Question #1: Dr. Luginbill, While searching for commentaries on 1st Peter, for my Sunday School Class I happened upon your web site. Terrific, I thought to myself. I have found someone who is learned in the languages of the bible and has a very prestigious looking resume. I even down-loaded your work on the Epistles of Peter, all 28 of them for reference off line. Then I discovered that you believe and are convinced that a Born Again Christian can loose his salvation? Well, I wouldn't dream of arguing the point with someone of your educational background, but I find it difficult to put any stock in your biblical teaching if you believe that a man can loose his salvation. I base my belief on John 10:27-30. There must be another dozen other scriptures supporting my belief but this one works for me, now. I have attached the better part of a lecture given by R. B. Thieme, Jr. PhD, who pastored Berachah Church in Houston, TX. for just over 50 years. This man had a Masters in Greek, and a PhD in Hebrew and taught from the original text during his tenure with Berachah. I present his lecture as case and point for my belief. Now I find that you don't believe in the Rapture? Good Grief, what do you think Paul is talking about in 1 Thess. 4:13-18, compare to John14:1-3, and 1 Cor.15:51-58. These comparisons are provided by one of your Seminary Brothers, Dr. John MacArthur. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Respectfully and in the Love of our Lord,
Response #1: Good to make your acquaintance. I first became a "taper" about thirty years ago and have the utmost respect for Col. Thieme. Suffice it to say that I would not have given up my regular commission in the USMC to pursue a life of biblical study were it not for his profound influence on my life. It is true that on a number of doctrinal points I have gone my own way. Indeed, the two you mention here, "eternal security" and "the pre-tribulational rapture", were fundamental in the development of this ministry. It may surprise you to learn this, but it was in the process of mounting vigorous apologetic defenses of precisely these two doctrines that I became convinced from reading scripture (in Greek, Hebrew, and English), that the truth was otherwise, despite the attractiveness of both of these constructs. These were difficult decisions at the time, but like everything else in this ministry, the precise truth of scripture as I have found it in the Bible's pages has always been what has guided my teachings. Since we at least started from the same point – a deep love of the Bible and a deep respect for someone who was genuinely teaching the truth of the scriptures – I beg your indulgence to bear with me in a brief apology (in the Greek sense of that word).
Let me start by trying to correct what are some very common misunderstandings about the positions espoused at Ichthys. First, on the subject of "eternal security", it is not my position that "a believer could lose their salvation". If a person is a believer, that person is saved. If, on the other hand, a person does not believe in Jesus, that person does not have salvation or the assurance of it; moreover – and this is where I disagree with the extreme statement of the position of eternal security – that is so even if at one point he or she professed faith in Christ.
The way I see scripture presenting the matter (and very clearly so in the parable of the sower as presented in the lessons to which you refer), faith can grow, but faith can also die. People can and do lose faith. People can and do come to the point, usually through surrender to a life of sin and/or secularism, where they no longer believe in and no longer follow Jesus Christ, though at one time they did. If a person allows their "faith plant" to die (as in those that shrivel up under the heat of the sun in the parable of the sower), or if a person allows their "faith light" to go out (as in the case of the seven foolish virgins), that person is no longer a believer, and only believers are saved. Simply put, a believer is someone who has a real, living faith in Jesus Christ. Anyone who does not have genuine faith in Jesus Christ is, by definition, not a believer. Making the determination of who has it and who doesn't is not always easy and not really even germane to this argument. For our purposes here, "you know you have faith in Jesus if you have faith in Jesus", and "you know you don't really believe in Him if you don't believe in Him". This is the light in which I read John 10:27-30. The sheep who know "My Name" and who "follow Me" are of course believers. Anyone who knows Jesus and who follows Him is a believer – and no one can snatch a believer out of Jesus' hands or the Father's hands. However, "if we deny Him, He will deny us, . . .for He cannot deny Himself" (2Tim.2:11-13). That is to say, in the terms of John 10:27-30, if we stop knowing Him and stop following Him, we, by our own self-willed choice, stop being His sheep. No one has "snatched us out of His hands" in that case; rather, we have abandoned Him.
The whole tenor of scripture is about choice, and beyond all argument we continue to have free will after salvation, and that by definition is the ability to respond to God (or fail to do so). There have been many who have fallen away in the history of the church (cf. Phil.3:18), and it is prophesied that there will be many more in the future (2Thes.2:3; please see the link: The Great Apostasy). So I would have to disagree with your statement to the effect that "there must be another dozen other scriptures supporting my belief". I don't know of any such scripture (and those which are often claimed as absolute proof of "eternal security" on close examination always reveal that they do not exclude the possibility of apostasy). On the other hand, the Bible is replete with impassioned pleas and warnings about the dangers of giving in to a life of sinfulness on the one hand, most of which are very difficult to explain away (e.g., Matt.7:24-27; 10:33; Lk.6:46-49; 14:34-35; Jn.15:5-6; Rom.11:17-23; 1Cor.10:6-12; 15:2; 2Cor.13:5; 1Tim.6:20-21; 2Tim.2:12-13; Heb.2:1-3; 3:6-19; 10:35-39; 2Jn.1:8-9), and the necessity of holding onto faith on the other (e.g., 1Tim.6:12; 2Tim4:7):
1. Passages demonstrating that salvation is conditional upon continued faith:
You were once alienated from God – your very thoughts were hostile towards Him and your deeds were evil. Yet God has now made peace with you through the death of Christ in His physical body so that you may stand before Him as holy, without blemish and free from accusation – [this you will do] if you remain solidly grounded and firmly fixed in the faith, and un-moved from your hope in the gospel . . .
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we persevere, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.
2nd Timothy 2:11-13
It is through this gospel that you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you – otherwise you have believed in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:2
We are of [Christ's] household, if we hold fast to our courage and confidence in this hope.
For we have all become partners of Christ, if we hold fast to our original conviction firmly to the end.
2. Passages that warn us to protect our faith:
Examine yourselves to see whether you still stand steady in the faith. Put your qualifications [as Christians] to the test. Or didn't you know this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is at home in you – if He's not, then you are already disqualified.
2nd Corinthians 13:5
These things all happened [to the Exodus generation] by way of an example so that we might not lust after what is evil as they did. Don't practice idolatry, as some of them did (as the scripture says "the people sat down to eat and got up to frolic"). Don't fornicate, as some of them did, and 23,000 of them fell dead in a single day. And let's not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did, and were killed by snakes. And don't complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel. All these things happened to them to give us an example, and have been written in scripture to warn us as we confront history's final epoch. So let whoever thinks he's standing firm be careful not to fall!
1st Corinthians 10:12
Watch out for yourselves, so you don't lose what you've worked so hard for, but receive a full reward instead. No one who goes wandering off – that is, does not keep to the teachings about Jesus Christ – has a share in God.
2nd John 8-9
I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
3. Passages teaching that sinful behavior is antithetical to faith:
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies – and whatever is similar to all these things. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Don't you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practitioners of homosexuality nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1st Corinthians 6:9-10
But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse jesting – things that have no place [among you]. Thanksgiving [is what ought to be heard coming from you] instead. For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure, or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Don't let anyone deceive you about this with empty words, for it is because of just such things that God's wrath comes upon those who refuse to obey and believe. So don't enter into partnership with them.
Those who want to get rich fall into temptations, traps, and many senseless and harmful lusts – the kind which swamp men['s hearts] to their destruction and damnation.
1st Timothy 6:9
In my understanding of the matter, giving in to a life of carnality has the danger of leading to apostasy not because God can't or won't forgive sin (far from it!), but rather because giving in to a life of sinfulness hardens the heart over time to such a degree that those who refuse to confess and turn back can potentially get to the point where they no longer can look God in the face (Jn.3:19-20), where they no longer care about Jesus or following Him, where they no longer have faith or believe by any acceptable definition of those terms. That is apostasy, and I would imagine that you have had occasion to observe this phenomenon from time to time (as sadly most of us have). For the most detailed explication of this phenomenon please see the following link:
"Apostasy and the Sin unto Death" in BB 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin
Secondly (and more briefly as I have by this time no doubt been trying your patience), as to the "rapture", I do indeed believe in it; it is a reality. Where I differ is in my understanding of the Bible's delineation of the time for it. Few I would hope would dispute that "the dead in Christ shall rise first . . . etc.", or that "I will come back and take you to be with Me", or that "the trumpet will sound and the dead [in Christ] will rise incorruptible and we [who remain] will be changed" (1Thes. 4:13-18, Jn.14:1-3, and 1Cor.15:51-58 respectively). But please note that in none of these passages is any time frame given. If we take as our prior assumption that this bodily, living resurrection of the Church occurs at the Second Advent, we find nothing whatsoever in any of these passages even to suggest that we are wrong in that assumption. There are, however, numerous problems with understanding a pre-tribulational rapture. I would go so far as to say that that is a "doctrine" which no reasonable person would ever come up with on their own merely from reading the Bible. Similarly to the discussion on "eternal security" where we find numerous passages that warn us of the consequences of turning completely away from the Lord, so also in the case of the rapture we find numerous passages that focus our attention on the return of Christ (in Greek, His parousia), and while there are no instances of the use of that word which point to any pre-Tribulation return, the word as it is actually used in scripture almost always refers to the Second Advent (e.g., Matt.24:3; 24:27; 24:37-39; 1Cor.15:23; Jas.5:7; 2Pet.1:16, 3:4 & 12; 1Jn.2:28). And even in the case of 1Thes.4:13-18, the use of parousia in verse 15 must mean the same thing it does just a few short verse later in 1st Thessalonians 5:23, and earlier in 1st Thessalonians 2:19, namely, Jesus' return at the Second Advent rather than just prior to the Tribulation. Please see the following links:
The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.
The false doctrine of "Tribulational Security" (i.e., the pre-trib rapture position)
Faith and the Pre-Tribulational "Rapture"
Pre-, post-, or mid-Tribulation Rapture?
There is plenty more to say about all this, but suffice it to say that it would have been very easy for me to follow the well worn path of teaching eternal security and the pre-Trib rapture. Believe me when I say I have not failed to pay a price for following the scripture instead of staying with what was comfortable, not to mention personally very attractive. I dearly wanted to believe that whatever I did or failed to do I could not endanger my salvation; and I dearly wanted to believe that come what may I would never / could never find myself experiencing the Tribulation. But it was by means of honest attempts to solidify the proof of both of these doctrines that I became convicted through careful and continual reading and studying of scripture that these things were not, in fact, correct. Despite the "pariah" status I have with many on account of these teachings, I do not regret putting the truth of scripture in front of systematics based upon tradition. That noble cause, after all, was precisely what attracted me to Col. Thieme's ministry in the first place, and was the supreme benefit I continue to enjoy from it.
Please don't hesitate to get back to me about any of this.
Submitted in the love of Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word.
As you will see from the attached, I am reading your systematic theology from your web-site. I noted that you are against the concept of eternal security and I am taking this opportunity to present evidence to you that you are wrong. Is this important? I think you and I would agree that doctrines form the foundation for other doctrine, like building blocks, so each foundational stone is indeed important. With that in mind, I also think you and I would agree that we should all attempt to understand scripture without initially being biased by a "set" hermeneutic or by a set philosophical bias that we may have picked up along the way.
I admit some carnality that almost prevented me from doing this. The first was an intellectual (pseudo-spiritual) pride that wanted me to keep what the Holy Spirit had shown me to myself. Since I am not a known Christian, my thoughts will always sort of be my thoughts and if I share them, then others might gain some recognition from them, but not me. (use some of my thoughts). I have confessed this sin! You may use none, part, or all of my comments without restrictions.
The second was I am not sure whether you will read the meditation or not since it is so long. In order to overcome this, I have simply put it in God's hands. And, to make things easier for you, I am saying "as unto the Lord" that I will not be disappointed if you decide not to comment at all. Since it is so long and sometimes technical, this will hopefully make your task easier. YOU DON'T HAVE TO COMMENT.
The last obstacle I had to overcome was the tendency for us non-theologians to believe that anyone really cares what we say. I overcame this easily and confessed that God is pleased when any of His children attempt to understand and know Him. Meditating on His word just for that reason and that reason alone is pleasing to Him.
When you read this attached meditation, please read it through completely before drawing any conclusions. Sooner of later you will find that I have addressed your concerns. Please understand that I have immense respect for you or I would not do this. I honestly believe you are one who knows what his responsibilities as a teacher, and your primary concern is not to maintain dogma at the expense of truth. Lastly, while I may have done a poor or even an incorrect exegesis on some scriptures, please don't lost sight of the "forest" because of a few trees. Just relax and enjoy what I have written.
Thanks for the document. Given my busy schedule and the fact that I am severely behind in all aspects of this ministry (as well in my personal and professional life), I am not going to be able to give this lengthy treatise the attention that it probably deserves, at least not at one go. Even if I did, I am not sure how that would be helpful to you. In discussions of this sort, in my experience, very few people are willing to seriously consider (let alone digest) an e-mail several pages long, single-spaced, and with many verse references (which are there, after all, to be looked up). Rather than attempt to do that, I would suggest an alternative approach. You have this extensive document and so you are ready to defend your position, I would imagine. I have looked it over, read some of it carefully, some of it not as carefully, some of it not at all beyond in some sections the introductory remarks.
It is pretty clear to me that we have a fundamental disagreement of opinion here. Let me start by seeing if I can't clear up a few things and focus the discussion a bit. First of all, when you begin by saying "it should seem clear to everyone that the majority of scriptures that touch on the security of the believer support eternal salvation" you lose me right off the bat. Salvation, even as defined in circles where your position is accepted, is, temporally speaking, threefold (i.e., initial salvation, progressive salvation, and ultimate salvation). The question really is whether or not someone can change their mind while still in time and turn away from the Lord when previously they had been following Him. I once believed as you did, because that was what I had been taught and the system by which it was taught seemed logical. I was happy to be comfortable with this belief. What changed my mind was scripture. It has been my practice since the foundation of this ministry and before to follow scripture wherever it leads regardless of my prior views or "comfort zone". Scripture says what it says and means what it means. As you suggest in your e-mail, it is a mistake to allow a particular doctrinal system to overwhelm its plain sense. The more I read the Bible, the more it became clear to me that no one could ever get hyper-eternal security out of scripture alone – that "belief" had to be there first and be wedged into scripture later (by logic or analogy or appeal to tradition). On the other hand, while there aren't any scriptures I know of which directly and unmistakably teach "once saved always saved independent of post-salvation free will", there are very many which do teach the opposite (namely, the very real possibility of apostasy) – at least when fairly and honestly considered. These numerous verses have to be vigorously explained away via convoluted exegesis in order for them not to say so. I got tired of the gymnastics; indeed, the Bible through the Spirit led me to give up standing up for a bad cause when the weight of the evidence finally overwhelmed tradition and the opinions of many whom I respect. It was a very painful process, and one which I did not desire, but in the end it is better to know the truth and stand on scripture.
One thing which from your paper you might not appreciate about my particular position is that it definitely lies somewhere in-between "no security" and "unconditional eternal security". God does not throw us out of His family for an occasional sin. Indeed, it is only when we completely lose faith in Jesus that we are no longer believers in Jesus. It seems overly pedestrian to say so, but when a person stops having faith in Jesus, that person no longer has faith in Jesus. When a person stops believing in Jesus, that person is no longer a believer in Jesus. It is not easy to fall away so completely, but through the process of apostasy it can be done. I am certainly prepared to grant that there are many cults and those whose behavior approaches cult behavior who use sin and "falling from grace" as a huge club to control those who have fallen into their web (that is just as wrong as giving our brothers and sisters a dangerous false sense of "anything goes security"). I do not do so. The study on Hamartiology (Bible Basics 3B) makes clear that through confession we are restored to fellowship instantly. It takes deep, willful, persistent disregard for God's will to so completely "fall away" that a quondam Christian loses his or her faith. But, very sad to say, it happens all the time, and during the Tribulation is prophesied to happen to an extraordinary degree (one of the reasons why being wrong on this issue will be a very great vulnerability in the future: see, "The Great Apostasy").
What I propose is an exchange of verses that support/don't support 1) eternal security (your position); 2) the proposition that a believer can lose his/her faith and attendant salvation through apostasy (my position). Since this argument depends (or should depend) upon what scripture actually says, this ought to be acceptable. I have no problem with you working from what you've already written on a given verse (if you think it sufficient) and responding to the what I give to you. To save time, I'll begin:
1) Eternal security: You make the argument that John 3:16 logically should teach eternal security based upon time constructions in the verse. However, John 3:16 is simply expressing God's purpose (Greek purpose clause) for all to be saved. It is His purpose for all human beings to have eternal life. Yet we know that many will not live forever with Him (in fact, the vast majority of humanity will not). This is not His will, but the will of those who reject Him. The way we have this eternal life is by "believing", for it says, "in order that every person who is a believer might have eternal life" (Gk. present tense attributive participle). A person is only a believer as long as they believe. If they renounce the Lord, if they don't believe in Jesus anymore, for whatever reason, they are no longer a believer and ipso facto no longer have this eternal life. Belief, faith and following Jesus in faith is the condition of eternal life, and our eternal security is only absolute by presupposing the continuation of that believe, faith, faithful following. That is what the language here expresses; salvation belongs (literally) to "the one who is believing".
2) Apostasy: The parable of the sower: Matt.13/Mk.4/Lk.8: Without any doubt, the ground or earth in the parable represents the person in question and the seed planted therein represent the Word of God; there are four situations described by our Lord: 1) the seed/Word does not penetrate the heart; 2) the seed/Word does penetrate but dies on account of pressure; 3) the seed/Word does penetrate but is unproductive on account of pressure; 4) the seed/Word does penetrate and is productive. In all four instances, the description of the person is exactly the same in that all four individuals "hear the Word". Thus it is the response of the person concerned alone from which we must exegete the parable. And in cases 2-4, there is penetration of the Word into the heart (=belief of some sort). Case 1 is clearly an unbeliever from start to finish – the Word never effectively penetrates so that faith "sprouts". Cases 3 and 4 are believers and faith does sprout (although #3 gets into heaven ala 1Cor.3:15 "as through fire"); but Case #2 is clearly also someone who did believe at first (for faith did sprout). This person is said to have received the Word into his/her heart "with joy", but then gave it up when circumstances made it uncomfortable to retain it (i.e., faith withered and died); that is to say, group #2 lost faith. For these people, a group of people about whom Jesus Himself tells us who look and sound for all the world like believers – until they turn away – it seems to me that saying they never really believed is disingenuous and not in accord with the scriptures in all three of the gospels where this parable occurs actually state. I cannot find a reasonable way to square this parable with anything else but the otherwise scripturally sound proposition that a person can stop believing in Jesus, regrettable as that truly is. If that were not the case, moreover, free will would stop the moment we believed, begging the then very legitimate question of why in the world we would still be here after salvation.
Looking forward to your response.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I came across your site, and may I ask a question? After a lifetime of loving the Lord, and believing in eternal security, I have had doubts; after reviewing several topics, including "He who endures to the end" (Even though "Enduring" is not spelled out as to it's meaning) I also have problems with "Perseverance of the saints" (The reason is that it puts the burden on us)
I have always been taught that Jesus, on the cross, died, erased, ALL OF OUR SINS, including not persevering, either that or he only died for the sins up until the time we accepted Christ. If he truly died for ALL SINS, then how in the world could we ever be lost???????
Thank you in advance,
I grew up in a Calvinist environment and cut my theological teeth in a quasi-Baptist environment where eternal security was taught as an all-important absolute (as was the case at my seminary as well). But the scriptures changed my mind. I think part of the reason why many of our brothers and sisters who are otherwise well-versed in scripture cling to this false doctrine is not only out of tradition but also out of reaction to what amounts to eternal "insecurity" often preached by some of the other groups out there. We are in fact very secure in Jesus -- the only way for us to lose our salvation is to abandon our faith, and I would bet you feel the same way as I do about that: it is simply not going to happen, come what may. However, just because we are secure in Jesus and the idea that we have to go around walking on eggshells lest we sneeze the wrong way and lose our salvation is not biblical does not therefore conversely mean that absolutely "once saved always saved no matter what" is correct either. In the event, the "what" in this case is loss of faith; that is what "enduring" or "persevering" or "staying faithful" means: if we believe we are saved; if we stop believing we are not. As long as the seed of faith lives within us, salvation is secure. Only by losing faith in Jesus, that is, by reverting to the status of a non-believer, can salvation be lost. That is not an easy process and not an overnight one either, nor is it accomplished by committing some "unpardonable sin". The unpardonable sin, as it happens, is rejecting Jesus. Indeed, the one sin for which Christ did not and could not die was the sin of refusing to accept that death for sin.
The one who believes in Him is not being judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged on the grounds that he has not put his faith in the Name (i.e., the Person) of God's only Son.
To appropriate Christ's atonement on our behalf, we have to receive it in faith. If that were not the case, there would be no need of faith in the first place, salvation would be universal (a dangerous heresy), and free will (not to mention our creation) would be essentially meaningless and Christ's sacrifice unnecessary (since God is in that case willing and able to forgive without acknowledgment of the forgiveness). Please see the links:
What is the unpardonable sin?
Have I committed the unforgiveable sin?
Does exceptionally sinful behavior indicate that a Christian has lost salvation?
Does Hebrews 10:26-35 ("deliberate sinning" etc.) mean that a believer can lose his or her salvation?
The False Doctrine of Absolute E.S. II
The False Doctrine of Absolute E.S. III
The parable of the Sower talks about the shallow ground that receives the seed of faith with joy, but later it's "faith plant" (combination of the seed of truth nurtured in the soil of faith) dies off for want of moisture (water of the Word) under persecution, tribulation and the like. Sin is part of the equation of course, because it degrades our relationship with God and affects us mightily, turning us sour to the Word of God and enmeshing us deeper into the devil's lies if left unchecked. But it is the eventual death of faith that results from this process of apostasy that costs a person his/her salvation. So how would the Lord or His apostles, for example, want to approach this subject? If you ask me, He/they would want to make the issue of sin and especially of apostasy a rather scary prospect (because indeed it is) while at the same time giving much comfort and assurance that we do belong to God and no one else can break that relationship (only our own intense, continued, and definitive choice to the contrary can endanger our eternal security). The result would be as is often the case in scripture two themes or doctrines that seem at first appraisal antithetical in terms of human logic but which on closer inspection turn out to be to the contrary completely complementary and reciprocal – which is indeed the case (as I have argued). We are indeed secure in Jesus – no one and nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:35 and context); on the other hand, if we deny Him, He will also deny us, for He cannot deny Himself (2Tim.2:12-13).
We ignore either side of this important equation to our great spiritual peril. If we fail to appreciate that we are complete secure in Him as long as we believe in Him and follow Him, we open ourselves up to all sorts of crass manipulation from groups and individuals who claim that any sin (or whatever sort of behavior they particularly dislike) destroys salvation; we open the door to excessive guilt and fear which, ironically, can also swamp our faith. On the other hand, if we truly believe that we may behave however we like without endangering our eternal status, we open ourselves up to living our lives without Jesus and as if we were not Christians; we open the door to excessive boldness and temerity which, not surprisingly, can harden our consciences and erode away our faith. True spirituality accepts the need for understanding both the security we have as members of the Body of Christ and sons and daughters of the living God (and if we make it our business to act the part this issue will never come up for us), and also the reality that only believers are saved (so that we should be properly motivated to live like the Lord is telling us to live, growing spiritually day by day [good offense] and pursuing sanctification at the same time [good defense]).
There is quite a lot to say on this subject, and from your e-mail it is possible that you haven't yet discovered everything written about it on the site. Here are a few links where more is said – do free to write me back in any case on any aspects of this question you wish to discuss further.
"Apostasy and the Sin unto Death" (in BB 3B)
"The Process of Apostasy" (in CT 3A)
"The Danger of Apostasy" (in Peter #26)
"Eternal security: where does one draw the line?"
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ -- the One who died that we might possess eternal life.
A couple things I can't seem to jump over are the following: Either Christ died for my sins up to the point I was saved, then I'm on my own, or, he died for ALL of my sins, in which case even doubts and unbelief would be covered, as they are sins. Can't get anyone to answer that one.
Also the bible says that OUR FAITH, even that is from God, so if it's from God, how can we expect to be held accountable?
It seems to me that God loves us, and will keep us. I've NEVER met a TRUE Christian who doesn't at the very least, wish to love and serve the Lord. Free will? Yes, you have free will to curse God, to jump out of a window, but you never would, because God is the only good in you, that's the kind of thing I'm talking about.
To answer your question, actually, there is one sin and one sin only for which Christ could not die: the sin of rejecting Him. That is the unforgiveable/unpardonable sin (see the link: http://ichthys.com/mail-unforgiveable sin.htm). Without repentance, there can be no forgiveness. As believers, God forgives us when we come back to Him and confess our sins; forgiveness, while it is infinitely available, is not automatic. And that is certainly all the more the case for the unbeliever. God cannot and will not exonerate unbelief, as that would essentially nullify the work of Christ (heaven forbid!). This explains why, for example, the words "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" is not actually part of scripture (see the link: in BB 4A Christology: "The Interpolation 'Father forgive them'"). It is a later addition by someone who figured Christ would have said that. But He didn't and in fact couldn't forgive failure to acknowledge Himself and His work since that is the essential question which confronts every human being. We have free will to accept Jesus, to respond to God by believing in Him and His sacrifice on our behalf. Christ died for all sin; but if we reject that sacrifice, we go to hell self-condemned (see the link: in BB 3B: "Sinning Arrogantly").
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will
also live with Him; if we persevere, we will also reign with
Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; If we are
faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown
2nd Timothy 2:11-13
Secondly, faith, like everything else truly good, is a gift of God – just like our life is a gift from Him. He most definitely wants everyone to be saved (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.3:16; 12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9). So how are any lost since after all He is God!? And on top of that He sent His own dear Son to the cross to die so that we might not perish but have eternal life!? But some do perish. Why? Because God doesn't love them? Of course He does. But the type of faith He has given us is free will faith, and that is what makes us different. Our faith is not pre-programed. Our free will faith is the most important thing we have, because it is the power of choice. Everything else in this life is an illusion, but to choose for God in things great and small is to take advantage of the life we are now leading, with the biggest and most important choice of faith being the one that enters us into Christ in the first place. Faith is essentially the free will choice of choosing for rather than against God. It is the active act of deciding to trust the words of God instead of what our eyes see our lusts desire. It is a gift of course, something we could not do nor exercise apart from God's gracious provision, but we still have to exercise it. He won't do it for us, for to do so would be to eliminate free will faith entirely. This is why Jesus says "Ye are gods", not because we are anything in material or moral terms, but because we alone along with the angels (also called gods) can exercise our faith in free will, can use the determination of our hearts to say "Yes, this is so and I accept it" or "no, I don't believe it". All free will, all faith or lack thereof, always resolves itself down into this principle of choosing to believe and obey God or not deigning to do so, and it is the most important principle in the world (see the link: in BB 3A "The likeness and image of God").
So wishing to love and serve God is great; doing so is better by far; getting to the point where one doesn't really care one way or the other is terribly dangerous; and switching over to the other side to serve Satan is a mark of having abandoned faith entirely. Without the ability to do this last terrible thing, however, we would of necessity also not have the capacity to choose for God and choose to serve our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ after salvation (which activity is the basis for rewards that will last forever).
As I say, the links included in the previous e-mail have much more about this subject, and, indeed, it is one that figures prominently in many of the writings at Ichthys. Please do feel free, however, to write me back about any of this.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I'm not exactly sure what you mean by believers can no longer believe. Does this mean that a Christian can lose their salvation? Because I have always been taught that false converts fall away and that true believers will persevere (John 10:27-29). Sorry if I misunderstood you.
No, you read it right. The way you report how you were instructed is a pretty typical way to get around the fact that the Bible most certainly does teach us that if we stop following the Lord entirely we stop belonging to Him. When He tells us in the parable of the Sower about the seed that falls upon the rock and explains that it refers to those who receive the Word with joy but afterwards fall away, for the life of me I don't know how people can sleep at night when they teach that these people are "false converts". If that were true, then the joy we have in Jesus would be suspect! This is just a dishonest way of trying to make one's theology fit into scripture, but it is a clear case of a square peg in a round hole. To say that people who in our experience were Christians by every measure we can deploy who later unquestionable turn away from Christ were "not Christians in the first place" defies credulity. It is also dangerous, because it can lead to a false sense of security ("it can't possibly happen to me") or to doubts about our salvation ("maybe I'm not really saved in the first place but merely a false convert"). In fact, our security is solid as long as we believe. As long as we are believers, followers of Jesus Christ, nothing can snatch us out of His hands, but "if we disown Him, He will also disown us" (2Tim.2:12b).
Facing this truth, both sides of it, motivates us to be careful how we walk and to get moving in our spiritual growth and in our personal ministries instead of wasting our lives (since that is not just unprofitable but also dangerous lest we fall into apostasy and lose our faith). The doctrine of so-called unlimited "eternal security" which claims that no matter what we do after first believing in Jesus we will get to heaven is a very dangerous and completely non-biblical teaching. It is in many ways a litmus test that separates the lukewarm (who love it) from those who are ready to follow the Lamb wherever He leads (and are willing to accept what the Bible actually says on the issue). At least in my experience and observation as things stand in the church visible at this time in this country, Christians from traditional backgrounds who want to get somewhere in their spiritual growth face coming to terms with inconsistencies in several major (and a number of minor) doctrines as they are presently most often taught in otherwise conservative evangelicalism, primarily in my view because they allow for consumer Christianity as opposed to hands on following of Christ in a biblical way (i.e., actually doing something for Jesus He want us to do instead of merely supporting someone else's lukewarm organization with money, service, and physical presence). Unlimited eternal security is definitely one of these false doctrines (the pre-tribulational rapture is another). This is important, so rather than try and revisit the whole argument here, please see these links:
Peter #27: Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith
"Apostasy and the Sin unto Death" in BB 3B: Hamartiology
"Eternal Security: where does one draw the line?"
The Origin and Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I recently stumbled upon your website after doing some searching about Satan and his demons. There was a time in my life when I wasn't really sure all this existed. I mean, I was raised in the church, went to Confirmation and all that. I believe I was born again there. For a period of about 15 minutes, two men laid their hands of me and I accepted the Holy Spirit (Jesus) into my heart, I wept for a half an hour. I felt like I was born again; I felt Jesus; do you think I was?
Yes, I may have been born again but that was years ago, I believe I have been slipping ever since. I have rejected Christ, even though he gave me a gift (and a choice-chance) years ago. I sometimes wonder when I pray, even though I've been living a sinful life, I still manage to pray, how much will Jesus forgive, why do I continue to do Satan's will? I find myself not angry with God anymore, but angry with Satan. Being surrounded by temptation makes it hard, it's beaten better and stronger men then me.
Your page made a lot of sense to me. What it meant to me was that our physical life here on Earth (while it should be enjoying to some extent) is nothing compared to the afterlife. Making money, success, fame, girls, all the things I wanted as a kid, and still want to some degree all go away eventually, even for the most famous and powerful people. They can't take anything with them when they leave their bodies (young or old.) It really hit home! My personal belief is that we either end up going immediately to hell, if that's where God wants to send us after we die.
I don't really know why I am writing, except perhaps that you seem like a wise, Christian man. Perhaps a few years older, with more experience. Oh, I doubt that you have ever lived the lifestyle I have but you certainly know a lot about spiritual matters and The Lord. Most Pastors won't talk much about demons and Satan, but I know they do exist. Perhaps this is why much of my family is bound by him. I think these things tend to run in families, early deaths, addiction, mental illness, a lot has occurred in my family. If I told you, you might not believe me.
Thanks For Listening,
Good to make your acquaintance. It is clear from your e-mail that you have had something of a rough time of it, spiritually speaking, but please know that your experience is far from unique. The devil walks about like a ravenous lion seeking those he may devour, after all, and the trials and temptations of contemporary life in the U.S. are manifold, persuasive, and ubiquitous.
That said, there are two things very critical things I would have you understand:
1) We all have free will, and no one can take that away from us. Therefore, we are all responsible for all of our own thoughts, words, and deeds. That is the entire reason why we, the human race, are here in the first place, namely, to demonstrate to the devil and his fallen angels that there are some who will use their free will to respond to God in the way God desires in spite of temptation, in spite of what eyes see and ears here, and in spite of all opposition to the contrary.
2) If you have faith in Jesus Christ, you are a believer. If you do not have faith in Jesus Christ, you are not a believer. It is as simple as that. The problem with sin from the point of view of salvation is not that God is unable or unwilling to forgive any and all sin – indeed, Jesus died for every one of your sins and mine on the cross: He died to wash away the sins of the entire world, of believers and unbelievers alike. So no sin or pattern of sin or chronic sin or sin you find especially troubling can possibly keep you from God, from Jesus, from heaven. The Lord stands ready to forgive you anything and everything if only you are willing to turn back to Him and confess your sins to Him in prayer (1Jn.1:9). No, the problem with giving in to a life of sin is that it hardens a person's heart and over time will cause even a previously zealous believer to wander so far from God, to reduce God to so little in his/her thinking, to become so reluctant to "look God in the face", that eventually, incrementally, surreptitiously faith begins to erode. And just as in extreme cases where muscles can atrophy to the point of becoming no longer usable, so faith can erode to the point where it dissolves and no longer is faith any longer.
If you believe that Jesus is true God and true man in one person forever, and that He died for you and that you are saved through His blood, and if you are willing to follow Him in faith up the high road to Zion, you are a believer. If you do not believe, well, nothing prevents you from embracing the Son of God in faith. God has given you free will. You have the ability to put your priorities straight. And I have to tell you, , that it seems to me that unless there was a spark of faith still existing and unless there was a desire deep in your heart to "get right with the Lord" and begin to live a Christian life again, you would not have searched out this site, and you would not have written me your e-mail. I want to assure you that no matter how daunting it may seem, there is nothing that is impossible for God. And no matter how impressive the powers of the evil one may seem, they are nothing in comparison with the Holy Spirit. You have access to all the power you need and all the resources you need to complement your free will and begin the road not only to recovery but to spiritual growth and eternal reward. God very seldom chooses perfect people. In fact, no one is perfect. We are all sinners, and we all will struggle until the day of eternity with the problem of indwelling sin no matter how committed we may be. But I can tell you that we can begin to win victories in spite of defeats, and that we can begin to move forward and stop slipping ever backward. The road to recovery is not easy. It requires a change of thinking, a change of lifestyle, a humble coming back to the Lord and an aggressive abandoning of all the things that drag us down. It requires confession, prayer, concentration on what is good and eschewing of what is bad. It requires consistent spiritual growth through daily Bible reading, daily Bible study from a sound, authoritative source, daily prayer, and a daily commitment not only to hear what is said but to believe it and to begin to apply it to the life. And once momentum is gained in this recovery, true spiritual growth requires "giving back" through whatever spiritual gifts and ministries the Lord may assign. But while all this is a challenge, it is also "good news", in fact, it is the best news: God has a plan for you; Jesus wants you to come back to Him and start to follow Him in the right and good way; the Spirit is in you if you belong to Jesus and will empower all of your efforts (Rom.8:9; 2Tim.2:1); and your brothers and sisters in Jesus are willing to aid you in prayer and encouragement as you take on this most important task of recovery, growth, and production for the Lord.
You are not the first one to stumble. You are not the first one to doubt. You are not the first one to have challenges from those who are closest to you. In the history of the world, the number of those who realize as you clearly do that this life is of absolutely no positive consequence apart from an eternity in fellowship with Jesus Christ has been infinitesimally small. Having realized it, I encourage you to take the necessary next steps forward. The Lord is waiting for you patiently, indeed, you are no doubt responding to His "knocking at the door", getting you attention in a variety of ways. Please do not let this opportunity and moment of spiritual clarity pass you by.
For more on the whole issue of sin, Christ's atonement for it, our confession of it, and the dangers it poses, please see:
BB 3A: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin
in BB 4A: Christology: "The Saving Work of Jesus Christ"
In the One who died that might have eternal life in His Name, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
That was rather well written and kind, thank you so much, you are a good man with a kind heart. Now, I don't say that to many men, in fact, I don't know that I ever have but it crossed my mind because of the in depth nature of your accurate email. I feel like I have been banned to hell for sins against the Holy Spirit. I don't really understand the Holy Spirit but I know he has touched me and perhaps, possibly, he is angry. Or God is angry and it is directed through him, or however God directs his anger. Certainly he does not let his people (who have confessed with their mouths that they wanted to be saved) to get away with my kind of life style without punishment.
Enough feeling sorry for myself though. I prayed to Jesus with all my heart last night and wept to him, coming to him with open hands. I know he heard me but have I heard him? I also read the chapter of Daniel, one of my favorites. Daniel was such a special man, to see such visions directly from God regarding things that would occur thousands of years into the future (maybe in our times) is amazing. Anyway, Daniel and Proverbs inspire me but I will also begin reading Jesus's words, they never get old. Jesus always had the right thing to say at the right time, sort of like the guy staring in his own tv show but the big difference is that Jesus was real, and spoke the truth, no matter how painful it was to hear.
It took me only 10 seconds to find my Bible last night and I had not seen it in years, I am a messy person, like it was laid out for me. So Daniel was the first one to come to mind, then Proverbs. Psalms are wonderful too.
The thing is Robert, I really love Jesus, I do. Perhaps I am just a weak-willed person when it comes to sin but I will pray for strength.
My last question is why do they hate us so much, you know who I am referring to, even some of my friends hate Jesus and Christians! We've done nothing to them. Or, is it because they hated Jesus first, as he said? Jesus did say something to the effect of if they hate you, remember that they hated me first. It doesn't make much sense but Jesus was right as always.
I am greatly encouraged by your e-mail! Hang in there and please know that there is a big difference between divine discipline, of which we are all partakers as sons of God (Heb.12:8), and damnation. Indeed, if you were lost, there would be no point in the Lord whipping you. Indeed, the very fact that He is whipping you is proof positive that you are His son and that He is helping you to reject what is no good for you and turn and embrace all that is good for you. On this entire issue of divine discipline, which, when properly understood, can be a cause of confidence in spite of the pain, please see the following link: In BB 3B: "The Fact and Purpose of Divine Discipline".
As to the Holy Spirit, those passages which talk about blaspheming the Spirit and the "unpardonable sin", these are in fact talking about the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ: that is the only sin for which Jesus could not die and the only sin for which human beings are condemned. Everything is forgivable and indeed has already been forgiven, washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. Indeed, when we are punished, disciplined, scourged by the Lord, it is wrong to think that we are "paying for sin" in the sense of ever being able to atone for it. Only a perfect person could make acceptable atonement to God for any sin, and we are born imperfect. On the other hand, while only Jesus Christ could do, He in fact has done it. So when we are punished, it is far short of what would be required to wash away the sin, and that is unnecessary as Jesus has already washed them all away. Discipline is a family matter; God is training us, and it has to hurt to make the proper impression on us or most of us (me anyway) would never respond as we should. Please see these links:
Have I committed the unforgivable sin?
What is the unpardonable sin?
Apostasy and the sin unto death.
As to your last question, I think you have answered it yourself very well. Jesus certainly predicted it, and in times to come very soon this trend is predicted to accelerate as the beast turns most of the world away (including many believers) from Christ and towards himself as pseudo-Christ. I think part of what is going on too is that truth is always divisive because those who have rejected it have tied their souls into kinks, so to speak, and have become very defensive in the face of those who have not done so. As Ecclesiastes teaches us, all human effort is completely pointless apart from God. In my experience, therefore, those who reject God (and worshiping a substitute god by whatever name falls into the same category) of necessity live their lives as if they will never die, putting off any consideration of what happens next until it is too late. Christianity challenges their entire personal "philosophy" and causes them to see as Ecclesiastes says that without God, without Jesus Christ, there is no reasonable purpose to anything they are doing or ever will do, only an impending judgment for which they are completely unprepared. Those truths are uncomfortable in the extreme. The truth interferes with the constant stream of "dope" (that is to say, secular lies) they are feeding their hearts. And when the dope stops, the pain starts. As they rightly perceive Christians as cutting off the drip-feed, you can see why they are angered at anyone who shakes them out of their comfortable folly, even though we are trying to save their eternal lives – just as most addicts will violently strike out at anyone trying to take away their dope, even though they are trying to save their physical lives.
But you, my friend, cleave to the truth and continue what you have begun. God will give you the strength you need to get back on the high road to Zion, one slow step at a time.
In the One who died for us that we might have eternal life with Him, and have it abundantly, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.