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The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

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Question #1: 

How would you explain Ephesians 2: 8-9 in relation to Salvation. If Salvation can be lost, then it is not a free gift based on faith through grace in the first place. Also, David's faith wavered. He committed adultery and murder. Based on that, wouldn't it suffice to say that his faith wasn't real to begin with? In essence, he turned his back on God., and went his own way. Thoughts?

Response #1: 

Scripture very clearly teaches that salvation is dependent upon faith:

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

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

Since faith can be lost, and since salvation depends upon faith, salvation can be lost. Scripture is very clear that believers are saved and unbelievers are not saved. A believer is someone who believes; an unbeliever is someone who does not believe. If a believer stops believing, that person is then an unbeliever and hence not saved (Q.E.D.).

I think there is a problem with the logic in your opening paragraph. For example, if I give a woman a diamond ring as a pledge of my love and she accepts it, then, after a time, she gives it back (or sells it, or throws it away), just because she chose to despise my love and dispose of my ring, does that mean that the ring was not really a gift? Or that it was not really "free"? After all, she chose to despise what she had once prized. In a similar way, salvation is indeed a free gift, but it is retained by faith; casting off faith means casting off salvation.

(35) So do not throw away this conviction of yours – it leads to a great reward. (36) You need to keep persevering so that you may carry off in victory what has been promised – after you have accomplished God's will. (37) For yet a little while, how short, how [short the wait], and He who is coming shall come, nor will He delay. (38) "Then shall my righteous one live by his faith, but if he shrinks back, My heart takes no pleasure in him (Hab.2:3-4)." (39) Now we are not possessed of cowardly apostasy which leads to destruction, but we have faith which leads to [eternal] life.
Hebrews 10:35-39

That brings me to your second paragraph. In fact, all Christians continue to sin after salvation. Sin is a very devious and multifarious thing, and the only way to become "sinless" short of the resurrection is to redefine what sin is to one's own advantage. That is to say, only by being ignorant of the wide-ranging nature of what is sin (or studiously denying that one is practicing what is in fact sin) can a person believe that they are now without sin (please see the link: Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin).

If we say "I haven't sinned!", we make Him out to be a liar and His Word isn't in us.
1st John 1:10

The sins committed by David in murdering Uriah and committing adultery with his wife are clearly outrageous. But we know that David did not cast aside his relationship with the Lord; as in the case with all true believers who sin, he regretted and repented of his horrible transgressions . . . and God forgave him (2Sam.12:13; cf. Ps.51). David did not lose his salvation because he did not lose his faith.

You are certainly right to assume a connection between faith and faithfulness: ideally, we Christians will live consistently 100% with the faith we treasure and espouse. In practice, however, none of us comes anywhere close to 100%. Sin is indeed antithetical to faith because it is a lawless violation of God's will. Blessedly, we have a merciful Father who forgives us our sins when we confess them, based upon the work of our Lord Jesus on the cross who died for them all.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just so as to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9

Sin results in all sorts of negatives, stunting our spiritual growth, disrupting our peace, producing negative consequences in our lives . . . and resulting in divine discipline/punishment from God (see the link: God's Dealing with the Sins of Individual Believers). But it is rare for a single sin to destroy our eternal relationship with our dear Lord Jesus – and when it does, as in taking the mark of the beast, it is always the last act in a long process of apostasy. That is to say, such a "sin" is the final casting off of the last vestige of faith. For the only sin that can cost us salvation is the sin of unbelief, the only sin for which, by definition, Jesus could not die, the sin of rejecting Himself, His Person and his work on the cross. What all other sin does do, however, is to put the believer who commits it under pressure, and that pressure becomes more severe in accord with the magnitude and frequency of the sinning. Simply put, a believer is eventually going to respond to the pressure God levels on him/her so as to repent and confess and change his/her ways, or else that believer will gradually alienate him or herself from God entirely, not wanting even to consider the One from whom he/she is turning away. As the heart hardens in this process of apostasy, sin embraced and unconfessed has a tendency to kill off faith. When this process is complete, the person in question is, technically speaking, an apostate (see the link in BB 4B: "The Sin Problem").

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

There is a category of person who is not willing to give up a life of sin on the one hand yet is also not willing to relinquish his/her faith on the other. When this person pushes things too far, like the incestuous believer in Corinth, the Lord removes that person from life via the "sin unto death" (1Jn.5:16; cf. 1Cor.5). These matters are explained in detail at the following link: in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

Had David thrown Nathan out of the court and stubbornly refused to admit his guilt, I have no doubt that, had he persisted in such a course to the end, he would have ended up as either as an apostate or being removed from life in a horrible fashion. As it was, he did confess and repent, and he did return to a faithful life of following and loving the Lord, in a most exemplary fashion at that. But let the record show that he had to endure fourteen years of intense divine discipline as a result of what he had done, seeing his first child by Bathsheba die, having one of his sons rape one of his daughters, having his favorite son murder that son and then try to murder and replace David himself, and then enduring the shame and humiliation of being run out of Jerusalem and very nearly destroyed. None of us ever "gets away" with anything. Our faith is the most valuable thing we possess since it is the (secondary) means of our salvation. God's grace is a constant; His gift is completely free and secure on His side. The only danger that believers face is succumbing to the pressures and temptations of life so as to "fall away", to lose faith in the crucible of human experience, a phenomenon you have no doubt seen for yourself, and one which is prophesied to become endemic within the Church during the fast-approaching Tribulation (2Thes.2:3; see the link: "The Great Apostasy").

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

Faith may waver without apostasy; when faith dies, so does the "new life" of the quondam believer who has now lost it (and so becomes an unbeliever again). This sad fact does not make salvation any less free or any less of a gift; to the contrary, it makes our so great salvation all that much more a treasure to be prized and held fast unswervingly until the end.

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 our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance ready to be unveiled at the end of time.
1st Peter 1:3-5

Please feel free to write me back about any of this. Here are some links which may be of help to you in all this:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

Eternal Security (in Peter #21)

Positional Security (in Peter #27)

Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology: The biblical study of salvation

Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The biblical study of sin

In the Name of the One in whom we believe for eternal life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2:

I was initially taught the doctrine of "hyper" eternal security, but see some verses in scripture that seem to irrefutably contradict this doctrine. I have 2 issues on my mind, and I would be grateful if you could comment on them.

1) I have placed my faith in Christ for my salvation. However, I have consistent issues with sins mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10: 9 and 10. So is being drunk often, lusting, fornicating, etc. a sin that will cause me to lose my salvation? I can certainly see how it could get so out of control that someone could lose their faith, but short of that does it still damn me to hell? Christ saves by grace in spite of our sin, so I still have trouble understanding how to view this verse. What if a drunkard has faith? I know Christ can and will change me, but if I am living in that sin right now am I unsaved?

2) Because of the dire warning of verses like 1 Corinthians 10: 9 and 10, when I am tempted to sin, I think that I shouldn't because consistently doing so may be akin to apostasy. Then I think I shouldn't be motivated by not going to hell, but by love for and faith in Jesus. So my question is one of motivation. If I avoid sin because I worry about hell, am I not trying to work my way to heaven and not relying on Christ's completed work on the cross?

Thank you so much for any guidance,

Response #2:   

Good to make your acquaintance. I have written much on these subjects so will not try to reproduce everything here (see the links below), but I will address your two questions as best I can.

It is true that "once saved always saved no matter what a person does" is not biblical, but it is unbiblical not because the Lord somehow gets to a point of no longer being willing to forgive us our sin. He always forgives our sin – when we ask Him to. He died for all our sins – and not only ours but for the sins of the entire world, even the sins of those who will never be counted among the ranks of those who believe, even for those who bitterly oppose and hate Him (see the link: "Unlimited Atonement"). Therefore it is most definitely not a case of "pins and needles" salvation where we have to think that if we ever stumble or trip we are "lost". It is wrong-headed in the extreme and even blasphemous to adopt the mind-set that God is just waiting for us to slip up so He can toss us out of the family (akin to what Job in his despair opined: Job 10:13-14). That is decidedly not the case, and we see in the lives of almost every great believer in the Bible at least one major instance of gross sin – forgiven. We should not sin. Moreover, God disciplines us for our sin, and He knows very well just how to make us rue our sin (see the link: "The Fact and Purpose of Divine Discipline"). Sin is a problem not because it cannot be forgiven, but because it violates God's will, hurts our spiritual momentum, results in discipline, and if a believer persists in sin it will not only damage his or her spiritual growth and will not only degrade his or her relationship with Jesus – it can over time actually destroy that relationship (when and if our faith dies out). This does not happen overnight or for light and transient reasons, but it is a fact that if we understand that we are doing something with which God is mightily displeased and yet persist in doing it any way, eventually we will lose all fear and respect for Him while at the same time becoming less and less willing to return to Him and "take our medicine" in confessing our sin and accepting our discipline. Over time, this pattern likewise has a great tendency to damage our faith, and can actually kill our faith. The process is known as apostasy – the death of faith – and it is a very real concern. This is the danger to which the passages you references are pointing, and this is what scripture warns us to avoid (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

Clearly, the only way to be safe is to respond to the Lord with a complete and undivided heart at all times. If we are marching straight up the high road to Zion, we will not be marching backwards through the gates of hell. Your situation as you very honestly describe it is typical of many contemporary Christians (although most are not as honest as you are in owning up to their problems). The fact that you are concerned enough to write me about this almost certainly means that you are a believer. Unbelievers don't care. And that is the issue. Apostasy is the process of the destruction of faith. When we dabble in sin, there is always the danger that we will eventually let sin have the rule over us completely and, for a variety of reasons, sin then degrades our faith over time if left un-confessed and allowed to putrefy. Like the seed of truth that falls on the rocky ground in the parable of the sower, the faith-plant of some never sets its roots deep enough, so that the pressures of life (sin and allegiance to it being one of the more prominent) eventually kill that plant of faith. Like a plant, faith needs water and light (the Word of God believed by us) to grow, and without said water and light it will wither and eventually die. It is this loss of faith that produces the loss of salvation. If we come to no longer believe, we will no longer be believers. Jesus will forgive us anything and everything . . . but He cannot deny Himself. If you believe in Jesus you are a believer and you are saved. If you no longer believe in Jesus then it is the same as if you never believed in Him in the first place; in such a case you are not a believer and you are not saved.

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

One important caveat here concerns the "sin unto death" of 1st John 5:16-17 (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). There is a category of individual determined to have it both ways, that is, determined to "keep believing" on the one hand, but unwilling to give up a life of gross sin on the other. In extreme cases of this sort, when the believer does not respond to the divine discipline which always follows gross sin, the Lord takes away the person's life – not out malice or anger, but "so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1Cor.5:5 NASB). There is a difference between a man on a road heading in the wrong direction and another one pointed in the right direction but backing up. The former is all but lost (unless something happens to turn him completely around), but the latter is hardly in good shape either. The best that can be said for the "back-slider" is that after a terrible end, at least he or she will still be saved. Obviously, our salvation is far too important a commodity to risk in this way.

It is also important to remember, after all, that we are here to glorify the Lord. Our Lord deserves more from us than a minimalist Christian walk, having died that we might live for Him. I do not know you or your particular situation but in my experience and reading of scripture it is more than likely that your problem stems from being static instead of advancing, from having your faith plant starved of the water and light of the Word of God. Once a Christian realizes the wonderful eternal rewards that accrue to those who are advancing spiritually through attention to the truth of the Bible, passing the tests of this life, and engaging in the personal ministries Jesus has assigned them, everything about the former, earthly perspectives of this life changes (see the link: "The Reward and Judgment of the Church"). For then we are not just "waiting" for Jesus; now we are actively serving Him in a way that will result in His good pleasure now and forever and in eternal rewards beyond our present comprehension. In contemporary US Christianity today, most believers are indeed stuck in the mud; getting out and staying out means moving forward, and the only way to accomplish that is through consistent spiritual growth which requires the solid food and milk of the Word, learned, believed and applied (see the link: "Believing"). Gaining mastery over "the sin which easily besets" (Heb.12:1) is part of the process, but focusing only on the negatives of defense and not understanding that our offensive efforts, spiritual growth and production, are the key to our lives here for the Lord is a chronic problem for today's church-visible. I encourage you to embrace God's plan for your life, and run this race to win. The issue is not just about maintaining your salvation (of which I think from your report there is probably no immediate issue), but of responding to Jesus, honoring and glorifying Him by what He has given you to accomplish (Eph.2:10). Once you focus on the big picture, the question of motivation always falls into place.

Please also see the following links:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

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

Eternal Security (in Peter #21)

Positional Security (in Peter #27)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3: 

Dear Brother Luginbill:

It really is disconcerting to see such remarkable scholarship in your work and yet witness the veritable pretzel you must fashion to support a few (in my opinion) untenable positions. Perhaps the caution I received from one concerned pastor still rings true. The most dangerous thing a believer can do is open the Word of God. After all it is this same Bible that so many false teachers use to defend their theology. The study of God's Word should be approached carefully, under the authority of a trained pastor-teacher and certainly by way of the illumination of the Holy Spirit. It has become obvious to me the more time I spend on your ichthys site that you embrace a particular world view within a world view which essentially argues to a degree against God's irrevocable salvation for individuals who accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior.

I wanted so much to brush this sticky point aside and just luxuriate in your hard work and expertise in the original languages. But isn't true that a position which suggests that ultimately salvation, bodily resurrection does depend at least in part on our performance, or if you insist, the performance of our faith. I'm surprised that you did not settle for a common view which suggests that the one who does not persevere was really never saved in the first place (an observation I'm not confident enough to make on my own).

The fact that you teach that whatever changes occur at the moment of salvation upon the "soul" of the believer are never so permanent or irrevocable as to preclude having them snatched away at a point down the road. This position really taints (sorry for such a strong word) so many areas of your basic Bible teaching. I wish I could overlook your understanding of the human spirit and how its presence in man was not directly impacted by the Fall. That is that spiritually dead mankind at the moment of birth receives a fully functional human spirit instead of receiving only the breathe of life which is distinguished from the human spirit. You speak nothing so far as I have been able to find about the format soul, the features of the human soul that man receives with the spark of life. I want to look the other way at your notion that man has always been a dichotomous creature and continues so EVEN AFTER REGENERATION.

Frankly, you trouble me. How can someone who has incredible training in the original languages and obvious exegetical expertise seem to miss the mark on crucial doctrines concerning God's immeasurable grace. You may dazzle with spectacular scholarship and inspire with an eloquent turn of phrase. But at the end of the day, if eternal life salvation can be snatched away for any reason from the born again believer, then we really cannot be 100% confident about our salvation until (if and when) we actually receive our glorified resurrection bodies. You can explain that way anyway you choose. But until then, I am persuaded by your own words to keep checking over my shoulder.

Of course everyone who believes they are right will speak at length about "truth" and how it is the scheme of Satan and others to corrupt it. "But trust me brethren", you will say, "what I write is really, really, what I believe to be the truth." And from what I survey, so much of it is! This is what is startling. Yet I still find a different (if only by degree) Gospel here than the one Paul revealed in so many of his letters.

The good news is that I find it easy to appropriate from much of your insights for use in our informal Bible study fellowship which I facilitate here. Where I must amend, I freely amend (beginning at the foundation where necessary) to align (in my view) with scripture and orthodoxy. Isn't it something that I compliment your scholarship and yet still feel comfortable disagreeing with you concerning some truths you have dimmed by a scholarship run amuck Notwithstanding amuckness, your efforts on Ichthys are remarkable and I commend you. But I won't drink the kool-aid. Salvation is received by faith alone in Christ alone and the transfer from darkness to Light is irrevocable.

If a born again Christian becomes "bad enough" to warrant the severe discipline of 'the sin unto death', doesn't it follow then that this individual would also lose his salvation...at this point?

How could one be "bad" enough to warrant the sin onto death discipline yet still be just faithful enough to keep his salvation?

Thank you for your attention to my query.

In His matchless grace,

Response #3: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Apologies for the delay in response (I was out of town on family matters).

Let me begin by thanking you for taking the time to write these emails, and by saying that I appreciate all of your kind and positive comments about this ministry – they are all the more welcome given your strong objections to some of the basic tenets taught at Ichthys.

I may be incorrect in my assessment, but some of your phraseology suggests that you come from a "doctrinal" background (this seems to be the best way nowadays of describing the movement which has grown out of the late Col. Thieme's teaching). If so, I am happy to say that such was the formative part of my own return to Jesus Christ and to the truth during my youth. The positions with which you take issue were ones to which I was forced to come by scripture, not ones which I embraced without struggle or somehow invented on my own. Col. Thieme's teaching represented, in my opinion, a quantum leap forward in many doctrinal areas beyond what had become the evangelical theological status quo. The essence of his approach, extracting the truth from what the original languages actually said and refusing to be pinned down by tradition, is in my view something even more earthshaking in its importance – and that has been the foundational principle of my own biblical research as well. I think that I honor his memory more by pursuing the truth wherever it leads than I would by defending points of his theology which, upon exhaustive investigation of the scriptures themselves, have proved in need of some refinement.

1. Once saved, always saved: Certainly, this position is not unique to doctrinal groups. Indeed, I would say that it is the majority position in Protestant circles (there are of course exceptions, but even Calvinists have what amounts to a "once saved, always saved position", only somewhat rephrased, as you put it, into "unbelievers never being really saved in the first place"). You seem quite familiar with the Ichthys website, so you must know that this question has been treated in voluminous detail in several of the major studies and in many email responses. Your own conviction on the issue is clear, as mine certainly was as well – before I began giving precedence to scripture above all else. Over many years, the great volume of scriptures which clearly call this supposed doctrine into question caused me to reevaluate the evidence – in defense at first – and eventually brought me to admit the truth (i.e., I got to a point where I could not defend the "pretzel-making" any longer). I wish to emphasize that I most definitely do not believe or teach a salvation by works, and the particulars of what I teach are to some degree unique as far as I can tell. That uniqueness I would attribute not to any special measure of grace but rather to a willingness to accept and explain what the Bible actually has to say on the matter without regard to previous formulations. As you have not advanced any specific arguments in defense of the once-saved-always-saved position nor any scriptures you feel teach it, I will confine myself here to two brief points, one linguistic and one scriptural. First, it is believers who are saved (e.g., Jn.5:24), and a believer is someone who has faith in Jesus Christ. In order for once-saved-always-saved to be biblical, it would have to be the case that once a person places their faith in Jesus, that person remains "a believer" even should he or she ever stop believing in Jesus (or else it would mean that true believers never actually stop believing in Jesus: the corollary to the Calvinist position). In fact, of course, some people do stop believing as anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time can attest. If scripture made no allowances for this possibility (it does: e.g., 2Pet.2:22), we would have to explain these people away, if not with the Calvinist dodge then with some other excuse (Col. Thieme used the sin unto death; on which see below). Secondly, our Lord makes very clear the possibility of apostasy in His telling of the parable of the Sower:

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

This parable is often "pretzelized" by those who don't want to accept its obvious conclusions, but the most straightforward and honest interpretation of the four categories is as follows: 1) those who never believe; 2) those who apostatize = lose their faith (the quotes above); 3) those who are saved yet remain unproductive; 4) those who are saved and produce a good crop. The translations above are my own, but in any standard version the meaning of those sown on rocky ground is the same: the Word received with joy is later rejected. As it says in the last verse quoted, Luke 8:13, "they believed [only] for a while"; ergo, they come in time "not to believe" (and only believers are saved). It may be disconcerting for some to realize that their "plant of faith" can die, but, after all, this is fundamentally a matter of choice and free will: do you or do you not believe? The following links will lead you to many more discussions of this issue from multiple points of view:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

2. Soul and spirit: There is no sound biblical basis for believing in a "soul" as a separate entity or organ. Wherever the Hebrew word nephesh or its Greek equivalent psyche occur, the Bible is always talking about the individual, whether the whole person is in view (where these words can be translated "self") or the person's entire inner life is in view (where the words are employed as synonyms for "heart"). I know of no scripture which suggests the absence of a spiritual part in human beings (i.e., the human spirit), nor of any passage which suggests its death, nor of any passage which teaches its revivification after salvation – all of which would be very strange indeed if the trichotomous position were correct. This is a good example of one of the features of "doctrinal" Christianity with which I disagree (though by no means is it unique to that tradition), namely, derivative theology. Because we become comfortable with describing unsaved human beings as "spiritually dead", we then reason that "this is because they have no human spirit". In fact, not only are there multiple logical problems with such an assumption but the Bible also does not actually describe unbelievers with that precise terminology. It may be true, depending upon exactly what we mean when we say "spiritually dead", but the fact remains that we cannot invent terminology and then use our own system to build further theology derived solely from that terminology – at least not without carefully vetting the same to see that it is consistent with what the scriptures actually have to say. As I say, I believe that Col. Thieme's teachings on these matters represent significant advances on the received tradition, but this is another area where I was personally forced to yield to scripture in refining my view (please see the link: "Life Begins at Birth").

3. The Sin unto Death: Just as it teaches the reality and possibility of apostasy (e.g., 2Thes.2:3), so scripture also teaches that "there is a sin unto death" (1Jn.5:16). Your question (in the second email) about being "bad enough" to warrant loss of salvation misunderstands the position I have advanced (see especially the link in BB 3B Hamartiology: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"): apostasy is the death of faith; the sin unto death comes to those who refuse to give up their faith even while carrying their sinfulness to ever greater extremes until the divine discipline inflicted reaches a fatal level (e.g., 1Cor.5:5). No believer can ever lose salvation through the commission of sin since the only unpardonable sin is the one of disbelief. Sin has a tendency to weaken faith, but as long as a person believes in Jesus, that person is a believer and possesses eternal life and salvation. The issue is faith. Jesus' death atoned for all sin, but "He cannot deny Himself". Those who are condemned are so on the basis of their disbelief, not because of their sins. We all sin, but the sin problem has been removed as an issue in salvation by what Jesus did in dying in the darkness to redeem us all. The issue now is not sin but Jesus Christ. We believers are disciplined for our sins but will never be judged for them; our eternal evaluation will be for the purpose of rewarding "what was accomplished by means of the body", and that is why we remain here after having put our faith in our Lord Jesus. If we are unfruitful, we will reap no significant reward. If we go our own way in reverting to our former pattern of life, we will reap the consequences of divine discipline here in life, including, in the most extreme cases, the sin unto death. It is only if we abandon our faith, apostatize, stop being believers, followers of Jesus Christ altogether that we will "forfeit the grace which could have been ours" (Jon.2:8). Removing that possibility from one's theology not only sends a dangerous and emboldening false message to those who take false confidence in it but is also entirely contrary to what scripture actually says.

You were once alienated from God – your very thoughts were hostile towards Him and your deeds were evil. Yet God has now made peace with you through the death of Christ in His physical body so that you may stand before Him as holy, without blemish and free from accusation – [this you will do] if you remain solidly grounded and firmly fixed in the faith, and un-moved from your hope in the gospel . . .
Colossians 1:21-23

4. Reading the Bible and Issues of Authority: The Roman Catholic church continued, just as long as it was practical, to punish most severely anyone who dared to translate the scriptures or make them available to "members of the laity". Even today, that organization's standard defense against claims that its doctrines are not biblical is the observation that in the Protestant world there are a multiplicity of views on every doctrinal topic (implication: all of them must be wrong) whereas "the one true church" has one accepted view (implication: it must be right). Of course, in reality the truth is the truth regardless of who believes it and regardless of who and how many may believe something that is not true. The truth is what we are all about – or should be. Every genuine Christian should make it their primary goal and objective to "follow the Lamb wherever He leads", and the only way of doing so is by learning, believing, applying and serving the truth of Jesus Christ. That truth, all we need on this earth, is entirely present in the Bible. Learning what the Bible actually says and actually means, believing it without reservation, applying it to one's life without exception, and helping others to do the same with all one's might is the recipe for spiritual growth, progress and production that will earn 30, 60, and even 100 fold when our Lord judges His Church. It is true that unless a person has the gift of teaching and is both properly prepared and adequately experienced, it is impossible to "feed oneself" past a certain point. It is also true that every Christian should do all he or she can do to learn the scriptures and learn from the scriptures directly. These may seem to be contradictory points. However, even though they can produce some friction, they are both essential parts of the equation. No pastor is perfect; no system of theology has all the answers. Being perfect and getting all the answers is indeed our objective; rather, it is the means to our objective, becoming mature Christians who not only know but also have believed and come to apply the entire truth of God to our lives (and who are now about the task of helping others to do the same). As Christians read the Bible and explore it on their own, they will naturally come to have questions about the system of theology they have been / are being taught. As pastors are questioned it is right and proper that they either give an adequate defense of their positions in a loving way that promotes edification or, when they become convicted of error or insufficiency, that they correct their course. Nothing in life is ideal, but the process that the R.C. church finds chaotic is actually salutary. Organizations cannot be effective repositories of the truth; only believers can be. For that reason every generation has to fight these battles anew. One would have hoped that with enough genuine interest in the Word of God this struggle would have resulted by now, two millennia after the fact, in a wide-spread and deep understanding of the Bible and its truth throughout the majority of Christendom. In fact, in our Laodicean age, we find the opposite being true. That is not because of any problem with the process; rather it is the result of a plethora of individual choices: it is only for whose who keep on "knocking" that the answers are provided (Matt.7:7; Lk.11:9). After all, this is not a game or an academic exercise; this is a war, and the most profoundly important conflict in the history of the world.

I think what you are doing is absolutely the correct approach. You are putting the truth of the Word first and you are attempting to imbibe as much of it as you can. You are seeking answers and you are asking the tough questions when they do not fit with what you have come to believe. I am very pleased to have you "get what you can" from this ministry, even if you continue to disagree with parts of it (since Ichthys is in the process of attempting to address the entire ambit of theology, it would be pretty amazing if there were not at least some things with which you disagreed). My only advice would be, "decide for yourself, based upon what you see the Bible actually saying". False teachers are made manifest by their fruit and good teachers likewise. Inevitably if what is being taught is incorrect – in part or in whole – it will run afoul of the scriptures. I try to take pains to show from scripture (quoted and cited) and from careful argument (which lets everyone know how "I got what I got") precisely why it is I teach what I teach. Part of that process is a willingness to answer questions about the above. So please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

Until then, keep on fighting the good fight of faith – in this there is great reward.

In Jesus, the dear Lord and Savior in whom we believe.

Bob Luginbill

Question #4:

Hi Dr. Robert,

Your wise input is PLEASE much needed here! I received the following piece of information from an individual who is trying to promote Eternal Justification/Secruity/OSAS.

Here is a direct quote to what they are suggesting are the 'TWO' aspects of every Sin - such that at initial Justification all Sins are forgiven respective of Past/Present/Future.

It is however, the implication of forgiveness of FUTURE Sins that I take considerable issue with.

Here is their quote.

"...In other words, in each sin, there are two aspects of that sin: 1) The debt incurred; 2) The breaking of relationship between the two parties...The point remains that forgiveness is not complete simply at the point of restitution..."

Seeing I clearly do not support the notion of FUTURE forgiveness of Sins at initial Justification, my response is that they are incorrectly proposing FUTURE Sins according to their own theology must be forgiven TWICE or otherwise they are acknowledging that FUTURE Sins are only PARTIALLY forgiven - both of which I consider complete nonsense.

Asking God to forgive us of our Sins and Jesus emphatically declaring that IF (a conditional IF) we did NOT forgive others neither would He forgive Us of our Trespasses, in and of itself was a WARNING to those who are ADOPTED into the Family of God – the Body of Christ. This in and of itself proves that there are FUTURE Sins that were not yet FORGIVEN at initial Justification.

If as a Believer, one is compelled by God to ask FORGIVENESS for their Sins subsequent to their new birth – Justification…how can we defend that an ABSOLUTE ALL of EACH and EVERY Sin (Col. 2:13) (FUTURE) was forgiven at our initial Justification. That makes Christ UNTRUTHFUL.

Why would Christ COMMAND us to ask the Father to FORGIVE us of Sins that He had already forgiven? (1Jn. 1:9)

At our Justification we were acquitted of ALL of our Sins, (PAST/PRESENT) and as a subsequent result of that restoration with God, we are lovingly placed by the Spirit of God into the Body of Christ as ADOPTED members of that body/family. Therefore, if I have Eternal Justification as they incorrectly suggest, that means that ALL of my FUTURE Sins would have to had been acquitted as a prerequisite of Adoption into the Body of Christ, and that FUTURE Sin that Christ is now compelling me to seek forgiveness for would have to have been part of it – it is a FUTURE Sin.

As stated, Eternal Justification mandates that an ABSOLUTE ALL of Sins (Past/Present/Future) must then have been included at Justification for subsequent acquittal and cleansing for ADOPTION. However, when in the future course of time, when we actually commit that former forgiven FUTURE Sin, and that particular Sin comes to fruition in our literal lives, Jesus Commanded that we must ask of the Father for Forgiveness for that particular Sin…this is not some NEW Sin, but the SAME IDENTICAL SIN that they have suggested, God had already forgiven as part of the FUTURE Justification package, as a requirement for our adoption into the body of Christ.

However, now that in the course of time that this Sin becomes literal reality well after our Justification – as stated, Jesus COMMANDS us to ask God to forgive us of it. Does God have to forgive us of the SAME IDENTICAL SIN – TWICE – once at Justification in order to place us into the Body of Christ and AGAIN at Sanctification (family restoration)…Does God indeed FORGIVE the SAME IDENTICAL Sin TWICE?

Does God only PARTIALLY forgive the SAME IDENTICAL Sins - the DEBT aspect at initial Justification and the RELATION aspect subsequent to Justification?

This creates some real theological concerns.

Response #4:   

Good to hear from you again. As to your question, I suppose it is inevitable in discussions of this sort for much hypothesizing to take place. The quote you include gives no scriptural support (i.e., it is a "logical" theological construct, and these are always very problematic). In my view it is always to the scriptures we must look first and foremost.

There is as you intimate in your email a difference between justification and the need to remain in fellowship after salvation through confessing whatever sins we commit, just as our Lord made clear:

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
John 13:6-11 NIV

When our Lord went into the darkness of Calvary, He was judged for every sin that had ever been committed by every human being who had ever lived or who ever would live. God's atonement in Jesus Christ was complete and once and for all. Justification is therefore available to every single human being (e.g., Rom.3:21-26). God considers everyone righteous in spite of their inherent unrighteousness when they accept Jesus as their Substitute. Justification is a positional blessing that belongs to everyone who is "in Christ" (please see the link: in BB 4B: Soteriology: "What it means to be saved: our new position in Christ"). The phrase in quotations is the key to this problem: "in Christ" we are sanctified, justified, adopted, cleansed, forgiven, predestined, and glorified – because we are one with Jesus, part of His Bride, His Church, and "no one will ever snatch us" out of His hands. However, if we are not "in Christ", then none of the above applies, and it is incorrect to assume as "once saved, always saved" assumes that because we are "in Christ" today that we will always be "in Christ" no matter what. In fact, believers are saved, unbelievers are not, and without question it is possible for a person to stop believing.

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

Those who succumb to the pressures or temptations of this world to the point where they suffer "the shipwreck of their faith" (1Tim.1:19; cf. Heb.2:1) are no longer saved though once saved. Apostasy is a very real possibility as every believer should understand (see the link: in BB 3B: Hamartiology, "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). Sin, however, is not the ultimate cause of apostasy although it is usually an important, contributing factor. Apostasy is the result of a believer turning away from Jesus instead of following Him, and this happens in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. It is not generally speaking a rapid process, but however it happens, it is the case that there does come a point for some believers when they are no longer interested in belonging to Jesus Christ. Whether through addiction to sin and refusal to repent, or through blaming God for some tragedy they experience, or through wilting under the pressure of testing and choosing to no longer be willing to "suffer reproach for the cross of Jesus Christ", it is possible for a person's faith to weaken, flicker, and eventually die out. And beyond all argument, it is believers who are saved; unbelievers are not saved (even if at some point in the past they may have genuinely believed in 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 (i.e., to lose faith, stop following Jesus and so apostatize). 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" (i.e., a return to the state of unbelief).
2nd Peter 2:20-22

So the issue is not really one of sin and/or forgiveness at all. On the one hand, God has already judged all sin so that justification is available to any and all who are willing to grab hold of the Substitute whom God offers as the means of deliverance, Jesus Christ our Lord. And on the other hand the commission of personal sin is not the true issue in apostasy either, since God offers forgiveness for all personal sins we may commit after salvation if only we are willing to come back to Him and ask for it (1Jn.1:9). The issue in salvation is faith. So it is irrelevant that we do have blanket forgiveness for sin through justification at salvation since that status of being righteous exists only "in Christ" – and when and if we no longer believer, we are no longer "in Christ". No one can "snatch us" out of our Lord's hands, but we still have free will after salvation and we are charged with following Jesus faithfully to the end. If we are slack, we forfeit reward; if we are rebellious, we risk the sin unto death. But if we lose our faith, or abandon our faith, or cast aside our faith so that we no longer have faith, that is apostasy. There are various ways of getting there (see the link above), but if and when we do reach the point of no longer believing in Jesus Christ then we are no longer "in Christ", and no longer heirs to all the wonderful positional and eternal benefits that fall to the lot of all who believe (Matt.25:1ff.).

Please see the following links:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved

Yours in Jesus, in whom we have complete security and life forevermore,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

Like your stuff, but eternal security is biblical: 1) it is "eternal" life, 2) Paul addresses believers as "elect" 3) Eph. 1:13, 14 are explicit proof of the certainty of salvation : "sealed," "guarantee."

Blessings,

Response #5: 

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks for the encouragement.

On eternal security, I certainly agree that believers are 100% eternally secure. Believers have eternal life which cannot be taken away. We are elect, sealed, sanctified, saved and heir to all manner of blessings practical and positional, none of which can be taken from us, even if, God forbid, we fall into self-destructive patterns of sinful behavior. We are God's children, members of the Body of Christ, and no one can snatch us out of the hand of the Father or the Son.

That is not true of unbelievers, of course. "The one who does not believe stands condemned because he does not have faith in the Person of the one and only Son of God" (Jn.3:18).

I believe in and teach the eternal security of believers. But I do not believe in universalism. Unbelievers are not going to inherit the kingdom, but will be condemned of their own free will choice. That goes for those who never gave God a second thought, for those who have rejected Him and His Son outright, and also for those who "who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" (Lk.8:13 NKJV).

Those who are believers in Jesus Christ are eternally secure. Those who are not believers in Jesus Christ are already condemned and will not see life unless and until they become believers in Jesus. That goes for all apostates as well, those who once believed but who no longer have any faith in Jesus Christ.

There is a unbiblical and in my opinion spiritually dangerous false doctrine out there in the Christian aether which contradicts the above. It goes by the name "once saved, always saved". It is the idea that a believer can become an unbeliever (i.e., apostatize, throw away his or her faith) and still be saved. Alternatively, this view assumes that is impossible for a believer to stop believing (or that apostates "never really believed in the first place"). Apart from the obvious untruth of such statements (I dare say it is very difficult to be an engaged Christian for very long and not bump into people who were once genuine Christians but have since ceased to believe), if it were impossible for a believer in Jesus to stop believing in Jesus, that would certainly seem to undermine the entire principle of free will, the whole reason for the creation of mankind and for our continuation in this life after salvation as a witness to the world of men and angels both. "Unconditional eternal security", the incorrect idea that if a person ever believes in Jesus that person is saved no matter what they may do thereafter contradicts many scriptures and is extremely dangerous for all marginal believers because it suggests that while being marginal may cause problems it will never endanger salvation. In fact, while a believer is not thrown out of God's family for sin, giving oneself up to a life of sin damages faith and, in extreme cases, can result in the death of faith (going one's own way to the point of finally being unwilling to respond to God any longer at all). So while there is a difference between apostasy and the sin unto death (please see the link), those who allow the faith in their heart to die out, those who while they once believed come to the point of no longer believing in Jesus Christ however arrived at, are no longer believers, and only believers are saved.

In practical terms, for Christians who are "doing the right thing", I suppose it may end making very little difference. A Christian who is solid in his or her faith and who is determined to pursue sanctification scrupulously and spiritual growth diligently is not in the slightest danger of losing their faith and falling away from the Lord. But there are many Christians out there – especially in our Church era of Laodicea – for whom this is in fact a real concern. I get many emails from Christians who are troubled because they think that they have "lost their salvation" (none of whom actually have – otherwise they wouldn't care), and, believe me, I would like nothing more than to be able to tell them that this was impossible and that they were saved no matter what they had done in the past or what they will do in the future. That, however, is most certainly not the case.

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 are worried about their salvation because of having slipped into serious trouble with sin (which always goes hand in hand with becoming lackadaisical about sanctification and spiritual growth) are being reprimanded by the Spirit. What they need to do is "straighten out and fly right", not just in turning away from self-destructive sinfulness but also in turning back to the Lord through diligent Bible study and the application of the truth they are learning and believing to every facet of their lives. Telling them "once saved always saved" does them a huge disservice – because it is not true – and will only embolden them to continue in their downward spiral until they get to the point where they really don't care any longer and stop believing entirely.

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

Since no believer is without sin and none of us can hope to avoid entirely "whatever is similar to all these things" (cf. Rom.1:32 - 2:3), and since our sins are forgiven through Christ's sacrifice for us so that we are not going to be condemned for them but rather are saved through His blood, the only way Paul's warning above can be true is in the context of sinfulness taken to an extreme which puts faith to death: i.e., even "sin unto death" types will inherit the kingdom – only unbelievers won't. At some point "those who live like this" choose to "live like this" to the complete disdain of what Jesus thinks about it. They come to prefer the world to the Lord, and cast off their faith. At that point, the faith-plant of the parable of the Sower has died, and that person is no longer a believer. That, in a nutshell, is what apostasy is, namely, the "turning away" (literally from the Greek) of the person from the Lord and back to the world.

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

Eternal security is a blessed reality, but apostasy is also real, and its possibility sobering. Only by continuing with the Lord and moving forward in the plan of God are we "secure absolutely no matter what". Assuming that we are so no matter how disdainful we may become of our Lord's will for our lives is a very dangerous mistake, one which is bad enough to believe personally, but even worse to communicate to others.

In Jesus in whom we are secure both now and forevermore,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the response. I don't argue too long or think I am going to prove anything to anyone. This was a difficult subject for me, as I grew up Lutheran and was taught vigorously against it. I studied Eternal Security prayerfully for I think an entire year. Essentially, God divinely elects people from His sovereign grace and we are regenerated and come to saving faith in Jesus. Once that happens, there is no undoing what GOD has done: we are given eternal life, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we are declared righteous. We are forgiven of all sins. It is "irrevocable." Every verse that seems to contradict this refers to falling from ~faithfulness~,or ~usefulness~, but not from salvation. Even if one loses his faith, the change in his condition cannot be undone. The Lord may be displeased with him, he may lose rewards, and he may fall from faith and become apostate--but what has been done has been done and it cannot be undone. Of course, there are many who were never saved to begin with, but for those who have been, they will be ashamed at His coming and lose rewards in Heaven, and God may severely discipline them to the point of taking their life early. But they CANNOT lose their salvation ~by the very nature of what it is~. I am no universalist. I believe that only 1 to 10% of all people will be saved. Of the 10% who are saved, I believe there are only maybe, again, 1% who are living spiritually in fellowship with God, obeying him, and receiving guidance from Him. I recently met a man I knew earlier from singing karaoke with him, and was surprised that he had intense hatred for God and Jesus and claimed to be a former Christian. He is one of the most spiritually dangerous people I have ever known because of his deep knowledge of Christian faith and believers' vulnerabilities, doubts and sins. As a side note, I have never met so many anti-God, blasphemous, anti-Jesus Atheists in my life as recently. I have written several articles on this. Essentially, salvation, by the very nature of what it is, cannot be undone by the will of man, and faith is not what sustains salvation. It is the change that has taken place in the declaration of "forgiven" and "righteous" that God CANNOT go back on, ~even if faith is lost~. God's gift and His call are irrevocable. Charles Stanley and R.T. Kendall have both written excellent books on this subject, I believe biblically defending the truth of Eternal security, or "Irrevocable Sovereign Salvation" as I would call it. While studying this subject, I was prepared to believe whatever I became convinced that the Bible was actually saying. However, just possessing irrevocable salvation is not enough. We need His Spirit and we need to seek God, love and obey Him in order to grow in Him.

In Christ,

Response #6:   

I certainly appreciate your spirit. This was a difficult doctrine to get straight for me too. The tradition in which I came of age spiritually was virulently "once saved, always saved" and so was I, and turning aside from it was very wrenching and caused conflicts with good Christian friends. But change I had to after I began to read the scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew over many years and began to see so many passages which were not capable of honest interpretation without accepting the fact of the possibility of believer apostasy.

I don't think I have ever met an "anti-God, blasphemous, anti-Jesus Atheist", but I have met plenty of former believers who no longer believe and generally they know very well why. Most often, it is a case of either feeling that God abandoned them, let them down, or turned His back on them, or their willful desire to live their lives their own way without any divine interference. In either case, neither the idea that "they may have forgotten they were saved" nor the Calvinistic dodge "maybe they were never saved in the first place" will pass a spiritual "sniff test". Not that this experiential objection is key. What matters is scripture. But it is certainly fair to point out that if our reading of scripture is totally at odds with what we see happening, well, we should trust scripture rather than our own eyes, but it is also prudent to make sure that we have focused those same eyes properly on the scriptures in the first place. In my case, it was not a question of experience trumping scripture, but of scripture forcing me to change my position and of subsequent experience providing a small measure of validation.

What God does is perfect and cannot be undone. However, there is much evil in the world, but this is clearly not God's fault – heaven forbid! All things that happen in this world which cause us dismay and alarm are the result of sin – sin coming from the free will of human beings (assisted of course by the evil one and his cadres). The thing that makes human beings unique in the universe is the gift of the image of God, namely, the free will we enjoy that allows us to make moral choices (please see the links: "God's Plan to Save you", "The Image of God" and "Free Will Faith and the Will of God"). Everything in this life is about choice. It would be beyond strange, therefore, if in this one area – the most important area of life – God took choice away. It is also very difficult to explain the volume of scriptures urging us in the most dire terms to keep making the right choices and walking carefully with Jesus because of the eternal consequences, if in fact there were no possibility whatsoever of losing salvation once attained. I am happy to go into that in detail, if you wish, but the point I would like to emphasize here is the incredible danger of being wrong on this issue once the Tribulation begins, for scripture most definitely tells us that apostasy, the casting off of faith by former believers, will be a major hallmark of that difficult time to come:

The Spirit explicitly says that in the end times (i.e., during the Tribulation) certain men will rebel (lit., "apostatize") from the faith, giving their allegiance [instead] to deceitful spirits and demonic doctrines.
1st Timothy 4:1

Do not let anyone deceive you in any way. For [the Second Advent cannot come] unless the [Great] Apostasy has first occurred and the man of lawlessness, [antichrist,] has [first] been revealed, that "son of destruction" (cf. Jn.17:12 of Judas), the one who will oppose and exalt himself against every so-called god and object of worship to such a degree that he will [even] take his seat in the temple of God and represent himself as being God.
2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4

(10) "And at that time many will fall away (i.e., will apostatize) and will betray each other and will hate each other, (11) and many false prophets will arise and will deceive many. (12) Now because of the increase of lawlessness [at that time], the love of the many will cool. (13) But he who endures until the end, this [is the one who] will be saved."
Matthew 24:10-13

Believers who are marginal in this present age may theoretically blunder into eternal life, not falling away entirely from the Lord or losing their faith completely, even though they are little concerned with the Lord in this life. During the Tribulation, however, the pressures will be extreme, and the Great Apostasy (see the link) is prophesied to claim fully one third of the believers alive at that time, believers the majority of whom no doubt would not have fallen into apostasy absent such horrific circumstances and unprecedented pressures on their faith. For this reason, while teaching "once saved, always saved" in previous centuries was questionable enough, to do so on the cusp of the Tribulation where we now find ourselves does, it seems to me, a great disservice to all believers, especially those who ought to be doing much more than they are now to prepare themselves for that terrible time of testing soon to come.

I am well aware that those who support this false doctrine of absolute ES have "answers" for all the verses which on the face of it refute it. I engaged in the same sort of interpretive gymnastics myself in what I then thought was a good cause – until the Spirit working with my conscience led me to see that there were no escape clauses in the original languages of these scriptures. I am happy to go through them with you one by one if you wish (in the meantime, you can find most of this exegesis at the following links: The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I; The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II; Positional Security). However, I would wish to note immediately that the proofs offered for "once saved, always saved" are all clearly derivative rather than being stated explicitly in scripture. That is very understandable since the passages which refute absolute ES are many and clear, whereas those often used to support it are few and not at all inadmissible of alternative interpretation.

I always like to start this discussion with the parable of the Sower. That is because 1) in this parable contained in all three synoptic gospels we clearly have our Lord Himself teaching the possibility of believer apostasy, and 2) it is in fact so clearly stated that unusual and prodigious efforts of exegesis are necessary for those who see the doctrine differently if they are going to be able to "defuse" these passages. That is usually a good thing too, because, for anyone with a conscience, at some point this sort of exercise will cause the person to realize that he/she has gone too far.

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

Since category one clearly refers to unbelievers, since category four clearly refers to believers doing God's will, and, perhaps most significantly, since the category that follows the one in the verses above, category three, clearly gives us believers who are not doing what they should, there is no interpretive room to make the above category two anything other than what it clearly is in the actual text: those who "believe for a while, but in time of testing apostatize".

I am all in favor of theological constructs – when they correctly reflect the actual theology of scripture. But absolute ES is reduced to constructs like "salvation irrevocable by the very nature of what it is" and "falling from God really means falling away from faithfulness or usefulness" or "never really saved" or "what God has done cannot be undone" etc., because there is no fund of scriptures which support it. All these sorts of pronouncements have in common that they sound great and reassuring, but also that 1) they are not necessarily true (i.e., nothing in the pronouncements themselves is really a necessary conclusion from scripture), and 2) in fact they clash directly with what the Bible actually says on the matter.

I apologize for the directness of my tone above, and understand that you have committed much time and effort to this matter already. Nevertheless, I do hope you will give it another go. Nothing could be more important than our so-great salvation, and getting this one "right" is going to be of the utmost importance very soon. That is why I am so vehement about it.

Yours in the One who died that all might be saved – through faith in Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

For me, it ~does~ come down to an understanding of what salvation is. The verses in question all will be influenced by that understanding. I also took Greek for three years and Hebrew for a year. If there is a single verse or verses that clearly state that an eternally saved person can then become un-eternally saved, I would like to see that.

Grace,

Response #7: 

What about the ones I just shared with you?

They seem crystal clear to me.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

Those are all fellowship or sanctification verses. Apostasy from the faith, or sinning, or even losing all faith does not indicate a loss of ~salvation~, which was a gift of God's irrevocable and sovereign grace, that initially came through faith but is not sustained by faith.

John 6:47 and Ephesians 1:13, 14 are clear and that settles it for me. Scripture does not contradict Scripture.

There is no Scripture verse that contradicts the promises of irrevocable and eternal and sovereign salvation in these verses. If there is, show it to me. If you find one that contradicts these verses, then you have an even bigger problem.

Response #8:   

I agree with you that scripture does not contradict scripture. However, it often contradicts faulty theology which has misunderstood scripture and built up a system that is used to trump scripture (even if this happens inadvertently).

Answer me this. What is a believer? Is it not a person who has faith? And if not, then what? What is an unbeliever? Is it not a person who does not have faith? And if not, then what? Scripture is very clear about the fact that only believers are saved (please see the link: "Only Believers are Saved"). In the parable of the Sower (which I notice you did not address), at Luke 8:13, Jesus tells us about this second group "They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai)". If they believed for a while, then they did at one point believe. And if they believed only for a while, then they most certainly later did not believe – they lost faith and their faith plant died out with the result that they are no better off than the category one individuals who never let the seed of faith sprout in their hearts in the first place. That is what apostasy is: believing, then coming not to believe. There is no other way to read these verses, not honestly anyway.

In order for your construct to be valid, therefore, a "believer" would have to be someone who "once believed", regardless of whether or not he/she later does not believe. And if that were true, then unbelievers would be saved – provided they ever believed. And in that case the only ones not to be saved would be unbelievers who never believed, as opposed to the ones who ever believed.

I have a hard time accepting that an unbeliever can at the same time be a believer: a "positional believer" only, who is, functionally, practically, and in terms of what he or she presently no longer believes, now an unbeliever – since she/he has lost all faith.

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

What do passages like this mean if they are not urging us to be careful about the prospect of losing faith? That is what they mean on their face. If we are basing our decision on a theological principle rather than scriptural statements, wouldn't we have to have some very strong evidence to the contrary to essentially throw these passages out of the Bible or excuse them from what they seem so clearly to mean? Pretty dangerous territory.

You adduce John 6:47 and Ephesians 1:13-14 as evidence of eternal security, but while the many passages which refute it are quite clear and admit of no other straightforward interpretation (until hard-to-believe interpretive gymnastics such as "He will disown us is only talking about fellowship" are applied), these passages likewise require the use of a number of assumptions even to begin to mean what ES proponents would have them mean (gymnastics in both cases).

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.
John 6:47 NIV

No argument here: all believers have eternal life. But unbelievers, of course, do not have eternal life. The case we are considering is the loss of faith whereby a person who once believed no longer believes. The critical Greek phrase here is an attributive participle with article, ho pisteuon (ὁ πιστεύων), and means, somewhat literally, "the one who is believing". That is to say, this is a present participle, not an aorist participle or a perfect participle: it expresses the present state or characteristics of the person in question. Someone who believes, who is believing, who has faith now, has eternal life now. Simply put, this verse supports believer-salvation, but it doesn't say anything about once-a-believer-now-an-unbeliever-salvation – except to prejudice the case against that notion, since "he who is [now] believing" is the one who is safe in Jesus. Not the sort of thing I would find to be a reassuring basis for denying the ostensibly clear meaning of so many other scriptures which caution us about the need to preserve our faith.

As to your other proof text:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV

Yes, God put His seal on us when we believed. As a result, we are protected from all external tampering. The seal, in the ancient world, was a warning to all and sundry who looked upon a piece of property (a letter, for example), that the contents were under the protection of whomever placed the seal. Sealed by God with the Spirit Himself as the seal – why that is wonderful! From this verse we can certainly conclude that neither the devil nor any of his minions seen or unseen can effect our status as belonging to Christ in any way. What these verses do not say, however, what they do not in any way even imply, is that God will continue to protect us even if we reject Him and His Son later on (i.e., these verses are addressed to those who will remain faithful).

Now the just shall live by faith: but if [any man] draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Hebrews 10:38 KJV

The sealing of every believer with the Holy Spirit does not take away our free will. We have to maintain faith faithfully to the end of this life in order be saved. The Spirit works with us – but does not take away our necessity to choose.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16 NASB

As to your statement that "there are no verses which contradict" the very wrong-headed notion of "once saved, always saved, no matter what", I am baffled. I have shared many of them with you, and it is certainly clear enough to anyone who has read the New Testament that it is replete with them. Certainly, honest ES proponents must at the very least wonder about such verses when they bump into them (I certainly did) – assuming they are reading and giving heed to scripture.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
Philippians 2:12 NIV

As to "problems", there is in fact "no problem" for believers who love Jesus and are determined to stay faithful to Him come what may. The "problems" come in where marginal believers run into trouble whether of their own making or in the course of the tribulations of life. If they are laboring under the assumption that "it doesn't matter" what they do, won't they be emboldened to stray from the Lord, both in terms of omitting the positive things they ought to be doing to nourish their relationship with Him, and also in terms of engaging in the negative things that estrange them from Him and Him from them? That is a recipe for apostasy now. How much more will it not be during the pressures of the Tribulation?

The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.
2nd Chronicles 15:2 NIV

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
1st Timothy 1:18-19 NIV

I know of no verse which states that salvation is irrevocable for those who are still in this body and still in this world. Paul was very concerned for all of his charges on just this issue, namely, that they keep running the race well so that their faith might not flag and they fall away:

For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
1st Thessalonians 3:5 NIV

Surely, if these believers would be saved no matter what, Paul's efforts might not have been as effective as he had hoped, but they would not have been "useless" – for these people would have been "saved" at any rate, and that is far better than being lost, even if fellowship is damaged, even if reward is diminished. Uselessness and pointlessness speak of complete, not partial loss.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB

As I hope you are beginning to see, if one looks to the scriptures instead of imposing a predetermined view, many passages open up to reveal what they actually mean: how we walk in this world as Christians is incredibly important for many reasons, not the least of which is the need to maintain our faith faithfully to the end in order to inherit the salvation we so deeply desire:

[A]nd though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
1st Peter 1:8-9 NASB

In Jesus in whom alone we have eternal life,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

A saved person is a person who has been: *forgiven** of all of his sins, **declared** righteous by God, *indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and **guaranteed** Heaven. *Irrevocably. These are all scriptural concepts and words, and all are from Bible verses. It is not that only believers are saved: it is only those who ~have once believed~ that are saved. There is a subtle distinction there. People who believe for a while and later do not believe: two things: first, someone could argue that ~what~ they believed was not the Gospel, as Paul brings up. Second, even if it was the Gospel they believed, and they were saved, later they no longer believed. However, these verses never say that they were no longer saved. Jesus never says they were no longer saved. He simply says that they no longer believed.

~There is not a single verse in Scripture that says that someone was "saved" and later was "lost." If you show me a verse that says that a person was saved and later lost, you win the argument, and I will change my theology. You still haven't done this.

This verse you quoted proves what I believe precisely: "If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself." Hint: look how the word "disown" was brought back in here...

Even if we are faithless, He is faithful to His promise to forgive us, justify us, and take us to Heaven. Certainly, Scripture says that many people will have all or most of their works burned up in the Bema judgment. You ask what verses like this mean: they mean that our salvation is secure, because we died with Him. And they mean that if we persevere, we will reign with Him (are there saved people who will not reign--I don't know?)

There is nothing ~ultimately dangerous~ for someone who has been saved: he or she ~cannot~ go to Hell. That's what being saved means. No sin, past, present or future can keep him out of Heaven. No loss of faith can keep Him out. When God saved us, we were ~dead~ in **unbelief** and **sins**. How could things ever get any worse than that?

I think at this point in this discussion, it is important to widen out, so we don't get over-focused: people who believe in Jesus are saved, from my point of view, whether they take your position or mine on the permanency of salvation. Of course, people who don't have security might do very little for the kingdom, and will live in some degree of fear, and will not fully enjoy God's grace. I know this from personal experience. Also, there is a paradox, if my position is true, about people who once believed but no longer: they are saved, but they no longer care. I suppose every permutation must exist. Salvation is not based on ~continued~ faith, but on a moment of faith, by sovereign grace, that changes a person's destiny ~forever~. Salvation is "instrumental", not "efficacious." Look up the distinction between these, and I think it will solve a lot of problems for you. Maybe not. Read Stanley's book and R.T.'s book as a challenge. They are very thorough and deal with all of these verses.

At a certain point, probably pretty soon, I am going to lose interest in this discussion, because it cannot be proven: somebody can always reject what I say or what Scripture says. It is a matter of faith, and obviously, people differ in matters of faith no matter what "proofs" have been advanced. So, it's not so simple as listing arguments and Scriptures. Do we buy the arguments? And how do we understand the Scriptures quoted? That is the question. That is why I prayerfully studied this (formerly) very difficult but extremely important issue. For a year. I have worked through each and every one of these Scriptures protractedly and intensely. Now it seems clear to me. But I can't just hand that to you even if you wanted it.

However, nothing you have said has given me reason to change my belief regarding Eternal Security--a belief I did not grow up with-- I grew up with the opposite.

The hardest-headed people I have met are people hardened in their faith in a bad way. I studied to be a Lutheran pastor for three and a half years (I left Lutheranism and did not become a Lutheran pastor), and I have felt the heat and the judgment and the fear and the anger and the name-calling of the men who sold their consciences to believe what their church teaches because the conflict and lack of paycheck would be too much to bear. Another point is that, there is no comfort or felt security or joy of fellowship for believers who are not living in fellowship with God.

Another point is that "no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand." "No one" also includes ourselves. The shepherd would be a bad shepherd if he let any of His become lost, wouldn't he? Jesus said something close to: I have ~lost none of those~ You gave Me except the one doomed to destruction. ~Sheep sometimes/often try to get away from the Shepherd. *No one has any free will to choose Jesus if the Father has not first already chosen him. Free will isn't powerful enough to overcome a dead spirit. *"Clear enough to anyone"? It's not clear to me. "Honest proponents of ES"--are you saying that I am not honest, Bob? The above two phrases are manipulative and are also logical fallacies. The problem with people who don't believe in eternal security is this: ~who~ is it that must be faithful in order to be saved? "Me"! I become the Savior, not by my works, but by my continued faith. I didn't say it "didn't matter" what believers do. People who forget, walk away from God, disobey Him, etc, will suffer: loss of rewards and lose the sweetness of fellowship with God. We do the works of God ~because of God working in us~, not because we are afraid that if we stop, He will damn us. I feel that you are starting to read a lot in to these verses, and you making assumptions about what I "must" see if I were reasonable and honest. lease prove your point from Scripture alone. 1st Cor. 15: 1-2: the key words are "the Gospel I preached to you." As in Galatians, people can believe a false Gospel. ~There are no verses that say a person can be saved and then later become unsaved.~ None. If this were the truth, and this is a very important matter, why would God not simply state it that way? Again, ~There is not a single verse in Scripture that says that someone was "saved" and later was "lost." If you show me a verse that says that a person was "saved" and later "lost," you win the argument, and I will change my theology.

In His grace,

Response #9: 

You are certainly free to believe whatever you wish. However, I am perplexed by your statement "There is not a single verse in Scripture that says that someone was "saved" and later was "lost"." I have filled up several emails now with these passages and am happy to continue. Let me begin, therefore, with a quotation from our Lord Himself:

"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

Jesus says "they believe". Jesus says "they believe" only for a "while". Jesus says "they apostatize" which means by any fair interpretation in any commentary in any version or lexicon or whatever that this category of person has, in spite of once believing, now have completely "rebelled" and "fallen away" and are not saved (feel free to provide documentation of anyone who takes this a different way – it's what the word means). The only way this does not directly refute your statement is if we were to [wrongly] understand some distinction between "believing [in Jesus]" and "being saved".

As to your list: "*forgiven** of all of his sins, **declared** righteous by God, *indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and **guaranteed** Heaven. *Irrevocably", let me point out first of all that "irrevocably" and "irrevocable" are certainly nowhere to be found in scripture on this issue. This is your word. Secondly, the word "guaranteed" is also not associated with this assumed doctrine. As believers, we are of course forgiven, justified, and indwellt. But that is as believers. And there is nothing either in the particular nature of these blessings and certainly not in the scriptures where they are discussed which allows us to state dogmatically that they cannot be reversed in the case of someone who throws Jesus Christ out of their heart. The righteous can turn from their ways (Ezek.18:24). The Spirit can be withdrawn (1Sam.16:14). After all, even unbelievers' sins have been atoned for on the cross – Jesus died for the sins of the entire world. But the one sin He could not and did not die for was the sin of rejecting Himself. That is why unbelievers are condemned – not for any sins they have committed, but for refusing to believe in Jesus Christ (please see the link: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit). I would certainly not want to be depending upon some supposed distinction between not believing before and not believing now. When scripture describes those saved, it always talks about believers.

I know of no scripture which identifies a category "those who have once believed". The Bible speaks of "believers": "those who believe".

As to 2nd Timothy 2:11-13 and the key word "disown", a better translation as is found in the KJV would be "deny" (from the Greek arneomai). Believe me, you don't want to deny Jesus:

Who is the liar? It is the man who denies (arneomai – same verb) that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son.
1st John 2:22 NIV

Denying Jesus is epitome of unbelief. 2nd Timothy 2:12 would not address it as a possibility if it were impossible. And you don't want Jesus to deny you:

"But whoever denies (arneomai – same verb) Me before men, him I will also deny (arneomai – same verb) before My Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 10:33 NKJV

I have no comment on the philosophy of your theology except to quibble with your characterization of my position as being, essentially, faith in spite of scripture. To the contrary, in my view by every fair measure scripture teaches the necessity of maintaining faith. It is actually "absolute eternal security" which requires faith in a theological position in spite of scripture. This is what I have been trying to demonstrate, not in a rhetorical way but addressing every scripture and scriptural point advanced – because I understand how important the issue is.

On John 10:29, "no one can snatch them (i.e., My sheep) out of the Father's hand", the scripture is unequivocally talking about our complete security from attack by a third party. It is very clearly not talking about our own behavior, but someone else's behavior in attempting to attack our salvation. To me, the idea that this could mean "so we also cannot snatch ourselves out of the Father's hand" is ridiculous – because we would never be "snatching ourselves" in any way under any circumstances. That is to say, this is pushing language beyond what it can possibly mean. But if a person did want to engage in the ridiculous, well, the passage does not say that we cannot "hop out of the Father's hand", even if we cannot "snatch ourselves out". It is far better to see this passage for what it is and for what it says and nothing more: No third party can touch us.

I don't find the objection that faithfulness is works credible. If faithfulness were works, then faith in the first place would be works. There's really no distinction between the two on those grounds.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB

This seems pretty clear to me. Paul says "you are saved, if you hold fast the word". In other words, salvation is conditional ("if"), conditional, that is, on "holding fast the word", that is, maintaining faith in the word of the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. the "word" in the parable of the Sower). Otherwise "you believed in vain". Now if we were saved once and for all when we believed, how would "believing in vain" even be possible? Wouldn't it be impossible? The only way that there can be a possibility of "believing in vain" is if there does exist the possibility that some will not "hold fast". That is, only those who persevere in their faith are saved.

Christ [was faithful] as a Son over His house – whose house we are, if indeed we hold fast to the hope [in which we] boast firm until the end.
Hebrews 3:6

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

You were once alienated from God – your very thoughts were hostile towards Him and your deeds were evil. Yet God has now made peace with you through the death of Christ in His physical body so that you may stand before Him as holy, without blemish and free from accusation – [this you will do] if you remain solidly grounded and firmly fixed in the faith, and un-moved from your hope in the gospel . . .
Colossians 1:21-23

We are indeed secure in our salvation, if we continue to believe in Jesus Christ. For those who abandon their faith in Him, there is nothing left to hope for.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

I think the trouble lies in the fact that "having faith" and "being saved" are not one and the same. "Having faith" does not equal salvation. Believing is the way we ~receive~ salvation. I noticed I typed "salvation" instead of faith in my last email by mistake. What I meant to say is that ~faith~ is the "instrumental" cause of our salvation, and Christ dying on the cross and rising again is the "efficacious" cause of our salvation. We cannot receive salvation without faith, but once we receive salvation, even if faith goes away, that fact cannot erase what has been accomplished in the saved person. Having faith and having salvation are not synonymous. You said, "The only way this does not directly refute your statement is if we are to understand some distinction between "believing" and "being saved"." That's exactly what I am saying, and exactly what I believe. You say that "irrevocable" is nowhere to be found in Scripture: "Let me point out first of all that "irrevocably" and "irrevocable" are certainly nowhere to be found in scripture on this issue. This is your word." God disagrees with you: "For the gifts and the calling of God are IRREVOCABLE." Romans 11:29 You said, "the word "guaranteed" is also not associated with this assumed doctrine." Again, God disagrees with you:

2 Corinthians 1:22

who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:5

Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:14

who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

You said, "I know of no scripture which identifies a category "those who have once believed"."

"I give eternal life to them, and they shall NEVER perish." John 10:28

So let's say a person comes to saving faith. Then, his child dies in a car accident and he renounces his faith in anger. Too late, he has already been given irrevocable, never-perish salvation. God's words, not mine. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can be committed only by unbelievers.

The person in the verse below is an unbeliever: Who is the liar? It is the man who denies (/arneomai/ --same verb) that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son. 1st John 2:22 NIV

You said, "Denying Jesus is epitome of unbelief." I disagree. Did Peter not believe that Jesus was the Son of God when he denied him out of fear? This refers to people who have ~never~ believed:

"But whoever denies (/arneomai /-- same verb) Me before men, him I will also deny (/arneomai /-- same verb)before My Father who is in heaven." Matthew 10:33 NKJV

I've given you eight more Scripture-based refutations. The idea that you can lose your salvation is still batting zero. Come on, if this is Bible truth, nail it to the wall. Give me the verse that says: "Ralph was saved through faith in Jesus, but now he has denied the faith and is no longer saved."

In His grace,

Response #10:   

Let me start by observing that this is not a political debate. I never make a secret of the fact that apologetics are not my strong suit. When someone writes to me and asks a question or makes an observation, I feel it is part of the ministry to which I have been called to give a good answer. That is what I try to do, even though in doing so I may not be positioning myself well from a rhetorical point of view. What I desire is the truth, and for all of God's children to come to a full-knowledge and acceptance of all of His truth since that is the only way to grow spiritually. This is my hope and desire for you, even if you come off as "winner" and I "loser". And I hope that when this conversation is over, you may be moved to come to the truth whether I ever hear of it this side of heaven or not. It's important.

It is an interesting theological question, I suppose, whether or not faith in Christ can be split from salvation. I don't find this in scripture, and it seems to me on the face of it a very dangerous position. But "if" you are looking for scriptures which challenge the notion, there are many passages (and I have given already given you a number of them) which make that salvation conditional upon continuing faith in Him. We are safe as long as we are in Jesus, but if we turn away from Him and do not remain in Him positionally through faith, we have cast that salvation aside:

(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

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

We are of [Christ's] household, if we hold fast to our courage and confidence in this hope.
Hebrews 3:6

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

It seems that whenever the issue of salvation is actually addressed in scripture, it either assumes or, as in the passages above, makes it conditional upon the continuation of faith.

As to "show me", there are no Bible verses which express absolute eternal security. It is as simple as that. All of the arguments made for it are derivative, based upon shaky assumptions, as in the case of the ones included in your previous email.

As to "irrevocable", KJV has on this passage, Romans 11:29, "For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance", which is, if hard to understand, a better and much more literal rendering of the Greek ametameleta than what your version has. In any case, consider what you have used as a parallel here. God's "gifts and calling" which cannot be taken back are referring to the gifts to and calling of Israel. So indeed, "as far as election is concerned" all Jews are "loved on account of the patriarchs" (previous verse); but what about those Jews who do not believe? "As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account" (previous verse). Faith is the dividing line. In the case of those who do not believe, in spite of positional "gifts and calling", they are "enemies" because they do not believe the gospel. And I believe your argument is all about "position" as in once saved, always saved, regardless of whether faith is later abandoned. So this verse is actually potent proof that faith is what really counts. In any case, it is not talking about individual believers but about Israel collectively, so my statement about the word irrevocable (even in other versions) not being used regarding security of salvation for believers stands firm.

As to "guarantee", please note that these three verses do not say anything like "our salvation is guaranteed no matter if we apostatize". In all three verses, the Greek says that the Spirit is our arrabon, our "pledge". This is a Hebrew word meaning often an "advanced payment" in pledge of the coming full payment. In Modern Greek the word is used for "an engagement ring". I suppose if all pledges were always fulfilled, if no contract were ever broken, you would have a point. Certainly, God is not going to break a contract (i.e., a covenant). But every contract has two parties. And we still have free will. If these verses meant that we could not ever under any circumstances go back on the "deal", it would seriously undermine what this idea of a pledge even means (not to mention the fact that we have free will, even after salvation). In other words, were salvation unbreakable as you suggest, this is an odd metaphor to use, since everyone understands that either party can break a contract before it is fulfilled – and nothing in these verses or anywhere in scripture suggest that we cannot do so (the Old Testament is shot through with the people of God continually breaking their end of the "contract" or covenant). God has "guaranteed" to hold up His end of the bargain. But what about us? We are safe as long as we have the pledge of the Spirit. But if we reject Him, woe be to us. Believers can "test themselves to see if they are the faith", and a good test of this is whether or not we still have the Spirit:  because only believers – those who actually still believe in Jesus – have the Spirit (Rom.8:9).

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:11  NIV

As to John 10:28, the previous verse says "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me". I am certainly willing to concede that all of us who "listen to His voice", and who "follow Him" are saved and "will not perish" but "have eternal life". The question is, what about those who now do not listen and do not follow – and who no longer qualify as being "My sheep"?

As to Peter's denials, the New Testament makes a deliberate vocabulary distinction between what Peter did in refusing to recognize Jesus and an outright honest denial which is the equivalent of expressing genuine unbelief (as in the passages in my previous email). The word in the gospels is ap-arneomai, not the simplex arneomai, and the prefix has the idea of answering back. That is to say, Peter did believe in Jesus; he just did not stand up for Him in this instance out of fear when push came to shove. Had Peter continued in this pattern of verbal denial, no doubt his faith would have died. This is precisely what Jesus was concerned about for him:

"But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
Luke 22:32

Peter did "turn back". His faith did not "fail". For all those who "turn back to God", faith abides and there is salvation. For all those who do not, it does not and there is not.

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:22-23 NIV

How does this verse not say exactly what I have said repeatedly many times now? If we abide in God's kindness, we are safe. But if we do not, we will be cut off like those of Israel who refuse to believe in the first place. And if they do not stubbornly hold fast to their unbelief, they will be saved. It is all about faith – not a one time decision that relieves us of further consequences for ever more – but a commitment to Jesus to follow Him throughout this life wherever He leads . . . through faith.

In Him in whom we believe unto eternal life,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Bob,

Over the course of one entire year, 2005-2006, I studied Eternal Security intensely and prayerfully. I looked at all of the verses many times that are put forth on both sides of the argument. I have analyzed with an unbiased mind and spirit all of the relevant verses and read two books on this subject alone. Several of the verses on the Eternal Security side seem convincing to me, and none of them on the other side of the argument seem convincing to my conscience. Jesus tells me that those who believe in Him have eternal life. I believe Him. I believe that all who believe in Jesus are saved, as the Bible says. I also believe that those who live outside a 1st John fellowship with God will have no peace or assurance anyway. Of course, many who claim to have been believers in their pasts probably never were.

Thanks for the respectful conversation.

In His grace,

Response #11: 

You are very welcome, and I certainly hope this conversation has been profitable for you. As to "Jesus tells me that those who believe in Him have eternal life", I couldn't agree more. I believe Him too. The issue we have been discussing is the question of unbelievers, those who have no faith in Jesus Christ, whether they never had it or whether they abandoned it.

I am sure the Lord honors our hard work and study. I also commend the consultation of one's conscience. However, the truth is more important than hard work, and in terms of conscience, the only way we know for sure that the Spirit is actually prompting our conscience and we are not instead reacting emotionally apart from Him is by consulting scripture to "see whether or not these thing be true". None of us has a claim to papal infallibility. In the true Church, truth has to be established from the Word of God. In the history of the Church many false teachers have led others astray precisely because some have been willing to "take the person's word for it". That is one reason why I always try to make it very clear why I believe what I believe and where I believe the Bible teaches what it teaches and how I got there.

As to "many who claim to have been believers in their pasts probably never were", this is the last bastion of the Calvinistic version of "once saved always saved", aka "the perseverance of the saints". Logically, it may seem hard to assail. Is a person clearly a believer? Then the person is saved. Was the person once to all appearances a believer but now to all appearances not a believer? Then, really, the person was never a believer in the first place. Since we cannot tell what is going on in another person's heart on these matters, refuting this position is like trying to prove an impossible negative. This position does beg the question, however, of why in the world so many people would claim to be believers, act like believers, seem to be believers, then later on go their own way. In a few cases perhaps it may have been a matter of advantage, but in the obvious cases I have seen there is no question of that. So I suppose we would be left guessing – if we didn't have so many very clear scriptures on the subject.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away (apostasia; i.e., the Great Apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2nd Thessalonians 2:3 KJV

One of the main reasons I am personally so disturbed by the widespread nature of the false doctrine of absolute eternal security is contained in the verse above. The Great Apostasy (see the link) is prophesied to claim one third of actual Christians during the Tribulation (cf. Matt.24:10-13; 1Tim.4:1). We can safely assume that many of these believers who fall away during those dark days will be very weak in faith and application, spiritually immature, and, I dare say, lulled into a false sense of confidence by that "trifecta" of false doctrines: absolute eternal security, the pre-Tribulation rapture, and organizational security (please see the link: "Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith"). The pre-trib rapture makes weak believers think they won't enter the Tribulation: so they will go in unprepared. The false doctrine of organizational security tells them that if only they associate closely with a "Christian" organization, they will be safe: so they will be very likely to remain in denominations coopted by the beast. "Once saved" makes weak believers think nothing they do will endanger salvation: so why not take the mark of the beast (they can always "cross their fingers")?

We stand on the cusp of the end of all things. These critical doctrines are much too important to get wrong, and the Spirit will only guide us to the truth through the scriptures. Our part is to accept the truth, no matter how we may feel about it.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

I agree that the doctrine of Eternal Security holds comfort, ironically, only for those who still have faith, for those who no longer have faith do not care. I think the greatest value of the doctrine is for the comfort for believers, and in understanding the nature of salvation. I don't think I've said it, but ~certainly~ maintaining faith in Jesus and fellowship with God is of the utmost importance. As for End Time Events, I am as clear as mud on those. My eschatology consists of: Things will get really bad. Then Jesus will return as Judge and send some people to Hell and take others to Heaven. Why people who are saved get their underwear all in a bundle over End Times Anything is beyond me. Who cares? I have had unspeakable pain in my life already. I am going to die. "We're all gonna die!" I am going to Heaven. Why suffer over the details? Since I don't believe it's possible for me to lose the salvation God gave to me while I as still a sinner, it's hard for me to get worked up about it.

Response #12:   

I would certainly agree that we believers do have eternal security and that this is a matter of exceptional comfort. I run into many believers who are suffering from serious doubts about their salvation. Not surprising, I suppose, since there are many out there who teach a sort of "pins and needles salvation", the false notion that God is somehow just looking for an excuse to condemn someone for their failures, spectacular or otherwise. I would not be surprised if the unique American version of perseverance, "once saved, always saved", grew out of an attempt to reassure just such tortured souls. As is often the case, the truth lies in the middle: salvation is not taken away because of our failures and is not easily lost – but it does depend upon the continuation of faith in Jesus Christ.

So I praise God for your unshakeable faith! For those like yourself who have already been tempered in the fire of testing and who are determined to walk closely with Jesus come what may, the question may indeed turn out to have been academic when all is said and done, even should the Tribulation come upon us soon. As one responsible for ministering to others, my concern is not for those like yourself who are never likely to be in the least danger of falling away, but for the one out of a hundred who is wandering or in danger of it. And in our times, I fear the percentages here are exactly reversed from those used by our Lord in that particular parable.

As to the end times, I find "all scripture" to be "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2Tim.3:16 KJV; cf. Rom.15:4). Since there is much in the Bible about eschatology, since it is very poorly understood by most, since it is, in my considered opinion, very close to occurring, and since, not least of all, it really will make a difference to many whether or not they have properly prepared for it, it is something I do teach (and, after all, every bit of truth illuminates every other, even in ways we do not necessarily see or understand the first time we believe it – everything in the Bible is there for a reason).

You are very welcome at Ichthys any time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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