|Question / Comment - A debate on eternal security - Is Eternal Security true?|
I have a problem of whether eternal security is true because of what a doctor of theology has written to me. He wrote concerning John 10:28 and the parable of the sower:
"Out of my hand" says nothing about /*our*/ behavior; no one can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, but we certainly can make the very poor choice of turning away from that love. *Principle: * we have free will; being saved does not remove our free will; if it did, God might as well have transferred us immediately to heaven when we believed; instead, He left us here for a purpose, and that purpose has everything to do with the decisions we make; we can make good decision, we can also make very bad ones; no one else can remove us from God's hand, true; but we can remove ourselves from the hand of God through throwing away our faith; if we could not, then we would not have the free will to exercise (or fail to exercise) our faith. Since we do have the free-will of faith as the scripture confirms repeatedly and as we know experientially, to be told that in this instance it is not operative is inconsistent with the passages quoted above; the passages offered in defense of absolute eternal security all have at their core this same problem: they are focused on God who will indeed for His part keep His part of the bargain, but they ignore the possibility which scripture does not ignore that we may prove to be at fault.
Please help as I need some comfort on this issue and prayed over this. Thanks in advance!
I'm having difficulty with this doctrine even more as I go into it. I've been studying both sides and his exegesis sounds convincing, please help... He wrote back:
"This is a weak attempt to twist Jesus' own very clear words. Think about it. In the quote (Lk.8:13) "They believe for a while, /*but */in time of testing they apostatize". What is on the other side of the "BUT" has to be the OPPOSITE of "believing". So even if a person wants to say that apostasy does mean what it means (in Greek, and also in English), then they are still left with the reality that the meaning would be clear even without a word: "BUT (instead of continuing to believe) in times of testing they ________ ". Whatever word we use to fill in the blank, it will still have to mean "do not believe" (since it expresses the opposite of "they do believe for a while"). And by the way, the parallel passages, Matthew 8:21 and Mark 4:17 both have /skandalizontai/, "they are tripped up" = they lose their faith. For after all Christ is a "stumblingblock" (/skandalon/) to the Jews who do not believe (1Cor.1:23), and this verb in Matthew and Mark is based on the same root as that of the word "stumblingblock" (so that clearly, "stumbling" in a salvation context means lack or loss of faith)."
Thanks in advance!
Certainly, as mentioned last time, there are difficult passages on both sides of the debate and I think it is fair to say that Luke 8:13 is not without its difficulties. Having said that, it seems to me that your friend's assumption that they are true born again believers is not true. Before I get into that, let me ask you a question though. Do you think that the intent of this parable of the sower spoken by Jesus was to prove or disprove eternal security? Of course it isn't. Parables are stories that illustrate biblical truth. They generally have a distinct purpose or truth to illustrate. What is the purpose of the parable of the sower? To show the different responses to the word of God and what leads to fruitfulness for the kingdom of God . Jesus wasn't trying to teach that salvation is either secure or insecure from this parable. I only say this because parables are useful for illustrating doctrine but when people try to read more into them than they were intended for it can lead to problems.
Anyway, you have asked about Luke 8:13 so here is the part of the parable we've been looking at:
Luke 8:6,13 "And other fell on the rock; and as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture... And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away."
The assumption from your friend is that this group is true born again believers who lose their salvation. Now I understand the difficulty for it does say that they 'for a while believe', and believe is used in verse 12 with the previous group in connection with being saved. But there is certainly other evidence in the parable that this was a temporary head belief not a true heart saving faith. I say this for the following reasons:
1) The condition of their heart - the soil or ground that the seed falls into in this parable stands for the human heart (see verse 12 & 15 - "...the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts" as opposed to the good ground where the "good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart." So look at how Jesus described the heart of this group we are looking at - Rock! It is hard. A heart of stone. Does that sound like a description of a truly born again believer to you? God's promise to true believers is that 'a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.' The hard stoney heart that this group had is not that of a new creation in Christ!
2) The shallowness of their 'belief' - look at what Jesus said about their roots - "these have no root". It is all just on the surface. The root of a Christianís faith is the person and work of the Lord Jesus. He is our life. Without this there can be no fruit or spiritual life. This group is said by Jesus to have had no root. Thus, no water or moisture (often used as a type of the Holy Spirit). Thus, no spiritual life. Just a withering - a falling away as quickly as they had arisen. No truly born again believer who is 'in Christ' and has come into a spiritual union with Him would be said to have 'no root'. These are professors only. Everything is just on the surface. No actual roots connection to draw upon the life that is in Christ.
3) The length of their profession - look at how long the word of God says that this group of people last - "as soon as it grew, it withered away." This group sprung up quickly and departed just as quick. In Matthews gospel it says that they "last only a short time" and "quickly fall away." Again - Jesus is not trying to describe true born again Christians here.
By the imagery and interpretation used I find it very difficult to think that Jesus had true Christians, those whom the Father had given Him, in mind when he spoke of this group. In fact I would say He definitely didn't have true believers in mind. But it does remind me of people I have known and seen. Some come into the church who do this very thing. There is a profession of faith, everyone is overjoyed including them, and then they fall away just as quick. (It is fair to say that common evangelistic 'techniques' don't do us any favors in producing this type of 'covert'.) Once the initial honeymoon joy is over and they find out that the Christian life is not easy they are gone. No root. No connection. No life. No perseverance.
I would agree with the Bible Knowledge Commentary that says of this group:
"The second group are those who listen and rejoice but then do not stick with the truth of the message for they have no root (v. 13). The fact that they believe for a while but . . . fall away means that they only accept the facts of the Word mentally and then reject it when "the going gets rough." It does not mean they lose their salvation, for they had none to lose."
The fact is that Jesus was not trying to teach on the security or lack thereof of the believer in this parable at all. He was describing the response to the word of God going out. He was simply teaching that when the word of God goes out some don't understand from the very beginning. Some initially accept it but still have hard hearts and no real root and leave just as quickly. Others grow and do start to produce something but later down the track pleasures, wealth and worries (the things of this life) choke the plant and stop it from being fruitful. But there are some... some that Jesus describes as having a good and noble heart. These continue to produce for the kingdom of God ..
Well, I have described what I believe Jesus was teaching in Luke 8. I'll let you ponder over this scripture. But I would like to hear your friendís thoughts on the following scripture that I believe teaches the security of the believer. In contrast to the above parable that is not even about the security/insecurity of salvation, here are the very words of Jesus concerning salvation and the security of the true believer.
John 6:35-40,44 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Fatherís will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day...
44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."
A couple of quick points from this:
1) No one can come to Jesus unless they are drawn by the Father. (vs 44)
2) True believers are a gift from the Father to the Son. And all that the Father gives to the Son will come to Him. (37)
3) Jesus lives to perform the will of His Father and that will is specifically said to be this - to "lose none of all that he has given me but to raise them up on the last day." (38,39)
So, here is a passage specifically looking at salvation (and it's security) from Jesus' point of view. Jesus has said that people can only come to Him if the Father draws them and that of those that come He will lose none! Zip. Zero. Do you believe that? Do you believe that He will raise up ALL that the Father has given Him? All of them? Or in reality it is just 'some' of them and Jesus will in fact lose some?
If a person believes that a truly born again believer can be lost and end up in hell then they cannot also believe what Jesus said in this passage. They are saying that Jesus will lose some of His sheep, those that were given to Him by the Father. Which do you believe? We are not talking here about those that profess to be Christians or simply those who say 'Lord, Lord... did we not do this and that in your name...' to which He will say 'I never knew you!' No, we are talking about true born again believers. True sheep. The bride of Christ. Those foreknown before the foundation of the world. Those who are a gift from the Father to the Son. Those true believers of whom Paul wrote: "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Those who are said to be 'the joy set before Him' for which he (Jesus) endured the cross.
Please tell me - do you truly believe that Jesus is going to lose some of these true believers that the Father has given Him?
I'll leave it with you. You know my answer. I know He will do what He said.
All the best
Hi again, JPN
"I would have to disagree. There are
in fact no difficult passages on this side of the debate. That
is the so-called eternal security proof texts all suffer from the same
point of spiritual myopia in the case of those who advance them,
namely, they express the security that God provides for believers;
they do not, however, even hint that those who abandon their faith are
I seem to believe what you wrote instead, but I would like to hear what you believe on what he wrote here. Thanks in advance!
Heb 13:5, John 14:16 The promise of God is that He would never leave
or forsake his children. Likewise the Holy Spirit is promised to be
with true believers forever.
Rom 8:38-39 There is nothing in creation that can separate a true
believer from the love of God. Nor can anything in the future do this.
(Um, apologies in advance to your correspondent for having Jesus' words in red. Also, I did once again make use of the bold facility to highlight a point which is a nasty habit I am trying to break.:o)
Jesus confirmed three things:
1) The Spirit is the one who imparts true spiritual life and without this people will not accept Jesus revelation concerning Himself (even if they follow for a brief time) But the one who has received life will accept Jesusí teaching because His words are spirit and are life.
2) That people may follow after Him for all sorts of fleshly reasons but in the end it counts for nothing. They are not saved and will fall away when hardship or persecution begins.
3) That for a person to be truly saved the Father himself must call him to His Son and that the people who were turning from Him showed that they had never been called or saved to begin with.
You will see that Paul and John had a similar reaction when people departed (see 1 John 2:18-19, 2 Tim 2:17-19). Despite people falling away 'God knows those that are His' and leaving for good (not just struggling in your faith) is a sign that they were never of us to begin with John wrote. So in short those that believe in eternal security believe that a true believer will have a continued faith (though there may be ups and downs due to the spiritual battle along the way) because they are kept by Jesus (John 6:19) and for Jesus (Jude 1).
Concerning the John 6 Passage
It seems to me that your correspondent hasn't thought this passage through very well. He likens it to God's will that everyone be saved. God does wish that everyone would be saved and it is obviously true that mankind in general disobeys this will. Mankind's hearts in general are hard and do not turn to God for salvation. But read this passage again and you will see what the difference is:
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will
never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not
believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For
I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of
him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who
sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise
them up at the last day. 40 For my Fatherís will is
that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have
eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day... 44
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I
will raise him up at the last day."
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 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."
Those who believe that Jesus can and will lose some of the true sheep given to Him by the Father can't accept these words simply as they are given. They, like your correspondent, change them to read something like 'If my sheep hear my voice, and if they follow me continually, then they will receive eternal life and will never perish' (I guess when they die). But Jesus didn't say that. He wasn't giving conditions for salvation or eternal life. He didn't say 'If they do this or if they do that'. He was giving facts concerning His true sheep. They hear His voice. That is true.. true sheep do. He knows them. That is true. He knows which are his sheep. His gives them eternal life. That is true. They shall never perish. That again, is wonderfully true. THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH. Why? Because no one can snatch them out of His hand. It is Jesus' personal assignment from the Father to lose none. It is the will of the Father for Jesus. He will not fail on this. Mankind does and will fail the will of God. Jesus won't.
On the human
side, we may not understand when seemingly good people fall. We don't
understand when people abandon the faith. We exhort them to persevere,
to not lose heart or faith. We exhort, teach, encourage, rebuke,
warn... we do all of these things and rightfully so. For we know no
man's heart. But Jesus does. He knows His sheep. And what He has
clearly told us is the wonderful promise that His true sheep will
Concerning his last comments
Your correspondent wrote: "During the Great Apostasy in the first half of the Tribulation, that will include a full one third of genuine believers (not just pro-fessors) who turn away from Christ to follow antichrist. Jesus will not lose any of His sheep, those who continue to hear His voice and continue to truly /*be*/ His sheep, that is; but those sheep who turn away and reject Him, those sheep who by their own choice remove themselves from His flock, will indeed earn the rebuke "I never knew you"."
Some brief comments here. I have studied Bible prophecy for many years and haven't read about one third of genuine believers turning from Christ to the antichrist in the tribulation. I'm curious what passage or passages this is based on.
Also your correspondentís comments about the sheep are odd. If Jesus says 'I never knew you' to anyone then we should believe exactly what He says. That is, that He NEVER knew them. They were not true sheep to begin with. This is obvious. He is not saying that they used to be His true sheep and He used to know them but they left so He knows them no more (as your correspondent seems to believe). No, He says 'I never knew you' - they were not ever His sheep. On the opposite side, if they are true sheep to begin with then He does know them and they shall never perish as He promised.
Well, more could be said but I have written enough. Like I have said in previous emails I can only try explaining why I believe as I do and you are free to make up your own mind. All the best in that!
ĎÖnor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor. If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all; and then there is no gospel promise true, but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worth my acceptanceÖ If I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort.í
I've read from both sides and I tend to agree with you because I know that Jesus is God and God as the Good Shepherd knows how to secure His sheep, even if they wander astray. Jesus would not be a "Good" shepherd if His sheep got lost, especially if He's God... Jesus hasn't failed me yet, and I know that He will never fail me. Thanks for taking your time in answering my questions and ridding me of any doubt regarding my salvation. I know that I am His sheep and I hear His voice. I may not be perfect, but I am always growing in the Lord and getting closer to Him day by day. Thanks again.