Monday, October 6, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved - Part VI A

In a previous post on John 10:28 we argued briefly that saved means saved. In this section we'll expand on what that means in the Old Testament, and in the next post, we'll look at what it says in the New Testament.

A Fallen Humanity

Because every man is born sinful (Ps 58:3, Rom 5:12) and demonstrates the reality of their corrupted inner nature by sinning (Ecc 7:20, 1 John 1:8), there is no chance of successfully coming into the presence of an offended and Holy God. If man is going to be restored to a right relationship with Him then it's going to be because God forgives them for the sins they've already committed against Him. 
That's important, so I'll say it again: because everyone has already committed deliberate sins against a thrice holy God the only way they can be saved is if He pronounces a pardon upon them. The chance to earn salvation has passed. The chance to beg Him for mercy has arrived. Away with the notion that we start out on a neutral playing field and God loves us because we're good; the truth is that we're by nature children under wrath (Eph 2:3) and there is no one good but God (Mark 10:18).

Salvation in the Old Testament

The children of Israel had learned this lesson well. They knew that because they were sinful there could be no reconciliation apart from God pronouncing forgiveness. But they also knew that because God was just He could not simply wave His hand and dispose of sin. They had no idea how to reconcile those two things, but the more observant ones knew the animals sacrifices had something to do with it, being a shadow of the thing to come.
So they begged for mercy, put their faith in God that one day He would open the way for them to be saved, and waited upon the Lord. They died in faith, not knowing how it was all going to work out, but confident it would, and for that reason they are commended.
They believed God Himself, alone, would deal with their sin, just as He said, because they were completely unable to. That's why all the places which speak of salvation it speak of God forgiving sins.

Genesis 15:5-6

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness
Before he had done any works of obedience, like submit to circumcision, Abraham was instructed by God to go outdoors, look at the heavens, and number the stars. He does. He goes out and tries, but is unable to count them all. So he tries again, then a third time, and finally he gives up because it cannot be done.
That's when God speaks a second time, "so shall your offspring be."
Upon hearing this, Abraham believes God. He puts his trust in Him knowing that if God said it, it was as good as done. And that's when Abraham was counted as righteous in the eyes of God. Just for believing. Just for having faith that one of his decedents would be the Christ, the savior of the world. At the moment of belief God imputed it to him as righteousness, reckoning sinful Abraham as if he wasn't sinful. Thus God did for Abraham what he couldn't do for himself, and he was saved.

1 Kings 8:30, 39, 46, 49-50

"Listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive... then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive... If they sin against you... then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion" 
When the prophet Solomon finished the temple and dedicated it to the Lord, he came before the people and prayed a prayer for the temple. One phrase stands out in particular--a request for God to forgive them of their sins. Solomon prays this several times, begging God in different circumstances to grant them forgiveness. When the armies come, forgive us our sins. When your chastisement comes upon us in the form of famine, forgive our sins. When we stray, forgive our sins. It was prophetic, because the generations to come experienced this very thing, they experienced God trying to get their attention, to make them mindful of their sinfulness, so that He could forgive them. Because it is only in God forgiving that we are free.

Psalm 32:1-2

"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity."
If there was anyone who was blessed by God it was King David. From a young age God kept him safe from life threatening dangers such as wild animals, enemy soldiers like Goliath, and murderous leaders like Saul. David took wives, grew rich, sat upon the throne, had sons and daughters, and lived fully in the light of the blessings of God. But for all that he never understood real blessing, and real salvation, until he sinned with Bathsheeba. Then, and only then did he realize the stains can not be worked out. What has been done can not be undone. Left empty handed, exposed, and unable to put the broken pieces back together, the only thing he could do was fall down and beg God to forgive. And so God forgave.
And then, and only then, was he happy. David learned then that salvation is by declaration of God. Those on who God has made a pronouncement of forgiveness of know personally the abundant mercies of God. Those are the ones who are saved. 

Jeremiah 31:34 

"They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Here in this prophetic passage God tells Jeremiah He will one day forgive their trespasses, and pardon their sins completely. The promise here points specifically to Christ, but the larger point is clear: you're saved when God makes a pronouncement of pardon upon you. In the Old Testament that was when you looked in faith to the day He could make the declaration consistent with His justice as a righteous judge.
Oh and one last thing, when God said He would remember their sins no more, He really meant it. A forgiven man is a man forever expunged of the guilt of his sins.

Micah 7:18-19

"Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."
Who is like God? What man made idol is like Him? Which man would ever come up with the idea that they are by nature under wrath? Having invented that which of them would come up with the idea that God has simply forgiven them of their sins and counted them as righteous by faith? Who would have thought up a God who delights in his merciful mercy?
But it's the truth. You will see. He will be compassionate. He will grind the iniquities of His people, which they have committed in abundance into dust and cast that dust into the depths of the sea. As far as the east is from the west has He removed our sins from us.

Salvation by Grace Through Faith

If you remember that the OT is divided into the Pentatuch, the Histories, the Wisdom literature, the Major prophets, and minor prophets then you'll notice that not only is there a quote from each section, but they're all in full agreement: the people of God were saved when He forgave them, when He pronounced them pardoned.
Salvation is in God's hands. The ball is in His court. He could give us justice and condemn us as our sins deserve, or He could be gracious and forgive them. It's up to Him.

The saints of old didn't work, then wait for God to pay up. They didn't demand a quid pro quo. They didn't earn anything by doing something and expecting a return. No, they begged, from their sin, for forgiveness of their sins. And He graciously answered them by saying He would forgive. They believed, and they were saved. 

How does this prove Once Saved Always Saved? Aside from the fact that people are saved when He takes the initiative to not count their sins against them? Aside from the whole process being completely beyond man? Aside from the fact that salvation is a one time judicial pronouncement of forgiveness (remember the sins no more?) Yes? That aside, how about the words of Isaiah the prophet when discussing this covenanted promise of  forgiveness:
"As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants--from this time on and forever," says the LORD."

Next: Part VII b - Justification in the New Testament

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