“Once Saved, Always Saved” and Three Cups of Tea: Cup 3

This is the third (and final) part of a three-part guest post by David Bates of the blog Restless Pilgrim, on the topic of the doctrine of eternal security, better known as “Once Saved, Always Saved”:
In the last two blog posts I critiqued the Scripture interpretations of Mack, a commentator on my Once Saved, Always Saved post. Mack had responded to my article, claiming that I had been misapplying Scripture passages to support my argument that it is possible to lose your salvation. If you would like to read my two previous replies, they are available here and here.
We have nearly finished looking at Mack’s commentary, so please pour yourself one last cup of tea and we’ll take a look at the final two passages…
tea

Text #6: Hebrews 3:12-14

Scripture

“Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living
David Bates

God. But exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end

Mack’s Comments

Hebrews is addressed to Hebrews, just like James 1:1 is. We should be reluctant to contradict church age theology in the epistles Paul wrote to gentile Christians by citing what was addressed to Jews. Apparently God allowed these books (James and Hebrews) to be written early (see Act 12:2) prior to Acts 15 as a way to put into the Bible passages that would have [doctrinal] application during the tribulation. That is a complicated answer, but falls under the heading “rightly dividing the word of truth” which is another lengthy topic.

My Response

Complicated indeed…as I have absolutely no idea what Mack means! I really don’t see the significance of a Hebrew audience. Is he suggesting that the New Covenant works differently for Jews and Gentiles?
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you areall one in Christ Jesus – Galatians 3:28
I’m also puzzled because he speaks about “church age theology” as though the Church wasn’t in existence when the epistles of James and Hebrews were constructed… :-/
Rock blunts scissors, paper covers rock and Paul beats Jesus
I asked a few of my friends what they thought Mack meant and one possible theory was suggested…
My friend explained that some Christians consider Hebrews, James and even the words of Jesus Himself to be something like a “Middle Testament”.  It is asserted that this “Middle Testament” was written for Jews and therefore treats legalism as salvific.
It is then asserted, rather worringly, that this “Middle Testament” was then superseded by Acts and the epistles of Paul. That’s right…some Christians assert that the words of some New Testament authors abrogate the words of Christ. That’s quite a shocking claim! Now, Mack might not espouse such a theology, but it does seem to make sense of the above comments.
Certain assumptions?
Like I said, I’m not sure what Mack’s main point is here, but I think it’s worth pointing out a few things.
Firstly, he assumes that the author of the New Testament epistle is James the Apostle. From this belief he concludes a very early date of composition. However, it is often asserted that the author is, in fact, James the bishop of Jerusalem. Not only that, but a good case can be made that the Epistle to the Romans was written before the Epistle of James.
Secondly, although James’ epistle is addressed to the “twelve tribes of the dispersion”, it doesn’t necessarilymean that it was written for Jews alone. Even with a very early date, the Gentiles had already entered the Church (Acts 10) and spiritually had become part of Israel.
Finally, Mack speaks about James and Hebrews being written prior to the Council of Jerusalem. I can see that he bases James’ early date on his assumption concerning the epistle’s author, but I’m not quite sure how he reaches this conclusion for Hebrews. However, even if he’s right, what is the significance of those two books having been written early?
If’s, but’s and maybe’s
But back to the verse in question. Again, Mack neglected to comment on the important clauses that were underlined. The author to the Hebrews says that some may “fall away from the living God” and that we share in Christ “if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end”. So, what happens to us when we fall away? What happens if we don’t hold our first confidence to the end?
So once saved, always saved? I’m afraid it doesn’t sound like it to me….

Text #7: John 15:1-6

Scripture

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

Mack’s Comments

[This passage] has to do with fruitfulness, not salvation. The branches are cut off and burned “by men” not by God.

My Response

I’m again confused by Mack’s response. He doesn’t explain how it is that he knows that this passage “has to do with fruitfulness, not salvation”. I also don’t know why he says that “The branches are cut off and burned ‘by men’”. After all, back in verse 1, Jesus identifies the vinedresser.:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser – John 15:1
Either way, it is clear that Mack and I have very different understandings of this passage. The main difference is that I think this passage refers to salvation. I will attempt to demonstrate this by walking through the text…
A garden variety Catholic interpretation
Jesus says that He is the Vine. Attached to the Vine are branches. Since these branches are in Christ we know the branches are Christians. Jesus says that if we remain in Him, attached to the Vine, we will bear much fruit. Great stuff!
However, He warns us that, without Him, we can do absolutely nothing. Jesus goes on to say that if Christians don’t remain in Him we will “wither” and be “burned”, images of death and Hell, respectively. So, it’s not simply that Christians won’t be fruitful apart from Him, it’s that they’ll die! Is this an idle warning?  I don’t think so.
Wither or not?
The main point I want to make is that the Lord presents detachment from the Vine as a real possibility. It is possible to be attached, to be in Christ, but then at a later point in time to be detached, cut off from Him.
So, I have to ask, is it possible to be severed from Christ and still be saved? Is Mack making the incredible claim that the saved will still be saved, even if they do not remain in Christ?
So once saved, always saved? I’m afraid it doesn’t sound like it to me…
So that’s my response to Mack’s interpretations of the passages I presented. I would like to thank him again for his thoughtful comments, but I still think that you have to do a lot of exegetical gymnastics to make “…cut off…fall away from grace…[and] alienated from Christ…” mean something other than what it sounds like…the loss of salvation.
“Those who do not obey Him…have ceased to be His sons”
– St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4.41.3
The article OSAS & Three Cups of Tea (Cup 3) first appeared on RestlessPilgrim.net

66 Comments

  1. I thought it productive in the comments of the previous posts to provide some questions to keep the discussion focused. Here are the ones for this post:

    HEBREWS 3:12-14

    1. How have you discerned the author of the Epistle of James?

    2. What date do you put on the composition of the Epistle to the Hebrews? How have you reached this conclusion?

    3. Can you point to anyone in Christian history who took the same approach as you to James, Hebrews and the words of the Lord?

    4. Can we trust that Jesus’ words are true? For example, when he describes the Final Judgment, is the Lord is giving an accurate description?

    5. What does it mean to “fall away from the living God”? Do we still share in Christ if we don’t hold our confidence to the end?

    JOHN 15:1-6

    1. What in the text leads you to conclude that this passage is only about fruitfulness? The first sentence speaks about fruitfulness, sure, but if that’s all the passage about, why is there a second sentence where there is talk of death and fire?

    2. Will a man be saved if he’s cut off from Christ?

    1. Pilgrim,

      James is addressed to Jewish tribes: “…to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” James 1:1 KJV.

      If God told group “A” something, then group “B” is simply presumptuous to think that God’s message to them is in ever point identical, even if there be many of points of similarity.

      In the early church (using the phrase correctly to mean the years immediately after 33 AD) the gospel was still be presented exclusively to Jews. It opened to Gentiles in Acts 10-11, but as an adjunct to the Jewish church. It isn’t until Acts 28:28 KJV – after repeated attempts to win the Jews – that Paul announces the final transition to an exclusively Gentile Church: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”

      So we only need to read Acts to see that James had to have been written very early indeed because he is addressing Jews only and not mentioning the full revelation of the gospel that Paul delivered. James in Acts 12:2 is therefore the most obvious candidate for authorship, writing an epistle that is very Jewish in character and relying heavily upon Christ’s teachings rather than Paul’s.

      Now that might upset you, as if I’m joining with Luther in joking about James as “a right strawy epistle, I light my fire with James” a lighthearted comment that still unnerves humourless Catholic hypocrites whose church burned entire Bibles during the reformation.

      James is a very good epistle, filled with Christian instructions, but its doctrinal application applies to a time when God is dealing with principally with Jews. That won’t begin again until after the Church is removed from the earth and the tribulation begins (Jeremiah 30:7 KJV).

      As James is addressed to Jews, so is “Hebrews” addressed to Hebrews. There is plenty in Hebrews that is sound Church-age doctrine because it is universal doctrine regarding the work of Christ – but as for specific doctrines having directly to do with our salvation, we must not permit it to contradict what Paul told us in his epistles. Thus we have to object when verses in Hebrews teach loss of salvation – those warnings pertain to Jews and tribulation saints, not to the Bride of Christ.

      There are at least 7 different judgments described in the Bible, and every one of them is 100% true. However they are each very different, and it would a gross error to confuse the judges, defendants, venues, standards, punishments, rewards, etc of each of them together in a confused mess.

      John 15:5 KJV says it is about fruitbearing: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:” and verse 6 says “men gather them” John 15:6 – not angels, as is the case in Matthew 13:41-42 KJV.

      It’s a tautology, but the helpful epigram to memorize is: “Different things are not the same.”

      – Mack.

    2. So let me get this straight are you saying that full revelation of the gospel didnt happen until paul? And if so where did you arrive at that idea?

      I ask because Jesus did heal a Gentile as recorded in Matthew and Mark. So it doesnt make sense to say that his message was for jews only. Most Protestants and Catholics agree that this was the beginning of his ministry to the Gentiles.

    3. >James is addressed to Jewish tribes: “…to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” James 1:1 KJV.

      Sure…but do you agree that this could spiritually refer to Gentile believers since they were now also part of Israel?

      Even if he wasn’t writing to the Gentile believers, does that mean that what James says isn’t true? For example, since neither you nor I are Philemon should we ignore what Paul says in that letter?

      >If God told group “A” something, then group “B” is simply presumptuous to think that God’s message to them is in ever point identical, even if there be many of points of similarity.

      You’re pushing an artificial divide here between Jew and Gentile groups (Galatians 3:28). They’re both Christians! I would assert that it’s presumptuous to assume a difference.

      It opened to Gentiles in Acts 10-11, but as an adjunct to the Jewish church. It isn’t until Acts 28:28 KJV – after repeated attempts to win the Jews – that Paul announces the final transition to an exclusively Gentile Church

      You don’t see it being settled until Acts 28:28? I would suggest it is sorted out far earlier…

      The Gentiles were received into the Church by the hands of Peter in Acts 10. In Acts 11 Peter is challenged and, after defending himself, the matter is laid to rest in Jerusalem. Done. The Gentiles are part of the Church.

      The rest of Acts 11 speaks about the mission among the Gentiles, about the thriving Gentile Church in Antioch and about the commissioning of Barnabas to go minister to them. In Acts 13 that Church sends out Paul and Barnabas to preach the Gospel in Gentile lands.

      Now, upon their return, a legalizing party (without the permission of the Apostles) causes disruption. The Council of Jerusalem is called, where Peter and James speak and re-iterate that Gentiles are full members of the Church without having to take on the yoke of the Law.

      Why do we have to wait until Acts 28?

      >So we only need to read Acts to see that James had to have been written very early indeed because he is addressing Jews only and not mentioning the full revelation of the gospel that Paul delivered.

      …you mean that thing that Peter had already done?

      > James in Acts 12:2 is therefore the most obvious candidate for authorship, writing an epistle that is very Jewish in character…

      That James is one of the candidates. There are several other Jews called James in the New Testament. Why not one of them?

      > ….and relying heavily upon Christ’s teachings rather than Paul’s.

      You may be shocked by some things Catholics believe, but I find this divide between Jesus and Paul quite horrifying.

      >Now that might upset you, as if I’m joining with Luther in joking about James as “a right strawy epistle, I light my fire with James” a lighthearted comment that still unnerves humourless Catholic hypocrites whose church burned entire Bibles during the reformation.

      That’s a “lighthearted comment” from a man who tried to take several books out of the canon because they didn’t agree with this theology. Can you imagine if a Pope had tried to do the same? We’d never hear the end of it!

      >James is a very good epistle, filled with Christian instructions, but its doctrinal application applies to a time when God is dealing with principally with Jews. That won’t begin again until after the Church is removed from the earth and the tribulation begins (Jeremiah 30:7 KJV).

      Seems rather odd to me that James would write a letter to Christians which would be true, then out-of-date and then true again.

      Do you see any significance that no early Christian writer made the distinction you now make?

    4. Deltaflute,

      “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:” Acts 9:15 KJV.

      “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” Acts 15:12.

      “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” Ephesians 3:3 KJV.

      “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, Butnow is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:” Romans 16:25-26 KJV.

      “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11-12 KJV.

      “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;” Galatians 2:7 KJV.

      “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” 1 Thess. 2:4 KJV.

      “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:” 2 Tim 2:8 KJV.

      “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.” 1 Corinthians 4:16 KJV.

      “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2 KJV.

      “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:” Ephesians 3:2 KJV.

      “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;” Col. 1:24-25 KJV.

      “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: … And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles” Galatians 1:16~2:2 KJV.

      etc. etc.

      Jesus Christ specially revealed to Saint Paul the Nt gospel mystery of free grace specifically for the Christian church as bride of Christ.

      – Mack.

    5. > As James is addressed to Jews, so is “Hebrews” addressed to Hebrews. There is plenty in Hebrews that is sound Church-age doctrine because it is universal doctrine regarding the work of Christ – but as for specific doctrines having directly to do with our salvation, we must not permit it to contradict what Paul told us in his epistles. Thus we have to object when verses in Hebrews teach loss of salvation – those warnings pertain to Jews and tribulation saints, not to the Bride of Christ.

      What date to you attach to Hebrews? How have you reached this conclusion. What do you think about authorship?

    6. Pilgrim,

      Hebrews 6:4-6 KJV causes a lot of confusion. Unlike Peter’s example of pigs and dogs, the people in Hebrews 6 appear genuine since they partook of the Holy Ghost. The Hebrew Christians are distinguished (“we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak” (Hebrews 6:9 KJV) but the verse remains perplexing.

      And James 2:24 KJV appears to flatly contradict Paul’s statement “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5 KJV.

      And there are other verses in the New Testament which apparently teaching loss of salvation found in Matthew and Revelation.

      In every case, the verses are outside of Paul’s epistles specifically addressed to the Christian Church.

      The way to make sense is to understand that Paul is talking about Christian salvation during the church-age, but the others are talking about a time after the church-age closes when once again faith and works must both be maintained in order to be right with God. These tribulation and millennial saints don’t get the new-birth the moment they trust Christ, and that is why salvation for them can be lost.

      Hence the need for “rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15.

      But this does NOT mean that any part of the Bible is false or inapplicable for Christians. We simply apply doctrines from Paul first, and understand that inconsistent doctrines found in Matthew, Hebrews, Revelation, James, Acts (the early chapters), or Old Testament, are applied to us spiritually only because they apply doctrinally to other groups beside Christians. Everything else in those books that Paul didn’t contradict applies fully to us.

      So imagine you are a poor orphan who is suddenly adopted by the King and made into a prince. You are thrust into the Palace and as you walk around with the people there it is an awkward situation as you sort out what rules apply to everybody, what rules apply to the staff and subjects, and what rules apply exclusively to you. You may be terribly frightened when you hear that breaking a certain rule will result in being cast out of the palace and put to death, but that really isn’t your punishment because you are a member of the royal family and enjoy certain prerogatives that others don’t have.

      That is what it is like reading the New Testament. Our job is to apply to ourselves Paul’s epistles specifically addressed to Christians, and everything consistent with them. If it isn’t consistent, then the instruction should be applied to us spiritually only because its literally doctrinal application pertains to somebody else.

      – Mack.

    7. “We simply apply doctrines from Paul first, “

      Why?

      “Our job is to apply to ourselves Paul’s epistles specifically addressed to Christians, and everything consistent with them.”

      Why?

      Peter warns us that Paul’s letters contain many things dark and hard to understand. The prudent thing would therefore to be apply doctrines from the rest to better understand Paul.

      You do not do this because you are not going to Holy Writ to find out the truth, but to make it serve you, and therefore you come up with heretic and even blasphemous ways to read to it — exalting Paul over Jesus Himself — to make it say what you want it to say.

      You can judge a tree by its fruit. Your overt refusal to obey scripture, which is all inspired by God and useful, is fruit enough to judge your beliefs.

    8. Marycat,

      I’ve already explained why. Perhaps you can explain why you want to be a Jew under the Old Testament law instead of a saved Christian.

      Jesus said:

      “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 10:5-6 KJV.

      “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel…. It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Matthew 15:24-26 KJV.

      Sorry, but Jesus just called you a Gentile dog. You’re not going to get any sympathy from him on the day of judgment by ignoring Paul – the person he did send to you. If you reject Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) and follow instead Matthew 5,6, and 7 trying to get saved, then you will end up in hell.

      “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20 KJV.

      – Mack.

    9. No, you haven’t. You have merely assserted, again and again and again, and thrown around some circular logic that amounts to the declaration that you found what you want in Paul and therefore Paul takes precedence over the others, on the grounds that you found what you want in him. You assert that James must be earlier than Paul because he doesn’t have the full Gospel, but that entirely depends on your claims of having the full Gospel –which you must get from Holy Writ, to get properly, but which you obviously came to Holy Writ with, to claim the right to divvy it up to your liking.

    10. marycat,

      You’re avoiding the issue. Jesus said (see the cites above) that you are Gentile dog that he wasn’t sent to talk to during his earthly ministry. That’s what the texts say, whether you like it or not.

      Paul, on the other hand, was told NOT to go to Jews, but to Gentiles: “Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. … And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” Acts 22:18-21 KJV.

      A Church-age Christian needs to read the New Testament Romans through Philemom and get all his doctrine from those books first because they are Paul’s writings to Church-age Christians. The remainder of the New Testament is all good, right, proper, and applicable – but certain parts are of special application to persons who are outside of the body of Christ: such as OT Jews prior to Christ’s death, to the nation of Israel as a group, to tribulation saints after the church is gone, to nations that enter the millennial kingdom of Christ, and to persons who populate the new heavens (Revelation 21-22).

      This is all very straightforward.

      – Mack.

    11. >If God told group “A” something, then group “B” is simply presumptuous to think that God’s message to them is in ever point identical, even if there be many of points of similarity.

      “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

      This is from Paul. I will take his certification that the groups you insist on are non-existent in Christ rather than your obvious and shallow attempts to exploit them for your own perverse theology.

    12. >Jesus said (see the cites above) that you are Gentile dog that he wasn’t sent to talk to during his earthly ministry. That’s what the texts say, whether you like it or not.

      Except of course that he said that to a Gentile woman and then worked a miracle on her behalf. That is what the texts say, whether you like it or not.

      And this also is what the texts say
      “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

      That you would prefer to pretend He did not say that is your problem, not His.

      And you also think God is a bungling incompetent. In the early days of the Church, no one — no one at all — believed what you say a Chuch-age Christian must believe. No one expurgated the Bible of everything you dislike, asserting it applied to other folks, as you say they must. Which means that the Church of the living God, so far from being “the pillar and foundation of the truth” — and that is in Paul so even you must concede it’s applicable ot you — fearfully bungled its mission in the very first centuries and never recovered until you and the tiny handful of modern Christians who promulgate false doctrines like you

      Why are you attributed so much to Paul? It’s obvious that you regard yourself as the one God selected to reveal the full Gospel to. That is straightfoward enough, though you may not like its destination.

    13. Sorry Mack. Throwing verses at me doesnt answer my assertions. Everyone has a charsm. Mine is challenging protestant dogmatism. All those verses simply point out that St. Paul was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles. It doesnt assert that Jesus never had a ministry to Gentiles. In fact the passages in Matt. And mark have Jesus healing and therefore ministering to the Gentile woman’s daughter and the Gentile herself. Id like to hear your explaination for why you think Jesus ignored Gentiles given that the story of this healing was spoken about twice.

  2. Why believe Paul at all if one is going to start putting time conditions down for scripture to apply to one group or another? Paul certainly didn’t indicate/believe that Jesus’ second coming would happen over 1,900 years later. Therefore, Paul must be wrong so why believe him at all?

    The thinking of above is similar to Mack’s thinking in these posts. Mack puts a time lock on scripture that isn’t there in the first place which leads to bad exegesis.

  3. Church is removed from the Earth and the Tribulation begins?

    The Churched is removed from the Earth when the dead in Christ rise up first and then the living saints are caught up in the air. 1 th 4

    So when is the dead raised?

    On the last day.

    John 6:40 and 44 and 54 and John 11:24

    You believe the last day doesn’t mean the end but rather the beginning of the 7 year trib, the first half of which is peaceful happy go lucky goodtimes?

    Doesn’t your kjvonlyist hermeneutic *demand* the last ‘day’ mean the last *day* as we know it?

    1. Daniel,

      The tribulation is 10 years long, not 7 (Revelation 2:10) and it doesn’t start with good-times, it starts with World War 3 against Iran (Daniel 8:5 KJV).

      The resurrection proceeds “every man in his own order” in three stages that together are called the first resurrection:

      (1) Christ is firstfruits along with the select saints that rose with him – 1 Corinthians 15:20 KJV; Matthew 27:53 KJV.
      (2) the church is resurrected prior to the tribulation – 1 Thess. 4:15-17 KJV;
      (3) and the final stage occurs at the end of the tribulation: Rev. 14:14-16 KJV; and “the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus…they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” Rev. 20:4 KJV

      – that completes the first resurrection (finishing the first category, “the resurrection of the just” Luke 14:14.).

      All three are “raised up” together on the last day because at the very end of the tribulation, all are promoted to supreme rule and authority with Christ over the earth as he returns in glory – Revelation 19:11 KJV. At the same time Christ will also “raise up” what is his, the throne of the kingdom in Israel – John 6:39 KJV; Amos 9:11 KJV.

      I suggest you avoid “hermeneutics” and just read carefully and believe what the Bible says. Hermes was the god of trickery, lies, commerce, and thievery – not exactly the type of character you want to rely upon for scriptural understanding.

      – Mack.

    2. “I suggest you avoid “hermeneutics” and just read carefully and believe what the Bible says. Hermes was the god of trickery, lies, commerce, and thievery – not exactly the type of character you want to rely upon for scriptural understanding. “

      I suggest that you stop smear your opponents with bad puns.

      “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers. Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water?”

      Especially when you are also bringing forth lies with it.

  4. Here are the questions which I don’t think you’ve yet addressed:

    * Can we trust that Jesus’ words are true? For example, when he describes the Final Judgment, is the Lord is giving an accurate description?

    * What in the text [of JOHN 15:1-6] leads you to conclude that this passage is only about fruitfulness? The first sentence speaks about fruitfulness, sure, but if that’s all the passage about, why is there a second sentence where there is talk of death and fire?

    1. Pilgrim,

      Everything in scripture is 100% true, as I keep repeating.

      If you are explaining how to build a building you might give hundreds of correct instructions on how to do it, but if the people doing the work don’t pay attention to what items you are pointing to then they are apt to build the walls with shingles and thatch the roof with bricks.

      In Matthew 25:35-36 KJV people are saved by feeding the poor, but Paul says, “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thess. 3:10 KJV.

      Matthew 25 has to do with the tribulation period, and the poverty that will result when many refuse to take the mark of the beast – Revelation 13:17 KJV.

      John 15 talks about fruit so many times it is impossible to miss. Abiding in Christ is the “fellowship” as mentioned in 1 John 1:6 – and it result in joy, answered prayer, bringing God glory, etc. (john 15). It is the present tense of salvation, having the spirit constantly in fellowship and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

      So past tense salvation is the soul: saved. Future tense salavation is the body: will get saved at the resurrection. Present tense salvation is the spirit: saved daily by renewal of the Holy Spirit, walking in fellowship and abiding in Christ. Notice that the 3 tenses pertain to the 3 parts of a man, his soul, body, and spirit.

      – Mack.

    2. You write: “Everything in scripture is 100% true…”

      Now let’s stop right there, and play Devil’s Advocate for a bit…

      Why is that? Please do not throw a Bible in my face and tell me “Everything in scripture is 100% true”, when I read it (A good chunk of it in its original languages by the way) and it doesn’t say anything like that anywhere in any of the books that make it up.

      Yes, there is the famous passage of 2 Tim 3:16, but that passage doesn’t actually tell me what scripture actually is. It doesn’t list any books for me.

      With the exception of Revelation, none of the books really make the claim to be divinely inspired, let alone being “100% true”.

      If you claim that everything in the Bible is true, then what are you basing that on? Who or what are you trusting to come to the conclusion that “Everything in scripture is 100% true”? The scriptures you’re pointing at don’t say that. Has someone else told you that? if so, then what are they basing that upon?

    3. Rob,

      If you don’t believe the Bible, why concern yourself? You either believe it and live, or you take your chances and die:

      “He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field.” Exodus 9:20-21 KJV.

      “And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.” Acts 28:24 KJV.

      I chose to believe. If you don’t, that’s your problem.

      “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” Psalm 119:160 KJV.

      “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:19 KJV.

      “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” John 18:37 KJV.

      Believing scripture is a prerequisite to believing Christ:

      “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” John 5:46-47 KJV.

      “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John 20:29 KJV.

      “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11: KJV.

      – Mack.

    4. Mack –

      So you believe in all 73 books as scripture that is historically the Bible? If you get to rip 6 books from the 73, upon what authority do you have to alter historical truth?

      At least admit there is no 66 book Bible on this earth until after the 14th Century.

    5. cwdlaw223,

      This thread is about eternal salvation by believing the gospel, not about how many book are in the Old Testament.

      Are you saved? Did you ever come to Christ as a lost sinner and trust his death on the cross for your sins to save your soul? Please explain why or why not.

      Nevertheless, the Bible says that the Jews were the custodians of scripture (Romans 3:2) and not only is every author of the Book Hebrew, but the Jewish scripture consistes of 3 parts called the TANAK, and it rejects the apocrypha. Jesus, being an orthodox Jew, confirms this 3-fold TANAK canon: “written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” Luke 27:44 KJV.

      The TANAK’s start and end is noted by Christ in Luke 11:51 KJV, “From the blood of Abel” which is Genesis, to “the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple” which is 2 Chronicles 24:20, namely the first and last books of the official Old Testament canon, which excludes the apocrypha. Paul told Titus to reject “Jewish fables” Titus 1:14.

      But what you need to concern yourself with is getting born again.

      – Mack.

    6. On the contrary, it is about how we can understand our salvation. You attribute this knowledge to the Bible. This raises questions about the Bible. That you refuse to discuss it only raises suspicions that you know there is something problematic about the canon you accept.

    7. mary –

      Exactly!

      Mack –

      You keeps saying “Bible, Bible, Bible.” Well there Mack, which BIBLE? Please tell us. What is your authority Mack to reject 7 books of the Bible that are historically used in the Christian Bible for almost 1,000 years? Non-Christians better understood the COMPLETE BIBLE?

      You can cite all of the Jewish history you want, BUT THE BIBLE THAT WAS ACTUALLY AND HISTORICALLY USED BY CHRISTIANS (yes Christians – people who follow the Way) CONTAINED THE 7 BOOKS THAT YOU ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN AWAY. The Apocrypha was too Christians for most Jews and too Catholic for Protestants.

      So your authority there Mack is that you think the Jews determined their canon even though the Bible actually used by Christians demonstrates a larger OT canon and they were wrong?

    8. While we’re at it, he rejected some arguments on the grounds that the quotes cited were not the Authorized Version. He was called on that, and has yet to explain why this is one true version to be cited.

    9. marycatelli,

      Often Romanists claim criticisms against their religion entails misrepresenting what official teachings actually say.

      A Bible believer is entitled to make the same complaint.

      – Mack.

    10. Only if you are prepared to justify why your official teachings are the Authorized Version and no other. If you believe the Bible, you do not put your trust in any translation made by man.

    11. marycatelli,

      What “Bible” are you talking about? There is no original bible in existence anywhere.

      Why do you think I would be tempted for 1 second to join a Bible-agnostic in her ignorance?

      The King James Bible is God’s words in English, and that that Book is supreme authority over everything. And it exists and can be read.

      – Mack.

  5. Hello,

    I’ve never quite understood why those who hold to “temporal security” as opposed to “eternal security” think the warning passages entail a “loss of salvation.” I hold to the perseverance of the saints, but don’t see why a text like the following allegedly contradicts that view. I’ll confine my remarks to just the first text in this post: “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14).

    As I see it, this isn’t a text that effects the order of being (the reality of salvation) but rather the order of knowing (or confidence and knowledge of whether or not we are saved). Put another way, I see this text as *descriptive* rather than *prescriptive.* It is stating a fact in very descriptive language: If you don’t persevere to the end, then you have no share in Christ. I don’t read this as saying, “In order to obtain and maintain salvation, you have to persevere, but if you don’t then you’ll lose the salvation you already have.” What I don’t fully understand is why people read it prescriptively. Perhaps you can explain.

    Also, when we take into account Hebrews as a whole, we find all kinds of warning passages followed up by passages such as these: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation” (Hebrews 6:9). Or, this: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39).

    It seems to me that warnings, not just in Hebrews, but also in the rest of the Bible, are one of the many important *means by which* God preserves his elect, which he has promised to do. Looking at the issue this way, that is, from the perspective of a God who will infallibly bring his elect to eternal glory, I think we can say this for certain: The elect, finally, will never be deceived (cf, Matthew 24:24, 31). This means all those warning passages, such as the ones we read about in Hebrews, will in fact function as they were intended to, accomplishing the divine purpose for which they were written: namely, to be heeded. Those who don’t ultimately heed those warnings aren’t the elect, which means they have not “lost their salvation,” since salvation was something they had to begin with.

    That doesn’t mean they didn’t have a taste of it. Jesus tells us that some of reprobate will be among those who, by all outward appearances, looked to be Christian. They will almost certainly have been baptized, communicated and may have even performed dramatic spiritual deeds (for example, casting out demons). But that doesn’t mean they are among the elect. The argument of the author of the Hebrews (and Matthew in many respects) seems to be that there can be people inside the church who look like the real deal, but are not. Because this is possible, the exhortation to make sure we don’t have “an evil and unbelieving heart,” is given as a means to keeping the elect on the straight and narrow. I have every confidence that the God who began the good work in his elect, will see it through to completion (Philippians 1:6). I take Jesus seriously when he says that he gives his sheep (the elect) eternal life (not temporary life) and that no one can snatch his sheep out of his hand (cf, John 10:28).

    1. Michael Taylor,

      No gymnastics can reconcile the people ‘saved’ and then lost in Hebrews and Matthew with the permanently saved Christians in Paul’s epistles. Different groups are being addressed.

      Christian salvation is not a matter of perseverance, as if Christ was under a duty to make Christians continuously behave well in order to save them. If that were the case, every Christian would simply have to recognize his own failings to come to the conclusion that Christ failed to save him – and be left forlorn as non-elect. Thus the hyper-Calvinist is really a pure Arminian – trying to do good works because he has no idea if he is saved or not.

      – Mack.

    2. Michael TaylorJuly 4, 2013 at 9:58 AM
      Hello,

      I’ve never quite understood why those who hold to “temporal security” as opposed to “eternal security” think the warning passages entail a “loss of salvation.”

      Because that is what the passage says.

      I hold to the perseverance of the saints,

      You mean, to the “absolute assurance” of the perseverance of the Saints.

      but don’t see why a text like the following allegedly contradicts that view.

      It does contradict that view. You simply are reading it according to your predisposed filter.

      I’ll confine my remarks to just the first text in this post: “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14).

      As I see it, this isn’t a text that effects the order of being

      It certainly does.

      (the reality of salvation) but rather the order of knowing (or confidence and knowledge of whether or not we are saved).

      The order of knowing is not even mentioned.

      Put another way, I see this text as *descriptive* rather than *prescriptive.*

      It is both, it describes what happens if the prescription is not obeyed.

      It is stating a fact in very descriptive language: If you don’t persevere to the end, then you have no share in Christ.

      Let’s look at it in detail:
      Take care, brethren,

      He calls them “brethren”. Brethren is short for “brothers in Christ” and therefore designates them as members of the elect. the saved.

      lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

      Now, since they are already brethren or elect, then they must have had a believing heart at some point. Therefore, he wants them to be careful lest they begin to turn away from Jesus and begin to disbelieve. At that point, acquiring an unbelieving heart.

      But exhort one another every day . . .

      Therefore, he suggests that each one of them, each one of the brethren, the elect, support each other and uplift each other, in order that they remain faithful to Jesus.

      that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

      and thus prevent each other from falling into sin by turning away from God.

      For we share in Christ,

      Here’s the kicker. He is talking to people who share in Christ, right now. They are saved, right now.

      if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end

      As long as they maintain their faithfulness to the end.

      So, what is described? He describes what happens to those who turn away from Christ and begin to disbelieve. They fall away.
      What is prescribed? In order to prevent this turning away and disbelief, he prescribes that they exhort each other and support each other in their faith every day.

      I don’t read this as saying, “In order to obtain and maintain salvation, you have to persevere, but if you don’t then you’ll lose the salvation you already have.”

      I can’t help how you read it. But that is precisely what it says. He is speaking to brethren who have a share in Christ and telling them how to maintain that share in Christ.

      What I don’t fully understand is why people read it prescriptively. Perhaps you can explain.

      I hope I have done so above.

      cont’d

    3. Michael Taylor also said:

      Also, when we take into account Hebrews as a whole, we find all kinds of warning passages followed up by passages such as these: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation” (Hebrews 6:9).

      That is very simple. Read verse 1-8. There, he clearly says that it is impossible for any who fall away after being enlightened to be saved. But in verse 9, he says that this does not apply to those whom he is addressing. They are a specific audience to whom he has addressed this letter:
      Hebrews 3
      King James Version (KJV)
      3 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,….

      He is speaking to ministerial priests of his day and age. He is not speaking to everyone who reads this letter. He is not addressing this letter to you and I. Therefore, you and I are amongst those who, having become enlightened, that is, baptized, might fall away.

      Or, this: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39).

      Same book, same audience.

      It seems to me that warnings, not just in Hebrews, but also in the rest of the Bible, are one of the many important *means by which* God preserves his elect, which he has promised to do.

      God is not the only one who preserves the elect. The elect have something to do with it also:
      2 Peter 1:10
      Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

      And Scripture is clear, the elect can fall away:
      9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

      cont’d

    4. Michael Taylor cont’d
      Looking at the issue this way, that is, from the perspective of a God who will infallibly bring his elect to eternal glory, I think we can say this for certain: The elect, finally, will never be deceived (cf, Matthew 24:24, 31). This means all those warning passages, such as the ones we read about in Hebrews, will in fact function as they were intended to, accomplishing the divine purpose for which they were written: namely, to be heeded. Those who don’t ultimately heed those warnings aren’t the elect, which means they have not “lost their salvation,” since salvation was something they had to begin with.

      You are making God an armchair quarterback. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. God, of course, is not affected by time. He already knows who is saved.

      We however, are very much under the influence of time. We don’t know who will persevere to the end. Therefore, we can’t be sure of our salvation until the end.

      That doesn’t mean they didn’t have a taste of it. Jesus tells us that some of reprobate will be among those who, by all outward appearances, looked to be Christian. They will almost certainly have been baptized, communicated and may have even performed dramatic spiritual deeds (for example, casting out demons). But that doesn’t mean they are among the elect. The argument of the author of the Hebrews (and Matthew in many respects) seems to be that there can be people inside the church who look like the real deal, but are not. Because this is possible, the exhortation to make sure we don’t have “an evil and unbelieving heart,” is given as a means to keeping the elect on the straight and narrow. I have every confidence that the God who began the good work in his elect, will see it through to completion (Philippians 1:6). I take Jesus seriously when he says that he gives his sheep (the elect) eternal life (not temporary life) and that no one can snatch his sheep out of his hand (cf, John 10:28).

      Huh? You said, “That doesn’t mean they didn’t have a taste of it. Jesus tells us that some of reprobate will be among those who, by all outward appearances, looked to be Christian….. ” Sounds to me as though you have just demolished the idea of absolute assurance of salvation. Did I misunderstand your message?

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  6. Mack said>> No gymnastics can reconcile the people ‘saved’ and then lost in Hebrews and Matthew with the permanently saved Christians in Paul’s epistles. Different groups are being addressed.<<

    Mack, I haven’t read all the comments in this thread and am new to these parts of the blogosphere. But it sounds like you see irreconcilable differences between Matthew/Hebrews and Paul on the issue of the permanence of salvation, which would seem to put you in the camp that denies biblical inerrancy. Or am I reading far too much into this?

    Mack>>Christian salvation is not a matter of perseverance, as if Christ was under a duty to make Christians continuously behave well in order to save them.<<

    But it is nevertheless a matter of perseverance, or the words, “he who endures to the end will be saved” (whether read descriptively, as I do, or prescriptively as Rome and Arminians do), means nothing.

    >> If that were the case, every Christian would simply have to recognize his own failings to come to the conclusion that Christ failed to save him – and be left forlorn as non-elect. Thus the hyper-Calvinist is really a pure Arminian – trying to do good works because he has no idea if he is saved or not.<<

    This, I think, is a very good objection with pastoral implications. It is not quite scrupulosity, but it is in the same family of spiritual paranoia that comes from drawing inferences the Bible never intended us to draw. When I was a Roman Catholic, I never bought the ubiquitous charge from Evan-jelly-cals, that they [Roman Catholics] can’t have an “assurance” of salvation. The reason why is because the word “assurance” is not a binary concept, as in, we’re either 100% certain, or not at all. “Assurance,” admits of degrees. Assurance, like knowledge, has both a subjective and objective “pole.” Sometimes when we speak of assurance, we speak as if it were either totally objective or totally subjective, when in reality the concept has both subjective and objective facets.

    So, for example, when Paul tells the Corinthians to “examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5), this implies that, upon self-examination, you might not be. But obviously you can be as well. So there is both an objective and subjective dynamic here. One can be objectively in the faith, and be subjectively uncertain about it (and vice versa and all the other permutations). When Peter says, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10), this implies that we can be elect, but not necessarily know for certain that we are.

    The “things” Peter says we ought to do in order to confirm our election amount to a life of good works (see especially verses 5-9). By your definition of hyper-Calvinism, then, both Paul and Peter were hyper-Calvinists.

    But I think both Calvinists (hyper or not) and Roman Catholics can affirm what both apostles are saying, without necessarily having to despair of ever having a high degree of “assurance” about one’s own “salvation” or “election.” Rome says we can have a “moral certitude” and I think Rome is right about this.

    If I look to myself, I will see all my failings. Calvin counseled us to look instead to the savior. I think there is wisdom there too. When I fail (sin), I have to remind myself that Christ’s atonement was sufficient for this sin too, not just the ones in my past, and that when “he gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20), he did so knowing that he would bear every sin of mine, including the one’s I have yet to commit.

  7. I’ve read that post 100 times and missed the bit about Rufinus every time. Like I missed Lamentation’s absence (or if lumped with Jeremiah, then Baruch’s presence) in his commentary on the Creed.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Ps generally won’t convert from scriptural ping pong, however, they will convert if you can get them to change their worldviews and/or preconceived constructs about Catholicism and history.

    The historical 73 book Bible was a massive epistemological problem that lead to my conversion.

  9. Those truly saved (only God and that person know) cannot be lost by God. Let me give the logical reasons why this must be so:

    God is just. We know that “the wages of sin is death,” and that as a result of humanity’s sin, humanity as a whole deserves hell. God is also merciful. We know it to be his mercy that made a way for us to be right with him—through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the propitiation for our sin.

    God is just to punish sin. His holiness has no place with sin, therefore, as we are sinful beings (as a result of the Fall), we have no place with God. What then, happened on the Cross? How was a way made for us to God through Jesus Christ?

    On the Cross, God’s justice was satisfied. “He became sin who knew no sin,” that is Jesus became sin though he himself was sinless. He took on our sin and God’s wrath for sin was carried out upon his Son on the cross.

    On the human side, what happened on the Cross is that Jesus died in our place, took our sin upon him, and God’s wrath was satisfied on him so that we never experience it.

    And so here it is: God’s justice means that he cannot punish twice for the same sin. If Jesus died for a particular person’s sin, and God’s punishment for this one person’s sin was carried out on the Cross, God cannot hold that person accountable AGAIN for that sin. It would mean he was unjust, but we know that is not so. It is a logical impossibility.

    Think of it this way: at a particular time in history, approximately 2,000 years ago, we know that Jesus died for sin—for particular people’s sins. Now imagine a time in the future when one of those people he died for (took the punishment for) gets to heaven, and they say, “You died for my sins on the Cross; please let me in”—do we think then that the Son of God will look at them and say, “No, you screwed it up”? No, our salvation is only because of God’s mercy, and it was worked for us over 2,000 years ago. It can never become void!

    As for all of the analysis of Scripture: When we have the wrong premise, it can lead us to interpret Scripture through that premise. Therefore, we must go back and look again at the Scripture (which can never be taken alone, out of context, or not considering its genre) with this understanding. My personal understanding is that many of the difficult passages refer to those that either consider themselves Christians but have never truly known God (perhaps theirs is a cultural Christianity), or to the fact that AFTER salvation we all still struggle with sin—sometimes in profound ways (see Romans 7).

    1. Hey Elizabeth,

      Thanks for responding.

      >When we have the wrong premise, it can lead us to interpret Scripture through that premise.

      Yup, I completely agree.

      >Therefore, we must go back and look again at the Scripture (which can never be taken alone, out of context, or not considering its genre) with this understanding.

      Fair enough, although it does beg some questions as to Scripture itself (where it comes from, how it should be read and who gets the final say with regards to interpretation).

      > My personal understanding is that…

      How confident are you in this understanding? For how long have Christians held to this belief? Does it have an historic pedigree?

      > many of the difficult passages refer to those that either consider themselves Christians but have never truly known God (perhaps theirs is a cultural Christianity)

      Please be specific. Which passages?

      or to the fact that AFTER salvation we all still struggle with sin—sometimes in profound ways (see Romans 7).

      Again, please specify which passages.

      Thanks,

      David.

  10. I am happy to answer questions, of course, but you don’t have anything to say about my premise on which all of the questions you ask are based. Either my premise is logically sound, and therefore the things about which you ask questions are not as important, or there are holes in my premise.

    Essentially, I’m asking, do you disagree with my logic, and if so, how?

    1. Elisabeth,

      If you don’t mind me jumping in, I’d be more than happy to discuss your premises. Your argument for OSAS appears to be built off of two premises: (1) penal substitution (that the Father poured out His wrath upon the Son), and (2) limited Atonement (that Christ died only for the saved). Would you agree that your argument requires these two premises to be true?

      Even if these two premises were true, I’m not convinced that your conclusion would follow. But I think that both of these premises are false. Let’s consider each premise in turn. I’ll post my responses as separate comments, for the sake of organization, in case you want to respond to the two topics separately.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. The only thing that I’d add to what Joe said is that your response also assumes Sola Scriptura, which I’d also reject. That’s a bigger question than we can really do justice to here though.

      If OSAS is true then these passages have to make sense within that framework. If they don’t make sense, then it’s time to reconsider the framework.

      Interestingly, Mack did appear to admit that some of these passages do teach that you could lose your salvation, but he then dismissed the books of Scripture themselves (Matthew, James, Hebrews) using his form of dispensational theology. From your comment it appears that you’d disagree with Mack, keeping the books, but instead giving a different interpretation of those passages.

    3. Right, I absolutely accept these books. I told Joe, but I have to process all of this information prior to responding. It takes days for me to process this, as I have to really “take it in” before I can even considering formulating my own thoughts.

  11. Penal Substitution:

    1) I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find any Christians in the first 1000 years of Christianity who took the New Testament to be teaching this. (If you can find any, please let me know!). A critical problem with this is the theory that the Father was angry with the Son. Can you find any Bible verses supporting this belief? Or any early Christians who taught this?

    2) I’ve written on this topic recently (the comments are helpful, too, but very long).

    3) Penal atonement is contrary to God’s justice. As Bryan Cross put it, “One problem with the Reformed conception is that it would either make the Father guilty of the greatest evil of all time (pouring out the punishment for all sin on an innocent man, knowing that he is innocent), or if Christ were truly guilty and deserved all that punishment, then His suffering would be of no benefit to us.”

    4) The view of the Atonement that I think is the strongest is what’s called the “Satisfaction” view, in which Christ voluntarily gives the Father something greater than what we owe Him. I explain it at greater length in the post.

    5) The entire Jewish sacrificial system is based on the notion of self-sacrifice. That’s why the sacrifice had to belong to you. It was never about rerouting God’s wrath onto some innocent third party.

    6) You note that Christ “became sin who knew no sin,” but you might be surprised to learn what that verse means in a Jewish sacrificial context. This phrase, “becoming sin,” is a reference to something (or in this case, Someone) becoming a sin offering. Aquinas offered three explanations of this phrase. I think that the most applicable is the first one, that “it was the custom of the Old Law to call a sacrifice for sin ‘sin.’” He gives the example of Hosea 4:8, but it’s easy to establish this point from looking at the Old Testament as a whole. The same word, chatta’ath, was translated in the KJV as “sin” 182 times, but as “sin offering” 116 times. Twice, this word is translated as “purification from sin.” So Christ “is made ‘sin’” in the sense that He becomes the “sin offering” that purifies us from sin.

    So Christ became sin, in the sense that He became the sin offering, not sin itself. There’s a world of difference between those two things: they’re opposites, in fact.

    The question then ought to be: did God hate the sin offering? The answer is no. In Leviticus 4, where the sin offering system is established, it is dictated that the animal has to be “without blemish” (Lev. 4:3, 23, 28, 32). As with the Passover Lamb, this spotlessness prefigured the sinlessness of Christ. But if the bull or lamb is going to be treated as impure, why dictate that it actually be unblemished?

    In fact, in Ezekiel 42:13 the sin offering is listed (along with the cereal offering and the guilt offering) as “the most holy offerings.” Obviously, Scripture isn’t saying that sin is holy. It’s saying that a sin offering isn’t literally sin, nor is it treated as sin by God. It’s treated as holy by God, and as atonement for sin.

    That’s what we’re saying about Christ. The penal substitution view badly misunderstands the Jewish sacrificial system, particularly how the sin offering and guilt offering were viewed.

    So it’s true that Christ satisfies Divine justice, but not in the way that you’re describing.

    I.X.,

    Joe

    1. Hi Joe,

      You said regarding PSA>> 1) I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find any Christians in the first 1000 years of Christianity who took the New Testament to be teaching this.

      That’s a pretty amazing statement to me given my own reading on the subject where I have found quite a bit of support for it. At least I find substantial elements of the doctrine in Justin Martyr, Eusebius of Caesaria, Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius, Greg Naz, Ambrose, Golden Mouth, Gus of Hippo, Cyril of Alexandria, Gelasius of Cyzicus, Pope Gregory the Great, as well as Tommy Aquinas (who is past your 1,000 year marker).

      >>(If you can find any, please let me know!).<<

      Just did. As time permits I’ll blog the specifics, but just know for now that I’m making the claim that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not without its historical pedigree.

      You said>> A critical problem with this is the theory that the Father was angry with the Son.<<

      When I read statements like this from those who reject PSA, I know right away they don’t really understand the doctrine. If you could kindly point us to any major thinker on the topic who thinks, and I quote, “the Father was angry with the Son,” that would be greatly appreciated. To date, I’ve never seen anything of the sort.

      My own understanding of PSA, for whatever it’s worth, is that the Father, in his justice, desires to express his wrath at the sinner, but instead, in full agreement with the Son, allows him [the Son] to take the wrath upon himself so that we can escape it. So it is not the case that the Father is “angry” with or at the Son. Further, “anger,” I think, is not exactly wrath. “Anger,” I think, is more of an emotion. “Wrath” goes well beyond anger. Perhaps something like righteous indignation gets more to the heart of it. God is, after all, “slow to anger.”

      >>Can you find any Bible verses supporting this belief? Or any early Christians who taught this?<<

      Yes, I can. I’ve blogged several recent articles showing the scriptural roots for PSA. I haven’t yet gotten to the history of the doctrine, but will do so.

      I think a better question at this point is what you think it actually means and entails. I find that the working definition of most critics of PSA is so far removed from my own, that dialogue on this matter if very difficult.

  12. Limited Atonement:

    1) As with penal substitution, I think you’ll find the Scriptural evidence rather scant on this point. Where in the Bible does it say that Christ died only for the elect?

    2) Most of the Calvinist arguments for limited atonement assume that since Christ died for the sheep, He must have died only for the sheep. That argument is false, and logically invalid. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says that Christ “gave himself for me.” Does that mean that Christ gave Himself only for Paul? Of course not.

    3) Related to this, the Calvinist idea of Irresistible Grace is un-Scriptural and anti-Scriptural. It’s refuted in Acts 7:51-53, in which Stephen says that the Jews resisted the Holy Spirit.

    4) What Scripture actually says is that Christ died, not only for the elect, but for the whole world. In 1 John 2:2, we are told that Christ “is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

    5) 1 Timothy 2:1-6 says that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” and that Christ Jesus “gave Himself as a ransom for all.”

    6) The Calvinist schema is further disproven by Matthew 23:37, in which Christ says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” How does this passage make sense if the Calvinist system is true?

    7) Likewise, in Ezekiel 33:11-12, God gives this message to Ezekiel:

    “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?

    “Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’”

    This passage refutes OSAS as well, by the way.

    1. 8) John 3:16-21 famously says:

      “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

      For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

      This is quite clear. Look at the second sentence: Christ died for the whole world, in order to save it. John then separates “the world” into two categories: “Whoever believes in Him,” and “whoever does not believe.” Of these two groups, Christ died for both, but only the former are saved through His Atoning Death: For “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So what’s necessary is not only for Christ to die for us, but for us to have faith in Him. Otherwise, faith becomes irrelevant to salvation (see places like Luke 7:50 and Ephesians 2:8, which show it is not).

      9) Christ is also described by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). But you get the point by now: Scripture never affirms Limited Atonement, and repeatedly denies it.

      10) In a post I wrote on this subject, I compared it to a ticket system (like at a movie theater): Christ has bought tickets for everyone to get to Heaven, paid for out of His own Blood. We may accept or reject those tickets. Only those who believe in Christ accept this free ticket of salvation. The rest miss out on Heaven, not because the ticket wasn’t there, but because they freely rejected it.

      This gets directly to the underlying logic of your initial comment: it’s not contrary to Christ’s Atonement or God’s Justice to say that those who refuse the free gift of salvation are damned.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  13. I have to take some time to process all of this. Thanks for writing. Also want to read your other article you linked to. When I come upon new information, I take it in over the course of days before I formulate thoughts in response.

    1. Hey Elizabeth,

      If you use an RSS reader you can subscribe to the Comment feed. I’m not sure if there’s another way though (might have to get Joe to upgrade at some point!).

      God bless,

      David.

  14. Hi Joe,

    You asked>1) As with penal substitution, I think you’ll find the Scriptural evidence rather scant on this point. Where in the Bible does it say that Christ died only for the elect?<<

    I think the case for Limited Atonement is actually pretty strong and that it is supported by a number of texts taken together, but also depends quite a bit on logical inference. That said, the first part of my answer would be to make an immediate distinction between the two-fold purpose of Christ’s death. He can die “for” the world in more than one way, that is, his death can serve more than one purpose.

    For the elect, his death is an atoning sacrifice that brings them back to spiritual life (regeneration), justifies them and ultimately glorifies them. For the reprobate, however, his death will be the ultimate inditement, the crucial piece of evidence against them on judgment day.

    Put simply, you will either be covered by his blood or you will have blood on your hands. So the sins of both the reprobate and the elect have put Jesus on the cross. Christ dies to forgive the sins of the elect by showing them mercy and he dies for the reprobate to show them his justice. It is also true that he dies for the elect to satisfy the demand of justice due for their sins, even as he dies for the reprobate providing the means of mercy that they have rejected, just as they have rejected his message.

    So it is not the case that the Reformed say Jesus died only for the elect; rather we claim that he only provided an atoning sacrifice for the elect, since Jesus, the high priest, does not offer “the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26) for those whom he does not intend to show mercy by redeeming them.

    For us, Jesus’ priestly work on the cross is identical to his intercessory work in heaven. Those for whom he intercedes are the same as those for whom he dies *as an atoning sacrifice.*

    If there were a single text to recommend you, I’d point to Romans 8:31-33:

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?…

    As I read it, the “us all” and the all the “us” references are identical to “God’s elect.” So when Paul says he “gave him up for us all,” he is saying that Jesus *only* died for the elect in an atoning way.

    Likewise, when Gabriel says to Joseph, “She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:21) this implies particularity. He is not going to save everyone from their sins, but rather “his people.” This accords well not only with the pattern we find in the OT (God choosing a particular people, i.e., Israel from among all the nations of the world) but also what we read elsewhere in the NT (e.g., Titus 2:14). In other words, redemption is particular, therefore atonement is. But I can hardly do justice to this topic in a com box.

  15. No, God doesn’t need your help to save you.

    Baptists and evangelicals are correct: sinners MUST believe to be saved. But you will not find one passage of Scripture that states that the sinner must make a “decision” to believe. The sinner must believe, but it is God who makes the decision for him to believe.

    Acts 13:48 (ESV)
    48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

    This passage of Scripture points out the great fallacy of (Arminian/Free Will) Baptist and evangelical theology: The sinner does not assist or even cooperate in his salvation. The sinner is a passive participant in his salvation. Yes, he believes, but he believes because he was appointed before the world existed to believe, not because HE makes a free will decision to do so.

    God chooses who will believe…the sinner chooses to reject Christ and send himself to hell. Christ died for all and desires all to be saved. God has predestined NO ONE to hell.

    The Arminians and the Calvinists are both wrong.

    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/10/salvation-is-much-simpler-than.html

    1. Greg,

      Are you just spamming this blog? Because you’ve posted comments (always with a link to your own blog) on five separate occasions, and each time, you seem to think that this is either a Lutheran or an Evangelical blog (it’s Catholic), which makes me think you’re not reading the posts before commenting. Do you have anything to add to any of the topics at hand?

      I.X.,

      Joe

  16. IS THE ADMONITION ABOUT FALLING FROM GRACE A FALSE WARNING?

    John Calvin said it was impossible to fall from grace. Why would God warn men of something that could not happen?

    Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

    Was God joking when He said men could fall away? When a road sign says, litterers will be fine $500 dollars, does that mean it is impossible to litter?

    1 Corinthians 10:6-12 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved…….

    8. Nor let us act immorally , as some did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. (Was that an example of once saved always saved?)

    9. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. (Was that an example of eternal security?)

    10. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer…..(Was that an example of perseverance of the saints?)

    12. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

    Is God in the habit of issuing feckless, meaningless, erroneous, false, warnings?

    1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be temped beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

    God provides men an escape from a sinful lifestyle. Men have a choice. Men have free-will. God does not prevent men from sinning. GOD DOES NOT GUARANTEE ONCE IN GRACE ALWAYS IN GRACE!

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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