Can A True Believer Depart from the Faith?
Can a Saved Person Totally Abandon His Faith in Christ?
July 30, 1999
Thank you for sending me your tapes. Your presentation of Godís simple plan of salvation honors the God of grace and the grace of God.
There were some things shared on the tapes that concerned me which I will now reluctantly share. I consider you a likeminded believer in so many ways and I have appreciated so much your Bible teaching ministry and because of this it troubled me when I discovered an area where we apparently are not in agreement.
My main concern is your teaching that denies that a true believer will continue in the faith to the end. Unless I have misunderstood you, you believe that a truly saved person can stop believing and totally depart from the faith. He can have a faith that does not endure. You gave an example of Believer A (though you did not label him as such) who believes on Christ on his deathbed and then dies one day later. Believer B believes on Christ for one month and then falls away and becomes totally apostate and no longer believes in Christ. Both Believer A and Believer B will go to heaven. You pointed out that Believer B actually believed in Christ for much longer than Believer A (Believer B believed for one month whereas Believer A believed in Christ for only one day), so in this sense Believer Bís faith endured even longer than Believer Aís faith. You then gave the example of a believer who went to Japan, married a Japanese girl, got caught up in Buddhism and started worshiping idols. You believe this man is saved even though he totally departed from the faith, abandoned Christ and repudiated the Bible. You believe it is possible for a person to absolutely reject the truth of God and still be saved as long as he at one time believed in Christ. You used the example of Solomon who married foreign wives and turned to idolatry and this is the last we read about Solomon and he never repented.
[I believe Ecclesiastes is Solomonís document of repentance and that even though he failed miserably and broke Godís commandments, he never totally renounced Jehovah. I donít believe God would have ever said what He said about Solomon in Nehemiah 13:26 if Solomon had been a total apostate].
This reminds me of the example Zane Hodges gave of a close friend of his who labored in the ministry with him, but after his wife died of a difficult illness, he no longer claimed to be a Christian at all and no longer believed the things he once preached and taught. In the classroom of some university campus he often mocked and ridiculed the Christian faith. He totally renounced his Christian faith. Hodges said of this man, "He has lost his faith but Christ has not lost him." I see another possibility, that this man was never saved in the first place.
A saved person in Scripture is sometimes referred to as a "believer" (Acts 5:14; 1 Tim. 4:12). How can a person be a believer and not believe? How can a person be a Christ-rejecting believer or a Christ-denying believer? How can a person totally reject the truth of God and the gospel of grace and be a saved believer? Isnít a believer one who stands on the foundation of WHO CHRIST IS, WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE and WHAT CHRIST HAS SAID? If a person departs from this foundation and becomes a total apostate, then how could he be a saved person?
If the apostate says, "I totally reject Jesus Christ and do not believe that He is God" then based on John 8:24, will not this person die in his sins? If the so-called "believer" has become an apostate unbeliever, then would not all of Godís warnings to unbelievers apply to him? To me an "unbelieving believer" does not make sense. I recognize that believers can be "unbelieving" in the sense that we donít trust the Lord as we should ("Oh ye of little faith" etc.), but not in the sense of willfully denying the Person and work of Jesus Christ and utterly rejecting the gospel.
If a person does not "hold fast" to the gospel message, then according to Paul he is not saved. He has believed in vain (1 Cor. 15:1-2). [In the tapes at one point you stressed 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 but you never commented on the phrase, "if ye keep in memory"] We are kept by the power of God, but God keeps us "through faith" (1 Pet. 1:5) not apart from faith. He not only keeps us saved but He keeps us believing in Christ as Saviour. Our faith may be very weak but it does not utterly fail. The person who does not "hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:6,14) proves that he is not part of Christís true house (v.6). He was just a temporary attachment (scaffolding). The way you can tell that scaffoldinig is not part of the true building is that after a time it falls away and does not continue with the building (see 1 John 2:19 and Luke 8:13). Christ interceded for Peter, "that thy faith fail not" and does not He intercede for all believers in the same way? Is His prayer going to go unanswered in some cases? Is Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith or is He just the Author of our faith? See enclosed study sheets on "Continuing in the Faith."
I absolutely agree with you that believers may fail and fall in many ways, even many serious ways. I cite many examples of this in my booklet, Saved By Grace Alone, such as Solomon, Asa, Lot1, Peter, David, Aaron, etc. That true believers can fail and fall into serious sin is obvious (though we wish it were more obvious to Lordship advocates). The issue is, can a truly saved person totally deny the faith and totally abandon Christ? If this is possible, then why isnít Judas a saved man? What makes Judas worse than other total apostates?
A saved person, by definition, is one who is trusting in the finished work of Christ, a fact that you oft stressed in these tapes. He may during his lifetime have failed Christ in a million ways and have accumulated wagon loads of wood, hay and stubble, but if asked on his deathbed, "Who are you trusting? What is your hope?", he will answer, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesusí blood and righteousness." How can he say anything less? Suppose you visited a man on his deathbed without knowing his past history and you ask, "Are you trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour?" The manís response is this: "Absolutely not! I hate the Christian faith. I donít believe in Christ and I donít believe that He is the Son of God and I totally reject Him. I donít believe this myth that He died as a Substitute for manís sins. The Bible was written by men and is full of lies. I have no use for it whatsoever. I hate Christianity." Would you not conclude that this is an unsaved person? Suppose that later you learned that at age 20 this man believed in Christ and attended a Bible believing church and even witnessed to others for a couple of years before he renounced the faith and turned away from Christ and the Bible. Would you then declare him to be saved based on his early profession? Would not the end of a personís life be more indicative of where a person really stands then the beginning of his life?
You taught that many Christians manifest NO fruit at all. Thus in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) only the hard ground (by the wayside) represents the unsaved person and that the other grounds represent saved people, including the stony ground. This is also the position of Zane Hodges and Joseph Dillow. They believe that a saved person can believe for a time and then fall away, as with the stony ground hearer. This is consistent with the position that a saved person can believe at one point in his life and then stop believing and fall away from the faith and even totally renounce Christianity and Christ. The Bible speaks of those who believe to the saving of their soul and of those who draw back to perdition (Heb. 10:39) but it does not speak of those who reject Christ to the saving of their soul. It does not speak of those who draw back to salvation.
You have taught that assurance of salvation cannot be based on oneís life but must only be based on the work of Christ and the salvation promises of God. If it is based on oneís life, then a person could never know that he is saved. Logically this makes good sense, but Biblically it does not fit. What do you do with the passages in 1 John which have to do with assurance and which also have to do with our life?
By this we do know that we know Him...(2:3)
We know that we have passed from death unto life...(3:14)
Ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of God (2:29)
He that loveth not knoweth not God (3:8). Etc.
[If you want to see the clever way Hodges deals with these clear passages, See the Bible Knowledge Commentary under 1 John. I have tried to answer his arguments in my booklet Evangelical Antinominism.]
Robert Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society challenged me on this very issue of assurance of salvation and I have enclosed his critique as well as my response.
Obviously there are signs of physical life. If there is a heartbeat, a pulse, movement, etc. we can safely assume a person is alive. If we are really alive in Christ (1 John 5:12) then there ought to be signs of life evident. True, in some believers these signs are very faint and dim. There is a great difference between 100 fold and 30 fold.
If I understand your tapes correctly, you teach that a person may be justified but not sanctified. On the other extreme MacArthur teaches that a saved person is automatically sanctified, and that if God gives saving faith then that faith cannot be defective. Is there not a Biblically balanced view in between these two extremes? Does not God bring along and complete that great work which He began at the point of salvation (Phil. 1:6)? Does not God keep believers from going on in sin by way of conviction (hopefully leading to confession) and chastisement? Hebrews 12:6-11 teaches that 1) every saved person is chastened by God (v.6); 2) chastening yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised by it (v.11). Since all believers are exercised by Godís chastening hand, does not this mean that it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness unto all saved people? Are you saying that in some saved people Godís chastisement does not yield any fruit?
You mentioned on the tape that you greatly respect L.S.Chafer (whom MacArthur is highly critical of) and you stated that you practically agree with everything Chafer taught (these are not your exact words, but something to this effect). This was very puzzling to me because Chafer strongly contradicts many of the things you shared on these tapes. See Chaferís Systematic Theology (the old 8 Volume Edition), Volume 3, pages 296-306 ("The Arminian View of Security"). In this discussion Chafer teaches that only the "good ground" in Matthew 13 represents the saved person. Under Hebrews 3:6,14 he says "the genuine endures and that which fails is proved to be false." He cites 1 John 2:19 as an example of people who "do not continue" and thus are not saved. On page 297 he says "A true salvation is proved by its fruits." He says that James 2:14-26 is the central passage bearing on the general Biblical contention that a true regeneration is demonstrated by its fruits. On page 302 he says, "a true salvation will be demonstrated by continuing in the faith." Etc.
The older dispensationalists, from the time of the great Plymouth Brethren men on, have consistently denounced the position of Hodges/Dillow, as I have shown in my booklet, The Theology of Zane Hodges and Joseph Dillow and the Grace Evangelical Society.
Iím concerned that in contending against the errors of Lordship Salvation (at times brilliantly so), you have adopted the extreme position of Zane Hodges/Joseph Dillow/Grace Evangelical Society in teaching that a saved person can depart from the faith and deny Christ totally and become a total apostate. I would urge you to consider what I view as a more balanced Biblical position. "The pendulum swings, ridiculous extreme, bypassing truth which lies somewhere between." Your position, as I understand it, is at variance with that of Chafer and the great dispensational teachers of the past. One example of this would be the pioneer dispensationalist, Plymouth Brethren scholar William Kelly who in his time ran across a teaching hauntingly similar to what Zane Hodges is promoting today. Kelly denounced it. I have enclosed Kellyís article.
Scofield repudiated the position of Hodges/Dillow as can be seen in his booklet, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (see his chapter in which he distinguishes true Christians from mere professing Christians). Copy enclosed.
I hope this letter and the enclosures with it are not sent in vain.
Sincerely in Christ,
The pastor replied to my letter and I in turn sent him a second letter which is reproduced below. His comments are reproduced in bold letters, followed by my response, and so it goes throughout the letter.
August 11, 1999 to October 16, 1999
Thank you again for your phone call and for your letter. I appreciated both very. Iím sure the demands upon your schedule are many and your letter took some time. Thank you for your prompt response. Sorry for my delayed response. Iíve been working on this letter, on and off, for many weeks.
I was glad and relieved to learn that you are not in full agreement with the Hodges/Dillow/Wilkin position. Concerning repentance, I assume that they teach that repentance has no place in salvation but that you teach that it is essential (when defined properly and Biblically). I appreciated your comments on repentance in your Lordship tapes and was in basic agreement. I would recommend EXCEPT YE REPENT by Harry Ironside. This is the best book on repentance I have seen. MacArthur uses Ironside as support for his Lordship position but I feel he uses him wrongly. Ironside did not define repentance as MacArthur does, as is clear from his first chapter. I would be glad to photo-copy Ironsideís first chapter for you if you donít have it.
Hodges, etc. teach that the "overcomers" in Revelation 2-3 are the "spiritual Christians, those who will inherit the kingdom" in contrast to the unfaithful, non-victorious Christians. This again is Hodgesí tendency: to constantly divide all believers into two distinct classes. I assume that you teach that the "overcomers" consist of all true believers. If you donít have James Rosscupís excellent article The Overcomer of the Apocalypse which was in the Grace Journal (1982) let me know and Iíll send you a copy. It deals with this very issue.
I am glad you to not concur that believers will be consigned to "outer darkness" and "wailing and gnashing of teeth" as does Hodges and Dillow and Wilkin. I think something is wrong with oneís theology when we are forced to turn the judgment seat of Christ into some kind of hell.
I was not aware of Hodgeís failing to distinguish between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God. Iím not familiar with what he does with this. Also Iím not exactly clear on your difference between Hodges and yourself on James 2. I have listened to your tape on James 2. Perhaps my problem is that I am not very familiar with the position of Hodges on this.
Iím glad you donít follow His teaching about a select group of believers who "inherit" the kingdom and another group of wicked believers who fail to inherit the kingdom, though they are saved and enter the kingdom. To me this is quite contrary to Matthew 25:31-46 where only two groups are mentioned: 1) Verse 34óthose who inherit the kingdom (the sheep); 2) Verse 46óthose who go away into everlasting punishment (the goats). Nothing is said about the lamas (I just made this up)óthose wicked believers who enter the kingdom but do not inherit it!
As far as T-U-L-I-P is concerned, Iím neither Calminian nor am I Arministic! The only points I care about are the statements that God has made in the Scriptures. I only care about agreeing with God. If I am agreeing with God and certain Calvinists want to agree with me, thatís fine.
In my booklet, The Dangers of Reformed Theology, I spent three pages commending Reformed Theology and pointing out some of the areas where I would be in agreement, as Iím sure you would be too. When I read men such as Matthew Henry, J.C.Ryle, George Whitefield, etc. I find myself "Amening" most of what they say and finding much of it very edifying. There are areas of disagreement which I tried to point out in that same booklet. So the fact that I might agree with what reformed men might teach does not bother me unless it can be shown that it is contrary to the Bible. I also recently e-mailed you my critique on the Westminster Confession of Faith and although I have problems with many things in this statement of faith, I am in agreement with most of what is said in it. I donít think I should let my differences with Reformed Theology blind me to where I am in agreement.
I will now try to address some of your questions and concerns. Your comments and questions I have put in bold print:
Being opposed to Reformed Theology, I did not know, George, that you believed in the Ďpí of T-U-L-U-P. I find this view loaded with exegetical problems, illogical inconsistencies, and a lack of scriptural support. Let me explain by raising several questions: Does "believe" in Luke 8:13 mean "believe"? If so, how can you say that the second soil hearer was not saved as Luke 8:12 indicates?
Luke 8:12 does not indicate that the second soil hearer (stony ground) was saved but it indicates that the first soil hearer (wayside) was not saved. Itís true that Luke 8:12 does teach that if a person believes he will be saved. It does not say, however, that if a person believes for a while and then falls away that he will be saved.
In Luke 8:13 the expression "believe" must be understood in its phrase, and not isolated out of its phrase. The phrase is "for a while believe." The faith that is spoken of here is qualified. It is a "for a while" faith or a temporary faith. There is a difference between genuine saving faith and faith that is spurious and short-lived.
Itís important to realize that the stony-ground hearer was in that condition from the start. When the seed was scattered, it did not fall on good ground first and then at a later time the ground became stony and bad. The ground was stony and bad from the start. It was never good ground. There were never any roots. The rock ledge was there from the beginning. This is contrary to the teaching of Hodges which says that at the beginning everything was fine and good and that the person truly believed on the Lord Jesus and that this faith was good and valid. It was not good and valid. Even from the very beginning it had no roots. Even from the beginning the conditions were not suitable for a good reception of the Word.
Thus Walvoord says that "the seed on shallow ground pictured superficial reception of the Word" (Matthew, page 99). Ryrie pointed out that some believers think that "carnality can be lifelong and so total that carnal believers will never bear any fruit and yet be genuinely saved. But that is not true, for all believers will bear fruit, some thirty-, some sixty-, and some one hundred-fold (Matthew 13:8). Otherwise, they do not possess the new life" (So Great Salvation, p.59).
Arno Gaebelein speaks of the rocky ground: "It is the great class of professing Christians. They are covering over this old, desperately wicked heart with a little earth. They put on the form of godliness, while they know nothing of its power. There is also a great deal of enthusiasm, a springing up of the seed; it looks almost as if there is to be a great resultóbut alas! There is only the name to live, but death is behind it" (Matthew, p. 272-273). Gaebelein thus taught that the "stony ground" hearer represented an unbeliever. F.W. Grant in his "Numerical Bible" takes the same position.
Homer Kent, my professor at Grace, taught the same (see his Matthew commentary in Wycliffe Bible Commentary). Here is what L.S. Chafer said about this parable (Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, page 296): "Whatever seeming reality may be attached to the experience of those who are represented by that which fell by the wayside, or by seed that fell in stony places, or by seed that fell among thorns, the determining test is that these did not mature into wheat, as did the seed which feel into good ground....That Word does move many superficially, but those who are saved by it are likened to wheat." He describes the other three types of ground (hard, stony and thorny) as "the three failures." See also William Kellyís discussion of the Luke 8 passage in The Gospel of Luke, pages 125-126.
These men are (or have been) leading dispensationalists, and others could be added to their number. If I am criticized for agreeing with Reformed men on this point, then should I also be applauded for agreeing with leading dispensational men on this same point? Of course, we would both agree that what really matters is that we agree with God and adhere to what the Bible teaches regardless of what men may or may not teach. But my object in quoting from some of these leading dispensationalists (both here and later in this letter) is to demonstrate that my position is not one that is unique to Reformed Theology, but it is a time-tested position that was held by most dispensationalists. This is why I believe that some of Hodgeís extreme views represent a departure from traditional dispensational teaching. It happens to be an area where Reformed men and many dispensational men are in accord.
As I understand the Scripture, there are places where the word "believe" is used but the context indicates that it is describing a faith that comes short of true saving faith. It would be easy and neat if every place the word "believe" was found we could take it to mean saving faith, but itís not that easy.
Let me give some examples of this:
1) We have already looked at Luke 8:13 which says that they believed "for a while." I have argued above that this "temporary" faith is spurious and comes short of true saving faith.
2) 1 Cor. 15:2. Some believe, but they donít hold fast to the gospel which Paul preached. Paul describes this non-enduring faith as being "in vain." They believed in vain. It falls short of saving faith. "The Apostle is not implying that some of the Corinthian believers were lost for want of faith; rather it is that their faith has never been sufficient for salvation" (Chafer, Sys. Theology, Vol. III, page 296). Iíll discuss this passage more later.
3) In John 2:23 there were many who "believed in His Name when they saw the miracles which He did." Was this saving faith or did it come short of saving faith? It was a faith based on miracles which they saw. This faith, which was based on miracles, came short of saving faith for two reasons: 1. Even though they believed in Him, He did not believe in them (same verb used)! He did not commit himself to them (v.24). He knew what was in them. He could see right past their shallow faith. 2. One of these people who had a faith based on miracles was Nicodemus (3:1-2): "We know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." This faith that he had did not measure up to saving faith. The Lord told him he must be born again.
4) John 8:31. Jesus spoke to those Jews who believed on him. Is this describing saving faith? Perhaps it is, but this passage has always puzzled me. In verse 33 who does the "they" refer to? It must refer to people who heard him say, "The truth shall make you free" because they took up on this and said, "We were never in bondage to any man." But as you read verses 33-44 it is obvious that these are unsaved Jews who were very antagonistic to Christ ("ye are of your father the devil" etc.). Iím willing to say that those in verse 31 were true believers, but how do you explain the following context? Homer Kent sees this same problem: "This raises the question of whether it was true saving faith....No clear transition can be seen here between different groups of Jews....Apparently the sense is that these who believed in Jesus had come to a sort of mental acceptance, but not to any personal trust" (Light in the Darkness, page 126).
5) James 2 speaks of a "dead faith" which is fruitless and of demons "who believe and tremble."
6) Simon believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). Was this saving faith? I think not for three reasons:
1. From the very beginning Simon did not understand salvation and did not understand the grace of God. He thought Godís gift could be purchased with money.
2. The words of Peter seem extremely harsh and strong for anyone but a wicked unbeliever (verses 20-23). "Thy money perish with thee"Ėthis implies that Simon was going to perish. Literal translation: "Thy silver be with thee into perdition." "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter"Ėhe had just been talking about Godís gift of salvation, and if he has no part in that he must be unsaved.
3. From what we learn about this man in church history, I canít imagine him being a saved man (see Schaff, Vol. 1, p.566). Scofield, in Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, agrees that Simon was a mere professor, not a genuine possessor. Other dispensationalists such as Homer Kent and Arno Gaebelein agree that Simon was an unsaved man. This seems to be the general consensus among dispensationalists.
What is 2 Peter 3:17 teaching? Can "beloved" believers fall from their own steadfastness due to false teaching?
I agree with you that 2 Peter 3:17-18 is addressed to true believers and that true believers can fall from their own stefastness due to false teaching. True believers can fall into doctrinal error. I see examples of this in our own day. I believe that John MacArthur is a saved man who has fallen into serious doctrinal error (denial of eternal Sonship although he has recently recanted, confusing the terms of salvation, etc.). On the other side I believe that Zane Hodges, whom I consider to be a saved man, has fallen into serious doctrinal error also. I would not place either of these men in the category of being a total apostate, one who has departed from the Christian faith and rejected Jesus Christ and totally abandoned the truth of the gospel.
So I agree with you that a true believer can fall into error, even very serious doctrinal error. A true believer can fall into sin, even very serious sin. But a true believer will not totally abandon Christ and become a total apostate to the point where he "stops believing" the gospel or even teaches contrary to the gospel. On the ship of faith, believers can fall down on the deck and they can fall down very hard on the deck but they will not fall overboard.
Explain the "sin unto death" in its relationship to fruitfulness and persevering faith?
I probably understand the "sin unto death" much the way you do. It is when Godís chastisement of the believer comes in the form of physical death. Perhaps we could think of it as "maximum chastisement." It is as if God were saying, "Your testimony is so terrible and so dishonoring to Me that I cannot afford to have you on earth any longer." It involves taking a believer home to heaven prematurely because of sin.
The reason for such a death is sin, but not the sin of total departure from the faith. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and to men, but they did not abandon faith in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:29 the sin was serious and it involves not discerning the Lordís body, but it did not involve total apostasy and a rejection of Jesus Christ and turning oneís back on the foundational truths of Christianity.
The sin unto death also shows how concerned the Lord is with a believerís sanctification. When a believer has a problem with sin, God does something. When a believer is unfruitful, the husbandman does something. The fact that God is active in chastening His children tells me that God will not let His children go on in wickedness. He will only let them go so far, just as a loving human parent would not let his son or daughter continue in sin without proper parental intervention and chastisement. Speaking for myself, as a believer who is prone to wander and prone to leave the God I love, I am encouraged that I canít go too far astray before I will feel the heavy hand of Godís loving chastisement upon my life.
Must one "abide" in Christ to be fruitful (John 15) or simply "be" in Christ? Are we to assume that all believers "abide"?
Abiding is essential for bearing fruit. The branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine (John 15:4). There are degrees of fruitfulness among believers: some are a little fruitful, some are more fruitful and some bring forth much fruit. The good ground brought forth fruit, some 30 fold, some 60 fold and some 100 fold, but none zero fold. Ryrie says it this way: "Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise that person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation....Every Christian will bear fruit; otherwise he or she is not a true believer" (So Great Salvation, pages 45-46). Again he says, "Some think that those who teach that Christians can be carnal also must logically conclude that some believers can go through life without ever bearing fruit of any kind. In other words, they think that the teaching about carnality includes the ideas that carnality can be lifelong and so total that carnal believers will never bear any fruit and yet be genuinely saved. But that is not true, for all believers will bear fruit, some thirty-, some sixty-, and some one hundredfold (Matthew 13:8). Otherwise they do not possess the new life" (So Great Salvation, page 59).
"Abiding in Christ" can be looked at in two ways: positionally and experientially. Positionally all believers abide in Christ as the following passages indicate: 1 John 3:6 (compared with verse 9); 1 John 4:13. Every believer is "in Christ" permanently. We abide in this position and continue in it. Experientially we abide in Him only as we are rightly connected to Jesus Christ our Vine and enjoying blessed fellowship with Him.
It is not unreasonable to look for fruit. If a tree makes a profession and says to me, "I want you to know that I am an apple tree!" then I would have every right to say, "Well, if you are really an apple tree, show me some apples!" Likewise if a person claims to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in his heart, I would have every right to challenge that: "If the Holy Spirit is really in you, where is the FRUIT (Gal. 5:22-23)?" It is true that carnality will hinder the Spirit of God from doing His wonderful work, but somewhere there ought to be some evidence of the Spiritís workingósome love, some joy, some peace, etc.
The early dispensationalists seemed to be unanimous in their insistence that the reality of a personís faith must be demonstrated by fruit or by works:
"Will a believer be saved, no matter into what course of sin he may fall, and die in?í A true believer will, infallibly, be saved; but we consider that salvation includes, not only full deliverance from the future consequences of sin, but from the present power and practice thereof. And, hence, if we find a person living in sin, and yet talking about his assurance of salvation, we look upon him as an antinomian, and not a saved person at allÖ.The believer may fall, but he will be lifted up; he may be overtaken, but he will be restored; he may wander, but he will be brought back, because Christ is able to save to the uttermost, and not one of His little ones shall perishÖ.To talk of having the Spirit and yet Ďindulgeí in evil and unholy thoughts is, in our judgment, the ancient Nicolaitanism (Rev. 2:6,15), or modern antinomianismÖ.we believe that the man who draws a plea from the freedom, sovereignty, and eternal stability of the grace of God to continue in sin, knows nothing of Christianity at all, has neither part nor lot in the matter, but is in a truly awful and dangerous conditionÖ.The Christian has to struggle with sin; but struggling with it and wallowing in it are two totally different ideasÖ.We must have life before we can do anything; and we get life, not be Ďsayingí we have faith, but by really having it; and when we have it, we shall manifest the precious fruits thereof, to the glory of God." óC.H.Mackintosh, The Mackintosh Treasury, "Final PerseveranceóWhat Is It?" (page 644 and following in the one volume edition).
"While we are justified in the sight of God by faith alone, a real faith must be evidenced by worksÖ. There must be LIFE-WORKS, or else there is no lifeÖ.When people are saved, ought they not to live as such? Ought not the new life to come out in fruits? It must come out if it be in; and if it does not come out, it is not thereÖ.It is very interesting and instructive to compare the teaching of Paul and Jamesótwo divinely inspired apostlesóon the subject of Ďworks.í Paul utterly repudiates law-works. James jealously insists upon life-works. If this fact be seized, all difficulty vanishes; and the divine harmony is clearly seen." óC.H.Mackintosh, The Mackintosh Treasury, "Life-Works" (pp. 660-662 in the one volume edition).
"Shallow preaching that does not grapple with the terrible fact of manís sinfulness and guilt, calling on Ďall men everywhere to repent,í results in shallow conversions; and so we have myriads of glib-tongued professors today who give no evidence of regeneration whatever. Prating of salvation by grace, they manifest no grace in their lives. Loudly declaring they are justified by faith alone, they fail to remember that Ďfaith without works is deadí; and that justification by works before men is not to be ignored as though it were in contradiction to justification by faith before God." óH.A.IRONSIDE, Except Ye Repent, p. 11.
"Salvation and a holy walk are inseparably connectedÖ Where there is true salvation and eternal life, it is proved by a godly walkÖBut he [the apostle Paul] knew, as every Christian should know, that the grace which had saved him, which taught him to live soberly, righteously and godly, would also keep him and enable him to persevere through all hindrances." óARNO C. GAEBELEIN, Gaebeleinís Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 938.
"Several of these Scriptures [Scriptures which seem to indicate that a person can lose his salvation] bear on the important fact that Christian profession is justified by its fruits. Salvation which is of God will, under normal conditions, prove itself to be such by its own fruits (1 John 3:10; John 8:31; 15:6; 2 Pet. 1:10; James 2:14-26; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Heb. 3:6,14)." óLEWIS SPERRY CHAFER, Major Bible Themes, p.188 (his chapter on "Security").
When a believer is unfruitful, God actively seeks to restore such an one into the place of fruitfulness. The husbandman (vinedresser) is active (John 15:1-2). We also have the wonderful convicting work of God the Holy Spirit. He is grieved when we are unfruitful and He makes His grieved presence felt. If the believer fails to respond to this convicting ministry, then the Fatherís chastisement becomes necessary.
Christ describes His true sheep as those who "hear His voice and follow Him" (John 10:27). Itís true that some sheep follow more closely then others, but they all follow. Some are much more fruitful than others, but they are all fruitful. Some believers abound in good works and others not so much. But thereís a difference between not much and not any. A total apostate does not follow Christ at all and thus he has no right to claim that he is one of His sheep (John 10:27), even if he made a clear profession of faith at one point in his life. Indeed, a total apostate would not even claim to be a saved person! The Bible makes it very clear that if a person does not abide or continue in the doctrine of Christ, he does not have God (he is unsaved). If a person abides and continues in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son (he is saved). See 2 John 9. Thus one of the marks of a truly saved person is that he will continue in the doctrine of Christ. A total apostate has denied and repudiated the doctrine of Christ, and such a person "hath not God."
Is oneís salvation forever or is oneís faith enduring or both? While the Scriptures clearly indicate the former (John 5:24; 10:27-30), they do not indicate absolutely the latter (2 Timothy 2:13). How do you explain this verse?
Yes, salvation is forever and yes, true saving faith does endure. That is, a truly saved person will continue in the faith to the end. Christ prays for Peter (and for us) that our faith will not fail. We are kept by the power of God THROUGH FAITH unto our final salvation (1 Pet. 1:5). A true believer will not stop believing. A true believer will not reject and totally abandon Jesus Christ.
Iím sure you would agree that we are saved by grace, and that we are not saved by grace apart from faith. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). We are not saved by grace whether we believe or not. Faith is part of the formula and no one is saved apart from faith.
Not only are we saved by grace, but we are kept by grace. But how does God keep us? Does He keep us apart from faith? Does He keep us whether we believe or not? Or, are we kept by grace through faith? In 1 Peter 1:5 we are told that we are kept by the power of God THROUGH FAITH. [Literally: "we are constantly being kept through faith"] This means that God by His power keeps us saved and keeps us safe. How does He do this? God by His grace and by His power keeps us believing! He works on our behalf so that our faith will not fail. He keeps us on the ship of faith. We may fall down hard on the deck but we will never fall overboard. To say that God keeps a person saved even if that person rejects the gospel and abandons his profession, is a teaching that is not found in the Scriptures.
By grace are we saved through faith! (Eph. 2:8)
By grace are we kept through faith! (1 Pet. 1:5)
What about 2 Timothy 2:13Ė"If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself"? What does this verse mean?
You seem to have made two assumptions about this verse which may or may not be valid: 1) You have assumed that "if we believe not" refers to a truly saved person who stopped believing and who no longer embraced the truths of the gospel (that is, he became apostate). 2) you have assumed that Godís abiding and continuing faithfulness means that God will save this person based on His initial salvation promises, even though this person has abandoned ship and denied the gospel and cast off his confidence in Christ.
But does the verse really say this? Could it refer to a lapse of faith but not a total abandonment of the faith? The best example of this in the Scriptures is that of Peter who went so far as to deny his Lord in a moment of weakness. And yet God was faithful to him and Christ prayed for him that his faith would not fail. God by His grace kept him and restored him to the place where he was able to confess Christ before thousands (Acts 2). Peterís faith faltered for a time but it did not utterly fail. If we were to look at Peterís life as a whole we would consider him to be a Christ-confessor, not a Christ-denier. God remained faithful to Peter throughout this difficult time in his life and eventually brought him to the place of victory.
If the first part of the verse does indeed refer to a total failure of faith (total apostasy), then how do we know that the second part of the verse means that God in His faithfulness will keep this person saved even though he stopped believing? Could not it also mean that God in His faithfulness will keep His Word to unfaithful, Christ deniers and will deny them before His Father and before the angels? Or, that God in His faithfulness will keep His word to those who reject His son and do not believe: "If you believe not that I am He ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). Hiebert, a dispensationalist, in his commentary on 2 Timothy, supports this understanding.
I personally believe Paul was referring to a believer who has a lapse of faith, rather than one who totally abandons the faith (see Homer Kent, Pastoral Epistles). Examples of this would be Peter, Thomas (who disbelieved for a time) and Thomas Cranmer from the pages of church history who under great pressure denied Christ initially but God was faithful to him and in the end he strongly repudiated his denial. When our faith fails, God is faithful and God will bring us back to Himself. I donít believe the verse is speaking of a total apostate. The total apostate and Christ-denier is mentioned in verse 12.
In 1 John 4:2-3 we are told that the person who denies Christ is not saved. The same is said, perhaps even more strongly in 1 John 2:22-23.
Is is possible for a genuine believer via bad teaching to deny eternal security?
Such a person says, "I am saved by grace but Iím going to keep myself saved by my works." Such a person indeed has a faulty understanding of the grace of God. Hodges, too, seems to have a faulty understanding of Godís grace: "I am saved by grace through faith but I am kept by grace apart from faith (whether I continue to believe or not). Iím saved by grace but I continue to be faithful by my works and efforts, and I may or may not be successful in this." Both positions, I believe, reflect a misunderstanding of the grace of God. The Arminian says, "Iím saved by grace but once Iím saved I need to keep myself saved." Hodges says, "Iím saved by grace but once Iím saved I need to keep myself believing." I believe that God in His grace not only saves us, but He, by His power and intercessory work, keeps us faithful (1 Pet. 1:5; Luke 22:32).
If a person denies eternal security, can he be saved? If this person truly recognizes his sinful condition before God and is trusting the Person and work of Christ for his salvation, then yes, I believe he can be saved. But this believer, who has a doctrinal problem in the area of security, is not worthy to be compared with the total apostate who has abandoned Christ and rejected His Person and work. The former does not understand the grace of God as he should; the latter has totally rejected the grace of God and the God of grace. There is a big difference.
If genuine faith endures to the end, then how can one have absolute assurance that he will be saved 5 years from now since his faith might/could fail proving he was never saved?
The best way to answer this is to give you my own testimony. Based on Godís unfailing Word and based on Christís perfect, finished cross-work on my behalf, I joyfully claim full assurance of my salvation. I have received the Lord Jesus as my Saviour, and having the Son, I know I have LIFE (1 John 5:12). I have His promise that I will never perish (John 3:16; 10:28). I am safe in His hands forever (John 10:28-30). It is His will that I should never be lost but that I should have everlasting life (John 6:36-40). Based on Godís Word and Godís promises, I can be sure that I will not fall from the faith tomorrow. I believe that I am constantly (present tense) being kept by the power of God through faith (1 Pet. 1:5) and that He will keep me from falling and present me faultless (Judge 24). I am fully persuaded and convinced that the God who began a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). Though I know that I am very prone to wander and leave the God I love, yet I know that Christ is interceding for me and praying that my faith will not fail (Luke 22:32) and I believe this prayer will be answered. By Godís grace, I am not of those who fall back into perdition, but I am of those who believe to the saving of my soul (Heb. 10:39). As Godís child, if I begin to depart from him, I can count on My heavenly Father to deal with me as needed, knowing that I will be chastened of the Lord and not condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). On my deathbed, if God should be pleased to give me any kind of mental ability or sanity, I confidently expect to say at that time, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesusí blood and righteousness."
This kind of assurance, is far more reassuring than the lack of assurance that Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow and their disciples have:
"I know Iím saved and that I have eternal security but I have absolutely no assurance as to whether I will still be believing in Christ one month or one year or 30 years from now. I may be totally denying Christ by then. I may be a Buddhist by then, married to a Japanese idolater and worshiping false idols myself. I may deny that Iím even saved. I may be teaching against Christianity as a professor in a university. I may blaspheme the very Name of Christ. I may be instructing others not to put their faith in Christ and not to believe the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I have no assurance whatsoever that Iíll be believing in Christ next month or next year. I know God has saved me but I donít know if I will keep myself believing. I know God will keep me saved but Iím not sure if I will keep myself believing. If Christ is praying for me that my faith will not fail, then I have no assurance that this prayer will be answered. I have no assurance that God will keep me from falling. My life may end up being a total reproach to the Name and cause of Christ and my testimony for Christ may do more harm for Christ than if I had never been saved. ĎBlessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mineí even though the day may come when I will deny Him and blaspheme His Name and totally abandon the truth of the gospel because I may end up believing and behaving as a total apostate."
This kind of assurance of salvation is not an encouragement to my heart.
When I put my faith in Jesus Christ alone at the age of 18, I knew I was saved without a doubt (1 John 5:13). I didnít need to wait to see if this "fruit" showed up in order to know if my faith was genuine or not, because the object of my faith was the Saviour alone.
I too put my faith in Jesus Christ alone at the age of 18, although unlike you I wrestled with assurance of salvation for some time as many believers do. I knew that all a person needed to do to be saved was believe on the Lord Jesus Christ but I wasnít sure I had really done that, though I believed I really had. My problem was that I was looking at my faith instead of looking at my Saviour. Finally I claimed full assurance of salvation and I wrote the following in the front cover of my Bible: (First I wrote out John 5:24 in full) "This night I claimĖon the basis of the Word of GodĖfull assurance of my salvation (May 17, 1970). I know that if I should die this very hour, I would go to heaven. I know this because I trust only in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to save me. It was His death on the cross which made it possible for me to be saved. I thank God for the gift of eternal life, and I thank Him for saving me (signed George Zeller)." This was about one year after I was saved. My assurance was not based on evidences in my life or my own personal fruitfulness. It was based on the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
My point is this: I believe, as you do, that a new believer can claim full assurance of salvation based on the Word of God, the promises of God, the Person and work of Christ. If a person is really saved, then this person has LIFE (1 John 5:12) and if the person really has LIFE then this life will be manifested in some way, form or fashion. The Spirit of God lives in this Person and the Spirit of God will do His work. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). If the person is really saved, then the Spirit of God is always leading him. If He is not controlling him (Eph. 5:18), then He is at least convicting him, but He is always leading. God leads His dear children along the path of sanctification. There will be evidences. There will be fruit. And the truly saved person will continue in the faith and will not abandon Jesus Christ. He will not become a total apostate and reject the fundamental truths of the gospel.
I can hear your objection: "But wait, if there must be fruit and evidences and continuance in the faith, then the person cannot really know if he is saved until the end of his life when on his deathbed he can look back on the evidences and fruitfulness and know that he continued in the faith to the very end." I understand the logic of this but there are some things in Scripture that are true even though they donít always seem logical to our minds.
The example I often use is found in Acts 27. Paul was told by God that not one crewman on the ship would be lost (v.22) but that they all would be saved (v.24). Could Paul have absolutely assurance, based on Godís Word, that they would all be saved? Indeed, Paul said so himself, "for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me" (v.25). But later in the chapter the storm was raging and the shipmen were about to leave the ship (v.30) but Paul issued a very strong warning to those in charge: "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved" (v.31). The men heeded this warning and, as it turned out, they were all saved (v.44) just as God had originally promised.
You will all be saved, not one will be lost
If you donít stay in the ship, you cannot be saved
Logically these two statements may not seem to go together, but I believe that God used the strong warning as a means of keeping the men safe. God did not say, "Since I promised that all of you will be saved, you can do anything you want. You can leave the ship if you want. You can jump in the ocean if you want. No matter what you do, you will still be saved because I promised you this at the beginning." No, God kept them safe, but He did so by keeping them on the ship.
The believer is on the ship of faith, bound for heaven. The sea is very rough and dangerous and the storms are many. We fail and falter and fall down on the deck many times (as did Peter, Thomas, etc.). God issues very strong warnings (in Hebrews and elsewhere) as one of the means He uses to keep us on the ship of faith. God does not say, "Since I saved you and promised that you will be safe and secure forever, it doesnít matter what you do on the ship of faith. You can even abandon the faith and fall overboard; it doesnít matter. Iíll save you and keep you even if you deny the very Christ who bought you." This is not how God keeps His own. All blood-bought believers will be delivered safely to heaven, but they will be delivered on the ship of faith. They will not abandon ship.
Two things are true:
1) God promises us that we are safe in Him (John 10:27-30) and that not one true believer will be lost (John 6:37-40). He promises this to us at the beginning of the Christian life and we can claim these security promises and have full assurance of salvation.
2) God gives strong warnings that we need to continue in the faith, and hold fast to the gospel message which we heard, and hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (Heb. 3:6,14; etc.). If we donít do this we cannot be saved. Since the ship of faith is the only vessel that God has designed to bring people to heaven, this ship cannot be abandoned. Since Jesus Christ is the only Saviour (Acts 4:12), a believer cannot abandon Jesus Christ and reject Him and still hope to be saved.
Logically it may be difficult for our minds to put these two together, but to be Biblical, we need to believe both.
Now I agree that there are professors, who are not possessors. But to know this with certainty by your observation of their fruitfulness I find wanting.
I am not able to observe a personís fruitfulness or lack thereof and know with certainty that such a person is saved. Thankfully some people walk so closely with the Saviour that their lives constantly display His saving grace in hundreds of ways and there is little doubt that these people truly know Christ. They have made their calling and election sure and evident to others. On the other hand are those who show little evidence of a changed and changing life and often I donít know whether or not they are saved. I have to put a big QUESTION MARK in my mind. God knows whether they are saved, but I donít. Another problem is that the flesh can mimic the fruit of the Spirit. There is a counterfeit kind of love and joy and peace that the flesh can produce, and I am not always keen enough to discern the difference. So when it comes to deciding who really is saved and who is not, Iím not the one to ask. But I always seek to exhort them in Godís direction: "You not only need to KNOW you are saved, but you need to SHOW that you are saved! If you were arrested for being a true believer in Christ, what evidence would there be to convict you? Could you bring forth a worn Bible? Could people come forward that have been witnessed to by you? Etc."
Your doctrine, as I understand it, also carries with it uncertainty about which people are saved and which people are not saved. When people profess faith in Christ it is not easy to tell whether their profession is genuine. Were they really trusting in Jesus Christ and in Him alone? We canít see into their hearts. [I like to say, "Time will tell" but this does not fit your doctrine because it is possible, as you teach, for a true believer to abandon Christ one week after he is saved.]. Also if apostate persons are really saved, then it is very difficult to distinguish saved apostates (saved Christ-deniers) from unsaved Christ-deniers. When I see a person blaspheming Christ and repudiating all the truths of the gospel, I am convinced that the person is unsaved. When you see such a person you have to say to yourself, "That person may be saved, even though he certainly doesnít act like it, because perhaps when he was 10 years old he believed on Christ, even though now he is a professor at Union Theological Seminary denying all the fundamentals of the faith." I would call this man unsaved, no matter what he did at age 10.
It appears that while you reject Lordship Salvation, you still adopt the Calvinistic Lordship Salvation view of perseverance as an evidence/requirement to ultimately go to heaven.
My concern is with the teaching that it is possible for a truly saved person to become a total apostate and deny the great truths of the gospel and totally turn away from the faith. Because I am opposed to this I think it is unfair to try to place me in the Lordship Salvation camp. As I have pointed out repeatedly in this letter, the position that I am arguing for has been the commonly accepted position among dispensationalists (both pioneer dispensationalists and classical dispensationalists). This is an area of doctrine where most dispensationalists and Reformed men seem to be in agreement. The test of truth is not whether a doctrine conforms with Reformed/Calvinistic theology or not. It is whether it conforms and agrees with Godís Word. The position that a true believer can totally abandon the faith is taught by a small minority of dispensationalists under the influence of men like Hodges, Wilkin, Dillow, Unger (to some extent) etc.
Concerning whether perseverence is an evidence or requirement of going to heaven, let me make this clear:
A true believer does not continue in the faith in order to be saved.
A true believer continues in the faith because he is saved.
(And thus it is an evidence, not a requirement)
He continues in the faith for the following reasons: 1) Godís keeping power (1 Pet. 1:5); 2) Christís intercessory work, praying that our faith "will fail not"; 3) Godís heavy hand of chastening; 4) Godís strong warnings to believers that are used mightily by the Spirit of God to keep us on track; 5) the convicting ministry of God the Holy Spirit; 6) the fact that God is working in us both to do and to will of His good pleasure; 7) the fact that Christ is both the Author and Finisher of our faith, not just the Author of our faith.8) etc.
I agree that Solomon was not a total apostate. He appears to have become a polytheist, still including Jehovah in his belief system. So is it possible to become a "partial" apostate and still be a genuine believer in Christ?
If Solomon had become a polytheist, then he would have become a total apostate. He would have rejected Jehovah as being the ONLY TRUE GOD, and would have dragged Him down to the level of other pagan deities which are not gods at all. I do not believe Solomon became a total apostate, nor do I believe that he became a polytheist. Solomon allowed for the worship of false deities in his kingdom and tolerated and perhaps encouraged the building of their places of worship, but Solomon knew who the one true God was. I find no evidence that he ever really believed in his own heart that the gods of the other nations were real and worthy of devotion and love.
Solomonís case is certainly amazing and of great interest. His fall into sin was deplorable and unbelievable especially in view of the great light which he had, both from his father and from the wisdom he had received from Jehovah Himself. I have never seen anyone from the Lordship salvation camp deal adequately with "the Solomon problem." He certainly was a very clear example of a "Lordship failure."
I do not, however, consider Solomon an example of a true believer who totally departed from the faith and who "stopped believing" in the true and only God. I say this for the following reasons:
I donít believe God would have ever said what He said about Solomon in Nehemiah 13:26 if Solomon had been a total apostate. Also this verse very specifically indicates what Solomonís sin was. It was the sin of taking unto himself foreign wives (v.25) and that these wives caused him to sin. It does not say that his sin was that of totally abandoning Jehovah. Certainly he was guilty of breaking Godís commandments, but so was his father David in his act of adultery and murder.
Although Solomon had a great fall, he did not have a fatal fall. Although he fell down very hard on the ship of faith, he did get back up. I agree with Charles Bridges that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes late in life and that it was his document of repentance. Ecclesiastes was to Solomon as Psalm 51 was to David. Bridges said the following: "He seemeth to have written it in his old age, when he took a more serious view of his past life. It could not have been written before his fallĖthat isĖbefore that awful state of madness, which he so graphically describes. Neither could it have been penned at the time, since it evidently is a record of the past reviewed in penitence. We are thrown back therefore upon the later date with clear conviction. Add to whichĖhe mentions his great works (the building of which employed upwards of 25 years of his life)Ėhis immense riches and multiplied sources of sensual pleasure (the gathering and enjoyment of many years); his revolt from womenĖdoubtless with the poignant remembrance of his sinful connection with them (7:26-28 with 1 Kings 11:3). His exquisite picture old age (7:1-6) bears the marks of personal identity. Lightfoot agrees: "After his great fall Solomon recovereth himself again by repentance and writeth his Book of Ecclesiastes, as his peculiar dirge for that his folly."
In 2 Chronicles 11:17 Solomonís "way" is identified with the way of David and is used as a pattern for the kings which would follow. It doesnít seem that this would have been said if Solomon had ended up a total apostate.
I canít imagine God using a man who had become a total apostate to be the penman for 3 of the books found in the Bible. Of all the Bible writers that God used, I canít think of any that were total apostates.
According to Dr. Whitcomb, Solomonís sin, as tragic as it was, was due to political motivations. "The one consideration that must have overridden all others in the thinking of Solomon was the desire to establish diplomatic ties with the hundreds of city-states and kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean and the Fertile Crescent. The most effective way to confirm a commercial or political treaty with a foreign king was to marry one of his daughters. Theoretically a king would think twice before offending a father-in-law (or son-in-law). This was a common and accepted practice among ancient rulers, and Solomon (contrary to the known will of God) conformed to this standard." (Solomon to the Exile). If this was indeed Solomonís main motivation, then he did what he did, not because in his heart he wanted to honor the false gods of the pagans, but because he saw political advantage in marrying these women and in tolerating and allowing for the worship of their deities. In reading 1 Kings 11, I donít see where it says that Solomon himself personally partook in this false worship, though he certainly turned his heart away from the Lord in even allowing for such.
Conclusion: Without minimizing the seriousness of Solomonís sin, I conclude that although he departed from the Lord and fell into deep sin, yet at the end of his life he repented of his folly, wrote Ecclesiastes and admonished all his readers to "fear God and keep His commandments." Thus at the end of his life he was still honoring the one and only God. He was not a total apostate.
While itís true that a saved person is referred to as a "believer," does one always trust the Lord as a believer? A saved person is also referred to as one who "loves God" (Rom. 8:28), yet do we always love Him?
It is very true that genuine believers do not always trust the Lord as they should, but there is a difference between a believer who does not trust the Lord as he should (and who falls and fails in many ways) and a person who totally turns his back on Christ and the Bible and Christianity and strongly denies everything he once claimed to believe. If he really believed it in the first place, how could he deny it later? If I really believe that Christ is the only hope of salvation, how could I later deny His saving grace and say that Heís not even the Son of God at all? Itís true that saved people do not always love God as they should and fall far short of loving God and keeping His commandments, but this is different from saying that a saved person will later HATE Christ and deny His Name and blaspheme Him and reject His Person and work. I donít always love my wife as I should, but thatís different from totally abandoning her and rejecting her.
1 Corinthians 15:2 does not require perseverance but is directly tied into 15:12 ff (especially verse 14) and the logical and doctrinal ramifications of denying a future resurrection of believers.
The verb "keep in memory" should be translated "hold fast." It is the verb kateko which means "hold fast." [Note: it can also mean "hold back, restrain" as in 2 Thess. 2:7]. The meaning of "hold fast" is seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:21--"hold fast that which is good." It often speaks of holding fast to Christ and to the gospel message: "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it [hold fast to it], and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15; this in contrast to the stony ground of verse 13 where the person has a mere temporary faith and when things get rough and tough he falls away). Thus holding fast to the gospel is contrasted with abandoning and renouncing the gospel (apostasy).
The same verb is used in Hebrews 3:6,14: "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end." If a person does not HOLD FAST, then he is not part of Christ's true house. He is merely scaffolding (a temporary attachment that is not part of the true building; the scaffolding falls away after a time, proving that it was not part of the true building. This has nothing to do with a person losing his salvation. It is merely teaching that a true believer will continue to hold fast to Christ and the gospel.
This principle is also taught in Colossians 1:21-23 where the evidence that a person is a true believer is that he continues in the faith and the evidence that a person is not a true believer is that he moves away from the hope of the gospel (that is, he does not HOLD FAST).
1 Corinthians 15:2 and 15:14 both speak about a faith that is "in vain" but that is where the similarities end. Actually even the Greek terms for "in vain" are not the same. Verse 14 uses kenos meaning empty, in vain, to no purpose. Faith in a dead Saviour is an empty faith. Verse 2 uses the word eike meaning "to no purpose, without due consideration, thoughtlessly." People can profess faith in Christ in a very thoughtless way, without really considering the full implications of the gospel and without really embracing Christ in a saving way. They attach themselves to Christ for a while, but it is only a temporary attachment, like scaffolding (Heb. 3:6).
Verse 14 speaks of a hypothetical situation (if Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain). Verse 2 speaks of an actual situation (Christ is risen indeed, v.4, a central part of the gospel, and you need to embrace Him now and forever as Godís only hope and only solution to your sin problem).
Verse 14 speaks of the vanity of believing in a Christ who has not risen. Verse 2 speaks of the safety of continuing to believe in a Christ who is risen.
Verse 14 speaks of holding fast to a myth (believing in a Christ who is dead). Verse 2 speaks of failure to hold fast to the truth (the gospel message).
Verse 2 is speaking of true salvation being evidenced by holding fast to the truths of the gospel. If a person does not hold fast to the gospel which Paul preached, then he is not saved.
There is no hope of salvation apart from the gospel message. A true believer embraces that gospel message and holds fast to it. He may be the most carnal believer who has ever lived in this church age and he may have collected the most wood, hay and stubble of any believer in this age of grace, yet he is not going to deny that he believes in Jesus Christ who died for his sins and rose again. He will not deny the Lord who bought him.
Regarding 1 Peter 1:5, I believe faith is what enters the believer into an eternal inheritance and Godís eternal security (1 Pet. 1:4-5), but our faith does not keep us secureĖHis power does!
I fully agree that it is Godís power that keeps us secure, not our faith. We are saved "through faith" (Eph. 2:8) but it is not faith that saves us. Christ saves us by His power. We are kept "through faith" (same Greek expression) but it is not faith that keeps us. Christ keeps us by His power.
The difference in our understanding of 1 Peter 1:5 has nothing to do with whether it is faith that keeps us or whether it is Godís power that keeps us. That we are kept by Godís power we would both agree. We differ in our understanding of HOW God keeps us. Does God keep us faithful by His power or does God keep us whether we are faithful or not. [I am using "faithful" in the sense of having faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour; unfaithful in the sense of abandoning this faith and rejecting the truths of the gospel. "Faithful" as I am using it means that the personís faith will not fail, Luke 22:32, though it may lapse]. 1 Peter 1:5 says that we are constantly being kept (present tense) through faith unto salvation (final salvation). 1 Peter 1:5 teaches that we are constantly being kept through faith. You teach that we are constantly being kept apart from faith (whether we continue to believe or not).
It is true that faith in Christ is what enters the believer into an eternal inheritance and Godís eternal security, but 1 Peter 1:5 is not speaking about initial faith. The context indicates this. In verse 7 it is speaking of faith in the midst of trials. This is the faith that grabs hold of Christ when things get very rough and tough. It is the exact opposite of the stony ground hearer who when things get rough and tough stops believing and abandons Christ. Verse 8 also speaks of "believing" in our Saviour whom we do not see. This is not a reference to initial saving faith, but to our faith in Christ which is our daily privilege to exercise, "seeing Him who is invisible." Also the present tense of the verb "kept" in verse 5 indicates that this faith is something that is ongoing: "We are constantly being kept through faith." Not only is the "keeping" constant and ongoing but so is the faith.
The same construction is used in 1 Peter 1:5 that is used in Eph. 2:8. We are saved by grace through faith. We are kept by Godís power through faith.
We are saved by grace through faith. Can a person be saved apart from faith? Can a person be saved whether he believes or not? Is it our faith that saves us? No, Christ saves us by His grace and saving power.
Likewise, we are kept by Godís power through faith. Can a person be kept apart from faith? Can a person be kept whether he believes or not? Is it our faith that keep us? No, Christ keeps us by His grace and keeping power.
Faith is the channel through which we are saved. You canít be saved unless you are in that channel. Faith is the channel through which we are kept. You cannot be saved unless you are in that channel. In Acts 27, the ship was the channel through which the crewmen were kept safe. God kept the crewmen safe, but how did He do this? He kept them safe by keeping them in the ship!
Though Peter failed and had a serious lapse of faith, yet Christ kept Him by His power (John 17:12). How did He keep him? Did He say, "Iím going to keep Peter even if he totally departs from the faith and abandons Me"? Or did He say, "Peter you will deny Me thrice, but Iím going to pray for you that your faith will not fail"? It was Peter who later wrote that we are constantly being kept through faith. By His power and intercessory work, God kept Peter in the channel of faith. He kept him on the ship of faith. Peter fell down hard on the deck, but he did not fall overboard.
Your doctrine, as I understand it, seems to be this: "God keeps me saved and secure, but itís up to me to keep myself faithful. Godís power can keep me saved but Godís power may or may not keep me faithful." But if we are faithful at all, is not God to be thanked? Has He not kept us faithful by His grace? Are we not very prone to wander and leave the God we love? Does He not take and seal our hearts for Himself? I realize that there are different levels of faithfulness among believers and that when believers are unfaithful, we are totally to blame and not God. But when we are faithful, do we not have God to thank? The hymnwriter said it this way: "KEEP us Lord, O KEEP us cleaving to Thyself and STILL BELIEVING; till the hour of our receiving promised joys with Thee" (Praise the Saviour, Ye Who Know Him).
Regarding "Judas," he was not a saved man because he NEVER put his trust in Jesus Christ alone, not because he didnít CONTINUE to put his faith in Christ. Wouldnít you agree? Furthermore, Judas is a good example of someone who appeared to have "fruit," but never put his faith in Christ. So much for absolute assurance on that faulty basis.
I agree. Judas never put his trust in Christ. He never exercised saving faith. He did, however, exercise a certain level of faith. For example, Iím sure Judas was counted among those who believed in Jesus when he saw the miracles which Jesus did (2:23; 3:2), especially since he himself partook in some of these miracles (Matthew 10:1-8). Iím sure that Judas, at first, believed Jesus to be the true Messiah. But that he never had a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, I would agree with you.
We know that Judas was never saved because the Bible clearly indicates this. He was that "unclean" disciple (John 13). He was that "son of perdition" (John 17). See also John 6:64Ė"But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him" (John 6:64). My point in using the example of Judas is simply this. Those who teach that total apostasy is possible for the child of God would also have to say that it is possible for a true believer to follow a course similar to that of Judas. A so called "true believer" can have some kind of attachment and nearness to the Lord at the beginning, believe for a while, and then stop believing, fall away, abandon and betray Christ and His followers, and even join forces with the enemies of the cross. So I agree that Judas was never saved to begin with, but I would also say that professing believers who follow the same course Judas followed likewise were never saved to begin with.
I recently was reminded of Jesusí prayer in John 17:12ó"While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled." The disciples are in some ways a microcosm of the entire church. Judas, as you would agree, represented a man who professed to follow Christ but this profession turned out to be false. He had never truly believed in the Saviour. There are many like this in the church.
According to your doctrine, there are those in the church (stony-ground hearers) who genuinely or savingly believe for a time and later abandon the faith and reject Jesus Christ and fall away from the truths of the gospel. They do not continue in the faith. God, who carefully selected the 12 disciples, chose Judas for a purpose. Why didnít He also choose one man who would exemplify the stony ground hearer as one of His twelve? This disciple could fall away from the Lord and not hold fast to his profession and the Scriptures could make it clear that this person was saved, even though he fell away. This would have settled the issue once for all. But such was not the case. Not only were all eleven disciples kept by Christís power, they were kept faithful. In spite of all of their failures and falls and lapses, Christ could sum up their lives in this sweeping way: "they have kept Thy Word" (John 17:6). All of the 12 disciples were faithful to the end and not one abandoned the faith, except for the one who never truly believed in the first place. If the twelve are a microcosm of the entire body of believers, then we could say that all the saved will hold fast their confidence in Christ unto the end, with the only exception being those who were never truly saved in the first place, "sons of perdition" like Judas, those who drew back "unto perdition" and who did not believe unto the saving of their soul. The Bible never mentions those who "disbelieve to the saving of their soul."
Regarding assurance, I agree with the Scofield Bible that 1 John involves tests of "fellowship," not salvation.
Itís true that 1 John has much to say about FELLOWSHIP, especially in chapter 1. I certainly would not follow MacArthur who equates FELLOWSHIP with SALVATION. He understands "having fellowship" to mean "possessing eternal life."
On the other hand, there are certain passages, where John (in his unique black and white, all or nothing style) tells us the marks or characteristics of the person that is born of God and the person who is not born of God.
Letís take a couple of examples:
1 John 3:14Ė"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 John 3:14). In spite of what Hodges teaches on this verse, I understand the phrase "passed from death unto life" to be equivalent in meaning to its usage in John 5:24. When I was saved I passed from death unto life. So John is saying that we know that we have been saved, because we love the brethren.
If John had said....
We know that we have fellowship with Him because we love the brethren.
Or........We know that we are filled with the Spirit because we love the brethren.
Or........We know that we are walking close to Him because we love the brethren.
Or........ We know that we are pleasing Him because we love the brethren.
then I would agree that he is setting forth a test of fellowship and not salvation.
But John does not say this.
Consider 1 John 3:10ó"In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother" (1 John 3:10). John is saying, "It is very EVIDENT who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are. The person not practicing righteousness is not of God (that is, is not a child of God) and neither is the person who does not love his brother." I agree that the person who practices unrighteousness and who hates his brother is not in fellowship with God, but this is because he is not saved. This verse is not talking about whether a person is in fellowship or not. Itís talking about what family he belongs to. Cain is used as an example of one who hated his brother and practiced wickedness and was in the wrong family (3:12). Cainís problem was not that he was out of fellowship.
Consider 1 John 2:3-4, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:3-4). The person who does not keep His commandments does not know Him at all. What does it mean to KNOW HIM?
Notice how this expression is used in 1 John. In 3:6 it is used to describe an unsaved person who has neither seen Him nor known Him. In 4:7 it is used to describe a saved person who is born of God and knoweth God. In 4:8 it is used of an unsaved person who knoweth not God (lit. Hath not known God). In other words, it was common usage for John to refer to a saved person as one who knows God (John 17:3) and an unsaved person as one who does not know God (compare 1 Thess. 4:5). Obviously the more we are in fellowship with God the better we are going to know Him and we will continually get to know Him in a more intimate way. But these verses are not speaking about a growing and deepening knowledge of the Saviour (as in 2 Pet. 3:18). Rather, they are speaking of the basic fact that you either know Christ or you do not know Him. You are either saved or you are not saved. The person who is born of God and who knows God is the saved person. The person who is not born of God and who does not know God is the unsaved person. This is how these verses would normally be understood unless oneís theology demands that they be understood differently. This is what bothers me so much about Hodgeís commentary on 1 John in The Bible Knowledge Commentary. He so often abandons the simple, normal and natural reading of the passage in order to make it fit his theory that John is speaking about fellowship and not salvation.
What did C.I.Scofield actually teach? In his booklet, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, in the chapter distinguishing true believers from false professors, Scofield cites several passages which he believes refer to mere professors and not true believers. These would include Simon of Acts 8, those who departed in 1 John 2:19, the temporary disciples of John 6:64-66, the man having dead faith in James 2, Hebrews 6:4-6, the man who draws back in Heb. 10:38, etc. Those who hold the view that a true believer can fall into complete apostasy would disagree with Scofield on many of these. Those Scofield has labeled as mere professors they would see as true possessors. They have let go of Christ but somehow they have hung on to salvation.
When I was in college I took the Scofield Correspondence Course, and in this course Scofield sometimes comments on a passage in a fuller way than what is found in the notes of his study Bible. I found a couple of his comments that might relate to our discussion:
Scofieldís comment under 1 John 2:15-17: "Remember always that John speaks in an absolute way, presenting the perfected standard. A heart full of the love of the world is an unconverted heart. A heart full of the love of the Father would be a sinlessly perfected heart. These are the two ultimate extremes. Doubtless the love of the world fills many human hearts, and the Father is not there at all. On the other hand, the believer may have to mourn and confess some inclination still toward the world; but he knows that, if the test came, he would give up a million worlds rather than leave the Father."
Under 1 John 2:19 Scofield teaches that those "who went out from us" were apostates and not true Christians (as Zane Hodges teaches).
Under 1 John 3:7 Scofield comments: "ĎDoethí in 2:29 and 3:7 should be Ďpracticeth.í The trend of the life is in view. The new man, Godís seed, cannot sin. Therefore, although we still Ďhave . . . siní (1:8), the life should be righteous. If it is not, we must not expect others to believe our profession. This is Jamesís point of view. Neither should we believe the profession of one whose habitual life is unrighteous." Note: Those who allow for "saved apostates" would be much more likely to believe the profession of one whose habitual life is unrighteous because they would always allow for the possibility that he is one of the "saved" who has fallen away from Christ and abandoned the faith.
Under 1 John 3:14 Scofield says, "This is our subjective basis of assurance." The term "assurance," as it is commonly used by believers, has to do with how we know that we are saved, not how we know we are in fellowship. Thus Scofield must have understood 1 John 3:14 to be a test of salvation rather than a test of fellowship.
Regarding Lot, apart from the N.T. you would not have known that his righteous soul was vexed from day to day with Sodomís ungodly deeds. So what Old Testament fruit do you see? And is being vexed in heart but doing nothing about it sufficient proof for you of anotherís salvation? Also, how do you know that soil 2 & 3 werenít "miserable in their sin"? In fact, King Saul (who I understand you believed was unregenerate) has more "evidence" then Lot ever did.
Concerning Lot, we are not told a great deal about this man. Dr. Whitcomb gave a fascinating message on Lot at our Bible Conference last April which I will enclose (see side 2 of the enclosed cassette). We do know that Lot was vexed and tortured about what was taking place around him (2 Peter 2) and this is certainly a good sign. We also know that he himself did not personally participate in the wicked deeds of Sodom even though he was an inhabitant and citizen thereof. Even the sin with his daughters he did not consciously or soberly partake of, and yet guilt can be laid upon him for allowing his daughters to make him drunk. But I would not classify Lot as an apostate. If we were to find the apostate in his family it would be his wife, but not Lot. It was his wife who turned back to the wickedness of Sodom. We have no record of Lot ever denying Jehovah.
What "fruit" Lot manifested in his life is hard to know, but apparently there was some because Abraham knew that Lot was a righteous man. I base this on Abrahamís intercessory prayer in Genesis 18 ("If twenty righteous be in that city....," etc.). Iím sure when Abraham said these words Lot was the one he had in mind and he considered him to be a righteous man in that city. Since Abraham could not see Lotís faith, there must have been some other way he knew that Lot was a righteous man. But exactly what evidences of faith Abraham saw in Lotís life we are not told.
I would certainly use Lot (and have used him) as a "Lordship salvation" failure, and yet I would not use him as an example of a total apostate.
Concerning King Saul, I find in studying his life multiple evidences, not of salvation, but of the works of the flesh. I find in Saul an example of a man totally dominated by the works of the flesh. Instead of going into detail about this here, I have enclosed for you a Sunday School lesson which I once did which deals with King Saul and the overall bent of his life. I know that good men disagree as to whether King Saul was saved, but I would classify him as unregenerate. The fact that the Spirit of God came upon Saul is no evidence that he was saved. In 1 Samuel 19:18-24 Saul was pursuing David to try to kill him. It was during this time when Saul had murderous plans for David that the Spirit of God came upon Saul and others, causing them to prophesy. After this Saul was even more determined to kill David, and became so angry that he even tried to kill Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:33). So the fact that the Spirit of God was involved with Saul on several occasions does not indicate that he was a saved man. From Scripture we know much more about King Saul than we do about Lot, and from what we do know about Saul, the overwhelming evidences of his life reveal a man who was totally dominated by the works of the flesh "of which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they who (keep on) doing such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:21).
I frankly donít understand how you can say "since all believers are exercised by Godís chastening hand..."? While I believe that God chastens every genuine believer, not all respond or are "exercised thereby." Otherwise, why then the "sin unto death"? Also, explain 1 Corinthians 11:30 to me.
You may be correct in saying that only those who respond to Godís chastisement in the right way are those who are exercised by it (see Newell and H.Kent on Hebrews who both seem to take this position). I understood it differently because the verb "exercised" is in the passive voice. It is not something that the believers do but it is something that is done unto them. God exercises them through chastisement. It is also in the perfect tense indicating that this exercise has permanent results. But I suppose that itís possible to say that those exercised thereby are those who respond in the right way to Godís chastening hand. I would need to study this further.
But the main point is that God does chasten His children with the goal being their holiness (v.10) and righteousness (v.11). If a sinning saint does not respond rightly to Godís chastisement and continues in his wayward direction, what does God do? Does He not continue to deal with His sinning child? I remember when my oldest son was young, he refused to obey me, so I spanked him. The spanking did not seem to produce the desired result because after I had spanked him and talked to him, he still refused to obey. I determined that he was not going to win over his Dad, so I spanked him yet again. It still did not produce the intended result. I think it took about five spankings and finally he submitted and I never again faced that kind of defiance. If I, being an evil father, continued the chastisement until it produced the desired result, how much more the Heavenly Father. I agree that the sinning saint can persist in going in the wrong direction, and this is where the sin unto death comes in to play. Godís chastisement continues, even to the point of removing the sinning saint from the earth, if need be. The doctrine of Godís chastisement is one of the major reasons why the true believer will not continue in sin and will not totally abandon Christ by embracing wickedness.
There are at least three factors responsible for the believer not continuing in sin and they all start with the letter "C." 1) The Conviction of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). He makes His grieved presence felt. 2) Confession of Sin (1 John 1:9). 3) The Chastisement of the Father (Heb. 12). If I, having been convicted by God, refuse to deal with the sin by way of confession, God will deal with me by way of chastisement. Continued and persistent failure to repent could result in the sin unto death, which we might think of as maximum chastisement.
In seeking to investigate Hebrews 12 further, I came across the teaching of Zane Hodges which I had never noticed before. I was shocked at what I discovered.
I had wanted to see what Hodges does with the Hebrews 12 passage, so I looked into The Bible Knowledge Commentary, page 810, and could hardly believe what I read: "In speaking of those who are not disciplined and are thus illegitimate children, he was probably thinking of Christians whose disloyalty to the faith resulted in their loss of inheritance (i.e. reward) which is acquired by the many sons and daughters. (In the Roman world, an Ďillegitimate childí had no inheritance rights.) What such Christians undergo, the author had shown, is severe judgment. On the other hand, believers who undergo Godís Ďdisciplineí are being prepared by this educational process for millennial reward."
I see the following serious problems with this view:
1. This view teaches that there is a group of saved people who are not Godís sons. How can a truly regenerate person not be one of Godís sons (see Galatians 3:26-4:7 and Romans 8:14-17)?
2. "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6; Rev. 3:19; etc.). Does this mean that there are certain saved people that God does not love? Perish the thought!
3. If there were indeed a group of saved people who were living wicked lives, would not they need Godís chastening even more than those walking on Godís path? Why would God refuse to chasten those who need it the most? If an earthly Father would be quick to correct a wayward son, would not the heavenly Father do so? If we being evil would do these things how much more our heavenly Father!
Because of these reasons and more, I totally reject Hodgesí suggestion that the term "bastards" is an appropriate term to described saved people who are truly regenerate. When the writer of Hebrews used the term "bastards" (illegitimate children) he was referring to those who are not part of the true family of God, the unsaved. God only chastens His own, but He chastens ALL OF HIS OWN.
Thank you for the tapes you sent me. I listened to the tape on 2 Peter 2. I basically understood your position but I was confused about your teaching on "their latter end is worse than their beginning." I listened to the tape a second time to try to understand this better, but it was still not clear. You went to verse 22 and talked about how the dog did not know any better and how the pig did not know any better, but I wasnít sure how this related.
The key to the passage is to determine what the beginning state was, the middle state and the latter state. Let us first consider the interpretation which says that this is a true believer (saved person) who goes back to the world and loses his salvation (the Arminian view):
Arminian ViewĖThe Person Returns to the World and Loses His Salvation
The person is lostĖin the world and of the world.
The person gets savedóin the world but no longer of the world.
The person returns to the world and loses his salvationóin the world and of the world.
At the beginning he is lost and at the end he is lost. If his latter state is worse than his first state it is because of some of the things mentioned under the "Professing Salvation View" below.
Professing Salvation ViewĖ
The person is lostĖin the world and of the world.
The person comes under the strong influence of the gospel and professes faith in Christ and for a time even reforms his life.
The person abandons his profession, rejects the Christian light he had been exposed to and returns to the world.
In this case it is very true that the latter state is worse than the first because of the following principle of judgment: "To whom much is given much is required." "They shall receive the greater judgment" etc. The inhabitants of Capernaum will be judged far more severely than the inhabitants of Sodom because they had and rejected greater light (Matt. 11:23-24). The inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida will be judged far more severely than the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon because they had and rejected greater light (Matthew 11:20-22). It would be better for an unsaved person never to hear the gospel, than having heard it to reject it. Far better is the heathen in the jungle who has never heard of Christ than the unsaved person who has many times attended the -------- Church and heard the gospel. Both states (the beginning and the end) involve being unsaved, but the latter state is far less "tolerable" (Matthew 11:24). It would have been better for Judas if he had never been born. Notice the similarity of the language of 2 Peter 2:20 (b) with the language of Matthew 12:45, which is teaching the same thing. Scofield calls it "the worthlessness of self-reformation."
The Apostate Believer ViewĖ
The person is lostĖin the world and of the world.
The person is savedóin the world but no longer of the world.
The person gets out of fellowship and turns from Godís commandment to BE HOLY (1 Pet. 1:15) and returns to the world.
We assume that the worldly, carnal, backslidden, apostate believer is saved and will spend eternity with Christ in heaven. Based on this assumption, how could we ever say that the latter state is worse than the beginning state? How could being a worldly saved person be worse than being a worldly unsaved person? How could having hell as oneís destiny be better than having heaven as oneís destiny? How could eternal death be better than eternal life? How could the lake of fire be better than the bliss of paradise? How can damnation be better than salvation?
I understand Peterís teaching in 2 Peter 2:22 differently than you do. Peterís main point is simply that there was no change of nature. The dog is not going to detest and abhor eating his own vomit because it is the nature of a dog to do this. They even enjoy doing it. The pig is not going to detest and abhor going back to the mud because it is the nature of a pig to do this. Pigs enjoy wallowing in the mud. A true believer, who has a new nature that detests and abhors the world and the things of the world, will not enjoy going back to the world. A mere professor, who has no new nature, may reform his life for a time, but he can easily go back to the realm in which he is most comfortable.
I trust that these pages will be helpful as you and I wrestle with these very important issues. May the Lord guide us as we seek to bow before the written authority of His Word.
Sincerely in Christ,
349 East Street
Middletown, CT 06457
* * * * * * * * * * *
The Middletown Bible Church
|Articles Pertaining to the teachings of Hodges, Dillow, Wilkin (GES) and Faust|