Archive for the ‘Perseverance’ Category
I was listening to a Baptist preacher preach on eternal security on the radio. Now this man would happily preach on holiness and how we should repent and turn from sin. Yet this man turned around and preached that all Christians are eternally secure despite not even persevering in the faith. He attacked both the Arminian and Calvinist views as one and the same by saying that the Arminian holds that one can fall from grace while the Calvinist teaches that one must persevere in the faith or they were never saved to begin with. He said both were wrong. He said that once a person is saved, they are always saved. Period. End of story.
This same preacher would preach that people should be holy or forsake sin or confess their sins but why? If I am saved and eternally secure, why forsake sin? Why pursue holiness? If eternal life is mine and I am guaranteed heaven despite living in sin, what is the motivation for holiness? If my ticket to heaven is set, why waste my time confessing my sins or even trying to forsake them?
Now imagine if you are sitting under this man’s preaching. What did you just hear? What I hear is, “Sin! Do what you like! Nothing can take you away from Jesus nor the gift of eternal life that He has given you.” This is nothing more than antinomianism plain and simple. The word Antinomian means “no law.” It is the teaching that Christians are not under any obligation to obey the moral law of God. It views the entire law of God as dead and the Christian is free to do what they like, even sin. This teaching, of course, appeals to the flesh and those who desire to sin. It appeals to those who desire to rebel against God even while claiming to be saved for eternity. This view loves Jesus as Savior but hates Him as Lord. It claims to exalt the grace of God even while ignoring sin, repentance, holiness, perseverance, and of course the clear warning of Jude 4. Antinomians are seen clearly as well in 2 Peter 2:10.
The antinomian view of eternal security is that once a person believes (just once) they are saved forever. They do not look for sanctification at all. They may give lip service to holiness but they often make statements such as “we sin everyday” and “we can never conquer sin.” They instead teach that God loves people so much (John 3:16) that He gave His Son to save them from their sins forever and thus when they claim Jesus once as Savior, He forever is Savior. They will typically point to key texts such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 or Philippians 1:6 to teach eternal security while ignoring the warning passages that fill the New Testament. The antinomian view of eternal security is nothing more than preservation of the sinner. The sinner can continue in their sins because God doesn’t see their sins but only His Son. They claim that the sinner doesn’t even need to confess their sins to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Why? Because they are once saved, always saved.
This dangerous teaching has filled the Western Church. I have met people on the streets doing evangelism who claim to be Christians simply because they said a “sinner’s prayer” at one point, joined a church, was baptized, or was confirmed as a teenager. They are full of sin and living an ungodly life (1 John 3:4-10) but they will claim they are saved forever because they were taught that they are “once saved, always saved.” They have their “fire insurance” and now they are ready to sin and sin boldly. They have no passion for Jesus, no desire to be like Him, no love for His Word, no hunger to be holy. They are simply living in sin and yet claim to be saved. When I have walked them through John 8:31-32 or 1 John 2:3-6, they will claim they are saved no matter what I show them. When I point them to Romans 6:23 or Galatians 6:7-9, they will claim again that they are forever saved no matter what. Their antinomian views have been shaped by a false view of salvation and assurance.
Scripture is clear that we are to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Scripture is clear that we are to turn from our sins (Luke 13:1-5; Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 17:30-31; 26:20). Scripture is clear that Jesus came to save us from our sins but we must be His people to be saved from our sins (Matthew 1:21). Paul the Apostle is clear in Romans 6:1-4 that since we are buried with Christ in baptism, we are to be dead to sin. Paul goes on in Romans 6:5-23 to establish that sin is to have nothing in the life of the saint. The true saint of God turns away from sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The true saint of God pursues holiness for God is holy and He demands it (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). Hebrews 12:14 is also clear that we are to pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Jesus said that only the pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8) and yet He said that sin would keep us from heaven (Revelation 21:7-8). Peter wrote that we are to be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish and at peace (2 Peter 3:14). Through perseverance in the faith, we make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).
In closing, James 2:14-26 destroys the case for “once saved, always saved.” James tells us that the only true faith is the obedient faith (Acts 5:32). True faith in God does not sit back and do nothing. True faith in God is a total transformation of the entire person because of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17). True faith knows that Jesus has saved us from sin and He is able to deliver us completely from our sins (1 John 2:1-2). True faith is not acknowledgement of Jesus (James 2:19) but obedience to Him as Lord (Luke 6:46-49; 2 Corinthians 1:24). No doubt justification is by faith (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9) but is not merely an intellectual faith but a living, obedient faith in the living Christ (James 2:22). I have more respect for those who teach that a person was never saved to begin with who fall away (such as Ray Comfort) than with this preacher above. The cheap grace movement has created more false converts than one can count.
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” - Luke 10:20
These words of our Lord are recorded for us in Luke 10:20. We can assume that Judas was among these rejoicing in Luke 10:17 though he nor any of the other Apostles are listed among them. We only have the record that states that the Lord appointed seventy-two (Luke 10:1) and sent them out. The rejoicing continues in Luke 10:21-22 with Jesus rejoicing Himself in the Spirit. In Luke 10:23-24 we read:
23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Notice that Jesus is speaking to His disciples. He is not speaking to the world but to His close friends, His own chosen disciples (John 15:16). He calls them blessed for what they see and hear. This would include Judas.
Was Judas’ name then recorded in heaven as stated by Jesus in Luke 10:20? The Bible is not clear. Again, Judas is not mentioned in the text nor are any other Apostles listed. But Jesus could not be merely saying to the seventy-two that their names only are recorded in heaven.
We must remember that Jesus chose Judas. We read of His choosing of Judas in Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:14-19; and Luke 6:13-16. Luke 6:12 records that Jesus spent all night praying before making His choice of His twelve Apostles. The Greek word for Apostles means “sent one.” The Bible uses the word apostles in two ways in the New Testament. The Twelve Apostles of Christ are often designated by the Twelve while apostles such as Paul or Barnabas are simply called apostles. Jesus chose Judas to be among His Apostles and we read in Luke 6:16 that Judas “became a traitor” and not that he was always a traitor.
While Jesus’ choosing of His Twelve did not guarantee their salvation, Jesus said that they were clean (John 15:3) and He said that they were blessed even more than the Prophets of the Old Testament because of what they were seeing with their own eyes and hearing with their own ears (Luke 10:23-24). We can safely say that those whom Jesus had chosen were dear friends to Him and close to Him and had the honor of walking with the living God day after day. It would be hard to imagine then that the Apostles were not transformed men. Their insight into God would have been tremendous. John the Beloved even records in John 21:25:
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Can you imagine what the Apostles saw? What they heard from Jesus Himself? What teachings, what miracles? John tells us that the Gospels do not even fully contain all that He did. The sinless Lamb of God lived a life that none of us have ever known or seen other than in the Bible. The Apostles, including Judas, witnessed it firsthand. They not only heard Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7 but they heard and saw much more. We can only speculate to what they saw but John says that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amazing!
And yet Judas still betrayed the Lord Jesus. One of the saddest words are found in Luke 22:3:
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.
Had Judas always been a child of Satan then surely these words would make no sense. Judas opened himself up to Satan and Satan entered Judas to betray Jesus and to hopefully destroy Jesus. Notice that Luke records that Satan entered Judas and he adds, “who was of the number of the twelve.” Adam Clarke’s comments on Luke 22:3 are worth reading:
The devil filled the heart of Judas with avarice; and that infamous passion led him to commit the crime here specified. This at once accounts for the whole of this most unprincipled and unnatural transaction. None but a devil, or he who is possessed by one, could have been guilty of it: - let the living lay this to heart. A minister of the Gospel, who is a lover of money, is constantly betraying the interests of Christ. He cannot serve two masters; and while his heart is possessed with the love of pelf, the love of God and zeal for perishing souls cannot dwell in him. What Satan could not do by the envy and malice of the high priests and Pharisees, he effects by Judas, a false and fallen minister of the Gospel of God. None are so dangerous to the interests of Christianity as persons of this stamp.
John Calvin writes about Luke 22:3:
With good reason, therefore, does Luke expressly say that Satan entered into him; not that the Spirit of God formerly directed him, for he would not have been addicted to theft and robbery, if he had not been the slave of Satan. But Luke means, that he was at that time wholly given up to Satan, so that, like a desperate man, he violently sought his destruction. For though Satan drives us every day to crimes, and reigns in us, when he hurries us into a course of extraordinary wickedness; yet he is said to enter into the reprobate, when he takes possession of all their senses, overthrows the fear of God, extinguishes the light of reason, and destroys every feeling of shame. This extremity of vengeance God does not execute on any but those who are already devoted to destruction. Let us therefore learn to repent early, lest our long-continued harshness should confirm the reign of Satan within us; for as soon as we have been abandoned to this tyranny, his rage will have no bounds. It is particularly worthy of notice, that the cause and source of so great blindness in Judas was avarice, which makes it evident that it is justly denominated by Paul the root of all evils, (1 Timothy 6:10.) To inquire here whether or not Satan entered into Judas bodily is an idle speculation. We ought rather to consider how fearfully monstrous it is, that men formed after the image of God, and appointed to be temples for the Holy Spirit, should not only be turned into filthy stables or sinks, but should become the wretched abodes of Satan.
A.T. Robertson wrote on Luke 22:3:
Satan was now renewing his attack on Jesus suspended temporarily ( Luke 4:13 ) “until a good chance.” He had come back by the use of Simon Peter ( Mark 8:33 ; Matthew 16:23 ). The conflict went on and Jesus won ultimate victory (Luke 10:18 ). Now Satan uses Judas and has success with him for Judas allowed him to come again and again ( John 13:27 ). Judas evidently opened the door to his heart and let Satan in. Then Satan took charge and he became a devil as Jesus said ( John 6:70 ). This surrender to Satan in no way relieves Judas of his moral responsibility.
Whatever we may think of Judas Iscariot as to whether he was saved or not or whether his name was written in heaven or not, we know that Luke 22:3 records the sad truth that Satan entered him to betray Jesus. The same is true today. Satan still works to betray the Lord Jesus. He raises up false prophets and he sends out false preachers who lead the people astray. Even Paul the Apostle worried about the churches he wrote to such as we read of his words in 2 Corinthians 11:1-4:
I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
We must guard what the Lord has given us. We must guard against doctrinal errors (2 Timothy 4:1-5) and we must preach the truth of God (Titus 2:1). We must guard against false christs (Matthew 24:5) and false prophets (Matthew 24:11). We must not turn away from Jesus nor His gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). We must guard what has been deposited in us by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:13-14). We can only do all this as we love the gospel and adore the Lord Jesus.
Whether we believe that Judas’ name was in heaven is not relevant in the end. How one ends their life is just as vital as how one begins their spiritual life. John 6:70 records that Jesus called Judas “a devil” (ESV). Adam Clarke writes about John 6:71:
He who was about to deliver him up. By referring to this matter so often, did not our blessed Lord intend to warn Judas? Was not the evil fully exposed to his view? And who dare say that it was impossible for him to avoid what he had so often been warned against? When the temptation did take place, and his heart, in purpose, had brought forth the sin, might he not have relented, fallen at his injured master’s feet, acknowledge his black offense, and implored forgiveness? And surely his most merciful Lord would have freely pardoned him.
I agree with Dr. Clarke. I believe the Lord Jesus loved Judas and was seeking to warn Judas. He wanted Judas to repent. He didn’t want Judas to go to hell. Our Lord is merciful as we read in 2 Peter 3:9. While we know that Judas did not repent, we have his story recorded for us so that we might not betray the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:12). May we remain in love with our Savior and with the truth of His gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
XXI. ON THE PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS
1. QUERIES. — Is it possible for true believers to fall away totally and finally:
2. Do some of them, in reality, totally and finally fall from the faith?
3. The opinion which denies “that true believers and regenerate persons are either capable of falling away or actually do fall away from the faith totally and finally,” was never, from the very times of the apostles down to the present day, accounted by the church as a catholic doctrine. Neither has that which affirms the contrary ever been reckoned as a heretical opinion; nay, that which affirms it possible for believers to fall away from the faith, has always had more supporters in the church of Christ, than that which denies its possibility of its actually occurring.
Doctrine is important. Scripture is clear about this. Last night my little boys and I were studying from John 7 and here Jesus makes this statement about doctrine in John 7:16-18 (NKJV):
16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
Adam Clarke wrote about verse 17:
I will give you a sure rule by which ye may judge of my doctrine: If you really wish to do the will of God, begin the practice of it; and take my doctrine, and apply it to all that you know God requires of man; and if you find one of my precepts contrary to the nature, perfections, and glory of God, or to the present or eternal welfare of men, then ye shall be at liberty to assert that my doctrine is human and erroneous, and God has not sent me. But if, on the contrary, ye find that the sum and substance of my preaching is, That men shall love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbour as themselves; and that this doctrine must bring glory to God in the highest, while it produces peace and good will among men; then acknowledge that God has visited you, and receive me as the Messiah promised to your fathers.
Doctrine must glorify God. Doctrine must focus on the work of the Lord Jesus.
In the Church of Jesus Christ, doctrine is vital. We read in Acts 2:42 that the disciples saved on the day of Pentecost continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 says that the purpose of Bible teachers is to help the children of God mature and not be confused by false teachings but to remain faithful to sound doctrine. 1 Timothy 1:3 tells Timothy to charge some that they teach no other doctrine. 1 Timothy 4:1 warns that the time will come when people will turn away from the faith and turn to teaching doctrines of demons. But Timothy is to remain in faithful doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6) and he is to be faithful in teaching sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13) for in so doing he will save both himself and others as well (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul praises elders who are teaching sound doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17) and he tells slaves to be faithful that the doctrine of God might be praised (1 Timothy 6:1). Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NKJV) is worth reading:
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that all of Scripture is breathed out by God and useful for doctrine. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 warns that a time will come (and has come since) when people will not endure sound doctrine but will turn aside to myths.
I could go on and on. Sound doctrine is vital. It is important for the Church to study sound doctrine and to abide in the Word of God. We need to be faithful in Bible study and in sound exegesis. We need faithful Bible teachers who will stand up and teach the truth of God without fear of men (Proverbs 1:7). Sound doctrine is vital. It is possible to believe in lies and a false christ (Matthew 24:24). 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 says that when people abide in sin and do not love the truth, at times, God allows a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. In essence, sincerity is not enough to be saved. We must have faith in one true God to be saved. I recently heard a prominent preacher say that Rahab the harlot (Hebrews 11:31) was saved and he was sure that she was not sound in doctrine. He also pointed to Acts 16:30-34 with the pagan jailer as another example of poor doctrine in which a person was saved. His point: God saves those who believe and not theologians. He went on to say that he hoped that those in cults would be saved despite poor theology. For instance, he went on to say that he hoped Jehovah’s Witnesses would be saved despite their false teachings. He believes that the JW’s teach salvation by faith in Christ.
There are many problems with his views. First, we don’t know the doctrinal understanding of either Rahab or the Philippian jailer. Yet we do know that the Israelites were worshiping the one true God in Joshua 2. In fact, Rahab acknowledges the authority of Yahweh in Joshua 2:9 by name. Rahab was not seeking the false pagan gods of her culture but the one true God in Yahweh. The same is true of the Apostles in Acts 16. Paul was clearly preaching the true God (Romans 1:16-17) and this gospel would set sinners free. Further, Paul makes it clear in Acts 16:31 that it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who saves (John 14:6). Paul was not praising the jailer for his faith in the false gods of Rome but he is preaching the true and living God in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1).
Now my point here is not to simply acknowledge true doctrine. I do believe that true doctrine is vital to the health of the Church and to salvation of the lost. We can preach false christs. We can preach another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). We must be careful to abide in the teachings of Jesus (John 15:1-11; 1 John 4:1-6).
That said, I believe that we can abide in faithful doctrine and yet love doctrine above loving Christ. We must be careful to not fall in love with teachings about Jesus Christ while not loving the person of Christ. The person of Christ is our salvation. Salvation is not found in the teachings about Jesus as much as they are found in the person of Jesus. Jesus is alive. He is not dead. Jesus is not confined to a book. Jesus is the risen Savior. Certainly we must study His Word that He has given us to know Him more and more but the knowledge of His Word is to know Him and not merely about Him. We can know about Jesus while not knowing Jesus. It is possible to sit week after week under sound doctrine and still be lost. We can think we are saved because we think that salvation comes through knowledge about Jesus. This is not true. James 2:19 makes it clear that demons acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus but they are not saved. Demons acknowledge sound doctrine about Jesus. They acknowledge He is God. They acknowledge He is Lord of lords. Yet demons are not saved.
James 2:14-26 is important here because it is not enough, writes James the Apostle, to acknowledge the truth of God. We must allow the truth of Jesus to transform us. I know of people who would claim Christ. They would acknowledge that we are justified by faith. They would acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God and that Christ alone saves. Yet they abide in sin (1 John 3:4-9). They are not saved from the wrath to come (Romans 5:9). By their life, they testify that Jesus is not Lord of their lives (Luke 6:46-49; Titus 1:16; 1 John 2:3-6). They are not saved at all. They would claim salvation but they would not be able to point to what they are saved from. They are not saved from God. They are not saved from sin. They are not saved from the bondage of the devil. They are not saved from the fear of death.
True salvation is not simply doctrine. To love doctrine above Jesus would be idolatry. It is possible to love Arminius or Calvin or Edwards or Spurgeon above Jesus. Jesus must be our focus. Is the gospel of the Lord Jesus that saves me and not any flesh (John 1:12-13). Jesus is our salvation (Romans 3:22-27). Jesus shed His blood for our salvation (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7) and His blood alone is able to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7). His blood frees us and empowers us to be kings and priests unto God (Revelation 1:5-6). The truth of the gospel is contained in the powerful words of John 3:16. Our love should be for sound doctrine but even more for the person of the Lord Jesus who is alive and reigns forever. May our love and devotion be to Him always and not to our theological systems. I assure you that there will be many theologians in hell (Matthew 7:21-23) but the true saints of God are those who love Jesus and obey Him as Lord (Revelation 14:4).
Arminianism has historically taught that personal apostasy is a very real possibility in the life of the believer. A person can believe the gospel and then become sluggish, indulge the flesh into sin, and ultimately turn away from trusting in Christ alone for their salvation and commit personal apostasy (Hebrews 6:4-20; 10:19-39 along with many others).
Calvinism has historically taught that once God has chosen a person from eternity past (divine, unconditional election) then He will save that person (irresistible grace) and seal them unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13). Thus a true saint of God will always persevere. Those who fail to persevere prove they were never regenerated to begin with (1 John 2:19).
So instead of going over what Arminians and Calvinists disagree over, let us turn to what they agree with and that is the condition of the apostate. The Arminian views the apostate as once saved but now lost. The Calvinist views the apostate as never saved and still lost. However, both agree that the apostate is lost. Both affirm that the apostate should repent. Both should affirm that the apostate, unless they repent, will not inherit eternal life.
In essence, both Arminianism and Calvinism teaches that it is necessary for saints to persevere. While Calvinists will say that a true saint will persevere, nonetheless they also affirm that the true saint must persevere. Both agree that a saint is a saint through faith in Christ. Both affirm that salvation is focused completely upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Some Calvinists attempt to argue that Arminians are still lost because they deny that faith is the gift of God given only to the elect. I find this ridiculous. We both acknowledge that salvation is not by works (Titus 3:5-7) and that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14-17). We may disagree over the nature of election (whether it is conditioned upon faith or not) but we both agree that a sinner believes the gospel by their own free will (whether it be compatible with God’s sovereignty or with libertarian freedom is another issue). God does not believe for us. We must believe to be saved. Even those Calvinists who hold to regeneration before faith would still argue that faith is something the person does by the grace of God. Again, God does not believe for us nor does He force us to believe against our will but according to Calvinism, He makes us willing to believe. Arminianism teaches that God’s Spirit and His grace enable the sinner to believe out of their own free will and the sinner can reject the gospel if they harden their hearts to His call (Luke 7:30). A key text is Luke 7:50 where Jesus tells the sinful woman that her faith saved her. Jesus didn’t say someone else’s faith saved her but her own faith saved her.
Yet both agree that a truly saved person must continue in the faith. Only those who hold to a more radical view of “once saved, always saved” would argue that a person need not continue in the faith. Both Arminians and Calvinists would appeal to the same texts regarding the security of the saint such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 or Jude 24-25 and both would appeal to texts that teach we must continue until the end to be saved (Matthew 24:13; John 15:1-11; Acts 14:22; Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Galatians 5:1-4; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 John 2:28-29; 5:13 NKJV). If the person fails to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus, the Arminian would view them as having fallen from grace whereas the Calvinist would view the person as never saved to begin with. But both would acknowledge (or should at least) that the said person must repent or they will not be in heaven.
Lance was my friend. He and I use to go to eat together every Tuesday while we were in college. We both loved God, love His Word, love teenagers (we were both youth pastors at the time) and both had dreams of evangelizing the world for Christ. Lance and I had a good friendship until one night we debated eternal security. Unbeknown to me, Lance had begun reading some “radical” eternal security books that taught cheap grace, easy believeism, and antinomianism. We debated at his kitchen table for hours about grace, the love of God, salvation, faith, security, perseverance of the saints, hell, etc. Lance held that God’s love was so wonderful and His grace so great that He would keep us no matter what we did. He reasoned that since salvation is a total work of God, God keeps us and He promises us eternal life (which eternal life means that it is eternal) and thus: we are saved forever. No matter what sins a person may commit, God promises to keep the person forever.
This was our last meeting. We lived in different cities at this point and we both became busy with life. Time passed by.
Lance’s new embracing of this radical view of eternal security led to major changes in his life. His passion for prayer went away. His hunger for worship slowly evaporated. He once guarded his eyes from watching ungodly movies but no more. He confessed to me once that he struggled greatly with lust. No more. He simply begin to live out his passions. After all, he reasoned that night I met with him, God is the one who keeps us. Lance fell further and further into gross sins. Eventually, he had an adulterous relationship with the choir director of his church and left his wife and two children for his mistress. He completely turned away from Christ and today is a shell of the man he use to be. Pray for Lance.
There are three major views regarding Lance at this point. The first is the radical, “once saved, always saved” view that says that Lance is bound for glory. Lance probably would hold to this view. He perhaps would know that he is not “in fellowship” with Christ but he would still claim heaven. Many cheap grace advocates (or free grace as they call themselves) would agree. I heard Dr. Tony Evans say once, “Even if you deny Christ and become an atheist, when you die, if you have believed even just once, He will drag you to heaven with you kicking and screaming that you don’t want to go.” The only thing Lance is losing right now is his rewards at the final judgement (1 Corinthians 3:15).
The second view would be that A) Lance was never saved to begin with and his apostasy proves he was not saved. The problem with this view is that no person reading this can have the assurance of our salvation. It is possible that you or I are false converts. It is possible that you will fall from the faith this time next year (1 Corinthians 10:12). If we could go back to the days when Lance and I would eat lunch together and you could ask him if he would fall away, he would have denied it. None of us wants to believe that we would deny Christ. Like Peter, we want to believe we would stand for Him no matter what (Matthew 26:33 and notice all the disciples agreed in verse 35) yet Peter still denied Christ as did all the disciples (Matthew 26:56). The person holding this view has no assurance since they believe that God keeps them but if they turn away from Him, they are not saved to begin with. Would it not be better to teach that we are saved through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) and we are kept through faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:5)?
B) Lance is still a child of God who is in rebellion but under the conviction and discipline of the Lord, he will repent and be restored. This view holds that a child of God should live a holy life and if they don’t, God will discipline the person even to the point of death in order to save them (1 Corinthians 5:5). This view holds that true children of God do commit sins and even commit gross sins but this does not change the fact that they remain children of God. Since God has given us eternal life, we can never lose that life. It is eternal! Therefore, God will discipline His sinning children but He will never cast them away (John 6:37). He has promised us eternal life (Romans 8:38-39) and nothing can separate us from His love.
Let’s just take one example from Scripture in the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24. Read the text and then ask yourself these questions:
Was the son truly a son in Luke 15:11?
Did the father view him as alive to him or dead to him according to Luke 15:24?
In this case, the prodigal was a true son and rebelled against his father and begin to live a life of sin (Luke 15:13). The father considered him dead to him and lost (Luke 15:24). I have heard Luke 15:11-24 preached so many times toward sinners but Jesus is not using this parable that way (Luke 15:31-32). The prodigal son was not the lost sinner but the rebellious child who left the home and lived in sin. Until he repented (Luke 15:21), he was lost and dead. Life is only found in the father’s home and he knew this.
This leads me to the third view and that is the Lance must repent or he will not have eternal life. Eternal life is found in Christ alone. All of us will go into eternity some where. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus said in John 5:24-25,
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Notice that Jesus says that life is found in Him. The Greek in this text is in the present active tense so that Jesus is saying, “Whoever hears (and keeps on hearing) My word and believes (and keeps on believing) Him who sent Me has eternal life.” This passage is much like John 10:27-29 where Jesus says that if we hear His voice (and keep on hearing His voice) and follow Him (and keep on following Him), we have eternal life and no one is able to pluck us out of His hands. True security is not found in ourselves but in Christ alone.
Some, at this point, we say that all of salvation is a work of God and I would agree. Salvation is accomplished through Christ alone (John 19:30). Jesus alone is our salvation and our only hope (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Titus 1:1-2). Jesus alone is the one that we look to for salvation from beginning to end. He is our righteousness, our redemption, our mediator of this new covenant, our everything. We acknowledge that salvation is found only in Him and not in a church, an act of flesh (John 1:12-13) but completely in Him (Acts 15:11). Yet I would argue that God calls us to remain FAITHful to Christ (Romans 11:20-22). We are to remain in faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 11:2-4; 12:21-13:5). Jude 21 says to keep ourselves in the love of God. I have heard many “once saved, always saved” advocates dance around this verse but they ignore what Jude is saying. As we stay focused on Christ, Jude 24-25 promises us that He will keep us as well! 1 Timothy 1:19 says some can shipwreck their faith. How can they shipwreck faith if faith here is not true? True faith focuses on Jesus alone for salvation from beginning to end (Romans 2:6-7). Jesus taught us to “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (Luke 12:35).
Jesus said in John 8:51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Again, this is the present active tense of the Greek. If we keep and keep on keeping Jesus’ word, we will never see death. Eternal life is not a vague concept but eternal life is found in an eternal Jesus. Salvation, sanctification, glorification are all found in Christ Jesus alone. To argue that a person can be saved apart from Christ is not found in Scripture (John 14:6). Eternal life is found in Christ alone.
My view of Lance is that Lance must repent or he will go to hell. He is found, right now, in Revelation 21:8. Sin will keep people out of heaven because sin is against a holy God (1 John 3:4). Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 that sin leads to eternal death and not inheriting the kingdom of God. Galatians 6:7-9 teaches us that if we sow to our flesh we will reap from the flesh and that is death. We are called to be a people of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and to hate sin. We are called to confess our sins for forgiveness (1 John 1:9 which makes no sense if we completely forgiven of all sins at the moment we believe). Jesus is our salvation and He is the one that we cast ourselves upon to be saved in this life and the life to come.