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)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I Know that I Believe I have 5 Fingers on my Right Hand

Can a person know if he believes something or not without external experimentation? (IOW, can I know that I believe something apart from determining such from the results of an experiment on my actions and emotions?)

Do you believe that you have 5 fingers on your right hand, or that your mom is truly your mom? Are these convictions you hold? Can you know that you believe these things? Do you know you believe these things?

If you can know when you believe something, what makes belief in Christ's promise any different?

Can I know that I believe:

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

If I can know that I believe Christ in His promise to me, I will know, certainly, and beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I, indeed, possess eternal life.


Imagine your son in a time of messing up pretty bad and you saying to him:

"Based upon your recent short-comings, you have every reason to doubt that I am your father."

Imagine what reactions would insue. How would he feel? What psychological and spiritual damage could result of such an outrageous statement?

Yet Lordship Salvation and Traditionalism mimic this sentiment with their doctrine of assurance. Only those whose lives meet up to their subjective standards are worthy of an 'assurance' of a right standing and relationship with God.

A healthy and effective relationship with your child is based upon the bedrock foundation of his assurance that you are indeed his father, and that you will never leave him nor forsake him.

Reformed soteriology turns the appropriation of assurance into a circus and a grueling effort to substantiate whether or not one has simple faith in Christ's promise.

But faith = conviction, being persuaded, being convinced, therefore = certainty, assurance. If I am convinced that Jesus' promise is true, I am certain of it. If I am certain of His promise, I know I have eternal life.

Firm persuasion results in faith and certainty (assurance).

Can I know I believe something?

1) In every other subject and area beside religion, people operate their daily lives knowing that they can be certain whether or not they believe something.

2) Reformed theology teaches that in the arena of religion, a man cannot know that he believes Jesus, has simple faith, IOW, trusts Christ's promise to impart eternal life as a present possession to all who merely believe Him to do so, apart from external experimentation based upon one's works and introspection.

There is something tragically wrong with this scenario.

It witholds assurance from the people who need it the most.

The pious and proud can have their 'degree' of certainty (far from certainty, for they "could be a spiritual defector who hasn't defected yet!" (JMac)), but the dejected, discouraged Christian "may wait long and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it" (WCF)

Inasmuch as one is certain that Christ's promise is true, IOW, believes His promise wherein He guarantees eternal life and resurrection to all who simply take Him at His word for it, they are certain that they possess eternal life, for the guarantee is inexorably linked to the promise, wherein if I know I believe, I know I possess.

Eternal life is by grace through faith.

Yet apprehension of one's possession of eternal life is by experimentation of works?

Eternal life is received apart from works, why must my works, therefore, become an integral part of my possession of salvation?

If salvation is by faith alone (and it is), if Christ offers eternal life to the one who believes Him to do so (and He does), then assurance of the possession of eternal life comes certainly and ONLY to those who look to Christ in His promise in faith. For when one is certain of His promise, he is certain of his assurance.

John Calvin so succinctly states my whole argument:

"Doubtless, if we are to determine by our works in what way the Lord stands affected toward us, I admit that we cannot even get the length of a feeble conjecture: but since faith should accord with the free and simple promise, there is no room left for ambiguity" (Institutes III.ii.38)

For John Calvin, works were not to be viewed in one's quest for assurance. Christ gives a "free and simple promise", and when our faith "accord[s]" to that promise, "there is no room left for ambiguity" for one is certain of their eternal standing before God.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Definition of Eternal Life

Submitted for your approval, comment, objection, and insight.

Definition of Eternal Life

Eternal life is a gift and yet a reward.
Eternal life is a possession and yet an experience.
Eternal life is a promise and yet a guarantee.
Eternal life is a future hope and yet a present possession.
Eternal life is static and yet dynamic.
Eternal life is quality and yet quantity.
Eternal life is infinite and yet measured in degrees.
Eternal life is in Christ and yet is Christ.
Eternal life is knowing God and yet had by those who do not know God.
Eternal life is the seed planted and yet the harvest reaped.
Eternal life is not the result of works and yet something you must work to lay hold of.
Eternal life is a liquid that cannot be lost and yet a solid that may be taken away.
Eternal life is a present which must be received and yet cannot be returned.

(Credit: Marty Cauley, of Silva, NC. Friend and Free Grace proponent)

*Note: This is my 100th post!
* 2cd Note: Definition has been expanded from original post

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Catholic Apologist's Take on John MacArthur and Zane Hodges

I love Robert Sungenis' (Catholic Apologist with Westminster training) comments about both John MacArthur and Zane Hodges:

“MacArthur spent almost all of his 300-page work [The Gospel According to Jesus] exegeting passages from the Gospels, systematically going through many of the teachings of Jesus which specified that works indeed play a large part in our standing and relationship with God. This is not surprising. Catholic theology has always maintained that the Gospels deny faith alone theology most emphatically” (Robert Sungenis, Not by Faith Alone, pg. 597).

He thus links MacArthur’s position very closely to that of the Roman Catholic Church. This isn’t surprising, as others in Reformed tradition have linked his theology with Rome as well (Michel Horton, John W. Robbins); which is a back-handed indictment of it.

Robert Sungenis also makes a fascinating observation about Zane Hodges suggesting that he is rare in that he is “at least being true to the implications of a faith-alone theology.” He writes:

“Dispensationalist Zane Hodges, the major spokesman for an opposing tangent of Evangelical thought [opposed to the traditionalist theology of MacArthur], has declared that the faith which appropriates the righteousness of Christ cannot be qualified [by works] in any manner without falling into a salvation by works. Hodges is at least being true to the implications of a faith alone theology, in that if one makes faith to be the sole instrument of justification then it must truly be alone, without works to qualify it.” (Ibid., 356).

He recognizes that the Free Grace position is unique and uniquely consistent. From his Westminster Seminary background, he sees in the Reformed position a “faith-alone” position that isn’t truly Sola Fide.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Is Public Identification with Christ Necessary for Entrance into Heaven?

The Scriptures pose one condition, and one condition only for the appropriation of eternal life and justification: Taking Christ at His word concerning His promise to guarantee the eternal well-being of all who simply trust Him to do so. Faith in Jesus Christ with the purpose of receiving His intended gift is the passive instrument of reception.

Yet, conditional language is found employed throughout the entire Bible. Blessings are promised for obedience and calamities and negative rewards indicated for rebellion and unfaithfulness.

In numerous places in our Sacred Text there are found beneficial consequent results conditioned on obedience and works, as well as negative outcomes for unfaithfulness. Many make these texts out to be salvific, to have a soteriological significance. But to do so by a plain reading of the text would be tantamount to works righteousness, works salvation (the favorable blessings are conditioned on works!). So how do they get around this? They import Perseverance of the Saints theology into those Scriptures which results in (1) equivocations, (2) necessary modifications of the text, and (3) most important to note, a perversion of the gospel.

Is confession of Christ necessary to go to heaven?

Matt 10:32-33
"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."

Notice the "therefore" beginning this verse. In inductive study of the Bible you learn to ask the question, "What is the 'therefore' there for?" This passage resides in the context of persecutions for one's faith (see 10:16-31). Confessing Christ means publicly identifying oneself with Christ by word and deed, even at the risk of one's life!

If entering heaven is contingent on such acts, then the same is conditioned on works!

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.
(Zane Clark Hodges)

Question for the Lordship Salvation advocate: "Would you relegate a brand new, recently converted Muslim to hell because he has not come out to his family and/or village, proclaiming his identity with the Son of God?"

Where is room for development? Where is room for discipleship, and growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Now on to a treatment of 2 Tim 2:11-13

"This is a faithful saying:"

Paul uses this phrase 5 times in his epistles. This is his way of saying "Take great note of what is to follow, for its truth should be unquestionably relied upon, its veracity guarded, and its certainty cherished." It has an emphasis similar to Jesus Christ's "Most assuredly I say to you" (Greek :"Amen, amen, lego humin"), which has the force of "I solemnly assert to you." Paul is getting ready to share some very important encouragement and admonition with us. Perk up your ears!

"For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him."

This is another way of saying that every believer has eternal life and can never lose it. If you have believed in Christ for eternal life, then you have died with Him in a positional sense (Rom 6:5, 8; Gal 2:20; 5:24). And, if you've died with Him, you will live with Him, forever. Notice that there is no escape clause here. There is no such thing as one who has died with Christ who later loses his salvation.

"If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him."

[what happens when we are faithful]

Paul had spoken of his own endurance, using the same Greek verb, in v 10. There it clearly refers to persevering in the faith in spite of persecution and suffering (v 9). If other Christians follow his example and endure in the faith in spite of persecution and suffering, then they will rule with Christ.

The Lord Jesus also made it clear that only overcoming Christians will rule with Him. Compare Luke 19:11-26; Rev 2:26; 3:21. While all Christians will be in His kingdom, only Christians who endured in this life will be a part of His kingdom administration. Since serving Christ is what we will do in eternity (Rev 22:3), increased opportunity to serve Him is something which is extremely desirable.

"If we deny Him,
He also will deny us."

[what happens when we are unfaithful]

The second half of verse 12 is antithetically opposite of the first half. After the words "If we endure, we shall also reign with Him," we expect, "If we don't endure, we shall not reign with Him." That is precisely what verse 12b is saying. To deny Christ is to fail to endure in the faith. To be denied by Him is to be refused the privilege of ruling with Him.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ some believers will be confessed by Christ (Matt 10:33). He will acknowledge overcoming believers before God the Father and the angels as those who will rule with Him (Luke 19:17, 19). However, some believers at the Judgment Seat will be denied by Christ (Matt 10:33). He won't deny that they are saved. Remember, even if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He can't deny Himself. He will deny them in the sense that He will deny that they are worthy to reign with Him (compare Luke 19:22-26; Heb 11:38; Rev 3:4, 21).

"If we are faithless [or better "unfaithful": Greek = apistoumen]
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself."

Note that even if you or I are faithless, Christ remains faithful. Why? Because He can't deny Himself. He promises to give eternal life to all who believe in Him for it. Our faithfulness is not part of the equation! (good news for us!) It is His faithfulness that determines whether we stay saved or not. Since He will always be faithful to that which He promised, all those who have trusted in Christ, including unfaithful, apostate ones, will live with Christ forever.

The freeness of the offer of eternal life must be emphasized. If a passage in the Bible conditions a favorable result of any kind on works of obedience or faithfulness (excepting the works, obedience, and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!), it manifestly cannot be speaking soteriologically!

Paul's beautiful and poetic saying is comforting, challenging, and alerting all at the same time.

(1) Eternal security is guaranteed
(2) Reigning with Christ is the reward for endurance and perseverance in our confession of Jesus Christ
(3) Significant loss of reward will be experienced for those who will not endure i their confession
(4) God is faithful to His promises. Our entrance into heaven is not conditioned on our faithfulness, but solely on God's! (Amen and Amen!)

(Portions of the treatment of 2 Tim 2:11-13 have been adapted and/or taken from an article by Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society: may he get the credit and God receive the glory!)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Repentance Averts Temporal Calamity

During my 7 part response to Matthew Waymeyer on his treatment of Acts 17:30-31 (see here for a list of all 7 links), I talked about the universal command to repent in light of the coming Day of the Lord.

Zane Hodges has an excellent discussion of universal repentance in his commentary on 2 Peter. I have already given the commentary on 2 Peter 3:8 here: Repentance and the Day of the Lord; Exposition of 2 Peter 3:8-9. Please refer to this previous article for context.

The following is the second of two parts, the conclusion to the previous lined treatment on 2 Peter 3:8. Here 3:9 is tackled.

Read on and you will find a great significance of repentance when we view it against the great and terrible Day of the Lord! (I guarantee you that this article will keep your attention!)

2 Peter 3:8-9
But don’t let this fact escape you, beloved, that one day with the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, the way some people regard slowness, but is longsuffering toward us, not wanting any to perish, but that all should come to repentance

---Majority Text, Zane Hodges’ Translation

It follows from what Peter just said that, in the divine actuality, the Lord is not slow about His promise, that is, in the way some people count slowness. How can a God for whom a great span of time (a thousand years) is no longer than a single day be accused of slowness? Some people (like slow-moving earthworms!) may count the apparent delay to be slowness in regard to His promise, but this is not really so. This ignorant accusation is rooted in a purely human conception about time. Now that we know something about the relativity of the experience of time [Antonio’s note: see vs. 8 commentary for details], Peter’s refutation is all the more impressive and effective.

There is also a second fact that is important to Peter’s refutation of the false teachers. Not only is the Lord… not slow about His promise, but (instead) He is longsuffering toward us. The word us here is not a reference to Peter and his readers (i.e., “us Christians”) but to “us” in the sense of humanity, since Peter is talking here about a worldwide calamity. The use of us, however, is appropriate since even the Christians would be beneficiaries of this mercy. After all, even though we are destined to escape these things (see 2 Peter 2:5, 7-9.), Christians have relatives and friends who would be swept away if the judgments came at once. A mercy to them would be a mercy to us as well.

Thus the seeming “delay” of the Second Advent is to be understood by Christians as related to two fundamental realities about God: (1) His relation to time itself, and (2) His compassion toward mankind.

It should be noted here that Peter is not discussing the final judgment of men, but instead the arrival of our Lord’s “coming,” which the scoffers are challenging (see 3:4). This is synonymous with the arrival of “the Day of the Lord” (see vs. 10). As we learn from our Lord’s own teaching in Matthew 24, from Paul’s teaching in 1 Thessalonians 5 and from the book of Revelation, the events that follow this “arrival” are the most devastating in human history. They will involve the near-extinction of humanity (Matt. 24:22). Indeed, in one of the plagues described in Revelation, a third of the world’s population is killed by that plague alone (see Rev. 9:15, 18). In terms of the earth’s present population, we are talking in that case about the death of some 2 billion people.

God is in no way anxious to begin this dreadful process. As Peter puts it, He is longsuffering toward us, not wanting any to perish. The Greek word rendered perish here (apolesthai) might equally well have been translated be killed. In its general, everyday Greek usage the same form could mean things like “to be ruined, to be destroyed, to be killed” [cf. BDAG]. Our Lord actually used this verb in Luke 13:5 as a synonym for the verb “killed” (13:4). Here Peter is thinking about God’s gracious reluctance to see sinners killed.

The truth Peter has in mind is clearly articulated in Ezekiel 18:23:

“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord god, “and not that eh should turn from his ways and live?”

And it is stated again in Ezekiel 18:32:

“For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live.”

Some modern minds categorically reject the idea that God could ever sanction the death of millions and millions of people. But this type of thinking only demonstrates how far human beings have detached themselves from reality. If physical life itself is a bestowal from God, then human beings have no right to retain it if they turn their backs on their Creator. Our Maker has a perfect right to withdraw His life-giving “breath” from any man or woman who fails to acknowledge Him. His reluctance to do so has nothing to do with the supposed “rights” of the creature, and it has everything to do with the Creator’s enormous compassion and mercy.

What God seeks from men while His judgment tarries is repentance. God’s wish, therefore, is that all should come to repentance. This statement should not be read as though it indicated God’s desire that all men should be saved from hell. It is true that God does have such a desire, since it is so plainly stated in 1 Timothy 2:4-5 and also found in passages like John 3:16-17 and 2 Corinthians 5:19-20. What is suggested here, however, is that if men would repent, the judgment of the Day of the Lord could be averted. But this repentance would need to be essentially universal, that is to say, all would have to come to repentance.

This truth is illustrated in the microcosm in the case of Nineveh. Jonah preached, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). In response, the entire city repented (Jonah 3:1-10; note especially vs. 5), with the result that the judgment did not fall. How many of the Ninevites escaped eternal damnation is not the subject of Jonah’s book, since repentance is not a condition for eternal life. What is clear is that all of them were spared from the impending “overthrow” of their city, because the whole city repented. Of course, well over a century later (612 BC), Nineveh was overthrown, but long after the forty-day time frame specified in Jonah’s preaching. The climactic judgment came well after the city had resumed its wicked ways, and this “overthrow” fulfilled the later prophecy of Nahum.

What is therefore implicit in our text is that a worldwide repentance could postpone the Day of the Lord for as long as such a repentance attitude prevailed. We can also glean this principle form the book of Jeremiah where the Lord says to the prophet (18:7-8):

The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

And to Judah, Jeremiah was told to say (18:11):

Now therefore speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return no every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good’” [emphasis added]

But the opposite possibility is also true (Jer. 18:9-10):

And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

In our passage, the truth that Peter expresses regarding what the Lord wants, is twofold. God delays the Second Advent because (1) God does not want any (individuals) to perish, and (2) He does want all (people) to come to repentance. These represent His desires, both negatively and positively considered, in regard to mankind.

However, the question naturally arises why God would withold the Day of the Lord if He knows full well that a worldwide repentance is impossible. And the answer can only be that He knows it is not impossible. To say anything else reduces the compassionate action of God, as described by Peter, to a cruel charade. In that case, while God witholds His wrath, the population of the world grows exponentially, only to be doomed in the end.

It must be regarded as certain, therefore, that God’s compassion is real and that man’s opportunity to repent is equally real. (We are not talking here about everyone getting saved, of course, but about everyone turning to the true God in one way or another.) What conditions in the world could bring this about? This, of course, God alone knows. He also obviously knows whether this possibility will be realized or not. The point is simple. God delays in order to give all men a genuine opportunity to repent. The mercy is real because the opportunity is real.

Consider Nineveh again. Who would have thought it even remotely possible that “the people of Nineveh” would have “believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:4) as a result of Jonah’s preaching? What caused them to do this, beyond the obvious work of the Spirit of God? We do not know. However, it is tantalizing to learn that a cuneiform representation of the city’s name sometimes occurs in the form of two cuneiform signs that were combined into a fish inside an enclosure. Did Jonah’s experience inside the great fish become known at Nineveh? Did that experience itself seem like a supernatural representation of Nineveh’s very name (= enclosure + fish)?

We tend to evaluate possibilities in terms of what we can observe and imagine. But this severely underestimates al all wise, omniscient God. Undoubtedly God fully knows under what set of conditions mankind might turn to Him – however briefly – and so long as there are options that are viable in His eyes, He witholds “the promise” of our Savior’s return. But even if this results in another thousand years of seeming “delay,” for Him the length of “time” is inconsequentially short.

And it should be for us as well. After all, He is eternal and our destiny with our Lord Jesus Christ is the experience of eternal life. Compared to that, a few thousand years is nothing. In the meantime, we can call men to the knowledge of the God who loves them with magnificent patience.

Zane C. Hodges, The Kerugma Message, Vol 14, No 3, Winter

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Is Eternal Security an Optional Component of the Gospel?

Eternal life is appropriated the moment we believe in Jesus Christ, the moment we exercise saving faith.

What specifically qualifies as saving faith? What is it exactly that we are believing about Jesus? If I were to say to some stray person, "believe in me" (without saying much of anything else), they would be rightly perplexed: there was no content expressed in the context of my request that revealed to this person exactly what I had in mind, the content upon which to rest their faith in.

"believe in me" is shorthand for "believe such and such about me"

Imagine me saying "believe in Jesus". What do I mean? Regard Jesus as an historical person? Consider the answers to my prayers certain? Trust that He was fully man/fully God? Believe that He died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose again from the dead?

"Believe in Jesus" is an ambiguous statement until the clarity of the content by consideration of context is determined.

Pertinent point:
Catholics (in person and in official doctrine) believe that Jesus was God, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and that He rose again from the dead, but most evangelical theologians do not consider them saved.


Here is my answer: "Catholics have not believed Christ's promise wherein He guarantees eternal life and resurrection to the believer in Him for it"

They have not trusted Christ solely FOR THE PURPOSE of their eternal well-being.

Saving faith in Christ is not ambiguous, it has specific content. What we are to trust Christ for is:

the guaranteed present possesion of eternal life and the guaranteed prospect of resurrection

in short:

our guaranteed eternal well being.

If what someone is "believing" in Jesus for is not "guaranteed eternal security" then what is the purpose of their faith? Are they saved by grace after all that they can do? Is perseverance in faithfulness and obedience required? What are they believing in Christ for? If it is not for eternal security than WHAT KIND OF SALVATION IS IT?

For the Arminian, what is the content of their faith? Are they beliving in Him for salvation? If so, then for salvation from what, or what kind of salvation? If there is a possiblity that one can go to hell, this is no objective deliverance at all!

Christ asks us to believe something very specific about Him: that He guarantees one's eternal wellbeing when they take Him at His word concerning such.

I ask one more time, can anyone answer please:

If someone is believing in Christ for anything else but "eternal security", what exactly are they believing in Him for? A possible deliverance after all they can do? A could-be entrance into the kingdom if they persevere in obedience? A hope-so, cross your fingers, conditional salvation? What then would be the conditional aspect? I can only think of 2 things: 1) the fickleness of the Savior, or 2) the works of the 'believer'

Does Christ ellicit faith into Himself under the premise of anything BUT eternal security?

If someone doesn't have to understand that the reason he is to believe in Christ is for an eternal salvation, why would he want to believe in Jesus (as a necessary step in his climb to heaven?) What would he be believing about Jesus (that He will save him after all that he can do)?

Please examine the flow of thought and words of these Scriptures carefully:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might still perish, but at least has eternal life for the time being." (Jn 3:16)

Is this a saving understanding of this verse?

"And I give them eternal life, and they might still perish; and someone might snatch them out of My hand." (Jn 10:28)

Is a hope-so confidence about going to heaven good enough?

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." (Jn 4:10)

Does it really matter if you know what the gift is?

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; and whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him might thirst again; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life, well, maybe." (John 4:13-14)

Could it really be said that the woman believed Jesus if she reinterpreted His words in this manner?

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn 11:25-26)

Does it really make any difference if you “believe this”?

Can you believe Jesus or believe in Jesus in the manner He describes without believing “this”? And what is “this,” but that the believer is guaranteed eternal life?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Will All True Christians be Presented Blameless at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

Lordship Salvation (Lordship Calvinism) has a peculiar doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. It states that all true Christians will persevere (and grow) in faith, faithfulness, and obedience until death. This doctrine states that sanctification is inevitable in the life of the believer. In this theology, all will receive a “Well done, good and faithful servant” by Christ. All will receive the Kingdom as an inheritance; all will reign with Christ; all will be presented before Him blameless.

Yet the Bible and its authors are much more realistic than that. Holiness is never presented in Scripture as being taken for granted in Christians. We find many passages demanding our sanctification, and warnings against apathy and retrogression. Perseverance is never guaranteed in the life of the regenerate one. The believer is admonished, encouraged, warned, and motivated by rewards to endure in the faith until the end. The Bible explicitly entreats the will hundreds of times with commands to pursue holiness.

The writers of the New Testament were under no illusion that perseverance of the saints was inevitable. They understood the necessity of vigilance, determination, and consecration. Significance in this life that would transect into eternity is promised to the Christian saved by grace through faith who submits himself to the demands of discipleship. Purpose and meaning are offered to God’s children; the abundant life is laid out before them! Furthermore, the conditional honors of co-heirship of and co-reigning in the Kingdom of God are obtainable. The victorious Christian will be presented 'blameless' before Christ at His coming.

Yet anytime that man is faced with true responsibility there lies a possibility of failure, and such is the case with the born-again Christian.

Throughout the Bible we see that our posture before Jesus at His coming is contingent upon our actions here on earth. For example:

1 John 2:28
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

Confidence and the absence of shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ is conditioned upon a perseverance in a dynamic and intimate fellowship with Jesus.

Often men and women wonder what God’s will is for their lives. Let me tell you what God desires of His children: sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). Experiential sanctification is a co-operation between man and God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Paul says (Phil 4:13). It is Paul willing and doing, and it is Christ giving the strength; it is a co-operation. If something is a co-operation by definition and one of the parties fails in their responsibilities then the desired result will not be accomplished.

From pulpit and commentary we often hear that the Scripture’s designation of “blameless” is the portion and lot of all who are truly Christians. Does this contention line up with the plain reading of Scripture? Let us take a look:

Col 1:21-23
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight -- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Perseverance in the faith is required to be presented holy, blameless, and above reproach at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Do not confuse this with losing one’s salvation! It is impossible to do so!

Do not make the mistake of thinking that this is referring to man’s final salvation! “Words like ‘holy,’ ‘blameless,’ and ‘above reproach’ do not require the sense of ‘sinless’ or ‘absolutely perfect.’ Men can be described in all these ways who are not completely sinless [see 1 Tim 3:10; Titus 1:6, 7]” (Zane Clark Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, p 90-91).

Cross-reference this passage with a text that comes 5 verses later:

Col 1:28
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect [mature] in Christ Jesus.

Paul preaches, warns, and teaches for the purpose of presenting Christians as mature before Christ.

“[Paul] seeks to bring men to that matured experience of holiness which will enable them to be presented acceptably to God. When they stand on review before Him [at the Judgment Seat of Christ] their lives ought to meet with His approval (see also Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10). But this approval can only be achieved, he cautions his readers, if they hold firmly to their faith in the Gospel and do not allow new ideas and doctrines to move them away from fundamental truths (1:23)” (Hodges, p 90)

1 Thess 3:11-13
Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

Paul prays for the Thessalonians to “abound in love to one another and to all” so that the Father may establish (confirm) them blameless in holiness at Christ’s coming.

1 Thess 5:23
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul prays that God would sanctify the Thessalonians, and prays that they would be preserved blameless before Christ at His coming. Why would Paul pray for something that is inevitable? It is the subjunctive language of request! God has His role in the sanctification process and man has his own.

1 Tim 6:11-16
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

Paul commanded Timothy unto perseverance so as to be without spot and blameless at Jesus Christ’s appearing

The last verse is befitting for a conclusion:

2 Peter 3:14-18
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation -- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

We read in 1 Cor 4:2 that “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” Diligence is required for the Christian to be “found” by Christ without spot and blameless at His coming.

This passage reminds us of a very poignant parable of Christ:

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.”

Note Peter’s last comments, which will be excellent to conclude with:

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Peter knew that the “beloved” Christians were not guaranteed perseverance and that 1) falling from steadfastness and 2) being led away with error were real possibilities, so he warned them! Lastly he commands that his readers “grow” in their faith.

Peter’s words here hardly sound like one who is convinced of the Perseverance of the Saints! He warns his readers from falling and commands them to grow! Pointless if their endurance in the faith is guaranteed.

What John, Paul, Peter, and Jesus have warned us about in the previous passages, I warn to you now:

Pursue holiness. Consecrate yourself. Be diligent in sanctification. Lest you be found by Christ at His coming in unfaithfulness and shrink back in shame.

Submitted for your approval. Comments, observations, and objections welcomed.

Antonio da Rosa

Key words: the Judgment Seat of Christ, Bema, blameless, without spot, holiness, sanctification, Perseverance of the Saints, steward, stewardship

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Additional Thoughts on the Second and Third Soils in the Parable of the Sower

In the Tradionalist theology (Lordship Calvinism), the third soil plant should die, right?

They would say that the people represented by the third soil possess a spurious faith, a temporary faith!

But I just combed all three accounts of the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13; Mark 4; Luke 8) and the third soil does not die. Furthermore, it bears fruit. What is said is that the third soil brought "no fruit to maturity" (Luke 8:14). Not only did it not die, it brought forth immature fruit.

The seed was planted, it germintated, grew up, and bore fruit.

Now how can the Traditionalists say that this plant represents an unsaved man? Answer: by importing their Perseverance theology into the text, thus modifying facts about the text.

Furthermore, the second soil, "sprang up" with life; growth being a sense of "fruit".

The seed remains in the second and third soils, the seed being the word of God. The word of God's function is to create regenerate life, bringing along its great potentials. The seed does just this in the last three soils: creates life.

James puts it this way:

James 1:18
Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth

The word of truth, when sown in a heart, produces regeneration in each and every case.

Too, Jesus states that the reason that the seed is taken OUT OF THE HEART by Satan in the first soil is "lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12). The seed is not sown in the first soil. It is taken out, therefore does not germinate (produce life, regeneration).

The seed sown in a heart represents both faith and its consequence: regeneration.

When Jesus' explicit statement in Luke 8:12 asserts that believing produces salvation, how is it that the Lordship Calvinist relegates the second soil to hell when in fact those who are represented by this soil, Jesus refers to as those "who believe" (Luke 8:13)?

This is where Calvinism's house of cards comes into play. It presents secondary assumptions not present in the text to explain away the tension, totally modifying one facet of the data (Luke 8:13 which asserts that the second soil believed, albeit for a short time [notwithstanding Jesus in John 4 states that a single "drink of" the water He gives produces eternally definitive results; see discussion of John 4:14 below]) in order to accomodate it with another apparantly contradictory one (that Jesus says believing produces salvation in Luke 8:12).

They modify the first experimental fact (that the second soil believed) by introducing the secondary assumption that the text does not support, rather negates, that the faith in verse 8:13 is not really faith, but a spurious faith. They do this even though Jesus uses the same word for "believe" (in vs 13 that He does in vs 12) and states categorically that believing will bring salvation in the exact verse preceding it (Luke 8:12).

Instead of modifying one of the facts of the parable, they ought to search for a higher synthesis, larger than each fact, which will explain both:

namely that one may believe, be saved, and later lose his faith (YET NOT HIS SALVATION, see 1 Tim 2:14) [note: those who lose their faith, although they do not lose their salvation will experience temporal chastening, even temporal wrath, and lose out on the superlative glories of co-heirship and co-reigning with Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema)].

But this would falsify the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, and there will be none of that!

It is in this way that the Perseverance of the Saints doctrine is passed down and adhered to: by the never-ending introduction of secondary assumptions. This continual addition of ad-hoc explanations renders the theory useless. It has become incapable of falsification because any contrary data to it is simply negated by additional assumptions, and in this way, text after text is often ignored.

In Luke 8:12 Jesus states that Satan MUST remove the seed from the heart so that they will not believe and thus be saved.

In 8:13 Jesus states that the seed in the second soil germinated (was brought forth by the word of truth), experienced some growth, and explicitly states that they believed!

In order to keep the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints from being discarded, the Traditionalist must modify one or the other of these facts by introducing secondary assumptions.

Take the text for what it says, and if your doctrine does not line up with it, it must be discarded!

Fact: in the Parable of the Sower, the seed (which is the word of God) germinated (IOW, caused regeneration) and "sprang up" in the last three soils not just in the 4th soil.

As a side note. Does regeneration come at the very moment of belief into Christ for eternal life? or does it come after a life of perseverant, linear faith?

"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 4:14)

A mere drink of the water that Christ gives has once and for all definitive results: the eternal quenching of one's thirst, and the impartation of a perpetual fountain of water.

A one time appropriation of eternal life by faith saves eternally.

In Mexico they have a song that says:

Una mirada de fe, una mirada de fe, es la que puede salvar al pecador.

One look of faith, one look of faith, is what can save the sinner.

Does this not correspond to what Jesus says:

John 3:14-15
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

When one took but a glance at the serpent in the wilderness, he was saved from snake bite. When one has but a moment of purposeful faith into Christ for eternal life, he will never thirst again.

Your comments and observations are requested....

Antonio da Rosa

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

of Free Grace Theology Articles

You can click on any title below and it will link you directly to the article.

Free Grace Theology

Articles Pertaining to ‘Faith’

The Doctrine of Repentance

Assurance of Salvation

Rewards/Accountabilty/The Judgment Seat of Christ

Contra Lordship Salvation

Contra Reformed Theology

James 2:14ff (faith/works) Series