Eternal security- difficult passages (2)
1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who through faith are protected by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.…
John 10:27-28 My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
Eph 4:30 do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Romans 8:38- 39 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If these scriptures are correct that seem to speak so clearly and categorically about eternal security, then scriptures that seem to suggest otherwise must be either misapplied, out of context or not about salvation at all.
First of all let’s deal with
1) PASSAGES THAT DEAL WITH JUDGMENT OF BELIEVERS WORKS rather than judgment of believers themselves. (Remember when you grade the eggs you are not grading the chickens!)
Perhaps the most challenging example of such a passage is the passage we dealt with in my last blog on 20th March 2017– John 15 about the vine.
Here is another:
Heb 6:7-8 When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. 8 But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.
In this passage the EARTH/LAND is the believer. If a believer is out of fellowship with God he or she begins to produce other things – thorns and briars. The result? The Greek word “useless” is ADOKIMOS = “Not approved”
Even today farmers burn the stubble – it doesn’t mean they burn the field, they just burn what is growing IN the field.
Incidentally we can see that word ADOKIMOS in another context in 1 Cor 9:27 No, 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. Was Paul – who wrote 2/3 of NT saying here that he was afraid he would lose his salvation?! No ADOKIMOS means not approved.
This has nothing to do with salvation – he is talking about God’s approval of his works.
2) PASSAGES WHICH DEAL WITH THE DISCIPLINE OF BELIEVERS
Once you are in the family of God then God – like a good father will start to discipline His children. (Heb 12:5-13). Discipline however is not the same as losing your salvation! In fact it means you have NOT lost your salvation; If you had lost salvation He wouldn’t be your Father, and it would be none of His business.
This is however a sombre topic…. Discipline may not lead you to lose your salvation but it can lead you to lose your life. In a rather serious passage in 1 John 5:16 we read:
If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.
Ananias and Saphira were an infamous case in point – a couple who had lied to the Holy Spirit and paid for it with their lives.
In 1 Cor 11:29-31 we are told that those who take communion “without solemn reverence and heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ” risk discipline from God – indeed some of them were ill and some had died. Looking around the church today we see examples of believers who struggle with depression/anxiety and illness as a result of unconfessed sin, or issues over which they are refusing to submit to God. (Hear me correctly – I am NOT saying that all physical or mental illness is a result of sin! Some of the most fruitful and beautiful believers I know have had to battle with long term illness. Remember: God is more interested in our character than in our happiness.)
Does it mean you will lose your salvation? Not a bit. If God is still judging you then you are still His son or daughter – your eternal destiny is still safe and secure in heaven.
A curious and intriguing Old Testament passage which exemplifies this, is King Saul. He reigned over Israel for 40 years – one year in fellowship with God and thirty nine out of fellowship. Finally his “sin unto death” was going to a medium – something God had expressly forbidden. Lev 20:27 “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them..” mediums who say they can bring people back from the dead are in fact conjuring up impersonating demons. However in this unique exception, Samuel was allowed by God to return from the place of the dead – “Abraham’s womb” to give a message to King Saul:
1 Sam 28 15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? ….18 Because you did not obey the LORD …tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.
Not “tomorrow you will be cut off from God in hell”. In fact these words are not unlike the words of Jesus to the Criminal on the cross beside him: “This day you shall be with me in paradise.” So despite thirty nine years of disobedience and rebellion, Saul was destined for salvation.
3) PASSAGES TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT
a) Matt 24:13 (Matt 10:22 is similar) “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Some preachers will say “brothers, unless we endure to the end we are not going to be saved!”
BUT…“Saved” doesn’t only refer to eternal salvation – Sozo can mean “saved from the hands of the Philistines” etc. One can tell from the context that Matt 24 is in fact talking about believers being saved from further affliction and martyrdom during the tribulation of the times.
b) Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
Jesus was writing to the church in Sardis – believers in this church “He that overcometh” – does this mean some of these believers wouldn’t “overcome” and so would be blotted out of the book of life?
No. Fortunately John – the same author who wrote Revelation by dictation – defines an “overcomer” in 1 John 5:4-5 as “every person who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ”. All believers will be saved!
c) A third passage that could be mistaken for suggesting loss of salvation is this:
Hebrews 6:4 -6 It is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then turn away from God, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.
Heb 10:26 we see the same phrase 26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
These passages are talking about “apostates”. Apostates have knowledge, but no application of that knowledge. They can be found in the church, among God’s people. Judas Iscariot is the perfect example – he had knowledge but he lacked true faith. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, eating, sleeping, and traveling with Him for years. He saw the miracles and heard the words of God from Jesus’ very lips, from the best preacher the world has ever known, and yet he not only turned away from Jesus, but was instrumental in the plot to kill him. In the end he was remorseful about his sin, but not repentant…“Sorry he got caught” rather than sorry he had sinned.
Having turned his back on the truth, and with full knowledge choosing to wilfully and continually sin, the apostate is then beyond salvation because he has rejected the one true sacrifice for sins: the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christ’s sacrifice is rejected, then all hope of salvation is gone. To turn away wilfully from this sacrifice leaves no sacrifice; it leaves only sin, the penalty for which is eternal death.
This passage is not speaking of a believer who falls away, but rather someone who may claim to be a believer, but truly is not. Anyone who apostatizes is proving he never had genuine faith to begin with (1 John 2:19).
d) 2 Timothy 2:11 -13
This is a hymn Paul is quoting – one they used to sing in their day
11Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;
12if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself
“If you deny Him He will also deny us!” Help! What if I deny him under torture? Will I go to hell?
“Deny” v 12 is used in the sense of denying some blessing or benefit e.g. If you deny Christ – the use of your body as His temple, or to use you as an ambassador of the gospel, then don’t expect joy, peace etc., as you are out of fellowship. This drives you back to the arms of Jesus quickly!
Notice that the flip side of v 12 is v 13 however .. “if WE are faithless …” then watch out because you will be damned?
No! He remains faithful. Salvation is HIS work He cannot deny Himself. WE are the reward for Jesus ! YOU are His reward and He will not be denied His reward! That is why he remains faithful. It was for the “joy set before Him that he endured the cross” (Heb 12:2) The work of salvation is the work of God. One day He will get us all as His marvellous reward in heaven.
If you have reached the end of this blog, well done! You are truly dedicated! HERE is your reward….one final passage that speaks of the rock solid assurance of salvation for all those who have ever truly put their trust in Jesus Christ:
24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Jamie Muir 10.04.2017