments by which God preserves the faith of his children. Perseverance is a community project. Just like God is not going to evangelize the world without human, faith-awakening voices, neither is he going to preserve his church without human faith-sustaining voices. And clearly from the words, “exhort one another” (verse 13), it means all of us, not just preachers. We depend on each other to endure in faith to the end.  ~ John Piper


Today’s graphic is from a six-minute video teaching on this passage from John Piper, who is coincidentally quoted at the end of Bob’s article. Click this link to watch. As a further bonus, you get to see the inductive study method at work, as the markings in the image indicate.

March 6, 2016

A Source of Confusion: Saved/Salvation and “Eternal Salvation”

•••by Russell Young

There are several misrepresentations currently being propagated in the teaching of God’s Word. The issue of this writing concerns the meaning of “saved” or “salvation.” Unless there is clarification made on this issue, there will be many who will not enjoy the hope that they had been promised throughout their spiritual lives.

There is a distinction between being “saved” and being “eternally saved” and it is essential that this difference is fully appreciated. The Greek representation of “saved” is sozo and Strong’s Greek Dictionary presents it as meaning: to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literally or figuratively):—heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole. Sozo is not a word confined to Biblical use but was of the common vernacular of the day. Paul used the word sozo when he told his Roman guard to throw everything overboard in order to be saved (avoid drowning). Luke also used sozo when he spoke of the man who was healed of the many demons that had possessed him and had been cast into the herd of pigs. The point is that when saved or salvation are used, they must be carefully considered in context. What one is being saved from needs to be appreciated.

It is common in the spiritual sense to accept “saved” as meaning “eternal salvation” when it often does not. It might be helpful to exchange “saved” with ‘delivered’ and then to consider what one was delivered from. For instance, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross delivered the believer from the consequences of his “past sins” (2 Peter 1:9) and from the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant. “For this reason [to cleanse our consciences] Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15, NIV) It did not provide “eternal salvation.”

The blood of Christ is often presented as “redeeming” the believer. One’s redemption should not be taken as meaning eternal salvation either. It redeemed the believer from “the curse of the law…in order that… we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:13…14) It also means “being bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20), “being reconciled”(Romans 5:10), “brought near” to Him (Ephesians 2:13), etc. One’s redemption frees him from the law and brings him near to God so that he might be given the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that brings about one’s “eternal salvation.” Redemption is a form of being “saved” but it does not amount to one’s eternal salvation.

There is only one passage in the whole of God’s Word that uses the wording “eternal salvation” and that salvation is accomplished through obedience. “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9, NIV) The need for obedience is consistent with many other passages that require the believer to be led by the Spirit. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Those who are led are not under the law (Galatians 5:18), those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God (Romans 8:14), those who are NOT led by the Spirit will not find eternal life. (Galatians 5:8; Romans 8:13) The point is that “eternal” salvation is different from other salvations or deliverances.

The distinction between ‘salvation’ and ‘eternal salvation’ needs to be made clear because the differences effect many of the teachings that impact understanding of “eternal security” and even of one’s eternal hope. “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:41, NIV) One’s hope is not “secured” until the end (Matthew 10:22) and until one’s life testimony has been completed. (Revelation 12:11)

In Matthew 7:21 we read: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” That is, it’s not one’s pronouncements that allow him entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but his “doing.” The Lord also revealed this, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14, KJV) The NIV and other versions have changed “do his commandment” to “wash their robes” in order to fit more conveniently with the distorted understanding of salvation that is being propagated.

While “salvation” or “saved” may refer to various deliverances, “eternal salvation” addresses deliverance into God’s eternal Kingdom and into the Lord’s presence. Eternal salvation is ONLY presented as being accomplished through “obedience.”

May 22, 2015

Mercy to Those Who Doubt

Late last night, I was re-reading a 2013 article at the blog Parchment and Pen by Michael Patton dealing with doubt. It drew me to verse 22 of Jude:

Jude 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

The Reformation Bible Commentary states:

The exact Greek text of these verses is disputed, and it is hard to tell whether two or three groups of sinners are in view. Whatever the textual solution, Jude clearly recognizes that different pastoral strategies are to be employed with different people. Some can profit from gentle counseling (Gal. 6:1). Others will require confrontation or action of some sort, to pull them “out of the fire.”  (emphasis added)

That sets the tone I believe for anything you read in other commentaries on this verse. The Asbury Bible Commentary states:

Despite his vigorous exposure of the opponents’ errors, in vv. 22-23 Jude calls the church to evangelize them. Jude holds out the evangelistic hope for renewal, even to selfish schismatics who upset congregational fellowship and mission. Jude’s prescription of edification for the saints and evangelism of the schismatics is an effective antidote for contemporary church fights as well.

which seems to reflect that “doubters” would refer to Jude’s opponents or those unevangelized.

But Matthew Henry sees this referring to “brethren” who have fallen into error.

He directs them how to behave towards erring brethren: And of some have compassion, etc., Jude 1:22, 23. Observe, (1.) We ought to do all we can to rescue others out of the snares of the devil, that they may be saved from (or recovered, when entangled therein, out of) dangerous errors, or pernicious practices. We are not only (under God) our own keepers, but every man ought to be, as much as in him lies, his brother’s keeper; none but a wicked Cain will contradict this, Gen. 4:9. We must watch over one another, must faithfully, yet prudently, reprove each other, and set a good example to all about us.

(2.) This must be done with compassion, making a difference. How is that? We must distinguish between the weak and the wilful. [1.] Of some we must have compassion, treat them with all tenderness, restore them in the spirit of meekness, not be needlessly harsh and severe in our censures of them and their actions, nor proud and haughty in our conduct towards them; not implacable, nor averse to reconciliation with them, or admitting them to the friendship they formerly had with us, when they give evident or even strongly hopeful tokens of a sincere repentance: if God has forgiven them, why should not we? We infinitely more need his forgiveness than they do, or can do, ours, though perhaps neither they nor we are justly or sufficiently sensible of this. [2.] Others save with fear, urging upon them the terrors of the Lord; “Endeavor to frighten them out of their sins; preach hell and damnation to them.” But what if prudence and caution in administering even the most just and severe reproofs be what are primarily and chiefly here intimated–(I do but offer it for consideration); as if he had said, “Fear lest you frustrate your own good intentions and honest designs by rash and imprudent management, that you do not harden, instead of reclaiming, even where greater degrees of severity are requisite than in the immediately foregoing instance.” We are often apt to over-do, when we are sure we mean honestly, and think we are right in the main; yet the very worst are not needlessly, nor rashly, nor to extremity, to be provoked, lest they be thereby further hardened through our default.—“Hating even the garment spotted with the flesh, that is, keeping yourselves at the utmost distance from what is or appears evil, and designing and endeavoring that others may do so too. Avoid all that leads to sin or that looks like sin,” 1 Thess. 5:22.

I suspect Matthew Henry has more there than was in view in the article that I read. The short Jude passage raises rich and complex issues. Michael Patton was dealing more with the issue of assurance of salvation which we looked at here recently and also here. Looking at people — especially in the Reformed tradition — who have seemingly crossed the line of faith but lack assurance that they are among the elect.

The question is Can one be absolutely sure that they are a believer and how important is this assurance in their walk with the Lord? Many Christians don’t believe an individual can be assured of their ultimate salvation. Many believe one can lose their salvation. Catholics believe that “mortal sins” (really nasty sins such as adultery,  rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary, or missing Mass without a valid excuse) can cause a Cathlic to lose their salvation. Arminians and Wesleyans believe one can cease to believe, thereby forfeiting their seat in heaven. Therefore, from the perspective of those who don’t believe salvation can be lost, these belief systems cannot offer any assurance. The criticism would be that no one could ever be sure, until death, whether or not they are saved. After all, what if I decided to sleep in on Sunday and then immediately died of a heart attack without repenting? How do I know for sure if my faith is going to last until the end? For Catholics, the fact that one cannot be assured of their salvation is dogmatized.

…Ironically, for the Catholic, to believe that one can be assured of their salvation would be the means by which they lose their salvation!

He continues,

There are three primary reasons Christians doubt. The first has to do with objective intellectual issues. These doubt the Bible’s truthfulness, Christ’s resurrection, and even God’s existence (among other things).  Another group doubts God’s love and presence in their lives. The last group doubts their salvation and the reality of their faith. These are always wondering if they have true saving faith or a false faith. This last group lacks assurance.

It may surprise you to know that just about every contact I have had with people who are doubting their salvation are Calvinistic in their theology. In other words, they believe in unconditional election. These are the ones who believe in perseverance of the saints. These are the ones that believe that we cannot lose our salvation! Yet these are the ones who are doubting their faith the most.

Their issue has to do with their election. Are they truly among the elect? If they are, they believe their faith will persevere until the end. But if they are not, there is no hope. But how are they to know for sure whether they are elect? Maybe their faith is a stated faith? Maybe it is false. The gentleman I talked to today was so riddled with doubt, he was having thoughts of suicide. “How do I know my faith is an elect faith?” He wanted assurance so badly, but felt that his Calvinistic theology prevented him from ever having such assurance.

He adds,

When we present the Gospel to someone and they say they have trusted in Christ, we do them a disservice to force assurance upon them. After all, how do we know that their faith is real? We don’t. Instead of assurance, maybe we should give them some of the Hebrews warning passages. Maybe we should speak to them as Christ spoke to the seven churches in Revelation: “to him who overcomes . . .” Maybe we should encourage them to “test their faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Maybe we should warn them that there is a possible disqualification. (1 Cor. 9:27). This may not fit into your thinking, but we all know there is a faith that does not save (James 2:19). Why not bring this up?

I encourage you to read the entire article.

August 26, 2013

Thoughts on “Once Saved, Always Saved”

This is from Jeremy Myers at the blog Till He Comes; you’re encouraged to read at source.

Eternal Security

I sometimes get asked if I believe in “Once Saved, Always Saved.” One reader recently sent in this question:

Can a Christian lose their salvation?

The old saying is once saved, always saved.

I have two ways of answering this question, both of which are stated below.

1. Why I do NOT Believe “Once Saved, Always Saved”

The reason there is so much debate over this statement is because of the word “saved.” As I have written about on numerous times previously, the word “saved” (and other related words such as “save” and “salvation”) are used in a variety of ways in the Bible. When you do a study of the ways these words are used, it quickly becomes obvious that the vast majority of them have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything related to gaining or keeping eternal life.

So, for example, the word “saved” might refer to being delivered from one’s enemies, or getting healed from a sickness, or being rescued from drowning at sea. Obviously, these words are not related to gaining or keeping eternal life. I would guess that the majority of times the word “saved” (or save, salvation, etc), are used in Scripture, they are used in this way (e.g., Matt 8:25; Acts 27:31).

Another percentage of words refers to various ideas that are related to eternal life, but are not eternal life themselves. Often, the words in these contexts refer to some aspect of sanctification, or maybe getting rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, or some other related idea (cf. 1 Cor 3:15).

Finally, there is a tiny fraction (I would say less than 1%) of uses where the term probably does refer to receiving eternal life, though even in these contexts, the actual meaning of the word is debatable.

In Acts 16:30-31, for example, the Philippian jailer asks Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” On the one hand, it seems that the jailer might have been asking about how to receive eternal life. But frankly, at this time, that may not have been the primary question on his mind. At that time, if a jailer let prisoners escape, the jailer would be tortured and killed. Maybe the jailer was not asking how to get eternal life, but how to be delivered (saved) from being killed by the authorities. This reading is possible. I am not sure how the jailer meant his question, and so don’t mind reading it either way. Besides, whatever he meant by it, Paul and Silas answer the most important question, which is how to receive eternal life: believe in Jesus for it.

There are a few other examples of places where the word “saved” could be understood as eternal life, or could be understood as referring to something else (Eph 2:1-10 is one), but these examples are less than 1% of the uses in the Bible.

But here is what happens. Most church-going people assume that the word “saved” almost always means “get forgiveness of sins so you can go to heaven when you die” even though it rarely means that. So when they come across a passage like 1 Corinthians 15:2 where Paul says the Corinthians will be saved only if they hold fast to the word that was preached to them. And people say, “See? If you don’t hold fast, then you aren’t saved? See? Once saved, always saved is false!”

Right. But what does the word “saved” mean in this context? Is Paul really talking about the concept of “forgiveness of sins, escaping hell, going to heaven when you die?” No, he is not. Paul is using the word “saved” in the same way he uses it in 1 Corinthians 3:15. The word “saved” in 1 Corinthians refers to reward and honor at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is something Christians can lose.

So the question, “Do you believe in ‘Once Saved, Always Saved?’ is a trick question. There are numerous verses in the Bible which indicate that there is some things in our Christian life which can be lost, and these texts use the word “saved” to talk about how to be saved from losing these things.

So do I believe in “Once Saved, Always Saved?” No. I do not. This slogan is unclear, imprecise, and does not fit with many Scriptures which indicate that there are many spiritual blessings in the Christian life that can be lost.

2. Why I believe “Once Saved, Always Saved”

Of course, after saying what I have said above about “Once Saved, Always Saved” I always try to then answer the question that people are really asking. When people ask if I believe in “Once Saved, Always Saved” what they are really asking is if I believe that eternal life can be lost. That is, do I believe in eternal security?

And the answer to that is a resounding Yes!

Once you see the difference in Scripture between the word “saved” and the terms “eternal life” or “everlasting life” or even something like “justification” you being to see that while there are numerous verses which talk about saving something that can  be lost, there is not a single verse in the Bible which talks about losing eternal life, losing everlasting life, or losing our justification. All of these gifts of God, once given, are never revoked or taken back.

There is no place in the Bible that talks about getting unjustified, unsealed, unregenerated, unindwelled, unbaptized by the Spirit, or any such thing.

If everlasting life can be lost, it has the wrong name.

Yes, I know there are difficult verses in the Bible, and troubling passages (Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 for example), but with a basic framework understanding of what Jesus teaches about eternal life being given freely to everyone and anyone who believes in Him for it, and that since Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners there is no sin that can take away the benefits of His death from us, and dozens of other Scriptures which talk about God’s infinite, unmerited, outrageous, scandalous grace, the clear teaching of Scripture seems to be that once God gives eternal life to someone, they have it eternally.

Yes, yes, there are people who might abuse this idea. Yes, there are people who think they have eternal life, but don’t. Yes, there are lots of false ideas out there about what eternal life is and how to get it. I am not talking about any of that. All I am saying is that according to Scripture, if a person has eternal life, then they have eternal life eternally. They shall never perish!

So do I believe in Once Saved, Always Saved? You tell me! What are your thoughts about the saying, “Once Saved, Always Saved”?

[click here to add your voice to existing comments]

June 14, 2012

Devotional Potpourri

From Jeff Mikels in January:

He Came

  1. Jesus came as Prophet to bring the Word of God to us.
  2. Jesus came as Priest to represent us to the Father.
  3. Jesus came as SON to bring us into God’s family
  4. Jesus came as Savior to take away our sin.
  5. Jesus came as King to receive our submission.
  • to have 1-4 without 5 is pointless mercy
  • to have 5 without 1-4 is Islamic legalism
  • to have them all together is the beautiful harmony of grace

Dan Delzell looks at the question Can Deliberate Sin Negate Your Conversion Experience?

Every Christian hits rough spots at times where a particular sin just seems to get the upper hand for awhile. It might be a grudge….or impure thoughts….or jealousy….or whatever. By God’s grace, believers somehow manage to bounce back and get beyond these spiritual setbacks. It’s so much better to be living “in the zone” of God’s abundant love, power, and boundaries.

But what about the professing believer who never bounces back? He just continues charging into sin while pursuing those desires which are contrary to God’s will. What are we to make of such a person?

Well….the Arminian might say that such a person has lost his salvation….while the Calvinist might say that such a person was never saved in the first place….or that he will eventually repent and return to God. What does God’s Word say? Can deliberate sin negate your conversion experience? It’s a question worth addressing because it’s a question that comes up quite often.

[continue reading here]

Finally, Canadian counselor George Hartwell at Listening Prayer on Head versus Heart Prayer.

Creativity cannot be forced. Memory cannot be forced. Instead we find that creativity follows when we give ourselves a break or after we are asleep. Writers who know that they cannot force inspiration learn to live with the flow of creativity.

Our heart, what psychology calls the unconscious mind, is like a stubborn child. It is quite difficult for our head to control our heart. See Romans 7. Forcing the heart does not work.  Learn to cooperate with your heart.

I don’t know if over-dependence on the rational mind is the death of us, but I do remember that the serpent seduced Adam and Eve with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This Bible account at least suggests that life based on head knowledge  shut down the life-giving flow of God’s presence to Adam and Eve.

Is pride in head knowledge our downfall?  Does life based on head knowledge mean life independent from God.  When we try to figure everything out are we trying to be ‘like God.’  Does head control generate a false sense of power, control and independence?  

Timothy Galway, The Inner Game of Tennis, points out that too much instruction hinders a player from playing their best game. When the head is out of the way we may find ourselves playing better than normal – ‘beyond ourselves’.

With humility do I recover the realization that real freedom comes in being who God created me to be. Real power comes from the presence of God, as we encounter God, while listening and obeying God. Real faith is a gift of God comes in the presence of God, as we encounter God, as we listen to God. Real healing occurs in the presence of God, as we encounter God and listen to God.

 Real prayer is not based on head knowledge. Real prayer is based on coming into the presence of God, an encounter with God, listening to God.

January 16, 2012

Confession, Belief, Security

Bill Mounce is a regular at Koinonia, where this exposition of Romans 10:9 appeared last week.

Something occurred to me this morning, and I am curious as to what you think about it. It actually has far reaching ramifications.

If you have been following this blog, then you know that I have been thinking about what is a Christian, how do we define it. Specifically, I have been looking for a balance between Jesus’ “Follow me” and the more propositional statements of Paul.

An example of the later is Rom 10:9. Paul is talking about the nearness of the word of faith and says, “if you confess (ὁμολογήσῃς) with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe (πιστεύσῃς) in your heart that  God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes (πιστεύεται) and is made righteous, and with the mouth he confesses (ὁμολογεῖται) and is saved” (Rom 10:9-10).

Here is my question. I have always thought of this confession and believing more in terms of a single event, namely, conversion, going through the gate (Matt 7:13-14). But does it have to be limited to this?

Doug Moo in his commentary says, “Paul is therefore explaining the ‘nearness’ of the word of faith, the gospel, by emphasizing that it demands only a simple response and that, when responded to, it mediates God’s salvation” (657).

Now, certainly this is true of conversion, which is coming to a point of confessing and believing. But I wonder if Paul would agree with the sentiment that a person could make a one-time confession, and later deny his confession, and still be saved. I wonder if Paul would agree that a person could come to a point of faith, and later deny his faith, and still be saved.

I can find no such teaching in Paul. 

Nor can I find it in Jesus. In fact, he has some pretty strong words to say on the subject. For example, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation [i.e., to not confess Jesus’ Lordship], of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels [i.e., to distance in judgment]” (Mark 8:38).

I wonder if we should continue to see the importance of the first time we confess and believe, when we are made righteous and are saved, and yet realize that in the fullest sense of the words, Christians are people who confess Christ and people who believe in the resurrection. If we cease to confess and if we cease to believe, then we can no longer legitimately be called Christians, believers, followers of Christ.

As far as the Greek is concerned the aorists ὁμολογήσῃς and πιστεύσῃς don’t really help us. The aorist is not necessarily punctiliar; it does not necessarily point to a single point in time. Thankfully we are far beyond that view of the aorist. In fact, if these are constative aorists, they could nicely cover the entire range of our lives. And πιστεύεται and ὁμολογεῖται are present tense.

At this point I don’t want to say that this is necessarily what Paul is teaching in Rom 10. But Calvin and Wesley are both in agreement that if a person does not continue in their confession of Christ and belief in his (death and) resurrection, they can hardly be called Christian.

And as I have often argued, whether they never were true Christians or lost their salvation is a nearly irrelevant question, since in either case the person ends up in hell.

William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at  Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more and visit Bill’s other blog on spiritual growth, Life is a Journey, at www.billmounce.com