Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Response to Daniel of Doulogos

The following is my reply to Daniel of Doulogos's post concerning Free Grace Theology in general, and me in particular. His article is Doulogos on 'Free Grace'

You write:
Antonio de Rosa
It is Antonio da Rosa. This is a common mistake. Maybe because they think I made a typo, or quite possibly so people can’t make a proper search to find my stuff.

You write:
Antonio has been beating the "free Grace" drum for a few months now
I have been providing another perspective on the Bible that is not traditional. I can make no judgments about you, but I am a disicple of the Lord Jesus Christ; I eagerly await His coming; and I approach His word with humility and openess.

You write:
[Antonio does not have] anything particularly important to say
I would hope that your readers would not take your word on this matter. I hallow the word of God and expound it with regards to context, idiom, grammar, consistency, and most importantly, distinctions within its teachings.

I would invite any and all of Daniel’s readers to come and see for yourself and examine my arguments and expositions for yourself. Free Grace Theology Blog

And note at the time of your visit that Daniel has not chosen to engage an any of my discussions nor offered his superior exegetical skills to fill up any holes in my exposition.

You write:
surely the one tune he plays on his droning drum has been heard before
You like your demeaning language you use against me? Your whole tirade is just one mean-spirited attack after the other against me.

You write:
Antonio is becoming somewhat infamous
I extoll the virtues of Christ and the grace of God. I lift up Christ in His perfect act of submission to the Father, whereby He satisfied God’s eternal judgment for sin in His sacrificial death on the cross. I proclaim God’s grace to the sinner.

If this is what it means to be infamous, may I ever live to fulfill that calling, sir!

You write:
[Antonio’s theology is merely a] pet theology
My dictionary for the adjective “pet” is “Particularly cherished” and “a favorite”. If this is all that this pejorative term meant to you and implied to your readers, I would be very happy to accept that labeling of my beliefs.

Yet you and I both know that you are not very fond of my deeply held convictions (nor me) so you seek to belittle and demean them in this way as if they are the product of my novel imagination.

What makes mine “pet” and yours “orthodox”? The decisions of ancient councils, the judgments of men? The popular fraternal order of Reformed advocacy?

You act as if God Himself has parted the clouds and, booming in His thunderous voice, says “This is my beloved Daniel, Listen to him!” You portray yourself as having received an extraordinary endowment by special revelation of God that affirms the verbose nature of your theology down to the minutest detail.

The blogosphere is a realm of ideas, sir. You do not corner the marked on “truth”. What I suspect is that your fraternity does not like being challenged by another exegetical view’s opposing convictions.

Rather than come over to my blog and deal with my exegetical and expositional posts, my rational and provoking constuctions, you would rather pontificate as you here do.

I preach Christ crucified. I preach that Christ is sufficient and enough to save the worst of sinners. I preach holiness. I preach repentance, surrender, commitment, love, and good works. I preach accountability for lack of these things. I preach reverance and worship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah. I preach God’s unbounded grace that dispenses the Water of Life. I don’t find anything imaginative or novel about my commitment to my Savior, or my devotion to instruct the children of God.

You write:
we see Antonio's eisegesis, exposed and corrected by learned men and children, only to watch in morbid fascination as he ignores it all, and continues to beat his drum.
This is a huge indictment. Do you have any examples where I was corrected? I can show you several where others have been corrected by me (go to my blog and see my latest post on James 2:14ff where I show an apologist corrected in his assertion / link HERE.

Mere posturing and rhetoric mean nothing, Daniel. You assert much, rationalizing through the rose-colored lens of your mere proof-texting, arguing your pleas to them by your presuppositional theology; and support little. The viscious circle of asserted interpretation of proof-texts supported by presuppositional theology never stops!

You write:
I admire that level of gusto, but at the same time I find it tragic and dangerous; tragic for Antonio, and dangerous for those who don't see the wolf for the wool.
More indictments without substance. This same charge I lay to you, sir. I have 30+ articles on my website. Where is your response to any of them?

But take comfort in your numbers. I will take comfort in the truth, as Luther did.

You write:
[Typing a comment to Antonio I was]trying in vain to say how wrong it feels in my soul to examine his teachings in greater depth
How wrong it feels? Oh yeah, versus your Traditional, Reformed theology! I think it was a dichotomic feeling, on one hand, hating my theology in deference to your “superior” position, while on the other hand, being convicted the truth apparent in my writings.

You write:
having rejected the core about which all his teaching seems to orbit
Not by anything substantial, but you have compared my theology to yours and found it lacking.

You write:
Surely our command of the Greek language has shown us that the word "pistis" (faith/belief) has no perfect synonym in English.

Likewise, we know full well that when we employ the verb form of the word, we amplify any asynonymity inherent in the verb. How then (when we lack an English word that carries all the subtleties of the Greek) do we flesh out the nuances that are in the Greek which cannot be translated into English? We must translate the word into its closest English equivalent yet retain in our understanding the full spectrum of nuance the word carries in the original context, culture, and grammar. We do ourselves damage if in translating a word we neglect its full meaning.

I don’t know where you get this. You have begged the question here, sir.

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, affectionately known as BAGD), which is the standard Greek lexicon:

1) trust, confidence, faith; in the active sense = “believing”
2) [pertaining to God]faith, trust, confidence in God

In the whole of the article on “pistis” in the standard Greek lexicon (BAGD), there is not even a remote suggestion that there is some “hidden” or “full spectrum” sense in which the word English word “faith” is not completely and perfectly synonomous with it! No entries that have obedience, repentance, or any of that nonesense.

Lidell and Scott Greek Lexicon:
1) trustin others, faith
2) generally, persuasion of a thing, confidence, assurance
3) to be persuaded
4) Theol., faith, opp. sight and knowledge

The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament (Spiros Zodhiates):
1) noun from peitho (3982), [which means] to win over, persuade.
2) Faith
3) firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth

The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Wesley Perschbacher)

1) faith, belief, firm persuasion
2) assurance, firm conviction
3) ground of belief, guarantee, assurance

To see that my view of faith is no different than these lexical definitions, see my article on The Biblical Doctrine of 'faith' with Discussion

There are no subtle nuances such as repentance, obedience, etc.; in other words, no support for your liberal “kitchen sink” model, where you seek to impose works into the semantic value of “faith” as John MacArthur does, whereby Michael Horton soundly rebukes MacArthur for his “works-salvation”. That is right, one Lordship advocate calling another’s position works’s salvation. To see Michael Horton’s comment’s to John MacArthur and the beautiful logic and syllogism that he uses to show that MacArthur’s insistence of importing obedience to Christ into the semantic value of “faith” is tantamount to works-salvation, use this link: John MacArthur is ‘Hard to Believe’.

You write:
Sometimes however, scripture gives us more information about a word than we might realize. For instance, if we want to know more about "pistis" (belief) we can see examine the other side of our sword. Scripture is, after all, a double edged sword, and we learn as much about "belief" by examining what scripture says about unbelief. No tricks or gimmicks here - just rightly dividing the word.
We shall see that you are about tricks and gimmicks, and smoke and mirrors.

You write:
When we look at the way "unbelief" is used in scripture (that is, in opposition to belief) we will necessarily form a more complete picture of how "belief" was understood. To this end we must not fail to observe that in various places in scripture we see the same word ("apeitheo") translated as unbelief and elsewhere as disobedience. God be praised for this sort of consistency in scripture! Even were we so careless in our translation as to drop the nuance of obedience from our understanding of "faith" - yet we see from the other half of the double edged sword, that the meaning is retained!

So when I talk about faith, I am talking about that same faith that is described in verses like Romans 10:16 ("But they have not all obeyed the gospel") that is, I recognize that "faith" is synonymous with "obeying the gospel" - genuine faith is characterized by obedience ; and simultaneously a faith that is not genuine is characterized as apathetic/disobedient.
Will this argument hold up? Not in the slightest.

Look at this leap in logic: because the opposite of believing the gospel is “disobedience” we must thereforeconclude that “faith” must include “obedience” and “submission” and “repentance”.

Why this leap of logic and serious misrepresentation of language? To support the insupportable. The sense of “apeitho” is clear when viewed as a rejection of the gospel:

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is a command to believe: Note the famous statement of Paul to the Phillipian:

Acts 16:31
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”
Here Paul uses a 2cd person singular aorist active imperative. This is a command to believe in Jesus. When one fails to believe in Jesus, he has disobeyed.

When someone does not believe in Jesus what does this amount to? DISOBEDIENCE. When one fails to believe in the gospel that is to be preached in all the world, they have disobeyed God. To not believe the command to obey the gospel is to disobey. Is that so hard to understand? Are we so bankrupt in our theology that we must make such incredible importations into the semantic value of words in order to prove our position?

Look at Daniel’s logic this way: Suppose I tell my son, “Jacob, wash the car right now.” An hour passes and he has not gotten down to busting suds on my cheap hunk of junk. I then say, “Jacob, you have disobeyed me! You have not washed the car!”

Are we thus to conclude, as per the logic of Daniel, that the verb “wash” must necessarily be characterized by “obedience”, or that the Greek word that is translated “wash” has a hidden, powerful, and untranslatable nuance that the English word “wash” fails to render. I have just got finished reading several dictionary entries for “wash” and I have yet to find the sense “obedience” in it.

Why have some of our translations in the English rendered “apeitho” as “disbelieve” when it does not have that sense in any of papyrii in the profane literature?

Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker in BAGD, page 82 state in their entry for “apeitho”:

“since in the view of the early Christians, the supreme disobedience was a refusal to believe their gospel, apeitho may be restricted in some passages to the meaning disbelieve, be an unbeliever. This sense, though greatly disputed (it is not found outside our lit.), seems most probable in J[ohn] 3:36; Ac[ts] 14:2; 19:9; Ro[mans] 15:31”

For the early Christians, not believing the command in the gospel to believe in Jesus was the most supreme disobedience. This author heartily concurs.
John 3:36 and Acts 14:2 clearly juxtapose belief and disobedience (disbelief) [that the failure to obey the command to believe the gospel amounts to disobedience].

Acts 19:9 has a clear contrast as well. Luke writes,
“And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God . But when some were hardened and did not believe [epeithoun], but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-9, emphasis added).
Luke’s two contrasts are clearly evident (reasoning/hardened and persuading/disbelieving). If one will not respond to reasoning, he is hardened. If one will not be persuaded, he is disbelieving (disobedient to the message of eternal life).

Thus we see, with no shadow of doubt, that Daniel’s argument and illegeitamate importing into the text, is gimmicks and tricks, and is most defintitely not dividing the word of truth.

This is the common error I see in Daniel. He lumps together many doctrines that we find in the Scriptures, puts them in a blender, and hits puree. He then presents this mess as his position in soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). He is not careful to distinguish important matters in the Bible, but seeks to include the Christian alone’s concerns to unbelievers. We must be careful with the Bible. Just because we are admonished to preach holiness, repentance, submission, and obedience to Christ in the Bible does not mean that these are expressions of conditions for eternal life! Where do you stop? The Old Testament has 613 ordinances, the New Testament requires about twice that number, in grace principles, to the Christian.

Clearly Daniel’s argument that faith = obedience because disobedience is the failure to obey the command of the gospel to believe is shattered. Only one with such strong theological presuppositions can fall into this kind of blatant error. Daniel’s argument is unfounded, logically found wanting, and desperate.

Michael Horton, no small Reformed writer sees the implications of this “kitchen sink” approach (the illegitamate importation of foreign implications into the semantical value of the word “faith” and “believe.

Although Michael Horton is no friend to Free Grace theology, as he is in the Lordship Salvation ‘camp’, he does make some interesting comments about John MacArthur:

“MacArthur adds W. E. Vine's definition of faith as including even "conduct inspired by such surrender" (173-74) [The Gospel According to Jesus]. If we are justified by faith and if faith is surrender, obedience, and conduct inspired by such surrender, then we are justified by works. The logic seems unavoidable:

We are justified by faith alone.

Faith is surrender, obedience, and conduct inspired by such surrender.

Therefore, we are justified by surrender, obedience, and conduct inspired by such obedience” (Michael Horton, Christ the Lord, pg 44).

Michael Horton is using the same syllogism that I use in order to show that the “kitchen sink” approach to linguistics that the Lordship Salvationist uses with reference to their blatant importation of “obedience” and the like into the semantical value of “faith” is nothing but justification by works!

You write:
That is why when I read how Paul describes the gospel that he preached in Acts 20:21 ("testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ") I do not imagine for one moment that Paul was "adding repentance" to the gospel - or inventing some new "two step" gospel, whereby repentance comes before faith - as though the idea of obedience was foreign to the concept of "faith."
Daniel, any casual reader of this proof-text from Acts 20:21 would know that there are two separate things going on here: repentance and faith. This is not the same action. And the actions both have different objects.

The burden of proof is on you to show that this verse equates repentance with faith, and that this verse is Paul’s proclamation of the his simple gospel message.

Lets look at this verse in its context:

Acts 20:17-22
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Knowing that he may not see the Ephesian elders again, Paul was encouraging them, stating that he had performed his ministry to the fullest with regards to them and provided them all the teaching that they needed (Paul “kept back nothing that was helpful”). Paul taught them publicly and from house to house. Paul ministered for some time in Ephesus. Paul’s teaching during this time can be summarized as teaching repentance and faith. These are the hallmark teachings of the Christian life.

Paul did not keep anything back in his preaching that was helpful! He proclaimed God's whole counsel. Repentance toward God and faith in Christ are to be regarded as the essense of all his preaching for their benefit. To say that because Paul preached repentance toward God in this context means that Paul preached repentance as a necessary requirement for salvation is to import that meaning into the text.

Paul, in his apostolic defense of the gospel, the book of Galatians, fails to mention jot nor tittle of repent, repentance or any of its cognates within the letter’s confines. Throughout his letter he regards faith alone the sole conduit bringing justification to the believer. It is telling that Paul pronounces an anathema on anyone preaching any other gospel than the one that he delivered, then goes on to expound and defend that gospel, and utterly fails to mention even once the doctrine of repentance.

You write:
I rather believe that Paul is articulating clearly (for the benefit of people who need it spelled out to them...) what genuine faith looks like - it is submissive - mixed if you will or at least inseparable from "repentance."
Again, you fail to show this. Your proof-texting and lack of exposition is quite revealing.
The stuff you write following this is just your man-made opinion, lacking any exegetical or expositional support. It is your mere contention based upon your fine art of presenting the text of scripture ripped out of its context. Your logic and arguments do not follow once the whole passage is shown.

You write:
Can a child have "faith" in his or her parent's "parenting" if that faith fails to includes submission to the parent's authority? Of course not. If the child rejects the authority of the parent, it demonstrates that contrary to whatever their mouth may profess - they in fact do not have "faith" in their parents ability to parent.
That a person believes anything does not necessarily result any any action. I believe that diet and exercise can save me from the deadly consequences of heart disease. I have read some pretty intense, disturbing, and persuasive commentary on the results of bad diet and lack of exercise. Does this mean that I will necessarily eat right and exercise? How many of you believe the same thing and fail to exercise and diet?

This is what James calls a “dead” faith. It is faith that does not have actions. It is a faith that is not profiting as it should be.But it is faith none-the-less. James’ concern is pastoral for those whom he has already deemed born again (James 1:18). He is encouraging them to vitalize their faith by adding works. Adding works to your faith has much benefit, for obeying the Word of God has life-saving benefits (James 1:21).

James is not talking about a faith that is spurious or less than saving. James is saying that faith without works is dead, like a bicycle without a rider doesn’t travel, or a car without gas is useless. Faith without works is still faith as a bicycle without a rider is still a bike and a car without gas is still a car. Remember, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Faith without works is non-vital. The spirit in the body is the animating factor of the body, like gas is the animating factor in a car and the rider is the animating factor of the bicycle, so works vitalize and energize our faith.

Doing works by your faith makes you excited in the area that your faith is attached to. Christians believe that evangelism is important and the only way by which the unsaved can come to faith and receive eternal life. But when was the last time you preached the gospel to someone? But, when you get off your duff and actually go out and share your faith, you feel how those works energize your faith! This is exactly what James is talking about!

Peter tells us that we need to “giv[e] all diligence” in the area of “add[ing] to [our] faith” the Christian virtue and works (2 Peter 1:5-7). For when works are added to faith the Christian “will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8) But the Christian who fails to add works to their faith “is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9).

Daniel, you talk about Christ being a King. Yes He is a King, and yes He has a kingdom. But you insist on putting the cart before the horse!

You write:
My bowing before the king cannot be separated from my trusting the king to save me. He is -The- King and any trust I place in Him that avoids His crown is by definition illegitimate. I cannot trust the King, and at the same time reject the Crown. The King is the King, and I must accept Him as the King or my trust is not placed in Him… If a King declares that He will save all who come to Him - that is, all who come and partake of His Kingdom, only those who are "in the kingdom" (that is, those who have bent their knee in fealty) can expect to be saved by Him.
Your logic, although in its presentation sounds godly and sincere, is tragically faulty. How does one become a part of a kingdom? He must first be BORN into that kingdom. How is one born into the kingdom of God? Jesus says by faith in Him to save you. Once you are born into God’s kingdom THEN you become subject to the King.

You have things completely backward. You see, a meek and humble Savior implores men and women to receive, absolutely free, His perfect salvation. All that He asks is to trust in Him alone for the gift He offers to everyone, regardless of who it is.

Once the one simply drinks of the water that the Savior offers by faith, he is then born into the kingdom, transferred into the kingdom. It is then that they become the King’s subjects.

At the moment of faith in Jesus for eternal life, the believer becomes a child of God. He is thus ushered into a new relationship with God. This relationship as to its essence is familial. In this relationship, God is the perfect Father. He nudges, directs, leads, chastens, scourges, teaches, encourages, etc.: all the attributes of a perfect Dad.

In relation to the King, the newly regenerate one is subject to the dictates of the kingdom, and when those are spurned, he is liable. The Bible is full of the Christian’s accountable nature to God. It was free to get in the kingdom, but now that one is in, he is required to fulfill his reponsibilities as a servant to the King. When these requirements are not met, the Christian may be met with the exacting chastening of the Father.

You write:
Those who imagine they are children of the Kingdom because they one day decided to "trust that the King will save them" may have entered the fold - but they are by no means a part of the flock - they have come into the fold some other way and not through "the Door."
Does this phrase strike anyone else as being completely heretical? Jesus Himself says that “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Paul says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). The list could go on and on. Imagine that, Jesus promises and guarantees that the one who believes in Him has eternal life, but in reality, the one that trusts in Him for that gift “are by no means a part of the flock”. There is still something missing, for Daniel. What is it? It is obedience. You cannot go through the door unless you work your way through it.

What presumption! What pontification!

The “door” for Daniel is nothing else but works, cleverly disguised and imported into the meaning of “faith”.

You write:
Such as these may put all the trust they want in the king, but that trust is impotent not being founded on the person of the King, but rather on the fact that the King saves people. Truly, a subtle, but horrible mistake to make.
Sir, this is nothing but a straw man. The trust that Jesus entreats (and Free Grace advocates propose) is faith in Him alone in the content of His promise to guarantee eternal life and resurrection to the one who merely believes in Him for it:

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).

This is it. Christ guarantees eternal life and resurrection to the mere believer in Him for it. Does Daniel believe this, that this is enough? I am less than certain that Daniel has supported the notion that he believes Jesus here in His statement. Jesus does not add repentance, surrender, submission, obedience, or any of Daniel’s “pet” soteriological terms. Christ entreats us to be certain, assured, and persuaded that He has given us eternal life. But Daniel would have us base our knowledge of eternal life on our commitment to Christ, our obedience to His commands, and our turning from sin. I do not only contend that Daniel bases his assurance on such, but has, in reality, required such for entrance into the kingdom, for the recepetion of eternal life by his insistence that you cannot believe in Jesus unless you obey Him.

You write:
This false faith is the faith that "free grace" (easy believism) strikes me as embracing. Some, not content to simply embrace this false hope, go about promoting it with a hellish zeal - such cause me to shudder.
It is your theology that should cause you to shudder, for you abrogate the grace of God by your insistence that kingdom entrance is conditioned on obedience/works.

This reminds me of Christ’s words:

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matt 23:13)

In the following, I am going to insert my sentiments into your very own words to turn them around on you: (my words in italics)
With regards to Traditionalism, it should be obvious that at the very heart of the gospel itself, we disagree - since those in the Lordship Salvation camp take faith to mean much more than our own understanding of scripture would suggest it means. Surely, we cannot admire any theological house that might be built upon such faith, since from our vantage that house is already sinking in quicksand. That is, I can't really respect much of what a ”Lordship” person teaches knowing that this particular leaven, leavens the whole lump.
I agree that it is in the gospel that we disagree. You believe that becoming right and reconciled with God is on account of your obedience. I believe that eternal life is received by grace through faith. And in the same vein, I cannot respect much of what the Traditionalist teaches, knowing that his particular doctrine is one of works-rightousness/works-salvation.

I continue to insert my words into your sentiments:
My hope and prayer is that ”Lordship Salvation” is exposed as deficient and that those who have been deceived will begin to understand what faith really is, and recognized that the "faith" that they teach disqualifies them (in the estimation of those who oppose them) from the office of 'reputable' teacher. Scripture teaches us to stay ignorant of evil, which is why I do not spend much time studying heresy - except to expose it.


What I see in the position of the Reformed Traditionalist, is a hidden pride. They can not entertain thoughts that people who are not as holy as them can actually enter the kingdom of God. They would see such people as unworthy to enter the Kingdom. They scoff at the idea of the Savior requiring nothing of them in order to be lavished by His grace but the “hearing of faith” (Galatians 3:2). They decry the proposition that eternal life is received passively by mere faith in Jesus Christ apart from the actions of “bending the knee”, “surrender”, “commitment”, and “repentance”.

They reject the notion that eternal life is God’s absolutely free gift to the simple believer in Christ. They must be about adding their provisos, caveats, and strings to the beautiful and simple expressions of salvation that are given in the Bible, thus corrupting the very grace that is actually offered by Jesus.

Such betrays the state of self-righteousness and Pharasaicalism.

“Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17).

Monday, January 30, 2006

Can a Believer be Certain that He Believes?

What is Saving Faith?

Perhaps the most fundamental answer to such questions is to say that large sections of the Christian Chruch have quitely yielded to a process that has turned the meaning of faith upside down.

Over a period of many years the idea has gained ground that true saving faith is somehow distinguishable from false kinds of faith, primarily by means of its results or “fruits”.

Thus two men might believe exactly the same things in terms of content, yet if one of them exhibited what seemed to be a “fruitless” Christian experience, his faith would be condemned as “intellectual assent,” or “head belief” over against “heart belief.” In a word, his faith was false faith – it was faith that did not, and could not, save.

With such ideas as these, the ground was prepared for full-fledged lordship theology. It remained for lordship thinkers to take the matter one step further.

What was really missing in false faith, so they affirmed, were the elements of true repentance and submission to God. Thus, saving faith ought not to be defined in terms of trust alone, but also in terms of commitment to the will of God. In the absence of this kind of submission, they insisted, one could not describe his faith as biblical saving faith.

If ever there existed a theological trojan horse, this point of view is it!

Under cover of a completely insupportable definition of saving faith, lordship teaching introduces into the Christian church a doctrine of salvation which was unknown to the New Testament authors. It transforms the offer of a free gift of eternal life into a “contract” between the sinner and God, and it turns the joy of Christian living into a grueling effort to verify our faith and our acceptance before God. As theology, is it a complete disaster.

But it is also nonsense. A little reflection will show this.

In every other sphere of life, except religion, we do not puzzle ourselves with introspective questions about the “nature” of our faith. For example, if I say to someone, “Do you believe that the President will do what he has promised?” I could expect any one of three possible answers. One answer might be, “Yes I do.” Another might be, “No, I don’t.” But my respondent might also reply, “I’m not sure,” or, “I don’t know.”

There is nothing complicated about this exchange. Two of the three answers reveal a lack of trust in the President. The answer, “No. I don’t,” indicates positive disbelief of the President’s reliability. The reply, “I’m not sure,” indicates uncertainty about the integrity of the President. Only the response, “Yes, I do,” indicates faith or trust.

Of course, my respondent could be lying to me when he says, “Yes, I do.” I might even know him well enough to say, “You’re putting me on, aren’t you? You don’t really trust the President at all, do you?”

But it is certainly not likely that I would say, “What is the nature of this faith you have in the President? Would you now go out and break a law? And if you did, would that not raise a question about whether you really trust him?”

Such a question would be absurd. My respondent would have every reason to think I was joking. And if he took me seriously, he would hae a perfect right to reply, “What has my breaking a law got to do with my firm conviction that I can trust the President in anything he says?”

Clearly, we all operate at the level of common sense when we talk about faith as it relates to everyday life. It is only when we discuss this subjext in religion that we tend to check our common sense at the door.

Indeed, in ordinary human life, the concept of “false faith” would arise only rarely. What would such an expression mean in normal conversation? Would it not have to mean something like “misplaced faith” or “pretended faith”? A person who had such a faith might be mistaken in believing what they do. His or her actual convictions might be false. Or they might only be pretending to a conviction, or confidence, that they did not in reality possess.

But “false faith” would never refer to a real conviction or trust which somehow fell below some imaginary standard which measured its results!

Let it be clearly stated here that English words like “believe,” or “faith” function as fully adequate equivalents to their Greek counterparts. There is not some hidden residue in the Greek words that is not conveyed by their normal English renderings. Although some have affirmed that there is, this claim betrays an inadequate or misguided view of biblical linguistics.

It follows that a Greek reader who met the words “he who believes in Me has everlasting life,” would understand the word “believe” exactly as we do. The reader most certainly would not understand this word to imply submission, surrender, repentance, or anything else of this sort. For those readers, as for us, “to believe” meant “to believe.”

Surely it is one of the conceits of modern theology to suppose that we can define away simple terms like “belief” and “unbelief” and replace their obvious meanings with complicated elaborations. The confusion produced by this sord of process has a pervasive influence in the church today.

The solution, however, is to return to the plain meaning of the biblical text.

Zane C. Hodges, Prof. Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary, 27 years teaching New Testament Greek; Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation, pgs 27-29; Zondervan Publishing, 1989

Thank you, Professor Hodges for that concise statement concerning the unnatural understading of “faith” that requires it to be consciously recognized by the assessment of one’s works.

Where does the Bible speak of "false faith"? If false faith is not faith at all, what exactly is it? Could someone who espouses Lordship Salvation please describe for me what the one exercising false faith is consciously cognizant of? How does one think he believes but does not believe?

Traditionalists qualify faith by testing it against the so-called "tests of life" in 1 John. Those 5-11 tests seem to take some knowledge and growth to attain to some positive results, no? The new believer may not have any prior knowledge about Christian living and commandments. If this genuine new believer were to immediately take those tests, he would fail. He would therefore be robbed of the assurance that is his birth-right, and wonder when he could ever know with certainty that he had appropriated the grace of God that guarantees eternal life.

“… a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be a partaker of [assurance]” (Westminster Confession of Faith, XVIII, II)

I once wrote, “Reformed people’s motivation is to work hard enough in order to gain some shadow of assurance, and thus make some conjecture that they may be saved.” Why Sacrifice for God if You Can’t be Certain that Christ Sacrificed for You?. Many people took exception with this statement. But the Westminster Confession makes the same claim: “And therefore it is the duty of every one to give diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace…” (XVIII, II).

But, must we “wait long” before we can be certain of our standing with God? Must we “conflict with many difficulties” before we can have confident assurance?

Jesus says "Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47).

Surely one can know whether or not they believe in Christ without making subjective external experimentation! One knows whether or not he is convinced that Jesus guarantees him eternal life! Is our cognizant recognition of convictions checked at the door when one considers religious truth? Or are the Traditionalists stuck with regarding certainty of held beliefs in any category to be impossible (apart from the "assurance" that comes from their Predestinational experiments)? Their integrated presuppositional theology works out an array of astonishing and ridiculous deductions.

To suggest that one can not know if he has believed Christ’s saving message and thus has eternal life, in and of themselves, apart from subjective external experimentation, is fantastic... surreal... odd and incredible, and should be wholeheartedly rejected! To propose that those whom God created in His likeness and image, possessing His communicable attributes, must necessarily be uncertain if they are trusting Him alone for their eternal-well being and therefore are convinced that Jesus guarantees them eternal life is lunacy. This is the predicament of the Experimental Predestinarian: syllogistic reasoning based upon perceived holiness and works that necessarily produce less-than-certain “assurance” and can, admittedly by Reformed advocates, result in faulty interpretations: either that one is unsaved when in fact he is elect, or that one is saved when in fact he is reprobate.

One can most certainly recognize that they are convinced that Jesus guarantees them eternal life and so bynecessarily know they indeed have eternal life. One can know whether or not he is convinced apart from subjective external experimentation! (As I assert this I am dumb-founded that anyone could disagree with this statement)

1) Eternal life is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

2) Jesus guarantees eternal life to the believer in Him for it.

If I am convinced that Jesus guarantees me eternal life, I am convinced that I have eternal life, therefore, certain and complete assurance is of the essence of saving faith, for Christ's guarantee is explicit in the promise being believed.

To say that one cannot know whether or not they are convinced about something (apart from subjective experimentalization) is an area of thought completely foreign to all but the Traditionalist. The Traditionalist must realize their faith only by conducting subjective external experiments, considering the worthiness of their works to prove that they are saved.

For the Traditionalist, being convinced of the Word of God is not enough, the objective Word of God is not enough; one must look to self and works for reason to have faith in their faith that it is adequate enough to save, that it is a true faith and not a spurious or false faith (whatever that is!).

Again. The Reformed advocate, the Calvinist, must necessarily not believe that the Word of God is enough! Their works must be in order before they can have faith in their faith that is is salvific. But what if their faith that their faith is saving is wrong? Wouldn’t they necessarily need to conduct an experiment on their conviction that their faith in Christ is actually saving? Which book of the Bible would they need to turn to for that research?

Such is the absurd nature of the presuppositional deductive theology of the Traditionalist.

To see an accurate description and definition of what faith is, click this link to an article I wrote:

The Biblical Definition of Faith

Friday, January 27, 2006

James 2:14ff Series / Salvation in James Continued

NEW REFERENCES ADDED TO TEXT A.D. Riddle was kind enough to provide 4 more references than I was aware of along with the English equivalent chapter/verse allocations. Thanks A.D.!

It has been a while since I did a post on James 2:14ff. There has been some discussion of it by Evan May of VeritasRedux. I want to continue and see if we can come to some more revelations concerning the James passage that has blistered so many theologians.

In this post, I want to continue to lay the groundwork for a proper understanding of James 2:14ff which has to do with a salvation that faith alone is insufficient to enact. In post 3 of this series we saw conclusively that the writer, James, the Lord’s half-brother, plainly makes works a condition for the salvation he here is describing; and that the failure to admit this is the chief source of the problems supposedly arising from this passage for most evangelicals. Instead, we ought to start by admitting it. And we ought then to admit that James cannot be discussing salvation by grace! But instead of admitting these points, most interpreters dodge them. See here for the discussion (Post 3).

In my posts prior to this, I intimated what the salvation, which James talks about in 2:14ff, is. Since the salvation that he is talking about has works as a condition, we must absolutely rule out eternal salvation as an option, for that is by grace alone apart from works (Eph 2:8,9; Rom 4:4, 5; 11:6).

In Post 6 of this series (you can find links to all my James series posts on the sidebar of the main page of this blog) we saw how sin, when it is full grown causes physical death. Sin causes death!

In Post 5 we saw how James parallels the Proverbial wisdom in his epistle, where we see, most certainly and clearly, that righteousness extends the life, while sin and unrighteousness behavior is a prelude to physical death. James was a Jew well acquanted with the wisdom found in Proverbs, and his Epistle pays tribute to that knowledge with its practical admonition and temporal application.

In continuing our prelimenary considerations, building the groundwork for our exposition of James 2:14ff, we come to the place in James’ epistle where we are first met with the concept of “saving”. Remember from post 5:

It is the knee-jerk reaction of 21st century readers of the Bible to import into the word “salvation” (Greek = “soteria”) and its cognates the meaning “salvation from hell” each time he reads it in the New Testament. Yet the word merely means “deliverance”. It is up to the context to decide what kind of deliverance is being referred to.


In a word study of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) we find that the Greek word “soteria” and its cognate “sozo” (save) in their contexts, where they are found about 363 times, means “deliverance from temporal calamaties” – such as circumstances that cause death, enemies, troubles; both individually and nationally - in the greatest majority of the times they are found, upwards of 98% of occurences. Only a relatively few passages have spiritual contexts to the salvation being discussed. Yet even in the instances that the terms "save" and "salvation" carry a sense of spiritual salvation in these minimally few OT passages, there is no explicit instance where the term appears solely with a spiritual nuance. In a study Rene Lopez of Dallas Seminary did of each occurrence of the words, he could not find even one instance where the words in their contexts had a justification-salvation-only meaning.

What does this say about the Greek reader of the New Testament? That he obviously would not consider the meaning “salvation from hell” for the Greek words “soteria” and “sozo” (salvation and save, respecively) as the first, knee-jerk option when he read it.

Ok. Let us begin with James 1:21 as a prelimary consideration to our exposition on James 2:14ff:

James 1:21
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Notice “save your souls” in this verse. Before I get expositionally into this verse, I want to erect an argument in favor of my interpretation of “salvation” in James:

“Save a soul” never means “salvation from hell” in the Bible (any use of the Greek word “sozo” (save) with the Greek noun “psuche”). It remains for scholars of historical theology to discern how this phrase ever became connected with the idea of “deliverance from hell”. It is never used that way in the Bible, and such an idea would have been foreign to any Jewish reader of the New Testament.

This phrase is found in the LXX (The Greek translation of the Old Testament) and in each case the salvation in view is not from hell .
Here are just a few examples to show some context to what I have been saying:

Gen 19:17
So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said,"Escape for your life!”

In the Greek it is: “sodze tnv seautou psuchnv”: translated “Save(sozo) your own life (psuche).” This is an imperatival statement of the angels to Lot and his family to escape or they would physically perish.

Gen 32:30
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."

In the Greek it is: “esothn mou n psuche”: translated “my life (psuche) has been saved (sozo).” After wrestling with God, Jacob called the place of his pugilism with the Angel of the Lord (a theophany) Peniel (meaning face to face) for he had seen God face to face and yet he did not die.

1 Sam 19:11
Saul also sent messengers to David's house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David's wife, told him, saying, "If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed."

In the Greek it is: “swseis tnv psuchnv sou”: translated “save (sozo) your life (psuche).” Michal, David’s wife said he must flee or physically die in the morning, so she sent him out the window.

Ps 30:3
O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

In the Greek it is: “tnv psuchnv mou eswsns”: translated “my life(psuche) you have saved(sozo).” David is praising God for His delivarance of his life from death.

Judith 10:15 (with context):
11 Thus they went straight forth in the valley: and the first watch of the Assyrians met her, 12 And took her, and asked her, Of what people art thou? and whence comest thou? and whither goest thou? And she said, I am a woman of the Hebrews, and am fled from them: for they shall be given you to be consumed: 13 And I am coming before Holofernes the chief captain of your army, to declare words of truth; and I will shew him a way, whereby he shall go, and win all the hill country, without losing the body or life of any one of his men. 14 Now when the men heard her words, and beheld her countenance, they wondered greatly at her beauty, and said unto her, 15 Thou hast saved thy life, in that thou hast hasted to come down to the presence of our lord: now therefore come to his tent, and some of us shall conduct thee, until they have delivered thee to his hands.

In the Greek it is: “seswkas tnv psuchnv sou”: translated “you have saved (sozo) your life (psuche)”. Assyrian soldiers confronted Judith and because of her beauty and message they did not kill her, her message saved her life.

There are all together 15 references in the LXX (with apocrypha) that contain the “save a soul” type language using sozo (save) as the verb and psuche (soul/life) as the object. In each of these cases, deliverance from death is in view, not deliverance from hell:

Ge 19:17
Ge 32:31 (= Eng. v.30)
1 Ki 19:11 (= Eng. 1 Sa 19:11)
Amos 2:14-15 (2x)
Job 33:28
Ps 6:5 (= Eng. v.4)
Ps 30:8 (= Eng. 31:7)
Ps 71:13 (= Eng. 72:13)
Ps 85:2 (= Eng. 86:2)
Ps 108:31 (= Eng. 109:31)
Jer 31:6 (= Eng. 48:6)
Psalms of Solomon 17:17 (= Eng. v.19)
Judith 10:15
1 Macc 9:9

Moulton and Milligan in their “Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament” (pg 698) show that in the papyrii evidence (the profane literature) that this phrase “save a soul” continues to mean “save the physical life”. And they give examples on how psuche (soul) can mean physical life as well.

BAGD, the standard Greek lexicon gives the entries “of life on earth in its external, physical aspects” and “earthly life itself” for psuche (soul/life).

So we have seen much evidence here produced for our understanding of the “salvation” James talks about within his epistle. There is not a single place in the entire Greek Bible (the NT plus the Septuagint) where the phrase “save a soul” signifies deliverance from hell.

It is unfortunate that most interpreters of James are either unaware of this data or dismiss it as irrelevant. Whenever linguistical evidence of this type is ignored, faulty interpretation is almost inevitable.

And faulty interpretation is what usually happens. Evan Mays of VeritasRedux wrote this about my view yesterday:

The only one of these that even hints at referring to the type of salvation that Antonio is asserting is 5:15, but this is later clarified in v. 20. The first instance (1:21) refers to the Word, which is able to save your souls. Obviously, a soul cannot die a physical death and does not need physical salvation. (Emphasis his)
Well, the overwhelming linguistical evidence has proved this assertion wrong.

We will pick up our consideration of James 1:21 in our next installment.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Parable of the Sower

Luke 8:4-8, 11-15

And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold." When He had said these things He cried, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

One of the fundamental elements of this parable:

The seed, which is the word of God, fails to remain in only one of the four soils. It is removed from the first soil and it is not removed from the last three soils. Furthermore, there is some effect produced by the seed in each of the last three soils. So on the face of it, the natural contrast is between the first soil and the last three, for the last three are categorically different than the first.

The natural contrast is between the first soil, where Satan steals the seed out of the heart “lest they should believe and be saved”, and the last three soils, where the seed which is the word of God “sprang up” (vs 6), “sprang up” (vs. 7), and “sprang up” (vs.8).

This cannot be overemphasized: The last three "sprang up"! The word of God created life in the heart and the last three "sprang up". The word of God is the gospel here, and the gospel, planted in the heart, created regenerate life in the last three soils. The last three are contrasted with the first one, where the word of God was stolen out of the heart, whereas in the last three, the seed remains.

Wayside soil
This is the only soil that the seed does not remain. Satan is in the world, blinding it to the gospel (2 Cor 4:3-4). He does not wish that any believe when they hear the gospel, for that would bring with it eternal life. Here Satan uses His sway (1 John 5:19) in the world to cloud out the gospel that has been heard. The word here is cast out, being left unconsidered in a closed mind, which the hearer that this soil represents, has hardened.

Rocky soil
In the pro-life movement for plants, life begins at germination. Life has occurred in the rocky soil.

The devil failed to prevent the salvation of the hearer who is represented by the rocky soil. This is evident. The seed remains, sprang up, and produced life. Satan has to get it out of their heart “lest they believe and be saved,” and in this endeavor he is unsuccessful. This parable explicitely shows that those represented by the rocky soil believe!

The Traditionalist (Reformed advocate) asserts that you aren’t saved by believing! but by believing and believing and believing and believing (and believing…): a perseverance in faith. You are saved at the end by perseverance in a linear faith, and not at a distinct moment of time upon a simple act of faith.

John 4:13-14
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Notice the phrase “drink of”. All one must do is merely “drink of” the water Jesus gives and he will never thirst again. Why? Because that one drink becomes a perpetual fountain. The single exercise of faith in Christ for eternal life brings with it absolute eternal security/eternal well-being.

According to the Traditionalist, salvation is contingent on linear faith. Jesus' offer to the Samaratan women at the well thus turns from "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give them shall never thirst again" into "whoever continues to drink of the water I give them shall never thirst again".

To this I say: of course if you continue to drink something you will never thirst! How is that contrasted with the physical water in John 4 that must continually be drawn (and drinken)? “Keep drinking and you will never thirst!” This becomes quite the prolific statement Christ makes here (sarcasm, for those of you in Rio Linda). Yet, such an understanding fatally extinguishes Jesus’ emphatic declaration here: take a drink and never thirst again – an initial act of faith that results in a permanent and unchangeable result in the person who has believed.

Eternal life is a definitive result!: you hear the voice of the Son of God and you have life; you believe and you pass from death unto life, you believe and you have eternal life.

It is a false premise that since they only believe for a while that they are not saved. That was good enough! It was good enough to get them saved! Satan didn’t have his way, the person represented by the rocky soil “believed” and therefore was saved.

And don’t fall into this trap of “spurious faith”. There is not even the slightest scintilla of evidence that this is a spurious faith in the parable. This is the same word in the Greek here in verse 14 (believe) as in verse 13 (believe), where in verse 13 the result of believing is salvation; we do not have here in verse 14 a different word that relates to us the idea of some “substandard” faith. Jesus does not know of faith in Him for eternal life that does not save. These represented by the rocky soil believe and are thus saved according to Jesus’ explicit statement a verse earlier that believing brings salvation.

It is the sad fact that some who hear the word, believe and are saved, and yet in a time of temptation will later fall away. This of course does not result in their damnation. God is faithful to His promises (2 Tim 2:13) whereby the one who drank of the living water shall never thirst again (John 4:14), shall never perish (John 10:28), and shall never die even unto eternity (John 11:26, see Greek).

Biblical examples of those representing the rocky soil are Demas (2 Tim 4:10) and Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:20). Those whose faith has been shipwrecked had faith. And all it takes is a moment of faith in Christ to appropriate eternal life. The people within this category are subject to God’s temporal displeasure shown in chastening, correcting, and righteous wrath, even resulting in premature death (either from their sin being full-grown (James 1:15) or the righteous wrath of God (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 11:30)).

Such people will be excluded from the intimate fellowship of Christ’s reigning overcomers. Such will experience shame and remorse at the Judgment seat of Christ. Such will miss out on the superlative experiences of the abundant entrance into Christ’s kingdom. Such loss is eternal.

Thorny soil
Those represented by the thorny soil, unlike those of the rocky soil, continue in their faith. Yet they allow the cares of this world such as career, home, family, and earthly treasures stunt their growth, thereby bringing no fruit to maturity. These are the ones who may go to church, pray, read their Bibles, and go to Sunday School class, but are stunted by their wordly desires. By far, this is the greatest majority of regenerate Christians.

These are the nominal Christians that so many Traditionalists fret about, often putting into doubt their very salvation. I will not deny that many may not be saved, having not believed the saving message of Christ, the true gospel of our salvation. Yet it is the fact of the matter that many are saved and are yet found in this half-hearted Christian experience.

Interestingly, Jody Dillow intimates that Traditionalism (Calvinism) proliferates the thorny soil predicament within Christendom:

“In the Experimental Predestinarian [Traditionalist] view, all who are Christians will be rewarded, and some more than others. Thus, they have created a version of Christianity where complete commitment is optional and not necessary. All that can be lost is a higher degree of blessedness, but all will be blessed. Could it be that this happy ending has lulled many into thinking they can continue their lukewarmness with no eternal consequences to pay?” (The Reign of the Servant Kings, pg 23).

Good ground
Some of the hearers of the gospel will respond with much fruitfulness. This is the result of the seed being panted in an undivided heart (a “noble and good” heart). Immediately Cornelius comes to mind:

Acts 10:1-2
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

Cornelius was a God-fearer, who did good works and prayed to God always. This man can be characterized as one who had a “noble and good heart”.

Acts 10:31
"Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.”

The angel here indicates that God had been hearing the prayers and appreciating the almsgiving of Cornelius, an unbeliever. When Cornelius heard, the soil fell on good ground.

The condition of the hearer corresponds to the different soils in the parable. A man’s condition is not static. He may strive, using the Holy Spirit and potentialities that lie latent in the seed implanted in Him in order to till the ground of his heart. This is of course the subject of Christ’s exhortation following the parable of the sower:

Luke 8:16-18
"No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him."

We must take heed to how we hear the word of God. We need to be open and out front in our Christian faith. This parable lays down the principles by which the believer can reach the quality of the fourth soil. It also shows the tragedy of those Christians who are not fruitful in their experience: “even what he seems to have will be taken away from him.” These words convey the message of accountability for the Christian at the Bema of Christ.

To take this parable the way the Traditionalist must, according to their doctrines of men, would be a travesty, for we would fail to profit from this parable, for it is given to relate to us intelligence about the types of people we will minister to:

1) Not everyone who we preach to will be saved
2) Not everyone who believes will continue in their faith
3) Not everyone who continues in their faith will be fully fruitful
4) There is a group who will continue in their faith and will be fruitful

Not everyone who believes produces the same results. The seed of the word does not necessarily produce the same results in every single believer.

The Traditionalist conceives that only the fourth soil are regenerate, therefore will result in fatally flawed ministries among those of the second and third soils. They necessarily will not know how to counsel people and relate to people.

“You don’t have this result. Go back and get saved. Go back to square one!” are the logical counselling methods for their view of this parable and the Christian life in general, when application is made to those of the second and third soils.

They thus can completely confuse the born again Christian with an unsaved person, when, instead of getting saved, the confused one needs to learn how to live the Christian life. Such misunderstanding results in severe uncertainties in the counselee. What a tragedy this engenders! Wheras the nominal Christian needs to learn the principles of Christian living, he is told that he has a spurious faith, andthat he needs to get born again (of which he already thought he was when he believed in Christ).

The following is story told by Zane Hodges to illustrate this calamity and dillema (of which I paraphrase):
Lets say that I was babysitting for a large family, and I haven’t seen all the children; I’m supposed to look out for them. I get a knock on the door and it is a boy very dirty and unkempt, dressed in ragged clothes. “Can I come in? This is my house.” Says the boy. To which I reply, “No, this can’t possibly be your house, you are too dirty, your clothes are too ragged. Go back and find your real home.” I would thus be excluding from the possibility of restoration to cleanliness and good appearance someone who might in fact be a member of the family.

Of course in any situtation before proceding with counselling, we would ask what the counselees expectation of heaven was. If he relates that he is trusting in Christ alone for eternal life, for entrance into heaven, then we work from the premise that he is saved, and he therefore needs to learn and follow the principles of Christian living.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Let's Get Personal

I was contemplating giving a post on the Parable of the Sower. I just got finished spending 2 1/2 hours playing cards with my 11 year old son, after putting my 4 year old son and 5 year old daughter to bed. My wife works at night and I work during the day so that one of us can always be with the Children... I guess the Dr. Laura thing: "Why have children if someone else is going to raise them?" (Talking about child-care, not to offend any of you parents who use it; I would never...)

Anyway, I didn't expect the cards to take that long with my son. It was a great time of simple father/son interaction, where we laughed, talked, and bonded. I am glad that we did it! (What game? Texas Hold 'em of course, lol! Quite the fad these days, no?)

Earlier in the evening I left a message on my wife's voice mail so that she would give me a call when she was heading home from work. She takes about 25 minutes to travel home from work providing there is no traffic.

I sat down here on the computer after hugging my son goodnight with every intention of expositing the Parable of the Sower. My wife on weekends usually doesn't get home until 12:30 - 1 am, so I figured I had some time. Just as I sat down and brought up blogger, my wife called, much to my surprise and excitement. She said she was already in the car and coming home... Not enough time to exposit the Parable I wished to visit.

I told her that when she gets home, the house will be perfectly clean, the bills done, kids put to bed, and candles lit. I told her we will dance.

I am constructing the moment. Maybe I'll throw in some Chicago...


Miles Davis.

As much as I would love to be a teacher tonight, I much rather would be swinging in the arms of the most lovely and wonderful woman in the world, my gorgeous wife.

I am a blessed man... Can you have your cake and eat it too?

I am living proof that you can.

We shall see if I can make it into Luke 8 tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Judgment Seat of Christ (the Bema)

There has been some discussion on my last post concerning my take on the Judgment Seat of Christ (the Bema). I wish to get into a few passages concerning it and give a brief exposition of them. For the purpose of this post, I will use a couple of comments from Doug who expressed objections concerning my doctrine in order to proceed with my thoughts.

Your questions to me are highly welcomed here. I will do my best to answer them fully. If you are going to bring up other Scriptures in an objection to my position, do us all a favor and do not rapid-fire proof-text. Give a scripture or two that you believe supports your objection to me with a well-reasoned exposition of it showing how the passage truly does support your interpretation of it and your objection to me.

Without further ado…

Doug writes:
Wow that sounds like heaven to me. I thought it was a place of no tears. (By the way this is very close to Mormon doctrine) Good luck working your way to the top of heaven.

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying" (Rev 21:4).

Notice that this is given in the context of a period following the millennial kingdom. It is here, at the onset of the eternal state, after the millennium, after the creation of the new heavens and new earth. This is the point where God will cause to cease any and all tears that may be present.

The Judgement seat of Christ will result in deep remorse, sorrow, weeping, regret, shame, dishonor, and loss for those who will be found unfaithful. “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor 4:2) (See Parables in Luke and Matthew below).

But as with all grief and sorrow that is experienced in time, it will pass away naturally. Yet the loss of significant rewards will remain for eternity. And at the point of the end of the millennium, all will have any and all tears wiped away.

The grief of those who will face the dishonors and shame of a poor review at the judgment seat of Christ have much to be sorry and weep about! They are the ones who had everything needed for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3), have been blessed with all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms in Christ, (Eph 1:3), yet they spurned the growth in grace and wilfully resisted the familial ministry of the Father, and now they will miss out on the superlative experience of being in the tight fellowship of Christ’s co-heirs!

Doug writes:
By the way what will they be remorsing about, their sins, I thought they were paid at calvary. So much for your free grace.

The death of Christ fully and completly took sin out of the way as a barrier to God's acceptance. It is as far removed as the east is from the west in this sense. God now accepts any who believe in His Son for eternal life, but only those who do so. Yet all are invited to come.

Once we are saved, we step into the world of servanthood and stewardship unto the Lord.

Our works will be reviewed at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema, for our faithfulness or lack therof in the steward/servant role.

"Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor 5:9-11).

The works will be reviewed, as to whether they are good or bad; the bad will include our sins as stewards. We will then receive the wages/rewards for that which we have done in the body, whether good or bad.

Paul, the Christian, is telling the Corinthians, Christians, that he sought to be well pleasing to God, for he knew his life as a servant/steward would be reviewed by Christ at His Bema. What are his next words?

"Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men." Persuade them of what in this context? To be well pleasing to the Lord. Why? Because their stewardship and servanthood will be reviewed at Christ's Bema where they will receive their wages for their servanthood, and to be found unfaithful will be to experience the dread of coming to the master empty-handed.

Luke 12:42-48
And the Lord said, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers [Greek = apistia, can be equally rendered "unfaithful"]. And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
Notice first, this is the SAME servant with two different potentialities: "BUT IF THAT SERVANT..." not to have to mention that he is indeed a TRUE servant of the Master (he wasn't some phony pretending to be a servant of the Master!).

Whereas the first scenario with the same servant is rewarded with the inheritance and rulership over the master's goods, that same servant in the next scenario gets the portion [inheritance] of the unfaithful (which is nothing!). The “portion” of the unfaithful (Greek: apistia), is to receive no inheritance in the Kingdom of God. They will merely enter, but will not co-rule, co-reign with Christ. The glories, intimacy, honor, reign, and inheritance belongs to the faithful, overcoming Christians, who fare well at the accounting of their lives at the judgment seat of Christ.The day that the Master comes back corresponds to the assessment and review at the Bema of Christ.

Please remember, that this is parabolic language! There is no literal beating with stripes! The parable’s components correspond to spiritual truth. The unfaithful servant will have penetrating and severe consequences meted out to him at the Bema (some of which are the significant loss of superlative experience in the kingdom, which comes in the form of inheritance, rulership, and intimacy with Christ; other consequences may be discussed in other posts) (see “cut him in two” in the following discussion).

Let’s see this same parable out of the mouth of Matthew:

Matt 24:45-51

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Notice the parallel passage in Matthew: one true (not phony) servant of the Master, two potentialities, two scenarios.

The first scenario again finds rulership for the faithfulness of the servant at the coming of his Master to assess his duty as a steward (The Bema Seat of Christ).

Matthew adds some things here in the assesment of the second scenario of the same servant (actions that the Master takes against the servant in parabolic form). One must remember again that this is a parable. It is a story that has correspondence to spiritual reality.

"cut him in two"

This is parabolic language. Some people think this is hell, but they do not see the clear teaching of Jesus that this happens to a true servant of Jesus when the Master returns to assess His servant’s performance in their duties. (Even in hell, no one imagines that the lost will literally be cut in two!)

The Word of God will judge each believer at the Bema of Christ. Those servants who have been found unfaithful will suffer shame being "cut in two" by the Word of God. Have you ever been rightfully confronted with a wrong you committed? Wasn't it like being cut in two? Well according to Heb 4:12, 13:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Heb 4:12-13).

The Word of God is going to be an instrument of our judgment when we give an account of ourselves at the Bema of Christ. For some it will be painful.

“There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”

It is the knee-jerk reaction of 21st century readers of the bible to import into the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" as a NECESSARY allusion to hell.

This is merely an oriental expression that relates severe remorse, sorrow, and regret over a life that was wasted for Christ. The original readers of this text would not automatically import into this the idea of hell.

For sure, Jesus used this imagery referring to hell in other places. It is found 6 times in the gospels. 3 of which refer to hell, 3 of which refer to the unfaithful at the day of accounting when their MASTER returns to review their service.

Yet there is nothing inherent in that phrase that necessitates that it must be taken as a reference to hell. Jesus was under no such constaint to use it only as a reference to hell. It perfectly describes the inner shame, sorrow, and torment of the unfaithful servant who faces the judgment of the Master to whom he gives account for his performance in duty.

Paul says that at the judgment seat of Christ there will be terror for those who were not well pleasing and faithful in their duties, as the Word of God cuts them in two for their unfaithfulness, as they will receive what they have done in the body, whether good or bad (see above).

John says that there will be Christians who will have shame at Christ's coming (1 John 2:28).

Imagine this scene in heaven at Christ's judgment seat where He is reviewing the lives of Christians. In front of him is a steward (A Christian) who was not faithful and was found unfaithful at His coming.

This man was given all things that pertain to life and godliness, exceeding great and precious promises whereby he could have escaped the corruption in the world, every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies! But he spurned these things.

This man no longer has a sin nature. He can no longer rationalize his sin. When Christ using the Word of God confronts him with his wasted life, this man will feel remorse like he could have never felt it with his sin nature intact. It will produce in him severe remorse and regret, sorrow and inner torment. He was an unfaithful steward to Him who gave His EVERYTHING for him.

He will "suffer loss". GREAT loss. Yet he himself is saved, yet as through fire.

We know, though, that LATER, God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev 21:4).

Obedience and faithfulness are REQUIRED of a servant. The negelct of such has grave and severe consequences: temporal wrath, and eternal loss.

This is where Free Grace theology has its doctrine of accountability. The Reformed tradition says that all will basically persevere and be faithful if they are truly saved. This consequently makes the subsequent works a necessary condition for salvation.

There really is no distinctive doctrine of accountability for the regenerate ones and rewards in Reformed theology. If one does not persevere, he goes to hell, showing he was not saved. In Reformed thought, everyone who is regenerate perseveres. There really is no distinction.

If everyone gets the rewards, then of what motivation is it? Of what significance does it hold? Paul disciplined and buffeted his body!! There was no assurance that he would persevere and thus win the prize and receive the crown. "'Everyone is special' is just another way of saying that nobody is". Jesus reserves the highly esteemed positions in His kingdom for those who have had the overcoming, faithful, obedient, lives, those who have had the intimacy with Him here and now.

"A command that everyone keeps is superfluous, and a reward that everyone receives for a virtue that everyone has is nonsense."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Free Grace Doctrine Correlation : My Positions

I have been asked by some to integrate my position into some kind of whole. The following is an attempt to correlate the various doctrines in my Free Grace position by making 27 points that contain affirmations and denials within my theology. I am looking forward to both continue with my exposition of James 2:14ff and give an exposition of the Parable of the Sower as found in Luke.

I don’t know if I have left anything out or not; as this has been a somewhat hastened attempt to put something together. I realize that I haven’t included any Scripture references, but this was for time’s sake. I have much exposition contained in the posts of my blog already, and plan to continue to do so. If you require references for a certain point, I would be willing to proceed with them for you in the comments section.

Some have asked about my position on the ontoligical nature of the regenerate Christian. I have attempted to briefly explain it here as well. Your questions are welcomed (your objections less so…). Clarifications are not out of the question either.

27 Points of my Free Grace Position

1) Eternal life is a guaranteed absolutely free gift received immediately by the intermediate agency of a simple act of punctilliar faith in Jesus Christ alone for the purpose of receiving eternal life, apart from works of any kind; and at that simple moment of faith in Christ, he is eternally secure!

2) At the moment of faith the believer is regenerated: God imparts unto him His seed along with its great potential. This new nature is completely sinless; cannot sin at all, as an absolute.

3) The believer's sin nature has been, in Christ (positionally), crucified. Although it remains in the believer's ontological nature, our regeneration has given us the potential necessary to mortify it in experience.

4) The potentials of our new nature are realized as a) we submit ourselves to God, b) come face to face with the glory of Christ as He is revealed in His word (whereby the Holy Spirit changes us from glory to glory), c) recognize and utilize the great and precious promises that are ours in Christ, d) through praying to God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and according to the Father’s will, and e) by walking in the light as He is in the light (fellowship). The potentials are as limitless as our God, for the seed in us is His divine nature!

5) Although regenerate man has great potential because of the divine nature being imparted unto him, the potentials of that nature do not automatically nor necessarily bloom. Experiential and progressive sanctification is the cooperation between God and man (wheras eternal salvation is all from God). Regenerate man must will and act in cooperation with God in order to grow experientially and access the potentialities of his new nature. It is the sad fact that the greatest majority of regenerate Christians do not explore and cultivate this potential to its greatest lengths. It is even sadder that in extreme and remote cases the regenerate Christian can lose his faith in Christ and abandon Christianity. Yet in all this, God remains faithful to His promises whereby eternal life is the guaranteed immediate possession of anyone who simply believes in Christ for the reception of Jesus' free gift of eternal life.

6) There is such a thing as a false professor in Christianity. But it lies in only 2 areas:
a) One who lies and says that they believe in Jesus alone for eternal life (for purpose of infiltrating, or wishing to be accepted, etc)
b) One who believes a message that is not the saving message of Christ (the true gospel), and believes that he has believed the true gospel.

There is no such thing as a spurious faith in Christ alone that has for its purpose the reception of eternal life. The modifiers, such as "head" faith, "false" faith, "spurious" faith, "temporary" faith, etc., are the machinations of those who oppose the idea that eternal life is, in reality, an absolutely free gift. No such modifiers to faith exist in the Bible. The Bible knows nothing of any such thing as a “substandard” faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life (not even in the Epistle of James or parable of the sower!).

7) The nature of true faith in the current traditional climate of Christianity is somewhat ethereal and unexplainable, mystical and complex. “Faith is a dense fog, an impenetrable mystery for most pastors and theologians today” (Bob Wilkin). And what is fog in the pulpit is surely darkness in the pew. Faith is not commitment, surrender; does not include works of obedience, nor is faith an act of the will! Truth, as to its nature, is propositional. Faith is being convinced/persuaded that something is true. Faith is the passive result of being convinced/persuaded that a proposition is true. Jesus Christ is the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him for it. Saving faith, then, is the conviction (being convinced) that Jesus guarantees you eternal life by faith alone in Him!

8) Assurance of eternal life is not something that is gained subsequent to salvation. Absolute and certain assurance of possession of eternal life is of the essence of saving faith. Since saving faith is being convinced of Christ’s saving message whereby He guarantees eternal life to the believer in Him for it, one by necessity is certainly assured of possession of eternal life the very moment he believes. The guarantee of eternal life is infused into Christ’s saving message, therefore when one believes this message (is convinced that it is true) he at that same moment is convinced that he has everlasting life!

9) Doubts of salvation are not uncommon in those who truly are regenerate. Although they at the moment they believed in Christ had absolute assurance, circumstances in the Christian life can cause them to take their eyes off of Jesus and redirect them on the self, the circumstances, or both; loss of assurance is then experienced. But certain assurance of eternal life can again be theirs the moment they look to Christ and His promises in simple faith. As the Christian grows in the faith, those times of doubt will be less experienced, even precluded.

10) At the moment of faith in Jesus for eternal life, the believer becomes a child of God. He is thus ushered into a new relationship with God. This relationship as to its essence is familial. In this relationship, God is the perfect Father. He nudges, directs, leads, chastens, scourges, teaches, encourages, etc.: all the attributes of a perfect Dad. Yet, God does not drag His children down the path of obedience. He uses means for the purpose of directing His children, but the children may spurn God’s direction.

11) The Christian has the opportunity to grow into “full grown” sons, and thereby receive the entitlements and priveledges of such (as inheritance and priviledges in the kingdom). Remaining a mere child, or regression from any attained experiential position may be met with the chastening and/or wrath of the Father. These chastenings may include sickness, lack of success and prosperity, God’s heavy hand in circumstances, etc. The wrath of God can include the afformentioned things and can include pre-mature physical death.

12) The sins of the Christian are not looked at lightly with God. Sins of the Christian are a serious matter that involves serious consequences. Sin, when it is practiced and reaches maturity can cause death (natural consequences of sin). Sin is also met with God’s temporal displeasure, whereby He chastens, scourges, and may mete out His wrath for such.

13) Man is saved by grace through faith apart from works, but will be judged by our works. The unregenerate will be judged by his works (at the Great White Throne judgment), but condemned for his name being absent from the Book of Life. The regenerate will be judged (not for eternal destiny; this was determined the very moment of simple faith in Christ for eternal life) by his works at the Bema (rewards/judgment platform) of Christ (the judgment seat of Christ). The results for the overcomer in the Christian life will be the superlative entrance into the kingdom, with attending glories, honors, position and rank, co-inheritance with Christ, co-reigning with Christ, and intimate fellowship with Christ and his band of reigning servant kings. The results for the subcomer will be dishonor, shame, remorse, regret, sorrow, and deep loss, with only the mere entrance into the kingdom.

14) Repentance is not a condition of eternal life. Faith alone in Christ alone is the sole intermediate agency by which one receives eternal life.

15) Repentance of sins by the unsaved (either corporately or individually) can avert or halt the temporal wrath of God that is now being displayed in the world.

16) The repentance of an unsaved man, whereby he repents of the sins that trouble his life, and whereby he turns to God (examples of which are going to church or reading his bible) can be a path for him to, in time, find the way to be saved and believe in Christ for eternal life. His repentance may start him on the path that leads to harmony with God.

17) Harmony and fellowship with God is lost when a believer falls into continuous sin for a period of time. Repentance is the necessary remedy to avert or halt the temporal chastenings of the Father, and restore harmony with God.

18) Repentance is not a mere changing of the mind; it surely includes such, but this is not the extent. Repentance is an act whereby the sinning one turns from his sin unto righteousness, producing the works meet with his re-direction.

19) Inheriting the kingdom of God is not equivocal to merely entering it. The impartial observer will quickly note the two very distinct imports of the words: “inherit” and “enter”. It is the theologian who misses the significance! Much confusion has been spawned by illegitametly affirming the equality of both, which eclipses the doctrine of grace. To link the two fatally compromises the freeness of eternal life. Entering the kingdom of God is conditioned solely by faith in Christ. Inheriting the kingdom, along with its attendent rulership priviledges is conditioned on faithful obedience and works to the end of life.

20) The inheriting and rulership of Christ’s metachoi (Greek, = “partakers”), along with its attending greater intimate fellowship with Christ, is the grand reward that Paul often spoke about. The intimacy that we will share with Christ in His kingdom corresponds to the intimacy that we share with Him now.

21) This grand reward is to be distinguished from the “treasures” that we are commanded to provide for ourselves in heaven. Specific acts of sincere piety are rewarded with corresponding treasures in heaven that cannot fade away. The subcomer may not rule with Christ but any treasure that he has provided for himself will be his in heaven.

22) The call to eternal life and the call to discipleship are two distinct invitations. Those who equate the two corrupt the essentially free nature of the gospel offer. The call to eternal life is the invitation to receive an absolutely free gift. Discipleship, on the other hand, requires very hard work.

23) There are many who equate the call to self-denial, self-mortification, giving up one's life, and doing all other kinds of hard works, with conversion, but by so doing they either explicitly or implicitly deny the freeness of the gospel. By no stretch of the imagination is the demand for self-denial and self-sacrifice an invitation to receive a free gift. The attempt to harmonize these polarities always ends either in hopeless absurdity or in theological sophistry.

In this respect the man on the street is often more perceptive than the theologian. If someone were to offer him a gift in return for self-denying obedience, he would readily recognize that offer as grotesquely misrepresented! The Son of God never engaged in such contradictions. What was free, He represented as free. What was costly, He presented as costly.

24) Discipleship is the construction of a life that will have enduring meaning and worth into eternity that will bring with it the contingent glories of a life that has been laid down for Christ. The call to discipleship is a call to the "abundant" life. It is the call to a living now that results in purpose, meaning, fulfillment, and joy (attended with sufferings and persecutions) in the present; in other words: genuine living. It is the call to a life now that one "loses" his life in an earthly perspective but gains it from a heavenly perspective.

25) Eternal life is not a static thing; it can be increased, grown; it can bloom. It can be built upon. Present possesion of eternal life is only one aspect. Eternal life as a yet future attainment is something that is merited by faithful obedience and perseverance. It is a reward. Present possesion of eternal life is just the starting in the life of the believer. The new believer is now called to give up his life to find it. Present possesion of eternal life is just the entry way into the experiential knowledge of God.

26) The regenerate Christian who submits himself to discipleship will have meaning, purpose, fulfillment, joy, and the abundant life NOW as a result of his discipleship that includes dying to self, living for Christ, and picking up one's cross. He also in the future life will have provided for himself a richer experience in the kingdom of God , the abundant entrance, that is truely superlative! Glories, honors, inheritance, and co-reigning with Christ are some of the things he has to look forward to.

27) The Christian who does not submit himself to discipleship will endure chastenings, temporal consequences, lack of real purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in the present (the non-abundant life). He will not be able to look forward to a favorable review at the judgement seat of Christ (the Bema). He will have saved his life (in the present) but lost his life (in the future), the life he could have had in the kingdom of God. Yes he is saved and will be in the kingdom. But he considered the gaining of the world as compensation for him losing his life (in both a present and eternal sense). He will be in the kingdom; saved, yet as through fire.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Temporary Faith and Reformed Assurance of Election

Reformed theology has a doctrine of “temporary faith”. A reprobate can “believe” the gospel, have joy, persevere for a while producing works in his life, but will eventually fall away demonstrating his non-election. This teaching weighs heavily upon their experimental doctrine of assurance. There can be no certain or absolute assurance of eternal life providing:

In this Experimental Predestinarian position, it is possible for someone to believe in Christ, follow the path of sanctification, yet fall away later proving his reprobation.

Those who exercise mere temporary faith experimentally believe they are of the elect, fellowship with the elect, produce some fruits, persevere for a while, but will at some time eventually fall away. There are no objective standards by which to find out if one is merely a reprobate with temporary faith, or is truly elect. There is no way to know if one is elect barring a personal revelation from God saying as much. Only through pesevering in faith and works for an extended period of time can one gain some (uncertain) "assurance" of salvation. Even then it is not certain, for it is not assured that he is elect and will persevere until the end.

Read John Calvin’s words on Temporary Faith:

"...experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way similar to the elect, that even in their own judgement there is no difference between them... Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption.

"Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment... Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never obtain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. he only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living roots of faith, so that they persevere even unto the end” (Institutes III.ii.11-12).

Ineffectual grace (my term) is due to the ministry of the Spirit in imparting "transitory" faith or temporary faith. John Calvin argues this from Scripture on the basis of Heb 6:4-5:

"I know that to attribute faith to the reprobate seems hard to some, when Paul declares it (faith) to be the result of election. This difficulty is easily solved. For...experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected by almost the same feeling as the elect, so that even in their own judgement they do not in any way differ from the elect" (Institutes III.ii.11).

"There is nothing to prevent His giving some a slight knowledge of his gospel, and imbuing others thoroughly... the light which glimmers in the reprobate is afterward quenched..." (Institutes III, ii, 11-12).

(Calvin seems to credit God with working an almost fiendish deception upon the reprobate, "enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent." (Institutes, III:ii, 11))

For those of the Reformed persuasion, certainty of eternal life is impossible. My question from my last post was, “Why sacrifice for Christ if you cannot be sure that Christ sacrificed for you?” If you are a reprobate, Christ did not die for you. Yet it is possible to experimentally believe that you are elect. Thus out of your uncertainty you work to prove your election, to attain final salvation.

A simple syllogism shows that Calvinist’s cannot be sure that Christ died for them, that they are elect, that they certainly possess eternal life:

1) The elect will persevere to the end in faith and works
2) There is such a thing as a temporary faith and ineffectual grace whereby there are fruits being produced but they do not persevere
Thus, only when one perseveres to the end can they ascertain whether or not they are elect or were ineffectually called.

“There is a spurious as well as a genuine faith. Every man, when he thinks he believes, is conscious of exercising what he thinks is faith. Such is the correct statement of these facts of consciousness. Now suppose the faith, of which the man is conscious, turns out a spurious faith, must not his be a spurious consciousness? And he, being without the illumination of the Spirit, will be in the dark as to its hollowness” (Dabney, Discussions by Robert L. Dabney, D.D., L.L.D., pgs 180-181).

A person who believes now may only be a rebrobate with a spurious faith, and will be in the dark as to its temporary nature, for their consciousness is fooling them. As John MacArthur put it, “You may be a spiritual defector who hasn’t defected yet!”

Any experimental tests used to assess if one is elect or not, regenerate or not, can give a faulty conclusion! If the reprobate who has exercised temporary faith follows the so-called “tests of life” in 1 John, he may end up with the same uncertain assurance that the elect does when they take the tests! How are you to then know if you are elect? Only by a perseverance in well-doing until the end of life.

But, you can be completely certain that you have eternal life now! The certain assurance of the possession of eternal life is found only by looking outward to Christ and not by looking inward to the evidences of regeneration in the life. As the gospel promise and the beauty of the Redeemer are held before the believer's gaze, absolute assurance is the result of such contemplation.

Jesus answered and said to her, "… whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:13-14).

“Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life” (John 6:47).

I plan on creating a post discussing the Parable of the Sower in my next blog article.