Once Saved, Always Saved

(Continued from previous post)

7) Some people explain the situation this way: There are those who believe with real saving faith at the moment of accepting the gospel. They are justified by their real faith which will be reflected in their deeds going forward. They are saved once and for all. Nothing can knock them out of salvation. On the other hand, there are those who say they believe but actually don’t really have the faith required. This will be reflected in their deeds going forward. They were never saved to begin with, presumably because the Holy Spirit knows their heart, so they did not lose the salvation which they never obtained. So then the once-saved-always-saved assurance applies to the first group only. This is the only group that has ever been saved. Do you agree with this?

Properly understood, yes. But let me clarify. When I was a young Christian I attended a church that taught Dispensationalism and “once-saved, always saved (OSAS)”. The moderate form proposed that a believer is eternally secure, because he is in the Lord’s hands:

  • Jn 10:27-29 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 

I held this doctrine to be true, and still do. As I learned more from the Bible, I found my views on eternal security to be most closely aligned with the Reformed doctrine of “perseverance of the saints”:

  • Jn 6:37, 39-40 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.  39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.

The saints are preserved by our Lord, and therefore will persevere.

The ultra form of OSAS, however, proposed that once a person “confessed Christ as his personal Savior”, he is saved forever, even if later on he backslides, drifts away, and lives in unrepentant sin. According to them, “once a son, always a son”.  I reject this as contrary to what Scripture teaches:

  • 1 Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

The above summarizes my current position on eternal security, so a “qualified yes” to your question.

It seems that this argument uses real saving faith to defend the once-saved-always-saved assurance, but does not offer any insight about what is real saving faith. So then the question still remains: How does anyone know whether they have “made it”?

You can know “real saving faith” by its “fruit”:

  • Mt 7:16, 20 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? … So then, you will know them by their fruits.
  • Mt 12:33 Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.
  • Lk 6:44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.

There are many passages indicating what type of fruit genuine saving faith will bear, but one book in particular is written so that we may know we have “made it” – 1 John:

  • 1 Jn 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

What are the signs given in 1 John? Commentators have different views. I summarize my observations into the following groups:

1. In relation to God – Keep His commandments; does His will

  • 2:3-5 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandmentsThe one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.
  • 2:17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
  • 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
  • 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
  • 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

2 In relation to others – Love the brethren

  • 2:10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
  • 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
  • 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
  • 3:18-19 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him.
  • 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
  • 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
  • 4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
  • 4:16-17 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
  • 4:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

3. In relation to the world – Overcome; do not love

  • 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
  • 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

4. In relation to self – Purity; clear conscience

  • 3:3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
  • 3:6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
  • 3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God

I hasten to add that the above indicators are a matter of degree. None of us is perfect; we are sinners saved by grace, in the process of sanctification. Some of us do better than others, but no one is blameless. All of us fall short many times at different points in our lives, but the overall pattern should be upwards, striving towards the goals God has for us, growing more like Him as time progresses. But notwithstanding our stumbling, by His grace we press on.

(To be continued)

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Christian Suicide?

Q. This is a true story from the YouTube. The jihadists told a Christian to denounce his faith or watch his wife getting raped. He killed himself. I don’t think he would have killed himself if the jihadists threatened to kill his wife instead. They may just kill his wife after his suicide instead of raping her. Where would his soul go? Both denying Jesus and killing are sins. I don’t see any way out.

A. Some accept what the jihadists say at face value, that if the Christian denounce his faith then his wife won’t be raped. Others are less trusting and assume the worst based on what the jihadists had done in the past, that they would coerce the Christian to apostatize, rape his wife, then kill them both. You can speculate the outcome; my opinion is that the latter is more likely.

I don’t know why the Christian killed himself, possibly because he made up his mind not to renounce Christ, but could not bear to see his wife raped before his eyes. He believed that to apostatize is worse than death, therefore he committed suicide.
Heb 10:26-29 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

I have written on Christian suicide before and refer you to my previous post:
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/where-does-a-christian-who-commits-suicide-go/

Where would his soul go? Since he decided that he would rather die than renounce Christ, he is not an apostate. He has not blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and committed the unpardonable sin. Although he committed suicide or self-murder, he was compelled to do so under threat of violation to his wife. It is forgivable. Therefore my opinion is that he went to be with Christ.

Apostasy Part 2 of 2

(Continued from yesterday)

Are apostates true or false Christians? My opinion is the latter, based on:
• Jn 6:39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
• 1 Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

Jesus did not lose any true Christian. In context 1 Jn 2:19 refers to the many antichrists in the last hour or end times, but the description fits well to those who fall away and deny Christ.

Can a person be justified and glorified without being sanctified? The answer is NO, based on Rom 8:29-30:

For those whom He (1) foreknew, He also (2) predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also (3) called; and these whom He called, He also (4) justified; and these whom He justified, He also (5) glorified.

Here we see the “golden chain of salvation“, beginning with God foreknowing those He would elect, then predestined them, calling them, justifying them, and finally glorifying them. The chain is unbroken, based on Rom 11:29:
for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

In between justification and glorification is sanctification. God does not glorify a person whom He did not first set apart and make holy i.e. sanctify. And He does not sanctify a person without first declaring him righteous in Christ i.e. justify. So a person cannot skip sanctification and jump from justification to glorification. Salvation is not just a point action at a moment in time when he trusted in Christ as his Savior and is declared righteous (justification, past tense), but also a process whereby he is progressively conformed to the image of Christ (sanctification, present tense), following Him as Lord. It is both, without which he will not be glorified (future tense). In theology we call this Lordship Salvation.

In conclusion, there is apostasy and my view is that apostates have never been true Christians. They have made a profession of faith, may have been baptized, gone to church and acted like Christians, but have never been regenerated and born from above. They are tares, not wheat; goats, not sheep. They resemble Christians, but eventually show their true color by turning away, so be warned.

Apostasy Part 1 of 2

Q. Is there such a thing as Christian apostasy? Or these people have never been true Christians? Can one have justification and glorification without sanctification?

A. Yes there is. Depending on which version you use, the word “apostasy” appears several times in the Bible. I use the NASB myself:
Jer 8:5 “Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return.
• Hos 14:4 I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them.
• 2 Thes 2:3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

The ESV has it in:
Jer 2:19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
in addition to Hos 14:4.

In the OT the noun “apostasy” translates the Hebrew word meshuwbah, which appears 12 times in 12 verses, including Jer 2:19, 8:5 and Hos 14:4 cited above. Literally it means “turning away, turning back, backsliding“.

“Apostasy” also translates the Greek noun apostasia, which means “a falling away, defection“. It appears twice in the NT, in 2 Thes 2:3, as well as in Acts 21:21, where the it is translated “forsake”.

The verb apostacize has a synonym aphistemi which occurs 20 times in 14 verses. Those translated “fall away” include:
Lk 8:13 Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
• 1 Tim 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,
• Heb 3:12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

You can easily see from the English versions that apostasy means turning or falling away, forsaking. Are apostates genuine Christians, or are they those who are close to but have never been truly born-again? On the one hand, Arminian theology which do not subscribe to eternal security believes these folks to be true Christians who have lost their salvation. They feel to turn away implies you must have believed in the first place. On the other hand, Reformed theology which subscribes to perseverance of faith, or Dispensation theology which subscribes to “once saved always saved (OSAS)” believe these folks to be counterfeit Christians. They feel they have only tasted of the heavenly gift, but have never really committed themselves to it. Who is correct?

(To be continued)

“Silence” Reflections (2 of 2)

Or was it the voice of Satan?

Or was it the voice of Satan?

(Continued from yesterday)

More importantly, what does the Bible say? A few verses come to mind:

Mt 10:32-33 Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
• Mt 26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (See also Mt 26:75; Mk 14:30, 72; Lk 22:61; Jn 13:38)
• Heb 6:6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
• Heb 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

The Lord Himself said He will deny whoever denies Him. Judas betrayed Jesus and was not forgiven; Peter denied Christ three times and yet was restored. For both to be true, there must be a point when a person denies Christ under duress, but not premeditatedly and maliciously, and had not gone to the stage where he tramples under foot the Son of God, beyond which it is impossible to renew him again to repentance. So can someone who had renounced Christ be forgiven and saved? Apparently yes, provided they are truly repentant and have not crossed the line of no return. Only God knows the condition of the heart, and whether that person had crossed that line by pushing away the out-stretched arms of Christ to pull him back.

With respect to the second question, we need to look beyond the immediate suffering to the broader consequences. Why did the inquisitor want the priest to apostate so much? For at least 2 reasons:
• Effect on the congregation – Mt 26:31 I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED. (Also Mk 14:27)
• Effect on the apostate – Mt 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Also Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2)

The objective of the inquisitor, and Satan behind him, is to destroy the infant church by cutting its roots. If the priest apostatized, he will bring down not only himself, but many Christians with him. The devil would have killed two birds with one stone. At the very least, they would lose their crown of life:
Rev 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

To be tortured for one’s faith is a terrible thing, but throughout church history countless have experienced mockings, scourgings, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about being destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated, but gained approval from God through their faith (Heb 11:36-37). Satan can kill the body but is unable to kill the soul, unless they apostatized and God destroys both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28). So if I were the priest I would choose for their and my sake to persevere. I just pray that God will strengthen us to endure to the end.