Eternal security – difficult passages.
(Warning: thinking caps needed!)
There are three basic camps concerning the possibility of a Christian losing his or her salvation:
- “The once saved, always saved” camp states that once you are truly saved, no matter how you live or what you do, even denying Jesus and turning your back on Him, you cannot lose your salvation. Although your sin might shorten your life or lessen your future rewards, you will still be eternally saved.
- “The perseverance of the saints“ states that a true believer would never ultimately turn away from the Lord, and therefore if you claim to be born-again, but die in sin, denying the Lord, you were never truly saved.
- The final teaching states that a true believer can lose their salvation. Jesus would never reject us, but if we deliberately reject Him, we can walk away from our salvation.
I don’t want to be divisive or dogmatic. Theologians and scholars far more learned and brilliant than me who I greatly admire and respect belong to camp (3). But I guess my own stance at the moment lies in camp (1) but with the camp (2) proviso that a Christian does have to be truly saved and born again:
Matthew 13:24-30 – the Parable of the weeds – tells us that there will be many in the church who are not true believers. In 2016 the Barna Research Group conducted a survey to look into the question “What to people in this nation (UK) know and believe about Jesus?
The results were interesting; Astonishingly, in the West Midlands although 57% said they were Christians, only 6% regularly attend church, prayed or read the Bible. Yes a staggering…… 51% of the population say they are Christian but do not go the church or read the bible. I would tremble if I were in their shoes!
It is very possible to believe one is a Christian but not be “born again” – not have a new nature.
The New Testament church was infiltrated with such people. One such group of people who had found their way into the New testament church is referred to in 2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you. The whole chapter is a description of these false teachers. .. They weren’t born again. With true believers there is a change on the INSIDE; With these people there is only a change on the outside. Sure, they accept the morals of Christianity v 20 they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, (they studied and started reforming but their inner nature never changed) they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
What makes me so sure these “false teachers” were unregenerate? Answer: the phrase in verse 22: “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again: and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
Peter was making it clear….they had never changed. They were “dogs” and “sows” inside ..not born again believers with a new inner nature.
In my first blog in this series I made it clear that “This is such a vast topic. There are many verses in the bible that seem to suggest we CAN lose our salvation”
The above passage from 2 Peter 2 is a classic example.
Another is John 15:1-6. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away [a]; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
A simple reading of this passage looks worrying from the perspective of “once saved always saved” camp. However three vital keys can unlock this for is:
1) This passage is about FRUIT not salvation.
2) Verse 2 says “lifted up” not “takes away”
Notice that little [a] after the phrase “takes away” in verse two. The footnote reads “or lifts up“ (New King James version) The Greek verb “Takes away” is the word “Airo” means “Take away” or “Lift up” according to its context. The fact is that all vines grown on trellises. In Spring if a branch is hanging down this can restrict the flow of sap or the exposure to sunlight, so it is lifted up.
God “lifts up” unfruitful Christians, He doesn’t “cut them off”!
3) In verse 6 there is a change in number. Lets look at the sentence in its entirety
5 -6 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much FRUIT; for without Me you can do nothing; 6 If anyone (singular) does not abide in Me, he (singular) is cast (or placed) out as a branch (singular) and is withered; and they gather them (plural) and throw them (plural) into the fire, and they (plural) are burned.
Why this change in number? Because the second half is referring back to the first half of the sentence which is talking about the FRUIT, not the PERSON!
Let’s look at an English example: “I used to grow rose bushes; I had a helper until we dug them up!” The “them” in the second half of this sentence refers not to the helper, but to the rose bushes he is producing. The reason it is not “the helper”, is because it is plural. This is why in John 15:6 the “Branches” (plural) refer to the fruit not the man.
So here is a paraphrase of this passage:
“I (Jesus) am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me you will bear much FRUIT, because apart from me you are not able to do anything. If anyone does not remain in me he is out of fellowship ..is grieving /quenching/ resisting the Holy Spirit, and his life branch will wither. The Angels will gather the fruit from such an out-of-fellowship life, and burn it in the fire”
To understand this burning of “dead works” look at
1 Cor 3: 12-15 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.
One day our works will be judged. Works that were inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit will remain. Works that were simply the result of our out-of-fellowship human nature and fleshly ambition will be burned up. Let’s heed the real message of John 15 and seek to live in step with Jesus through abiding in Him.
Jamie Muir 20.03.17