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'Once Saved Always Saved' means you can wilfully sin?
You write: 'Fundamentalists believe that once you are 'saved,' you can violate the commandments all you want and you can't lose your salvation, even though the Bible teaches in many passages that you can lose it by sinning (Ezekiel. 33:12-13; Romans. 11:21-22 and 1 Corinthians. 10:12 are some fine examples). Why Fundamentalists believe they are 'saved' while they are still alive is beyond me anyway, since Hebrews. 9:27 teaches that our judgment comes after death.'
TCE: You exaggerate deliberately to try and ridicule the 'once saved, always saved' beliefs. Let us first make it clear that not all who call themselves evangelical or orthodox Christians will accept this doctrine - and The Christian Expositor does not. What is the truth about these teachings? There are a few mis-guided people who teach that you can just go off and sin all you like after accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour without losing your salvation, but they are rarely found and it is certainly not a Biblical position but an error grown out of an error termed 'hyper-Calvinism'. This is very different from accepting that all of us will continue to sin after accepting Christ, despite our best efforts empowered by the Holy Spirit. And this is very different from habitual and deliberate sin and forgiveness is readily available to the sincere believer. The Biblical view accepted by many orthodox Christians is known as 'Conditional Eternal Security'. However, we must emphasise that both positions are light years away from the false ideas of the sacraments, indulgences and purgatorial escapes through the paid 'Mass' and other means promulgated by Papal Rome.
As a group that rejects the 'Once Saved Always Saved' position as un-Scriptural, we have asked questions that have to be considered and answered from the Scriptures. Important sections are highlighted in bold:
Some who believe in 'falling away' accuse those who believe in 'eternal security' of promoting 'cheap grace.' The latter is in itself an un-Biblical expression. To call it 'cheap' is really a denial of grace, since it implies that too small a price has been paid. They would argue correctly that grace, however, must be absolutely free and without any price at all on man's part, while on God's part the price He paid must be infinite. Thus for man to think that his works can play any part in either earning or keeping his salvation is what cheapens grace and devalues this infinite gift to the level of human effort.
Those of the 'Once Saved Always Saved' camp (which includes Charles Stanley, Charles Ryrie, Dr R.T. Kendall - as well as men like Dave Hunt who is certainly strongly orthodox and opposed to any error in the church) would say that to speak of 'falling from grace' involves the same error. Since our works had nothing to do with meriting grace in the first place, there is nothing we could do that would cause us to no longer merit it and thus to 'fall' from it. Works determine reward or punishment - not one's salvation, which comes by God's grace. The crux of the problem, they say, is a confusion about grace and works. We might say that the crux of the problem is Antinomianism ('against law') - that they are confusing justification with sanctification (see later):
First of all, we must be absolutely clear that these two can never mix. Paul declares, 'if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work' (Romans 11:6). Salvation cannot be partly by works and partly by grace. All orthodox Christians would agree with this entirely, for it is throughly supported by Scripture.
Secondly, we must be absolutely certain that works have nothing to do with salvation. Absolutely nothing! The Bible clearly states, 'For by grace are ye saved, not of works' (Ephesians 2:8-9). True to such scriptures, and the many quoted earlier, evangelicals firmly declare that we cannot earn or merit salvation in any way. Eternal life must be received as a free gift of God's grace, or we cannot have it.
Thirdly, salvation cannot be purchased even in part by us, because it requires payment of the penalty for sin - a payment we cannot make. If one receives a speeding ticket, it won't help to say to the judge, 'I've driven many times within the 30 mph limit. Surely my many good deeds will make up for the one bad deed.' Nor will it do to say, 'If you let me off this time, I promise never to break the law again.' The judge would reply, 'Never to break the law again is only to do what the law demands. You get no extra credit for that. The penalty for breaking the law is a separate matter and must be paid.' Thus Paul writes, '... by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight ...' (Romans 3:20
Fourthly, the 'Once Saved Always Saved' adherents emphasise strongly that if salvation from the penalty of breaking God's laws cannot be earned by good deeds, then it cannot be lost by bad deeds. Our works play no part in either earning or keeping salvation. We take the attitude that salvation can be lost through unrepentant sin (Note: the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit would never be committed by a true believer). This raises the question - if you can lose salvation then are we popping in and out of eternal life/heaven every minute or so? This would mean that no one could have any assurance at all and speaks against many Scriptures which we will deal with later. If you believe the number or severity of our sins causes this then you need to find some Scriptures that say 'if you carry out this and this and this sin - this number of times - then you are lost.' We don't believe that there are any Scriptures that state this of true believers. If there were then the 'Once Saved Always Saved' group would be right - you won't have eternal security if you believe that wilfully committing a certain (unknown) number of sins results in God throwing you out of the kingdom. It is a fact that the Christian life is one of continual repentance and we pray for sins we recognise and ask God to forgive us for those we don't recognise (these will be many for young Christians). This is a world of difference from saying that some, such as Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8v9-24), and the Nicolas (Acts 6v3-6) who apparently founded the Nicolatians sect, wilfully and deliberately rejected Christ, repudiated all their former beliefs, and practiced heresy and occult behaviour - but were still saved. Would God really carry a follower of Satan kicking and screaming into heaven? If you carry the arguments of Satan leading the rebellion in heaven and bringing about the fall of man to a logical conclusion (as some theologians do) then a rebellious creature, such as a Simon or a Nicolas, who is not perfected (rejects Christ's justification and any part of the sanctification that follows) by the sacrifice of Calvary could begin the rebellion against God all over again. We might find ourselves agreeing with the 'Once Saved Always Saved' group that we are often looking at people who never made a real commitment - after all we believe that Simon lost his salvation because the book of Acts says clearly that 'he believed and was baptised' (Acts 8:13). Notice that, when he attempted to buy the giving of the Holy Spirit with money (v18-19), Peter answered (v20-24): 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.' 24 Then Simon answered, 'Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.' Where did he go from here - did he repent and receive forgiveness? Peter seemed to doubt that God would forgive him because of the seriousness of this sin against the Holy Spirit. Another question we would ask of those claiming Peter had the keys to heaven, binding and loosing, forgiving and not forgiving - why did he not deal with Simon if he really had this authority? Simply because he did not have this authority as this example makes clear! Simon the sorcerer, or Simon Magus as he is called in post-apostolic Christian writings, was a leading heretic in the early church. Justin Martyr (died c.165), who was himself a Samaritan, says that nearly all his countrymen revered Simon as the highest god (Apology 1.26; Dialogue 120). Irenaeus (c.180) speaks of him as the father of Gnosticism and identifies the sect of the Simonians as being derived from him (Contra Haereses 1.23). The second-century Acts of Peter has extensive descriptions of how Simon Magus corrupted Christians in Rome by his teachings and how he was repeatedly bested by Peter in displays of his magical powers. These themes were picked up by the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions of the third and fourth centuries, though in them Simon may have been used as a cover figure for Paul in a radically Ebionite manner. Hippolytus (died c.236) outlines Simon's system, which he avers was contained in a Gnostic tractate entitled The Great Disclosure, and tells how he allowed himself to be buried alive in Rome with the prediction that he would rise on the third day (Refutation of All Heresies 6. 2-15). And Justin Martyr (Apology 1.26), as followed by Tertullian (c. 197 in his Apology 13.9), tells of Simon being honoured with a statue in Rome on which was written 'To Simon the Holy God' - perhaps a misreading either by Justin or the Simonians of an inscription beginning SEMONI SANCO DEO ('To the God Semo Sancus,' an ancient Sabine deity), which either he or they read as SIMONI SANCTO DEO. Luke stated that the Samaritans' venerated Simon, saying of him: 'The man is the divine power known as the Great Power'- and this seems to support the Fathers' identification. What exactly is meant by the title 'the Great Power' (v10) is uncertain. It may mean that Simon was acclaimed to be God Almighty (as Gustaf Dalman insisted (The Words of Jesus, tr. D.M. Kay [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1909], p. 200) or the Grand Vizier of God Almighty (as J. De Zwaan argued, B.C., 2:58). At any rate, he claimed to be some exceedingly great person and supported his claim by many acts of magic having, obviously, rejected the offer of salvation through faith in Christ alone. The 'Once Saved Always Saved' believers cannot claim that Simon never believed without denying the testimony of the Bible, so they have to claim that the Church Fathers' history is wrong in recording Peter witnessing the occultism of Simon! We prefer to believe (i) the Bible, and (ii) the eye-witness accounts of heroic martyrs of the faith over a doctrine that is not fully supported by Scripture.
Fifthly, salvation can only be given to us as a free gift if the penalty has been fully paid. We have violated infinite Justice, requiring an infinite penalty. We are finite beings and could not pay it: we would be separated from God for eternity. God is infinite and could pay an infinite penalty, but it would not be just, because He is not a member of our race. Therefore God, in love and grace, through the Virgin Birth, became a man so that He could pay the debt of sin for the entire human race! The great truth, that we can never repeat too often, is that the Greek words recording Christ's cry from the cross, 'It is finished!' is an accounting term, meaning that the debt had been paid in full. Justice had been satisfied by full payment of its penalty, and thus God could 'be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus' (Romans 3:26). On that basis, God offers pardon and eternal life as a free gift. He cannot force it upon anyone or it would not be a gift. Nor would it be just to pardon a person who rejects the righteous basis for pardon and offers a hopelessly inadequate payment instead - or offers his works even as 'partial payment' as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Papal Roman Catholics do.
Salvation is the full pardon by grace from the penalty of all sin, past, present or future; eternal life is the bonus thrown in. Denying this cardinal truth, all cultists, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Roman Catholics, for example, reject salvation by grace and insist that it must be earned (in part at least) by one's good works. They accuse evangelicals of teaching that all we need to do is to say we believe in Christ and then we can live as we please, even in the grossest of sins, yet be sure of heaven. This is what many Antinomians have taught over the years (see many references on other 'Expositor' pages - and examples we have witnessed). 'Once Saved Always Saved' evangelicals say they don't teach that at all, yet would level a similar complaint against those who believe in 'falling away,' and who say that 'Once Saved Always Saved' encourages one to live in sin because if we know we cannot be lost then we have no incentive for living a holy life. The 'Once Saved Always Saved' group say that, on the contrary, love for the one who saved us is the greatest and only acceptable motive for living a holy life; and surely the 'greater' the salvation one has received, the more love and gratitude there will be (cf. Luke 7:40-48). So to know one is secure for eternity gives a higher motive for living a good life than the fear of losing one's salvation if one sins! We could argue with some justification that the love of Christians today for their Lord and Saviour does not bear this out. And what would they say? Something like: 'Oh well, I'm not perfect yet, but Jesus hasn't finished with me'?
The 'Once Saved Always Saved' group will level at you that, while those who believe in 'falling from grace' are clear that good works cannot earn salvation, you are believing your salvation is kept by good works. Thus one gets saved by grace, but thereafter salvation can be lost by works. And they say that to teach that good works keep salvation is almost the same error as to say that good works earn salvation. It denies grace to say that once I have been saved by grace I must thereafter keep myself saved by works. But the truth is that we keep the commandments, as Christ told us to and as discussed earlier, out of love for Him as He requested (John 14:15: 'If you love me, you will obey what I command) and therefore the works question never comes into it! I don't believe they have any answer to this reply for we are simply following the exhortation of scripture (1 Corinthians 10:12-13): So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. This is the real holding power of the God of the Bible! If it was true that works helped keep those who stay saved and get to heaven they would be able to boast that they played a key role in their salvation: Christ saved them but they kept themselves saved. On the contrary, no man can take any credit for his salvation. We are 'kept by the power of God' (1 Peter 1:5), not by our faith or efforts, so we make sure that we remain in Christ as faithful branches (John 15v1-11) and are therefore fruitful, remembering that 'the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men - it teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11,12). Many people forget these Scriptures that show clearly that grace is linked to good works out of love for God, e.g. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8): 'Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.'
The 'Once Saved Always Saved' view is that 'falling away' doctrine, particularly Hebrews 6:4-9, is saying that rather than glorifying Christ, we would once again hold Him up to shame and ridicule before the world for two reasons: if we could lose our salvation, then (1) Christ would have to be crucified again to save us again: and (2) He would be ridiculed for dying to purchase our salvation but made inadequate provision to preserve it - for giving a priceless gift to those who would inevitably lose it. If Christ's death in our place for our sins and His resurrection were not sufficient to keep us saved, then He has foolishly wasted His time. If we could not live a good enough life to earn salvation, it is certain we cannot live a good enough life to keep it! They emphasise that to make the salvation He procured ultimately dependent upon our faltering works would be the utmost folly. Again, we reply that we agree that our works have no part in keeping our salvation but merely prove we are obeying Jesus by our actions - just as James warns! This is a world of difference from the many Scriptures which warn against wilful unrepentant sinning, falling away, and thus eventual rejection of the gift of eternal life.
'Once Saved Always Saved' makes the point that 'falling away' doctrine makes us worse off after we are saved than before - at least before conversion we can get saved. But after we are saved and have lost our salvation (if we could, they say), we can't get saved again, but are lost forever! Thus they say that Hebrews 6:6 declares, 'if [not when] they shall fall away it is impossible ... to renew them again unto repentance' and that this 'falling away' is hypothetical is clear because of verse 9: 'But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.' So 'falling away' does not 'accompany salvation.' They claim that the writer is showing us that if we could lose our salvation, we could never get it back without Christ dying again upon the cross. Again, 'Once Saved Always Saved' adherents would claim that this would be ridiculous, for Christ would have to die an infinite number of times (i.e., every time every person who was once saved sinned and was lost and wanted to be 'saved again' - although Papal Roman Catholic Church theology can accept such an un-Scriptural idea, it is clearly a doctrine not to be found in the Bible). Thus, the 'Once Saved Always Saved' would say, those who reject 'once saved, always saved' can only replace it with 'once lost, always lost'! We counter by pointing out that it is only wilful, deliberate, unrepentant sinning, or rejection of the gift, that causes this position in Hebrews 6. Scripture is clear that Simon Magus and Nicolas are but two of eighteen examples of individuals and groups who were saved but wilfully fell away. However, verse 9 makes it clear that the 'beloved' of whom the writer speaks are doing the things that accompany salvation, for he writes - 'we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation'. What are the 'things that accompany salvation'? Good works! The writer proves this in his next sentences (v10-12): 10 For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
In the course of answering the questions raised by someone mocking the 'Once Saved Always Saved' position (and in answer to your challenge: 'Why Fundamentalists believe they are 'saved' while they are still alive is beyond me anyway, since Hebrews. 9:27 teaches that our judgment comes after death') we find the utter assurance that orthodox Christians possess 'in Christ', for the Apostle John assures us, 'These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: that ye may know [present knowledge] that ye have [present possession] eternal life...' (1 John 5:13). The 'Once Saved Always Saved' group would say that to call it eternal life, if the person who had it could lose it and suffer eternal death, would be a mockery. On the contrary, eternal life is linked with the promise that one cannot perish - a clear assurance of 'eternal security' - 'unto you that believe'. Scriptures linked to this promise include John 3:16 which promises those who believe in Jesus Christ that they 'shall not perish, but have everlasting life.' John 5:24 again says: 'hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation....' One could not ask for clearer or greater assurance than the words of Jesus: 'I give unto them [My sheep] eternal life and they shall never perish' (John 10:28). The 'Once Saved Always Saved' faction will say that if some unknown number of sins can separate us from eternal life and Christ then we have no certain assurance at all! However, the orthodox view that we hold to merely re-iterates the number of Scriptures that point out that a Christian can fall away but, as Jesus pointed out in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), only the one who (v23) 'hears the word and understands it ... bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty' is the saved person. The others described in the parable (v18-30 ) either never understood (and the Devil snatches away what was sown), had no root, or fell among thorns: 18 'Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.' 24 Another parable he put before them, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' 28 He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29 But he said, 'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'' It is a great pity that Papal Rome and those they influenced among the Reformers never believed verses 24-30 either for, if they had, they would not have brought about the Inquisition and Reformers persecutions, but let those they called heretics grow un-molested (even though they would dis-fellowship them) instead of torturing and killing them!
'Once Saved Always Saved' also declares that if, having received eternal life, we could lose it and perish, it would make Christ a liar. This correctly attacks the teaching of Papal Roman Catholicism, for the Mass is declared to be an almost infinite repetition of the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood whereby God pardons sinners. Thus Christ's once-for-all sacrifice upon the cross was not sufficient. And they would say that, like Papal Roman Catholicism, the idea that a person once saved could be lost also denies the sufficiency of Christ's death upon the cross. We would counter by pointing out that there is a massive difference between being lost and wilful rejection of the gift of eternal life - after all, we agree that a gift cannot be bought but, surely, a gift can be rejected and returned?
If sin causes the loss of salvation, what kind or amount of sin does it take? There is no verse in the Bible that tells us. We are told that 'if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness' (1 John 1:9) - so clearly any sin can be forgiven if confessed (we are agreed that no believer would deliberately sin against the Holy Spirit as the Pharisees did - Matthew 12v22-32). The 'Once Saved Always Saved' view criticizes those who teach that falling away is possible because they rarely, if ever, say they got 'saved again' - rather, they confessed their sin and were forgiven. Again, we need to come back to the Antinomian question which may lead to the same 'excuse' that the 'Once Saved Always Saved' use! Hebrews 12:3-11 tells us that every Christian sins and that, instead of causing a loss of salvation, sin brings God's chastening upon us as His children. If, when we sinned, we ceased to be Gods children, He would have no one to chastise - yet he 'scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.' Indeed, chastening is a sign that we are God's children, not that we have lost our salvation: 'if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye illegitimate children, and not sons.' (v8) - so there are ways of knowing whether you are truly a Christian. In verse 14 the writer emphasises another proof: 'Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord'.
The 'Once Saved Always Saved' view rightly criticizes any who teach that one must be baptized to be saved; or that one must 'speak in tongues' - because both are forms of salvation by works. Some people in Protestant churches (mainly Pentecostal) lack assurance of salvation because they haven't 'spoken in tongues,' others are confident they are saved because they think they have. Both are like those who say, 'Lord, Lord, have we not ... . in thy name done many wonderful works?' (Matthew 7:21-23). They are relying on their works to prove they are saved, instead of upon God's grace. Nor does Jesus say, in Matthew 7:21-23: 'You were once saved but lost your salvation.' He says, 'I never knew you.' You can perform miracles, cast out demons, or exhibit stigmata - yet they can all be counterfeit and none prove you belong to Christ!
Can the works we do prove in any way that we are saved? The 'Once Saved Always Saved' position would make the following point about those who claim to be Christian and yet whose lives deny their claims: they would say that those who believe in falling away would say of a professing Christian who has denied the faith and is living in unrepentant sin that he has 'fallen from grace' and has 'lost his salvation.' In contrast, those who believe in eternal security, while claiming to be no more tolerant of such conduct, would say of the same person that probably Christ 'never knew him' - he was never a Christian. We must give the comfort and assurance of Scripture to those who are saved but, at the same time, we must not give false and un-Biblical comfort to those who merely say they are saved but deny with their lives what they profess with their lips. Unfortunately, with the certain exception of Dave Hunt of the 'Once Saved Always Saved' professors, teachers of this doctrine in the USA and much of the West have fulfilled Scripture and turned the gospel of grace into a 'licence for immorality' as Jude wrote (Jude 1:3-4): 'Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.'
So, the 'Once Saved Always Saved' position would say, if good works 'keep' our eternal security, our salvation, then are we not then saved by our works? We have already shown that 'good works' neither play any part in earning or keeping our salvation! In 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 every Christian's works are tried by fire at the 'judgement seat of Christ' before which 'we must all appear' (2 Corinthians 5:10). They argue that good works bring rewards, but a lack of them does not cause loss of salvation for the person who hasn't even one good work (all of his works are burned up) is still 'saved; yet so as by fire' (v15). We have to remember and contrast the classic example from Scripture, the thief on the cross (Luke 23v39-43). How much do we judge people by their good works? You seem to be suggesting that there are some church-goers you know who are no longer saved (if they ever were, since they are not Papal Roman Catholic Church!). Yet the 'Once Saved Always Saved' position is that one who may seem outwardly not to be a Christian, who has no good works as evidence - if he has truly received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, is then 'saved as by fire' and shall never perish in spite of his lack of works. We utterly reject the views of the extremist 'Once Saved Always Saved' proponents who have stated that you can live 'like the very Devil' (quote!) - and still be saved if you once made a decision to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. People like Dave Hunt would doubtless say these people were 'never saved' and it is interesting to hear his recent broadcast on radio failing to fully answer the listener's question: 'Are Saul, Solomon and Judas in Heaven?' - the programme finished with him asking listeners to make contact with reasons why Saul might not be in heaven! Here are the reasons: he showed remorse, like Judas, when he was confronted by David with his sin of trying to kill the innocent, anointed, king to be (David) and his life was spared (1 Samuel 23, 24 & 26), but he did not repent for we find him seeking the death of David still; then, finally, he consulted the occult (the witch of Endor - 1 Samuel 28) for information about his battle for his kingdom, because God has rejected him and no longer spoke to him (1 Samuel 28:6). Thus he ended his life still sinning and disobedient and had already been rejected by God (1 Samuel 15:7-26) before he was killed fighting the Philistines (1 Samuel 31 & 2 Samuel 1 - if he had killed himself he was also guilty of self-murder, a final sin against God). Sadly, there is every reason to be sure that Saul is not in heaven. He is the only 'believer' we read about in Scripture being tormented by 'an evil spirit' (1 Samuel 16:14; 18:10; 19:9) when the spirit of the Lord departed from him - a sure sign of his disobedience and occult involvement. The one glimmer of hope 'Once Saved Always Saved' might cling to is found in Samuel's words (1 Samuel 28:19): 'The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.' Since Samuel is in 'Abraham's bosom' (Luke 16:22), they would argue that Saul and his sons would be there too - but the verse could simply mean they would be in the same dead after-life state as Samuel! Thus the major problem of 'Once Saved Always Saved' are incorrect views of the understanding of sanctification (the process by which we are gradually transformed and become more and more Christ-like), leads proponents unable to make some judgements about sin and heresy.
Do we then, asked the Romans (and many since - e.g. Rasputin and his sect!) on the basis of being saved by grace, encourage Christians to 'sin that grace may abound'? We join Paul and say, 'God forbid!' We offer no comfort or assurance to those living in sin. We cannot declare that you are saved because you once made a 'decision for Christ.' Instead, we warn those who live in rampant immorality that those who are not willing to prove by their lives that they live fully for Christ as Lord of their life right now, how can they say that they were really sincere when they claimed to have made a commitment to Him at some time in the past? Paul warned us all: 'Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves' (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Paul's most devastating exposure of Antinomianism is found in Romans chapters 6 and 7, where he reduces to absurdity the claim that salvation by grace encourages sin. Firstly, he argues that the Christian has died to sin once and for ever. He has therefore finished with it entirely. Christ has rescued him from its dominion and service. Risen with Christ, he now finds himself in a new realm of righteousness. In the new birth he has received a new life and a new nature which hates sin and loves holiness. For him to continue in sin is therefore a sheer impossibility. The Apostle John says exactly the same thing: 'No-one who is born of God will continue in sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God' (I John 3:9).
Holiness should now be the aim of the Christian's life. Crucified, buried, quickened and risen with Christ, he walks in newness of life with Him. He lives his new life in the Spirit, a life which increasingly reflects Christ's own essential purity.
Secondly, Paul argues that Christians, once the slaves of Satan and of sin, are now the slaves of righteousness and of God. There is no middle way. Men are either enslaved to sin, which leads to death, or else they are Christ's bond-slaves and possessors of eternal life. We would agree with the 'Once Saved Always Saved' that those who are sin's slaves thereby declare that they are not Christians at all.
Thirdly, Christians are now married to Christ. This glorious union brings forth the fruit of righteousness. It produces in the believer that likeness to Christ which is the essence of holiness. From this it is evident that justification and sanctification, though distinct, are indivisible in practice. In the justified man the process of sanctification has of necessity already begun.
As stated earlier, the Antinomian error is a fatal confusion of justification with sanctification. This lies at the root of the problem. Some think that justification by faith releases the Christian from the demands of the Moral Law. Others have asserted that since, in justification, God forgives all the believer's sins - past, present and future - sin is no longer a problem of any kind for the Christian. God, we are told, regards the believer as sinless. He is therefore free from all moral obligation expressed in terms of law.
This confusion is dispelled by a correct understanding of the distinction between the Christian's legal position before God and his actual condition in practice. Sanctification, it should be noted, has reference to the believer's experience. The man who is dead in transgressions and sins can do nothing to please God. But once God renews and justifies him, he is required to pursue sanctification with the whole of his ransomed being.
The distinctions between justification and sanctification may be characterized as follows: justification is a legal act in which God the judge absolves the believer from the guilt of sin and reckons to him the righteousness of Christ. It is therefore a matter of his status in the eyes of God's Law. But sanctification concerns a Christian's present subjective experience in this world. In sanctification his life is being changed to bring it into conformity to the will of the Lawgiver. In the one he is declared judicially righteous in Christ and in the other he is being made Christ-like in character. In justification God imputes righteousness; in sanctification He imparts it. Justification is God's act done once and for all at conversion, while sanctification is a progressive work from conversion to glorification. Justification is therefore the same in all Christians, whereas sanctification varies in degree from Christian to Christian. Justification is objective because of what Christ has done for man, while sanctification is subjective and consists of what He now does in him. In the first the Christian is given the right or the title to heaven, in the second he is being made fit in his person for heaven. In justification his filthiness is covered; in sanctification that filthiness is being purged. The one restores him to God's favour; the other is restoring him to God's image.
These things are so united in the saving work of God that no true believer can stop at forgiveness and regard sanctification as a further step which is optional. It is totally foreign to Scripture to suggest that one can receive Christ as the Saviour who saves us from Hell, but not as the Lord who saves us from sin. The Bible knows nothing of those who are 'Christians' but not yet 'disciples'; of 'believers' who are 'carnal' but not yet 'spiritual'; of those who are 'justified' but not yet 'sanctified'. The teaching of the heretical 'Once Saved Always Saved' Antinomian teachers we mentioned earlier deny this fact.
On the contrary, Scripture is full of warnings about those who make extravagant claims to fellowship with God but whose moral nature remains unchanged. They may have great charismatic gifts and engage in remarkable acts of philanthropy, yet still remain spiritually dead and strangers to grace (1 Corinthians 13v1-3). Those with true saving faith live as Christ lived. Those who persevere in a sinful life merely proclaim thereby that they are not Christians at all. We do question why any church calling itself 'Christian' could ever allow such members to remain in fellowship, even allowing such people to remain in positions of authority in the body of Christ, and do little, or nothing, to correct them or remove them from their position when they blatantly refuse to repent and be disciplined - which is exactly what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 5 & 6! And how strongly did Paul put it at the end of this Chapter 6?:
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 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. 12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. 14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. 15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. 17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. 18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (KJV)
This surely makes it clear that those in Revelation 21v8 who have not 'overcome' (and who are named with 'unbelievers'!) are not Christians:
7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremonger (immoral persons), and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
We cannot fail to notice that the powerful message to the churches in Revelation 2 & 3 is that the reward to those who 'overcome' as Christ 'overcame' (particularly Revelation 2v26 and 3v21) is to avoid the second death, to remain in the Lamb's book of life, and to be confessed by Jesus before the Father and His angels!
The great Anglican, Bishop J.C. Ryle, in a comment upon the words of Christ, 'Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing' (Luke 12:43), shows the importance of the distinctions given above. He writes:
'It is not the servant who is found wishing and professing, but the servant who is found 'doing,' whom Jesus calls 'blessed.' The lesson is one which many, unhappily, shrink from giving, and many more shrink from receiving. We are gravely told that to talk of 'working,' and 'doing,' is legal, and brings Christians into bondage! Remarks of this kind should never move us. They savour of ignorance or perverseness. The lesson before us is not about justification, but about sanctification - not about faith, but about holiness; the point is not what a man should do to be saved, - but what ought a saved man to do. The teaching of Scripture is clear and express upon this subject. A saved man ought to be 'careful to maintain good works.' (Titus 3:8) The desire of a true Christian ought to be, to be found 'doing.' ('Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke, vol. 2, p. 90).
The Biblical truth that, while Christians are indeed justified by faith alone, they will inevitably demonstrate that faith by lives which are not merely moral but positively holy. Its thesis is well expressed in John Calvin's dictum: 'We are justified by faith alone - but the faith that justifies is never alone!' He meant, of course, that true saving faith is always accompanied by a holy life and by good works. Justification of necessity entails sanctification. In the words of Robert Murray McCheyne, 'If Christ justifies you, He will sanctify you! He will not save you and leave you in your sins.' Bishop Ryle put it yet more succinctly with Hebrews 12:14 in mind: 'No holiness, no heaven!'
The term 'Antinomian' was coined by Martin Luther from the Greek word meaning 'against law'. It is interesting to find him accused of ridiculing the law when he used it of those who thought that, with the coming of the Christian gospel, God's law could now be safely relegated to oblivion. There is a sense in which this heresy arose from a misunderstanding of the Apostle John's statement: ''The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ' (John 1:17). This was interpreted to mean that Moses and his law have now been superseded by Jesus Christ and His grace. Other statements about Christians not being 'under law' but 'under grace' lent weight to this view. The fact that there is no 'but' in the Greek original of John 1:17 should have given the Antinomians pause for thought, quite apart from many other New Testament statements which establish the moral law as an essential element in the life of grace.
We remember that Jesus gave the account (NOT a parable!) of Lazarus & the Rich Man - and we hear the 'Rich Man' in torment in Hades:
29 'But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30 'But he said, 'No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' 31 'But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.''
As we shall see, there is law in the life of grace just as there was grace in the giving of the law. Indeed the law is so much a part of the Christian life that John insists that those who do not keep God's law have no reason to suppose that they are Christians at all. John puts it very clearly (1 John 2v3-7):
And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The 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; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.
What could be clearer - 'the man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him' (1 John 2:4).
In the words of Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones:
'If the 'grace' you have received does not help you to keep the law, you have not received grace'. (Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (1959), Vol.1, p.197. Inter-Varsity Fellowship).
If we read carefully we can see that this is the view developed at great length in the New Testament by all the inspired writers. All modern works of reference, both Christian and secular, agree in defining Antinomianism as the view that the Moral Law (the 10 Commandments) is not binding on Christians as a rule of life. In the words of one of it modern spokesmen, Professor Sperry Chafer, who espouses this position:
'No Christian is under the law as rule of life'. (Chafer, Lewis Sperry. He that is Spiritual (1967), p. 64. Zondervan)
We would oppose this by saying that the Biblical view is that the Moral Law, spiritually understood, is God's blueprint for Christian living. In the first place, the Moral Law reflects God's own essential attributes. As God is spiritual, so is His Law. Since God is holy, His Law is also holy (Romans 7:12-25):
12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. 14 For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Paul makes it clear that (v12): 'the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good' and that it IS NOT the law which brings death, for he says (v13): 'did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be!' Paul then goes on to emphasise what brings death: 'Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. 14 For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good.'
Some contemporary preachers continue to make a misguided attack upon the law which is still needed to reveal sin - if there was no law then there would be no sin, as Paul makes clear in Romans (particularly Chapters 4 & 5). The Apostle Paul, in writing Romans chapter six, was well aware of the objections by those who slanderously mistook God's grace in Christ as a licence to sin. Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, wrote marvellous words which anticipated the later heretics who argued that the further they went into sin, the more glory God would get from rescuing them from degradation and shame! Antinomianism is translated fairly accurately as 'lawlessness' in English and those who may try and deny that they hold this view find great difficulty in hiding the behaviour that speaks clearly of their real stance. We need to be aware of the very real dangers of Antinomianism and remember that Luther in his day was aware enough to call it 'a blasphemous impiety' and to remember that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones warned us in our day of the prevalence of what he termed 'one of the most subtle, dangerous heresies'.
God cannot change and it follows that His Law cannot change. It has eternal validity and can never be abrogated for God the Creator has imposed His Law on all created beings - angels and men alike - as the objective expression of His will (Psalm 103:20):
'Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word!'
How much place does the law have in bringing man to a knowledge of his need for salvation? Romans 2:14 makes it clear:
'For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.
Almighty God is entitled to the unquestioning obedience of all His creatures. Obedience to God (because He is Creator) and to His Moral Law (because it reflects His sovereign will) lies at the heart of all true religion - and thus of sanctification. Becoming a Christian does not alter the fact that we are created beings under obligation to obey, but what conversion does is to enable us to render to God that obedience of which we were incapable as unbelievers. What is more, it grants us an over-riding desire to obey, since God is now also our Redeemer in Christ Jesus. It is clear that God imposed His Moral Law on man from the very beginning and Adam and Eve suffered for breaking it, as did Cain, and that Law was written on the hearts of all men as proven (Romans 2:14-15).
Confusion sometimes arises because of a failure to recognize which verses are dealing with justification. Thus, when a verse like Romans 6:14 asserts that Christians are 'not under law but under grace', the writer means that Christians are not required to keep the Law in order to obtain justification. Since it is a spiritual impossibility to justify ourselves by works, we must be justified by grace through faith alone. If any obedience of our own rendered to the law could justify, then Christ died in vain, as Scripture says clearly (Galatians 2:21):
21 'I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.'
The Law cannot justify, but the fault lies not in the Law, which is holy, but in man's sin (Romans 7:7-14):
7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COVET.' 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. 14 For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
Galatians 3:13 asserts that 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law'. This has been interpreted by Antinomians to mean that the Law can do nothing but curse. But here again, Paul is dealing with justification. Certainly, the Law pronounces a curse on all who are misguided enough to seek justification by their own works. Those under conviction of sin view the Law as a cruel tyrant and taskmaster threatening eternal punishment for failure to do the impossible. But the converted man sees the curse as a blessing in disguise, for it drove him to the Christ who bore that curse for him. Again, this is no reflection on the Law as such. It is from the curse of the Law that we are redeemed, not from the Law itself.
When Romans 7:14 says that we died to the Law, it does not mean that the Law died. It is we who died to the Law - the Law is very much alive! The change that occurs is not in the Law but in us. Raised with Christ to new life, we now love the same Law which once we hated. It is a sign of true conversion when a man's heart is melted to love God's eternal Law and when his will is bent to obey it. When we see those claiming to be born-again Christians demonstrating contempt for God's Law we, like the 'Once Saved Always Saved', will ask the question: 'Did they ever really believe?'
At the end of the day, our confidence for eternity rests in His unchanging love and grace and the sufficiency of God's provision in Christ - not in our worth or performance. Only when this is clear do we have real peace with God. Only then can we truly love Him and live for Him out of gratitude for the eternal life He has given to us as a free gift of His grace - a gift He will not take back and which He makes certain can never be lost (which is very different from anyone who once believed willingly declaring with the mouth and through their deeds that they reject Christ!). Notice that Peter rejected Christ three times, but wept bitterly when he realised that he had fulfilled the words of his Master. He showed more than remorse in his real repentance and was restored by the Saviour. When Jesus predicted that some of them would fall away (Matthew 26:31-33), He never declared that they could not be restored!
We hope this will satisfy you concerning the state of those you see flaunting their grace in the face of God with licentious behavior - and regarding the certain hope Christians outside of the errors of Papal Rome really enjoy.
Thus you can see that we agree - with necessary careful explanation - that: 'the Bible teaches in many passages that you can lose (salvation) by sinning.'
You quote Ezekiel 33:12-13 which reads (quoting verse 10-20):
10 'And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: 'Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?' 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? 12 And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness OF the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness; and the righteous shall not be able to live by HIS righteousness when he sins. 13 Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet IF HE TRUSTS IN HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS AND COMMITS INIQUITY, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that he has committed he shall die. 14 Again, though I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' yet if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right, he shall surely live. 17 'Yet your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not just'; when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from HIS righteousness, and commits iniquity, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from HIS wickedness, and does what is lawful and right, he shall live by it. 20 Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, I will judge each of YOU according to his ways.'
In answer to the question you struggle with: 'how then can we live?'' God answers clearly in the following verses by emphasising that the same principles applied in Old Testament days. We live a life of sin - but the righteous man will acknowledge his sin and repent continuously! If he did not repent, but wilfully carried on sinning, then his OWN past righteousness could not save him (verse 12): 'The righteousness OF the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses' any more than 'the wickedness of the wicked' would cause his fall when he 'turns from his wickedness'. God has always promised that (verse 16): 'None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him', for if he turns to 'what is lawful and right, he shall surely live'.
The Papal Roman Catholic problem is the same as the Old Testament people who complained (verse 17): 'The way of the Lord is not just'; when it is their own way that is not just.' Ezekiel 33:11-20 teaches that all are wicked, but God has pleasure in the wicked man who repents and, ultimately, that will be 'the elect'.
Romans 11:21-22 speaks in similar manner:
20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.
Again, unbelief causes loss of salvation and faith and obedience is required in continuing the struggle - as Philippians 2:12 states:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Regarding 1 Corinthians 10:12, let us quote the whole passage (v1-14):
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. 6 Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. 7 And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, 'THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.' 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
The 'fathers' who perished shared in all the right elements which 'shadow' the gospel of Christ (v1-4): baptism, and the 'spiritual food' - bread from heaven, and water ('drink') from the Rock who 'was Christ'. Here we have every possible example to warn those who would flout the licentiousness of the worst elements of 'Once Saved Always Saved' practitioners (v6,8,9,10,12) - and the idolatry of the Papal Roman Catholic (v7). God inspired Paul to make sure we don't miss the significance of what happened to 'our fathers' who left Egypt on their way to the Land of Israel. He clearly illustrates that the risk of rejection by God (cf. 9:27: 'I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize') is real; compare Psalms 78 and 106 for, even though all of them had extraordinary supernatural advantages that might have led them to suppose their status with God was secure (v1-4, cf. Romans 9:4-5; Matthew 3:9) 'the majority of them' met with God's disapproval and died as a result (v5). Paul warns: let this be a warning to you (v6-14). They were guided by the pillar of cloud (Exodus 13:21-22) and through the sea (Exodus 14:19-3 1; Psalms 105:39, 136:13-15). A literal translation is 'they ... immersed themselves into Moshe (Moses)'. Immersion into Moses means being united with him, accepting his vision, goals and leadership. The Israelites did this by trusting him in connection with the cloud and in connection with the sea. Translations which have the Israelites being baptised in the cloud and in the sea are misleading - according to the Tanakh they were next to, or under, the cloud and they passed on dry ground between walls of sea each side of them. Once again, it was unbelievers - the Egyptians who were 'baptized in the sea' - and perished! There is a clear analogy here between immersion into Moses and immersion 'into the Messiah' (Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27; in 1 Corinthians compare 1:13-15, 12:13) - just as in the following verses the 'food' and 'drink' are analogous to the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper.
The 'Once Saved Always Saved' doctrine avoids, or twists, all the Scriptures which clearly point out that you can 'shipwreck your faith' (1 Timothy 4:1), and they even deny that it is possible to tell a Christian by their behaviour (which is the whole point of James 2), and one of the most obvious Scriptures which identifies whether we are in the faith that comes through Christ alone is 1 John 2:3-6:
We know that we have come to know him if we obey His commands. 4 The man who says, "I know Him," but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.
Everyone who has followed the Papal Rome example of persecuting, torturing, and massacring those who chose to follow the Bible rather than the teachings of men, will know why they are spending eternity in Hell.
(Continued on page 279)