The Teachings of
and the extreme teachings of J. D. Faust
Did Paul Always Assume His Readers Were Saved?
On page 95 of The Gospel Under Siege, Hodges implies that Paul was not concerned about the eternal destiny of his readers because he knew they were all saved. He makes this statement: "There is not even a single place in the Pauline letters where he expresses doubt that his audience is composed of true Christians" (p.95).
Hodges in referring to the book of Hebrews said this: "[Nowhere] in his letter did the writer [of Hebrews] betray the slightest suspicion that his audience might contain people who were not real Christians The widespread view that he was concerned about mere professors of the faith as over against genuine believers is not found in the text" (Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 787).
In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul said this to the Corinthians: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" Those who are IN THE FAITH are those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and who are thus INDWELT BY HIM. If Jesus Christ is not in a person, then that person is not saved. Romans 8:9 implies that Paul was aware of the possibility that some of his readers may not have been true Christians. In 1 Corinthians 15:2 Paul stated that some of his readers were not saved if they had believed in vain, not holding fast to the truth of the gospel.
It is important to make a clear distinction between mere professors and true possessors. Scofield makes a clear distinction between believers and professors in his booklet Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. Did Paul really believe that everyone in the churches he was writing to was saved? Was he not aware that tares could easily creep in among the wheat? See the following study: Professors and Possessors
Suppose that pastors today were to view their audience in the same way that Hodges says Paul viewed his audiences. Should they always assume that their audience is made up of saved people? Does a mere profession indicate a true possession? Should not the people be challenged to show that they are really saved and to give evidence that God has done a work of grace in their hearts? Should they not be diligent to make their calling and election sure? Should we assume that because someone is sitting in the pew that Christ is living in the heart? Should we assume that because someone is in church that this automatically means he is IN CHRIST? Is everyone who merely names the name of Christ a true believer (see 2 Timothy 2:19)?
We are living in a day when vast multitudes of Americans are claiming to be born again. With their lips they say that they have put their faith in Christ, and yet their daily lives are no different from thousands of non-professors all around them. They are rarely, if ever, found at the prayer meeting; they have no family worship; they seldom read the Scriptures; they will not talk with you about the things of God; their walk is thoroughly worldly; yet they are quite sure they are bound for heaven. You ask them how they know they are saved and they will tell you that many years ago they "accepted" Christ and "once saved always saved" is now their comfort. Do we have any warrant from the Scriptures to challenge such a profession? Apparently Hodges and Dillow think we do not.
It is important to understand that the Scriptures do not provide assurance of salvation to all those who merely profess faith in Christ. False profession is a matter of life and death spiritually, and thus the many warnings of the Scriptures must be received with the same readiness as the promises. These warnings must be taken seriously, as lack of assurance in the regenerate is far less critical than false assurance in the unregenerate. A true Christian may have horrible doubts and fears about losing his salvation, but in spite of this, when he dies he is going to be safe in the arms of Jesus. His anguish of soul, though regrettable, is only temporary. This is far less serious than the case of an unsaved person who claims to be a Christian and who is given false assurance that all is well with his soul. This has very grave eternal consequences. It is far better for our teaching and preaching to err on the side of causing believers to examine their profession and to make sure they are saved, than to give even the slightest degree of hope and false assurance to unbelievers.
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