Posts Tagged ‘Conditional Security’
On a follow-up post from the previous post, I wanted to address the issue of false conversions. I first heard of this term when I first became familiar with Ray Comfort. Comfort preached hard about false converts and how so many people in the visible church were not truly saved. He said that false conversions are the result of a faulty gospel message. I looked around and I agreed. So many people in the Church seemed to have been through a ritual whether prayer or baptism or church membership but their lives were marked with sin and lack of faith in God. They showed no zeal for the Lord, no passion for God, no hunger in prayer or for God’s Word, and lived in rebellion against God. They said they loved Jesus but they showed through their lives that they really hated God (Titus 1:16).
I do believe there are many in the Church, whether Arminians or Calvinists, who do not know Christ as Lord. They believe they are saved. They would confess that they are saved but their lives show that they are lost (1 John 2:3-6). Their life of sin shows that they are still in rebellion against God (1 John 3:6-9).
The key difference I would have with Ray Comfort would be over apostasy. Brother Ray would say that a true child of God is saved forever and if a person falls away from the faith, they were never saved to begin with. His teaching is that true children of God will persevere in the faith. Those who do not prove they were not regenerated by the Spirit (1 John 2:19). He would point to people such as Judas as proof or the false disciples of John 6:60-71. Another example could be Simon in Acts 8:18-24.
The Arminian reply is that while there are false converts, this does not negate the fact that there are warning passages given to believers. The entire book of Hebrews would be a case in point. Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-20; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-16; 12:1-29 – all these warn believers. One must stretch to prove that the writer is not writing to believers in Christ. Of course there are many more than the book of Hebrews but my point is that we must do something with the warning passages. I believe they are there to warn us of a real possibility of personal apostasy so that we might avoid this (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). 1 John 2:24-25 (NKJV) says:
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.
Eternal life is found in Christ Jesus. None dispute this point. I would argue that the gift of eternal life is given to us in Christ Jesus and only in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). To be outside of Christ is to be lost (John 15:1-11). Jesus is our salvation from beginning to end (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Our salvation and our security are found in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
So the final verdict would be that yes there are certainly those among us Arminians who are not saved. I don’t doubt that. This is true of all Christendom. Yet I would also preach that true Christians must be on guard and must remain focused on Christ alone for our salvation. I would preach that our eyes must remain fixed on Christ alone to save us (Hebrews 12:1-2) and not our good works nor our own wisdom. Christ is our life (Colossians 3:1-4). Remain in Jesus by faith (1 Peter 1:5) and make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11). Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Some believe that Romans 14:4 clearly teaches eternal security. The passage reads:
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
The ending there is where people get this idea that this text teaches unconditional eternal security. I believe Dan Corner’s comments from his book, The Believer’s Conditional Security, is worth repeating:
1. That verse only applies to one serving God, not one serving his own flesh (sinful nature)! If a Christian sows to please his own sinful nature, he will reap destruction instead of eternal life (Galatians 6:8-10).
2. Also in Romans 14, verse 21 definitely states the possibility of one being the cause of a brother falling. Therefore, the possibility of not standing must exist or there would be no chance of falling. Hence, a condition must exist thought it isn’t plainly stated.
I would add myself that for the disciple of Jesus we have the promise that He will keep us by grace through faith (Jude 24-25) and yet we are told to persevere in the faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23). It is much like many of the other promises of God that are conditioned upon us looking to Him such as in prayer (Matthew 7:7-11) but this promise requires prayer in faith (James 1:6). In the same way, we have the promises of assurance and eternal salvation in Christ but the key is to have faith in Christ (2 Peter 1:10-11).
King David sinned against God. He committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). 2 Samuel 11:27 ends with the saddest words perhaps in all of Scripture: “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD” (NASB).
Arminius wrote about David’s sin rather briefly but his words are interesting. He wrote,
The example of David proves nothing. For, even if it be granted that David after commission of adultery and murder had not lost the Holy Spirit, it does not thence follow that He cannot be lost. For a man may sin still more grievously, and on this account lose the Holy Spirit. But what if I shall say that David did lose the Holy Spirit, after he had committed adultery and murder? You will reply that it appears from Psalm li. that the matter stands otherwise. I respond that that Psalm was sung by David after that, having been admonished by Nathan, he had repented of those crimes; but that God, at that time, upon the preaching of Nathan, restored the Holy Spirit to David.
In another place Arminius wrote,
If David had died in the very moment in which he had sinned against Uriah by adultery and murder, he would have been condemned to death eternal.
Many Calvinist have taken exception with these statements saying that his theology here is poor and reflects his belief that a person can “lose their salvation” through sinning. They point to passages that seem to teach our unconditional security in places such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 and they praise God for His security in spite of their sins.
One Calvinist I have had some exchanges with on Twitter posted remarks about how Arminius was works-righteousness in his beliefs since he rejected eternal security (or “once saved, always saved”). In fact, I would argue that this Calvinist guy holds that if you reject eternal security, you are probably not saved. I wrote him and asked him, “If you went out and committed adultery and murder, where would you spend eternity?” He responded back, “HEAVEN (his emphasis) because my sins are forgiven.” He then responded, “but if I did go out and commit those acts, it would prove I did not believe.” So I wrote back, “So if you commit those sins, you were never saved to begin with?” How can he have it both ways? He says that he can commit adultery and murder and still go to heaven but if he did those sins, he was not saved to begin with?
Do you see where his road is leading? On the one hand he is arguing for an antinomian view that says that nothing we do affects us. We are under no obligation to be holy. We are under no obligation to obey God or submit totally to Him. We can do anything we like, live anyway we want but still be saved. Yet on the other hand, if we do go out and live like “hell” then we prove we were never saved to begin with. So which is it? Are we saved from sin or in our sins? Are we delivered from the penalty of sin but not the power of sin? Is there any sin that is more powerful than God that He cannot help us overcome?
I don’t doubt that we all struggle with the flesh. I recognize that we live in a fallen world full of the flesh and full of the devil. I don’t doubt that we all face temptations (James 3:2). 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches us two important points: we all are tempted yet we all have the power of God to overcome. Take the “hot” sin of our times: homosexuality. Is homosexuality natural? The obvious answer for the Christian is no. So is sin natural? Why then do we sin if sin is not natural? The answer is because we want to sin. We love sin. Our flesh desires to sin (Galatians 5:16-17). I don’t buy into my own excuses for sinning nor yours. I sin because I enjoy sinning. Yet the Bible calls me to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). The Bible calls me to forsake my sins and walk in repentance (Acts 26:20). The Bible calls me to be like Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-24). The Bible calls me to confess my sins to God (1 John 1:9). The Bible calls me to not sin (1 John 2:1-2). The Bible calls us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith or not (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).
The security of the believer is simply this: we are saved IN Christ Jesus. Why would you want to be away from Him? What sin is greater than the love of Christ? What does the world offer you that is greater than the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven in Christ? You see the issue is not about “losing your salvation” but loving Jesus supremely! The issue is not about what sins can I commit and still be saved but instead the issue is whether you love Christ more than your own sins. We have framed the questions wrong. We have made the debate over “eternal security” all about us and not about Christ. Christ is our salvation. I have eternal life because of Christ and not because of me (John 5:24-25). Christ is our all in all. He is worth more than anything this world can offer or the flesh can desire. In His presence we will be free from sin as we live in eternity with Him, free from the lies of Satan, the temptations of the flesh, and without the bondage of time (Hebrews 12:18-24). I pray that our focus would not be upon us or upon sin but upon the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).
The following are my own observations about those who want to argue over eternal security. I have learned over the years the following about these types of folks:
- They could be struggling with sin and they want to appease their guilty conscience into believing that no matter what they do, no matter how sinful they become, they are still a child of God and He will never let them go.
- They want to justify family members or friends who are living in sin but once claimed to be a believer. They want to find comfort and hope that these sinning people will be allowed into God’s holy presence.
- They have a pet sin that they once tried to battle but now just give in to this sin. I have seen men like this who struggled with pornography but eventually just gave in but they still want to claim Christ, claim His righteousness all while abiding in sin.
- They were deluded into believing that we are justified through faith but kept by works and so they struggled. Then some person came along and told them about “once saved, always saved” and the battle was over but sadly they now give in to sin. This destroys their conscience.
- They somehow believe that eternal security is the gospel. If you believe in apostasy, you are a heretic. Yet this leads to a view of sin that makes it bad but not deadly.
- They simply detest “warning” passages of Scripture such as Hebrews 6:4-20 or 10:19-39 (and many, many more).
Yet the opposite is true as well that…..
- True saints of God know that we are secure in Christ (1 Peter 1:5).
- True saints of God love Christ above the world, the flesh and sin (1 John 2:15-17).
- True saints of God confess their sins and repent of them (Matthew 3:8; Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:9).
- True saints of God know their salvation is completely dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11; Acts 15:11; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Galatians 3:1-5).
- True saints of God know that eternal life is not a life apart from Christ our Lord (John 8:51).
- True saints of God have no problem with Bible teachers calling us to remain faithful to Christ (Acts 14:22-23).
- True saints of God know that biblical righteousness is both imputed and makes us practically righteous as well (1 John 3:8).
- True saints of God hate sin and love holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).
- True saints of God know that we cannot have Jesus as Savior without Him being our Lord (Luke 6:46-49; 1 John 2:3-6).
- True saints of God rejoice in security passages (Romans 8:38-39) but also balance them with warning passages (Romans 11:20-22).
I was reading Matthew 6:12 today and this verse is one of those verses that hits you hard. The text reads (NKJV):
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Adam Clarke wrote this about this verse and his words are worth reading and re-reading to allow them to sink into our hearts:
Verse 12. “And forgive us our debts” – Sin is represented here under the notion of a debt, and as our sins are many, they are called here debts. God made man that he might live to his glory, and gave him a law to walk by; and if, when he does any thing that tends not to glorify God, he contracts a debt with Divine Justice, how much more is he debtor when he breaks the law by actual transgression! It has been justly observed, “All the attributes of God are reasons of obedience to man; those attributes are infinite; every sin is an act of ingratitude or rebellion against all these attributes; therefore sin is infinitely sinful.” Forgive us.-Man has nothing to pay: if his debts are not forgiven, they must stand charged against him for ever, as he is absolutely insolvent.
Forgiveness, therefore, must come from the free mercy of God in Christ: and how strange is it we cannot have the old debt canceled, without (by that very means) contracting a new one, as great as the old! but the credit is transferred from Justice to Mercy. While sinners we are in debt to infinite Justice; when pardoned, in debt to endless Mercy: and as a continuance in a state of grace necessarily implies a continual communication of mercy, so the debt goes on increasing ad infinitum.
Strange economy in the Divine procedure, which by rendering a man an infinite debtor, keeps him eternally dependent on his Creator! How good is God! And what does this state of dependence imply? A union with, and participation of, the fountain of eternal goodness and felicity! As we forgive our debtors. It was a maxim among the ancient Jews, that no man should lie down in his bed, without forgiving those who had offended him. That man condemns himself to suffer eternal punishment, who makes use of this prayer with revenge and hatred in his heart. He who will not attend to a condition so advantageous to himself (remitting a hundred pence to his debtor, that his own creditor may remit him 10,000 talents) is a madman, who, to oblige his neighbour to suffer an hour, is himself determined to suffer everlastingly! This condition of forgiving our neighbour, though it cannot possibly merit any thing, yet it is that condition without which God will pardon no man. See Matthew vi. 14, 15.
That God places this condition upon forgiveness, that we forgive others as well, is powerful. Am I a forgiving person? Do I forgive others as Christ has forgiven me (Colossians 3:13)? Jesus has forgiven me of so many sins yet am I unwilling to forgive others who may or may not have sinned against me?
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus places a further condition upon our forgiveness by teaching us in a parable that we must forgive others. In this case, the once forgiven servant is bound and delivered to the torturers (v. 34 NKJV). Obviously then Jesus places much upon our standing before God with our standing with other people.
One further point as we read in 1 Peter 3:7 that our prayers may be hindered because of our relationship with our spouse. God places much emphasis upon our human relationships in relation to Him. To merely have forgiveness from God without granting forgiveness to others is unheard of for the disciple of Christ.
I read this statement of faith from a church that read:
Eternal Security and Assurance of Believers: We believe that all the redeemed, once saved, are kept by God’s power and are thus secure in Christ forever (John 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Romans 8:1, 38, 39; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; 1 Peter 1:5). We believe that it is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God’s Word, which CLEARLY FORBIDS the use of Christian liberty as an occasion for the flesh (Romans 13:13, 14; Galatians 5:13; Titus 2:11-15).
My question about this statement is simply the end: why does the Bible clearly forbid the use of Christian liberty as an occasion for the flesh? Why must the Christian avoid the flesh or sinning if in fact the believer is “once saved, always saved” as this statement says at the beginning? Clearly there is a reason why we must avoid sinning but why? The statement doesn’t say so. It merely confirms eternal security then warns against indulging the flesh without any reason given.
So let me give the reason for them.
The reason that we must avoid living in the flesh is that living in sin brings only death, both spiritual and sometimes quickly, physical death. The Bible warns against the flesh because this shows our disobedience against God and shows that we are not regenerated. Galatians 6:7-9 warns us that if we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption. That is clear. Romans 8:12-13 warns us against living in the flesh as well and why, because if we live according to the flesh we will die. Sin brings death (James 1:12-15). Sin shows our lawless attitude toward God Almighty (1 John 3:4). Sin shows that we are not willing to follow Christ as Lord (1 John 2:3-6; 3:6-9). Sin proves our disobedience just as it did for the Israelites (Hebrews 3:6-19). Sin brings the punishment of the Lord (Hebrews 10:19-39).
My answer to overcoming sin is first to look to Jesus constantly as the One who saves from sin (Matthew 1:21). Jesus alone is able to free us from the penalty and power of sin (John 8:31-32). Without Him, we cannot be free from sin (John 15:1-11). We must abide in Him by faith to be saved and to overcome sin (John 8:51). Is there any sin that Jesus cannot free us from? If so, sin would be greater than Jesus and this would be heretical. Jesus is greater and He is certainly able to free us from all sin by His sovereign grace (Titus 2:11-12).
Scripture never offers the assurance of salvation for those living in the flesh. Scripture never offers assurance to those not willing to embrace Jesus as Lord.
On a final note. Why not teach that disciples of Jesus are secure if we are in Christ and following Him as Lord? Is this not the biblical message? Acts 14:22 tells us what Paul, the true grace teacher, taught about salvation and about the security of the believer. It tells us that he preached that we must continue in the faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 12:21-13:5; Galatians 5:1-4; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-16; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-4) and that through many tribulations (Matthew 5:10-12; 24:13; 2 Timothy 3:12) we enter in the kingdom of God. One thing that is clear is who it is who will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:7-8) and it is those who continue in a life of sin and rebellion against God.
I believe the above statement of faith is inadequate in teaching true security for the disciple of Christ and it also inadequate in showing why the disciple should avoid sin.