I am from a Pentecostal background which has always taught heavily against what they call "once saved always saved'. Over the past few years I have come to reject that theology and better understand the true meaning of grace. However, I would say that now I find myself somewhere in the middle (actually much closer to the Spurgeon theology than the middle).
Those of the Armenian theology basically believe that when we sin we lose our salvation until we confess. And those who believe in eternal security refute this by pointing out that we do not lose our salvation by what we do or don't do. (extremely simplified!)
As I see it, you are right, the possible loss of salvation has nothing to do with what we do or don't do. We are no longer judged on our merits. We are saved by grace through faith, and the only way to lose that salvation would be to abandon that faith. There are many scriptures that indicate this. Including Colossians 1:22-23 "...if you continue in your faith" and Hebrews 10:35 "Do not throw away your confidence" (the context indicates he means a form of faith here)
No, we cannot be snatched out of his hand but can we decide to leave? No we don't have to worry that we can't make it (like I was taught) but will God drag us to heaven against our will?
No refutation of Armenian theology ever addresses this issue. Can you expound on it?
Thank you - Keep up your good work.
Hi, thanks for the email.
Firstly, I would like to say that the first few years of my Christian faith were in Pentecostal churches as well. And you are right in that they have a very 'man-focused' view of salvation and, in particular, the security of that salvation. Having heard a similar theology to what you describe above in the first few years of my Christian life, what I found interesting as I read the Bible was seeing how Jesus viewed salvation... because He often gave us glimpses of salvation from a whole different vantage point. We no longer had to look at it simply through out limited human viewpoint, but could now view salvation from God's viewpoint - which is a far more advantageous place to view things from! Look at what Jesus said -
'All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 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.' John 6:36-39
'...Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” John 6:64-65
So from the divine viewpoint, we see that believers are actually a gift from the Father, to the Son. It is the Father that enables people to come to Jesus to be saved. And not only that, but of those that the Father gives Jesus, He has specifically said that He will lose NONE! Not one. Now we, with our little limited human pee-brains won't understand how all this works. We struggle to get our minds around things like divine election versus free will etc (and rightly so!) but one thing I can say without any reservation is that Jesus will not lose any believers that the Father gives Him. He will lose none, zero, ziltch, zippo! But will raise them ALL up on the last day.
When a believer understands this, then the 'if' passages such as Col 1:23 that you mentioned above, fall into their right place. For example, lets have a look at an 'if' passage in 1st Corinthians. Paul wrote
'By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.' 1 Cor 15:2
But look also at what Paul wrote earlier in the same letter
'He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. ' 1 Cor 1:8-9
So yes, believers are to hold firm to their faith until the end. But this, to me, is a characteristic of a true faith because God keeps those that are truly His 'strong to the end' - God is faithful and Jesus will lose none of those that the Father gives Him. We also need to remember that the writers of the New Testament knew that within the group of recipients of their letter would be non-Christians, and those that simply 'profess' to be saved, amongst the truly born-again believers (like there is in any church). So their warnings to hold fast to the faith until the end is important. Concerning this topic, William MacDonald writes in his book 'Once in Christ, In Christ forever'
'A true child of God continues in the faith, not in order to hold on to his salvation, but as a fruit of the new life. It is not a work of merit, but an outworking of the life of Christ within him. It is a matter of criterion, not of condition. So the passage (such as 1 Cor 15:2, Col 1:23 etc) is good for nominal Christians as well as genuine ones. It brings the former up short, causing them to realise their need of a real work of grace, and it encourages true children of God to press on toward the mark for the prize. Arthur Pridham says it well 'The reader will fine, on a careful study of the Word, that it is the habit of the Spirit to accompany the fullest and most absolute statements of grace by warnings which imply a ruinous failure on the part of some who nominally stand in faith... Warnings which grate harshly on the ears of insincere profession are drunk willingly as medicine by the godly soul.'
Your other question, 'We cannot be snatched out of his hand but can we decide to leave?', raises two other questions in my mind. Firstly, would a truly born-again believer ever want to lose his/her salvation? And secondly, if for some strange reason a person did want 'to leave', where could they go to get away from the one who now indwells them until the day of redemption? I personally do not believe that a true born again believer would ever 'want to leave' or lose their salvation. The fruit of a true salvation is shown by the fact that they do persevere to the end as mentioned above. This does not mean that there are not times of doubt, or even backsliding in the life of a true believer. There can be as we are in a battle and things are not easy. But God does not stop working in the lives of such people and the Holy Spirit does not leave them. He continues to work to bring them back to Himself. Concerning this, I believe it was John Darby, of the Plymouth brethren, who was preaching on the verse 'walk in the light as God is in the light' when someone yell out 'And what if we turn our back on God's light?' Darby responded, 'then God's light will shine on your back.' What was He saying? That God is faithful and doesn't give up on those that are His.
In contrast, there are those that I would call apostates who have renounced everything they once believed and have even turned to work against the Lord Jesus. They show by their actions that there faith was not genuine to begin with. There are many who simply profess to have faith... many who spring up quickly but soon show through the actions of their life that a genuine saving faith was never present.
Concerning John 10:27-29, and whether we can 'decide to leave', William MacDonald writes 'Arminians argue, "No one else can pluck them away, but a believer himself can do it" This is bizarre - that a true Christian has more power than anyone else in the universe. No one - and that includes the sheep - can remove himself from the Shepherd's strong grip... In view of such marvelous assurance, it is perverse that people should object that a true sheep of Christ should decide that he doesn't want to be a sheep any longer, and could thus remove himself from his Father's hand. The argument will not stand. The words "no one" are absolute. They do not allow for any exception. The inspired text does not say "no one except a sheep of Christ himself" - and neither should we.'
Hope some of this helps. Glad to see that you obviously enjoy Spurgeon as well. Good stuff!
All the best