Sunday, October 19, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved Part IX

In the last post we looked at the objection that Once Saved Always Saved is unscriptural, and rejected the notion that the people who have lost their salvation were elect. The elect always go on to be saved.
We defended it against those who say it opens the door to rampant sin by pointing out that the elect are those who persevere in faith. With all due respect, men like Charles Stanley who think that people can be saved regardless of having either faith or holiness, are simply wrong. (See his book Eternal Security). Those who would sin with reckless abandon and do not feel the preciousness of faith are not saved.

We looked at the argument that eternal security reduced the warning passages to mere shells by pointing out that they were the acceptable means for keeping the elect on track. At the same time they don't represent the totality of what God will do or how He feels about His sheep.
We mentioned that it's not fatalism, since the mark of a regenerate person is that they persevere in the faith until the end. 


These objections aren't surprising. Bring up any classic reformation doctrine such as justification, election, or predestination and you're liable to get the same defensiveness or angry response. Many people are quick to disagree because they believe these doctrines rob God of His loving-kindness and glory. But in fact this is no different than what Paul had to contend against when people said salvation by grace through faith was a terrible idea.

Romans 3:8 

"And why not do evil that good may come?"

Romans 6:1 

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 

Galatians 2:17 

"But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin?

To which the Apostle replied, "Certainly not!"
Far from spurring us on to a total disregard for the things of God, these are the doctrines which cause the heart to sing His praise. Far from emboldening the sinful passions they work to stamp it out completely; it's these in particular that humble you enough to cause you to cast away your own good works. They do not drive you from the heart of God, they bring you along to it. They make you to share in it. These are the doctrines of life. Once Saved Always Saved is the gateway to feeling the depth of God's warm and unconditional love.


So I'll bring this series to a close in the fashion of a conquering Roman General riding his chariot afront the parade and before the cheering onlookers. This doctrine isn't just Scriptural, it's also lovely. It's impressive. it's powerful, and resplendent in glory. Our feeble grip upon God is nothing compared to His mighty grip on us. Our tired, stumbling, and weak wills are nothing compared to His relentless determination to do whatever it takes to save His elect. Even if it means sending His only to be brutalized and put to death by hardened rebels. 
I close with the words of Jesus as recorded in John 14:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also."


Friday, October 17, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved Part VIII c

Faith is putting your confidence in Christ and resting on Him alone your cleansing. It's a disposition we have, entered into voluntarily, and continued in willfully. And since salvation is by grace through faith, it necessarily only works as long as channel of faith stays open. That means for it to be effective for us we must be faithful until the end. This is the testimony of Scripture: only those who persevere until the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22b 

"But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel ... by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you."

Colossians 1:22-23

"He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith."

Galatians 3:9 

"And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart."

Hebrews 3:6 

"And we are His house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope"
Only those who hold fast to the word, the truth of the gospel, will be saved.
Only those who keep the faith will be saved.
Only those who continue in the faith will ultimately be made holy and blameless.
Only those who do not grow weary and do not give up will reap a reward.
Only those who hold fast are really His house.

Those who like the plant on rocky soil who spring up fast and then wither are not saved because for faith to do any good it must abide. The logical consequence of this is that there are some who at one point had faith that would save, and then at a later point lost it.

Again, let's let the Scriptures speak for themselves on this. They do not merely hold out the possibility that salvation can be lost, like it's some abstract hypothetical, rather, it clearly states that some have lost their faith, and with it, their salvation:
 

1 Timothy 1:18-20 

"[...Hold] on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme."

1 Timothy 4:1 

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 

2 Peter 2:20-21

"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

It hardly needs to be said that the warning passages here are real, clearly stating that faith can be lost, and some have already lost it. How then do we reconcile this with what we've established in all the previous posts so far?
The answer is that for the non-elect, faith can be gained, lost, and ultimately, will be lost. They can, by their own volition, put their faith in Christ, but it doesn't last. Eventually they grow tired of trusting in Christ, quit, and walk away from a faith that really would have saved had they carried it until the end. Meanwhile the elect are those who simply don't lose their salvation. For them faith once gained abides until the end.
And with that we've come back to the definition we started with in the first post. The saved are all those who go on to be saved. 


Empty Threats?

The protester will argue "But doesn't it mean that since the elect will not lose their salvation they ultimately cannot?" Well, yes. In the same way Jesus the man could sin, but Jesus the God-man couldn't. Or how natural man has the God given faculties to repent, but won't, and therefore, can't. Or how Jesus prays in the garden asking the cup to pass in sweat and fear, but still wanting to do the Fathers will prays humbly, "thy will be done." 
So in one sense the elect are immune to falling away by divine election, but that's worked out in the fact of them availing themselves of the ordinary means of salvation available to anyone. They are saved because they keep the faith and refuse to give it up.  Means, not just ends.


These threats are those means. These very real threats strengthen and encourage the Christian to keep on the narrow path and persevere until the end lest they be lost. Because the Scriptures tell us to make our calling election sure, we do. And without them, we wouldn't. This is how God motivates us.
How many of us know this to be true as parents? How many of us have gone camping and told our children not to get too near the fire when they roast their marshmallows or they will be burned? And because we said that, they listened and kept clear. What happened on the rare occasion when they didn't listen well enough or got clumsy? Did we just let them fall in and get burned, or did we grab their arm and pull them away with another admonishment? So it is with God. These verses are the real and practical motivation means He uses to keep His elect safe and persevering until the end.



Next: Part IX - Final Words




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved Part VIII b

Broadly speaking, there are two types of verses that warn the Christian against losing their salvation:
  1. Verses which look like they teach it, but on closer examination, don't. In the end these only serve to strengthen the idea of eternal security.
  2.  Verses which do teach that faith can be lost, and that some people will fail to persevere until the end. Far from tearing the doctrine down, these verses help clarify and sharpen our idea of it.
In this post we'll look at the first category, the commonly cited verses that don't actually interact with Once Saved Always Saved. In the next post we'll look at those that do.
In both cases we'll find Scripture doesn't contradict itself, cannot be broken, and harmonize just fine with what we now know to be true.

Hebrews 6:4-6

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 
This is perhaps the most common verse appealed to to argue that a true believer can lose their salvation, and also the most amusing one, since it effectively robs Peter to pay Paul.
First, for this argument to work the person being discussed must be an elect believer. If he is merely professing faith with an unregenerate heart then he remains unsaved all along and the difficulty is resolved. All the man is doing by coming near to Christ is tasting it, realizing it doesn't sit well with his digestion, and rejecting it. Such a man has rejected the only hope for eternal life and therefore cannot be saved. Personally I think this interpretation has a lot going for it and makes perfect sense of the text.
But let's assume it doesn't and the verses are speaking of the elect. In that case if the believer falls away it is impossible that he can come back, which contradicts Romans 11 which states that
"if they do not continue in unbelief they will be grafted back on." Is the person who raises an objection to Once Saved Always Saved really willing to say that those who fall away even a single time are doomed forever? Not that I've ever seen.
So it must be speaking hypothetically. If an elect believer were to fall away, then he's trampled on the blood of Christ and made it completely unusable to save. If an elect person can do the impossible of getting lost in the face of God's saving power then it's going to make getting found again impossible too. So the passage is not arguing that falling away is possible, but instead that such a position is illogical and absurd. Far from threatening believers, it's a comfort to them.

Matthew 6:15 

"But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
In this portion of Scripture we learn that unless a person adopts a forgiving posture they won't be forgiven themselves, which speak to the conditions for salvation, not the nature of it. It teaches us that one of the requirements for salvation is a spirit of forgiveness (which really just turns out to be a new, living, un-stony heart). The point is that regeneration is necessary for salvation.
For this verse to contradict eternal security it would have to say something like: God will not forgive the sins of some of the elect because some of them are a cruel and unforgiving bunch. But it doesn't. It doesn't
say the elect won't adopt that posture, and in this way adds to our understanding of who the elect are by informing us they're forgiving people. The verse actually isn't threatening them at all.
In the same vein, we might add Matt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 18:9, 35 with the same answer.

Revelation 2:10 

"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
This passage is a promise of Christ to reward His people to stand strong because He has something better for them than what they're giving up. To take its intended meaning of hope and encouragement and change it into a warning that people are likely to lose their salvation unless they work for it is frankly, cruel and unfaithful to the text.
The reason it seems to back into a warning is straightforward: those who have died in Christ are not in the same position as those who are still living. There's a difference between the faithful living and faithful dead in that the living Christian operates by faith in the promises while the sleeping one does so by sight. Eternal security means the crown belongs to the saint, he cannot lose it, it is waiting for him, it is only a matter of time, it does not mean however, that he's wearing it.

Galatians 5:3

"You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."
The church in Galatia had been taken over by legalists who traded salvation by grace for salvation by works by mixing in circumcision and law keeping to Christ's perfect atonement. And since salvation is either by grace through faith or not at all, the result was that these people were therefore no longer saved.
Before I go further let me point out the irony of someone who believes in keeping their salvation by their own effort appealing to a passage which teaches salvation is all of grace in an attempt to prove it can be lost. That's just too good to miss. The weapon disintegrates in their hands before they can use it.
That aside, this is another factual statement about salvation: if you are trying to be declared as righteous by works the law you are not going to be save by grace through faith. If you were in a state of salvation before, then you're not now.
But it is true that faith can be lost. So let's come to those verses now.


Next: Part VIIIc - The Faithful Persevere

 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved Part VIII

There are three groups of people who have been working through these blog posts, and unfortunately, this is the end of the line for one of them.
The first group began this series already agreeing with the doctrine, and are quick to confess that God is sovereign. They have a high view of Scripture and so will have no problems going on to the warning passages.
The second group has read everything carefully and are beginning to be persuaded that Once Saved Always Saved is the Biblical position. They've begun to come out of their ignorance an are going to do fine sponging up the rest of the material.

The third group may have read the posts but remain completely unpersuaded. They don't have what it takes to go on, and they come in two flavors: Pharisee and Sadducee.

AN ADDRESS TO THE SADDUCEE

"The same day Sadducees came to Him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked Him a question... 
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God"
Believing themselves to be superior, the smug Sadduccees came to test Jesus with a question during His passion week that made the whole concept of the afterlife look ridiculous. In response He rebuked them for believing neither in the Scriptures nor in the power of God.
Some of you reading this are the same way. You may even think of yourself as a Christian, but you believe neither the power of God to save and keep, nor in the testamony of Scripture. You think the way to be saved is to attend a church regularly, or stack up enough good deeds so that they outweigh the bad. You think grace is doing your best and having God do the rest.
The Scriptures quoted so far have had absolutely no impact on you. There's a title for people who have absolutely no regard for its teachings--nonbelievers.
I'm sorry, this is the end for you.



An Address to the Pharisee 

"Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is He his son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word."
Once the Sadducees proved themselves to be incompetent at humiliating Jesus the Pharisees gave it a go. They too were unsuccessful, and afterward Jesus turned the tables, asking them a question, using their desire to construct a consistent explination for Scripture against them. Knowing they couldn't figure out Psalm 110 with their current worldview, and that their hostility to the truth would ultimately keep them from answering, Jesus asked His question.
Some of you are the same way. You've run up against an apparent conflict in the Scriptures and plan to resolve it by treating the passages which warn believers not to fall away as more numerous and potent than those which speak to eternal security. You still think the evidence isn't on the side of Once Saved Always Saved.
You need to realize the Scriptures overwhelmingly testify to Once Saved Always Saved. For example, in this series we've looked at:


Gal 3:3; John 6:44; Rom 8:7; 1 Cor 2:14; 2 Cor 4:4; Is 64:6; Jer 17:9; Ps 51:5; Eph 2:1-5; Jn 3:19; Rom 3:10-11; Jer 13:23; Jonah 2:9; 1 Cor 12:3; Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Phil 2:13; 2 Tim 2:25; Acts 11:18, 16:14; Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; Is 46:10-11; James 1:17; Rom 11:29; Phil 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10; 1 Thess 5:23-24; Acts 13:48; Rev 13:8; 2 Tim 1:9; Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:4-5, 11; Matt 24:24; John 10:15; Is 53:11; Rev 5:9; Rom 8:24; John 17:11-12; John 10:28-29; 1 John 2:1; John 10:11; Eph 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:22; Rom 5:5; 1 John 4:4; Is 59:21; Rom 4:5; Rom 3:23-30; Gal 3:11; Rom 4:9; Titus 3:7; Gal 2:6; 1 Cor 6:11; Rom 5:1, 9; Rom 8:31-39; 2 Cor 1:10; 2 Thess 3:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Tim 1:12; Is 41:9; 2 Tim 4:18; 1 John 2:19; Matt 7:23-24

which makes 63 verses that conclusively establish the truth that believers cannot lose their salvation. More could be added. Like Psalm 37:28. I could have mentioned Psalm 37:28. That stacks up against roughly 15 verses which speak of warning us not to lose our faith. 
But you don't care. It doesn't matter to you because you've decided to resolve this problem by getting rid of the conclusion which offends you. You still don't believe in eternal security.
I'm sorry, that's not the Christian response either, and I can't help you.

With that out of the way, we can go on.


Next: Part VIII b - Not What You Thought


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved - Part VII

So far in this series we've gone through a number of arguments the Scriptures make for Once Saved Always Saved:

1. Men naturally hate God, so salvation must be in the hands of God from the very beginning.
2. God doesn't revoke the gift of faith and repentance He grants to men.
3. God is faithful to shepherd His elect to eternal life.
4. The whole point of Jesus coming, dying, and praying, was and is to save His sheep.
5. The Holy Spirit lives in the hearts of believers as a guarantee of their salvation.
6. Salvation has always depended on God pronouncing forgiveness.

Now there are two more things I'd like to point out before bringing the positive arguments for eternal security to a close. The first is a modest defense of it from a common objection, and the second is the proper way to understand it.

1 JOHN 2:19 

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." 
Once when I debated a Church of Christ man over Once Saved Always Saved he objected to it strenuously, saying that if it was really true there should be at least one verse that said those fall away never were saved to begin with. He didn't appreciate it when I brought this passage to his attention.

If all of those false teachers who once seemed so sound in the faith really were Christians then they would have persevered until the end. But they didn't. They got tired, quit, and fell away, so that it would be evident to everyone that true Christians persevere. False Christians, those who have a said faith that never made it past their mouth into their hearts, will eventually fall. When they do it's manifestly obvious to all that they were not among those who were born again from above and given the Spirit as a lasting inheritance.

MATTHEW 7:23-24

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
That day here refers to the final day of judgment where God separates the sheep from the goats. On that day many of the professing Christians will appeal to Him on the basis of their good works, (rather than on the merit of His Sons blood) crying out in anguish and anger "But I did all those good things!" What is God's response? I never knew you. Not "it's over between us", or "but you fell away", but "I never knew you." It strongly proves the point that those who are saved are always saved, and those who fell away were never saved to begin with.

TURNING THINGS RIGHT SIDE UP

In my dealings with skeptics I've found that the most common objection to Once Saved Always Saved comes from people who are simply fearful. They dread to accept it because they think that were they to believe, it would act like a deadly poison on their pursuit of holiness. And to be fair, since many of them pursue holiness through legalism, they'd be right about that. This doctrine is indeed caustic to legalism and pride.
But when you are humbled enough into accepting the handout of free grace, Once Saved Always Saved no longer seems so threatening. It starts looking sweet even. The man who has nothing to lose casts everything on Christ only to find Once Saved Always Saved to be the greatest comfort of all.That's how the Apostles used it--as a warm reminder that God would be there for them no matter what, and as an expression of His inexhaustible love that catches you when you fall. Let me show you.

2 CORINTHIANS 1:10 

[He has] delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver [us]; we trust in Him that He will still deliver us.”
When has God ever let you down? When did it ever become about how tightly you grip Him when He's gripping you? How much has He already guided you though? Don't you think that if you could fall away you would have by now? Then trust in Him to continue to deliver you.

2 THESSALONIANS 3:3

"But the Lord is faithful, He will establish you, and keep you from evil.”
Paul comforts the Thessalonians with these words, with the reminder that God is faithful. Because He is faithful. And if this means anything it means He will not only establish you, but keep you. He will bring you close to Him and hold you like a Father holding his baby. There is not an evil that can stand against His love for you Christian.

1 PETER 1:5 

“[You] who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
In his letter to the exiles one of the first things Peter does is reassure them by reminding them to take comfort in God's character. He points out of the consequence of casting their cares upon Christ--they're kept until the end. Just because it hasn't been revealed yet doesn't mean there is anything to be concerned about. "Do not fear little flock, your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom."

2 TIMOTHY 1:12

“I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”
Do you remember the song set to these words? God is willing to save. He is able. He is already keeping your salvation under lock and guard. So Paul boasts that he won't be ashamed, or fear, or lay awake at night sweating in bed worrying about keeping his salvation, because he's committed everything to God in faith. Paul knows His power, he knows His faithfulness, and is fully persuaded that He is glorious enough to handle all his sins. It is no less true for those of us who are tempted to panic. God is guarding for us what we cannot guard for ourselves.

2 TIMOTHY 4:18  

"The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
This is the special doctrine Paul took to his chest to hold tightly. Not the Lord has rescued, which would be true, but the Lord will rescue. Once Saved Always Saved was the soft bedding that he would lie down upon in times of distress. Was life tough? God is strong. Was he weak? God is faithful. Was he worried about not making it into heaven? No, God is going to bring him safely into His glorious kingdom. Amen and amen.

Moving On

Let's now turn from how the doctrine is a personal comfort to the passages that seem to present the opposite side of the argument: that men can lose their salvation.


Next: Part VIII - An Introduction to the Warning Passages





Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved - Part VI b

Last time we came to the conclusion that the Old Testament saints were saved when God said they were--at the moment of their belief in His promises. When they believed He imputed to them righteousness and forgave their sins. In other words,
“We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.”
This time we’ll look at how the New Testament agrees that we are saved in the same way, namely that we are justified by faith. Obviously the concept presupposes a number of things, but I think we’ve done a good enough job to this point establishing the fact that man is fallen, that God is angry at our sins, and that there is no amount of perfect record keeping we can do to win His favor back that we don't have to go over. It’s enough, I think, just to just point out that it’s too late for man to be involved in the process of salvation, since the only thing he’s bringing to the table is his need for forgiveness. As New Testament says:
“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident: for, ‘the just shall live by faith.’”
With the possibility of being saved or kept by works gone, the only remaining solution is to plead for charity. But God has promised to honor this, so if we do give up working and just believe, we will be saved. For it is written,
“But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
And because salvation works this way, because we're declared righteous by an official once-for-all pardon, we can be secure in our salvation. Once we are saved, we are saved. As it is written,
“Being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
It was the same for Abraham and David, and it's the same for us. They were saved by believing in what Christ was going to do, we have the richest, fullest expression, and know that we are saved by believing in what Christ has already done. The glorious word that captures this is justification.

JUSTIFICATION IS SALVATION

As it has already been shown, salvation is what happens when we are justified, when we are declared righteous. Justification does not mean we are actually sinless, but that we have been counted as sinless. I can do no better than to simply quote the Scriptures at this point to define what salvation is and how one gets there:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? No: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law… [for God] shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
With that being said, we’re ready to look at the Scriptures which prove our salvation is by declaration alone, accessed by faith alone, by the work of Christ alone, and because of that cannot be ruined or lost.

Romans 8:33

Who shall lay a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
It was this particular verse that brought my whole Pelagian worldview crashing to the ground all those years ago. I was sitting at a white table in the Family Life Center before service wrestling with it, trying to force it to mean what I wanted it to at the eleventh hour because I was due to teach on it shortly. I pressed it and twisted it, trying to get it to say somehow that justification means we are infused with righteousness, rather than declared righteous. But I couldn’t. It defied me, knocked me down, and humbled me. It only means one thing: God has an elect people, those whom He chose before the foundation to be holy and blameless in His sight, and when they believe in His Son God the Father declares them righteous. Who shall say “no” to God against them? Who has the power to tell Him it simply isn’t so? Once God has made a royal pronouncement that a man is pardoned, who shall call it into question? They are justified, once for all, their sins blotted out, who shall bring against them? It is impossible; therefore they are no less secure than those who have gone into heaven before them.

Galatians 2:6

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
What brings fear and doubt into the heart of a man? What motivates him to kick against the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved? Is it not because he believes he has not done enough to placate a holy God and wants to yet do more? Does his fear not lie in the tension that he pretends he’s good enough to work his way back into God’s presence through deeds, and yet knows deep down that God is too holy for that? Is the solution for him to accept the help of Christ and go on trying to earn or merit eternal life as if nothing else had changed? Are we saved by grace and then go on to keep it through good works for ourselves? God forbid, for then we wouldn’t have been saved by grace.
The fact is, there is simply no law that can make us or keep us pure before God. There is no good deed or act that can compel God to declare us sinless. There is only the spilt blood of the savior made ready for us by faith, that if we but believe we shall be cleansed of our guilt and unrighteousness. And that’s the all of salvation. Christ before us, Christ behind, Christ above us, Christ beside. Christ our cleansing, and our pardon be. For it’s enough that He has died, and He has died for me.
Tell me where you shoe-horn your good works into that and I’ll show you where you’ve lost not only your security but your salvation. Leave Christ’s work alone and I’ll remind you that not only have you been justified already, but are even now a co-heir with Christ, and will be so for all eternity.

1 Corinthians 6:11

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
There were a lot of problems with the first century church in Corinth: there were factions, boasting, pride, sexual immorality, lawsuits, improper divorces, drunkenness at the Lords supper, improper gender roles, abusive of spiritual gifts, because the church was filled up with people who were idolaters, slanderers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, and swindlers, to name a few. But for all that Paul says in this verse that that’s what they were, not are. What happened? They were regenerated by the Spirit of God, called by the effectual call, washed clean and given a new heart. They were sanctified, given a new pattern of behavior; a new way of living, a new focus. But most precious of all they were justified. They passed out of condemnation when God forgave their sins once for all, reckoning them as righteous by the finished work of His Son when they believed. They begged for mercy from their sins which had swallowed them up, they looked to God’s ransom, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and found forgiveness there. God pronounced them “not only not guilty, but perfect in righteousness” and they passed out of condemnation forever. If the worst, most worldly behaved Christians were secure in the power of God, then it is no less true for us as well.

CONCLUSION

Does anything more need to be said? If salvation is by God issuing a pardon can mans works be involved? If the same God who spoke the universe into existence says “it is so” then how shall it be otherwise? Is this not what the Scripture says?
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!...Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from wrath through him.”
What more can I add ? What more shall I say with pleadings and groaning to persuade you to take hold of that which is by rights yours? How else must I persuade you to lay down your empty notions of works and keeping your salvation and cast yourself wholly upon Christ?
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one! Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Next: Part VII– Our Confidence in Christ


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