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)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

More Thoughts on Phil 1:6

A commentator has rightly said that the “good work” in verse Phil 1:6

“…cannot be shaken loose from its immediate context and be interpreted primarily in terms of 'God’s redeeming and renewing' in the lives of the Philippians (Martin, 1959; see also Barth, Caird, Hendriksen, Jones, Müller). Rather ergon agathon [Greek for ‘good work in verse 6] finds its explanation in the fact that the Philippians were partners with Paul in the gospel (v 5), and shared their resources with him to make the proclamation of the gospel possible. This ‘sharing in the gospel’ is the good work referred to here (cf. 2 Cor 8:6)” (italics in the original) Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1983), 21

This limited meaning of 1:6 is established by the inter-relationship between the "good work" and the preceding phrase in v 5, "the first day until now." The "good work" is what God began among them (v 6), i.e. from "the first day." The concept of completing the good work in v 6 carries the process on from the "now" (v 5) to the "day of Christ" (v 6). This can be diagrammed as follows:

Verse 5
“from the first day” “until now”

verse 6
“He who began” “will complete it until the day of Christ”

The whole of Philippians 1:3-7 is but a single sentence in the Greek, forming a contextual unit. It creates a thematic epistolary introduction, beginning with a thanksgiving for the Philippians’ financial support of the spread of the gospel (vs 5), continuing with encouragement for their contributions (verse 6) and ending with Paul’s consideration of the Philippians as partners with Him in the gospel endeavor. Verse six is placed in the middle of verses 5 and 7, which speaks of the Philippians’ contribution to the spread of the gospel (verse 5) and their partnership with Paul in this specific endeavor (verse 7).

The chronological wording within the same sentence and unit delimits the “good work” to the koinwnia of verse 5. This is lock-tight solid! Paul is being specific and speaking concerning the Philippians’ “koinwnia”. The phrase “from the first day” corresponds to “He who began” in the chronology, speaking of the same topic: koinwnia (vs 5) / “good work” (verse 6). The only way that “good work” could mean a guaranteed perseverance and growth in faith and works is to define the “koinwnia” of verse 5 as the mystical union with Christ (eternal salvation). As we have seen in my last post, this is thoroughly unlikely.

John Hart (Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1996)
That Paul is thinking directly of the Philippians’ contribution financially when he uses koinwnia in 1:5 is supported by the following reasons. First, Paul brings together in chapter four the verb koinwnew (4:15) and the compound verb synkoinwnew(4:14) to identify the gift they had sent him in his imprisonment. The compound noun synkoinwnoi ("fellow-sharers") is used in 1:7 and expresses a unity that the Philippians have with Paul in his imprisonment, and in defending and vindicating the Gospel. The koinwnia of 1:5 must essentially be the same as the synkoinwnoi in 1:7. This implies an inextricable connection with the gift motif in 4:10–20. At the same time, it ties together the concepts in 1:5–7, and demands an interpretation that treats all three verses as a flow of thought. In other words, 1:6 cannot go uninfluenced by the conceptions of the Philippian gift portrayed in 1:5 and again in 1:7, and finally in 4:10–20.

Some in the Traditionalist camp, as our friend Ten Cent has, employ Phil 2:12-13 to support their contention that Phil 1:6 teaches the Perseverance of the Saints. Notwithstanding the evidence already submitted in the previous post and in this one thus far, this approach can be challenged in the following ways:

First, this approach utilizes the flawed exegetical and hermeneutical method of indiscriminately cross-referencing “ergon” (Greek: work) or its cognates and compounds. Other compounds of ergon in Philippians demonstrate that energew (2:13, "to work") and katergazomai (2:12, "to accomplish, work out") do not necessarily correspond with the "good work" of 1:6 or a salvation view of the verse. Clearly, the focus of ergon in the remainder of the letter is on the work of advancing the Gospel, not soteriological concerns. For example, cf. 1:22, karpos ergou ("fruitful labor") and 2:30, to ergon Cristou ("the work of Christ"), which indisputably reference the gathering of fruit for eternal life, IOW, the spread of the gospel. Most of the other cognates have a similar focal point: 2:25, synergon ("fellow worker"); 3:2, tous kakous ergatas ("the evil workers"); 4:3, synergwn mou ("my fellow workers").

Second, the "salvation" (soteria) in 2:12 is best taken as a "deliverance" other than a rescue from eternal damnation. If one were to do a lexical/word study of “soteria” in the Septuagint and other Koine Greek they would find that it has a very broad range which can include things as healing, health, well-being (both spritual and physical), prosperity, good fortune, triumphant endurance, deliverances from the afflictions of earthly life, moral and personal welfare, rewards in an eschatological dimension, and lastly, deliverance from hell (which would be the least likely assumption of the Greek reader!).

Phil 2:12 says "dear friends... work out your own salvation"

They are to "work out" which translates katergazomai, which simply means "to effect by labor, acheive, work out, bring about". They are to effect their own salvation by the condition of works!

A salvation (soteria) which can be achieved by labor is hardly the justification-by-faith-alone kind of salvation offered elsewhere in the Bible!

The salvation in Phil 2:12 thus cannot be the justification salvation that is by grace through faith found elsewhere in Paul; unless you would be content to allow for real contridiction in the Bible.

Also, if the Calvinist / Traditionalist takes the “salvation” in Phil 2:12 to be eternal salvation, wouldn't this then actually be a true(IOW, not the bogus one the Traditionalist accuses the FGer of) synergism (eternal salvation by partnership of God and man) which the Traditionalists always seems to be railing against?

Phil 1:3–7 is best understood as preparing for Paul’s gift motif developed in 4:10–20. In fact, the unusual harmony of 1:3–7 and 4:10–20 compels the exegete to perceive 1:6 from the vantage point of the Philippians’ gift to Paul. This can be seen quite pictorially by comparing Phil 1:3-7 with Phil 4:10-20:

Parallels Between Philippians 1 and Philippians 4 [Credit: John Hart]

Phil 1:3 “I thank my God
Phil 1:4 “offering prayer with joy"
Phil 4:10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly”

Phil 1:5 “your participation [koinwnia] in the gospel”
Phil 4:15 “no church shared [verb cognate of koinwnia] with me in the matter of giving and receiving"

Phil 1:5 “your participation in the gospel from the first day
Phil 4:15 “at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia”

Phil 1:6 “He who began a good work in you”
Phil 4:14 “you have done well to share with me”

Phil 1:6 “[He] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus
Phil 4:17 “the profit which increases to your account

Phil 1:7 “it is right for me to feel this way about you all
Phil 1:3 “for all your remembrance of me” (Moffatt NT)
Phil 4:10 “you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned

Phil 1:7 “it is only right for me to feel this way
Phil 4:8 “whatever is right, … let your mind dwell on these things

Phil 1:7 “in my imprisonment … you all are partakers[synkoinwnous] of grace with me”
Phil 4:14 “to share with me [synkoinwsantes] in my affliction"

The partnership with Paul, as seen in the financial contributions of the Philippians, is clearly apparent as the “good work” in Phil 1:6, and as such, fatally undermines the psuedo-scholastic exegesis of the Traditionalists.

The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints has been read into Phil 1:6. This is shameful, as it has become one of the proof-texts extrordinaire in the arsenal of the Traditionalist.

The Perseverance of the Saints makes the Traditionalist’s gospel a false gospel, as it introduces another condition to final salvation: namely, perseverance until the end in faith and progressive sanctification. This is a reprehensible back-loading of works-based contingency into the simple offer of the gospel.

Antonio da Rosa
Key words: Calvin, Calvinism, doctrines of grace, TULIP

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Phil 1:6 Does NOT teach the Perseverance of the Saints!

Is Perseverance of the Saints taught in the Bible?

Phil 1:3-8
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.

Does Philippians 1:6 teach that true Christians will persevere until the end of life in faith and good works?

John MacArthur seems to think so. In his book, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, Mr. MacArthur references Philippians 1:6 six different times (pps. 24, 33, 71, 110, 185, 192)—as much as or more than any other verse in this book, showing the centrality and significance of its concepts for his theology. Throughout his references it is generally assumed that the theological meaning he assigns to the verse is the only viable interpretation. He offers no exegesis of the passage, any discussion of the context whatsoever, nor does he submit any refutation of possible alternative interpretations. This is extremely odd, as this verse is used so repeatedly and is so fundamental to his theology! Why not a more thorough treatment?

John MacArthur explains his theology in this way:
That ongoing work of grace in the Christian’s life is as much a certainty as justification, glorification, or any other aspect of God’s redeeming work . . . [Phil 1:6 is quoted] . . . Salvation is wholly God’s work, and He finishes what He starts. His grace is sufficient. And potent. It cannot be defective in any regard
(MacArthur, Faith Works, 33)

Elsewhere MacArthur writes
They [professing believers] can be sure that if their faith is real it will endure to the end—because God himself guarantees it . . . (Phil. 1:6).
(ibid., 192)

And again:
Real faith cannot be defective or short lived but endures forever (Phil. 1:6; cf. Heb. 11).
(ibid., 24)

Yet later, quoting Phil 1:6 again, he qualifies the sanctification process:
Sometimes the process is slow and arduous; sometimes it is immediately triumphant.

It seems theologically weightless to contend for a particular view of sanctification from the fact that God’s grace is not defective. If God’s grace is not defective when the process of sanctification proceeds rather slowly or even stops for a limited period of time, why is it defective when the process seems extremely slow or stops for an extended period of time?

Does it not seem, as well, that one could even argue for sinless perfection in this life based on the theology that God’s grace cannot be "defective”!

Quoting Phil 1:6 in The Gospel According to Jesus, 189, MacArthur comments, "The work of salvation cannot ultimately be thwarted." This reasoning is not conclusive either. One who believes that glorification, but not progressive sanctification, is guaranteed for the Christian will concur that "God’s work of salvation cannot ultimately be thwarted."

What is the “good work” of Phil 1:6? It is none other than the Philippians’’ “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5)! “Fellowship” is a translation of the Greek word “koinwnia”. The basic concept of this word implies a participation with another in a common cause or goal, i.e., a "sharing" or "having something in common with another." The English word "partnership" satisfies the connotation behind this Greek word. This word frequently carries a specific idea of sharing financially or forming a partnership through financial giving (BAGD 438-39). In this manner, it is sometimes translated "contribution" or a related term.

That Paul is thinking directly of the Philippians’ contribution financially when he uses koinwnia in 1:5 is also supported by comparing:

Phil 4:15-17
15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared [verb cognate of koinwnia] with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

which also discusses the Philippians’ financial support of the gospel and forms an inclusio with Phil 1:3-7.

A further line of support is found when comparison is made between 2 Corinthians 8–9 and Philippians 1:3-7. 2 Corinthians 8-9 is the largest NT passage on giving and contains all the major concepts surrounding Philippians 1:6.

Parallels Between Philippians 1 and 2 Corinthians 8–9 [credit to John Hart, the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1996]

Phil 1:3 “I thank my God”
2 Cor 9:12 “the ministry of this service is… overflowing through many thanksgivings to God

Phil 1:5 “your participation[koinwnia] in the gospel”
2 Cor 8:4 “the favor of participation [koinwnia] in the support of saints”
2 Cor 9:13 “your generosity in sharing [koinwnia] with them”

Phil 1:6 “For I am confident
2 Cor 8:22 “because of his great confidence in you”

Phil 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will perfect
2 Cor 8:6 “as he [Titus] had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work”
2 Cor 8:10-11 “[you] were the first to begin… to do this,… But now finish doing it also, that… there may be also the completion of it”

Phil 1:6 “that he who began a good work in you”
2 Cor 9:8-9 “you may have an abundance for every good work; as it is written ‘… He gave to the poor’”

Phil 1:6 “He who began a good work in you
2 Cor 8:1 “the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia”
2 Cor 8:6 “he would also complete in you this gracious work”

Phil 1:6 “perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus
2 Cor 9:9 “…He gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever”
2 Cor 9:10 “He … [will] increase the harvest of your righteousness

Phil 1:7 “you all are partakers of grace with me”
2 Cor 8:1 “the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia"
2 Cor 8:6 “complete in you this gracious work”
2 Cor 8:7 “see that you abound in this gracious work
(see also 2 Cor 8:4, 19; 9:8, 14)

The following is from:
Charlie Bing - Does Philippians 1:6 Teach Perseverance of the Saints? (Newsletter of the Grace Evangelical Society)
Does this verse teach the Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints?

The first question to answer is what Paul meant by "good work." The answer is in the context. Paul is recognizing their "fellowship in the gospel" (v. 5). The word fellowship (koinonia) has the basic meaning of communion or something shared in common. What was it the Philippian believers shared with Paul? Foremost in Paul's mind, and really the occasion for his writing, is their financial sharing (4:15-18). Epaphroditus had delivered the Philippians' gift and now Paul was sending him back with a "thank you note" and some information about his circumstances. In fact, in 4:15 Paul used the verbal form of koinonia when he said, "no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving except you only." The noun koinonia is actually translated "contribution" in other New Testament passages(Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13; Heb. 13:6).

Therefore, the "good work" of which Paul speaks is not sanctification in general. It is the Philippians' fellowship in the Gospel through giving.

To consider this verse a promise that all Christians will persevere in a godly lifestyle ignores the occasion, the context, and Paul's point. First, he is not addressing all Christians, but the Philippian believers specifically. Second, Paul is not speaking about lifestyle, but about the Philippians' support of his ministry. Third, he is not making a promise, but is only expressing his confident feelings.

Paul is confident that God will "complete" or carry through the impact of their support as its effects are multiplied in ministry to others until the return of Christ.
The use of Philippians 1:6 as support for the Perseverance of the Saints is just another example of Calvinism’s addiction to proof-texting. The verse does not contain any shred of evidence that true Christians will always persevere in faith and good works.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What is the Biblical Evidence for the Perseverance of the Saints?

As an advocate of Free Grace theology, I espouse the doctrine of Eternal Security, which is not the same as the Reformed doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, as many in Reformed theologies also insist.

My survey of the various confessions and theologies of the Traditionalist faith has led me to this definition of the Traditionalist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints:

1) All who have been justified by God's grace will never lose their justification.
2) Instead, they will persevere in a life of good works and holiness to the final hour.
3) This perseverance is the work of God in which man co-operates.
4) The amount of good works will vary, but the thrust and direction of the life will always be toward holiness.
5) When they fall into sin, their fall will only be temporary, and they will always (if they are truly regenerate) come to repentance. They will not fail to return from their backsliding in the end.

Those who adhere to the Reformed faith, please correct me if I am wrong.

What I am interested in are the key scriptures which supposedly teach this doctrine. If anyone would be so inclined, please give the most profound texts which are commonly understood as supporting this doctrine. You do not necessarily have to be Reformed or associated with Calvinism (the so-called doctrines of grace) to participate in this.

What I want is a major key passage or two and a brief explanation on how this verse supports the doctrine.

If I get a few takers, I plan on constructing posts that consider the primary texts given to support this doctrine.

Any takers?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Calvinism and it's House of Cards

In the principles of scientific justification an interpretation must submit to a "falsification criterion". If contrary data invalidate it, it must be given up.

In about 1300 A.D. William of Ockham introduced the scientific principle that whatever explanation involves the fewest assumptions is to be preferred, Called Ockham's Razor, it posits that any theory which, when confronted with contrary evidence, must supply secondary explanations in order to justify its existence is a bad theory. The continued introductions of secondary assumptions in order to explain the theory in light of seemingly contradictory evidence results in a crumbling house of cards.

In theology, when a particular theological position must be maintained by secondary assumptions, it is worthless. This is preeminently the case with the Traditionalists' doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. When confronted with apparently contradictory evidence that a true saint in the Bible has persisted in disobedience, they will often offer the secondary assumption, based upon their system, that he could not really be a true saint at all.

Or when warnings are addressed to “little children,” “brethren,” “saints,” and those “sanctified forever,” a secondary assumption, not supported by the text, is brought in to say that these terms refer to “wheat and tares” and the specific descriptions are only the language of courtesy, not of fact. This continual addition of ad hoc explanations which are either not alluded to in the texts in question or are specifically refuted by them, render the theory useless. It becomes incapable of falsification because any data contrary to it is simply negated by additional assumptions. Text after text is often ignored in this way until the whole edifice verges on collapse like the proverbial house of cards.

Another theological position that must be maintained by secondary assumptions is the Traditionalist’s doctrine that the call to discipleship and the call to eternal life/eternal salvation are one and the same. When confronted with apparently contradictory evidence that the call to eternal life is a call to receive a free gift and the call to discipleship is an invitation to suffering, costly obedience, and hard works, they will often offer the secondary assumption, based upon their system, that salvation is a paradox, that it is both free and costly at the same time, and that the obedience required for salvation is not only the determination of the will to do so, but a perseverance in such until the end of life.

Still another theological position that must be maintained by secondary assumptions is the Traditionalist’s doctrine of a “spurious faith”. When confronted with the apparently contradictory evidence that simple faith alone in Jesus alone apart from works appropriates eternal life, that merely taking Jesus at His word in His gospel promise saves, and that those who are explicitly said to have faith may be in the state of not adding works to that faith, they will often offer the secondary assumption, based upon their system, that there is a difference between “believing” and “really believing”, and that “obey,” “surrender,” “commit,” and “give” are implicit semantic values hidden in the concept of the term of genuine “faith”.

Continual secondary assumptions plague the interpretations of the Traditionalist.

John 8:30-32 states this:

30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

As clearly as John can express it, a group of “many” “believed in” Jesus. This phrase, “believed in him” is a special Greek expression “pisteuw eis” which is almost unique to the Gospel of John. This phrase involves the use of a Greek preposition (eis) after the verb for “believe” and, so far at least, it has not been found in secular Greek. Among the instances of its use in John’s gospel may be mentioned the following- 1:12; 2:11; 3:15, 16, 18, 36; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:38, 39; 9:35, 36; 10:42; 11:25, 26, 45; and 12:44, 46.

Even a rapid examination of these texts shows that this specialized expression is John’s standard way of describing the act of saving faith by which eternal life is obtained. To deny this in 8:30 would be to go directly counter to the well-established usage of the author.

For instance, John 3:16 states, “…whosoever believes in Him [pisteuw eis] should not perish but have everlasting life”. Could not “those Jews who believed Him” be considered a “whosoever”? Does not John make a blanket statement that the one believing into Jesus has eternal life?

Notice that there is nothing in the text itself to indicate that the faith exercised by “those Jews” is anything but the faith that brings eternal life. There are no modifiers such as “spurious” or “false” or “substandard”. On the contrary, the expression is the same in John 3:16 and 6:47 (Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life). It uses the “pisteuw eis” expression with Jesus as the object. This is the very same expression that is saving faith in our most beloved texts, such as John 3:16 and John 11:25, 26!

It has been claimed, however, that the believing Jews of verses 30, 31 are the speakers in verses 33, 39, and 41. It is then pointed out that in verse 44 Jesus tells them, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” Along with the whole tenor of verses 33-47 (and especially the statements of verses 39, 40, and 42) this is seen as a clear indication that the faith described in 8:30 was not regenerating faith.

But this argument involves a missassessment of the whole context in which verses 8:30-32 are placed.

John 8:13-59 is clearly a controversy section which has its setting in the Jewish Temple (8:20). Jesus’ opponents throughout the section are His general audience in the Temple treasury. They are described as Pharisees (8:13), as Jews (8:22, 48, 52, and 57) and more simply as “they” (8:19, 25, 27, 33, 39, 41, 59). John does not expect us to understand the “they” of verse 33 any differently than we do the same word in verses 19, 25, and 27 He means the larger audience.

Verses 30, 31a (about those who believe in Him) are a kind of “aside” to the reader to explain the background and purpose of Jesus’ statement in verses 31b, 32 (about continuing in His Word). In this way the reader is allowed to learn the reason why Jesus’ words are misunderstood and how they serve to intensify the controversy that is already raging.

This technique is thoroughly Johannine. Throughout the Fourth Gospel, the words of Jesus are frequently misunderstood (c.f. 3:4; 4:11, 12; 6:34; 7:35; 8:22; etc.). Where necessary, John offers the readers the crucial clue to their actual meaning (cf. 2:19-22; 11:11-13). This is what he is doing in verses 30-31a. The reader is tipped off about the real purpose behind the words in 3:31b-32.
(Zane Hodges, The Gospel Under Seige)

Imagine for instance that John’s “editorial” note was not included in the text, how it would read:

John 8:28-33

Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

They answered Him,” We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?"

Notice the bold “they”. Without the editorial by John, the “they” would then be the obvious continuation of those hostile, disputing, and unbelieving Jews that have been referenced time and again throughout the discourse in John 8.

John’s point in his editorial is that when Jesus said the words in 8:31b-32, it was for the benefit of those “many [who] believed in Him” (8:30). Jesus did not address those who believed in Him, but it was for their benefit. It was spoken in the same manner as had the rest of the discourse Jesus had been giving from 8:13-29, in the sphere and in the hearing of all in the Temple. The unbelieving Jews misunderstood Jesus’ statement and began questioning His statements in verse 33.

The interpretation of the Traditionalist of John 8:30ff puts variance between verses 8:30,31 with verses 8:45-47, wherein 8:30,31 the Apostle John states that there was a group of Jews who both “believed into Him” and “believed Him”, but Jesus in verse 8:45 says that those whom He is talking to (who the Traditionalist says is the same group as 8:30,31, IOW the believing Jews) “do[es] not believe Me”.

Instead of seeing the true contradiction of their understanding of this passage, the Traditionalists accommodate their interpretation with a secondary assumption that the “faith” in 8:30, 31 is a “spurious” one, even in the face of the overwhelming testimony of John in his gospel that states that “whosoever believes into” Jesus IS saved, and even though not a single qualifier or modifier exists in the text to color our comprehension of these Jew’s faith. They then use this passage as a “proof-text” to their doctrine of perseverance and their position that all true believers are disciples as well.

We must not give secondary assumptions and/or modify one experimental fact in order to accommodate it with another apparently contradictory one. Instead, we must search for a higher synthesis, larger than each fact, which will explain both.

And in this case, if this were done, the Traditionalist would realize that John’s commentary and editorial in 8:30,31b was an “aside” for the reader’s own understanding, denoting that 8:31b-32 was an expression made for the benefit of those “many Jews [who] believed in [to] Him”, and that the discussion in 8:33ff is just a continuation of the dispute with the Jews and Pharisees who had been hostile to Him throughout the whole of the discourse.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Traditionalist's Interpretation of Judas: Faith Alone into Christ Not Enough to Save!

1) No text explicitly states that Judas believed or had some form of "spurious" belief.

2) If one is to conclude (however illegitimately) that Judas "believed" from a general text that has one person speaking for the rest either a declaration of who Jesus is or a declaration of belief, we must also conclude one of the following:

A) All had spurious belief for there is no distinction in the texts to whether it is a real "belief" or a "false" one (whatever that can mean). There are no modifiers, and the whole group is addressed (rather generally) and the language would then apply to all equally.

B) They all had a real belief and Judas, none-the-less, was saved but later lost his salvation.

There are no modifiers attached to any of the cognates of "faith" to indicate that the faith exercised by anyone was anything but genuine faith. Therefore, if the Traditionalist must use one of these verses to propose that Judas had some kind of assent to a saving proposition (which they will not define), they must also recognize that these verses include those who were saved, using the same language for them, and including Judas with them. There are no distinctions and the wording would equally apply to all.

Therefore, they would have to say that Judas lost his salvation OR that FAITH INTO JESUS is NOT ENOUGH TO SAVE SOMEONE. Something in addition to faith in Christ is necessary: fruit (works).

These are the only two legitimate choices that the Traditionalist can honestly hold to if they are going to use these general verses to "prove" that Judas believed.

But it is just easier to see that a general statement of one speaking for the whole does not guarantee that he is indeed speaking for the whole! I have spoken for my family before with my wife not in consent (where I did not even find out till later that she wasn't).

Often times also, the Bible does not always attempt to be precise with what it is saying, but is being general, and if need be, we could all find examples, as Dyspraxic Fundamentalist has already shown.

I see that the Traditionalists have placed themselves in quite a dilemma here.

For they are in the un-enviable position of having to defend a position that faith is not enough to save. There must be something in addition to faith in order for salvation to occur. There must be works.

Let me repeat. This is where the rubber meets the road. Faith alone is not enough for the Traditionalist. Their gospel preaches that "faith not apart from works" will save. The Free Grace gospel, which is the TRUE GRACE gospel, states that it is a free gift and it is by FAITH ALONE APART FROM ANY WORKS.

The interesting thing that no Traditionalist wishes to answer to is John's usage of the cognates of "pisteuw" with the preposition "eis" and the objects "him", "me", "Son", "Son of God", "His name", etc. This is the technical expression for saving faith in the Gospel of John, and if anyone would take an impartial look at each occurrence of this phrase, they would be hard pressed to conclude that John knows of a spurious faith in His gospel that is for EVANGELISTIC PURPOSES.

He uses this phrase in the construction of Jesus' promise to guarantee eternal life to the believer time and time again.

In the two instances given by the Traditionalist in the book of John that they say is a spurious faith, this technical phrase is used! Furthermore, in these texts, there lies no modifier to this expression that would indicate that John is thinking of a-less-than-genuine faith. NO! He uses the exact same phrases to indicate saving faith time and time again.

Matt Weyemeyer says that it is Bob Wilkin reading into the text. No. It is here that the Traditionalist reads his doctrine of works salvation (perseverance theology) into the text, rather than seeing John's clear peculiar usage of the faith + "eis" + object expression.

Rather than see the clear implication that, to the Apostle John, a believer into Christ (IOW a regenerate person) is not necessarily a disciple of Christ, they would rather import theology alien to the Apostle John, even in the face of the overwhelming testimony of the gospel of John itself.

And it is rather funny to watch the Traditionalists agree with "Pastor Jim" who is an outspoken and open advocate of works-salvation (just ask him). He is not saying that Judas had a spurious faith, he is saying that he had a genuine one, but that Judas did not fulfill his part and obligation to work and serve Jesus til death.

At every turn of argument that the Traditionalist offers in this exercise, I see him blindly hitting a brick wall.

In John 8:30, John is being frank, and using an indicative, declarative, and editorial statement:

"As He spoke these words, many believed in Him (episteusan eis Auton)"

Nothing but an editorial, declarative, and indicative statement, without a SINGLE modifier or indicator that this was anything but what he says it is: People believing into Jesus, the technical phrase for soteriological faith in the only explicitly evangelistic treatise in the Bible, the gospel of John.

This verse is the Apostle John's OWN editorial remark! He had every chance to distinguish the faith of these people from a "true" faith, but does not. Not only that, he uses the peculiar and TECHNICAL phrase that he elsewhere solidly equates and peculiarly links with saving faith!

The superficiality of the study, exegesis and comments of the Traditionalist does not cease to truly amaze me. They consider themselves the bastion of truth and objective biblical interpretation.

But they seem rather to be the advocates of the proof-text without the thoughtful and prayerful rigors of exegesis.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Everyone Who Believes into Him has Everlasting life. No exceptions!

Jonathan Moorhead over at his blog recently asks the question “Did Judas receive ‘Free Grace’”. These are the little hit and run offensives that he likes to traffic in. Nothing of substance, no scholorly argument that would be indicative of someone in a doctorate program at DTS. Just the usual ‘casting of aspersions’ to see if something might stick.

It is a shame that he has reduced himself to these types of attacks, but it is apparent that the comments on his blog have considerably wobbled down and the only time he can get something going is when he sings to the Traditionalist choir, giving them some straw man ‘red meat’ which they all enjoy reading, to which he, too, enjoys the back patting and ‘amens’.

Jonathan muses:
I wonder - do Free Grace theologians believe that Judas, the betrayer of Christ, was saved?
No. We don’t.

Jonathan continues:
Judas would have preached the Gospel of the Kingdom with the other disciples.
Well, Jonathan, I don’t know what this has to do with anything. You go to the school of Chafer and Walvoord, yet you do not know that the gospel of the kingdom was to national Israel proclaiming that “the Kingdom of God (and the King) is near”. This isn’t the death and resurrection. This isn’t the promise of the present possession of eternal life. Paralleling the thoughts of many in Israel concerning the Messiah, Judas supposed that Jesus was presently to deliver Israel from the tryranny of Rome and establish the promised kingdom on earth. Thinking of himself as one who would be in the kingly aristocracy, he went along with Jesus to see what would happen.

Jonathan provides more evidence:
Additionally, when Jesus announced his betrayal, none of the disciples guessed Judas as the culprit.
For the sake of argument, let us make this statement of his a given. Would this surprise you, Jonathan? Those who were childishly wondering who would be the greatest in the kingdom? Those who did not understand about the “leaven of the Pharisees”? Those who had to have all parables explained to them? Those who couldn’t comprehend his death or resurrection even though explained to them at least three times? What does this prove?

Jonathan continues:
Lets take the preferred Gospel of FGers - John: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (2:11).

Was Judas among the disciples at this point?
Jonathan, it is apparent that you just don't do your homework, but leave it up to someone else (like those at Triabologue?).

According to a 'Harmony of the Gospels' by A.R. Fausset, Jesus barely met Andrew and Simon, Philip and Nathaniel at the point of His first miracle at Cana. This occurs between the inauguration of Christ's public ministry at His baptism and the first Passover.

It isn't until over a year later that Jesus ascends a hill west of the lake, and after praying all night, does He choose the 12 whom He calls apostles! (Matt 10:1-42; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-19). This event happens between His second and third Passover.

Of course He had disciples at the time of John 2:11, as the text demonstrates; but it is not at all certain that Judas was one of His disciples at this time, nor was there such a thing as "the Twelve" at this point either.

So many assumptions have to be made in order for the Traditionalist's theology to stand on its stilts lodged in the sand.

Can it be said that he “believed” in Jesus to some extent?
It is most certain that Judas believed some propositions concerning Jesus.

Did he believe the promise of the gospel -- Jesus guarantees eternal life and resurrection to the believer in Him for it -- ? It is certain that he did not, being the son of perdition (John 17:12).

Jonathan continues to muse:
Judas did have “remorse” (Matt 27:3) after he betrayed Christ didn’t he?
Remorse is not a condition for eternal life.

More Jonathan rambling:
His death could have simply been a sin leading to the death of a believer (1 Jn 5:16ff). Surely if you believe a man who curses Christ can be saved, then Judas shouldn’t be a problem. Couldn’t Judas’ “own place” (Acts 1:25; and his “perishing” [Jn 17:12]) refer to something like the FG understanding of Matt 24:51 (“will cut him [believer according to FG] in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”) being a state of heaven?
Jonathan, do you know what we believe Jesus means when He parabolically refers to unfaithful Christians who are “cut in two”, given the “portion” (inheritance) with the unfaithful, and that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth? I do not believe that your comment here is fair in representing the FG beliefs, but, that is never your intention anyway.

Jonathan continues:
If you own the Hodges/Wilkin brand of FG, can you not seriously consider the possibility of Judas as a brother?
Jonathan, it is the unfortunate case that those who receive the absolutely free gift of eternal life can, nevertheless, fail to persevere until the end in faithfulness and good works. I am sure that there are saved people who in many ways could parallel Judas. That Judas did not have eternal life, I believe is clear. But this is just a side from what the true issues are.

Jonathan and the Traditionalists believe that a condition for final salvation is that a man persevere in faithfulness and good works until the end of life. If there is no works, there is no heaven, in their theology. Therefore, faith is not enough in Jonathan’s theology. His gospel is that faith that is not apart from works saves. Faith + works = final salvation.

Jonathan finishes:
What do I think? I do think Judas believed in Jesus, just as those in John 2:23-4 did (“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them”). However, his "belief" was not salvific. Judas was interested in a conquering Messiah, not a suffering Messiah. His remorse was not a true repentance (cf. 2 Cor 7:9ff) and his fate was to “perish” in an eternal hell. Surely, “it would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Mk 14:21).
Jonathan has begged the question. Does he show by exegesis that those in John 2:23-24 were not saved? What is his reason for believing that they weren’t? His imported theology of perseverance.

Jonathan and the Traditionalist do not have a theological leg to stand on in this instance. You see, the gospel of John was written for evangelism purposes. John uses the technical expression "believes, believing, believed, believe" plus "eis" with the objects “him”, “me” “his name” as the one and only requirement for eternal life. John does not know of anyone who “believes in His name” who is not saved! In every place in John’s gospel where the technical expression “believes” (or its cognates) “into (eis)”, such as “episteusan eis”, is used it refers to genuine faith. John nowhere makes any qualifications that something in addition to “believing in” Jesus is necessary for eternal life. He emphatically states that this is the way that eternal life is appropriated, and makes it clear that the one who “believes in” Jesus has eternal life (John 6:47)

John 1:12
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name [tois pisteuousin eis to onoma]

Does this verse qualify the “belief in His name” to include the idea of obedience, good works or perseverance, or any of the other qualifications that the Traditionalist imposes on the simple appropriation of eternal life?

Those who “believe in His name” become children of God; there is no qualifier! Those in John 2:23 did just this, believed “into His name”!

John 2:11
This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in [episteusan eis] Him.

John 3:18
He who believes in Him [pisteown eis auton] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name [pepisteuken eis to onoma] of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:36
He who believes in the Son [ho pisteuwn eis ton huion] has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

John 6:29
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in [pisteusete eis] Him whom He sent."

John 6:35
And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me [ho pisteuwn eis eme] shall never thirst”

John 6:40
And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him [ho pisteuwn eis auton] may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

John 6:47
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me [ho pisteuwn eis eme] has everlasting life.

John 7:38-39
He who believes in Me [ho pisteuwn eis eme], as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him [oi pisteuontes eis auton] would receive

John 8:30
As He spoke these words, many believed in Him [episteusan eis auton].

John 9:35-36
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, "Do you believe in the Son of God [pisteueis eis ton huion tou theou]?" He answered and said, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him [pisteusw eis auton]?"

John 10:41-42
Then many came to Him and said, "John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true." And many believed in Him [episteusan eis auton] there.

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me [ho pisteuwn eis eme], though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me [ho pisteuwn eis eme] shall never die. Do you believe this?"

John 11:45
Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him [episteusan eis auton].

John 12:44
Then Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me [ho pisteuwn eis eme], believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.

John 12:46
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me [ho pisteuwn eis eme] should not abide in darkness.

The Traditinalist’s claims cannot stand in light of the overwhelming testimony of the Apostle John. John does not qualify his statements. Anyone who:

“believes in His name” (1:12)
“believes in Him” (John 3:18)
“believes in the Son” (John 3:36)
“believes in Me [Jesus]” (John 6:35)
“believes in the Son of God” (John 9:35)

HAS everlasting life. This is the clearly apparent contention of the apostle John in his gospel!

Anyone who believes “into (eis)” Jesus has eternal life. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There are no qualifiers. This is the technical language of John to express how one appropriates eternal life. John does not know of anyone who has “believed into” (episteusan eis) Him who is NOT saved, for everyone who believes into the name of Jesus becomes a child of God (John 1:12). No. The contention is that EVERYONE who believe into (eis) Jesus has everlasting life, without exceptions!

Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society:
A failure to understand the secret believer motif results in a failure to understand the Gospel itself. The Gospel of John is not merely about how one can be saved. The one who believes in Jesus receives the life of God, a life which is full of potential. In order to grow and mature in this life, one must walk in fellowship with Christ and become one of His "friends": "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (15:14).

Jesus only commits (or entrusts) Himself to those who obey Him (John 14:21). Openly confessing one's faith in Christ is a central aspect of obedience. The Gospel of John tells of people who believe in Jesus and yet who are afraid of the Jewish leaders and who keep their faith in Him secret. Compare 12:42-43 and 19:38.

There was a great deal of pressure, especially in Jerusalem, to keep secret one's belief that Jesus was the Christ. This pressure was so great that when Jesus restored the sight of a man in Jerusalem who had been blind since birth, his parents were unwilling even to mention that Jesus had been the One who did it "because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed that if anyone confessed that He was the Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue" (9:22).

John doesn't come out directly and indicate what it was about these new believers that led Jesus not to commit Himself to them. However, he does make the problem clear. Jesus "knew what was in man" (2:25). The word man forms an unmistakable bridge between 2:23-25 and 3:1ff, "Now there was a man…" (3:1).

Nicodemus illustrates the problem these men had. Nicodemus is the ultimate example of the secret believer in John. That he first came to Jesus "by night" is mentioned not once, but three times in the Fourth Gospel (3:2; 7:50; 19:39). Precisely when Nicodemus comes to faith in Christ is not made clear in John. Most likely it happened the very night he came to Jesus and the Lord told him that he would be "born again" if he believed in Him for eternal life (see 3:1-21).

Facing the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus slightly cracks the door on his faith in Christ (John 7:45-52). While he doesn't openly confess his belief, he does challenge his fellow rulers regarding their judgment of Jesus, and receives a stinging rebuke for his efforts (8:52). After the crucifixion, Nicodemus is there with Joseph of Arimathea, openly claiming Jesus' body for burial (19:38-42). John clearly indicates that Joseph was "a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews." The fact that Nicodemus and Joseph are linked together in the text indicates that Nicodemus himself had also been a secret disciple of Jesus.

Even before these new believers of v. 23 had done anything, Jesus knew what was in them. He knew they were or would be afraid to confess Him for fear of the Jews. He knew that they weren't ready to be His friends. They weren't worthy to learn more about the Father and about following Jesus. Therefore, Jesus "didn't commit Himself to them." This has nothing to do with eternal life. Nowhere in John or in the entire NT is there any suggestion that only those whom Jesus commits Himself to have eternal life. In fact, this verse clearly shows the opposite, that Jesus doesn't commit Himself to all believers.

The objection that this faith was a result of the miraculous signs Jesus did during Passover in no way puts down their faith. The reason John included signs in His book was to lead people to faith in Christ (20:31). While there is a special blessing on those who believe without seeing attendant signs (20:29), this in no way invalidates the faith that results from signs (see Hodges, "Untrustworthy Believers," Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 1978), pp. 141-43). If that were the case, then John certainly would not have included any signs in his book!
Spurious or Secret Saints: John 2:23-25 By Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society www.faithalone.org