Posts Tagged ‘Conditional Security’
We all have known someone who claimed to follow Christ for years. Some of them were prayer warriors, evangelists, pastors and teachers, elders, leaders, examples to the flock, deeply committed to sound doctrine, etc; and yet they fell away. Some of them went into cults while others fell into immorality and sin. I have personally known many people who once were bedrocks for the gospel and today they are shells of what they use to be. I have personally prayed with, evangelized with, and worshiped with people who today are not following Christ. And it is possible that, according to Calvinism, you are one of those people. It is possible that you could fall from grace and turn away from Jesus though this would prove, according to Calvinists, that you were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19). After all, it is possible that both you and I are people found in Matthew 7:21-23 or John 6:66. We must not be prideful about this as Paul the Apostle points out in 1 Corinthians 10:12.
For the most part I think that “never saved to begin with” is just an easy answer to a hard question. After all, I would admit that there have been many I have met and even discipled in the church whom I thought were not truly saved. It is true that people can be false converts and never have repented of their sins. Repentance is largely played down these days in the seeker sensitive church era that we are in. Rather than preaching Matthew 3:8, we preach easy believeism and call people “saved” whom have never truly repented of their sins nor seen the need to repent (1 Timothy 1:8-11). We have failed to call people’s attention (almost weekly in our sinful society) to 2 Corinthians 13:5 and asked people to make sure they are walking in the grace of God. Hebrews 3:12-13 exhorts us all:
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 10:19-25 has three “let us” points that the writer wants to make. Each of them are discipleship in nature. Notice the text:
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The purpose of meeting together for the disciple of Jesus is not to listen to a sermon nor to sing songs. It is to help us continue in our fight, to be encouraged by other disciples in this race. We need other disciples to help us remain disciples of Christ because of this sinful world that we live in and walk in (1 John 1:7).
However, back to my point in this post. I find that the old “never saved to begin with” is not a pat answer for every person who turns away from Christ. It may sooth us but it doesn’t really answer the question. Why is it that a person can be deeply committed to Christ outwardly (none of us but God alone can see their heart; 2 Timothy 2:19) and then embrace a life of sin to reject the gospel? What happened to them? Where did they begin to lose the battle against the flesh and the world (1 John 2:15-17)? It is not a theologically issue since I have known both Arminians and Calvinists who have turned away from Christ. I have known evangelical pastors who left their wives and children and churches for a woman. I have known evangelical men who have embraced homosexuality. I have witnessed women fall prey to ungodly men time after time after time. And to simply say they were never saved to begin with is a pat answer but in my heart, I have watched these people and have seen them preach the gospel, seen them weep over the lost, seen them pray, seen them teach the Word, sat for hours with them and talked theology.
I believe that apostasy is very real. I believe the warnings of Scripture are there to truly warn us not to forsake Christ for the flesh or this world or lies (Galatians 1:6-9; 6:7-9). I believe the promise of God is seen in Romans 11:20-22 where we read:
20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
We need to stand before the disciples of Jesus and preach that He is faithful to His promises (Romans 8:38-39) but we likewise must continue in the faith (Acts 14:22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 12:21-13:5; Galatians 5:1-4; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-15; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-4; etc.). As the writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 2:1-4:
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Or as Jesus Himself said in Revelation 3:5-6 to the church in Sardis:
5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Jesus calls us to be His elect and also to be faithful to Him (Revelation 17:14). Let us admit right now, no matter where you stand on the issue of eternal security, that salvation is found in Jesus alone (John 14:6). All unbelievers will be cut off for their rebellion against a holy God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-12). Salvation is found only in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23) and to be outside of Jesus is to be lost (2 Corinthians 5:17). Salvation is a work of God (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9) that He wrought in our souls by faith in His Son (Titus 3:5-7). Salvation is not accomplished by my power. Jesus has done the work of salvation (Hebrews 10:10, 14) but we must abide in Him to be saved (John 15:1-11). Let us agree on these issues.
I do pray often for those whom I have known who have turned away. It does break my heart that so many have turned away from Christ. Only God knows their hearts and can judge whether they were ever saved to begin with. I do know that they must repent of their sins (Hebrews 10:19-39). I do know that sin will destroy lives (James 1:12-15; 5:19-20). I do know that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and we must repent to be reconciled back to the Father (Psalm 32:1-5; 1 John 1:9). Repentance is not merely feeling sorry about our sins but turning from them toward Christ (Galatians 5:16-17). If we are called of God, we must be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Holiness is not optional but is only accomplished by the grace of God working in us (Ephesians 2:10). I do fear God (Proverbs 1:7) and I do hate my sins. I do long to be just like Jesus Christ in every way. I do long to follow Him completely and forever. I do pray that He would continue to help me to hate sin and pursue Him with all my heart (Mark 12:29-31).
James 1:12-15 gives strong warnings concerning abiding in sin. It reads:
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
There is a sharp warning. James could not be addressing the sins of unbelievers since they are already dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1). James is clearly addressing those who have been born again, who know the power of God’s grace to forgive them and help them overcome sin. His warning then is clear: sin produces death.
Now I have various viewpoints regarding this. Dr. John MacArthur states that the death here is physical death and not spiritual death. In other words, God will kill the sinning saint (1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 John 5:16). Some view this as God’s love, that He would take out the sinning saint before allowing them to bring more shame to His name.
The problem with such a view is that it seems sinning then would cause the believer to go to heaven faster. If that is the case, sin! If the only fear we have is that we have to leave this fallen earth faster for glory then sin it up!
Adam Clarke writes about James 1:15:
Sin, being brought forth, immediately acts, and is nourished by frequent repetition, till at length it gains such strength that in its turn it begets death. This is the true genealogy of sin and death. Lust is the mother of sin, and sin the mother of death, and the sinner the parent of both.
I hold that James 1:15 is referring to spiritual death. While James does not state either spiritual or physical in the text, the power of sin must not be diminished in the life of the child of God. The believer is called to be holy (Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and to forsake sinning (1 John 3:4-10). The believer is called to follow and obey Christ and not sin nor the members of our flesh (Romans 6:1-23). The believer is to consistently walk in the light as Jesus is in the light (1 John 1:7) and confess our sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9). We are not to sin but praise God that we have Advocate with the Father if we do sin (1 John 2:1-2).
For the child of God, we have the precious promises of God that He will help us overcome sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin (Ephesians 1:7). We have the blessed assurance of His forgiveness as we live in the Spirit and not the flesh (Romans 8:1-4, 12-13). We have the promise of God that He will keep us (Jude 24-25) as we abide in His love (Jude 21; cf. 1 Peter 1:5). All of this overcoming, victory, holiness comes through faith in Christ Jesus and abiding in Jesus by faith (John 15:1-11). We have no fear of sin, of Satan, of the flesh, of the world if we are in Christ Jesus through faith.
I do urge you to hate sin. I once heard a powerful sermon from David Wilkerson on hating sin and he stated in his sermon about praying for God to give you a holy hatred for sin. I begin to do this on a regular basis and have been praying this way for many years now. I praise God that He does give us a hatred for sin as we abide in Him. The closer I get to the Lord Jesus the more I hate sin (1 John 2:15-17). I pray often, “God help me to hate those things You hate and to love the things that You love.” I have seen the Spirit of God putting a yearning in my heart for holiness and a holy hatred for sin. I am not perfect but I long to be like Jesus in every single way (Colossians 3:17). I long to love what He loves and hate what He hates.
I fear for any person who believes that they can sin against God and get away with it. Mark Galatians 6:7-9 and realize that you cannot go on sinning and get away with it. The judgment of God is coming against your rebellion (1 Corinthians 10:1-21). However, praise God that He is a God who does forgive sins and He does help us to overcome our sins. There is no sin that is more powerful than the blood of Jesus and He is able to not only forgive us of our sins but He empowers us to be holy.
I was listening to an Arminian preacher whom I enjoy and he was preaching from John 17. He noted from John 17:12 and he said emphatically that Judas was never saved. This preacher pointed out that Jesus calls Judas “the son of destruction” and he said, “Jesus would never say this about His chosen children of God. Those whom Jesus has chosen will never be lost.” I have no doubt that this brother is an Arminian but his words sounded very much like a Calvinist view of Judas and of unconditional election.
I want to spend a few posts examining the case of Judas Iscariot. Was he saved? Was he lost the whole time? Was he a man chosen by Jesus and who fell into sin and fell away from Jesus to do what he did? I want to look to the Scriptures of course as our final authority. How you view Judas often reflects your theological convictions. Those who hold to eternal security would instantly read my question about Judas and would consider him lost. Others, like myself, who hold to personal apostasy have a tendency to look at Judas and see him as an apostate who was saved while serving Christ but fell away.
I do think that both camps can approach Judas as a mystery. While I will admit up front that I side with the apostasy view of Judas, I do respect, of course, many who differ with me over this. The most important thing is that both sides view Judas as a man of sin. We can and should use Judas as an example of sinning. Whether you teach that Judas was a false convert or whether you believe he turned away from Christ, we should point to him and use him as the antitype of what it means to follow Christ. Further, we can use Judas to warn people that Matthew 7:21-23 is going to be true of many people I am afraid in the visible Church of God.
Salvation is Jesus. Salvation is not believing facts about Jesus. Salvation is not once believing a truth about Jesus. Salvation is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I love Him (1 John 4:10). I praise God that He sent His Son for my sins and that He loved me enough to pour out His wrath upon His Son (Romans 5:8-9). Salvation is all of Jesus. I praise God that He keeps me by His grace (Hebrews 7:24-25; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24-25). I cling to Jesus, to who He is and what He has done. I renounce the works of the flesh for salvation and look only to the blood of Christ to wash away my sins (Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 John 1:7). Jesus is a wonderful Savior and I long to see Him face to face (1 John 3:1-3). As we study Judas, may we all look to Jesus Christ alone to save us and to keep us holy before the Father (1 John 2:1-2).
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).