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The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

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Question #1: 

Hi Doc!  My Pastor told me that it is impossible for someone who has truly been born again to lose their salvation. He has also told me that those who supposedly "lose" their salvation have never truly been born again, and that those who truly understand God's Grace and are truly repentant will never lead them to antinomianism unless they are false converts. He gave me this:

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:27-29)

First lets deal with The Recipients (SHEEP).

The Recipients ? The Lord's sheep (v. 27)

*They are His sheep (v. 27a)

*His sheep will hear His voice (v. 27b)

*[John 10] ? verse 5 says that they will not follow a stranger and that they will flee from him; they will.

*He knows His sheep (v. 27c) [compare with Matthew 7:23].

*His sheep will follow Him (v. 27d).

THESE ARE ASSURANCES GIVEN BY CHRIST HIMSELF!!!

*He presently and continuously give unto His sheep eternal life (v. 28a)

*If it is eternal, and you lost it, It wouldn't be eternal.

*He keeps on giving eternal life.

*His sheep shall never perish (v. 28b)

*This is an emphatic "never"? ou me in the Greek.

*The understanding of it is "no not"?double negative, one negative would have sufficed to communicate the message, but the double negative stands as an emphatic coming from the Lord Jesus Christ.

*Perish" is an aorist middle verb making this reflexive and also saying that he himself will not have anything to do with perishing either.

*He cannot cause himself to perish ? making a point that even his own sinning will not be the cause of his perishing.

*It is aorist so that he will never at any point perish, not now, not in the future.

*The understanding of "they shall never perish," in light of the Greek words here (eis ton aiona), is "they shall never perish eternally.

*Everyone will die physically.

*This is saying that these sheep will never perish eternally, that is, they will never experience eternal death!

*His Father gave His sheep to Him (v. 29a).

*Gave" is the perfect tense, meaning that the act of giving was completed in the past, and the results of that giving are ongoing.

*The gift that the Father gave to the Son must continue being the gift..

*They belong to Jesus because they have been given to Him by the Father, a gift that will keep on giving.

*No man is able to pluck them out of the Father's hand (v. 29b).

*Within the circle of "no man" are no man.

*No man who has ever lived can be in that circle.

*To be able to lose your own salvation, you would have to be In that circle, and since you cannot be, you cannot lose your salvation.

*You cannot remove yourself from His hand.

*No man will pluck them out of the Lord Jesus' hand (v. 28c).

*Any man includes every human being that ever lived.

*Would "any man" include yourself? Yes.

*Therefore, as one of "any man," abiding within that circle, you cannot even pluck yourself out of His hand.

*Here are more assurances found in John's Gospel chapter 17

*Knowing Perfectly the Will of God Jesus Prayed in v.11 for the Father to Keep Those Whom He Had Given Him.

*Jesus is praying to the Father (v..1) and in v.9 we see Whom He is praying for.

*1 John 5:14,15 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

*In v.4 we see that Jesus fulfills everything the Father wants Him to do.

*In v.21 we read that the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, so the Son must know the will of the Father, since they are in each other.

*Hast given" in v.11 is a perfect tense, again meaning that the action of the Father giving these people to the Son is completed in the past and the result of that giving is ongoing.

*They are God's irrevocable gift to His Son?vv. 2,6,9,11,12,22.

*He prays to the Father to keep them, the them being not only those saved on the earth at that time, but all those (v.20) who will believe on Him in the future.

False teachers can use their smoke and mirrors and wrenching of the scriptures to disprove this passage, however if we take this at face value, its says what it says."

He has also told me that he once believed that salvation could be lost but prayed over it and after many years of studying this doctrine has concluded that someone who has truly been born again cannot lose their salvation. Is what is written by him correct? Thanks in advance!

Response #1:   

I am always reluctant to contradict someone's pastor (since of course accepting the authority of the person you are sitting under for teaching is indispensable for spiritual growth), but sticking up for the truth always comes first. My old pastor was of the same opinion, and I believed this for a long time. However, as with the false doctrine of the pre-Tribulation rapture, it was in trying to support it that I found out from scripture that I was standing up for a bad cause. Your pastor's position is in the mainstream of Calvinist theology, and his defense against the common sense we all have and life-experience we all have is the typical Calvinist one: if they fall away, they were never saved in the first place. The trouble is that this explanation doesn't "wash". A person has to have led a pretty sheltered Christian life or else be a very new convert not to know people who we were by all accounts and evidence "Christian" who have since turned away to follow Satan. Refusing to accept that reality opens us up to grave spiritual danger, because, when we contemplate these issues and our own behavior, it leads us to think either 1) "I know I am a Christian, so I can't lose my salvation no matter what I do" -- such an attitude removes our fear of ultimate consequences and thus emboldens us to sin and in extreme cases can, ironically, lead to loss of salvation; or 2) "I know I am not perfect and have problems with certain sins, so maybe I am not saved but one of those who were never really elect" -- such an attitude can cause a massive spiritual meltdown and the sort of insecurity that makes spiritual growth and production impossible. And it is not uncommon for Christians who believe the extreme version of eternal security (i.e., "once saved always saved no matter what") to vacillate between these two misapplications.

It takes no deep knowledge of the Bible to know that scripture itself contains many passages which put the lie to this extreme view. For example, in the parable of the sower, while the first type of soil does not receive the seed of the Word and thus the seed is removed by the devil before belief can occur, the second type of soil does receive the Word so as to believe. But while this second group "rejoices" in the good news, latter on, they fall away. Luke 8:13 actually says "They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (Greek aphistantai)", which is the technical term for apostasy, the turning away from God by those who were once His (i.e., an unbeliever can't be apostate, Greek "stander-away", because he has never actually "stood-with" God in the first place). No reasonable interpretation of the parable of the Sower can explain away the clear and obvious fact that group number two consists of actual believers who later fall away from the faith ("they believe ... they fall away"). I say "reasonable", because of course hyper-eternal security proponents have their particular "exegetical gymnastics" with which to defuse these passages. However, this is one of those passages that doesn't let individuals of this persuasion sleep at night (if they are indeed honestly seeking the truth of the Word of God), because in any simple reading the only interpretation that works is the one given above -- and the passage is repeated in all three synoptic Gospels (see the link: "The Parable of the Sower"). I could write you a book on this, but before moving on to the points related in this e-mail, I will content myself with quoting a few other passages which speak for themselves (and will also give you links to related studies below):

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

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.
Galatians 5:19-21

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.
Ephesians 5:3-7

I give you this command, Timothy my child, in accordance with the prophecies that were made long ago about you, that you conduct a good campaign, one that is in keeping with [those predictions], holding onto your faith and to a clean conscience (cf. 1Tim.1:5-6) - which [conscience] some have rejected (lit., "pushed away") and [have thus] suffered the shipwreck of their faith.
1st Timothy 1:18-19

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

If we deny Him, He will also deny us . . . for He cannot deny Himself.
2nd Timothy 2:12-13

Note, in all of the above, believers are being cautioned against sin in the context of losing salvation. The only reason to do so is if the consequences of extreme, reprobate behavior are very serious (and they are: apostasy or the sin unto death; see the link in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

Now to some of the particular passages claimed to teach this unsupportable "doctrine":

1) "Out of my hand" says nothing about our behavior; no one can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, but we certainly can make the very poor choice of turning away from that love. Principle: we have free will; being saved does not remove our free will; if it did, God might as well have transferred us immediately to heaven when we believed; instead, He left us here for a purpose, and that purpose has everything to do with the decisions we make; we can make good decision, we can also make very bad ones; no one else can remove us from God's hand, true; but we can remove ourselves from the hand of God through throwing away our faith; if we could not, then we would not have the free will to exercise (or fail to exercise) our faith. Since we do have the free-will of faith as the scripture confirms repeatedly and as we know experientially, to be told that in this instance it is not operative is inconsistent with the passages quoted above where we are cautioned against giving ourselves over to gross sin in a context of losing salvation as a result; the passages offered in defense of absolute eternal security all have at their core this same problem: they are focused on God who will indeed for His part keep His part of the bargain, but they ignore the possibility which scripture does not ignore that we ourselves may prove to be at fault. If it were up to God, all would be saved; but all are not saved, because of their choices, not because of God's first best will for them.

2) We are His sheep; but sheep do go astray. We know from experience that we can fall into sin. Anyone who claims they haven't sinned, do not sin, or have no sin nature is "a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1Jn.1:5-10). Principle: we are not immune to sin after salvation; if we give ourselves back to its authority, it has a capacity to erode our faith; those who let this process go all the way to apostasy are to be warned and pitied, but that does not mean they were never believers.

3) Eternal life: Only believers have eternal life; unbelievers do not. *Principle: and this is a critical point, and please do not miss it: the way that believers fall away is by losing faith, that is by becoming unbelievers. Where they once accepted Christ as their Savior and believed in Him for eternal life, now they no longer feel any loyalty to Him, no longer believe in Him, no longer follow Him to any degree, and so no longer have eternal life (since only believers have eternal life). If a person can stop believing (and both scripture and experience affirm that they can) then they can lose their eternal life just as they can lose all of the other good gifts God has given them.

All of the other passages which repute to teach this "doctrine" do not actually do so for one of the three reasons above (and I am happy to consider any of them individually if the connection is not clear -- in discussions like this, one has to resist the urge to overreact to "saturation bombing" of this sort). One final note and then the links. As is often the case, there is an over-reliance here on the moods and tenses of Greek as if that "meant something really earth-shaking". As a Greek Professor, I am the first to defend the use Greek, but also the first to decry its abuse. It is in particular very problematic to place such life and death weight on the use of the perfect tense in the NT, especially since it has been heavily influenced in its meaning by the Hebrew perfect as translated into the Septuagint Greek perfect forms. Suffice it to say that while the moods and tenses are important, they cannot be taken to mean what is suggested here (again, happy to discuss individual cases).

As I say, there are serious problems with this false doctrine, the most severe of which is the false sense of security it gives to marginal believers, hastening, in too many cases, their descent to destruction. Please see:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security

Peter #27: Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith

"Eternal Security: where does one draw the line?"

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

Eternal security 1

Eternal security 2

Peter #21 - "Perseverance of Faith"

Peter #26 - "Positional Security" 

Offered in the love of Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hi Doc!

I forwarded your email to compare the notes on both his and your. He responded below under yours pasted in:

[] Warnings are warnings (sanctification); these passages do not prove what he is claiming. None of these passages say that a true believer could or would deny Christ, for there are countless passages assert the converse.

[] There are really no *recognized* theologians or biblical commentators that hold to this position of loosing one's salvation. Mainly due to the force of the grammar. I will explain below.

[] Here John 10:28 is being referenced. Problem with his view is that he ignores the grammar of the passage. Note the following:

Verse 28 reads: "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish [ ou m apol ntai]; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." Here Jesus uses here the double negative [ou m ] followed by the aorist subjunctive [apol ntai] to negate a future possibility of any of His sheep perishing—His sheep shall never, not even a possibility, perish. This construction is only used around 85 times in the NT. Again the double negative followed by the aorist subjunctive is the strongest way to negate a future possibly in Greek grammar.

We find the same in Rom. 4:4-8: In Romans 4:4-8, Paul teaches that the one believing, apart from works, has been declared righteous before God. However, what is significant in terms of biblically affirming the security of the believer is verses 7-8: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account [ou m logis tai]."

Specifically note that in verse 8, Paul (quoting Ps. 32:2) uses as in John 10:28 the double negative followed by the aorist subjunctive: Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never never, not even a possibility, take into account. Hence, there is no sin that the Lord will count against the justified blessed man. He has been imputed with the righteousness of Christ. No one can bring a charge against him (cf. Rom. 8:33), for Christ always intercedes for him (cf. Rom. 8:34).

Nothing can separate him from the eternal love of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:35ff.). Those who deny perseverance of the saints cannot agree with the Lord's direct promise of never imputing sin to the believer. Their theological assumption will not allow for it. They cannot agree with the promises clearly laid out in passages such as John 5:24, 10:28, and Romans 4:8. Nor do they consider the fact that believing is simultaneous with actively possessing eternal life (cf. John 5:24; 6:47).

[]The Greek is ignored in the passages that have the participle pisteu n (believing; 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; etc.) Take John 5:24 for example: Jesus said that the one believing (pisteu n) and the one hearing (akou n)[1] has (echei) eternal life. Grammatically the two present tense participles, "believing" and "hearing," denote an action that is simultaneous to the time of the leading verb, echei ("has"). The verb echei ("has") is a present active indicative tense, which describes active ongoing possession. Thus, active possession of eternal life is not a future prospect or possibility for the one believing; it is a present and continuous absolute certainty. The same grammatical relationship (pisteu n with echei) is found in John 6:47.

2. Because the one believing actively possesses eternal life, they will never come into God's wrath and judgment (cf. Rom. 5:9).

3. After affirming the permanency of eternal life and the certainty of being delivered from judgment, Jesus then affirms His redemptive guarantee that the one believing "has passed out of death into life." The Greek verb metabeb ken ("has passed") is a perfect tense. The perfect tense indicates a completed action that normally occurred in the past, which has continuous results into the present.. Hence, the reason as to why the one believing "does not come into judgment" is that he "has passed out of," perfectly and completely, spiritual death.

Also in John 6:35, Jesus says, "he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thrust." As in the following verses (37-40), Jesus cogently states His covenant of redemption, that is, His promise of salvation for those whom the Father gave Him: "the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. . . . all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day." Jesus' promise of salvation is specifically addressed to His sheep (elect). They follow Him and hear Him; others are unable to do so (cf. John 8:43; 10:26).

Please note Christ said: "I lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day." I lose nothing? Christ said that He will raise all of the ones that the Father gave to Him ON THE LAST DAY. I lose nothing. That is what Jesus said (see also John 6:44, 65). In other words, No Christian will be lost (refuting all who claim that Christian can be lost), but they all will be raised up on the last day.

[]He has not provided one single point of exegesis or point of Greek grammar to support his position. He ignores all grammatical aspects of the passages (esp. the participle pisteu n (lit., believing), which denotes on-going beif, cf. John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; etc.) and only appeals to his own emotional view of how he sees certain passages and concepts.

Thanks in advance!

Response #2: 

As I said, I am always reluctant get involved in contradicting a third party who is identified as "my pastor", reason being that acceptance of pastoral teaching authority is necessary for spiritual growth. However, it is my policy to answer questions when people ask, and also to correct falsehoods when they are brought to my attention.

I am sure that it does not come as a surprise to you that your pastor does not agree with my interpretations. This puts me in a bit of an awkward position. Also, as I believe I might have had occasion to mention to you before, "interlinear pasting in" of a series of responses to someone else's e-mail (as opposed to a contiguous response) makes it difficult to have any kind of reasoned discussion. In a debate or in a courtroom one side speaks and then the other responds. This pasting-in approach, on the other hand, is like shouting a person down (retroactively).

For all these reasons I will limit my response. My original e-mail to you on this was, in any case, very brief concerning the subject matter, but you have the links in that e-mail for a series of much more detailed treatments of the question, if you are interested.

I will reply briefly to a few of the statements made here, but I would note that the one passage that I did take time to explain in some detail (rather than just quote) goes unanswered. That is very telling. As I said earlier, no one who teaches absolute eternal security has come close to addressing the matter satisfactorily until they answer the problem (for their argument) of the second type of soil in the parable of the Sower. These are Jesus' words, and they are very clear: "They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (i.e., fall away from the faith)." (Lk.8:13)

1) "None of these passages say that a true believer could or would deny Christ": How else would one interpret, just for example, the last passage quoted?

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

2) "[T]here are countless passages assert the converse": I don't know of a single one. That is because, as explained before, such interpretations of passages of the like of John 10:28 "no one will snatch them out of my hand" ignore the obvious truth that an unnamed third party is the subject of this snatching away (i.e., Satan and his minions), not the believer himself, and it is this third party who is unable to wrest believers from God, which says nothing about the faithfulness of the believer himself as life progresses. None of these passages say anything about the actions of the believers in question. If we were inert objects, there might be an argument here. But we have free will. What if we stop believing? (as in "they believe for a while . . . but fall away").

3) "Recognized theologians": Well indeed I am not a recognized theologian (praise God!). This generalization is not, of course, correct however. Entire denominations take a different view of the matter (the Methodists, for example).

4) "Grammatical Issues": All this misses the point entirely. The question is not whether anyone or anything ELSE is able to take away our eternal life: nothing and no one ELSE can, because nothing and no one is stronger than God. All believers are eternally and unquestionably secure. That is, all believers are secure. Unbelievers are not secure. If a person does not believe in Jesus Christ, they do not fall into the protected category these passages talk about in the first place. That is the point. Apostasy is the loss of faith. If I stop believing, I am now an unbeliever, and since unbelievers do not have eternal life, then I would no longer have eternal life, being an unbeliever.

Now since it is impossible to argue with the proposition that "unbelievers do not have eternal life", we are right back where we started. What about a believer who subsequently throws aside their faith, someone, who like the rocky soil that received the seed who "believed for a while . . . " but then fell away in times of trouble? They have not been snatched out God's hands; they have rejected God. They have not been separated from the love of God in Christ; they have separated themselves. They are not cast out; they have cast themselves out. They once believed; now they do not. They once were saved; now they are not. It is neither God's fault nor God's doing; it is their fault and their doing.

None of this fine sounding exegesis changes any of the above. The dilemma for proponents of the hyper-eternal security position is that they must claim that people who seemed by all accounts to believe before either 1) never were believers, or 2) somehow still have a shred of faith somewhere deep inside and "really are believers", even though everything they say and do may contradict it. Neither position passes the "smell test". It is much easier just to take Jesus at His word on this: "They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize".

These are not "emotional" appeals. These are clear arguments based upon scripture which demonstrate what scripture actually says. I am very happy to debate the grammar of any passage where that is at all pertinent to the issue at hand. In all of the passages discussed in the response, however, the use of grammar is only misleading. Just for example, the fact that some of the descriptions of believers use present participles is neither here nor there: aorist: "having believed"; perfect: "in a present state of belief based on past belief"; present: "believing at the present time". None of these participles can be made to mean that a person who did, has, or is believing will always do so. That idea is not in the grammar and, much more to the point, is not in the Bible. It is possible to turn away, just as Jesus describes it. That is why there are so many passages in the New Testament in particular which warn us so vociferously about the consequences of excessively sinful behavior - because sin unconfessed often comes to be embraced, and that process degrades faith and can eventually put it to death. If I am "a person who is now believing", that doesn't say anything about the poor decisions I may make tomorrow, even indulging in the type of sinful behavior the Bible warns us against so vehemently, and the process of apostasy when it has run its course most definitely removes us from God's protection.

Everyone is tempted by his own lust, being dragged away [by it] and enticed [by it]. Then, should lust conceive (i.e., should the person give in to it), it gives birth to sin. And sin, should it be fully carried out to the end (i.e., should the person give in to a life of sin), produces death (i.e., spiritual death, the death of faith).
James 1:14-15

The primary dangers of failing to appreciate this biblical truth are, as I say 1) it contributes to making believers overbold in their attitude to sin (and so can endanger the very salvation they imagine completely secure), and 2) it can cause honest Christians to doubt their salvation (since this false doctrine ipso facto suggest a level of sinlessness for all who are "really saved" -- and the anxiety produced can also be very detrimental to faith and spiritual growth).

If you or your pastor would like to continue the conversation, it would be much more profitable to limit the discussion to one passage at a time (as a focal point, at least). That would do much to avoid the danger of simply shouting past each other. My preference would be to start with the parable of the Sower.

In Jesus in whom all who believe have eternal life.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Doc!

He wrote in response to your interpretation of the parable of the sower:

"My understanding of the problem you posed is this. Yes Christians have free will. Yes they *in principle* could fall away. But God does not allow that to happen. This can be demonstrated by making two points. First, there are many promises which say this. Phil 1: 6 - He who began a good work in you will see it until completion. Rom 8: 28-38, etc. These verses promise that those whom God has chosen, he will surely save; those whom the Father has placed into the son's hands, will never be lost. Second, what about our free will? Can't we still walk away from him? The answer is that God is able to save us in such a way that he does not violate our free will. He works in us in such a way that he does not allow us to choose to leave him. How? Several ways. 1. He uses the threats and warnings of Scripture to prick our hearts. So, precisely because a true christian has a love for God in his/her heart, when they read the fearful warnings found in the Bible - "Take heed that you stand, lest you fall", "Beware the lusts of the flesh which wage war against the soul", etc. - they feel scared and run to the Lord and pray for grace to stand. When the false believer reads these same warnings, they don't really feel their weight. But when the true Christian does, s/he knows full well their own sinfulness and thus s/he runs to the lord and prays for grace. The prayer they offer up is not one which expresses a lack of trust in the Lord's promise to keep them (i.e. Phil 1: 6). But what it is is a prayer which says "Lord I know without your grace my sinful desires will lead me astray. You've promised that you are my father and I am your child. You've promised to keep me forever. So please keep me from that temptation. etc..."

2. He keeps his children in the means of grace. Essentially through the same methods noted in point 1, the Lord keeps true Christians in the church which is given them as a help to bring them to heaven. again, false believers say to themselves "oh .. i'm too busy to bother with church, etc." They may not say this explicitly but nonetheless they think it. But the true Christian knows that the Lord has said "don't forsake assembling together" and that teh church and the preaching of the Bible is a need in their lives without which they will perish. Thus, they will stay close to God's appionted means of grace and thus will stay in the way of salvation. I could say more, but let me pause and ask if you have specific questions. I think this person who counselled you didn't understand the doctrine properly, thus they could use human free agency as a means to reck the promises of eternal security, which are in my judgment absolutely certainty." I'm going to do some study on this and your reply and with prayers.

AND I forgot to add this to my last email which was written to me:

"Concerning the comments below that only true believers can commit the sin of apostasy... that is simply his/her own interpretation or belief and isn't backed up by the Bible (or in their words, apostasy is: "the turning away from God by those who were once His (i.e., an unbeliever can't be apostate, Greek "stander-away", because he has never actually "stood-with" God in the first place). " I don't know where they would get this idea from. The Bible speaks of many professors of the faith that later deny the truth. It doesn't indicate that they were saved to begin with. William MacDonald, a well loved Bible teacher says the exact opposite concerning apostasy: ie that the sin of apostasy can only be committed by unbelievers. He writes in his Bible Believers Commentary 'Apostasy is a sin which is only committed by unbelievers, not by those who are deceived, but by those who knowingly, and wilfully and maliciously turn from the truth... Apostasy should not be confused with backsliding. A true believer may wander very far from Christ. Through sin his fellowship with God is shattered. But he can be restored to full fellowship as he confesses and forsakes his sin..' The apostle John knew about those that were apostates and turned from the faith. What did he say? Did he say that they were true believers that had now lost their salvation? Nope. Here is what he said: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. " In John's mind, turning and leaving the faith was a sign that they NEVER belonged to the household of faith to begin with. There will always be those that see salvation differently. But don't allow yourself to be unsettled just because a 'doctor of theology' sees a verse differently. For me, I want to live for Jesus and make my life count in some way. But my confidence is getting to Heaven is not in myself but in Him. He will keep me to the end. The alternative to eternal salvation is daisy salvation.... "He loves me, he loves me not" Anyway, some things for you to think over. At the end of the day you will have to settle the matter in your own heart."

Thanks again!

Response #3: 

Not only do these verses quoted prove nothing since they are talking about God's role in the process (and we accept without question that He will hold up His end of the bargain of salvation), but they also critically fail to take into account the passages that clearly teach that a person has to be a believer to be saved: unbelievers are not saved. God does not force us to continue to believe any more than He forced us to believe in the first place. As to Philippians 1:6, Paul is encouraging his listeners by expressing a confident hope that the Philippians would persevere in the faith so as to be saved. If they couldn't lose their salvation by throwing away their faith, this bit of encouragement would be unnecessary, but it makes great sense in the context of the spiritual crucible in which we now find ourselves. Persevering in salvation is everything. That is why scripture so adamantly calls us to it over and over again. This would be pointless if it were automatic. Philippians 1:6 is most definitely not a promise to all believers that they will be saved even if they go on to reject Jesus Christ. Romans 8:28 has already been covered several times in this present discussion. God will never let us fall from His love -- as long as we "abide in Him" as Jesus commanded us to do. If we cannot help but "abide in Him", then why are we so vehemently commanded to do so?

The rest of this e-mail I find truly disturbing. Assuming that true Christians always avoid sin is only possible if 1) a person ignores a lot about what the Bible says is sin, and 2) defines sin in a way that excepts many areas of personal weakness in the case of individuals who make this horrifically incorrect assumption. We all sin. If sinless perfection after salvation were the mark of a "true Christian", there wouldn't be any true Christians. As it is, those who make this erroneous claim are called "liars" by scripture (1Jn.1:5-10). But equating Christianity and salvation with (?!) church attendance is thought-provoking in the extreme. On that, please see the link: "The False Doctrine of Institutional Security".

As to the second e-mail, this is a weak attempt to twist Jesus' own very clear words. Think about it. In the quote (Lk.8:13) "They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize". What is on the other side of the "BUT" has to be the OPPOSITE of "believing". So even if a person wants to say that apostasy does mean what it means (in Greek, and also in English), then they are still left with the reality that the meaning would be clear even without any such word because of what follows: "BUT (instead of continuing to believe) in times of testing they ________ ". Whatever word we use to fill in the blank, it will still have to mean "do not believe" (since it expresses the opposite of "they do believe for a while"). And by the way, the parallel passages, Matthew 8:21 and Mark 4:17 both have skandalizontai, "they are tripped up" = they lose their faith. For after all Christ is a "stumblingblock" (skandalon) to the Jews who do not believe (1Cor.1:23), and this verb in Matthew and Mark is based on the same root as that of the word "stumblingblock" (so that clearly, "stumbling" in a salvation context means lack or loss of faith).

The Bible is filled with exhortations for us to stay true to the faith, and filled as well with warnings that our salvation is conditional. Ignoring them and playing word games with clear and obvious meaning of scripture is spiritually dangerous in the extreme.

It is through this gospel that you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you – otherwise you believed in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:2

In the One in who we believe, and, believing shall live with forever, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi again, Doc!

I got a reply from my pastor again regarding John 10 and he wrote:

"What he clearly ignored was how Jesus explicitly stated that "NO MAN - NO THING, etc" is able to pluck His "sheep" out of His hand -- this included the one in His hand. Why can't we take Jesus' word as it is? To use the free-will argument is contradictory in the sense that IF the sheep can remove him/herself from the hands of Almighty God, then Jesus would be a liar. The Good shepherd who knows how to chastise and care for His sheep is greater than any man or any one, and that He knows how to bring his sheep back into the fold if they backslide. To say that a sheep can by their own free-will can choose to depart is to not only call Jesus a liar, but to say that the believer who is secure in Almighty God's hand is greater than the one who promises to keep His sheep in His hand. In other words... He (Jesus) would have failed to keep His promise by allowing the free-willed agent to depart from His hand. I don't deny free-will, I do know that God Almighty knows HOW to secure His sheep if they by their own free-will try to leave the fold (chastisement, etc). Should you trust in a theology professor or the Words and promises of Almighty God Himself? Let the Holy Spirit testify to the truth and not the words of a mere man.

Romans 3:4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.

God Bless! Thanks in advance!

Response #4:   

I suppose it would be too much to point out that all of the voluminous and pertinent points I have made on this extremely important topic have been completely ignored, while I am being accused of ignoring something I have repeatedly addressed.

I'll try again (briefly). In this example given by our Lord there are three parties: 1) God; 2) us; 3) unnamed people/things/forces/demons. Jesus is telling us that category #3 cannot take us, category #2, out of God's (category #1) hands. He is not talking about any other action of any of these other two categories, only the actions of category #3.

It is clear, isn't it, that the no one / no thing (category #3) is it's own category only, and so therefore we aren't talking about God (#1) talking us out of His own hands (#1)? And if that is clear, then for the exact same reason Jesus is not talking about our actions either (category #2). Just as He is not talking about God taking us out of God's hands (something He won't do), so also He is not talking about us taking ourselves out of God's hands (something we can do). He is talking about a taking us out of God's hands (something God won't permit). Romans 8 and all like passages teach the same thing. No one (third party) can affect our salvation, because God will not permit it. But what about us? What about our free will? What about our choices after salvation? Just imagine, if you will, yourself being able to ask our Lord a question about this passage when He said these words. If you said, "Lord, does that mean if I reject you, renounce you, prove unfaithful to you, stop believing in you, and give my allegiance to the devil instead, that I will still be safe in the Father's hands?" What sort of answer do you think you would receive? The only answer consistent with scripture is that, of course, only believers are saved -- not unbelievers. If you cast aside your faith, there is only eternal condemnation in store. Jesus promises salvation to all who believe in Him, not to those who reject Him (even if "for a while" they once did).

In great hopes that this will never happen for us, since we love the Lord Jesus more than this life.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi again, Doc!

I forwarded your email to the one who gave me the first response. He wrote:

Thanks for your e-mail. ... I am a little bit fearful of trying to carry on a debate of this kind via e-mail. E-mail is just simply so easy to misread, etc that it seems to me this is likely to be hard to pull off. I'll give it a go, but please do understand the limitations. :) I think that your friend has misunderstood what I'm saying. I am not saying it's his fault. Not at all. OK ... He said:

* it would be pointless "if it were automatic."

* He said: "If we cannot help but "abide in Him", then why are we so vehemently commanded to do so?"

I however never ever said it was automatic. It is not. (again I'm not blaming this fellow at all!). I think at the bottom of all of this is a difference of opinion. --- I believe that God is able to make you and I act in the way that GOD wants us to act without violating our free will. That is at the root of everything. Does your friend agree? If not, then we're never going to see eye to eye. So, ... what I intended to say was that (1) God is able to guarantee that a true believer does not ultimately fall away from him; (2) We retain our free agency. We CAN and DO sin. All God's commands to "take heed lest we fall" are all true. We *of our own strength* could fall. We do sin and we could ultimately fall. (3) But God does not allow the true elect to fall away ultimately. Do they sin? Yes. Every day. But God by his Spirit working through his word in their hearts always brings them to repentance. Thus they never fall ultimately. He is able to do this. (If he wanted to, he could keep us from ever sinning. But for whatever reason, he does not choose to do that.) (4) This is not "automatic". As I say, God doesn't somehow turn us into robots. We have free agency. We make choices and they are *our* choices. BUT God is able - without violating our freedom - to ensure that we do not fall ultimately away from the faith. He promises that he will not allow us to ultimately fall away from him and abandon the faith. He achieves these promises by governing providence and by working in our hearts and using the means of grace - the church, the bible, prayer, etc. Please feel free to give me your friends name and we could chat. also I don't know where you are located, but feel free to keep contacting me by e-mail or by another means if you like. I'd be happy to talk on the phone. Whatever. I'll be praying for you. Hope you're doing well. with every good wish

If you wish to carry on the conversation with him, he will be glad. And perhaps I will leave it to my own and through prayer to God to see what I believe when this is done. Thanks in advance!

Response #5: 

I'm not sure how to reply to this one with much that is helpful. Picking and choosing one word from a very long series of essays and making it bear the weight of everything else is nonsensical (to put the best spin on it). Other than this person's taking offense at the use of the word "automatic" (which in my view correctly describes a situation where we are saved no matter what we do), the rest of this e-mail is a series of statements without scriptural support which this person seems to feel are "logical". To me it is not logical that we are free to sin but that somehow God will stop us short of losing faith; it's not in the Bible (which says the opposite on almost every page), and I can certainly counter it with personal experience as anyone who has been a Christian for more than a few weeks probably can as well. We all know people who have fallen away. Other than that, there's not much "meat" to respond to here. Still waiting for responses on all the key passages and exegesis provided.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi again Doc!

I forwarded your reply and he wrote back:

"What is being ignored is Jesus' own Words that NO MAN - WHICH WOULD INCLUDE YOURSELF (Ye are bought with a price 1Cor.16:20a) could be snatched from His hand. Now before he uses the free-will argument again, he must understand that if the "believer" by their free will decides to no longer become a believer, then God would have failed to keep His promise when He explictly stated that NO MAN (including the one in His hand because he is a MAN) could be removed. Why do professing Christians limit the power of Almighty God to their own abilities and their own strengths? Christ promised to keep His "sheep" belivers ultimately SECURE forever and knows how to do this without violating our free-will, why? because He is the GOOD Shepherd and Almighty God! Furthermore, the characteristics of His sheep are that they:

1) Hear Jesus' voice (Jn.10:27a)

2). Jesus KNOWS them.

3). Follow Jesus (Jn. 10:27b)

4). A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (Jn.10:5)

Another precious and awesome promise from Jesus Himself!

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13,14) John 4:14; one time drink, or a whole life?

1). The Greek is exactly what one would say to indicate a one time drink. If this isn't the way to put it in the Greek, what is the way?

2). The contrast is physical water drunk NOW, which still leaves one with thirst, with spiritual water drunk NOW to never thirst. You will therefore never thirst NOW, not only at the end of a life of continual drinking without ceasing.

3). If this is continual drinking without ceasing, that means that you can drink from the spiritual water Christ gives one time and you CAN thirst again. Christ apparently can't give water that is any better than the physical water.

4). If this is a whole life, then the contrast (?) In v. 13-14 is "if" you drink of this physical water you will thirst again - you must keep drinking your whole life - but if you drink of me. . . ahem. . . you will thirst again unless you keep drinking your whole life, exactly the same way!

5). He uses the present in v.13 and the aorist in v. 14 to contrast the two.

6). John 7:37-39 compares the Spirit like water springing up, thus the Spirit is received at a a point in time before death (at the point of faith, Gal. 3:14). Therefore the living water is possessed before death

7). Therefore one drinks and has one's thirst quenched before death. Therefore one WILL NEVER THIRST as a guarantee at this point action of drinking, not only after a whole life of continual drinking.

8).Christ said He would give her the living water in this lifetime, v.10, as a one time action set in contrast with her giving Him water one time; the difference is that the once that drinks from His water will, from that time one, never thirst. John 4:10 - Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (She could have had it already).

9). In the context of John 4, the aorist of "drink" is used in v.7,9,10,12,14 for a one time drink. John 4:7- There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. Was Christ asking for a whole lifetime supply of water from the woman?? John 4:9 - saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Did she think he was asking for a lifetime supply of water? John 4:10 - Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

10). The aorist pf pino ("to drink") appears 37 times in the Bible and it NEVER ONCE looks to indicate "drinking continually one's whole life.." (Matt. 6:25,31; 11:18,19; 20:22-23; 24:38,49; 26:27,29,42; 27:34; Mk. 2:16; 10:38-39; 14:23,25; 15:23; 16:18; Lk. 1:15; 5:30,33,39; 7:33,34; 10:7; 12:19,29,45; 13:26; 17:8,27,28; 22:18,30; Jn. 4:7,9,10, 12-14; 6:53-54,56; 7:37; 18:11; Acts 9:9; 23:12,21; Rom. 14:21; 1 Cor. 9:4; 10:4,7,21,31; 11:22, 25-29; 15:32; Heb. 6:7; Rev 14:10; 16:6; 18:3).

Many who deny the doctrine of Eternal Security do so because they claim that it would lead to a lifestlye of sin since they are eternally secure. The bible teaches just the opposite. Those who live in such a manner demonstrate that they have never been born of God. What does the bible say about true born-again believers and their lifestyle? Before I am accused of teaching sinless perfection or being without sin...I am showing by the Word of God how GENUINE believers do not live a lifestyle of sin, and that the spirit dominates over the flesh.

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. (1 John 5:18)

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. (1 John 3:6)

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)

For the GRACE OF GOD that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, TEACHING US that, DENYING UNGODLINESS and WORLDLY LUSTS, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (Titus 2:11,12) If I can't convince your friend that I pray that the Lord will soften his heart and let the Words of God be true. God Bless!"

Thanks in advance!

Response #6:   

Can an unbeliever be saved? I'm still waiting for an answer that question. As to the rest of this e-mail .....

1. Parable of the Sower. Lk.8:13 "they believe for a while, but ... fall away" still not answered.

2. John 10. "out of my hand"; for the umpteenth time, believers are the second party in this pericope. We are not God; we are not the third party, the one who might intend to "snatch us away". Thus the reassurance applies to everything but our own potential apostasy, an action not of the third party (against whom we are secure) but of our own poor choosing. Jesus is not talking about the believers He is addressing "doing it to themselves". The clear force of the language indicates unmistakably protection against a third-party threat. It is faulty logic to suggest that this passage "must" absolve backsliding and apostasy on behalf of those addressed so as to mean that unbelievers are saved if they once believed. Do you really want to pose Jesus the question I included in the last e-mail?

3. The four examples from John 10 are of believers. But if I stop believing, then I no longer hear His voice or follow Him, etc. Thus, these reassurances are for believers and they describe believers. Those who fall away no longer believe and these things clearly would not apply to them. Thus, these passages actually prove my point. The only ones who are saved are the ones who can be described by this four point test. Apply this test to former Christians who have turned their back on God to the point of no longer believing in Jesus at all, and you will see that they do not live up to this description of those who are secure in any way. For all who have rejected the Lord, they no longer follow Jesus, they no longer hear His voice, they do not now flee at the voice of a stranger . . . and Jesus no longer knows them). It occurs to me here that perhaps one of the reasons for the vehemence of opposition is the false idea that somehow I am saying it is easy to lose salvation or that sinning takes away salvation -- I certainly do not teach this at all. It takes the total death of faith, the complete hardening of the heart, and absolute rejection of the Lord to become an unbeliever -- but it can happen, as Jesus tells us, and we see it happening all the time (2Pet.2:20-22).

4. John 4:14: The water here is the Word, the gospel. As long as we believe it, it wells up to eternal life; if we stop believing, it dries up. 1st Corinthians 15:2 tells us that if we hold fast to the gospel, we are saved, but otherwise we have "believed in vain". If we let it go (turn away) the fact that we once drank / once believed / once took hold, does us no good. Apart from the fact that reliance on internal logical extrapolations and strained over-analysis of the Greek are almost always signs that someone is forcing the passage, they are pointless here because the person has missed the main point and application of the passage: in contrast to literal water, the water of the gospel provides eternal life. Of course we don't need to enter into Christ twice. The problem comes if and when we decide to depart. Nothing in this passage is inconsistent with the doctrine of apostasy.

Every single one of the passages this person and others apply to "eternal security" suffer from the same exact set of problems: 1) they all deal with God's protection of us from outside forces (not from our own potential backsliding); 2) none of the passages expresses security as absolute to the point of removing the potential of apostasy (that is true overtly, and also even when subjected to the sort of micro-analysis above). That is why these passages are not inconsistent with the whole host of passages which make salvation conditional upon continuing faith (i.e., "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", 1Cor.15:2). So while it is logically possible for the "if" passages to be true and the security passages to be true (if one accepts that continuing faith is a requirement and that otherwise apostasy will result), the reverse is not true. Hyper-eternal security requires ignoring or severely twisting countless scriptures (see below for a sampling).

I suppose that is why it is difficult to have a reasoned debate on the subject, namely, in order to defend the position, one has to indulge in rhetoric, faulty logic, and a wanton disregard for the clear sense of scripture (even in translation). For besides the fact that there are plenty of passages that are impossible to refute in an honest manner (and that explains why in the already long history of this conversation every single passage which clearly refutes this doctrine gets ignored and we go back the misinterpretations of the John 10 and Romans 8, likewise ignoring very clear objections that remove the absolute nature claimed for them).

Finally, I do not teach the truth of the possibility of believer apostasy because of any morbid concern about sin; I teach it because the Bible clearly teaches it. I grew up spiritually in a Christian community that taught eternal security. It was only after years of intensive study and teaching that I came to the point of no longer being able to ignore what was clearly there in scripture. But as long as we are on the topic of sin and using human logic, if we are incapable of losing faith, why are we not also incapable of sinning? In fact, of course, the two are closely related, both being the result of poor choices. Apostasy does often result from giving oneself over to a life of sin; it is possible to get to the place of not being able to look God in the face anymore; hearts can be hardened. This is a sad truth, but a sobering one and an important one to keep in mind as we approach the time of the end. Faced with the pressures of the Tribulation, one third of genuine believers are prophesied to fall away from the faith (2Thes.2:3 (the apostasia - the "Great Apostasy"; 1Tim.4:1; Rev.12:4; cf. Matt.24:3-13; Dan.8:10-12; 8:23). No doubt many of these people will be just those Christians who thought they were secure regardless of how inattentive they might be to their spiritual growth. What is needed here and now is true encouragement that counsels vigilance, not misguided comfort that breeds a false sense of security.

(1) I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch [that is] in Me which does not bear fruit (2) He removes, and every branch which does bear fruit He prunes so that it might bear more fruit. (3) You have already been pruned because of the Word I have spoken to you. (4) Stay part of Me, and I will [stay] part of you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it remains part of the vine, so you too cannot [bear true fruit] unless you stay part of Me. (5) 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. (6) 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.
John 15:1-6

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

So strive all that much more then, brothers, to make your calling and election secure through these good works. By devoting yourselves to these things (i.e., virtue, growth and the Christian production which springs from faith) you shall never be tripped up along your way. For it is by such means that your path into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be smoothly and generously paved.
2nd Peter 1:10-11

So then, my brothers, just as you have always been obedient [to the truth], not just when I was present [with you] but even more so now in my absence, go to work on your salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12

For if after having escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things, then they have become worse off than they were before. For it would have been better for them not to have accepted the Righteous Way in the first place, rather than – once having accepted this holy command [for faith in Christ] committed to them – to now turn their backs on it. And so in their case this proverb is true: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow, though washed, to her muddy sty".
2nd Peter 2:20-22

I give you this command, Timothy my child, in accordance with the prophecies that were made long ago about you, that you conduct a good campaign, one that is in keeping with [those predictions], holding onto your faith and to a clean conscience (cf. 1Tim.1:5-6) – which [conscience] some have rejected (lit., "pushed away") and [have thus] suffered the shipwreck of their faith.
1st Timothy 1:18-19

Make sure, brothers, that none of you develop an evil heart of unbelief (i.e., lack of faith) by turning away (lit. "apostatizing") from the living God. Rather keep encouraging each other every day as long as we still call it "today" (i.e. still remain in this world), lest any of you be hardened [in heart] by the deception of sin. For we all have a share in Christ, as long as we hang on to that original confidence [of our faith] firmly to the end, as it says:

Today if you hear His voice, don't harden your hearts as they did at the provocation [at Meribah].

For who provoked Him, though they had heard? Did not all of them who came out of Egypt under Moses' leadership do so? And with whom was He enraged for forty years? Wasn't it the very people who had sinned, then dropped dead in the desert? And to whom did He swear that they would never enter into the [place of] rest [He had promised], but to those who had been disobedient to Him? Now we see that they were unable to enter into this [place of rest] because of their unbelief (i.e., their loss of faith).
Hebrews 3:12-19

Don't you understand that if you give your allegiance to anyone to obey them as servants, then you truly are their servants when you obey them? [And that this is true] whether [you give yourselves] to sin, which results in death (i.e., of faith), or whether [you give yourselves] to obedience [to Christ], which results in righteousness?
Romans 6:16 (cf. Jn.8:31-38)

Every one is tempted by his own lust, being dragged away [by it] and enticed [by it]. Then, should lust conceive (i.e., should the person give in to it), it gives birth to sin. And sin, should it be fully carried out to the end (i.e., should the person give in to a life of sin), produces death (i.e., the death of faith).
James 1:14-15

If anyone sees his brother engaged in a pattern of sinfulness which does not lead to death (i.e., is a deviation rather than a complete turning away), let him ask [forgiveness on his brother's behalf], and life will be given to him (i.e., forgiveness and deliverance will result), that is, in those cases where those sinning are not [sinning] unto death. There is sin which leads to death – I am not telling you to pray in that case. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin which does not lead to death (i.e., temporary deviation, confessed and repented does not result in death).
1st John 5:16-17

Let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them (i.e., the Exodus generation) did and were killed by serpents. And let us not be complaining, as some of them complained, and were killed by the Destroyer. These things happened to them as an example to us and were written to warn us (i.e., to avoid similar apostasy) – we who live at the culmination of the ages (i.e., at the doorstep of the Tribulation). So let him who thinks he stands firm beware lest he fall (i.e., from faith; cf. Rom.11:22).
1st Corinthians 10:11-12

In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection -- for all who believe.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Doc!

For some reason my emails kept freezing when I tried to send them to you as if satan is trying to stop it from getting to you. Regardless, he wrote so you can understand about Luke 8:13 this:

"Certainly, as mentioned last time, there are difficult passages on both sides of the debate and I think it is fair to say that Luke 8:13 is not without its difficulties. Having said that, it seems to me that your friend's assumption that they are true born again believers is not true. Before I get into that, let me ask you a question though. Do you think that the intent of this parable of the sower spoken by Jesus was to prove or disprove eternal security? Of course it isn't.. Parables are stories that illustrate biblical truth. They generally have a distinct purpose or truth to illustrate. What is the purpose of the parable of the sower? To show the different responses to the word of God and what leads to fruitfulness for the kingdom of God . Jesus wasn't trying to teach that salvation is either secure or insecure. I only say this because parables are useful for illustrating doctrine but when people try to read more into them than they were intended for it can lead to problems. Anyway, you have asked about Luke 8:13 so here is the part of the parable we've been looking at:

Luke 8:6,13 "And other fell on the rock; and as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture... And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away."

The assumption from your friend is that this group is true born again believers who lose their salvation. Now I understand the difficulty for it does say that they 'for a while believe', and believe is used in verse 12 with the previous group in connection with being saved. But there is certainly other evidence in the parable that this was a temporary head belief not a true heart saving faith. I say this for the following reasons:

1) The condition of their heart - the soil or ground that the seed falls into in this parable stands for the human heart (see verse 12 & 15 - "...the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts" as opposed to the good ground where the "good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart." So look at how Jesus described the heart of this group we are looking at - Rock! It is hard. A heart of stone. Does that sound like a description of a truly born again believer to you? God's promise to true believers is that 'a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.' The hard stoney heart that this group had is not that of a new creation in Christ!

2) The shallowness of their 'belief' - look at what Jesus said about their roots - "these have no root". It is all just on the surface. The root of a Christian's faith is the person and work of the Lord Jesus. He is our life. Without this there can be no fruit or spiritual life. This group is said by Jesus to have had no root. Thus, no water or moisture (often used as a type of the Holy Spirit). Thus, no spiritual life. Just a withering - a falling away as quickly as they had arisen. No truly born again believer who is 'in Christ' and has come into a spiritual union with Him would be said to have 'no root'. These are professors only. Everything is just on the surface. No actual roots connection to draw upon the life that is in Christ.

3) The length of their profession - look at how long the word of God says that this group of people last - "as soon as it grew, it withered away." This group sprung up quickly and departed just as quick. In Mathews gospel it says that they "last only a short time" and "quickly fall away." Again - Jesus is not trying to describe true born again Christians here.

By the imagery and interpretation used I find it very difficult to think that Jesus had true Christians, those whom the Father had given Him, in mind when he spoke of this group. In fact I would say He definitely didn't have true believers in mind. But it does remind me of people I have known and seen. Some come into the church who do this very thing. There is a profession of faith, everyone is overjoyed including them, and then they fall away just as quick. (It is fair to say that common evangelistic 'techniques' don't do us any favors in producing this type of 'covert'.) Once the initial honeymoon joy is over and they find out that the Christian life is not easy they are gone. No root. No connection. No life. No perseverance.

I would agree with the Bible Knowledge Commentary that says of this group:

"The second group are those who listen and rejoice but then do not stick with the truth of the message for they have no root (v. 13). The fact that they believe for a while but . . . fall away means that they only accept the facts of the Word mentally and then reject it when "the going gets rough." It does not mean they lose their salvation, for they had none to lose."

The fact is that Jesus was not trying to teach on the security or lack thereof of the believer in this parable at all. He was describing the response to the word of God going out. He was simply teaching that when the word of God goes out some don't understand from the very beginning. Some initially accept it but still have hard hearts and no real root and leave just as quickly. Others grow and do start to produce something but later down the track pleasures, wealth and worries (the things of this life) choke the plant and stop it from being fruitful. But there are some... some that Jesus describes as having a good and noble heart. These continue to produce for the kingdom of God .

Well, I have described what I believe Jesus was teaching in Luke 8. I'll let you ponder over this scripture. But I would like to hear your friend's thoughts on the following scripture that I believe teaches the security of the believer. In contrast to the above parable that is not even about the security/insecurity of salvation, here are the very words of Jesus concerning salvation and the security of the true believer.

John 6:35-40,44 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day... 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."

A couple of quick points from this:

1) No one can come to Jesus unless they are drawn by the Father. (vs 44)

2) True believers are a gift from the Father to the Son. And all that the Father gives to the Son will come to Him. (37)

3) Jesus lives to perform the will of His Father and that will is specifically said to be this - to "lose none of all that he has given me but to raise them up on the last day." (38,39)

So, here is a passage specifically looking at salvation (and it's security) from Jesus' point of view. Jesus has said that people can only come to Him if the Father draws them and that of those that come He will lose none! Zip. Zero. Do you believe that? Do you believe that He will raise up ALL that the Father has given Him? All of them? Or in reality it is just 'some' of them and Jesus will in fact lose some?

If a person believes that a truly born again believer can be lost and end up in hell then they cannot also believe what Jesus said in this passage. They are saying that Jesus will lose some of His sheep, those that were given to Him by the Father. Which do you believe? We are not talking here about those that profess to be Christians or simply those who say 'Lord, Lord... did we not do this and that in your name...' to which He will say 'I never knew you!' No, we are talking about true born again believers. True sheep. The bride of Christ. Those foreknown before the foundation of the world. Those who are a gift from the Father to the Son. Those true believers of whom Paul wrote: "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Those who are said to be 'the joy set before Him' for which he (Jesus) endured the cross.

Please tell me - do you truly believe that Jesus is going to lose some of these true believers that the Father has given Him? I'll leave it with you. You know my answer. I know He will do what He said. "

I look forward to your response also. Thanks in advance!

Response #7: 

I would have to disagree. There are in fact no difficult passages on this side of the debate. That is, the so-called eternal security proof texts all suffer from the same point of spiritual myopia in the case of those who advance them, namely, they express the security that God provides for believers; they do not, however, even hint that those who abandon their faith are protected.

On the other hand, to call Luke 8:13 a "problem passage" when Jesus flat out says that some people only believe for a while and then fall away I find flabbergasting -- if we say that the Bible means something to us, shouldn't its clear meaning trump all of our preconceptions? This is the way we grow. We have an idea what something is or means biblically, but as we study and read and access good, sound teaching, we are going to have some of our misconceptions corrected -- hopefully all of them given the time and persistence. So I think it is time to re-frame this debate a bit, since the main points are being missed and "dissed" to the point of un-profitability. Please consider carefully the following passage and I hope you will see what I mean:

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised, who has in His great mercy caused us to be reborn to a hope which lives through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, and to an inheritance which will never be destroyed, defiled, or dimmed, but which is being guarded in heaven for us, who are ourselves also being kept safe by God's power and through our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance ready to be unveiled at the end of time.
1st Peter 1:3-5

God is certainly capable of doing what the absolute eternal-security position suggests, namely to say only that we are "kept safe by His power". But consider that Peter does not stop there. We are kept safe also "through our faith". If we continue in our faith, God's power is certainly more than sufficient to bring us safe to heaven-home. But what if we abandon our faith? What if we believe only "for a while" and then fall away? Peter's words do not only assume that continuing faith is necessary for salvation; they say so, literally: "and through our faith". In fact, the only thing that this prepositional phrase can mean, when you think about it honestly, is that believers, those who maintain their faith in Jesus firm until the end, are "kept safe", but those who do not have faith, who lose faith, who become unbelievers again by rejecting Jesus for whatever reason, are not kept safe and do not receive the "ultimate deliverance" or "salvation" (Greek: soteria) which Peter promises those who do.

The idea of our continued faith being necessary for salvation is in fact ubiquitous in scripture. We are not talking about sinless perfection here. But what we do need to be saved is saving faith. And to be delivered at the end, we have to "hold fast our confidence (i.e., faith) firm until the end" (Heb.3:14; cf. Heb.3:7). This principle is implicit in so many things said in the epistles, for example, a book could be written. One passage will have to suffice:

And we sent Timothy to you, our brother and co-worker in the gospel of God and of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that none of you might waver in the midst of these tribulations. For you yourselves know [very well] that we have been appointed for this (i.e., to endure pressure in this life). Indeed, when we were with you I was warning you that we [all Christians] were destined to be persecuted . For this reason, when I could no longer stand it, I sent him to you to find out about your faith, lest in some way the tempter had tempted you and my work had thus turned out to be for naught.
1st Thessalonians 3:2-5

Paul is addressing a new batch of converts and he is absolutely in knots about their spiritual welfare when he finds out that they have been placed under severe pressure. He is worried about their faith, that is, he is concerned that under pressure they might "waver". He is worried that they might turn out to be like the second group of people in Jesus' parable of the sower who "believe for a while", but when the pressures of life come, they fall away. In fact, Paul uses a verb from the same root word for the pressure that can potentially knock our faith that Jesus uses: thlibo / thlipsis "tribulate / tribulation" (from which we get the Great Tribulation). Paul is worried that his work in evangelizing the Thessalonians and teaching them thereafter will turn out to be "for naught" (vers. "in vain"). If it were merely a question of a spiritual set-back rather than loss of salvation that Paul is concerned about, then concern and disappointment would be appropriate to express, but not a flat statement like this: "if you waver and lose faith, all I did was for nothing". If the Thessalonians had eternal security, then Paul's work might be diminished by their stumbling, but it could not be said to have been completely "for naught". That only makes sense if the situation he was contemplating was the loss of their salvation through the wavering and loss of their faith under pressure of persecution.

The bottom line for all this is that if one approaches the epistles (and the gospels and the entire rest of the Bible, for that matter) with the thesis that faith is necessary for salvation but that faith can be lost, very many passages are opened up, while none of the hyper-eternal security proof texts cause any problems at all. But you have to read the Bible with blinders on to miss the import of all the passages that teach the need to continue in faith; and you have to ignore these dozens of "problem" passages entirely to accept the false notion that the passages which teach assurance do not mean what they say, namely, that some people will fall away even though they did "once believe".

I think the lengths this person goes to to try and disprove this part in the parable of the sower more than proves this point. It is a little embarrassing to read, actually. I think, in fact, that it is so clearly forcing the obvious statements of our Lord that it is unlikely to convince anyone. In fact, I think that just by reading this "exegesis" in the context of our discussion, anyone who is not a died-in-the-wool hyper-eternal security advocate would be moved to reconsider on the basis of the failure of this completely impotent assault. Simply put, Jesus doesn't say they "profess"; Jesus says these people "believe", plain and simple; there are no such qualifications in the biblical text such as this person wishes to insert.

The passage exegeted next follows the same line of thinking. Large, bold, red font is not an argument. The only part of the discussion here which has anything to do with eternal security is the quotation from verse 39 (and we'll talk about v.40 too): "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day".

This verse is not inconsistent at all with the biblical principle that continuing faith is necessary for salvation. It is in fact God's will that all human beings be saved: "[God] who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Tim.2:4; cf. Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9). Using the same logic applied to the John 6 passage, all human beings will be saved, because that is God's will: "this is the will of Him who sent Me". After all, Jesus did die for all of the sins of all unbelievers too, so should we assume that there is no last judgment, no lake of fire, no condemnation, because it is God's will for all to be saved? Of course not. This all goes back to the many explanations about the free-will faith God has given everyone. We are here to exercise our will in faith. God could have made us automatons, but He has given us the choice to accept Jesus Christ. It is God's will that all mankind be saved, but most will not accept Jesus in the first place. And it is God's will that all who have come to Jesus maintain their faith, firm until the end so as not to be "lost"; but sadly not all will do so. Just as it is God's will that we do not sin (yet we do), so also some will "believe for a while" but in times of persecution or through the influence of sin or on account of some severe disappointment (for which they blame God), they will "fall away". During the Great Apostasy in the first half of the Tribulation, that will include a full one third of genuine believers (not just pro-fessors) who turn away from Christ to follow antichrist. Jesus will not lose any of His sheep, those who continue to hear His voice and continue to truly be His sheep, that is; but those sheep who turn away and reject Him, those sheep who by their own choice remove themselves from His flock, will indeed earn the rebuke "Away from me, all you evildoers!"

In the Name of the Great Shepherd of all the sheep who believe in Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dr. Luginbill,

I found your website about four years ago and have particularly enjoyed the resources it provides on the angelic conflict. You provide the most depth on the topic that I have found on the internet. I do have a question for you but first I want to give a little background on myself (I personally hate it when people ask me pointed questions and I have no idea where they are coming from). I grew up in a home where we listened to R.B. Thieme, Jr's tapes and this has given me a solid grounding in theology that I have been grateful for my entire adult life. While I don't hold to everything he taught (I don't think any student ever believes everything his teacher says) I do hold that the "basics" he taught were correct. I know that you also listened to Colonel Thieme's tapes once upon a time so this should give you a good sense of where I am coming from. I include in the "basics" the Colonel's teaching on eternal security. I know that you do not hold to the doctrine of eternal security as I understand it (link: The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security) and, from what I can tell, you also hold that when we believe in Jesus Christ we are entered into union with Christ. I have tried to reconcile these views and can see two possibilities:

1. If someone believes in Christ, and is immediately entered into union with Him, and has this initial faith fade away so that the person final loses their salvation then the union with Christ also fades along with the faith. Either this or the union with Christ remains unchanged until that last bit of faith is lost and then union with Christ is lost all at once.

2. Or, possibly the union with Christ is not an immediate reality but a potential that we receive at the time of physical death for those that persevere.

Do you hold to either of these or have I missed something? I am not trying to prod you into providing me with a long, detailed response but I am curious. Just to be thorough on this I am going to copy a definition of what it means to be in union with Christ from Robert McLaughlin's website (I believe he was ordained by Colonel Thieme):

At the point of faith in Christ, through the baptism of the Spirit, every believer is entered into union with Christ in the Church-age. Since His life is eternal, we, as believers, also have eternal life. Because of our union with Him we share His life, 1 John 5:11-12, "This is the record: God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has [eternal] life; he who does not have the Son does not have [eternal] life." Our union with Him also entitles us to:

· sharing Jesus Christ's divine righteousness, 2 Corinthians 5:21,

· being accepted in Christ forever, Ephesians 1:6,

· sharing the destiny of Christ, Ephesians 1:5,

· sharing the heirship of Christ, Ephesians 1:5,

· sharing the election of Christ, Ephesians 1:4 and Isaiah 42:1,

· being sanctified in Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:2,30,

· sharing in Christ's Sonship as the Son of God, Galatians 3:26, and

· sharing in Christ's kingship, 2 Peter 1:11.

· being seated in heavenly places, Ephesians 2:6.

Robert McLaughlin, Eternal Security, pp 44-45

Thank you,

Response #8:   

Very good to make your acquaintance. As you can see from some of my responses posted to the site, I share a similar respect and gratitude for the late Col.'s teaching, while similarly retaining the liberty to express freedom of conscience for conscience sake where scripture so demands. One of these areas is indeed that of "eternal security". This was (along with the pre-Tribulation rapture) one of those areas where increasingly intensified personal study caused me to part company with what I had been taught because of what (in both cases) the Bible seemed to me to say to the contrary, and very clearly so. On this point, of course, the doctrine of eternal security, though articulated by Thieme in a very pointed and characteristically unique way, was certainly not "invented" by him (anymore than the pre-trib "rapture" was). As I have often remarked, Calvin and the reformers, in their strong presentation of election as unalterable, were certainly influenced by the horrific teachings of the Roman Catholic church of their day. When faced with an adversary which proclaimed the potential loss of salvation for sneezing in a way displeasing to the pope, well, they can certainly be forgiven for being overly emphatic in their attempts to counter such notions.

My basic position on this (expressed in more detail in other places) is that "believers believe", so that it is the loss of faith which equates to apostasy (please see the link, "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). The (potential) objection that union with Christ can never be broken (and I know that you are asking a question more than making an argument) would be similar to the claim that because Christ says in referring to believers "no one can snatch them out of my hand" (Jn.10:28), once the line of faith has been crossed, the marriage is complete and can never be undone. To respond on the basis of those analogies, marriages do end, and while a person who is in Christ's hands will never be snatched away by a third party, that does not mean that the person him/herself is incapable after salvation of leaving the protection of Christ of their own accord (just as any party to a marriage retains the potential of leaving it, even if that potential is never exercised).

The essential question is therefore whether or not we still have the capacity (and responsibility) to exercise free-will faith after salvation or not, and it seems to me pellucid that we do, and are required to do so every step of the way in our Christian life. As believers, it is true that we are elect. It is true that we are in union with Christ. It is true that we have eternal life. But these things are true for us as long as we believe. To some extent this is a question of theological methodology as well as of a particular doctrinal stance. In the study you reference (and elsewhere) I list many passages which very clearly make our salvation conditional upon the continuation of our faith. I quote only one here which by itself ought to give any advocate of eternal security pause:

For we have all become partners of Christ, if we hold fast to our original conviction firmly to the end.
Hebrews 3:14

In order for "eternal security" irrespective of the continued faith demanded here to be true, not only would some convincing solution capable of explaining away this and other such passages need to be found, but we would also have to accept that because scripture teaches that as believers we have election, union with Christ and eternal life (et al.), that ipso facto these possessions/statuses are incapable of change, even if we completely abandon Christ and our faith in Him. Not only am I unable to see any convincing way of doing the former (indeed, it was the constant bombardment of such truths to which I was subjected in my intensive reading of scripture that caused me to reevaluate this previously "dearly held" doctrine: who would not wish to believe that he/she would be saved no matter what they might do or fail to do during the rest of their earthly lives, including abandoning Christ?), but I see no scriptural basis nor any compelling logical imperative to believe the latter. Saying that because our union is with Christ that is is therefore unbreakable does not strike me as unavoidably and necessarily true. It is a derivative argument rather than a scriptural imperative (so that even if it did seem logically unavoidable, it would still not be anywhere near as strong as scriptures which pronounce clearly to the contrary). Unions can be dissolved. Eternal security is, I believe, a reality. Christ will never forsake us . . . but as long as we are in this world and in control of our own faith-free-will, we have the potential of abandoning Him.

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

The parable of the Sower is one to which I often turn in these discussions, because it so clearly lays out all the main possibilities for human choice: 1) hard unbelief (the hard-packed ground that refuses the seed of the Word altogether), 2) initial belief which falls away (the plant that sprouts but later withers); 3) distracted belief (the weed-choked plant which fails to produce a crop), and 4) the productive plant (the ideal of growth and production to which we are called). Though I have heard many creative attempts, I have never bumped into an interpretation capable of satisfactorily explaining away #2, the plant that actually does sprout up in response to the Word but later dies, described in Jesus' explanation "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Lk.8:13 KJV). The word translated "fall away" is in Greek aphistantai, from the same verb from which the noun apostasy is derived. This is the biblical definition of apostasy: i.e., those who "for a while believe" but later "fall away", i.e., stop believing and stop being Christians as a definitional result (as the death of the plant of faith in the parable very clearly symbolizes).

I would certainly agree that "he who has the Son has eternal life", but how can a person who has come to reject Jesus Christ (even though they once accepted Him) be said still to "have the Son"? Losing faith is not a simple process nor generally a quick process. As the link on apostasy given above demonstrates, it is most usually connected with giving oneself over to sin (or blaming God for one's troubles). In any case, just as faith had to be exercised in Christ for salvation, so faith has to be put to death by its possessor by his/her own free will in order to lose salvation. To the extent that we are resolved to keep believing in Jesus no matter what, to that extent our security is indeed eternal, and no one on earth or below or above it can wrest us from our dear Savior's hand. We have to jump out on our own in order to be lost.

Free will is what life is all about. Jesus could die for the sins of the world, praise God, but He could not die for the sin of rejecting Himself, the One who died for all sin. We have to embrace that truth and hold fast to it to the end in order to be saved.

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.
John 3:18

Faith in Him and His deliverance of us is the quintessential quality which makes a Christian a Christian and which opens the door of eternal life, because we have to rely on Him who won that life by His death on the cross in order to be saved. If it were possible for us to enter eternity while proclaiming by our lack of faith when we do not in fact (or no longer) trust in Jesus for eternal life, then it would seem to me that God ought to be able to save anyone regardless of faith (or no one, even in spite of faith). As it is, we are saved by grace, through faith - that is God's gift, but we have to exercise and maintain "firm until the end" that most precious faith in the most precious Gift in order to live with Him forever (Eph.2:8-9).

Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In the Name of the One who died that we might not perish but have eternal life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #9: 

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your detailed response. Since you were courteous enough to spend the time explaining your position I am going to try and return the courtesy.

Before I start I would like to say that I wrote you because I was interested in hearing your thoughts. Colonel Thieme's teaching on the privacy of the priesthood has stuck with me and I would never think of trying to bully you into holding my views. In the end what you believe is between you and the Lord. I have done enough study that I know that neither the Doctrine of Eternal Security nor a belief in a pre-Tribulational rapture are the work of Colonel Thieme. As far as I can tell it is mostly dispensationalists that hold to eternal security at the present time (I do not equate the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance of the saints with eternal security). I also know that both Luther and Calvin believed that faith equals assurance. Luther believed that a person could lose their salvation but Calvin didn't mostly because he denied any free will in the matter. My suspicion is that arguments over these issues have been raging for 2,000 years and are is not going to be definitively resolved until our Lord's return. As for the timing of the rapture I do indeed still hold to a belief in it occurring prior to the tribulation. I know that there are problems with that view but I do believe it "fits the data" better than the alternative views. Many Christians hold to a replacement theology which cascades into a denial of Christ's eventual return to rule in the Millennial Kingdom. As long as you don't go down that path I really have no beef with you. In fact, when thinking about all the debate on the rapture of the Church, I always think of the Old Testament teachers and all of the prophesies they had about the Messiah. Even with all that they new they still could not put it together that there was one Messiah and two advents. In fact, it is my understanding that the Jewish scholars had decided there were actually two Messiahs with one being the suffering servant (Messiah Ben Joseph) and one the glorious king who would rule (Messiah Ben David). They had enough information to recognize the Messiah when they saw Him but not enough to put all of the pieces together into one true picture. I also believe that this is the case with out understanding of the end times.

I did want to ask you about why you moved away from the doctrine of eternal security as taught by Colonel Thieme. I purposely framed the question in terms of our union with Christ having to be broken rather than the "that passage is talking about eternal rewards not salvation!" approach which wouldn't be productive at all. I have had the opportunity to interact via the internet with a lot of Christians over the last five years (many of them Calvinist in theology) and I know that that approach is a non-starter. In your article on why you don't believe in absolute eternal security you listed several passages which you believe argue against eternal security. As I often do when I see passages like this I checked them out at the Syndein site where someone has actually taken the time to write up Colonel Thieme's (I believe there may be the work of some other teachers included as well) exegesis of many books in the bible. Of course he interprets the passages as speaking about loss of rewards while you interpret them as loss of salvation. As an example of this, you quoted Hebrews 3:14 in your reply to me.. Here is what the Syndein exegesis says about that passage:

Heb.3:14~~For we have become partners/associates of the Christ if, indeed, we retain and secure the beginning of our essence {daily function of GAP under SuperGrace} stabilized {in the SuperGrace life} unto the end {death or rapture}. Hebrews 3:14 per Syndein

While Colonel Thieme interprets Hebrews chapter 3 as dealing with reversionism and super grace you don't. On the other hand, it is clear that you have to be comfortable with the idea of our being entered into union with Christ and that union being broken (possibly multiple times) which to me is a different issue. I searched your site before writing you to see what you said about being in union with Christ. I found several instances where you did say that when we believe we are entered into union with Christ and you seemed to be using the term as I would so, I assumed you still believed that union with Christ involves all of the attributes that I listed in the quote from Robert McLaughlin that I provided. I do indeed have a hard time believing that all of those attributes in the quote can be removed by us. The second person of the Trinity is the other half of that union and He does (or should) have a say in the matter. I suppose this gets to the heart of your statement:

Saying that because our union is with Christ that it is therefore unbreakable does not strike me as unavoidably and necessarily true. It is a derivative argument rather than a scriptural imperative (so that even if it did seem logically unavoidable, it would still not be anywhere near as strong as scriptures which pronounce clearly to the contrary).

This is true and I have thought about this issue before. I have read Calvinists who believe in the covenant of works and the covenant of grace but don't really seem to care about the covenants that are actually spelled out in scripture. These are certainly derivative arguments and it has been a cautionary tale for me. On the other hand when I read Christ's proof of the resurrection I have to say there was some major hair splitting going on:

31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, 32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Matthew 22:31-32

Christ was referring to this passage:

6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. Exodus 3:6

His entire argument for the truth of the resurrection was based on the tense of one word (I wouldn't have caught this in a million years on my own). I know that you will probably say that I am making a category error here, that Christ's use of the Exodus passage is different than the logic leading to the belief that our bond (union) with Christ is unbreakable. This is possibly true but I am not so sure. Great big doctrines are built up with a lot of little steps. I do believe that it is our view of God and His relationship with us that drives how we interpret many passages. It is logically wrong to interpret scripture by "knowing" the answer and then working toward a proof of what we already know but I think everyone does it (it is not necessarily dishonest but it can lead to mistakes). I think you will agree (correct me if I'm wrong) that God exercises three types of will: directive, permissive, and overruling. Our disagreement has to do with how much latitude we believe God's permissive will allows us. When is a contract or union with God non-revocable? This is a very good question but one I don't have a complete answer for. It seems that I have gotten long winded and should cut it off at this point. It has been great trading e-mails with you and thank you for your response.

Response #9: 

The pleasure is mine. Not only your own courtesy, but also your thoughtful consideration of other points of view (without compromising your passion for the truth), are refreshing. And I would certainly agree with almost everything you have to say here. Perhaps it is the teacher in me, but I do believe that "an answer" is possible in everything scriptural, even if that answer comes in the negative (i.e., we are not given to know about _____ before the time). The question, of course, is whether or not any particular answer we have been taught or come up with through our own study is the correct answer. My own experience has suggested that the same drive for the truth without abandoning self-criticism shown by you in this exchange is precisely the approach necessary from coming to satisfactory conclusions. As in most things, theology yields to work, if that work is careful, humble, willing to change when necessary, courageous enough to stand firm when convinced by all evidence.

So much for philosophy. Actual "answers" come down to evidence and the hard work of gathering, filtering, analyzing, sorting and arranging the data. Moreover, without the Spirit, the process would be pointless. My own approach developed quite unconsciously. Under the influence of the Colonel's ministry, I did not initially spend anywhere near the amount of time actually looking to see what scripture had to say as I did to what he had to say about scripture. Very early on (before personal computers), I began to compile my own data base on index cards listing the places where the Col. had mentioned or referenced Bible passages. When I was led to put scripture first, everything changed. Not that I did not receive a wonderful education from listening to all those tapes and reading those books. I certainly did. And as I have had occasion to say more than once, Thieme's method of at least trying to get to the bottom of essential biblical questions and "doctrines" (without indirect recourse to academic theological constructs) by going directly to scripture in its original languages instead, was formative in molding my own approach. I have not always held to his conclusions, but I am a great fan of the method.

This is a long way of saying that for me it all comes down to scripture. As I find many scriptures which connect the resurrection to Christ's parousia or return, but none which to my mind can convincingly be connected to the commencement of the Tribulation, I hold firmly to a post-Tribulation, pre-Millennium view. As to eternal security, as I say, I can see how union with Christ might be a convincing piece of evidence of this doctrine for some, and I also would admit that in many areas of my own teaching I am likewise "filling in the blanks" with sanctified logic. My "ark" is not yet complete (though I am banging away at it every day). On this question it is one of relative weight of evidence. I can explain how union with Christ (for example) is not a decisive argument for eternal security: because unions can be broken or annulled; and I can explain why such a possibility should be allowed: to preserve the principle of free will. True, the Son of God has "something to say" about the matter, and in these discussions I always try to emphasize that in my reading of the pertinent scriptures I do not find the process of apostasy whereby faith is lost generally to be something that happens over night or for no particular reason. As I point out where I discuss the sin unto death, there are apparently instances where individual Christians refuse to choose between abandonment of faith in Christ and acceptance of obedience to Him (and are summarily remanded to heaven as a result). In other instances, when following Jesus becomes undesirable for whatever reason, there are in fact those who do abandon their faith (the seed which sprouted on the rock but dried up and died when the heat came). This eventuality is necessary to preserve the principle of free will, the entire reason why Man is here on the earth at all.

Not to rely on experience as an argument, but it is difficult to have lived in this world as a Christian very long and not to have come into contact with individuals who once professed a living faith in Jesus Christ but now no longer do. In such cases, assuring them that if they once believed, they are "safe" strikes me as a course of action that ought to fill even the most ardent enthusiasts of eternal security with trepidation.

So much for prolegomena. Getting down to cases, I shared one passage from the article to which you refer that to me clearly teaches the necessity of maintaining faith for salvation, Hebrews 3:14. It has been some time since I have considered any of the Colonel's exegesis, but since everything comes done in the end to actual verses of scripture, let me have a go at it. Here is the treatment of the verse as you report it:

For we have become partners/associates of the Christ if, indeed, we retain and secure the beginning of our essence {daily function of GAP under SuperGrace} stabilized {in the SuperGrace life} unto the end {death or rapture}. Hebrews 3:14 per Syndein

Interpretation of this passage essentially depends upon how one takes two words in this verse, metochoi (translated above as "partners/associates") and hypostaseos (translated above as "essence"). To extrapolate, Thieme takes "partner" here to be "one worthy of reward", whereas I take it to mean essentially "believer"; while the word hypostasis I take to be a synonym of pistis, "faith". If being a "partner" with Christ is being "in Christ", then union with Christ is conditional, regardless of how one takes hypostasis. And if hypostasis is referring to faith, then it would be impossible to restrict "partner" to merely one aspect of our relationship with Christ. In other words, for this unique translation to defuse the conditionality of salvation, it has to carry the day on both points. In fact, it seems clear to me that it is deficient in both places.

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (KJV)

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, (NASB)

for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end: (ASV)

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (NIV)

What we find in the versions is a near universal rendering of the first term (metochos) in a way that emphasizes a total union rather than a partial association; and we find no hint of anything like "essence" for the second term (hypostasis). Naturally, this is not decisive evidence, but since none of these versions is attempting to undermine Thieme's unique rendering, we can be sure that the difference is not the result of animus, and, if wrong, that they are guilty only of ignorance.

1) Paul's use of metochoi, "partakers", to express our relationship with Christ is probably the result of his contextual analogy of the household (v.6). The fact that here in verse 14 we are described not merely as partakers or members of the household but members of Christ Himself makes the connection stronger rather than weaker. This would be a very odd phrasing if only a sharing in eternal rewards was meant. That somewhat strange limitation would likely have to be brought out by some limiting phrase (which of course is absent). Even in Thieme's rendering, "partners/associates of Christ" seems to me to lean toward the inclusive (i.e., "of Christ" in all respects) rather than the exclusive meaning it would have to have here for his interpretation to be correct. That the word should mean an all-inclusive unity rather than a limited partnership certainly jibes with the way Paul uses the word elsewhere in Hebrews, including at the beginning of this very chapter:

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers (metochoi) of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
Hebrews 3:1 KJV

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers (metochoi) of the Holy Ghost,
Hebrews 6:4 KJV

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers (metochoi), then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Hebrews 12:8 KJV

In all three of these passages, to be a "partaker" is to have the deepest possible relationship with someone/something. In Hebrews 3:1, "partakers (metochoi) of the heavenly calling" is unarguably a synonym for "believers" (as I would argue "partakers of Christ" must be as well). In Hebrews 6:4, "partakers (metochoi) of the Holy Ghost" likewise indicates all believers, and is indeed making use of the fact of having the Spirit as a proof of his readers' present status as believers (cf. Rom.8:9). In Hebrews 12:8, the issue is not one of salvation directly, but the point is the same. All "partakers" of discipline are sons, so that the word metochoi here too is used to describe a complete and full relationship (rather than a limited partnership), and that sonship is meant to assure of believers of their own all-inclusive membership in the family of God.

This is all very important in the context of Hebrews where Paul is appealing to the Judean believers to get back on track spiritually so that they may avoid apostasy. Indeed, that is the point of everything he says in our context, chapters three and four, where the Exodus generation is used as the monitory example of the consequences of unbelief (cf. esp. 3:19 - 4:1). That is to say, the context is one of contrast between believers and unbelievers, so that this too argues for metochoi Christou meaning "believers" as opposed to those who "have no part" in Jesus (Jn.13:8, where echo meros is a virtual verbal equivalent of metochos). Finally, Paul uses the corresponding verb, metecho, both in Hebrews and in 1st Corinthians (1Cor.9:10; 10:17; 10:21: 10:30; Heb.5:13) for "partaking in food", and this common idea seems to me to be present below the surface in the adjective metochos as well here in Hebrews 3:14: we are "partakers in Christ" as those who have "eaten His body", believed in His Person, becoming one with Him through faith (as the communion ceremony teaches).

2) It is true that the word hypostasis can mean "essence" and does so in the beginning of the book where Christ's divinity is described at Hebrews 1:3a:

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, (KJV)

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, (NIV)

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, (NASB)

While none of the versions above use the word "essence", that would be my preference for hypostasis in this case. In terms of the verse we are discussing, it is important to consider what the word actually means in the context of this parallel passage, Hebrews 1:3a, namely, the intrinsic reality of Christ's Person. That idea of "foundational essence" or substance is what the word means elsewhere in Greek as well, but in the New Testament Hebrews 1:3a is in fact the only place where "essential substance" is meant by hypostasis. Elsewhere it has the (metaphorical) meaning of faith/confidence as a foundational or substantial principle (2Cor.9:4; 11:17). That is to say, it is a synonym for faith, but an emphatic one, meaning "confident assurance". That is what the word means without question at Hebrews 11:1 where hypostasis is equated with faith:

Now faith is the substance (hypostasis) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (KJV)

Now faith is the assurance (hypostasis) of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (NASB)

Now faith is being sure (hypostasis) of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.(NIV)

To accept Thieme's interpretation, we have to believe not only that "essence" is to be preferred here to "confidence", but also that by "essence" Paul means the "daily function of GAP under SuperGrace". Even were we to accept the Colonel's teachings on these subjects without reservation, there are two very large problems with reading the passage this way. The first is linguistic. As discussed above, the particular meaning of "essence" which the word hypostasis will bear is a description of a foundational material or substance. Behavior, no matter how defined (e.g., "daily function of GAP under SuperGrace"), is not in itself a substance, so that it is very difficult (I would say impossible) that the word could ever be used to describe some sort of process (no matter how "foundational" it might be). Expecting the believers in Jerusalem in the mid-first century to make this very long leap, and not only that, but to see in hypostasis a very particular process not elsewhere described in context or ever attributed to this word would be asking far too much. That is the second problem, namely, the lack of any actual verbal evidence in the passage which would suggest that we are talking about spiritual growth rather the maintenance of faith - which after all has been our subject before this verse and continues to be afterwards. Since the entire context of the chapter (and of Hebrews generally) is all about the maintenance of faith, surely were this process of growth the meaning at 3:14, Paul would have said something to give us some indication of that switch.

Alternatively, if we accept the passage on its face, a perfectly good sense which matches the context is given, regardless of the version: we are in union with Christ, partakers "of Him", as long as we maintain our faith. This is Paul's point and this is his purpose: he is trying to head off apostasy among the Judean Christians who were teetering on the brink of spiritual disaster by becoming involved again in the rituals of Judaism which proclaimed a Messiah not yet come. Hebrews 3:14, "we are partakers of Christ if we hold fast", was the perfect way to encourage his readers in their salvation and at the same time warn them against endangering it. The fact that Paul has said almost exactly the same thing in very similar phraseology regarding the necessity of maintaining our faith only a few verses earlier should also be taken into account:

but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
Hebrews 3:6 NIV

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
Hebrews 3:14 NIV

I think it fair to say that the Col.'s translation of Hebrews 3:14 is an attempt to dispose of evidence that doesn't fit the data. Were this the only passage that taught salvation as conditional upon continuing faith, for me it would be strong enough on its own to doubt "absolute eternal security". It was the fact of being bombarded over time by many such passages that eventually forced me to yield to what any reader could glean from almost any English version.

In Jesus in whom we are completely secure -- as long as we are content to remain in Him by faith.

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your second detailed response. There are a few more things I would like to add to what I wrote before which I hope will clarify my beliefs. I am going to consciously try and keep this brief and I will let you get in the last word if you want to reply to this message.

I didn't mean to make it sound in my previous note like I don't believe we can find truth because I do have confidence that absolute truth can be found through the study of the scriptures. I do believe in eternal security as Colonel Thieme taught it and, for better or worse, I continue to believe that it is true. Of course I always reserve the right to change my mind about any doctrine if the Holy Spirit so leads me. I purposely made sure that my previous response to you was restrained in tone (maybe I did too good of a job) because I have seen Christians treat each other in unconscionable ways when debating items like this. While I can be as belligerent as any of Colonel Thieme's students, there are some lines I won't cross.

I want to mention a couple of things regarding the timing of the rapture of the church and eternal security but first I want to point you to an article I just posted on my small blog (I don't have more than a half dozen people that regularly "stop by") by the name of "God's Kingdom Program and the Parable of the Sower." The post is basically the notes I typed up after listening to the Parable of the Sower from Arnold Fruchtenbaum's study "The Life of Messiah From a Jewish Perspective." I mentioned that we were trading e-mails and I linked to your site. I don't think there is anything in that study that you haven't heard before but you may be interested nonetheless.

As for the timing of the rapture I do still believe in a pre-tribulational rapture of the church. In my previous message to you I had mentioned that I don't believe that all prophecy regarding the end times is completely understood. I do believe that God will withhold information that Satan will use for evil. The prophecies of the First Advent were not completely understood until the first advent had occurred and I believe that the same thing is true for the Second Advent as well.

I know the teachings of Colonel Thieme fairly well on the subject of eschatology (my memory is beginning to fade with time) and I have more recently read Arnold Fruchtenbaum's book "The Footsteps of the Messiah." While both Fruchtenbaum and Thieme believe in a pre-tribulational rapture they also disagree over a lot of smaller points. It is very interesting and it has kept me from getting cocky about what I know for certain.

I am also generally familiar with the post-tribulational position you hold. What I know about your position really comes from a course called the "Bible Framework" by Charles Clough. In part six of the course he discusses the five major views held by modern evangelical Christianity today. Part 6 is titled "The New Truths for the Kingdom Aristocracy" and the discussion of five views of the Church and the Tribulation begins on page 119 (page 111 of 146 in the Adobe document) and his discussion of a post-tribulational rapture begins on page 124 (116 of 146 in the Adobe document). I will admit that this summary has certainly influenced my view of the post-tribulational position.

As for your discussion of Hebrews 3:14 I did read through it but it will take more than a reading for me to truly understand it. I did go out to the online version of Strong's and checked out the definitions for partaking (Greek metochos, Strong's G3353) and for essence (Greek hypostasis, Strong's G5287). I don't believe that the definitions that Colonel Thieme used are inconsistent with Strong's definitions but I also understand that your argument doe not rely on simply choosing a definition from Strong's that you like. At this point you have gone beyond my competence and I can not produce a word study that will prove the point one way or another. This is why I will always be dependent on a pastor/teacher for spiritual nourishment.

However, I did sit down and think about another question: what proof would it require for me to reject the doctrine of eternal security? It took me a while but I did come up with an answer. The only way I will believe that the "salvation contract" between man and God can be broken is if it can be proven to me that another contract that God was partner to has been broken. You would have to be able to show me that the covenants with Israel are actually null and void and that replacement theology is correct. If God remains faithful and long suffering in spite of Israel's unfaithfulness then He will do the same for us. However, if the replacement theologians are correct then all bets are off as far as I am concerned.

Speaking of breaking promises, I believe I said I would keep this e-mail short and I am about to break that promise. Thank you for your courteous replies and may the Holy Spirit guide you in all of you endeavors.

Response #10:   

Long or short, your emails are always a pleasure. To begin, I certainly did not mean to imply that I took your uncommon civility for a lack of conviction. To the contrary, to me this approach exemplifies the biblical standard to which we have been called:

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8 NIV

As to your belief in eternal security and the pre-Tribulation rapture, you certainly do not owe me (or anyone else) an explanation. This is between you and the Lord. I trust that you will not think my acquiescence a sign of any lack of conviction on my part. Some things I believe; some things I know for a fact, and the falsity of these two teaching falls into the latter category. In my view, a secular scholar with an expertise in Greek, and with no prior assumptions about the two doctrines one way or another, would, if asked to sift through all the biblical evidence, most certainly conclude that the New Testament teaches the necessity of continuing faith for salvation, and that the resurrection is promised on Christ's return (even if he thought the whole thing "rot"). So I am a bit disconcerted by your position that a particular argument would have to be disproved as a prerequisite for altering your positions. The Bible contains all the truth we need. If we search the scripture in a diligent and responsible way (Thieme called it "I.C.E." - i.e., an isagogic, categoric, exegetical approach), we will get closer to the truth -- even if the conclusions at which we arrive make us uncomfortable (and it is inevitable that they occasionally will). However, as long as we are determined to "defend the fortress" of what we choose to believe, rather than allowing the Spirit to guide us through careful study of scripture, we will never change ("creeds" result when this approach becomes institutionalized).

I am also somewhat disturbed by your statement to the effect that not all prophecy regarding the end times is meant to be completely understood before the fact. That does not square with my understanding of God or the Word of God in any manner. It is true that there was much in the Old Testament about the necessity of the Messiah suffering death for the world which was not understood before it became a reality, but not because of any lack of information in scripture (after all, the entire function of the Levitical priesthood and temple rite is designed to teach about Jesus Christ). The failure of most to understand was most certainly not because the teachings were "closed" to believers; rather it was a result of hardness of heart and unbelief. Jesus taught His disciples continuously about His coming death and the need for it. True, they did not understand before the time, but it would be strange to suggest that our Lord was engaging in an activity which was pointless by definition. They were meant to understand, and so are we. Analogously to the hard-headed disciples, I have very little doubt that most Christians who will live to see the Tribulation (not very far off at time of writing), will enter it with almost no understanding of what scripture really teaches about it (and so will be extremely vulnerable to antichrist's seductive religion as well as to the Great Apostasy). That does not mean that they were never meant to read, study, and understand the book of Revelation (e.g.). It is in this regard that I find the pre-Tribulation rapture theory so dangerous, simply because it allows an otherwise very well-informed and clearly spiritually engaged Christian such as yourself to dismiss the bulk of eschatology and feel that it may even be preferable to do so. This approach, the one that most in the world of evangelicalism are indeed taking, is destined to cause a shipwreck of faith in many, many cases when the end does begin to unfold (for my most recent work on this subject, please see the link: "The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.").

For it is very easy in today's internet world for anyone to "hang out a shingle", so to speak, and provide "information" without necessarily knowing what they are talking about. Having devoted my life to proper preparation and (what I deem to be) careful exegesis of the Word of God, I would find this extremely frustrating -- that is, if I did not have absolute confidence in the Spirit of God to guide those genuinely interested in the truth to a good source of truth (and to help them avert the bad). Case in point is the dispensational interpretation of the parable of the Sower which you linked to. In my estimation, it should be obvious prima facie to any average reader that great lengths have been gone to here in order to make the plain sense of the parable mean something that the average Christian would never come close to imagining in a million years without such "expert help". For Jesus tells us that "the Sower sows the Word" (Mk.1:4); and that the different types of ground represent individuals ("These are the ones"), whose hearts are variously affected by their response to the Word (rejection; temporary acceptance followed by rejection; acceptance with distraction; acceptance followed by production). As a layout of the four different possible responses to the Word and as an encouragement to believers to respond to the Word of God the parable makes perfect sense; as an overview of dispensational theology, it does not ring true even when carefully tweaked.

Far be it from me to try to persuade you to do anything contrary to conscience. I have faith that the Spirit is moving you towards a deeper and a better understanding of the truth. That is certainly what happened to me when I took the Col.'s advice to heart and decided to become professionally prepared for ministry, and to "study and teach" diligently, letting the Bible be my guide, not the preconceived doctrines and theological constructs of others – when I did not find these supported by scripture.

In the One who is the Truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Robert,

In your section on hamartiology, you seem to suggest a person can lose their salvation. In that context, what are your thoughts about the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints?

"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."- John 10:28 (NKJV)

This Biblical doctrine that a person who has received Jesus Christ, been born into the family of God, and justified by faith, can never again be lost is sometimes called eternal security. Others speak of it as the perseverance of the saints. The latter expression might better be termed the perseverance of God in behalf of the saints, because the security of our salvation does not rest on us but on God—it is based on the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Response #11:   

I have written quite a lot on this topic and would ask you to reference the links below. In a nutshell, I most certainly do not believe in the extreme expression of this doctrine often referred to as "once saved, always saved". Scripture often expresses salvation in conditional terms just as it often expresses it in absolute terms. The reason for this is that while God won't change, people can. The bottom line is that believers are saved, unbelievers aren't. One would think that this would be obvious since scripture says as much over and over again. But the extreme "eternal security" position says (in its logic if never put into words) that once you have believed, you are a "believer" forever, even if you stop believing! Traditional Calvinism tries to get around this twisted logic by saying that someone who does not believe but once did profess faith in Christ "was never really a believer in the first place"! Neither of these positions passes the "sniff test". The sad thing from my point of view is that all of this confusion is really unnecessary (and make no mistake, "once saved always saved" is a dangerous false doctrine on account of the false sense of security that it often provides, among other problems). Jesus Himself in the parable of the sower told us that the second category of soil, the "rocky soil", represents those who "believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (i.e., fall away from the faith)" (Lk.8:13). There is no other way to read this passage but to recognize that if a person who once believed decides to reject Christ for whatever reason (usually because of falling into sin or being disappointed in life and blaming God), that person ceases to be a believer and is thereafter no longer secure in salvation. Please have a look at following links where the specifics are treated in more detail.

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

Peter #27: Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith

"Eternal Security: where does one draw the line?"

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

Eternal security 1

Eternal security 2

Peter #21 - "Perseverance of Faith"

Peter #26 - "Positional Security"

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Dear Bob,

Thank you ever so much for your response on 1st Corinthians chapter 5. I want nothing more than to get everything right in this book. It is, after all, in the service of the Lord I so love.

There is another issue I would like to address: do you think that a confessed Christian can lose their salvation - other than in grieving the Holy Spirit?

Thank you again!

The Peace of Christ,

Response #12: 

As to your new question, yes it is possible for someone who genuinely accepts Christ to turn away from Him later on. Believers are people who have a living faith in Jesus Christ. But faith is never static, and in extreme cases of spiritual regression, the "faith plant" can wither and die as our Lord told us:

And he who was sown on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy. He has no roots [to his faith], however, but lasts only a short time. So when tribulation or persecution occurs on account of the Word, he is immediately tripped up (skandalizetai; i.e., he apostatizes).
Matthew 13:20-21

And these [second types] who are sown on the rocky places are similar. Whenever they hear the Word they immediately receive it with joy, although they have no root [of faith] in themselves, but are only temporary [believers]. When tribulation or persecution because of the Word comes [their way], they are immediately tripped up (skandalizontai; i.e., they apostatize).
Mark 4:16-17

And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai).
Luke 8:13

The notion of "once saved, always saved" is very reassuring, but it is not biblical as many passages of scripture make abundantly clear, for example:

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

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.
Galatians 5:19-21

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.
Ephesians 5:3-7

I give you this command, Timothy my child, in accordance with the prophecies that were made long ago about you, that you conduct a good campaign, one that is in keeping with [those predictions], holding onto your faith and to a clean conscience (cf. 1Tim.1:5-6) - which [conscience] some have rejected (lit., "pushed away") and [have thus] suffered the shipwreck of their faith.
1st Timothy 1:18-19

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

If we deny Him, He will also deny us . . . for He cannot deny Himself
2nd Timothy 2:12-13

And of course the passage we have been considering in 1st Corinthians chapter five says essentially the same thing:

[For I have already decided, i]n the name of our Lord Jesus, when all of you are gathered together with my spirit by the power of our Lord Jesus, to hand such a one over to Satan for the destruction of his body so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
1st Corinthians 5:4-5

Clearly, without this remedial divine discipline, the person in question's spirit "will be lost on the day of the Lord", meaning loss of salvation. That does not happen because of sin per se, for Christ died for all sin. What happens when Christians revert to the ways of the world as this man had done is that eventually sin erodes faith. It is rather unusual for a person to go "all out" back down the road of sin and not eventually come to reject Christ.

For if after having escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things, then they have become worse off than they were before. For it would have been better for them not to have accepted the Righteous Way in the first place, rather than – once having accepted this holy command [for faith in Christ] committed to them – to turn their backs on it now. And so in their case this proverb is true: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow, though washed, to her muddy sty".
2nd Peter 2:20-22

That is the normal process. If you stop following Christ and instead live your life opposing His will for you, eventually you begin to stop believing in Him altogether, and it is this loss of faith, this withering up of the plant of faith that sprang from seed of the Word, that is the basis for eternal damnation, not the sins themselves. Occasionally, however, some people do "dance between two opinions" like the double-minded audience of Elijah on Mount Carmel, and do so to such a degree, getting so deeply involved in sin while refusing to let go at faith at the same time, that God intervenes and takes the offender out of this life for his/her own good and for the good of the Church. The former situation is called apostasy; the latter is called the sin unto death. This is all explained in greater detail at the following link: in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

Then Elijah approached the assembled people and said, "How long will you continue limping (i.e., like you were "Baal dancing"; cf. v.26) on two divided [opinions]? If the Lord is the [true] God, then follow after Him. But if Baal is, then follow after him".
1st Kings 18:21a

The false doctrine of "absolute eternal security" is perhaps no trouble for those Christians who are following Jesus in a dedicated way in comparatively good times, but its major danger in good times is spiritual complacency (which can lead to emboldening a person to sin), and in difficult times (as in the coming Tribulation) it may lead a Christian to think erroneously that the path of least resistance is at least safe as far as salvation is concerned, because salvation "cannot be lost". That is a monstrous lie, because salvation depends upon continuing faith:

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised, who has in His great mercy caused us to be reborn to a hope which lives through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, and to an inheritance which will never be destroyed, defiled, or dimmed, but which is being guarded in heaven for us, who are ourselves also being kept safe by God's power and through our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance ready to be unveiled at the end of time.
1st Peter 1:3-5

You can read more about this at the following links:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

Peter #27: Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith

"Eternal Security: where does one draw the line?"

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

Eternal security 1

Eternal security 2

Peter #21 - "Perseverance of Faith"

Peter #26 - "Positional Security"

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hi Bob.

I am still around, and pray for you always. What do you think of the saying "once saved always saved"? I don't believe it. Give me some verses to back up what you believe.

Hope all is well my friend.

Response #13:   

I too am no believer in absolute eternal security. Mind you, I don't believe in "pins and needles" salvation either, that is, the idea that if a person commits a sin (especially one that shocks him/herself, or one that other people find worse than the sinful things they do all the time) then they might "lose it". Losing faith is how salvation is lost. Apostasy, as the parable of the Sower makes clear, is the death of the "plant of faith".

Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Luke 8:13 TNIV

When a person no longer believes in Jesus, that person is no longer a believer -- period. But completely terminating belief in the Savior who bought us is not an accidental thing. When it happens, it is always deliberate. For whatever reason (e.g., blaming God or consciously preferring a life of sin), some people do abandon the Lord. He never abandons us (true security), but He cannot deny Himself so as to "save us" (as hyper-eternal security claims) after we have deliberately spit out our faith in Him.

As I have written all this up in "gruesome" detail, I ask you to have a look at the following links for passages and further info:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

Peter #27: Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith

"Eternal Security: where does one draw the line?"

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

Eternal security 1

Eternal security 2

Peter #21 - "Perseverance of Faith"

Peter #26 - "Positional Security"

Keep the faith my friend!

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Robert,

Thanks for your earlier response to my other email. You may have covered the question I pose in this email elsewhere on your site but it (your site) is so vast! My question is this: I have heard it said both that 'once saved, always saved' as well as the notion that one can lose one's salvation. I know some of the arguments for both. For example, proponents of the former say that those who fall away never were saved to begin with, while supporters of the latter produce scriptures such as 'Be careful lest you drift away' or the one about people's names being removed from the Book of Life (with the assumption one's name can only be written in it if one accepts Jesus - or else accepts God the Father in the totality of their life, for those without the Gospel). Today, I read an answer you give on your site concerning the Great Apostasy. I recall reading in detail in another section on your site that the Word's meaning here is 1/3 of 'true believers' falling away (as opposed to the Church Visible, all of which will quickly succumb to the Antichrist's global religion post haste). Would this indicate you believe that a person can be saved (as in if they died in this condition they would go to be with God) and then reject Jesus (i.e. so they had accepted Him as Savior in their heart and may even have produced fruit but, over time, their hearts have grown cold and they finally apostatize)? I ask this because I know the words of Jesus concerning Goats: "I NEVER knew you." I lean towards the position that someone may lose their (actual) salvation due to all the scriptures (such as the 'be careful lest you drift away' one) and see it in terms of the parable of the seed (some falling on good ground and some on not so good ground - e.g. one seed actually sprouts a small plant - hence, FRUIT - but it doesn't take deep root and is burnt easily by the sun and cannot draw on nutrients from deeper soil). I have lived long enough to have been in churches and other godly communities and stood beside men and women who seemed to be sincerely worshiping God and even growing in their understanding of Him and His ways but, alas, today they are far from God. So much of the eternal security proponents nowadays seem to add to their critiques of the opposite position with words to the effect that God's love and power is such that one cannot escape His salvation once one has it and that those who question the doctrine of eternal security have a poor view of God's Love (but I think this confuses His Love [for us] and possessing an actual relationship with Him as even those in Hell cannot escape His love but by their own wilful actions they have rejected the offer of His salvation). This propensity to reduce theology to subjective 'warm-fuzzy' neo-hippie notions of love seems to be growing as the Church tries to find an accommodation with the postmodernised West (and would seem to be the explanation as to how so many fall for the Antichrist's seductions...to quote one defendant of the Todd Bentley/Lakeland phenomenon: "I just know it is of God...in my heart...").

Response #14: 

Good to hear from you again. Thanks for the email. I agree with it entirely, both your synopsis of the current debate, and your conclusions. It is a very common thing in non-believing circles to emphasize the love of God with no regard for the justice of God. Indeed, this was apparently Satan's argument for contesting his condemnation (see the link: the Satanic Rebellion series), and that was his flaw as well: God loves us all, alright, so much that Jesus died for us all -- but He still requires justification which in turn requires our response to Him (through faith) -- if that were not true, then Christ would not have had to sacrifice Himself to satisfy the Father's righteous requirement for our salvation.

There is just too much biblical evidence to deny that apostasy can and does happen. Even if we wish to deny our eyes (for as you testify it is a rare Christian who has been in the faith for any length of time who has not seen unmistakable examples of it), we would still have to contort dozens of scriptures in order to support this false notion. I came to see the truth after growing up (spiritually) in a "once saved always saved" environment, and was led to the truth in the process of trying to defend hyper-ES. Indeed, we are secure in Jesus; we are not believers in "pins and needles" salvation wherein we would need to be terrified of any slip-up lest we lose that salvation. The only way to become an apostate is to apostatize. That is to say, one has to reject Jesus, after accepting Him; one has to discard the faith previously held. That is not something that happens overnight or for light and transient reasons, especially not for those who are truly dedicated to Him. The parable of the Sower really is one of the best passages for explaining this concept and for giving the details. Those who fall away do so because of pressure on their faith, and lack of sticking power when the going for Christ gets rough:

And he who was sown on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy. He has no roots [to his faith], however, but lasts only a short time. So when tribulation or persecution occurs on account of the Word, he is immediately tripped up (skandalizetai; i.e., he apostatizes). Matthew 13:20-21

And these [second types] who are sown on the rocky places are similar. Whenever they hear the Word they immediately receive it with joy, although they have no root [of faith] in themselves, but are only temporary [believers]. When tribulation or persecution because of the Word comes [their way], they are immediately tripped up (skandalizontai; i.e., they apostatize). Mark 4:16-17

And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai). Luke 8:13

Sin often does have a lot to do with this. Whenever a person gets to a point that they are unwilling to turn from a particular type of sin, they often face a crisis wherein they either have to admit their sinfulness (to themselves . . . which leads to confessing it to God), or begin to deny that their conduct is sinful at all. The latter path hardens the heart and corrupts the conscience; it also erodes faith - and once faith has evaporated, the person is no longer a "believer". That is one of the most common paths to apostasy; I have also seen a number of cases where something terrible happens (the loss of a loved one; betrayal on the part of another Christian), and the person blames God and turns away. But for those of us who are unwilling to part company with our faith and the One in whom we believe, salvation is completely secure, because all believers are saved. Only the other hand, only believers are saved, so that, by definition, if a person stops believing (which is objectively possible), that person is no longer a believer.

Hyper-ES proponents often go to great lengths to support their thesis. The "I never knew you" argument is a new one on me (Matt.7:23), but it is typical, namely, a semantic argument requiring one to work backwards by logic to prove the impossibility of losing salvation. However, what if Jesus is addressing the unbelieving Jews of His generation in this passage (which of course He plainly is)? Then it would not be a case of believers who turn back, but of unbelievers who indeed our Lord never knew in the first place.

Yes, I have written a good deal about this issue, and quite a lot of it is presently posted at the site. Here are some links to the major treatments of the issue:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

Peter #27: Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith

"Eternal Security: where does one draw the line?"

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

Eternal security 1

Eternal security 2

Peter #21 - "Perseverance of Faith"

Peter #26 - "Positional Security"

Thanks again for your solid take on this important issue.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

 

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