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Friday, February 10, 2017

Can a person lose his salvation? Part 4

I don't believe a person can lose his salvation. In this series until now, I've cited verses in the Bible that clearly say that our spiritual birth is like our physical birth – it is a transforming event that permanently assigns who we fundamentally are. Furthermore, once we are saved, God promises to keep us. In light of these verses, I cannot see how salvation could be temporary or conditional.

Of course, other people will cite other verses that seem to suggest that it is possible to lose our salvation. When confronted with two passages that seem to present differing ideas, the solution is not to decide which passages we believe are correct. The reality is that both verses are correct and the truth lies in a harmony of the two. In this post, I will discuss some of those passages often cited to support the idea that a person could lose his salvation.

Some passages that people cite, seem to include a condition of continuity. Consider Revelation 3:5:

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

In my first post in this series, I quoted a website that used the analogy of a free car to represent salvation. That author was full of analogies. When discussing Revelation, he said this:

Notice that God's pencil, which wrote your name in the Lamb's book of life, also has an eraser at the other end. The name can be erased from the book of life if you don't overcome.

Can I just say that I find it odd that someone would quote a promise where Jesus says He will not do something and use it as evidence that He might do it? Anyway, the author is attempting to highlight the condition that a person must overcome or else his name will be erased from the Book of Life. There are other verses that seem to carry similar conditions:

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Heb 3:6)

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (Heb 3:14)

By reading just these verses, the implication seems to be that we must continue professing our faith until the end in order to receive our reward. But as I've already said, our understanding of any verse must be tempered with the rest of the Bible. In a previous post, I cited 1 Corinthians 1:7-8:

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If my continuance in the faith rests in my own hands, then my salvation is in peril. My flesh is weak. My faith wavers. But Jesus has saved me and He lives to continuously makes intercession for me. Those verses that talk about salvation being conditional on my continued faith must be in harmony with the promise that I am kept by the power of God. I know I will stay fast to the end because He has promised to keep me firm until the end.

There are other verses I could cite but I don't want to make this post too long. In short, it's my opinion that nearly all of the verses usually cited could be characterized as “negative arguments.” This is where a verse says one thing and the argument is made about what would happen if the opposite were true. I can't say I never make negative arguments but I don't believe negative arguments are strong arguments. I might say, for example, “I work hard so I can get ahead.” The opposite would be, if I don't work hard I won't get ahead. Perhaps I wouldn't, but where in that argument is found the possibility that I won't continue to work hard? I believe the same thing is true of the Bible. Perhaps if I stopped believing I could lose my salvation but that doesn't necessarily mean it is possible for a truly saved person to stop believing.

Perhaps the most cited verse to support the possibility of a person losing his salvation is John 15:1-2:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

This is almost cited like a “gotcha” verse. At first reading, this verse is also a type of condition where God “takes away” any branch not bearing fruit (“cuts off” in the NIV). In other words, if a branch doesn't bear fruit, it's cut off. I very, very seldom appeal to the original language but, in this case especially, I believe most, mainstream versions of the Bible don't accurately translate this verse.

The word being translated is the verb, airw (airō, Strong's 142). It is sometimes translated as “takes” but the primary meaning is “lift up.” Even in verses where it is translated as “takes,” the meaning is still usually, “take up” or “pick up.” In the parable of the sower (Mark 4:15), for example, Satan “takes” the word which had been sown; the picture painted in the parable is of a bird “picking up” the seed that fell by the way.

In John 15, Jesus creates the metaphor of the Father as a husbandman. Every branch that abides in Him will bear fruit. He “lifts up” the downtrodden branches so that they are able bear fruit and He prunes the fruitful branches so that they can produce even more fruit. This is easily understood by anyone who has seen a vineyard. Even today, branches are still tied and held up from the ground. Note that in verse 6, it is only those branches that do not abide in Him (i.e. are not Christians) that are cast into the fire.

I believe the problem is that we sometimes see instances of people who profess to be Christians and seem to be saved, but later they reject Christ and live like they're lost again. They fit the bill of people who seem to have been saved but did not continue in the faith. Earlier I used the term, “truly saved.” I chose that deliberately because I believe many of the verses that seem to talk about someone losing his salvation are actually talking about people who were never saved. That will be the subject of my next and final post in this series.

Read the entire series

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What do liberal news media have in common with clowns?

I'm going to take a short break from my series to interject my thoughts about the alternative media – aka “fake news outlets,” aka CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, The NY Times, The Washington Post, et al.

Do I need to say that these supposed news organizations have a liberal bias? I mean, really? Everybody knows it. And yes, I mean EVERYBODY knows. I know it. You know it. Anyone who watches these shows knows it. Their fans know it. Their critics know it. Elected officials know it. Democrats know it. Republicans know it. Even the so-called journalists who report on these shows know it. Do you understand what I'm saying? EVERYBODY knows these organizations are liberal. But what is absolutely hilarious is that they keep trying to pretend they're unbiased.

Pretend for a moment that President Trump holds a press conference and a reporter shows up wearing a clown nose.
President Trump asks, “Why are you wearing a clown nose?”
The reporter stares back straight-faced and says, “I'm not wearing a clown nose.”
Trump presses him, “Look. You're sitting right there wearing a clown nose. Everyone can see it. Why are you trying to deny it?”
The reporter begins talking over the President, “Why are you trying to pivot off the subject by talking about me? No one is wearing a clown nose. You're just trying to avoiding answering the hard questions.”
Trump throws up his hands in exasperation. Shaking his head, he humors the reporter, “OK, what's your question?”

Doesn't that sound ridiculous? I'm telling you that it's not that far-fetched. When these so-called “news networks” try to say they report the news objectively, they sound to me as ridiculous as a reporter denying he's wearing a clown nose. It's so obvious that their denial just makes them seem all the more foolish.  After a certain point, you just can't take anything they say seriously.

I don't get it. You are all liberal. You KNOW you are. If you want to be cheerleaders for leftists, then be the cheerleaders. I'd understand that and some people like to hear the cheerleaders for their cause. But please, please, please, stop the charade. Why do you all continue the farce? You're not fooling anyone and it's becoming embarrassing. I know you're not embarrassed, of course, but I'm embarrassed for you.

Just stop. OK?

Rant over. Carry on!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Can a person lose his salvation? Part 3

Salvation is given by God. Can we all agree on that? I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. God would be perfectly just to judge me according to my sins BUT because He is loving and merciful, He has made salvation possible through the shed blood of His only Son. By believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus and by accepting Him as my Lord, I am saved (Romans 10:). End of story....

or is it? You see, there are some people who believe that, while salvation may be a free gift, we have to work to keep it. So even though some call it a “free” gift, they still believe it comes with a lifetime of conditions. We could be the most vile sinner ever and be saved, right? But once we're saved, we'd better become sinless or we will meet the same fate we faced before coming to Christ. Before I even get into the Scripture, let me say that something about that just doesn't sound right. Christ will forgive a wallowing pig but will condemn a dirty sheep? Hmm.

In my second post of this series, I talked about the transforming nature of salvation. When we become saved, we are a new creature. Our old selves are passed away and we are born new of the Spirit. That is the picture of salvation given in the Bible. If we believe that we could lose our salvation, it makes salvation seem more of a status – something that could change. It's like going to work for a new company; as long as we work there, we enjoy the benefits of our employment but we could be fired or we could leave and then we would be the same person we were before. In this light, salvation isn't transforming but, rather, is conditional.

If we can all agree that salvation is given by God, my next question would be to ask who is responsible for keeping our salvation? Those people who believe we can lose our salvation obviously believe it is up to individual believers to keep their salvation but I don't believe such an idea can be found in Scripture. Instead, I think the Bible is clear that God not only saves us be He keeps us. Consider the following verses:

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 1:7-8)

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1Peter 1:3-5)

You can see from these verses that the same God who saved us also keeps us. We aren't kept by feeble works of the flesh any more than we were saved by feeble works of the flesh. How can we possibly reconcile the idea of losing our salvation with the idea that our salvation is kept by the power of God? Is God able to save us but not keep us?

Jesus Himself often testified that He keeps those that the Father gives Him.

And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.... Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:39-40, 54)

The flesh and blood in this passage is a reference to the crucifixion, where Jesus give His life as an atonement for the sins of the world. By “eating” His flesh and “drinking” His blood, Jesus says we have eternal life and with that He makes another promise - “I will raise him up at the last day.” There is nothing about that verse that is ambiguous.

Our salvation is not a “one and done.” The sacrifice of Jesus didn't only forgive some of our sins – those committed before accepting Him. His blood covers all of our sins, those we have committed and those we will commit. This is expressed in several familiar passages but I believe some people don't grasp what is being said. David said, “mercy will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6). John said, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace (John 1:16).

I wasn't just forgiven once; I'm forgiven continuously. Every day is new mercy. Every day is new grace. Every day God pours out new blessings upon me, not because of my obedience but because of Christ's obedience. Am I so vain that I think I can obey God in my flesh? Is my opinion of Christ's sacrifice so small that I believe His blood will not cover my next sin? Will I rob God of His glory by claiming it is my works that keep my salvation and not Him? No, no, and no!

Read the entire series:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Can a person lose his salvation? Part 2

When we try to describe who someone is, there are certain qualities that are transitory and some that are permanent. I could describe a person as a teller at a bank. That's a transitory quality because he may not always be a teller. Next week, he could be working at a department store.

It's not always easy to decide if a quality is transitory or permanent. Take apples, for example; there are some varieties that are green, like Granny Smith. In that case, being green is a permanent characteristic of the apple. However, we sometimes use the word “green” to describe fruit that isn't ripe. So the phrase, “That apple is green,” is ambiguous. It could mean the apple isn't yet ripe – a transitory quality that could change as the fruit ripens or it could mean the apple is a Granny Smith – a permanent quality that will not change.

If we say that someone is saved, we must determine if that is a transitory or permanent condition. We can do this by examining passages in the Bible that describe the nature of salvation. We'll start by considering 2 Cor 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

In light of this verse, it's hard to imagine how salvation could be transitory or temporary. When we become saved, our old self ceases to exist. How then can we go back to being that person? This verse describes salvation as a fundamental change to who we are. It gives the strong impression that salvation is a permanent condition rather than temporary. Of course, we should never take a single verse as a proof text on matters of doctrine. Instead, we should always interpret any passage in the context of the entire Bible. Consider also the following verses:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23)

Salvation is clearly being described as a change to our essential nature. We have passed from death to life. We are born again of incorruptible seed. These verses, and many others like them, see to affirm that the most obvious understanding of 2 Cor is indeed the correct one. Being saved means a fundamental change in our very nature. Jesus Himself described salvation as being “born again.” Read His conversation with Nicodemus regarding the subject:

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:1-6)

Nicodemus scoffed at the idea a person could be born a second time. He was right in a sense because a second physical birth is impossible but Jesus wasn't talking about a second physical birth but a new birth – a birth from the Spirit. What would it mean to be born a second time of the flesh? You're already born so it would mean nothing new or different. Furthermore, how could a person ever become “unborn” of the flesh or “lose” his birth of the flesh? It doesn't make sense. When Jesus compared our spiritual birth to our physical birth, I believe He intended many of these parallels. If we could lose our salvation, what does that say about our spiritual rebirth? Do we become “unborn again”? It doesn't make any sense.

Are we agreed that salvation is a description of who we are? Next we will consider some passages that describe the permanency of our salvation:

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. (John 10:27-28)

Think about that verse for a moment. Jesus gives us eternal life and says His sheep will never perish. If you received eternal life, then lost it and perished, you have made Jesus a liar. There are many more verses along these lines.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29) You might want to look up the definition of “irrevocable.”

Take special note of the words the Bible uses: eternal life, you will never hunger, God's gift is irrevocable. How can have eternal life and then not have it? It's like saying I used to be immortal but now I'm going to die. The use of these kinds of words suggests permanency of our salvation.

I believe people who think we can lose our salvation have the understanding that salvation is like a status, a condition that can change. It's as though being saved is like being a bank teller – you're a teller until you quit or until the bank fires you. I think this is an incorrect view that is contrary to Scripture.

Read the entire series: