Friday, May 16, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved?

Sin clouds our judgment. We cannot see because sin is blinding (John 3, 1John 2, Romans 1). The recurring theme in my life is that my understanding of Scripture is concurrent with my understanding of my sin. The Bible reveals two things throughout: the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. It works as the authoritative text on theology and anthropology. Scripture is much easier understood from God’s perspective than from our own. “That’s not what I would do; therefore I reject it,” was my initial approach to many of the doctrines I now hold dear to my heart. As God began to work on my heart and mold it I became more aware of my sinfulness and was able to better understand Scripture. You will see as we go through what the Bible says about eternal security a few themes that pop up. The first is that we put way too much emphasis on our experiences. The second is that the notion that a Christian can lose his salvation is completely without merit because it is sinful and is thus in opposition to God’s holy nature. Just so we’re clear I am indeed saying that if you hold to the belief that a Christian can lose his salvation, that is sinful.

If you are saved once does that not mean you are saved for good? If you are eternally secure does that not mean you are saved for good? Of course. But the chief argument someone would use to argue that someone can indeed lose his salvation is based upon the definition of once saved always saved (OSAS) that he has created. The way this person looks at OSAS is something like:
Billy prayed the prayer at age 6 at summer camp. He never bore any good fruit. Therefore, Billy lost his salvation.

Indeed, based upon the framework of that argument, Billy did lose his salvation.

Truly though, the question isn’t whether Billy lost his salvation. The Bible is crystal clear that a believer is eternally secure. There is no cogent argument that can be concocted to dispute this irrefutable fact. The question is actually whether Billy was ever a believer. Now we must ask what believer’s do. They bear fruit! If Billy never bore fruit, what evidence is there he was ever saved in the first place? None! Billy was never a Christian, that’s why he is not saved. His salvation status did not change.

That was a simple case to solve. The complication arises not with someone who never bore fruit but with someone who did. I will now try to outline the best experiential evidence I can of someone losing his salvation. This is one we really really wrestle with. In my interactions with various professing agnostics I have noticed a recurring motif that paints a picture of their evolving worldview. The painting begins with them attending church at a young age and being active in the church, but the painting ends with their current state as an agnostic. How does that happen? How can two views so diametrically opposed be held by the same person in such a short span? Has that person not lost his salvation? Was he not bearing fruit?

Perhaps he may have been bearing fruit in some sense. He could have been attending church, been kind, patient and caring for others. He may have even been witnessing to people and sharing God’s word with people. I am certainly not denying these things have indeed happened. I am not even denying that this person believed, if only for a while, that he was a Christian. But did God believe this man was a Christian? We judge what someone does, God judges the heart. We will see what scripture says about this and then we can make a better determination as to what was actually happening in the agnostic’s scenario.

I should only need one verse to prove this case. But we are stubborn people, are we not? I should only be told by my wife one time to not leave milk in my glass. Ask her how that is going. I keep doing it. I see her reasoning and I agree with it. I’m just dumb and stubbornly attached to my own line of thinking. If you are convinced after one verse, stop reading. I’m not sure how long I’ll go on.
I sincerely do not understand how anyone can deny eternal security in light of this verse:

John 6

 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Who is speaking? Jesus! He just walked on water and fed thousands of people with a little bit of bread and fish! And we’re going to doubt Him? C’mon! What is unclear about that verse? “I lose NOTHING.” Zero! Not one person that God saved will Christ lose. This debate is over. Why did anyone even consider that salvation could be lost? They could not have read this verse. There’s no way.

But alas, many remain unconvinced. I do not understand it. I really do not. If you still think a Christian can lose his salvation after reading that verse...First off, you’re wrong and second, you’re reading comprehension skills are wanting.

The tragedy of the denial of eternal security is that it stems from a deeper denial of something even more core to the Christian faith and that is the authority of Scripture. Think of how lowly one must think of God’s word to read John 6:39 and then remain steadfast that a Christian can lose his salvation. God providentially planned to incredible detail the life of Christ and His ongoing fulfillment of prophecies but that same God didn’t establish any type of provision to protect His sheep from themselves? The most dangerous person in my life is always me. God didn’t plan for that? I say He did. Enter the Holy Spirit. Of what use is the Holy Spirit if I (a mere man) can cast Him out?

Mark 3

23 And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables,“How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but [l]he is finished! 27 But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.
Can Satan cast out Satan? No. The juxtaposition: Can a Christian cast out Christ? No. Especially given that Christ is infinitely stronger than any of us. If Christ now lives in me, He is the strongman in the house. How, pre tell, do you suppose I could overpower the Son of God?

Hebrews 6

4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, [d]since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Here is your verse, salvation-loosers. This is your proof text. A cursory glance would suggest salvation can be lost. But the belief in temporary eternal salvation has always been the result of perfunctory research. Hebrews 6 is not even about Christians, it is about people that have rejected Christ. Oh sure they have experienced some aspects of the Kingdom and have participated to a high degree in the ordinances, but does that make a Christian? Are we Christians because of those things? No, we truly are not. We are Christians because of the work of Christ. We are given grace to have faith. Those mentioned in Hebrews 6 rejected the former and thus never had the latter. If they rejected grace, they never had faith and thus they were never saved. Hebrews 3 addresses those who reject salvation.

Hebrews 3

12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart [c]that falls away from the living God.

Again, the issue, from the beginning, is an unbelieving heart (rejection/blasphemy of the Holy Spirit).

The Parable of the Sower
Any illustration you could come up with of someone “losing his salvation” would fall into one of the categories. Why would Jesus share with us this parable if not to reinforce the fact that many people will call Him Lord but will actually be workers of iniquity? Jesus doesn’t seem surprised that many will fall away--He predicted it!

Matthew 13

3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell [a]among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

I emboldened where I believe people who have “lost their salvation” fall into. It does not have to be the first day of the sun or the second. It could have been weeks later or months later. The point is that for a while the plants appeared to be healthy but because their roots had no depth the plans died the same as the others.

The Example of Judas
Herein lies the irony of the Arminian argument. The ONLY example an Arminian can use to support his theology is that of the one who committed the ultimate act of betrayal. Think about this, there exists not one example of someone losing his salvation throughout the entirety of the Bible. Not one. The best example one can come up with is that of Judas Iscariot. If Judas Iscariot exemplifies one of the distinctives of your theology, you better start studying what the Bible actually says.
The argument says that Judas lost his salvation. He was with Jesus that whole time. He did good works. He followed Jesus. He betrayed Him. He lost his salvation. False assumptions result in bad theology. The Arminian assumes that because Judas was hanging around the right people, that Judas was saved. Look back on the language used by the gospel writers as they describe Judas. The language does not support the idea that Judas was at any point saved. Judas’ betrayal was prophesied. Would God choose to use one of His Elect to carry out such a heinous crime? May it never be! Who is Judas but the seed that grows up for a while and then gets choked out? Revelation refers to those who persevere as overcomers. They have overcome the world (as Christ did) and this proves they were God’s. By enduring til the end, a Christian substantiates their adoption.

The Problem of Works
When we break down virtually any aspect of Arminian theology it reveals itself as a works based system. Whether it be their synergistic view of attaining salvation or their temporary-eternal view of salvation in terms of perseverance, it always logically ends with man’s works. I did something and thus God saved me. I did something and thus God kept me. Where then does grace fit in? If I am able to do something to lose my salvation then I must have done something to earn it. Neither is true. Nothing was done to earn it and nothing can be done to lose it.
We must inquire how many sins we are allowed to commit before God lets us go. An Arminian cannot reply to such an inquiry with any authority. It is a terrifying thing to impose this illogical belief upon God’s adopted children. No sin was too awful for us to be irreconcilable to God through Christ and no sin is too awful for Christ to maintain us after we have been justified. The pride of man stands in opposition to grace. Allow yourself to contemplate this quote from Voddie Baucham:     

“How arrogant do you have to be to think one can lose their salvation,
yet you have managed to obtain it?”

The reformers were guided by what was called analogia Scriptura. It basically means that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. You saw that illustrated as we used the Parable of the Sower to interpret Hebrews 6. You saw that as we used the clearer passages to interpret the less clear. The question we really want answered is why do some people hang around and then fall away?

1John 2

18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that [d]it would be shown that they all are not of us.

There’s our answer. They went out or fell away so that it would be shown they were not of us. People fall away as proof they were never Christians. That is pretty simplistic, right? Can we get any more black & white? The practical application is that sometimes the wheat and tares are separated before the harvest. Some were skeptical about Rob Bell when he first came on the “evangelical” scene. He displayed some signs that his beliefs were a bit warped. Eventually his departure made it evident to true believers that he was not really of us. There are many other examples of this and probably examples you can think of in your own life personally where it eventually becomes perspicuous that someone was part of a different flock all along.

The real debate is not whether a person can lose his salvation. There is no Biblical evidence for that. The only evidence is experiential. Experiential evidence in light of a dogmatic truth is utterly useless. May God be true and every man a liar (presuppositional apologetics). The debate that is worthwhile and hotly contested is whether or not there is a such thing as a carnal Christian. That is what I believe the argument is really about. Can someone be a Christian but not bear much or any fruit? That’s the stripped down question. There are very intricate details that are debated and it might just depend on your definition of carnal Christian.

Here is what we should ask when someone says they used to be a Christian:
Is Jesus lying or is the non-Christian lying?
Pretty easy to answer that question, amen?

No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

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