Sunday, September 2, 2018

Guest Post: The Problem of Self-Love

The last two months we have pointed out examples indicating a sad fulfillment in our day of Paul's warning that in the last days prior to Christ's return sound doctrine would be scorned and in its place professing Christians would turn to myths. We noted that as a result there is a diminishing biblical and increasing humanistic content in Christian books and sermons. The very foundations of the Christian faith are being undermined by many of those who are looked to as its chief defenders. Yet at the same time, most if not all of those involved in this destructive process stoutly and sincerely insist that what they teach is "biblical."
How is such delusion possible? It has been accomplished by a subtle redefinition. Whereas to be "biblical" used to mean that a teaching was derived from Scripture, it now means that it may be derived from anywhere so long as it can somehow be interpreted as being compatible with Scripture. Thus the Bible and Christ the Living Word are no longer "The Truth" as Scripture so clearly claims. Instead, under the specious slogan that "all truth is God's truth," Holy Writ is now seen as only one of many ingredients in a new recipe for happiness to which anything may be added so long as the mixture still tastes somewhat "biblical." As a result, Christians are losing their taste and appetite for unadulterated Truth.
This accelerating erosion of spiritual discernment is compounded by the fact that exegesis of Scripture has fallen into disfavor with both shepherds and sheep. Ears are being tickled instead with humanistic concepts which are introduced as allegedly necessary and helpful supplements to God's Word, complete and sufficient though it is in itself. Far from being helpful, however, these "supplements" subtly effect reinterpretations of Scripture—and a generation grows up with a "Christianity" whose foundations have been undermined without their knowing it.
Let's take a simple example. Jesus commanded His disciples, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [food, clothing, shelter] shall be added unto you" (Mt 6:25-33). From humanistic psychology, however (now a legitimate source of revelation according to the "all truth is God's truth" thesis) so-called "Christian psychologists" have borrowed another myth: Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs." It states that man's physical needs for such things as food, clothing and shelter must first be met, then so-called psychological needs, and last of all spiritual needs. Although it blatantly turns Christ's command upside down, Maslow's theory and its derivatives now permeate the books and sermons of many church leaders and influence evangelism. Biblical exegesis has been abandoned for a new source of "truth."
Let's take one more example. Paul solemnly warns, " the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves..." (2 Tim:3:1-2). Then follows a list of sins which peculiarly characterize our world today and all of which have their root in self-love. Once again from humanistic psychology, however, "Christian" psychologists have borrowed the seductive myth that self-love (along with its concomitant self-esteem/worth/acceptance, etc.) is a vital ingredient for "mental health." Thus, instead of the prevalence of self-love, as the Bible declares, a lack of it is now stated to be the root of the sins listed in verses 2-4, which have been redefined as "behavior problems" requiring newly discovered "psychological solutions."
As we have so often noted and documented, this pop psychology myth, having been introduced into Christianity by leaders of impeccable reputation, has become so popular that today it is the prevailing belief throughout the church. It is as though Paul actually wrote, " the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be haters of their own selves, and as a consequence will need to undergo therapy and attend seminars in order to learn to love themselves properly...." Such mutilations would be required before one could derive the current self-love/self-worth fad from Scripture.
Acceptance of psychology's delusion that a lack of self-love is our major problem meant that Christ's statement to "love your neighbor as yourself" had to be re-interpreted as a command to love ourselves. Why would Christ command us, if we all lack self-love, to love our neighbors as we [fail to] love ourselves? Christ's apparent error is now corrected by books and seminars teaching us how to first of all love self so that we can fulfill His command.
In contrast, simple exegesis of Christ's command to "love your neighbor as yourself" would derive from Scripture the following: (1) clearly we must already love ourselves, or such a command would be foolish; (2) this is confirmed by Ephesians:5:29 ("For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it....), which is substantiated by the obvious fact that we feed, clothe and care for ourselves and seek to satisfy our own desires; (3) we are thus commanded to manifest love for our neighbors in the same way; ie., by caring for them as we care for ourselves; and (4) the fact that this command is necessary indicates that, rather than lacking in self-love, our problem is an excessive amount of it, which causes us to be selfish and thus to neglect caring for others. It is this self-centeredness that Christ seeks to correct. Such had been the consistent interpretation of this Scripture for 1,900 years until humanistic psychology was embraced as a valid source of "God's truth."
As a result, Christian leaders now promote the very love of self that Paul warned would characterize men in the last days and from which Christ came to deliver us by His cross!
That we must derive Truth from the Bible itself and from no other source is clear from Christ's statement: "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn:8:31-32). Simple exegesis indicates that the Truth which alone sets us free from sin and self is (1) revealed only through His Word; (2) understood only by those who "are of God" and obey ("if ye continue") His Word; and (3) hidden to all others (see vv 43-47). Each of these points is denied by the "all truth is God's truth" myth. It credits those "not of God" with revelations of "God's truth" which supplement the very Word of God which they oppose.
Solomon wrote, "My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit" (Prov:23:26-27). Here we have the simple ingredients of a godly life. There must first of all be the relationship to God as children ("My son...") born into His family by His Spirit. Then follows surrender of our hearts to Him ("give me thine heart"), which involves both love and commitment. Next we observe His ways, follow His example, obey His Word. How can we do this? Motivation comes through our love for Him and the wisdom imparted by His Word. No matter how pleasurable for the moment, unfaithfulness to God (as to one's spouse) and disobedience to His Word eventually become a deep ditch and a narrow pit bitter as death itself.
Why should husband and wife be faithful to one another? Why not so-called free sex? For one thing, sex is never "free," but always carries obligations and consequences that cannot be escaped. Of course it is possible for a husband or wife to "tire" of each other and to "fall in love" with someone else—but that is not real love. God's Word tells us that "love" is more than sexual passion or pleasure. The God-ordained relationship between male and female (like our relationship to Him) involves total commitment. The man who cheats on his wife or divorces her to marry a "more attractive" woman may enjoy what seems to be pleasure and fulfillment for a time. Eventually, however, the remorse for having broken his marriage vows and having dishonored the God who created him will turn illicit pleasure into great pain. Obedience to God's Word gives joy now and eternally. Exchanging that deep and lasting satisfaction for temporary pleasure is a bad bargain indeed.
Psychology allows one to say, "I can't love my wife or husband or parent." Yet we are commanded to love: first of all God, then neighbor as ourselves, and finally even our enemies. True love comes from obedience to God's Word and is thus based upon commitment to sound doctrine. Nor is there any excuse under any circumstances for not loving spouse or parent, friend or foe, whether they mistreat or even hate us. The same is true of all of the ingredients of a happy, productive, fruitful, victorious life: they come from obedience to sound doctrine. Far from being divisive as some complain, doctrine is our very life. Those who will not endure it delude themselves with a false "Christianity" that will be severely judged for its fundamental disobedience.
The Bible does not say, "Rejoice in the Lord always...unless you are unable to do so because of an unhappy childhood, a bout of 'depression,' or adverse circumstances." It does not say, "Be anxious for nothing...unless you have a nervous disposition." It does not say, "Forgive...unless you are unable to because of abuse, etc." We are not excused from obeying the command, "Be not afraid," because we happen to be timid and fearful. Nor are we excused from the command, "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts," because we have been diagnosed as susceptible to stress. Nor are we excused from the command to love because we find certain people unlovable. Unfortunately, however, the simple obedience to God's Word that sound doctrine compels has been undermined by psychological "counseling" that nourishes unbelief and rebellion. Therapy then offers to justify our disobedience, to comfort us in our rebellion, and to provide the peace and joy that only God can give to those who trust and obey Him.
Love, joy, peace, etc. are clearly declared to be the fruit not of therapy but of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. How? Through some magic process by which God "zaps" us and we are transformed? No, but as God's Truth so grips our hearts that we are fully persuaded to be ruled by His Word, to obey Him and to trust Him to fulfill in us what He has promised. This is not to deny the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit powerfully in our hearts and through us in others, in ways beyond human comprehension. It is merely to say that the Bible clearly declares that God works in our lives through our obedience to His Word. As Jesus said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn:8:31-32).
The litmus test of truth for victorious Christian living must be: Is it derived from Scripture, or is it the wisdom of this world, packaged in Christian terminology in order to make it appear to be compatiblewith Scripture? This test should not only be applied to the sermons and writings of others, but to ourselves. We should each get on our knees and ask God, "How much of my daily life is rooted in Your Word, and how much is rooted in the world? When I am happiest, is it because I know I have pleased my Heavenly Father, am rejoicing in His grace and love, and 'the joy of the Lord is my strength' (Neh:8:10); or is it because I have achieved worldly goals that bring the same joy to those who 'know not God and obey not the gospel'?"
Jesus accused the Pharisees of establishing traditions that nullified Scripture. Even the clear command to "Honour thy father and mother" had been turned completely around by the Pharisees (Mt 15:1-6). Christ indicted them with their having established a system of religion that allowed men seemingly to honor God outwardly while in their hearts they remained committed to self. What left men's hearts far from God while their lips seemed to praise Him? Christ summed up His indictment by declaring that Israel's religious leaders had substituted the traditions of men for the true doctrine of God's Word (vv 7-9). This same "leaven of the Pharisees" is fermenting in today's church. May God help us to boldly expose it and to stand uncompromisingly for obedience to His Word. TBC
By Dave Hunt

Friday, August 3, 2018

Guest Post: The Trinity

Many Christians are at a loss to understand, much less to defend, the "Trinity." Critics argue that that word is not even found in the Bible. To deal with that issue, we must begin with God, as the Bible itself does. There are two general concepts of God: (1) pantheism/naturalism, that the universe itself is God; and (2) supernaturalism, that the Creator is distinct from His creation. Within these are two more opposing views: (1) polytheism, that there are many gods; and (2) monotheism, that there is only one true God.
Monotheism itself is divided into two rival beliefs: (1) that God is a single being; and (2) that God has always existed in three Persons who are separate and distinct yet One. Obviously, Christians are the only ones who hold the latter view—and even some who call themselves Christians reject it. Yet it is the only logically and philosophically coherent view of God possible.
Pantheism has the same fatal flaws as atheism. If everything is God, to be God has lost all meaning and so nothing is God. The problems with polytheism are equally obvious. There is no real God who is in charge, so the many gods fight wars and steal one another's wives. There's no basis for morals, truth or peace in heaven or earth. Polytheism's basic problem is diversity without unity.
The belief that God is a single being is held by both Muslims and Jews, who insist that Allah and Jehovah are single entities. It is also held by pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons—and by various aberrant Christian groups who also deny the deity of Christ. Some Pentecostals claim that God is a single being and that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God's three "titles" or "offices." Here we have unity without diversity.
That God must have both unity and diversity is clear. The Allah of Islam and the Jehovah of Jehovah's Witnesses and Jews, for instance, is incomplete in himself, unable to experience love, fellowship and communion before creating beings with whom he could have these experiences. The Bible says that "God is love." But the God of Islam and Judaism could not be love in and of himself—for whom could he love when he was alone before creation?
This belief that God is a single entity (Unitarianism) and not three Persons existing eternally in one God (Trinitarianism) was first formulated in the early church around A.D. 220. by a Libyan theologian named Sabellius. He attempted to retain biblical language concerning Father, Son and Holy Spirit without acknowledging the triune nature of God. Sabellius claimed that God existed as a single Being who manifested Himself in three activities, modes or aspects: as Father in the creation, as Son in redemption, and as Holy Spirit in prophecy and sanctification. This heresy, though condemned by the vast majority of Christians, survives to this day.
The Bible presents a God who did not need to create any beings to experience love, communion and fellowship. This God is complete in Himself, being three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, separate and distinct, yet at the same time eternally one God. They loved and communed and fellowshiped with each other and took counsel together before the universe, angels or man were brought into existence. Isaiah "heard the voice of the Lord [in eternity past] saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" (Isa:6:8). Moses revealed the same counseling together of the Godhead: "And God said, Let usmake man in our image, after our likeness"; and again, "Let us go down, and there confound their language" (Gen:1:26;11:7). Who is this "us" if God is a single entity? Why does God say, "The man is become as one of us" (Gen:3:22)?
Moreover, if God is a single Being, then why is the plural Hebrew noun elohim (literally "gods") used for God repeatedly? In fact, this plural noun is in the center of Israel's famous confession of the oneness of God! The Shema declares, "Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut 6:4; Mk 12:29). In the Hebrew it reads, "Jehovah our elohim [gods] is one [echad] Jehovah." The Hebrew word echad allows for a unity of more than one. For example, it is used in Genesis:2:24 where man and woman become one flesh; in Exodus:36:13 when the various parts "became one tabernacle"; in 2 Samuel:2:25 when many soldiers "became one troop"; and elsewhere.
Nor is the word elohim the only way in which God's plurality is presented. For example: Psalm:149:2, "Let Israel rejoice in him that made him" (literally "makers"); Ecclesiastes:12:1, "Remember now thy Creator (lit. "creators"); and Isaiah:54:5, "For thy Maker is thine husband (lit. "makers, husbands"). Unitarianism has no explanation for this consistent presentation of God's plurality all through the Old Testament. Although the word "trinity" does not occur in the Bible, the concept is clearly there, providing the unity and diversity which makes possible the love, fellowship and communion within the Godhead. Truly the trinitarian God is love—and He alone.
Jesus said, "The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into his hand" (Jn:3:35). God's love is not just toward mankind but first of all among the three Persons of the Godhead. And three Personsthey must be. Father, Son and Holy Spirit can't be mere offices, titles or modes in which God manifests Himself, for such cannot love, consult and fellowship together. Not only the Son is presented as a Person, but so are the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Bible presents each as having His own personality: each wills, acts, loves, cares, can be grieved or become angry. "Offices" or "titles" don't do that! Unitarianism isn't biblical—and it robs the Godhead of the necessary qualities of true Deity.
Godhead? Is that a biblical term? Yes, indeed. It occurs three times in the King James New Testament in Acts:17:29Romans:1:20, and Colossians:2:9. In contrast to theos, which is used consistently throughout the New Testament for "God," three different but related Greek words occur in these verses (theios, theiotes, theotes), which the King James translators (here's another reason for preferring the KJV!) carefully designated by the special word, Godhead. That very term indicates a plurality of being. Paul wrote, "In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col:2:9). Did he simply mean that in Christ dwelt all the fullness of Himself? That would be like saying that in me dwells all the fullness of me. Well, of course it does—so why say it, and what does it really mean? Nothing!
Does it simply mean that in Christ dwells all the fullness of Deity as non-KJV translations render it? That, too, would be redundant—or it would detract from the deity of Christ. For if Christ is intrinsically God, then what is the point of saying that "in Him dwells all the fullness of deity"? Of course it does! But if Christ is the Son and there are two other persons in the Godhead, then it does mean something. It means that just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, so when the Son became man He brought that fullness of the Godhead with Him into flesh.
In Romans:1:20 Paul argues that God's "eternal power and Godhead" are seen in the creation He made. God's eternal power—but His Godhead? Yes, as Dr. Wood pointed out years ago in The Secret of the Universe, the triune nature of God is stamped on His creation. The cosmos is divided into three: space, matter and time. Each of these is divided into three. Space, for instance, is composed of length, breadth and width, each separate and distinct in itself, yet the three are one. Length, breadth and width are not three spaces, but three dimensions comprising one space. Run enough lines lengthwise and you take in the whole. But so it is with the width and height. Each is separate and distinct, yet each is all of space—just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is each God.
Time also is a trinity: past, present and future—two invisible and one visible. Each is separate and distinct, yet each is the whole. Man himself is a triunity of spirit, soul and body, two of which are invisible, one visible. Many more details could be given of the Godhead's triunity reflected in the universe. It can hardly be coincidence.
The Hebrew word elohim (gods) occurs about 2,500 times in the Old Testament, while the singular form occurs only250 times and most of those designate false gods. Genesis:1:1 reads, "In the beginning, elohim created the heaven and the earth"; i.e., literally, "gods created the heaven and the earth." Though a single noun is available, yet the plural form is consistently used for God. And in violation of grammatical rules, with few exceptions, singular verbs and pronouns are used with this plural noun. Why?
At the burning bush it was elohim (gods) who spoke to Moses. Yet elohim did not say, "We are that we are," but "I AM THAT I AM" (Ex 3:14). One cannot escape the fact that, all through the Bible, God is presented as a plurality and yet as One, as having both diversity and unity. This is unique among all the world's religions! To reject the Trinity is to reject the God of the Bible.
The New Testament presents three Persons who are distinct, yet each is recognized as God. At the same time we have repeatedly the clear statement that there is only one true God. Christ prays to the Father. Is He praying to Himself? "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (1 Jn:4:14). Did He send Himself? Worse yet, did one "office" pray to and send a "title"? Father, Son and Holy Spirit each has distinct functions, yet each works only in conjunction with the others. Christ said, "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself [on my own initiative]: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (Jn:14:10); "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter...even the Spirit of truth" (Jn:14:16-17). Throughout the New Testament, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each separately honored and act as God, yet only in concert with one another.
The Old Testament also presents three Persons in the Godhead interacting. For example: "Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens....From the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me" (Isa:48:12-16). The One speaking through Isaiah refers to Himself as "the first and the last" and the Creator of all, so He must be God. But He speaks of two others in the same passage who must also be God: "the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me." Jesus presented a similar passage to the Pharisees (Mat:22:41-46) when He asked them who the Messiah was, and they said, "The Son of David." He then quoted, "The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Ps:110:1). Then Jesus asked them, "If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?" The Pharisees were speechless. Unitarianism cannot explain these two "Lords."
It is a mystery how God can exist in three Persons yet be one God; but it is also a mystery how God could have no beginning and create everything out of nothing. We can't understand what a human soul or spirit is. Nor can we explain love or beauty or justice. It is beyond human capacity to comprehend the full nature of God's being. But neither can we understand what it means for us or anything else to exist—nor can we comprehend what space is or what time is or matter is. For every door science opens, there are ten more unopened doors on the other side. The more we learn, the more rapidly the unknown expands before us like receding images in a hall of mirrors. The Jehovah's Witnesses and other Unitarians argue that because the Trinity can't be understood it can't be. But the fact that it is beyond human comprehension is no reason for rejecting what the Bible so consistently presents to us. God is telling us about Himself so we can believe in and know Him. We dare not reject what He says or lower it to the level of our finite minds. TBC
By Dave Hunt

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Biblical Christian View of Israel Today

"Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers (Rom 11:28)."
For now, the nation of Israel has rejected their Messiah, Jesus, so they oppose the gospel. But God is not finished with Israel, just as He is not finished with us. He loves them very much and, after the time of punishment on the whole earth, Jacob's trouble,
"I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,' says the Lord GOD (Ez. 39:29)" and "My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the LORD, "from this time and forevermore (Is. 59:21)."

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Guest Post: Eternal Security

The question of the eternal security of the believer is often raised in letters we receive. This subject has been the cause of much controversy in the church for centuries, and still creates confusion and distress for many Christians. It is too much to expect to dispel this problem completely for everyone in a brief newsletter, but perhaps we can at least help in that direction.
Those who believe in "falling away" accuse those who believe in "eternal security" of promoting "cheap grace." The latter is in itself an unbiblical expression. To call it "cheap" is really a denial of grace, since it implies that too small a price has been paid. Grace, however, must be absolutely free and without any price at all on man's part, while on God's part the price He paid must be infinite. Thus for man to think that his works can play any part in either earning or keeping his salvation is what cheapens grace and devalues this infinite gift to the level of human effort.
To speak of "falling from grace" involves the same error. Since our works had nothing to do with meriting grace in the first place, there is nothing we could do that would cause us to no longer merit it and thus to "fall" from it. Works determine reward or punishment—not one's salvation, which comes by God's grace. The crux of the problem is a confusion about grace and works.
First of all, we must be absolutely clear that these two can never mix. Paul declares, "...if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work" (Rom:11:6). Salvation cannot be partly by works and partly by grace.
Secondly, we must be absolutely certain that works have nothing to do with salvation. Period. The Bible clearly states, "For by grace are ye saved...not of works" (Eph:2:8-9). True to such scriptures, evangelicals firmly declare that we cannot earn or merit salvation in any way. Eternal life must be received as a free gift of God's grace, or we cannot have it.
Thirdly, salvation cannot be purchased even in part by us, because it requires payment of the penalty for sin—a payment we can't make. If one receives a speeding ticket, it won't help to say to the judge, "I've driven many times within the 55 mph limit. Surely my many good deeds will make up for the one bad deed." Nor will it do to say, "If you let me off this time, I promise never to break the law again." The judge would reply, "Never to break the law again is only to do what the law demands. You get no extracredit for that. The penalty for breaking the law is a separate matter and must be paid." Thus Paul writes, " the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight..." (Rom:3:20).
Fourthly, if salvation from the penalty of breaking God's laws cannot be earned by good deeds, then it cannot be lost by bad deeds. Our works play no part in either earning or keeping salvation.
Fifthly, salvation can only be given to us as a free gift if the penalty has been fully paid. We have violated infinite Justice, requiring an infinite penalty. We are finite beings and could not pay it: we would be separated from God for eternity. God is infinite and could pay an infinite penalty, but it wouldn't be just, because He is not a member of our race. Therefore God, in love and grace, through the virgin birth, became a man so that He could pay the debt of sin for the entire human race!
In the Greek, Christ's cry from the cross, "It is finished!" is an accounting term, meaning that the debt had been paid in full. Justice had been satisfied by full payment of its penalty, and thus God could "be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom:3:26). On that basis, God offers pardon and eternal life as a free gift. He cannot force it upon anyone or it would not be a gift. Nor would it be just to pardon a person who rejects the righteous basis for pardon and offers a hopelessly inadequate payment instead—or offers his works even as "partial payment."
Salvation is the full pardon by grace from the penalty of all sin, past, present or future; eternal life is the bonus thrown in. Denying this cardinal truth, all cultists, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Roman Catholics, for example, reject salvation by grace and insist that it must be earned by one's good works. They accuse evangelicals of teaching that all we need to do is to say we believe in Christ and then we can live as we please, even in the grossest of sins, yet be sure of heaven. Evangelicals don't teach that at all, yet a similar complaint is made by those who believe in "falling away." They say that "once saved, always saved" encourages one to live in sin because if we know we cannot be lost then we have no incentive for living a holy life. On the contrary, love for the one who saved us is the greatest and only acceptable motive for living a holy life; and surely the greater the salvation one has received, the more love and gratitude there will be. So to know one is secure for eternity gives a higher motive for living a good life than the fear of losing one's salvation if one sins!
While those who believe in "falling from grace" are clear that good works cannot earn salvation, they teach that salvation is kept by good works. Thus one gets saved by grace, but thereafter salvation can be lost by works. To teach that good works keep salvation is almost the same error as to say that good works earn salvation. It denies grace to say that once I have been saved by grace I must thereafter keep myself saved by works.
If those who are saved could lose their salvation, then they must by their own actions keep themselves saved. If that is true, then those who stay saved and get to heaven will be able to boast that they played a key role in their salvation: Christ saved them but they kept themselves saved. On the contrary, no man can take any credit for his salvation. We are "kept by the power of God" (1 Pt 1:5), not by our faith or efforts.
"Falling away" doctrine, says Hebrews:6:4-9, rather than glorifying Christ, once again holds Him up to shame and ridicule before the world for two reasons: if we could lose our salvation, then (1) Christ would have to be crucified again to save us again; and (2) He would be ridiculed for dying to purchase a salvation but not making adequate provision to preserve it—for giving a priceless gift to those who would inevitably lose it. If Christ's death in our place for our sins and His resurrection were not sufficient to keep us saved, then He has foolishly wasted His time. If we could not live a good enough life to earn salvation, it is certain we cannot live a good enough life to keep it! To make the salvation He procured ultimately dependent upon our faltering works would be the utmost folly.
"Falling away" doctrine makes us worse off after we are saved than before. At least before conversion we can get saved. But after we are saved and have lost our salvation (if we could), we can't get saved again, but are lost forever. Hebrews:6:6 declares, "If [not when] they shall fall is renew them again unto repentance." That "falling away" is hypothetical is clear (v 9): "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." So "falling away" does not "accompany salvation." The writer is showing us that if we could lose our salvation, we could never get it back without Christ dying again upon the cross. This is folly! He would have to die an infinite number of times (i.e., every time every person who was once saved sinned and was lost and wanted to be "saved again"). Thus, those who reject "once saved, always saved" can only replace it with "once lost, always lost"!
John assures us, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know [present knowledge] that ye have [present possession] eternal life..." (1 Jn:5:13). To call it eternal life, if the person who had it could lose it and suffer eternal death, would be a mockery. On the contrary, eternal life is linked with the promise that one cannot perish—a clear assurance of "eternal security" or "once saved, always saved." John:3:16 promises those who believe in Jesus Christ that they "shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John:5:24 again says, "hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation...." One could not ask for clearer or greater assurance than the words of Jesus: "I give unto them [My sheep] eternal life and they shall never perish" (Jn:10:28).
If, having received eternal life, we could lose it and perish, it would make Christ a liar. Yet this is the teaching of Roman Catholicism. Therefore the Mass is declared to be a sacrifice of Christ's body and blood whereby God pardons sinners. Thus Christ's once-for-all sacrifice upon the cross was not sufficient. And like Roman Catholicism, the idea that a person once saved could be lost also denies the sufficiency of Christ's death upon the cross 1,900 years ago.
If sin causes the loss of salvation, what kind or amount of sin does it take? There is no verse in the Bible that tells us. We are told that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn:1:9)—so apparently any sin can be forgiven. Even those who teach falling away rarely if ever say they got "saved again." Rather, they confessed their sin and were forgiven. Hebrews:12:3-11 tells us that every Christian sins, and that instead of causing a loss of salvation, sin brings God's chastening upon us as His children. If when we sinned we ceased to be God's children, He would have no one to chastise—yet he "scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Indeed, chastening is a sign that we are God's children, not that we have lost our salvation: "if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons."
Some teach that one must be baptized to be saved; others that one must "speak in tongues." Both are forms of salvation by works. Some people lack assurance of salvation because they haven't "spoken in tongues," others are confident they are saved because they think they have. Both are like those who say, "Lord, Lord, have we thy name done many wonderful works?" (Mat:7:21-23). They are relying on their works to prove they are saved, instead of upon God's grace. Nor does Jesus say, "You were once saved but lost your salvation." He says, "I never knew you."
Here is an important distinction. Those who believe in falling away would say of a professing Christian who has denied the faith and is living in unrepentant sin that he has "fallen from grace" and has "lost his salvation." In contrast, those who believe in eternal security, while no more tolerant of such conduct, would say of the same person that probably Christ "never knew him"—he was never a Christian. We must give the comfort and assurance of Scripture to those who are saved; but at the same time we must not give false and unbiblical comfort to those who merely say they are saved but deny with their lives what they profess with their lips.
Are we not then saved by our works? Indeed not! In 1 Corinthians:3:13-15 every Christian's works are tried by fire at the "judgment seat of Christ" before which "we must all appear" (2 Cor:5:10). Good works bring rewards; a lack of them does not cause loss of salvation. The person who hasn't even one good work (all of his works are burned up) is still "saved; yet so as by fire" (v 15). We would not think such a person was saved at all. Yet one who may seem outwardly not to be a Christian, who has no good works as evidence—if he has truly received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, is then "saved as by fire" and shall never perish in spite of his lack of works.
Do we then, on the basis of "once saved, always saved," encourage Christians to "sin that grace may abound"? With Paul we say, "God forbid!" We offer no comfort or assurance to those living in sin. We don't say, you're okay because you once made a "decision for Christ." Instead, we warn: "If you are not willing right now to live fully for Christ as Lord of your life, how can you say that you were really sincere when you supposedly committed yourself to Him at some time in the past?" And to all, we declare with Paul, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves" (2 Cor:13:5).
Our confidence for eternity rests in His unchanging love and grace and the sufficiency of God's provision in Christ—not in our worth or performance. Only when this is clear do we have real peace with God. Only then can we truly love Him and live for Him out of gratitude for the eternal life He has given to us as a free gift of His grace—a gift He will not take back and which He makes certain can never be lost! TBC
By Dave Hunt