The 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month, I host a two-hour, live, call-in T.V. program, called the “Word and the Sword” on WHKY-TV, Ch. 14, in Hickory, North Carolina. On the program, which is sponsored by the Newton church of Christ, we announce this web site. The dialogue that follows is the result of a viewer corresponding with me via e-mail.
From a “once saved, always saved” Baptist on 5 May 1999
Like several of the callers into your program last night, I have a difficult time with your teaching contrary to "eternal security." I've been in Southern Baptist churches all of my life, however, I am generally open-minded when it comes to various Bible commentators and agree with you strongly on the importance of II Timothy 2:15. I have many of my own ideas regarding the meaning of certain scripture which I believe God has taught me during my own studies, which happens to be contrary to Baptist teaching. Point being...I do believe in eternal security or "once saved-always saved" as some call it, but not because that is the "Baptist" belief. It is purely something I have discerned on my own, be it right or be it wrong. I have read the scriptures you reference suggesting that one can "fall from grace," and I admit that I don't fully understand what is meant by those verses. There are also many verses which those who do not believe one can fall from grace quote. Either side of the debate, using their own select verses, support strongly their opinion. When verses "seem" to contradict each other like scripture often seems to do, I try to look at the whole picture painted and obtain a meaning that is in keeping with the character of God. I respect your opinion on this subject, however here where it troubles me. The Bible clearly points out, I believe, that even Believers in Jesus Christ (saved persons), sin. Paul even struggled between the old and new nature and admitted that he did the things he did not want to do and failed to do those he wanted to do. If we all sin, and if sin can keep us from salvation, even if we've trusted Christ, who is able to determine which sins we will "get by with" and which ones we won't? And if it's only the unconfessed sins which will keep us from heaven, what if we die before we confess a particular sin, perhaps even one which might be considered a small one. I believe that my salvation is dependent upon one thing only - that which Christ did for me on Calvary some 2000 years ago. Once I accepted this by faith and asked Him into my heart, I did not partner with Him so that together, "we" could achieve victory. I accepted the Victory He already sealed for me. This opinion does not make me feel like I have a license to sin and get by with it. On the contrary, I am so forever indebted to Him, that I want to live for Him. Paul talked about "dying daily" to ourselves. Just as we begin aging from birth until death, I believe that from the time of our new birth, our old nature should begin a dying process whereby the older we become as a Believer, the more we will have died "daily" to our old nature. Do I find comfort in believing that I'm forgiven even for sins I may commit in the future? You bet I do. Christ died only once for me and if I lost that salvation every time I sinned, He would have to come back and die again. Again, I appreciate your show and I respect your belief. I can't explain all of the scriptures you reference when they are cited apart from the ones I use, but when taken all together, in the overall message of God's plan and character revealed in His Word, I believe that "no man" can pluck a saved Child of God out of His protective hand. Since I am a man, I believe that I am included in "no man." Please take these comments in the Spirit of Love in which they are made.
May the Lord Bless You,
Reply from Allan Turner on 6 May 1999
This is to acknowledge receipt of your e-mail. I appreciate hearing from you and certainly take your comments in the spirit in which they were made.
I hear clearly what you are saying. I'd like to study this subject with you. Is that okay? If so, we can discuss this via e-mail, or I'll be happy to meet with you in person.
I believe you want to discuss this issue further, but I can't be sure, and before I take the time that is necessary for an in-depth response, I want to make sure you are really wanting this.
Let me hear from you soon. I'm looking forward to your reply.
Another e-mail sent by me on 9 May 1999:
I've had a lot of correspondence to get caught up on. I wanted to take a little more time in answering you, so I have saved you for last. Presently, I am in the process of listing a few things about "eternal security" that I'd like to share with you. So, please be patient, and, Lord willing, you'll be hearing from me real soon.
May God bless us both as we study His Word.
From a “once saved, always saved” Baptist on 10 May 1999
I suppose I might be interested in an in depth response. I guess the main unanswered questions I have, regarding your doctrine on this subject are these: 1- Do you ever sin? 2- If so, which sins are bad enough to cause a fall from grace? 3- If you can lose salvation, can you regain it? 4- If so, is our salvation not largely dependent upon our own ability to live victoriously over sin and does that not drastically reduce the value of salvation? 5- If you can have salvation, lose it and regain it again, is the ultimate salvation of a Believer who has committed a sin hinging upon his repentance before perhaps an accident or sudden death?
As I mentioned earlier, the scriptures you use to support your doctrine, by themselves, do suggest that opinion. Those who teach otherwise, however, also have rather convincing passages when used separate from your own. When looked at together, the references seem to contradict each other. When scriptures seem to emphatically contradict one another, we clearly do not have the full understanding since we know that they cannot be contradictory in their intended meaning. This is why I must look at the "whole" picture, when dealing with this type of issue. It seems that there is overwhelming evidence throughout the Bible that man is not able to "save" himself, nor is he able to totally live above sin, while in this world. If we could do that, we would already be like Jesus, who lived the ONLY sinless life on earth. I have met heard folks testify that they once were saved, but had intentionally left their faith. I'm not sure I believe that either because I can't imagine why anyone who truly had trusted Christ would want such a thing. I would say that that person probably had "tasted" some part of what Christ has to offer, maybe been involved in a fellowship with Believers for a period of time or something, but had never actually made that personal decision to follow Christ, thus experiencing the second birth. I cannot fit being "unborn" into the overall message I believe God's Word describes about salvation.
If you could answer the questions I have outlined, at least I might begin to see where you are coming from in your interpretation of the scripture.
Thanks and may the Lord Bless,
A follow-up e-mail from the Baptist on 10 May 1999 Sir:
I just sent you a message a little earlier this morning, however I had not yet received your second response to me. Now I have read both responses and will anxiously await your more detailed answers.
Reply from Allan Turner on 17 May 1999
As I've already told you, I've been quite busy with other things. I wanted to get to you earlier, but just wasn't able to do so.
Yes, rightly dividing the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15) is extremely important, as you have pointed out. I also think that you and I agree that the Bible does not contradict itself. So, the passages I cite to demonstrate that a child of God can fall from grace and be lost eternally must be harmonized with those verses that are cited by those who don't think a child of God can fall from grace and be eternally lost. An apparent contradiction means that one side in this controversy has failed in its interpretation of these passages. But which side is that? It is to this question that I now turn.
Those who believe that a child of God cannot fall from grace contradict clear-cut passages that teach that one can, in fact, lose his or her salvation. (As these passages are extensive, I am mailing you an 11 page presentation of 66 slides that mention some of these. These slides were used on the T.V. program and must be understood as being what the Bible teaches on this important subject.) To me, this contradiction is obvious, and according to what you have written, it seems like a contradiction to you also. This apparent contradiction exists because of a misunderstanding of passages like John 10:27-29, which says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. Alan, I want you to know that I believe this passage, and I'll tell you what I think it is saying in just a moment, but first I want to make it clear that I do not believe this passage contradicts any other passages that teach a child of God can fall from grace and be eternally lost.
For example, if, once saved, a child of God is always saved, then it would be impossible to have his or her name taken out of the Book of Life, which is where the names of the blood-bought are written (Philippians 4:3). I know this is true, because, in order to enter into Heaven, one's name must be written in the Lamb's Book of Life (Revelation 21:27). On the contrary, if one's name is not in the Book of Life, then he will spend an eternity in a Devil's Hell (Revelation 20:15). But, such an interpretation (i.e., once saved, always saved) clearly contradicts what the Lord said about this. In Revelation 3:5-6, Jesus said: He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before His angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Now, this was spoken to the church at Sardis. In other words, He's speaking to Christians, those who had been saved and had their names written in the Book of Life. Even so, this was a dead church, with only a few who had not defiled their garments (Revelation 3:4). These, He says, shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. I understand this to mean that they will go to Heaven. Why? Because their names were not blotted out of the Book of Life (verse 6). Clearly, the implied threat to the others is that unless they remember how they had heard and received the gospel, and repent, they will have their names blotted out of the Book of Life. If not, why not? If it can't happen, as once saved, always saved folks teach, then what is the Lord implying here and in Revelation 22:18-19, where He plainly says: For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Having said this, let me get back to John 10:27-29. The Lord's sheep hear His voice and follow Him (verse 27). As a result, they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of [His] hand (verse 28). In other words, the sheep in this passage are the ones who are going to Heaven, and no one can prevent this from happening. There is no one who is more powerful than God, so no one can snatch His sheep from His hand. This same idea is conveyed in Romans 8:28-39. If God is for us, who can stand against us? The answer, of course, is no one nor no thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (verse 39). God, who is all-powerful, cannot fail to provide the heavenly home He has promised those who exercise faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, the salvation of those who hear and follow is a done deal! This is what I believe and teach.
Although God's omnipotence assures our salvation, the fact remains that Christians can live their lives here on this earth in such a way as to lose that which God's faithfulness guarantees. In other words, salvation involves conditions. In John 8:31-32, Jesus said: If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. One cannot miss the conditional nature of being a disciple of Jesus Christi.e., one must continue in His word. So, what happens to Christians who do not continue to hear His word and to follow Him? Are they the My sheep of which Jesus referred in John 10? I want to address this question, but before doing so, I want to speak to the "sin" problem you mentioned.
Yes, even Christians sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, and ultimately we make God a liar (1 John 1:8,10). Well, what can we do about this sin? Are we immediately separated from God, lost, dead in sin, and on our way to Hell? No, not necessarily. What do I mean? Well, if we continue to walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). But this cleansing, which is continual, is not automatic, as some suppose, but conditioned upon confessing our sinsIf we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (verse 8). In other words, as we continue to hear His voice and follow Him, we continue to have our sins cleansed. As we continue to walk in the light (verse 7), we never perish and continue to lay hold on eternal life (cf. John 10:28). Consequently, John 10 and 1 John 1 teach there are conditions to be met in order to remain savedi.e., hearing His word and following Him, which, in this case, entails confessing the sins that we continue to commit.
But, suppose a Christian who sins will not repent of and confess his sins, what then? The person who believes that one can't lose his eternal security struggles to answer at this point. Even so, he clings to a doctrine he believes to be full of comfort, and, unfortunately, continues to ignore the clear teaching of God's Word, which says that a Christian can so conduct himself as to be estranged from Christ and fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4). Now, has someone plucked such a one from the Lord's hand? No, but he is no longer in His hand because he stopped hearing the Lord's voice and following Him. In other words, he is no longer “walking in the light” and the Lord's blood is no longer cleansing him from his unrighteousness.
This is exactly the type of situation described in Hebrews 10:26-31, which says:For if we sin wilfully [this word carries with it the idea that there is no repentance involved—AT] after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses´ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified [this has to be a blood-bought Christian—AT], an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Notice, please, that this individual had, at one time, been sanctified, but now hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing.” Do you think this person is still saved? Surely not! This person is clearly estranged from Christ and fallen from grace (cf. Galatians 5:4). How much clearer could it be?
Even so, some, like Sam Morris, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Stamford, Texas, say:“We take the position that a Christian's sins do not damn his soul! The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul... All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit, from idolatry to murder, will not make his soul in any more danger... The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul” (Morris, A Discussion Which Involves A Subject Pertinent to All Men, pp. 1-2).
Of course, this sounds nothing like Jesus, who said:“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:1-11).
Is the Lord contradicting what He said in John 10? Again, No! John 10 and 15 are perfectly harmonized, in that those branches who remain in the Vine (i.e., those that “abideth” in the Lord) are, to use the John 10 metaphor, His “sheep,” who “hear” His voice and “follow” Him. But, who are those who are cast out and thrown into the fire and burned? They are the ones who do not continue to abide in the Vine, that is, they do not continue to hear His voice and are, therefore, no longer following Him. As Jesus clearly identifies Himself as being the Vine, there is no way anyone can deny that those who are cast into the fire and burned were once connected to Christ. That is, they are Christians who fall away.
So, over and over again, the Bible teaches that a child of God can fall from grace. Those who erroneously cling to the “Impossibility of Apostasy” shamelessly contradict the Bible in many different places. Another example is found in Hebrews 6:4-6, where the writer says:“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”Now, I don't know just who these folks are, but there is nothing that would cause me to think they are not Christians. Perhaps they are Christians who have been given the charismatic gifts and, therefore, had miracles worked through them. In that case, having seen the power of God demonstrated through them, nevertheless, for some reason, they “fall away.” Under the circumstances associated with their falling away, the Bible makes it clear that it is impossible “to renew them again to repentance,” even though they were “once enlightened” and had “tasted the heavenly gift,” and had become “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” Notice the word “again”—i.e., they could not be renewed again to repentance, which means they had repented at one time. So, these are Christians who fall away, and this is what I teach.
But, are these just any Christians who sin? Absolutely not! These Christians are not continuing to “walk in the light,” hearing His voice and following Him. For whatever reason, they are not of the disposition to repent of and confess their sins. Therefore, for these individuals there “no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27-28). Another way of saying this—and the Bible does just that—is that they are “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Again, this is what I teach can happen to a child of God, a Christian, if you will. But one must realize that those who so fall are not the “sheep” the Lord was talking about in John 10, for they ( His “sheep”) hear His voice and follow Him. They do not do this without sin, for sure. But when they do sin, they continue to meet the conditions the Lord said are necessary to have His blood continually cleanse them from their sins (1 John 1:5-9).
This, Alan, is an ongoing process, and the Christian must know that it is, or he will not walk circumspectly, redeeming the time, as he is instructed to do in the Word, but will play the fool (cf. Ephesians 5:13-16) like Esau, “who for one morsel of food sold his birthright” (Hebrews 12:13-17). Notice that in the immediate context of this last passage is the following warning: “Looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (verse 15).
Alan, I do not believe that one scripture can contradict another, and when properly interpreted, they don't. I realize it is hard for you to deal with these passages and fit them into your understanding of what the Bible is teaching, but I think this is because you have been influenced by the denominational think-sos of the Baptist church, which espouse the tenets of Calvinism. Calvinism is wrong! Once you recognize this, you will be able to see the harmony of God's Word. As long as you hold to the tenets of Calvinism, you will have a problem with any passage that teaches a child of God can fall from grace. So, why don't you print out my series critiquing Calvinism. Maybe it will help you to see the error of that doctrine.
I am happy to have this opportunity to study with you, and I look forward to a continuing dialogue. If you are right, I want to know it. On the other hand, if you are wrong, I want to help you see your error.
May God bless us both as we study His Word together.
From a “once saved, always saved” Baptist on 20 May 1999
Thanks for the recent response. I read the entire material several times. I have to agree with you that your case is well made, if the scriptures you reference are used by themselves and if several very important questions can be answered (which I will list in a moment).
It amazes me how close we actually are in how we believe, yet how far apart we are in another respect. Kind of like standing along side each other at a state line, each being in a different state. For example, I agree that persons exhibiting the sin characteristics you have described almost certainly cannot be in a saved condition. Yet, I agree with the statement by the pastor you quoted who said that the way you live your life has nothing to do with whether or not you are saved. Before you panic, although I agree with the pastors statement, I think his comments should not have stopped there. He should have gone on to say that while the way you live has nothing to do with salvation, it has everything to do with the evidence or "fruit" that a believer bears. If the fruit is not there, neither is the convert. In other words, a person living in continual sin, particularly where they have no remorse and defend their actions as being acceptable, clearly in my mind, they were never saved. If a profession was made, it was surely false. I also believe that it is scriptural to believe that life can be shortened here on earth, for a believer who continually participates in sin.
The once-saved, always-saved doctrine becomes clouded by the number of folks who make professions of conversion after an emotional experience based on a feeling. Obviously some of these incidents are not conversions at all. I can deal with that problem fairly easily because I realize that although we must make judgments on who is saved and isn't in certain instances, ultimately salvation is a "heart condition" which only God can see. We look upon the outward and He sees inside the heart.
On the other hand, the questions raised in my mind by your doctrine are more difficult to find answers for in the scripture - 1) What sins are bad enough to cause the fall from grace, 2) how long is too long to ask for repentance, 3) what happens if you die before repenting, 4) how could we "know" we are saved as the Bible teaches, 4) since our salvation isn't absolute in this life, will it ever be sealed in heaven or would it be possible to fall from grace there too (like Lucifer) and 6) how can salvation be "by grace and not of works, lest any man should boast," if it isn't sealed once and for all by what Christ did on the cross? Some scholars believe that ALL names are written in the book. Perhaps the names of those who fail to accept Christ are blotted out. That would certainly be in keeping with God’s character since His desire is that "no one" would perish but have everlasting life. Perhaps, our salvation is so desired by God that He has gone so far as to write every name in the book of life. To this degree, one who rejects Him would fall from that grace that was extended to all. Another reason I can accept this concept is that God cannot make errors. Why would He write a name, blot it out, write it again, blot it out again, and so forth when He is all knowing. I do, however, believe He would give all the benefit of having their name written, since the call is to all and His desire is for all to be saved. He died for all, yet He would have died for one. He rose for all, yet He would have risen for one. He went to prepare a place for all, yet He would have gone to prepare a place for just me or you. Maybe He wrote the name for all, and only removes those who reject Him. The idea is certainly in keeping with God’s character and I don’t see where it contradicts the scripture.
As I mentioned before, believing in once saved always saved doesn't translate to a green light to sin for me, any more than your doctrine does for you. I’m not sure, however, how much more abundant my life would be as a Believer, if I believed my failures had the ability to cause me to lose my salvation. I could not have saved myself. I could not have been saved without the drawing of the Holy Spirit. In fact, I can’t even take the credit for believing, He even had to give me the faith to accept Him with. He did it ALL. I am merely the recipient. And an undeserving one at that.
As you know from our correspondence, I do keep an open mind and enjoy learning how others arrive at their interpretations. I will be glad to receive and read the package you mentioned.
My address is...
Reply from Allan Turner on 25 May 1999
It is very hard for me to believe that you think the verses I quoted actually describe people who were never saved, as you claim. Do words mean anything? How can one fall from something they never had? The Galatians were to stand fast in the liberty by which Christ had made them free, and were warned not to be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1). Paul warns them not to go back to the law of Moses for any kind of justification, and that if they do, they have become “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace” (verse 4). Now, you're going to tell me that you believe these folks were never saved from their past sins? Where is the scripture for your conclusion? Again, I ask you, do words mean anything?
Do you really want to tell me that you believe a person who has “trampled the Son of God underfoot, [and] counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and [has] insulted the Spirit of grace,” is a person who had never been saved? How, then, could he have been sanctified by Jesus’ blood? That he is no longer saved is as clear as the fact that the one under discussion had, indeed, once been saved, that is, had once been sanctified by the Lord's precious blood. Again, do words mean anything to you? Especially, God's Words?
In Hebrews 12:15-17, the Bible says:“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”The Hebrew writer clearly says it is possible to fall from grace and be defiled. Once again, do these words mean anything?
Alan, are you so deceived by Calvinism that you will not even believe the clear teaching of God's Word? I'm not trying to be mean by saying this. Nevertheless, I am trying to be as pointed as I know how. Will you not even believe the apostle Paul? In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, he said:“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”Are you going to tell me that Paul didn't think it was possible to become a castaway?
As a preacher of the gospel, I am doing my best to convince, rebuke, and exhort those who will listen to what I'm saying (2 Timothy 4:2). But if it was not for the admonition in that same verse to be longsuffering in my teaching, I don't think I'd even bother to answer the questions you've put to me. If words mean nothing, even God's Words, then I am made to wonder if my answer to your questions can be of any value. Nevertheless, I've thought about my responsibility before God, and having prayed about it, and in my concern for you, I'm going to do my best to answer your questions in the order you asked them.
“1) What sins are bad enough to cause the fall from grace?” Any and all sin is bad enough to cause a fall from grace. The sins articulated in Revelation 21:8 are, in my opinion, not meant to be exhaustive, but do seem to cover the gamut of sins—from the “little” ones to the “great” ones. It is clear, then, that all sins, if not washed away with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, will cause one to spend an eternity in Hell. If not, why not?
“2) How long is too long to ask for repentance?” A Christian has the responsibility to be faithful “unto death” (Revelation 2:10). Part of this faithfulness, would be confessing our sins (1 John 1:9). As it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this, the judgment (Hebrews 9:27), it appears that physical death is the point in time when it is “too long to ask for repentance,” as you put it. If by the question, you mean, “How long does it take after sinning, and not repenting, to no longer be “walking in the light” and, therefore, be “fallen from grace”? I don't know! You're asking me to whittle on God's end of the stick, and I'm not in any position to do so. Even so, the fact that I don't know the answer to this question does not mean that I don't need to heed the warnings about falling, does it?
“3) What happens if you die before repenting?” This question is answered in my response to the previous question.
“4) How could we ‘know’ we are saved as the Bible teaches?” Although I am convinced that God knows, there is no way, at this moment, that I can know I'm going to be “faithful until death” (Revelation 2:10). Therefore, being “saved” in Heaven is something, like the apostle Paul said, that I am striving for:“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).On the other hand, I “know” my past sins are remitted, washed with the precious blood of Christ, because the Bible tells me so (Acts 2:28; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 John 1:5-2:2). Jesus, my Advocate, continues to make intercession for me as my Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), and this is very comforting to me. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit, who has been given to me by my Lord (Acts 3:28; 5:32; 1 Corinthians 6:19; etc.), also helps my “weaknesses” and makes “intercession” for me “according to the will of God”(Romans 8:26-27). Consequently, because of my trust in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I am expecting to go to Heaven. I do not live in fear and dread, but in the bold confidence I have in connection with Jesus Christ, as taught in Hebrews 10:19-23:“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”But so that you will realize that this is not some “once saved, always saved” idea, the Hebrew writer, in verses 24-29, goes on to say:“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”Alan, my neighbor, God has done, and will continue to do, His part. Of this, there can be no doubt! Nothing can pluck me out of Jesus’ or the Father’s hand (John 10:25-29). But, in spite of all God has done, and continues to do, for me, I can become a “castaway,” even after preaching to others (1 Corinthians 9:27), if I do not remain “faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).
“5) Since our salvation isn't absolute in this life, will it ever be sealed in heaven or would it be possible to fall from grace there too (like Lucifer)?” I assume that by “Lucifer” you mean Satan. No, I do not believe one can fall in Heaven. Although theologians have speculated that it might be possible to fall from grace in Heaven, there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that such will be possible. In that “Great Day” that is coming, there will be a “resurrection unto life” and a “resurrection unto damnation” (John 5:29). The life under discussion here is “eternal life” (Matthew 25:46; Mark 10:30; Romans 2:7; 1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 21). Again, I do not know of one scripture that even hints that one can fall from grace in Heaven. Therefore, because faith comes by hearing God's Word (Romans 10:17), I can confidently say by faith that I believe there will be no falling from grace in Heaven.
“6)How can salvation be ‘by grace and not of works, lest any man should boast,’ if it isn't sealed once and for all by what Christ did on the cross?” Your terminology is faulty. Salvation isn't sealed “once and for all by what Christ did on the cross,” as you put it, and the Bible nowhere says it is. If so, everyone would be saved by His dying on the cross, but you don't believe in universal salvation anymore than I do. Yes, Jesus died on the cross to effect man's salvation, and He needed to do this only once (Hebrews 9:12), but His dying on the cross did not seal salvation once and for all for any of us. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice and paid the price for our sins, but we are not saved, now or in Heaven, without obeying Him (Hebrews 5:9). So, as I've said all along, there are conditions to be met in order to access the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. When we obey, whether it is to believe, repent, confess, be baptized, or live faithfully until death, none of these works, which God has prescribed for us in His Word, are meritorious works—i.e., none of these works earn salvation, which is a gift (Ephesians 2:8) Indeed, even when we have done all the works the Lord has commanded us to do, we cannot boast that we have earned our salvation, for it is by grace that we have been saved (Ephesians 2:5). In other words, we are saved by God's grace in connection with our faith, and this is not of ourselves (i.e., it is not in our own perfect doing), lest anyone should boast (verses 8-9). Consequently, when one obeys the gospel, he does not claim that he has somehow earned his salvation. Who in his right mind could ever think such a thing?
Your surmisings about the “book of life” are quite novel. Even so, you say “some scholars” believe that the names of all people were originally written in the “book of life” and are blotted out when they fail to accept Christ. Well, they are wrong. The Bible clearly says there are some “whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 17:8).
Yes, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). But all men are not saved “by grace through faith.” The passages I have cited are not dealing with all men, and I think deep down in your heart you know it. I think you will agree with me that the apostle Paul was someone who had been saved from his past sins, yet, as he tells us, he had some concern about the possibility of becoming a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:27). In John 15:5-6, Jesus said: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” The Greek word translated “abideth” in verse 5 and “abide” in verse 6 is meno, and carries with it the idea of continuing, remaining, etc. Therefore, those branches that don't remain in Christ (the Vine) are not all men, but just those who were in Christ, and did not remain there. You know this is what this passage is teaching as well as I do, and the only way you're ever going to harmonize Scripture is to give up your “impossibility of apostasy” doctrine.
Alan, I agree with you, God doesn't make errors. But in connection with this statement, you write: “Why would He write a name, blot it out, write it again, blot it out again, and so forth when He is all-knowing?” Neighbor, don't you realize that, in making this argument, you have just argued against the argument you have been laboring to prove? I'm not pointing this out so I can say, “Gotcha!” On the contrary, I'm pointing it out to help you see what you're doing in your effort to defend your doctrine. A God who is all-knowing would know that all the people written in the “book of life” are not going to be saved, and would, according to your argument, have their names blotted out. So, if your argument about God being all-knowing somehow defeats my position, and it doesn't, then it would just as certainly defeat your argument as well.
For sure, God is all-knowing (1 John 3:20) and He says that He can, and will, blot out the names of those who “defile their garments” (Revelation 3:4-5). Therefore, God's all-knowingness is not under consideration in those passages about blotting one's name out of the “book of life.” And, if you try to make that the issue, you're bound to defeat yourself, like you've done. So, why would the God who doesn't make errors put peoples name in the “book of life” when He knows they are going to have their names taken out? Because He does! You see, God doesn't have to have a reason. He does what He wants to do, and then He tells us about it. We are then under obligation to believe what He says. However, I believe a key to understanding how names can be in and out of the “book of life” is to be gleaned from passages like Deuteronomy 30:19, which says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” This tells me that God has agreed to deal with me where I am in time and space, regardless of what he knows now, and has always known, about my ultimate fate. Therefore, our names, it seems to me, are written in the “book of life” in our connection with the blood of Christ. If, for whatever reason, “after [we] have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of [our] Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, [and are] again entangled in them and overcome” (2 Peter 2:20), we are “fallen from grace” and “estranged [separated] from Christ” (Galatians 5:4, NKJV). The KJV translate this last phrase as “Christ is become of no effect unto you.” In this condition, we would be like a dog returning to its own “vomit” and like a sow to its “wallowing in the mire.” As such, we would then be prime candidates for having our names blotted out of the “book of life.” But this is God's business, not mine. Just how long before this happens, I don't know. But I do know that the “Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The warnings in God's Word about falling from grace do not teach that one will fall from grace; only that one can. Surely, the Lord does not want us to fall, and He has warned us over and over to be careful that we don't fall. I believe what He has said about this in His Word, and I've done my best to warn you. Your blood, I am convinced, is no longer on my head, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26).
You claim that “once save, always saved” does not “translate to a green light to sin” for you. But it does for many, and you know it. As a result, the “way of truth” is blasphemed by many (2 Peter 2:2). False teachers are notorious for their “great swelling words of emptiness,” alluring through the “lusts of the flesh” and “through licentiousness” (2 Peter 2:18). Maybe you ought to take another look at Pastor Sam Morris’ statement in light of these passages.
Furthermore, the “not having to worry about it” that you Calvinists talk a lot about, translates, in your mind, to “abundant” living. You wonder how those of us who believe that a child of God can fall from grace can ever feel secure with that knowledge. Nevertheless, I do feel quite secure in Christ, trusting His promise, which says:“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him” (1 John 1:7-2:5).As you point out, there certainly is “no credit” to be taken by man in believing. Even so, believing (i.e., trusting in, relying upon, and obeying) is something you and I are required to do (John 8:24). Contrary to what you think, God does not give us the faith to accept Him. The Bible nowhere teaches this idea. If it does, please give me the book, chapter, and verse. Incidentally, the “gift” of Ephesians 2:8 is salvation, not faith, and the immediate context of John 6:29 indicates that our believing in Jesus is a work the Father has prescribed for us, not a work that He, Himself, does.
I'm sending along by regular mail the slide presentation that I mentioned to you earlier. I pray it will be of some help in your study of this subject.
May God bless us both as we continue to study His Word,
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