Can a Believer "Lose" His Salvation?
Or Stated More Accurately, Can He Forfeit It?
"Has God indeed said...Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away."? (Luke 8:13)
the scripture clearly teaches BOTH the sovereignty of God AND the free will of men. To deny this is irrational, and must be caused by something other than reason based on scriptural precepts.
The scriptural position is that a person who is saved can forfeit that salvation. The bible teaches those at highest risk of forfeiting their salvation are those who are newly saved, and those who continue on in known disobedience, after being born again.
The elect are those whom God chose, whom God foresaw would both trust in His Son AND who would endure or persevere in the faith given them until the end of their physical life, or the return of Jesus.
Those whose hearts are seeking the Lord with all that is in them, should have no concern about "losing" their salvation. Nor should they have any concern about forfeiting their salvation.
Salvation cannot be lost, but it can be forfeited - this is the nature of covenants in the bible. The bible no where guarantee's someone that salvation once received cannot be turned away from or forfeited by the individual that possesses it.
Receiving salvation involves man's will, and not works. Forfeiting salvation involves man's will, and not works. In the same way the Lord did not force His salvation on anyone, He neither forces anyone to remain in the covenant.
Perhaps there is no doctrinal issue so charged with emotion as this one. After all, we are talking about the possibility of a believer becoming "un-saved" and therefore being condemned eternally. If you truly trust in and seek to obey the Jesus revealed in the scripture, this paper will be more of an interest than a concern. If, however, you are not sure of your salvation due to un-confessed or unrepentant sin (sins of commission and/or omission), then the Lord may well use the scripture in this paper to bring you to a place of concern and seeking Him more earnestly.
This issue has a long history which typically frames itself as a theological debate between "Calvinists" or "reformed theologians" verses "Arminists" or quasi-reformed theologians. The purpose of this paper is not to review the history of this debate. The purpose of this paper is to examine the scripture and try to find a clear, non-equivocal position stated in the bible regarding some aspects of this issue.
Some things we will never fully understand due to the fact that we only have finite minds - the true Glory of the Lord; the specific timing of events or peoples identities involved in the consummation of His redemptive plan for mankind; and yes, the issue of God's sovereignty versus man's free will.
It is this authors belief, however, that there is a best belief on this issue, and as time passes and God's children study the scripture, that best position will become clearer and there will be less confusion and debate regarding beliefs like the perseverance of the saints. This author also believes that God has made fully known through His Son and the rest of scripture, what man must do to be saved and to remain saved. This paper seeks to explore the scripture in an effort to clarify the Lord's precious salvation offered to all who would receive it by His abundant mercy through faith AND retain it by faith.
|Table of Contents|
|PART I. FRAMING THE ISSUES|
|1. Interpretive Framework|
|2. Comments on the New Evangelical Clergyism|
|3. Terminology / Phraseology|
|4. Two Key Issues in Examining the scripture|
|PART II. UNDERSTANDING GODS GRACE AND ELECTION|
|1. Gods Wonderful Grace|
|2. Gods Wonderful Election|
|PART III. AN EXAMINATION OF THE scripture USED TO DEFEND UNCONDITIONAL SECURITY|
|PART IV. AN EXAMINATION OF THE scripture USED TO DEFEND CONDITIONAL SECURITY|
|PART V. DOES FEAR HAVE A PLACE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?|
PART I: FRAMING THE ISSUES
This discussion will focus primarily on whether or not one can "lose" one's salvation, otherwise known as the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It's primary focus will not be on the related doctrine of election, although this will be addressed since it is integrally related to perseverance.
First, it must be acceded that as much as God used John Calvin or James Arminius to clarify biblical doctrine to His glory, these were infallible men like this author or any other. It is somewhat non-productive to label someone a "Calvinist" or "Arminist" since both theological frameworks cover different specific doctrine and both have a large degree of latitude within them. Basically, Calvinism emphasizes the sovereignty of God, while Arminianism emphasizes the free will of men. Both biblically derived concepts are true, and yet there is a logical tension between the two biblical truths.
This is an area where humility is called for as good men of God have defended both biblical truths for centuries. I don't plan to solve the problem here, because I fully accede that both doctrines, if taken to completion using logic, appear to contradict each other at various places. This is where the problem lies. Logic does not put forth, create or originate truth, the scriptures do. Logic is merely the means God gave us to sort our error. I believe wise men will merely accede that the scripture clearly teaches both doctrines, and leave it at that. It is foolish to defend God's sovereignty or men's free will at the expense of the other.
Perhaps one way to look at the situation and to simplify things would be the following. God's sovereignty is absolute regarding His redemptive plan for mankind (providence), in that His decrees will be carried out exactly how and when He chooses. However, the individual's He uses to carry that plan to perfect consummation will vary according to man's free will and what individuals do with both the offer of salvation and the possession of their salvation! Of course since God exists in eternity, He knows, and has always known, who will freely choose to love and obey Him, but from our time locked perspective, it appears as if God could be surprised, which of course He could never be!
If one person refuses to do God's will, then He simply uses someone else to perform His will - someone he foresaw would choose to love and thereby obey Him. To create a hypothetical where everyone refuses to do God's will is begging the question against the counsel of scripture, for the scripture states that there will always be a faithful remnant (Jer. 23:3). In addition, scripture teaches that God uses even murderous unbelievers for His purposes (Jer. 21:7). In other words, God works to maximize good while unregenerate man constantly strives to maximize evil/selfishness. The WHEN and the HOW of God's redemptive plan for mankind are under the complete sovereign control of the Lord (providence/redemptive plan), while the WHO God graciously leave's up to man's free will (individual's salvation and service).
To sum up then, God's sovereignty regarding the WHEN and HOW of his redemptive plan for mankind is absolute, AND man's free will alter the details of precisely WHO is involved in consummating that redemptive plan. An illustration that might shed some light on this fact, would be that of a sports contest, like football. God will end the football contest exactly when He wants to, and how He wants to, AND He will use all the players to bring that about even as they individually freely choose to obey or disobey Him. Those who, in faith, obey Him will receive hope and peace during the contest and gracious rewards at the end. Those who do not believe and thereby disobey will experience hopelessness and emptiness during the contest, and will receive just punishments at the end. Yet both groups will be used by God to bring the contest to an end when and how God wants to end the contest.
God being able to use a rebellious race to His glory and to maximize true love among this sinful race yet still allow men to freely choose what they will do, simply serves to emphasize the power, wisdom, mercy and immanence of the Lord. May the reader know that I do not pretend to have all the answers on this issue. As I have previously mentioned, I believe the scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the free will of men. I also believe that the pendulum of emphasis has gone too far towards the sovereignty of God in that the doctrine of the free will of is being denied or perverted. This emphasis on the sovereignty of God in reformed theology has been at the expense of the clear teachings of the scripture which teach men have a free will to choose whether or not they will yield themselves to the love and will of God. One possible result of this unbalanced teaching would be giving false believer's false assurance since they are told that they are 'once saved, always saved'. In many cases, this belief will justify many in their disobedience since they believe their disobedience cannot lead to a forfeiting of their salvation. This belief could also easily encourage folks to not seek the Lord with all their heart and to be complacent or even comfortable in this world.
The purpose of this paper is to examine a few elements of classic Calvinism, and to see if there is a more biblical position, particularly regarding the perseverance of the saints.
1. INTERPRETIVE FRAMEWORK
If I am forced to label myself regarding this issue, I say I am a Scripturist - I admonish others to do the same. What we need is more prayerful examination of the verses in question, and less labeling as this or that, which only serves to promote the emotional element in the discussion. What we tend to do as saints who retain the sinful nature, is to try to make scripture fit into our theology! This is most unfortunate and this issue takes the prize for applying this principle. The assumption goes something like this - 'I was taught by Calvinistic theologians, and Calvinistic theology states that one cannot lose one's salvation, therefore I must interpret scripture through this theological framework'. Clearly we all, to some degree, interpret scripture through our own bias (affected by our sinful nature), but equally clearly God gave believers His Words, His Spirit and our minds to understand what He is clearly trying to tell us.
I will use labels in this paper to describe theological positions, but I again exhort that when having personal discussions with brothers or sisters in the Lord, seek not to label, but rather to simply interpret the scripture. It will become obvious to the reader that my position in this paper would be labeled as defending "Arminius" position to some extent. I personally believe much of what is labeled Calvinistic theology is excellent in many aspects in that it clearly teaches the truth found in scripture. One particularly beneficial aspect of Calvinistic theology has been its emphasizing and clarifying the sinful nature of man. I believe God has used aspects of Calvinistic theology to His glory and to the benefit of countless saints. However, I also believe that a few aspects of Calvinistic theology, particularly Calvin's position on perseverance, can hinder or even destroy one's relationship with God, and this paper will spend the majority of its content on the elaboration of this belief.
2. COMMENTS ON THE NEW EVANGELICAL CLERGYISM
Before we get into a specific discussion regarding the topic of this paper, it is necessary to deal with an important interpretive issue. There is a problem which has already gotten a strong foothold in the various religious organizations. It can be summed up by the following statement which is oftentimes unspoken yet clearly implied by people who foolishly assume a teaching position: "Brother, you really need to know the original languages to be able to truly understand what scripture [this particular text] is saying. I went to seminary and studied Greek and Hebrew, therefore who are you to question my credentials and thereby my interpretation of this passage". This appears to be an arrogant and unwise position given the teachings of scripture (Matt. 23:8-12; John 14:26; 16:13; Luke 18:14; Acts 4:13; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; 1 John 2:20) [link to Education-olotry: Are Seminaries biblical?]. Jesus' disciples are to repeat and proclaim his Words, but their is only One Teacher, Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 23:8) and his Father's Spirit (John 14:26). The abundance of original language word studies available to (Strongs, Vines, etc.), and easily understood by, the intellectually "average" saint, makes more questionable claims of special "expertise" regarding original languages.
If one consistently holds the position that one must know the original languages to really know the Lord and mature in His will, then one is led to some fairly difficult logical conclusions. First, one would need to also know Aramaic and Hebrew, since the scriptures are found throughout the scripture. To just know Greek and not Aramaic and Hebrew, one denies the importance of well over half of Gods revelation to mankind. Second, which family of manuscripts does one use to get one's absolute right interpretation from? Do you use the Erasmus-Stephanaus-Beza line only, or do you also consider the Alexandrian as well? Which particular manuscript do you use for that matter? This would facilitate the need to not only know three languages, but also the need to go through all the manuscripts in order to perform a thorough textual criticism. So to be consistent, one would have to be at least a Greek scholar to interpret portions of just the new testament. I hope you can see the problem here. The fact is that Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew scholars HAVE gone through this process already and the result is the English versions we have. I think the best method of determining the meaning of a phrase, verse or passage is to look at several sound versions. This way, you have the studied translations of several TEAMS of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic scholars.
Dont jump to the conclusion that this author rejects studying the original languages. The Lord calls some to be original language scholars and thanks to these men and womens diligent work in following Gods call, we have accurate and trustworthy bibles. In fact, I will look at terms in the original languages in this paper. However, what I see is an elitism which bashes "the layman" (a prideful term of derision used by the clergy to keep other brethren submitted to them) over the head, essentially asking, "have you studied the original languages in detail", as a litmus test of a disciple's ability to know what the scripture teaches. If you are confronted with this question, I recommend lovingly responding, "no, but haven't the teams of scholars that have given us our major versions done this?" If the person persists in a non-humble way, the following question gently asked will usually turn the conversation in a more fruitful direction: "Do you believe you know more about the original languages than the scholars who gave us the King James version, for example?" [link to Churchianity: Don't 'Go to Church'?!]
In short, to use nuances in the original language to prove an exegetical point which seems to go against what the plain text and context are teaching, appears to be an unwise position. Going to the original language to make an interpretive point which the several translations in front of you seem not to make appears to be an unwise position. Claiming to have some "special insight" into understanding the scripture because one has taken one or two courses in Greek grammar in seminary seems to go against Gods desire which is that all believers come to love Him by studying His Words which are illuminated only by His Spirit (1 John 2:20). Grammatical insight into the original languages does not seem to be the main point advocated in understanding the scripture (John 14:26). As a matter of fact, the sent ones (apostles) themselves were "unschooled, untrained men" (Acts 4:12) [link to Churchianity: Don't 'Go to Church'?!]. If one argues for having to know the original languages, then one must ask the question, is the KJ version, for example, the "scripture" or not? Any answer other than a non-equivocal 'yes' casts doubt on the ability of believers to know the Lord through the scripture.
Perhaps the real issue is sin as it oftentimes is - sin on the part of both those who proclaim and those who listen. Those who are proclaiming the Words of the Lord tend, because of our sinful nature, to want to be viewed as The teacher (sin) to those listening. And those listening, tend to want to rely on the one who is proclaiming, instead of seeking the Teacher themselves (sin) through diligent bible study. And all of us have trouble living the sacrificial life Jesus calls all His followers to live. Therefore, the more we can explain away the clear yet difficult teachings of scripture, the less we have to sacrifice, and the more we can deceive ourselves by thinking endless theological debates somehow honor Him more than loving, sacrificial action towards one another and our neighbors.
The "bottom line" exhortation in regard to interpretation is this - let scripture speak for itself - don't clutter it up with man made wisdom and 'sophisticated' heurmenutical arguments. As a general rule of thumb, the more one resorts to original language grammatical arguments, the more one risks moving away from Holy Spirit led interpretation. Simply let the clear teachings, and particularly Jesus' Words, shape the unclear teachings! One must allow scripture to interpret scripture [link to How To Interpret the bible]. If you can accede to this basic interpretive principle, you are in agreement with this author and should have no problem as I attempt to consistently utilize this principle throughout this paper.
3. TERMINOLOGY / PHRASEOLOGY
As with any discussion, it is very important to define terms and characterize the meaning of key phrases. Oftentimes terms are used to bias the discussion from the start. For example, the phrase, "lose one's salvation" is not used or connotated in scripture, and thereby serves to bias the discussion against the possibility of a believer forfeiting his salvation. We must all strive to use the words the Holy Spirit chose when He directed the men who penned the scripture. I confess to breaking this rule right off the bat in the use of the term "forfeit" in the title of this paper. The reason I did this was because it is less cumbersome than - while still being synonymous with - the scriptural phrase, "fall away" (Luke 8:13). The term "forfeit" is commonly defined as, "Something surrendered as punishment for a crime, offense, error, or breach of contract".
The term "lose" is commonly defined and understood as "To be unable to find; mislay" and explicitly implies "victimhood" and the lack of a choice. In this sense, scripture clearly teaches that one cannot "lose" one's salvation. The contrast between "lose" and "forfeit" is one primarily of will or choice i.e. I don't chose to lose something valuable, but I must chose to forfeit something valuable. The term "lose" implies one can wake up in the morning and say, 'wow, I lost my salvation, where did it go', or 'gee, in my carelessness, I lost my salvation'. This is not what the scripture teaches (John 10:28; 5:24). However, the scripture does teach that it is possible for the disciple to forfeit one's salvation by "turning away from" (Heb. 10:26, 29) the Lord in the unpardonable sin of willful unbelief (Heb. 3:12-4:3).
In addition to different senses of the use of specific terms like "lose", the Lord, through scripture, uses two primary perspectives to convey the fact that one can forfeit one's salvation - one perspective is God's and the other is man's. From man's perspective, it is described primarily as the willful sin of "unbelief" (Heb. 3:12&19; Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 2:21) and unbelief's manifestations (1 John 3:9; Luke 12:10; Luke 12:46). From God's perspective, it is described as a falling away (Luke 8:13; Matt. 10:22) from a relationship with Him.
It is very important to note that "unbeliever" (a noun) is a term in scripture that describes those who reject God's salvation - the unsaved. Out of all the terms the Holy Spirit used to denote those who rejected Jesus (sinners, gentiles, lost, etc.), unbeliever is by far the most prevalent and carries the worst connotation. Although a believer might use the term in a statement like, "in my unbelief, I sinned today" (verb), it is important to understand the difference between the relative sin of unbelief, and the state of unbelief. Two verses with a parallel analogy will help to clarify this important distinction - 1 John 1:8 says, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us."; 1 John 3:9 says, "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." 1 John 1:8 teaches that anyone who denies they have a sinful nature that expresses itself sometimes is deceived and has no truth in them. 1 John 3:9 teaches that those who are believers will yield to the Holy Spirit and the expression of their sinful nature will be controlled by the Holy Spirit i.e. they will no longer be in bondage to their sinful nature nor will they practice sins which they are aware of. The distinction is nature verses expression of that nature. These scripture regarding sin illustrate the analogous distinction between being in a state of unbelief (ruled by the sinful nature) versus being a BELIEVER and still sinning do to lack of faith, or periodic moments of relative 'unbelief'.
4. TWO KEY ISSUES IN EXAMINING THE SCRIPTURE
Two issues have been the greatest obstacles to discovering the truth on this issue - confusion over assurance of salvation versus possession of salvation; and confusion over "losing" salvation versus forfeiting salvation. We will first look at the assurance versus possession issue.
A. Assurance versus Possession
One can be perfectly assured of Gods promises as long as one remains a believer, as a verse like 1 John 5:13 serves to emphasize. An illustration will help clarify the problem - I can be sure my dad (the heavenly Father) is hugging me (salvation as a response of repentance and belief) and can be assured he will continue hugging me because he has promised to do so, but this does not preclude my choosing to turn away from my dad at some point in the future despite his desire to continue hugging me. To illustrate this point further, does a dad force his adult child to hug him when his child is kicking him and spitting in his face and saying how he hates him and wants to be away from him? If you think so, you should read the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Or from the perspective of when a believer received his salvation, did God force His love upon the believer, or did the believer have to CHOOSE to allow Gods love to save him?
Or, another illustration is that you are in a boat (salvation), and you can be perfectly assured that the boat will remain secure because God has promised that it will, and you may remain in that boat as long as you wish - however, you always have the ability to choose to step out of that boat despite the Father's desire (love) that you stay in the boat. Assurance finds it root in the promises of the scripture - promises which apply primarily to the future - yet the emotional blessing of an assurance based on God's promises manifests itself in the present. However, this assurance is conditional on ones continuing to truly trust in Jesus (John15:1-10). Neither possession of the gift of eternal life, nor its fruit, assurance, Scripturally or logically preclude the possibility that I might choose to turn away from the Lord at some point in the future, and thereby forfeit my possession of His gift of eternal life given to me upon my repentance and belief. I can have complete and utter assurance in the present, but I can't say with complete assurance that it is impossible for me at some time in the future to turn away from the Lord and thereby forfeit my salvation. I can be 100% certain of Gods faithfulness to His promises - I cannot be 100% sure that I will not, at some point in the future, choose to turn away from Him (Luke 8:13).
Jesus teaches that we must abide in Him, which He clearly defines as a conditional state of being which calls for cooperation from our wills (John 15:1-10). John 15:1-10 is the scriptural equivalent to the choice of continuing to hug my dad, or to stay in the boat, in the previous two illustrations. The true believer abiding in Jesus (John 15:1-10) has perfect and full assurance of His salvation (1 John 5:13). The true believer who turns from the Lord through willful sin leading to unbelief (Luke 12:10) SHOULD fear forfeiting his salvation.
B. Losing versus Forfeiting
The second issue is the confusion over "losing" salvation versus forfeiting salvation. This has already largely been dealt with in the previous section entitled, "Terminology/Phraseology", however a few more things need to be clarified. As we will see as we examine the verses that have been used to "prove unconditional security", these verses say exactly what they mean, that there is literally nothing that can separate us from the love of God and there is no one who can snatch us out of the Father's hand. In terms of things - neither death nor life, nor present nor future, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. In terms of other beings, not Satan, not another person or an angelic being - no OTHER being can take us out of the father's hand. However, none of these things or other beings Scripturally or logically preclude a believer choosing to fall away (which is man's perspective) from the Lord and thereby fall away (God's perspective) from Him (Luke 8:13)! scripture teaches that the only one who can forfeit salvation, by definition, is the person who possess it (John 15:1-6; Luke 8:13; Luke 12:10; Heb. 3:12&19; Heb. 10:26&29; 2 Pet. 2:20-21). No one or nothing can force the believer to lose his salvation.
PART II: UNDERSTANDING GODS GRACE AND ELECTION
1. GODíS WONDERFUL MERCY
An important issue must be clarified before examining the verses, and that issue is God's mercy and faith. A debate tactic often used by staunch Calvinists, is to scream "salvation by works" at anyone who advocates the possibility of forfeiting one's salvation. For the record, this author takes Jesus' Words on this issue as final. We enter into salvation by the Father's mercy through faith The issue remains, however, of the person's willingness to receive either mercy (God's initiating outreach, channel or active working) or faith (the outcome or object of God's grace received).
We need to remember, He first loved us and without His initiating love, we would never have been able to respond and therefore we would be justly condemned!' The plain, undeniable scripturally derived truth is that God's mercy initiates and sustains every good thing a believer has in Jesus, not the least of which is salvation!
An illustration will help correct the common Calvinistic assumption that anyone who rejects "unconditional eternal security" believes we are saved by works alone and not mercy and faith:
After God had created me, I left childhood and became an adult (passed the age of accountability), I left the solid Rock and swan out into an ocean of my own creation - an ocean of sin not the least of which included unbelief and pride. I was drowning in the middle of this ocean of my sin with land nowhere in sight, and as I was going under I finally noticed God reaching His hand out and asking me, "would you like me to save you", to which I gratefully answered YES. After GOD saved me He brought me back to dry land - the solid Rock - and I found that it was pitch black and as such I could not see. The Lord then asked me, "would you like me to show you the Way home", to which I gratefully answered YES, and He graciously shone a Light for me on the path HE MADE leading all the Way home. Along the Way, I became tired and hungry, and He graciously provided a place to rest each time I needed it and He graciously provided food each time I needed it - for the entire journey home - He never gave me more than I could bear. I was also attacked on the journey by terrible creatures, and God provided the sword, showed me how to use it, and gave me the strength to wield it so that the terrible creatures were defeated. All I had to do was continue to will to place one foot in front of the other and stay on the path and follow Him. Without Him, I would have perished in the ocean of my sin; I would not be able to see; would not know the way home; would perish for lack of provision and sustenance; and would be destroyed by evil creatures. [I highly recommend the reader read John Bunyan's classic work, "A Pilgrims Progress", for a longer and fuller version of this truth!]
Now I suppose someone who describes himself as a staunch Calvinist could distort this and scream "works", but to do so leads to the conclusion that man has no choice in receiving (repent - Luke 13:5) and walking in (2 Pet. 1:10) the salvation offered and given by God. This leads to the logical conclusion that God creates most to be damned i.e. He creates all people, and doesn't give them the ability to choose heaven or hell (Matt. 7:13; Luke 13:22-30). My contention is that those who believe that God creates the vast majority of people (Matt. 7:13-14) for the express purpose of justly condemning them to hell, need to look more closely at God's character, especially His incredible love, mercy AND justice (John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9; Deut. 24:16; the entire 18th chapter of Ezekiel). It is a Scriptural truth that we are all sinners deserving of hell (Luke 11:13), yet it is just as Scripturally true that God's mercy allows that each person that passes the age/mental state of accountability, be given the real, genuine choice of being saved if they so desire (Matt. 4:17; 7:7-8; John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9). Now most sinners will choose to remain in sin, but they must have the ability to choose AND have actually experienced an opportunity NOT to remain in sin and thereby be saved, for both Gods justice and mercy to remain rational concepts.
2. GODS WONDERFUL ELECTION
I. A common Calvinistic definition of election goes something like this:
God - who is sovereign - chooses or elects, by His good pleasure, who He will save AND this election has nothing whatsoever to do with God's foreknowledge of what the elect person believes or does.
A. A Scriptural Response To A Calvinistic Definition Of "Election"
Is this definition of election the best or the only possible definition supported by the scripture? I don't believe so in light of the following verses.
1 Peter 1:1-2, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied." (New King James Version)
The Greek word for the phrase "who are chosen" is transliterated "Eklektos" and means "the elect". It is the same word used Romans 8:33 & 16:13; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1 and Rev. 17:14 among other references. It is always used in reference to God's chosen people i.e. those He elects to be His.
The Greek word for the word translated "foreknowledge" is transliterated "Prognosis" and is the noun which is the basis of its verb "Proginosko". Prognosis is used in Acts 2:23, which speaks of God the Father's foreknowledge that unbelieving Israel would deliver His Son up to be crucified. Its verb form is used in Rom. 8:29; Acts 26:5; Rom. 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:20 and 2 Pet. 3:17. All of the uses of this word, in either its noun or verb form, mean a knowing of events before they happen, and are part of the omniscient nature of God.
Therefore, the verse quite clearly says that the elect were chosen based on the foreknowledge of God the Father. Please notice the grammar, in that the elect were chosen "...according to the foreknowledge of God the Father". The text doesn't say that they were elected or chosen in conjunction with God's foreknowledge, but rather "according to" His foreknowledge. The logical conclusion then is that God used His foreknowledge in choosing the elect.
Therefore, the Calvinist theologians contention that God elects someone to salvation without using His foreknowledge to make some determination in choosing the elect, is flatly contradicted by this verse. Clearly, on the basis of Gods foreknowledge about people, He makes the choice.
B. Calvinistic Election And God's Character
Calvinistic theologians cringe at the suggestion of substituting the term "arbitrarily" for the phrase "by His good pleasure", in their definition of election, but surely this is a defensive equivocation born of the fact that if this definition of election is true, God also chooses/creates most knowing He will justly condemn them to hell. This is a most difficult conclusion regarding God's character which doesn't square with the scripture's teaching of His great mercy. Logic doesn't put forth, create or originate truth precepts (scripture does), but it is the tool the Lord gave us (Mark 13:30, "...mind..."; Isaiah 1:18, "...reason...") to judge error since logic's law of non-contradiction proves when some set of doctrine/syllogisms are false.
What I will label as "Classic 5 point Calvinism" states the following doctrinal beliefs, and uses the helpful acrostic (T-U-L-I-P) to remember them: T=Total Depravity of man; U=Unconditional election; L=Limited Atonement; I=Irresistible grace; P=Perseverance of the Saints. In this case, if classic Calvinism is correct, then the 'I' in particular leads to the inexorable conclusion that God creates most to send them to hell. If an individual cannot resist God's grace (the 'I'), and God elects only a few to salvation (Matt. 7:13-14), then clearly he elects most to damnation without their ever having a chance to make a genuine choice. This is tight logic with no room for equivocation and the non-contradictory Calvinist is forced to admit this. In addition, the 'L' (limited atonement, meaning that Jesus only died for those who are actually saved, and not for all people of all times) is shown to be false by many scripture, not the least of which are John 3:16, or 1 John 2:2.
Due to the fact that the classic 5 point Calvinist position leads to the conclusion that God purposely creates people knowing they will have no choice in avoiding hell (only give/direct His irresistible grace to very few), I reject this position since the teachings in the scripture regarding His mercy would contradict this conclusion (Deut. 4:31; Jer. 3:12). It is true that all who pass the age of accountability deserve to go to hell, for all are born in sin and all freely choose to sin and thereby ratify their position as Adam's rebellious descendants. However, if those who pass the age of accountability are not given the ability to respond to God's mercy in order to be saved, then the unavoidable conclusion is that God continues to create the vast majority of people knowing they will have no choice but to be condemned to hell, since He will not direct His "irresistible grace" on them (a concept not taught in scripture). This conclusion leads to impugning the three most important characteristics (from man's perspective at least) of God's character - His love, mercy and forgiveness. In addition, scripture contradicts this position (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:3-4). The Calvinistic notion that Adam's sin is to blame for our inability to be able to respond to God's mercy is inconsistent with scripture (Ezekiel 18 et al). Adams sin affects all who are born after him and gives them a predisposition of pride and unbelief which deserves Gods just condemnation, but Gods abundant compassion makes a Way for all who will choose to respond to it.
C. Godís Common Kindness
Adam's rebellion brought sin into the world but it did not make mankind so depraved that he could not respond to God's offer of redemption if he chooses to. There are many aspects to what is often called Gods common grace, but we will limit our discussion to His creation, our conscience, and His Sons work. The foundation to understanding Gods common grace is our nature. God made humans in His likeness and image (Gen. 1:26) which essentially means He has given us spirit, soul, moral conscience and a mind to reason. With this in mind, lets examine Rom. 1:20 which says, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." God has made an incredibly beautiful and complex creation which could only come from a Designer and only men choosing to suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) prevents them from acknowledging the Designer behind it. Unbelievers both acknowledge the amazing complexity of creation and experience the beauty of creation, yet they choose to turn to preposterous, illogical fables [link to Evolution?] instead of turn to the Creator Himself. If they did not have the ability to acknowledge or experience the complexity and beauty of creation, then it could be soundly argued that they were so depraved that God would have to do a special irresistible drawing to Himself. The scripture, however, plainly says that man is "without excuse" because he willingly "suppress[es] the truth". The only way men could be "without excuse" is if they have the ABILITY to respond to this common grace, which they clearly do, yet choose instead to suppress the truth.
The second aspect of Gods common grace which we will briefly review is the conscience He gives all people and sustains in all people. Rom. 2:14-16 says, "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a Law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternatively accusing or else defending them..." Every person ever born was given a conscience by the Lord as a signpost to the moral law Giver. If unregenerate man is so depraved that he cannot respond to Gods mercy, then why does the scripture say that "their conscience bear[s] witness, and their thoughts...acus[e] them..."? The conscience is an aspect of Gods creating us in His image and likeness and through it the unbeliever is aware of good versus evil and of the truth that their must be a moral law Giver. If their conscience bears witness and their thoughts accuse them, they must have the ABILITY to discern right from wrong. This ability combined with Gods common grace makes salvation available to all who will choose to seek Him and receive it.
In an effort to support the Calvinistic definition of the "total depravity of man", Ephesians 2:1 is most often quoted, and it says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formally walked according to the course of this world..." This passage says that our sins and trespasses is what totally separated us from God (we were dead from a JUSTIFICATION standpoint i.e. were unjustified before God and justly under the wrath of God), but it does not say that our sinful nature so mars our being make in the likeness and image of God that we can not respond to Gods mercy. There is a confusion of types/categories here - a confusion between position before God versus the nature of the person before God. All unsaved people are totally alienated from God based on their sin i.e. their POSITION before God is that they are unjustified before the Father due to the rejection of His Son and worthy of eternal damnation. However, their sinful nature is not so depraved that they no longer retain the likeness and image of God, which includes a moral conscience, a mind to reason, and a will with the ability to choose.
Calvinistic theologians say, regarding Eph. 2:1, that being dead is dead, and that is true regarding our spirit before we were saved (we were unjustified before the Father), but equally clearly unbelievers have a soul and mind which are aspects of Gods creation by which they have the ability to seek the Lord if they choose. Jesus addressed these words to all hearers in Matt. 7:7-8, "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened."[emphasis mine] Gods offer of salvation is available to all because God is love (1 John 4:8) and He doesnt want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). If Jesus call to seek was just for those who are chosen, then He appears to offer false hope for He says that "everyone" who seeks finds. Why didnt He say, "For all who are chosen and mine and who ask, receive..."? Eph. 2:1 says that believers were formerly "...dead in [their] trespasses and sins...". The verse specifically and precisely qualifies that which was dead - the spirit due to the unrepentant trespass and sin. The verse does not say that man is so depraved that he cannot possibly respond to Gods grace. The fact that man is made in the likeness and image of God remains true even when that person is spiritually dead in unrepentant sin and unbelief. The unbeliever has the moral law written on his heart and a mind with which to seek the moral law giver. It also remains true that the unbeliever is the constant recipient of Gods love in the most fundamental way in that God does not justly condemn them to hell instantly, but rather causes, provides and sustains their very existence so that they will have every opportunity to believe in Him through the testimony of His creation!
Finally, the work of Jesus is so powerful that Jesus Himself says in John 12:32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."[emphasis mine] Please notice that Jesus did not say that He would draw His own to Himself, or the chosen to Himself, but rather ALL MEN. Gods work on the cross is so tremendous, His mercy and love so infinite, that the work of Jesus' ministry and resurrection does actually draw all men to Him IF they are willing to be drawn (John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9). The Mercy and Love of God is most clearly seen in sending His Son to show us the Way to the Father and eternal life, by faith. That act of love is the highest manifestation of Gods love and if any man claim to have love, then the first cause for that love is Jesus (1 John 4:19). All true love that has ever existed, from Adam forward, has emanated from the Father through the Son and the Holy Spirit. Gods love has been manifest since He created all things and allowed Adam and Eve to continue to enjoy physical life even after they rebelled against Him. The clearest definition of true love was demonstrated in sending Jesus and it is that love, which has existed and been caused by God from the beginning, which "...draw[s] all men to [Jesus]".
D. Calvinists Contention: Election Proves 'His Good Pleasure'
The scripture's chosen by Calvinists to prove God's election unto salvation "by His good pleasure" do not present an open and shut case. Passages such as Rom. 9:13-18 are not clearly dealing with eternal salvation, but rather with God's use of individual's in this life, and His providence with the nations in working out His redemptive plan. In Romans 9:12-13, God choose Jacob for the Messiah's lineage and as a result, Esau hated the Lord by choosing to despise his birthright (Gen. 25:34). Of course God choose Jacob because He foresaw how Esau would reject the Lord. Therefore, the Lord used Jacob for honorable purposes (Rom. 9:21), namely as part of the lineage of the Messiah.
In the case of Pharaoh (Rom. 9:14-18), the Lord knew that Pharaoh's heart was set against Him and His plans to send Messiah (Exod. 1:10-14, 16; 2:15; 3:7, 19), so He used Pharaoh, "...to demonstrate [His] power..." and to proclaim His name throughout the earth (Rom. 9:17). It is of particular note that Pharaoh FIRST hardened his heart against the Lord, refusing to obey God's orders (Exod. 7:13, 22; 8:11, 15, 28; 9:7). Again, God used Pharaoh for honorable purposes (Rom. 9:21) even though it lead to his personal and eternal destruction (Rom. 9:22) - destruction through his free choices, which God foresaw. Finally, the main clue to this section pointing more to temporal issues than eternal ones, is the language in verses 20-21, "The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it?"[emphasis mine] "Molded" speaks of likeness, appearance, or use, not eternal destiny, just as the phrase, "...make me like this" does not speak of judgment or eternal destiny, but rather likeness, appearance or use in this life.
Paul closes this explanation of how God uses both those who have faith in Him and those who do not to bring about His redemptive purposes, by saying, "Or does the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?"(verse 21) Notice Paul does not say, '...for an honorable place in God's eternal kingdom, and another for a common place in Satans kingdom'. Paul's emphasis is God working through all to bring honor and glory to Himself. He makes this point in preparation for drawing an analogy with the Jews versus the Gentiles - an analogy whose conclusion differs in that it speaks of both His plan for the church (corporate) and of salvation (individual) through grace (Rom. 9:23-33). The principle of God's sovereign choosing is the same throughout Romans chapter 9, however, the difference is that the first half (Rom. 9:1-22) focuses on God's redemptive plan through Israel, while the conclusion (Rom. 9:23-33) deals with how that plan makes individual salvation available through the new covenant.
E. A Better Definition of "Election"
Remember, the Calvinistic definition of election claims that individuals have absolutely nothing to do with God's electing them. We have already looked at 1 Pet. 1:1-2 which proves that God does use His foreknowledge in choosing the elect. Calvinists also claim that God's election is irrevocable - that it cannot be altered in any way - that the elect have absolutely nothing to say regarding retaining their election. This is half true, but would be a fully true statement if stated that the truly elect will choose to remain elected! Please closely examine 2 Pet. 1:10, which says, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things [listed in 1 Pet. 1:5-7] you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Peter's command is all about the saint exercising his will in response to God's mercy.
Only God knows who the truly elect are, and the truly elect will have assurance of their salvation until the Lord comes back or they go to be with the Lord. How can you be sure you are one of the truly elect? By continually giving your whole heart to Jesus - by seeking the Lord with all that is in you - by loving the Father and believing in Jesus in your heart which will produce the fruit of serving them.
With these truths in mind, let's examine some other definitions of election:
II. A typical definition of election used by contemporary 'Arminist' theologians goes something like this:
God - who exists in eternity and can see all things past, present and future - elects, through His foreknowledge, those who He sees will freely choose to love Him in response to His mercy, by repenting, believing (being born again) and thereby receiving His salvation.
This description of election is fairly sound and fits Roman 8:29-30 or Philippians 1:6 well. However, there is a better definition of election that not only fits Rom. 8:29-30 & Php. 1:6 well, but also takes into consideration the full counsel of the scripture regarding all the other verses that teach that it is possible for a believer to forfeit his salvation (Rom. 11:20-22; John 15:1-6; Luke 8:13; Matt. 12:31; Heb. 3:12&19; Heb. 10:26&29; 2 Pet. 2:20-21; Rev. 3:5).
III. I believe the best definition (that which takes into account all of the scripture) of "election" is this:
God - who exists in eternity and can see all things past, present and future - elects, through His foreknowledge, those who He sees will choose, in response to His mercy, not only to repent and believe (be born again), but also who choose to abide in His Son (John 15:1-10) and thereby choose to persevere in the faith till death or His Son's return! (Matt. 10:22).
Let me state that again - God elects those to eternal life who He sees, through His foreknowledge, will not only receive His mercy, but who also choose NOT to trample on His loving-kindness (Heb. 10:29 & Matt. 12:31) and turn away from Him in unbelief after having received His most precious salvation! Stated yet another way, He elects those whom He foreknew, would choose to truly love Him after being born again, by following His Son (John 10:27), and who do not choose to disown Him through blaspheming the Holy Spirit through willful unbelief.
PART III: AN EXAMINATION OF THE SCRIPTURE USED TO DEFEND 'UNCONDITIONAL SECURITY'
John 6:37-40,  "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.  This is the will of the Father who sent me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
Who are "All that the Father gives to [Jesus]"? The elect, right? And who are the elect? To repeat the definition given just previously in the last section, the elect are those who He sees will choose, in response to His love, not only to repent and believe (be born again), but also who choose to abide in him (John 15:1-10) and thereby choose to persevere in the faith till death! (Matt. 10:22; Rev. 3:5). Of these, Jesus will lose none, nor will He cast any of these out! Praise God for His faithfulness to His promises!
John 10:27-29,  "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand."
Verse 27 says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life (i.e. those who "hear" and "FOLLOW"), and they shall never perish." Notice first Jesus disciples hear His voice and follow Him. If one demands that this verse "proves unconditional security", one has a problem since since the promise of the gift of eternal life is conditioned upon "follow[ing]" Jesus! Sadly, many times I find that those who cling most fervently to the doctrine of "unconditional security" oftentimes live lives that look the least like what a true disciple of Jesus is called to be. If one is not living as Jesus commands, one may want to consider if one is actually following him. Remember, Jesus says, "If you love me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15); "But why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do the things that I say?"(Luke 6:46-47); "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the Kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). And we know that the will of the Father is for us to be like - ACT LIKE - the Son.
Then, in verse 28, Jesus says, "...and I give eternal life to them..." - who is the "them" that Jesus is referring to? Those who follow Him! And do those who follow Him have to make choices to follow Him in living a sacrificial life? Yes. Does scripture teach that one can choose to be comfortable in the world and enjoy "unconditional security"? The scripture says no (Luke 14:27; Acts 2:45 & 4:32; John 17:17&19; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:11; 2 Pet. 1:10; John 17:14; Luke 6:22&26).
Second, if one wants to define verse 28 as a description of the biblical doctrine of election, then we go back to the third definition of election as previously defined. To reiterate, the bible teaches that election is when God - who lives in eternity and can see all things past, present and future - elects those who, after repentance and belief (being born again), persevere in the faith! Let me say that again, God elects those to eternal life who He foreknows will choose to truly love Him after being born again, by following his Son and who do not choose to disown him through a life bringing reproach upon His name! This, as stated earlier, is the biblical definition of "election" and this definition handles both the passage in review, and Rom. 8:29-30 quite nicely. And the "My sheep" Jesus is referring to in this passage is the elect.
The full counsel of the scripture teaches one logically allowable exception to verses 28-29 (and Rom. 8:38 for that matter), and that exception is that only the person who possesses eternal life can forfeit it. All these verses say exactly what they mean, that there is literally nothing that can separate us from the love of God and there is no one who can snatch us out of the Father's hand. In terms of things - neither death nor life, nor present nor future, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. In terms of OTHER beings, not Satan, not another person or an angelic being - no other being can take us out of the father's hand. But none of these things or other beings logically preclude the possibility of a believer choosing to turn away (which is man's perspective) from the Lord (2 Tim. 2:12) and thereby fall away (God's perspective) from his salvation (Luke 8:13)! More important than the logical possibility, is the fact that scripture teaches a believer can forfeit his/her salvation (John 15:1-6; Luke 8:13; Matt. 12:31; Heb. 3:12&19; Heb. 10:26&29; 2 Pet. 2:20-21). To repeat, the only one who can forfeit his/her salvation is the one who possess it .
John 14:16, "And I pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him or nor knows Him; but you know Him for He dwells with you, and will be in you."
This verse provides wonderful assurance in regard to the faithfulness of the Lord and His coming provision of His Holy Spirit (was originally given at Pentecost). However, the same logic applies to this verse as to the ones just previously discussed. If this verse were the only one in the bible, one would tend to arrive at the conclusion that it is impossible for one to forfeit one's salvation. However, there are other verses that clearly make this statement conditional upon the believers will to continue to abide in His Spirit (John 15:1-6; Luke 8:13; Matt. 12:31; Heb. 3:12&19; Heb. 10:26&29; 2 Pet. 2:20-21). In addition, notice that Jesus says, "...that He may abide with you forever", not "...that he will abide with you forever." The grammatical construction using "may" is significantly weaker than "will", and leaves the door open for illumination from other scripture.
John 17:12&24,  "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled." &  "Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world."
Calvinistic theologians often make the claim that these verses support the alleged fact that we are "preserved" by Gods power, and not our own - I would say amen except for the use of the word "preserved" - I prefer the phrase we remain beloved through Gods compassion. Gods wonderful love initiates every good thing the believer has in the Son (1 John 4:19). Note, however, the fact that the word "preserved" is not used in this section of text, and certainly "unconditional security" is not mentioned or taught in the text. As a matter of fact, the focus of Jesus prayer is that He "guarded them" - from what? If from physical dangers, why does the following verse speak of Judas being lost eternally as opposed to his being harmed physically? If "keeping them" means from being lost eternally, why does Jesus need to guard them if they are "guaranteed eternal security"? Jesus was "keeping them" as long as they responded to His love and choose to be protected by that Name (John 15:1-10)! Jesus foreknew that the eleven would freely choose to be protected by that Name and thereby persevere, yet that did not eliminate the necessity of His "keeping them" through "Thy name" and His love.
An illustration to convey this truth would be that Jesus is as an umbrella and He offers His protection to all those willing to stand under him. In verse 24, Jesus says, "Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am...". Some suggest that by Jesus saying that He desires that they be with Him, He actually means 'they shall be with me? However, "desire" means desire, not 'shall', and 2 Peter 3:9b rebukes this suggestion since it says, "The Lord...is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance". God doesn't want anyone to perish, yet most do (Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-25). At a minimum, these verses demonstrate that man can go against God's desire that all be saved, and that believers have a choice to abide in Messiah, or not.
Romans 8:29-30,  "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren;  and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."
This scripture has already been handled by the proper definition of "election". The key is the term, "foreknew" in the first part of verse 29. God predestined, called, justified and glorified those who He foreknew would freely choose to love Him back by repenting/believing AND persevering in the faith. See previous section entitled "Election", definition III.
Romans 8:38-39,  "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
This has already been dealt with in the section, "Losing versus Forfeiting". To briefly reiterate, no other being or thing can separate us from the love of God, only we can separate ourselves from God by the forfeiture of His precious salvation through unrepentant sin leading to the volitional choice of unbelief.
Ephesians 1:13-14,  "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation - having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,  who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory."
This verse has already been addressed in that God's promises to us as individual believers are conditional upon our continual acceptance (Rom. 11:20-22) as numerous Old Testament examples make clear. For example, when God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, He promised that He would bring them into "...a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey..." (Exod. 3:8). But when they rebelled after hearing the reports of the twelve spies, look at God's answer in Num. 14:30-34, particularly verse 34 which the AV renders, "And ye shall know my breach of promise" (see also Heb. 3:12-4:6). Of particular note, see how faithful individuals received the promise, while the unfaithful who also received the promise, are the ones who forfeited it. See also these examples of promises which were breached and forfeited do to rebellion/unbelief or conversely, repentance, of the objects of God's promises: Exod. 14:13 and Deut. 28:68; 1 Sam. 2:30; Jonah 3:1-4[esp. 4] and 3:10-4:2; Jer. 18:9-10.
In addition, the NASB uses the term "pledge" and the KJ uses the term "earnest", neither of which convey exactly the same meaning as the term "guarantee" which the NIV uses. The original Greek word is transliterated as 'arrhabon' and is pronounced, ar-hrab-ohn'. Strongs Greek dictionary defines it as "of Hebrew origin [6162 HSN]; a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest"; and Vines Greek word dictionary defines is as, "originally, 'earnest-money' deposited by the purchaser and forfeited if the purchase was not completed, was probably a Phoenician word, introduced into Greece. In general usage it came to denote 'a pledge' or 'earnest' of any sort". [italics mine] Notice how these definitions of the Greek word DO NOT CONVEY THE IDEA OF AN 'ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE'. In addition, and of particular note, Vine even uses the word 'forfeit', in showing the giver-receiver relationship and responsibilities in regard to an earnest or pledge.
Ephesians 4:30, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
This verse has already been answered - scripture teaches that the seal can be forfeited through the sin of unbelief (Matt. 12:31; Acts 8:13&22-23; 2 Pet. 2:21). In addition to the response provided above for Eph. 1:13-14, there is nothing in the definition of the Greek word used for "seal" that implies the impossibility of forfeiture of the recipient. It is also worthy of note that the context of this verse is one of warning to not grieve the Holy Spirit. If it is terrible to grieve the Spirit, how much more terrible is it to blaspheme Him through unrepentant sin leading to willful unbelief.
Heb. 13:5, "...for He Himself said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you."
Amen! Praise Him for His incredible mercy, love, long-suffering and faithfulness ! He will never leave us nor forsake us, but we may leave and forsake Him. The believer must will to respond to His love through their faith in Him (Heb. 3:12-4:6, esp. 4:2).
Philippians 1:6, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
The key here again is that the "you" in this verse is one of the elect as properly defined in the "Election" section, definition III. Note also that God begins the good work, and His empowerment magnifies and fuels our response in faith, which He uses to complete the work.
PART IV: AN EXAMINATION OF THE SCRIPTURE USED TO DEFEND CONDITIONAL SECURITY
A Brief Look at Some Old Testament Passages:
As the reader can see, I have examined, used, and will continue to use New Testament passages, almost exclusively in the article. I have done this to avoid the counter argument that the way the Lord works, and particularly how His Holy Spirit works, has changed between the two covenants. I do not question for a moment, that the way the Holy Spirit works is fundamentally different between the two covenants - pre and post Pentecost. Although the way the Holy Spirit relates to the individual has fundamentally changed, this fact does not comprehensively eliminate all arguments from the Old Testament regarding this issue. Yes, the New Testament indwelling of the Holy Spirit is meant to be permanent in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would come upon a man or woman for a specific work that needed to be accomplished, but then the Spirit would leave once the work was finished. This was because Israel was to relate to God (in faith) based upon the law. This was all to change at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was to indwell the believer as evidence of God's work of mercy upon the heart - now relating to the Lord based upon the power of His Spirit, rather than the law (Rom. 7-8). Having said this, let us look at a few passages and see if the Old Testament can shed relevant light on this topic.
1 Chronicles 28:6-9, "Now He said to me, 'It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father.  Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments, as it is this day.  Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever.  As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.'"
The context of this passage is king David transferring his authority and reign of the kingdom of Israel to his son Solomon. This was a public pronouncement before all the leaders of Israel (28:1).
Perhaps the most important issue to understand, is that this is not a discussion of the details of the Holy Spirit's work in a person's life. Rather, it reveals a basic doctrine of RELATIONSHIP with the Lord, which applies to BOTH covenants - both before and after the Son's first coming and Pentecost. Notice, in particular, the conditional covenant the Lord makes with Solomon. The Lord plainly says that He will establish Solomon's reign over Israel "forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments". History tells us that Solomon did not keep his side of the conditional covenant, and thus Solomon's kingdom was not established forever - that is with successive son's ruling over Israel to this day.
In addition to the outward blessing tied to God's conditional covenant with Solomon the king (i.e. earthly ruler ship over God's people), there is a second element to the covenant with Solomon his son. That element is the personal, or relational element. This is established in verse 9, which plainly says, "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.'"
It is somewhat difficult to comment on this passage, since it is so clear and plain - it just says what it says for those willing to take the scripture a face value. The context of verse 9 is son-ship, not kingship, and the casting off has NOTHING to do with kingship, but rather with basic relationship of knowing the Lord ("know the God of your father"). Notice that the price for breaking the covenant of son-ship is that the Father "will cast you off forever". This is not some temporary loss of material wealth or authority to rule over some kingdom - no, rather the text says, "forever", which could only refer to the eternal and not the temporal.
Please also notice that the command from the Lord was for Solomon to "seek Him", and by every account in the scripture, we should come to no other conclusion other than the fact that Solomon knew the Lord at this point in his life. Believers seek the Lord, not unbelievers. Thus it cannot rationally be argued that at this point Solomon did not know the Lord, or was not a believer. All true believers must continue to seek the Lord, for this is the mark of the true believer, not complacency. The only way to grow in our relationship with the Lord is to continue to seek Him with all our hearts, and thus be open to His Spirit's work in our heart.
Ezekiel 18:24, "But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die."
All of Ezekiel chapter 18 is dealing with the subject of God's mercy and justice for the individual. For those who turn to the Lord to find His mercy, they shall be forgiven, no matter what they have done in the past. Likewise, those to turn away from the Lord will find His justice at the end of their lives, and all their righteousness will be forgotten.
The arguments will come like, "those were principles for the law, not for grace". Wait a minute, these are issues of relationship and the moral law, NOT the ceremonial law, so these principles have not passed away [link to Interpreting the bible]. Or, "he was talking about physical death, not spiritual death". Really? Where do the wicked go when they die? How about the righteous, where do they go when they die? The Old Testament taught that righteousness was by faith (Gen. 15:6; Hab. 2:4), and these passages in Ezekiel simply have the fruits or righteousness or wickedness in view.
The fact is that the principles taught in Ezek. 18 are moral/relational principles that stand forever. The same principle is taught in the New Testament, i.e. a man will reap what he sows; whether from faith to eternal life, or whether from the flesh, to eternal death (James 2:14-26).
THE NEW TESTAMENT:
Matt. 4:17, "From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
The very nature of biblical repentance is one of the response of the human will. God's mercy opens the spiritual eyes of the unbeliever, and the unbeliever must make a choice - either see himself as a sinner and repent from his life of sin, or reject God's view and cling to self by justifying his sin. It is very significant that the first words Jesus spoke at the start of His ministry were for mankind to repent. We know that Jesus desires that all repent and choose to love Him back (2 Pet. 3:9) yet we also know that most don't (Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 13:24-25ff).
Matt. 7:7-8,  "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened."
The context of this passage does not appear to be primarily about salvation, but it does not conclusively exclude salvation either. If it includes salvation, and the Lord does not make His salvation available to all men, then the Lord appears to make an insincere offer here and thereby offer false hope. Would Jesus do this? If God only chooses some to salvation with men playing no part in determining whether or not they will receive His salvation, then why would Jesus use the term "everyone" at the beginning of verse 8? Would He not rather have said something like, 'For when the chosen ask they receive...'?
Matt. 10:22, "And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved."
This passage, in its proper context, is surely a challenge to believers today who hide behind the illogical secular philosophy of toleration rather than boldly proclaim Jesus' Truth. In particular, that little word "all" should give us all reason to pause and examine our walk and talk. In the context of our discussion, however, it is perhaps one of the clearest verses exhorting the saints to persevere. The context speaks of persecution of the disciple and the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. The specific examples of persecution Jesus uses in verses 17-21 started occurring even as the church was initially being formed (Acts 7:54-60), and have been occurring ever since to varying degrees. Surely this verse meant a great deal to the millions of precious believing martyrs who literally gave there lives for the One whom they loved above all others. Quite clearly they endured to the end and were thereby saved. Why would Jesus even say something like verse 22 if it weren't possible to not endure? Clearly the unspoken, yet logical rejoinder, is that those who don't endure will not be saved. Clearly Jesus is addressing His disciples in this passage (verse 20). Notice particularly that Jesus is not talking about rewards here, but rather He is clearly talking about salvation itself (a rebuke of the misuse of 1 Cor. 3:15, the Calvinistic theologians verse-of-choice in response to every verse speaking of perseverance, even verses clearly speaking of salvation, like this one). If unconditional security were the truth, surely Jesus would have said something like, 'And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but don't worry, as long as you made a genuine profession of faith at some point in the past, you can ignore or renounce me when the going gets tough and still you will be saved'. But Jesus didn't say that - rather He makes crystal clear the necessity of our response of faith to his offer (John 15:1-10) AND our continuous responsibility to abide in Him (John 15:1-10), and thereby persevere.
Matt. 12:31-32,  "Therefore, I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.  And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come."
Most Calvinistic theologians believe that Jesus is speaking here about a special sin committed by unbelievers. They point to the fact that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees in this passage (verse 24-25) in support of this interpretation. However, in the parallel passage in Luke 12:10, Jesus appears to be addressing His disciples. In any case, their are two main problem with claiming that Jesus is hear speaking of some special sin committed by unbelievers. First, scripture teaches that God's mercy is unfathomable. As such, teaching that there is one sin that unbelievers commit that is unforgivable, is inconsistent with the full counsel of the scripture regarding God's mercy towards sinners. [scripture teaches that all sin (breaking God's perfect law) is grievous to an all Holy God (James 2:10) and the smallest of sins will keep a man out of heaven if he is trying to gain entry via works.] Second, scripture teaches that unbelievers are already under God's wrath and have been judged guilty and condemned already (John 3:18). What worse condition could they be in? Can a child of wrath commit a sin that makes him a worse child of wrath, beyond the reach of God's mercy? Can a spiritually dead person become more dead - beyond the Lord's mercy - through a special sin?
Many who hold to Calvinistic doctrine claim that the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is resisting the Holy Spirit when He is trying to bring conviction upon (and subsequently enter) an unbeliever hearing the gospel of Messiah Jesus. However, I know in my own personal experience that I heard the clear gospel message of salvation through Jesus many times, and yet did not repent for many months. If I resisted the Holy Spirit even once, then a consistent Calvinist would have to conclude that I committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and yet, by God's marvelous mercy, I have been forgiven and thereby saved. A Calvinist would respond, 'but your salvation is evidence that you never truly blasphemed the Holy Spirit' - however, this is clearly begging the question. The Calvinist defines blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as resisting the Holy Spirit by preventing Him from saving you, yet he will not accept someone's testimony, like my own, who clearly remembers fighting the Holy Spirit and rejecting Him and His conviction many times before finally repenting and believing. The Calvinist is ultimately left in the position of saying that everyone who perishes (who heard the gospel of Jesus Christ) commits the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Calvinist ends up defining blasphemy of the Spirit as synonymous with the sin of unbelief. However, the passage in question certainly seems to indicate that this sin is not the same as unbelief. Why? Because unbelief from one who has never believed is forgivable, while blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (choosing unbelief after coming to know Jesus) is not!
I believe most Calvinistic theologians would accede to this logic and say there is a difference between the sin of unbelief, and the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, their theological framework does not allow consideration of the most reasonable explanation, and that explanation is as follows. The key is found in Heb. 10:29-30, which reads, "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay." And again, 'the Lord will Judge His People."[emphasis mine] See also Heb. 6:4-8. If one will accept this teaching at face value, then it becomes clear that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with "insulting the Spirit" in this passage, which is describing turning away from the Lord in unbelief AFTER HAVING RECEIVED SALVATION (see also Heb. 3:12-4:2 & Rom. 11:20-22). To blaspheme the Holy Spirit means to reject Him through unbelief after having received Him at salvation. I believe this is the best explanation given the whole counsel of the scripture.
An associated key principal reinforcing this position is the principal of the sin of betrayal of someone trusted and loved being worse than the sin of evil acts committed against a stranger. The fact is, one can only betray one who is close, loved and trusted, for that is the very definition of betrayal. This Scriptural principal is most clearly seen in John 19:11, where Jesus says to Pilate, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin."[italics mine] What Jesus is saying here is that Pilate's authority was given to him by the Father as a matter God's general providence over His creation and created beings. Pilate did not know Jesus personally, and thereby did not know Him or have intimate knowledge of His teachings. Therefore, even though Pilate was the one who actually gave the order to crucify Jesus, it was Judas' betrayal that was the greater sin. I am not saying with certainty that Judas was "saved", but I use him as an example of the principal of greater knowledge bearing greater responsibility/consequences. In a like manner, only one who knows the Lord Jesus can sin so greatly as to turn one's back on so great a Savior. It follows that only one who has received the Holy Spirit can commit blasphemy against Him by forcing Him to leave through willful unbelief arrived at by unrepentant sin.
The scripture teaches that only believers truly know the Lord (Matt. 7:23; Luke 13:25; Heb. 8:11) while unbelievers truly don't know the Lord (1 John 3:1). Obviously there is a distinction between intellectual ascent only, and truly believing in one's heart that which one understands in one's mind [link to Defining Essential Doctrine]. However, one can only believe in one's heart what one understands in one's mind e.g. one can have intellectual ascent and not know the Lord, but one must have an intellectual understanding of the Lord to truly know Him. It appears as if scripture uses the word "know" as true belief the vast majority of the time unless otherwise indicated by the context. Nothing in the context of the verses quoted at the beginning of this paragraph indicate intellectual assent only. More importantly, nothing in the context of passages like Heb. 10:26 or 2 Pet. 2:20-21, suggest that know or "knowledge" is anything other than that what is meant in verses like 1 Cor. 1:21 or Heb. 8:11. Therefore, the one unforgivable sin that cannot be covered by God's mercy is a willful turning away from Him after one has come to truly know Him by having received His mercy and pardon (2 Pet. 2:20-21).
Prayerfully read Heb. 10:26-31 again, to see a clear example of this truth, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will Judge His People."
Notice also a very important and related truth that is associated with Judas Iscariot. Jesus says in Mark 14:21, "The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." In addition Jesus says, "I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.'"(John 13:18b).
In these three verses (John 19:11; 13:18b; Mark 14:21) Jesus says:
A. Judas committed the greater sin;
B. It would have been better for Judas had he never been born;
C. The scripture was fulfilled through Judas.
Here we have a perfect picture of man's free will being used by the Almighty Lord to His Glory. Even though God foresaw Judas' betrayal of Jesus, Judas was still responsible for freely choosing to betray the Lord and thereby he committed the "greater sin". Did God create Judas to be the son of perdition or did Judas freely choose that role? If God created Judas to send him to hell as Calvinists claim, how could Jesus say "It would have been good for that man if he had not been born"? Surely God has more than just a say over who is born or not! Just as surely the Lord used Judas' free choice to fulfill the scripture. The scripture gives every indication that Jesus loved Judas as much as all the other disciples and even gave Judas the opportunity to repent all the way up to the moment Judas chose to betray Him, whereby Satan entered Judas (John 13:27).
Matt. 24:10, "And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another.".
First, the context of this verses is the time of Christ's return and the tribulation. In Matt. 24, Jesus is answering a question posed by His disciples (24:3-4), and His response is clearly talking about His disciples e.g. "See to it that no one misleads you" (verse 4b). Then just prior to verse 10, Jesus says in verse 9, "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name". Then verse 10 says, "And at that time many will fall away..." - fall away from what? It appears the context calls for a falling away from the faith especially in light of verse 13. In Matt. 24:13, Jesus repeats the solemn words, "But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved." Why must a disciple of Jesus endure to the end to be saved if he is already guaranteed eternal life? This verse does not suggest in any way that Jesus is talking about physical life, especially in light of the fact that He in many places spoke of the infinitely greater issue of spiritual life (John 6:27-29 as just one examples).
This verse seems to leave little room for "unconditional security". I suppose the only way to explain this verse away is to say that the tribulation is a special time and event that does not apply to today. If one does this, then one creates yet another dispensation, which would appear to be man's wisdom trying to fit scripture into his pre-existing theological framework. Is the tribulation part of the new covenant or the old? The answer to this question is obvious, and it would be folly to start making exceptions regarding the tribulation, particularly since there have been times already past where groups of believers were persecuted severely even unto death.
Luke 8:13, "And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away." (italics mine)
This is part of the parable of the sower. Jesus hear draws a contrast of 2 types of people who hear the Word of salvation - those who ultimately reject salvation, and those who receive salvation. Jesus explains the parable Himself in Matt. 13:18-23. Luke 8:13 is quite clear if you are not holding on to a Calvinistic theological framework. Jesus plainly says that "...they hear, receive the word with joy...they believe for a while, and in the time of temptation fall away." The Greek word for "believe" is transliterated, 'pisteuo', and Strongs Greek Dictionary defines it as, "to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ): KJV--believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with." There is nothing in the context of Luke 8:13 to suggest that Jesus is speaking of anything other than true belief. It is reading one's theology into the scripture to nullify this truth that Jesus teaches to say this verse is speaking of intellectual assent only. Jesus closes the parable with the contrast to those who hear the word, "...and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance". Here again Jesus emphasizes that a true believer first produces good works, and second, that the human will is involved IN REMAINING A BELIEVER since He says we must "hold it fast" and "persevere". This again is in perfect harmony with the rest of the scripture, particularly a section of text like John 15:1-10.
Luke 12:46, "the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers."
Please carefully read the entire parable, verses 41 through 48. Jesus gave this parable in response to Peter's question as to whether a previous parable (verses 35-40) applied to just the disciples or everyone else as well. In the parable, the Master is clearly Jesus, and the faithful slave mentioned in verses 42-44 is clearly His disciples/believers. Can an unbeliever be a "faithful and sensible steward [or slave]" to the Master, Jesus? Of course not. The key to this parable from the perspective we are examining it, is found in verse 45. In verse 45, Jesus says, "But if that slave says..." Clearly, the slave that Jesus is referring to with the pronoun "that", is the slave just talked about in the preceding verses (42-44). And fearfully, it is that slave to which the promise in verse 46 applies - "the master of that slave will come...and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers."
In addition, the verses following 46 serve to re-emphasize the grave severity of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Verses 47-48 say, "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."
Again, Jesus continues to speak of the slave mentioned in verses 45-46 by using the pronoun "that" at the beginning of verse 47. Only believers can "know [their] master's will", for unbelievers neither know the Lord, nor obey Him. The master being spoken of throughout this parable is the Lord, not Satan. Verse 47 solemnly teaches that the believer who turns away from the Lord will be assigned a worse place in hell than unbelievers who choose to never know the Lord's will. In the latter part of verse 48, Jesus says, "And from everyone who has been given much, much shall be required". This means that the believer has received as much as is possible for the Lord to have given - he has received forgiveness of sins and eternal life through Jesus' work and thereby eternal life, and has received His Holy Spirit as a comforter and guide through this life - what more could be given? Therefore, to those believers who fall away and thus trample on His mercy and compassion, disobey the Lord through a life demonstrating unbelief, and thereby blaspheme the Holy Spirit - they "shall receive many lashes". Friend, receiving "many lashes" is not the eternal destiny of a true child of God, nor does it describe a loss of reward (1 Cor. 3:15). Rather, it clearly denotes punishment and is in perfect accord with Matt. 25:45-46.
John 15:5-6,  "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
This is the illustration of the vine and vinedresser. This is perhaps the clearest teaching of Jesus of the necessity of the believer to continue to yield to the Holy Spirit given him at the new birth. Please read the entire illustration, from verse 1 through verse 11. Jesus says in verse 2, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away...". Notice that Jesus says that the branches He refers to throughout this illustration, are "in" Him - a clear reference to being Jesus' follower. Also, note that He is clearly teaching His disciples in this passage. Lest there be any confusion, Jesus Himself says in verse 5 that He is the vine and "...you are the branches". Therefore, there can be no doubt that "branches" are believers. Of second import is the distinction between "fruit" and "branches". We have already established that "branches" are individual believers. Verses 2, 4, 5, 8 make is equally clear that "fruit" is the works of believers. Lastly, notice the conditional "if's" throughout this teaching (verses 6, 7, 10).
With these truths in mind, let's know examine verse 6. The correct interpretation is this: If a believer does not continue to love the Lord - true love manifests itself in obeying Jesus (verse 10) - the Spirit will be grieved, leading to more sin, which will eventually lead to the believer spiritually "drying up" (choosing to turn away from the Father and Son through unbelief and thereby blaspheme the Holy Spirit) with the ultimate result of his being cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15 & 3:5). This is the only reasonable interpretation given the facts we established in the previous paragraph.
Those holding to Calvinist interpretative frameworks insist that this passage is speaking of a believer's works which are being burned up, and point to 1 Cor. 3:15 as support. In fact, Charles Ryrie, the highly esteemed Calvinistic theologian, has a note in his study bible regarding John 15:6 that says, "burned. This refers to the works of the believer. The believer who does not abide in Christ cannot do what pleases God; therefore, his works will be burned at the judgment seat of Christ, though he himself will be saved (1 Cor. 3:11-15)." However, Jesus says that the "BRANCHES" are thrown away, cast into the fire and burned, NOT THE "FRUIT"! This conclusion is unavoidable, and any other conclusion is a distortion of the clear teaching of Jesus. Mr. Ryrie makes the error of forcing scripture to fit into his interpretive framework, rather than allowing scripture to shape his theological beliefs. Let us all be diligent to avoid such error.
Additional witnesses to Jesus' teachings on this matter of falling away. This section will look at other writers of the New Testament, in particular, those people who were with Jesus during his earthly ministry - those who Jesus choose while on the earth and then send out after his ascension back to the Father.
2 Pet. 1:8-11,  "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;  for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."
Please refer to verses 5-7 for a description of "these qualities" mentioned in verse 8. The latter part of verse 9 says of those who are useless and unfruitful, that these people "hav[e] forgotten [their] purification from [their] former sins." Is someone who is not a believer ever "purifi[ed] from his former sins"? Can't only one who has formally been purified from his sin "forget" that purification? Peter then says, "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble".[italics mine] Of primary importance, notice that Peter is addressing the "brethren". Now if salvation is guaranteed, why do the brethren have to be "more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you"? This is an irrational principle if indeed salvation is "guaranteed"! The scripture elsewhere states that those who possess salvation can be certain about knowing that they possess it (1 John 5:13; John 5:24). Since this is the case, Peter must be referring to holding onto one's salvation and proving it to be true. The fruit of true faith is works, and Peter draws this connection in the latter half of verse 10. How can we be sure that we possess salvation and are truly disciples of Jesus? By loving Him and thereby obeying Him and doing the things He commands us to do (Matt. 25:35-39). If one is not certain of their calling and about God's choosing them, it is because of a lack of faith, and the only way to remedy this lack of assurance is to repent of any sin that is causing the doubt.
Peter closes with saying, "for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you." For in what way? In the way of being diligent to make certain about his calling by practicing those things which are described in verses 5-7. What happens if you aren't diligent in making your calling certain but rather lack these qualities and their effects, loving actions? In the next verses in the second chapter of 2 Peter we will examine the answer more closely. However, the scripture examined up to this point make it clear that a believer's willful sin (don't forget that the sins of omission are just that, sins [James 4:17] which can also be willfully chosen) will lead ultimately to the forfeiture of his/her salvation through choosing unbelief. The "entrance into the eternal kingdom" is assured for all who don't turn away from the Lord through willful sin leading to unbelief.
2 Pet. 2:20-22,  "For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.  It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'a dog returns to its own vomit,' and, 'a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.'"
One of the keys to understanding this passage is understanding who the "they" is spoken of and referred to in verse 20. The answer is found in verse 18 where it says, "For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they [the false teachers spoken of in the previous verses] entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error..." Verses 20-22 are speaking about believers who "have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..." If one reads the description of the false teachers in verses 2:1-19, one will not find any justification to claim that they had at any point "escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". Who are the ones who escape the defilements of the world and escape from the ones who live in error? A very strong case can be made that they are believers, and that case is built on close context and usage of the same words by the same author.
2 Pet. 1:4 says, "For by these [Jesus' divine power] He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust".[italics mine] When one has nearly identical clause construction used in the same epistle, it is poor interpretation to claim that in the first case it means one thing, but in the very next case, and in a related context, it means something else. Verse 1:4 clearly says that we, believers, "...hav[e] escaped the corruption that is in the world...". Verse 20 speaks of those who "...have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...". On what sound interpretive basis does one say that the latter does not refer to believers?
In addition, the word "knowledge" in the phrase "...by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" is the same word used in Heb. 10:26. As a reminder, the form of the word "knowledge" used here in 2 Pet. 2:20 is the strongest form of the Greek word denoting experiential knowledge of someone/thing. Vines says of epignosis, the transliterated Greek word for "knowledge" here, that it "denotes exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition and...express[es] a fuller or a full 'knowledge', a greater participation by the 'knower' in the object 'known', thus more powerfully influencing him".
The latter portion of verse 20 closes by saying, "For if they have escaped the defilements of the world...they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first." The same "they" is being spoken about throughout verse 20, and what they (religious people) are entangled in again is the defilements of the world. Indeed, they are worse off for the reasons given in Heb. 10:26 and Matt. 12:32. They have committed the unforgivable sin and are destined to hopelessness and an eternity apart from the love of God. Verse 21 closes this same thought by saying "For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them." Now, what is the "way of righteousness"? We know that Jesus is the Way (John 14:6) and that none are truly righteous (Matt. 19:17) but Him (1 John 2:1). In addition, in the opening of this very letter of second Peter, Peter writes, "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ". It would seem, therefore, that the "way of righteousness" defines someone who has the Holy Spirit in order to truly know the Way of righteousness. Can unbelievers "have known the way of righteousness" (Matt. 11:27)? Peter concludes this truth in verse 22 with a most unflattering description of those believers who turn their backs on the Lord, willfully sin and end up blaspheming Him through unbelief and its bitter fruits.
2 Peter 3:17, "You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." [emphasis mine]
Peter in this his second letter, is warning the believers about several things. He warns them in all of chapter 2 of the false prophets that would arise even among themselves! Peter then warns them of the scoffers who would come "in the last days" in the beginning of chapter 3. Towards the end of the letter (3:14-16), Peter exhorts them to look forward to the Lord's coming. Then Peter soberly and lovingly provides, at the end of his letter, his final warning and exhortation to the "beloved" whom he has been addressing (3:14).
It is in this context that Peter says, "You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Let us examine this verse closely.
The first fact that must be clearly established, is that the warning is to believers. This is quite clear by his addressing them as "beloved". The second issue that must be determined, is what is he talking about when he says, " since you know this beforehand ". Since they know what beforehand? Well the context makes clear what they know is the true gospel given by Jesus. Now, for someone to twist the scriptures to their own destruction, can hardly refer to physical destruction in this context. There is not even a hint anywhere in the context of this passage that could be construed to mean that the destruction Peter speaks of here has to do with the physical body. In addition, Peter speaking earlier in this letter, uses similar language in 2:3 when he says, "and their destruction does not slumber". Very clearly, the context of the passage in 2:1-4 is speaking of spiritual destruction. The other passages in chapter two that deal with physical destruction are dual destruction passages i.e. the secondary physical is always associated with the primary spiritual destruction. In other words, there is no one in the passages who are a target of the physical destruction who will not also be subject to spiritual destruction. Clearly, the context in our passage in 3:17 calls for a similar interpretation that is given in Rev. 22:18-19, where those who add to and thereby pervert and twist the meaning of the scripture, have this horrible promise applied - "God shall take away his part from the Book of Life ". That dear friend is eternal destruction.
Therefore, salvation, and its teaching in the scripture, is the focus of what the beloved are to "know" about "beforehand" - that is when they hear the truth in the letter Peter wrote here; and before they hear the falsehoods of the false teachers he is warning them of.
Having established these facts, Peter then warns the beloved against, "fall[ing] from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;" The all important question to be asked is steadfastness in what? What does the context call for as the answer to this? Clearly FAITH is the answer to this. What else could steadfastness possibly be associated with in this passage given the context that has been established? The only other time the Greek word used by Peter here - translated "steadfastness" - is used in the New Testament is in Colossians 2:5. In that passage, Paul writes, "For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ." The same concept of persevering in one's faith is taught numerous times in the New Testament (Rom. 5 & 8; Eph. 6; James 5; Revelation 2 & 3).
Furthermore, what happens to the believers who are "led away with the error of the wicked"? The scripture says of the wicked, "You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever" and "The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God." (Psalm 9:5, 17) The error of the wicked is unbelief and its accompanying sins, transgressions and foolishness.
Having established these truths in this passage, we could paraphrase the passage in this way: 'Therefore my dear brothers in the Lord, since I have warned you to be careful to stay away from those false teachers who twist Jesus' message of salvation, beware that you do not believe their false doctrines which pervert our salvation through Jesus. For if you do believe them, you will fall away from the steadfastness of your faith and be led into the unbelief for which you and the wicked will be eternally destroyed.'
In stark contrast to this dire warning, Peter follows the earnest warning he gives with contrasting words of hope. In contrast to the warning about apostasy, Peter closes by saying, "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him to the glory both now and forever. Amen." (3:18). This beautiful contrast further supports the interpretation given here. You have the eternal death of the wicked contrasted with the glorious salvation of the saints, who "grow in the grace" of the Lord Jesus Christ. May we do the same.
1 John 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." [emphasis mine]
This particular argument applies only to the King James translation, so it will be of particular interest to those who look favorably on the King James translation. The above is the New King James translation. The King James reads, "These things I have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God". Clearly the New King James does a better job at translating the end of the verse since the King James version is absurdly redundant as translated. I doubt one can find a similar example of irrational redundancy within one verse anywhere else in the New Testament as the King James puts forth here. Why would John say, in essence, I have written to you who do believe in Jesus that you may believe in Jesus? He just said he was writing to those who do believe, and thus he can provide the assurance of eternal life to those he has in view here. Why would he say - to the very same people that he just said had already, at some point in the past believed in Jesus - to believe in Jesus? This is irrational, and he would not, thus the better New King James translation regarding this verse.
It is interesting to me that perhaps the greatest verse of assurance to the believer in the New Testament has the conditional statement at the end. As the New King James translates it, the verse supports the doctrinal premise this paper has been laying out before the reader. The verse says that those who truly believe in Jesus Christ can have full, one hundred percent assurance that they possess the incredible gift of eternal life. This verse nullifys all attempts to say that salvation is by works. For if ones salvation were by works, then one could never have assurance of salvation until after their life ends, since works continue up until the point of death. If, however, salvation is a gift to be freely received in this life, then once one receives it, one could be fully assured of their possession of it. This verse clearly and unequivocally says that those who have believed in Jesus Christ may "know that [they] have eternal life". As Jesus says in John 5:24, those who have been born again by believing in Jesus know when they have "everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but [have] passed from death into life". Praise the Lord for His mercy!
In addition, this verse is consistent with all the other verses quoted in this article regarding the fact that one has to persevere in the faith in order to see the consummation of ones salvation, which is glorification (Rom. 8:30). The apostle John clearly says here that a believer must "continue to believe in the name of the Son of God". Why would John add this phrase if salvation was guaranteed and perseverance in the faith had nothing to do with ones willingness to continue to believe? It seems quite odd that John would say this right after giving assurance of ones salvation IF assurance of salvation extended absolutely into the believers future. As we have seen, assurance of salvation in known in the present, and will remain as long as the person who possesses it remains in the faith.
The bible teaches, as we have amply seen, that there are two things of which the believer can be absolutely sure. First, the believer can be one hundred percent confident in the Lords faithfulness (John 10:29) the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us, and nothing can separate us from the love of God. Second, we can be absolutely sure that we presently possess salvation due to our faith, as 1 John 5:13 tell us. In addition, the true believer is not fearful of someday forfeiting their salvation, since in the true believerís love for the Lord, their is no thought of forsaking Him.
Rev. 3:5, "He who overcomes shall 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" [italics mine].
The crystal clear implication of this verse is that those believers who do not overcome WILL have their names erased from the book of life. For this verse to make any sense at all, it must be possible for a believer's name to be erased from the book of life. Without this logical possibility, why would a believer need to "overcome"? And isnít the human will involved in our overcoming?
The first three chapters of Revelation are nothing less than a grave warning against apostasy from Jesus himself. Jesus gives some praises for perseverance, and many grave warnings to those who do not persevere (Rev. 2:5, 16, 22-23; 3:16). Of course, Jesus is speaking to his called out ones (ekklesia) - why else would they need to persevere? Throughout these chapters, He clearly describes both the tares (false believers) and the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30). Starting in verse one of chapter 3, Jesus says, "I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead [sadly, an apt description of christian religion today]. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain [Luke 12:41-48], which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Remember therefore what you have received [salvation] and heard [the Gospel that brought that salvation]; and keep it [salvation/eternal life], and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you [Luke 12:35-46]. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments [Notice these once had unsoiled garments - salvation - but they subsequently turned from the Lord and thereby soiled/ruined their garment]; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall 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."
Jesus makes all His promises in these chapters of Revelation CONTINGENT UPON the person overcoming/persevering in the faith (2:7, 10, 11, 17, 25, 26; 3:3, 5, 10, 12, 21), holding fast to their salvation (2:3, 10, 25; 3:3, 11), and repenting of sin against the Lord (2:5, 16, 22; 3:3, 19)! Now let's look a little closer at verse 5.
"He who overcomes" what? The surrounding context makes the answer to this clear enough - he who overcomes both the trials and persecution caused by this world's hatred against Jesus and those who are His, and the temptation to sin caused by our sinful nature and the evil one. And what is the reward for those who overcome? Jesus says, "He who overcomes [and chooses to keep his faith in Jesus] shall thus be clothed in white garments". White garments, in Revelation, represent a sanctified, pure, holy person who yielded to the Holy Spirit and held onto Jesus through faith. What happens to those believers who do not overcome the world, but who rather compromise and love the things of the world and thereby turn their backs on the Lord (1 John 2:15; Luke 8:14)? Well, Jesus promises to those believers who DO overcome, that He "...will not erase his name from he book of life, and will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels." Therefore the unavoidable truth and logical, scripturally based conclusion, is that for those believers who do not overcome, He WILL ERASE (Gen. 7:4, where "blot out" is the OT equivalent term for "erase"; Exod. 32:32-35; Deut. 29:18, 20) THEIR NAMES FROM THE BOOK OF LIFE (Rev. 20:15), AND HE WILL DENY THEM BEFORE HIS FATHER (Matt. 10:33)! It would be a very strange, and in fact deceptive, thing for the Lord to say that He, "...will not erase his name from the book of life.." if it is not possible for Him to erase one's name from the book of life. This is particularly true given the surrounding context of warnings to persevere. Calvinistic theologians claim that once one's name is written in the book of life, it is impossible for it to be erased. This verse clearly rebukes that claim.
The teachings of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews. Authorship unknown. This letter has a strong emphasis on being faithful in trusting in God and following the Son. It has some very strong warning against falling away from the faith. For those who hold to the doctrines of both "once saved always saved" and of biblical inerrancy, this letter presents a real problem in holding onto the teaching of men that "once saved always saved" represents.
Heb. 3:12-4:1,  "Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today', lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end;  while it is said, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me."  For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?  And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?  And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. [4:1] Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it."
Here we have a concise doctrinal statement that sums up, and confirms, the entire premise of this paper. First, is there any doubt as to who the "brethren" are in verse 11? Some who hold to the Calvinistic theological framework will try to argue that the "brethren" are the Jews in the Hebrew church. Verse 14 says, "For we have become partakers of Christ...", so this argument is unsuccessful. The context of the surrounding verses also rules this out (3:1 for example). One commentator says of verse 12, "As elsewhere in Hebrews, the readers are addressed as brethren. This does not mean that they were all true believers." Here is a classic example of forcing scripture to fit one's theology. If we are to adopt such a method of interpretation, consistent and rational interpretation would be virtually impossible, for one would never know whether the scripture was addressing unbelievers or believers. There is nothing in the direct context to suggest that these words in verse 12 were directed toward unbelievers, and as noted in the beginning of this paragraph, there is strong contextual support for a plain, "it means what it says" reading of scripture here.
Verses 12 and 13 warn the brethren against the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit e.g. against "sin" leading to willful "unbelief" and thereby a "falling away from the living God". This is exactly what has been put forth in this paper throughout. Notice closely the clear condition in verse 14, "For we have become partakers of Christ, IF we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end..."[emphasis mine] This verse clearly states we must exercise our will in "hold[ing] fast" to the "assurance" of our salvation "until the end". A better definition of "perseverance in the faith" I could not find. Some will argue that the conditional "if" means that "if" they were believers in the first place. This interpretation is ruled out by the rest of the verse which says, "...if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end". The verse does not say, "if we hold fast our assurance" and leave it at that, but rather clearly states that assurance has a beginning (at salvation) and must be "firm[ly]" held until the end (death or Jesus' return). If salvation is guaranteed, why would the verse say we must hold fast our assurance until the end? Clearly the writer is not talking about an emotional "assurance", but rather salvation itself (verse 12). Also, the pronoun "we" after the conditional "if" strongly seems to indicate the writer is talking about the brethren.
In verses 15-19, a very important principal is laid forth - the principal of the conditional nature of God's promises. In Exodus 6:8, the Lord says, "And I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD." Then in Num. 14:22-23, the Lord says, "Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it." God promised to all the Israelites that they would enter Canaan, yet only the ones who kept faith in the Lord entered (Num. 14:24). The author of Hebrews uses this illustration and applies it to believers. Verse 19 says, "And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief". Then the clear application to believers is made in verse 4:1, "Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it". Is this conclusion not clear? God is faithful and His promise remains for all who will receive it, hold onto it, and not subsequently reject it and thereby "come short of it".
In summary, verse 12 states the main principal of this section, "Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God." The illustration of the Israelites is made to confirm this truth. And the author closes by saying we should fear losing our salvation through unbelief. God's promises remain, and He is faithful, but only to those who accept him and remain faithful to him, and not to those who accept him and then later reject him through willful sin leading to unbelief. A good illustration of this principal is marriage. A husband and wife are married once, and all the promises of the marriage ceremony are valid unless one spouse deserts the other (geographically or physically through physical abuse or unrepentant adultery - 1 Cor. 7:15), or engaged in unrepentant fornication prior to the marriage (Matt. 5:32). In the same way, God's promises to us are all valid when we are born again, unless we desert the Lord (unbelief or the fruit of unbelief, respectively [Jeremiah 3:8]).
Hebrews 6:4-6,  "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,  and have tasted the good scripture and the powers of the age to come,  and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.
This is one of the classic proof texts for forfeiting one's salvation. Most Calvinistic theologians have made this passage fit into their theology by claiming that the passage does not refer to believers. There are, however, some significant problems with attempting to do this. First, the text clearly says, "it is impossible to renew them again to repentance", the "them" referring to those who "have fallen away". If the Calvinistic theologians interpretation is correct, then the text says that it is impossible for those who never actually became believers (repented, believed and thereby received the Holy Spirit), to repent and become believers. This seems to be inconsistent with God's mercy (2 Pet. 3:9; Matt. 11:28). It also seems to contradict the entire 18th chapter of Ezekiel, particularly verses 21-23. In addition, Jesus is clearly the object of the "elementary teachings" (verses 5:11 & 6:1), so saying that this passage refers to unbelieving Jews really stretches the concept of consistent interpretation.
Second, Calvinistic theologians attempt to make a definitive case that the words used in verses 4 and 5 do not denote someone who is a believer. First, this does not fit the context. Starting in chapter 5, verse 11 and 12 the writer of Hebrews makes the case that he is talking to believers who "have become dull of hearing". He goes on to say that they have reverted from the solid food of the "word of righteousness" and are turning back to "milk". Continuing in 5:13-14 and into the first 3 verses of chapter 6, the author continues to exhort the Hebrew believers to move on to maturity in the faith. This whole context is a lead in to the warning against "falling away" in verse 6. Again the question must be asked, falling away from what? Can a believer fall away from a faith he does not possess? We are given the answer in verse 4 and 5. The issue then becomes, do verses 4 and 5 describe believers?
The key to finding an answer to this falls in an area that all students of the scripture can agree upon - that the best source of evidence for unclear terms is found in the surrounding contextual uses of the terms in dispute. In regard to those who have once been "enlightened", see Heb. 10:32 which says, "But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations..."[italic mine] This text and line of thought concludes in verse 39, and the context makes it clear that the writer is referring to believers. It would be extremely difficult to try to make a case saying that those spoken about in this passage (Heb. 10:32-39) - who had at one time were unenlightened, but subsequently became "enlightened" - were not believers. The epistle to the Hebrews itself defines what "being enlightened" means, and it means being a believer, as 10:32 makes clear. In addition, passages like Ephesians 1:18 add weight to this argument. Eph. 1:18-19 says, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." Here the same Greek word used in Heb. 6:4 & 10:32 is used to describe the heart of a believer i.e. an enlightened heart.
The next phrase describing the subjects of Heb. 6:4-6 are, those who "have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit". John 4:10, Acts 8:20 and other passages referring to the gift of God strongly indicate that the "heavenly gift" is the Holy Spirit. Regarding the term "tasted", Calvinistic theologians like to argue that "tasting" doesn't necessarily mean "eating" or "ingesting". This argument is put forth in an effort to attempt to avoid the possibility that the term means receiving the Holy Spirit. However, even a taste, if it is not spit out (which this text doesn't indicate) concludes with ingesting. Again, searching for the nearest context to get a sense of the word, "tasted", we find Heb. 2:9 which says, "...that by the grace of God He [Jesus] might taste death for everyone". Jesus did in fact experience total physical death and the term "tasted" here means fully experiencing total physical death on the behalf of all sinners. Here, tasted doesnt mean that Jesus barely died or experienced just a little bit of death. Rather, it means that Jesus willingly choose to experience death on behalf of sinners - he fully tasted it in order to consummate his showing us the Way to the Father. In like manner, scripture speaks of receiving the Holy Spirit as a "pledge" of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14), and this could be interpreted as having "tasted" of the things to come (verse 5, "...and have tasted...the powers of the age to come..."). As such, it should consistently be argued, given the close contextual clarification of the term "tasted", that those who have "tasted of the heavenly gift" have actually and fully received the heavenly gift as a pledge of their inheritance (see comments on "inheritance" in Part 3: Eph. 1:13-14). Verse 4 itself helps support this view by closing with the strongest statement, that of "hav[ing] been made partakers of the Holy Spirit".
Before looking more closely at the term "partaker", a plain reading of the text seems to strongly indicate a very close association with the Holy Spirit. Have unbelievers "been made partakers of the Holy Spirit"? This passage in Hebrews is speaking to individuals as verse 4 makes plain i.e. "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened..." This passage is not speaking about an unbeliever being around believers in the body of Christ, as many Calvinistic theologians allege. The verse specifically says, "...and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit...". The passage does not say, 'and have been made partakers within the body of Christ', but rather with the person of the "Holy Spirit".
Now, in looking more closely at the term "partakers" in order to understand exactly what it means, we are fortunate to have multiple examples of the term in close context within the epistle to the Hebrews. Heb. 3:1 says, "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling..." The term "partakers" is here used to actually help define a believer! The "holy brethren" are described as "partakers of a heavenly calling". Clearly the term here means a full involvement with a heavenly calling. Heb. 3:14 says, "For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end".[italics mine] This verse, as one which confirms the conditional nature of our salvation, has already been examined. For our current purpose, however, we see a parallel usage in 3:14 and 6:4. Verse 3:14 says that if our lives bear fruit of placing our trust in Christ, then we have become "partakers of Christ". Here, a "partaker of Christ" is used to define a believer. Given these clear, and close contextually relevant clarifications of the term "partakers", isn't it stretching it to suggest that in Heb. 6:4 ("...and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit"), partakers means something other than having received the Holy Spirit? Verse 5 says, "...and have tasted the good scripture and the powers of the age to come..." The same term, "tasted" is used here and the same reasoning applies here as it did previously in verse 4.
Finally, the latter half of verse 6 reiterates that those who are being spoken of in verses 4 through 6 are believers. The latter part of verse 6 says, "since they [those who have fallen away] again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame". The key word here is "again". When some of these same Hebrews who became believers, later turned away in unbelief, these chose to join with those who crucified Jesus (Luke 23:35-37 & 22:47-48; 2 Pet. 2:22; ), and thereby put Him to open shame. How truly terrible and grievous, and this leads right into the next scripture.
Hebrews 10:26-31,  "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.'  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Here we have yet another clear scriptural text that teaches that it is possible for a believer to turn away from God and thereby forfeit his salvation. The preceding context deals with the complete sufficiency of the ONE sacrifice Christ made on behalf of sinners (verses 1-18), and how, if we rely on His sacrifice for us, we can possess assurance (verse 19-23). Having described the precious sacrifice of Christ and the awesome work He did on our behalf, the Author of Hebrews then gives a terrible warning against apostasy and the abuse of the salvation that precious sacrifice wrought.
The author starts with, "For if we go on sinning willfully..." Please take particular notice of the pronoun "we". If the author was speaking to non-believers in the Hebrew congregation, wouldn't he have said, "if some" or, "if those" who go on sinning willfully? By using the pronoun "we", the author includes those who he is writing to, and is there any doubt that he is writing to believers? If their is doubt, just read the rest of the verse which says, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins..." The phrase, "after receiving the knowledge of the truth" seems quite clear if one is giving the text an honest reading. Since Calvinistic theologians must interpret the scripture as not allowing this reading, however, they must argue that "the knowledge of the truth" means something other than salvation.
First, and most obviously, Jesus says, "I am the truth" (John 14:6). Throughout the gospels and the epistles, anytime the phrase "the truth" is used in a context similar to the one we have before us, it always means Jesus/his gospel of salvation. Another place in scripture where the same exact Greek construction of the phrase "knowledge of the truth" is used, is Titus 1:1, which says, "Paul, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago..." Does "the knowledge of the truth" here mean something other than applying to believers - applying to those with the faith, chosen of God, having the hope of eternal life? In 2 Thess. 2:13, the last part of the verse "in the truth" (NAS) is the same exact Greek construction as "of the truth" in Hebrews 10:26 (KJ). 2 Thess. 2:13 says, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth". Is there any doubt that those referred to in this passage as having "faith in the truth" are not believers - brethren beloved by the Lord, chosen of God from the beginning for salvation, sanctified by the Spirit and having faith in the truth? The latter part of 2 Tim. 2: 25 says, "...if perhaps God may grant them [those in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ] repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape form the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him do his will." Here again we have the same construction, "the knowledge of the truth". Notice particularly here that "repentance" PRECEDES "the knowledge of the truth"! This is most significant and should leave no doubt as to the fact that those who "have received the knowledge of the truth" are indeed believers.
In addition, the form of the word "knowledge" used here in Heb. 10:26 is the strongest form of the Greek word denoting experiential knowledge of someone/thing. Vines says of epignosis, the transliterated Greek word for "knowledge" here, that it "denotes exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition and...express[es] a fuller or a full 'knowledge', a greater participation by the 'knower' in the object 'known', thus more powerfully influencing him". The best verse to close this study of the phrase "knowledge of the truth" is John 8:31-32. Here Jesus says, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free". Jesus is the Truth, and true knowledge of Him (the same word "knowledge" in Heb. 10:26 is translated "true knowledge" in the latter part of Col. 2:2) shall make you free. To that "knowledge" as translated in Heb. 10:26 means intellectual ascent only, is without Scriptural precedent and is ruled out by the context and sound exegesis, as demonstrated in the previous paragraphs.
In continuing with verse 26 and on into verse 27, it again says, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries". If the phrase, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth" refers to someone other than believers, then the following phrase, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" make no sense. Jesus' ransom for unbeliever's bondage remains available to them at all times (John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9) if they would just choose to repent and believe. God continues to love the world and the forgiveness of sins made possible by His Son's example remains available to all who thirst and would come and take the water of life without cost (Rev. 22:17). Therefore, the phrase "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" is clearly referring to those who have turned their backs on the Lord (the One they have personally known) and have thereby blasphemed His Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:32). If there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, then those believers who go on sinning willfully after receiving the Holy Spirit, ultimately come to a place of unbelief and thereby commit the unforgivable sin. To sum up, Jesus' ransom for sins remains available to all unbelievers, but no longer remains available to believers who have turned their backs on the Lord, for that is the one unforgivable sin.
And what is the cost of turning one's back on the Lord Jesus Christ through willful sin leading to the volitional choice of unbelief? That cost is frighteningly laid out to conclude verse 27, and it says, "but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries". The context makes the meaning of this phrase obvious enough, although I have seen some Calvinistic teachers attempt to argue that "consuming the adversaries" is speaking of the loss of believer's rewards (1 Cor. 3:15). Where in the New Testament is a saint of God even hinted at as being an "adversary" of God?
Verse 28 recounts how, under the Old Covenant, anyone who worshipped other gods was to be put to death (Deut. 17:2-6). Notice particularly Deut. 17:1-3 which says, "If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, and has gone and served other gods...". This states that they had "gone" from the covenant which they knew - one which they knowingly transgressed - and were therefore responsible and accountable. God never commanded the killing of non-belligerent aliens simply because they didn't obey Him whom they did not know or experience. Knowledge brings accountability.
In verse 29, the author of Hebrews then draws the analogy to the New Covenant, and states how much worse the transgression of the New Covenant is. Verse 29 reads, "How much more severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" Note particularly the phrase, "the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified". Sanctified means to be set apart from sin for God's purposes. This 'setting apart' has two primary meanings used in the New Testament. When one repents and believes, is born again and thereby receives the Holy Spirit, one is sanctified (Acts 26:18; Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:11). First Cor. 6:11 in particular makes quite clear this first meaning of sanctification - that as soon as one is justified by faith, one is also sanctified by virtue of the Holy Spirit now indwelling the believer. The believer now has the full person of the Holy Spirit indwelling him, and therefore has all he needs to be and do what God desires.
However, the believer retains the sinful nature, and therefore must learn to walk in the sanctification given him at his regeneration. This is the second meaning of being sanctified. From God's perspective, we have been justified and forgiven of our sin at our re-birth, yet God asks that we obey Him out of our love for Him, and this we cannot do perfectly since we retain the sinful nature, and must learn to yield to the Spirit. Therefore, there are many admonitions in the New Testament for the saints to be holy, which is the fruit of sanctification (1 Pet. 1:16). To be holy, is to be set apart from sin, and one attains holiness by yielding to the Holy Spirit who sanctifies the believer unto holiness. These two essential meanings of sanctification cover the vast majority of the word's usage in the New Testament. These two usages apply to believers e.g. those who have the Holy Spirit who enables and empowers the believers sanctification.
The only other way it is used is in an Old Testament sense of a ceremonial setting apart from uncleanliness. This is the sense in which Paul uses the term in 1 Cor. 7:14. In that case, it is clear the unbelieving spouse has not been born again, but rather has been physically/experientially separated from the uncleanliness of the world through the witness and behavior of their spouse. The important distinction here is that another human is doing the sanctifying, not the Holy Spirit i.e. "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife". Notice the source of ceremonial or physical sanctification is another human and not the Holy Spirit. Therefore, this use of sanctification in 1 Cor. 7:14 is clearly not associated with justification nor with the work of the Spirit.
Having looked very briefly at the meaning of the term 'sanctified', we can now see that the context is going to be the deciding factor in how the term is used. Verse 29 reads, "How much more severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" This verse speaks nothing of another human doing the sanctifying or of a ceremonial OT sense, but rather of Jesus Himself sealing the new covenant. In the epistle to the Hebrews, sanctified is used six times and in five of those uses (2:11; 10:10, 14, 29; 13:12) it means the sanctification wrought through having received the Holy Spirit at salvation. In verse 9:13, it is used in the Old Testament sense, and specifically makes the distinction between the Old Testament's "cleansing of the flesh" (ceremonial, physical) verses the New Covenant's "cleans[ing] of your conscience" (salvation, spiritual). The closing proof of this context is the last part of the verse which reads, "and has insulted the Spirit of grace". Surely the "Spirit of grace" is the Holy Spirit - the Sanctifier himself. If the sanctification spoken of here represents the OT sense of ceremonial/physical, then why is the Spirit insulted and not a human priest (of course all believers are priests - 1 Pet. 2:5-9)?
As discussed earlier, is there a better description of blaspheming the Holy Spirit than the last part of verse 29 which says, "and has insulted the Spirit of grace"? The context and words of this section of text in Hebrews leaves little doubt as to this conclusion. Is there a better Scriptural and logical explanation for blaspheming the Holy Spirit?
Verses 30 and 31 close this section with a stern warning to those who might consider turning their backs on the Lord and disowning Him through willful sin leading to unbelief. Of particular note is verse 31 which says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." This is the icing on the cake against the Calvinistic suggestion that this passage is speaking about believers losing their rewards rather than believers forfeiting their salvation. Even the suggestion that it would be fearful to lose one's rewards is untenable, particularly to the wicked human heart. I can't remember the number of times I have heard expressed from professing believers, "I don't care how big my mansion is, I just want to get in", in reference, of course to salvation's destiny, heaven and a new earth. Our hearts are wicked, and the only way to encourage us to truly place our trust in the Lord and love Him back for all that He has done, is for Him to make clear that the salvation given to those who repent and believe can be forfeited through willful sin leading to unbelief. If this passage is talking about believers losing rewards, then where is the scripture to support that a believer, when facing the judgment of God, will be full of fear? The scripture indicates just the opposite (Matt. 25:21; Rev. 21:4). A Calvinist might try to argue that this passage is speaking about physical life only. This is certainly not called for by the context, but just in case a Calvinistic theologian would desire to claim this, look closely at the following verses in Hebrews chapter 10 - 23, 25, 34 through 39. This context makes it clear that this passage is talking about spiritual/eternal life.
Unfortunately, many not only look primarily to Paul for their beliefs, but are in fact following Paul's teachings over and above Jesus teachings. This is very unwise given the plain contradictions in Paul's letters with Jesus' teachings. See Are the Writings of Paul Faultless?. However, since this paper is primarily concerned with attempting to free people from the false teaching of "once saved always saved", I will include Paul's words on this matter for those who highly esteem Paul, and who believe the doctrine of inerrancy of the bible (see Is the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy Supported by the scripture?) - Paul's words clearly rebuke the "once saved always saved" doctrine. I do hope the reader will choose to turn away from following primarily Paul and his teachings, and instead make Jesus and his teachings the bedrock of their faith.
Romans 11:20-22,  "Quite right, they [the Israelite people] were broken off for their unbelief, but you [believers] stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;  for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.  Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off."
The starting place in interpreting these two verses, as in all verses, is to read them in context, which I exhort the reader to do. Go as far back into Romans as you like, and as far ahead. Basically, Paul is explaining to a group in Rome its place in God's redemptive plan, and how Israel was used of God to bring Messiah and His ekklesia into being. Paul compares Israel to a tree in verses 16-24. He uses this metaphor to both explain Israels place, and to warn the believers in Rome not to make the same mistakes most Israelites made. In verse 18, Paul unfortunately upholds the flesh distinction between Jews and non-Jews. Paul then explains in verse 19-20, that the unfaithful majority of Israel was "broken off" because of their unbelief that Jesus is the Messiah. This happened so that the gentiles might become partakers of the salvation of the Lord.
Notice particularly that those Jews who did not believe in Jesus were "broken off". Paul, in verse 14, acknowledges that those Jews who do not believe in Jesus are not saved. In essence, those Jews who reject Jesus choose, just like anybody else after the new covenant was put into place, to make God their Judge rather than their Savior (John 3:18). Paul uses this analogy to warn the believers against unbelief. One must ask, why does Paul warn against unbelief if it is not possible for a believer to choose to un-believe? Specifically, verse 21 says, "for if God did not spare the natural branches [Jews who rejected the Messiah], neither will He spare you." Paul is clearly speaking to believers in Rome in this letter, and specifically in these verses, and he clearly says that God will not spare believers who willfully choose unbelief. The conditional nature of retaining our salvation is again clearly taught in verse 22 which says, "...but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off." The sin that cannot be forgiven is repeated in verse 23, "unbelief" after having received the knowledge of the Lord - first, for the Jews knowledge of the Lord as He revealed Himself in the Old Testament, then for all others knowledge of Jesus as revealed in the New Testament.
Before we leave this passage, note verse 20 which says, "...they [Jews who rejected Jesus] were broken off for their unbelief, but you [believers in Rome] stand by your faith." This passage again emphasizes the believer's responsibility to remain in the Lord by "standing by your faith". Paul doesn't say that the Roman believers became believers by their faith (although this is true and taught elsewhere), but rather that they "stand" by their faith. "Stand" certainly implies willful cooperation with God. If, however, the believers in Rome choose to sin leading to unbelief (Heb. 10:26, 29), then they will fall away (Luke 8:13).
1 Cor. 15:1-2,  "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,  by which also you are saved, IF you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain." [emphasis mine]
The context of Pauls words are his addressing those believers in the Corinthian congregation who have listened to false teachers who say there is no resurrection from the dead (verse 12). Paul is addressing those believers who have already believed (verse 12, "...how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?"), and those who are in grave danger of believing a doctrine that will nullify their faith (make it vain!) since it is a teaching that denies the essential reality of the resurrection. The issue at Corinth was a denial of an essential doctrine.
Of first note in the first part of verse 1 is that Paul is addressing the "brethren". It makes for some convoluted interpretation to suggest that the "brethren" Paul is addressing are not believers. Attempting to make this claim becomes virtually impossible because Paul clearly qualifies who these brethren are in the same breath, i.e. those who heard "the gospel that [Paul] preached to [them]" and who "received it" and who "stand" in it and are "saved" by it. Surely he is speaking about those he believes are the redeemed with these words. Then, Paul uses the undeniable condition "IF" in connection with these he is describing i.e. the "brethren" who have "received" the gospel, "stand" in the faith which results from receiving the gospel, and who are "saved" by the gospel. I dont know Greek grammar, but the translators of my bibles did, and if the "IF" is not conditional in this passage, we should all give up trying to interpret the scripture! And if the "IF" is conditional, then it disproves the doctrine of "once saved, always saved", because it teaches the possibility of forfeiting ones salvation if one does not "hold fast to the word" and persevere in the faith.
Paul closes these two verses with a very strong phrase and clearly states that it is possible to "believe in vain". First the Greek word for "believe" here is transliterated pisteuo, the same word used countless times to describe true faith. Vines says of pisteuo, "to believe, also to be persuaded of, and hence to place confidence in, to trust, signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence...see commit, entrust, trust". The Greek word for "vain" is transliterated eike, and Strongs says, "idly, i.e. without reason (or effect)". Vines says of the same word, "without cause, vainly, to no purpose". Therefore, to paraphrase what Paul is saying to the brethren at Corinth - if you hold fast to the Lord in faith you are saved and shall see your salvation at the time of death, else if you dont hold fast to the Lord in faith, you will have believed in vain and you shall perish in unbelief at death.
In addition, the word "believe" is in the past tense, which makes it virtually impossible to say he is referring to unbelievers in the congregation. Paul is saying that those brethren who deny the resurrection, cease to be brethren because they once believed, but now they do not - they have forfeited their salvation. He is saying that the fact that you believed in the past will not help you now or in the future if you dont continue to believe the whole gospel, which is made up of the "word which I preached to you". As a matter of fact, simply the phrase "believed in vain" rebukes a once saved, always saved doctrine. The only way to explain this away would be to try and make the word "believe" mean something less than true belief, but this is certainly not called for from a definitional standpoint as we have seen, nor in the context, as Paul defines "believe" in the direct context as one who has heard "the gospel that [Paul] preached to [them]" and who "received it" and who "stand" in it and are "saved" by it.
The question must be asked, how could a "brethren" (one who has "received" and is "standing in" the gospel preached by Paul) "believe in vain", if once saved you are always saved? The context is very clearly salvation and not rewards, which would be the only other conceivable way to attempt to explain this away. Paul clearly says, "...YOU believed in vain". Who is the "you" he is referring to? The "brethren" who are those who heard "the gospel that [Paul] preached to [them]" and who "received it" and who "stand" in it and are "saved" by it of course. Given the context and the clear language, could Paul be speaking to those he believed were unbelievers with these words? The answer is clearly no.
Philippians 2:12, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
A common belief of those who believe in "guaranteed salvation" is that since you cannot "lose" your salvation, sanctification is the only issue left in the disciples life. Yet here, scripture tells us to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling". This verse both gives assurance and warning - assurance in that we cannot work out that which we do not possess - warning in that salvation is never ultimately guaranteed, but must be worked out with fear and trembling. What conceivable Calvinistic premise can explain the need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? If our salvation is guaranteed, what need we to fear? Hey, if we are guaranteed entry into heaven, what is the worst than can happen? How does loss of reward produce "fear and trembling", for how "bad" can heaven be? Can our sinful and deceitful hearts actually fear loss of reward and tremble at that thought when we are guaranteed entry into paradise (Luke 23:43)? If this verse is dealing with rewards, why does it say "salvation" instead of rewards? The honest and non-forced reading of this verse is in keeping with what the rest of scripture teaches, which is that it is possible to forfeit your salvation, so hold onto it through faith and work it out with fear and trembling before the awesome God who is the One empowering you to respond.
Colossians 1:21-23, "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled  in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight  IF indeed you continue in the faith, grounded steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister." (cap & emphasis mine)
Here, Paul is writing to a group of people at Colossi, and in the verses prior to the ones cited above, he just finished writing about the preeminence of Christ. He then turns the focus from what Christ has done for them in their salvation, to what they were prior to being saved. In verse 21, he briefly conveys the same teachings he did to the folks at Ephesus in Ephesians 2:1-3 regarding their enmity towards God prior to their having received salvation. In verse 22, Paul teaches of their glorious reconciliation with the God accomplished by the work of Christ. In the latter part of verse 22, Paul moves to the glorious future that awaits the believer, as the believer will have Christ the Advocate, speaking on the believers behalf in presenting the believer to the Father.
However, in moving from verse 22 to 23, Paul makes the promise of the final outcome of salvation glorification contingent upon the believers in Colossi continuing in the faith. The conditional "if" could not be clearer. Paul plainly says that the continued work of Gods grace working out the believers salvation will only continue IF they "continue in the faith". This is the premise taught throughout the scripture, as the objects of Gods mercy must will to respond to that mercy through faith. As you examine Rom. 8:30, you can see that the process is one continuous whole in that it will either result in glorification or it will not result in glorification. There are no half-ways. For example, one either makes it out of a pit or they do not; one either wins a race or one does not. The Lord desires that the final state of His salvation in Christ for His own is glorification. Glorification is the consummation of the salvation given to the believer when the believer was first born again. It remains the believers responsibility to continue to allow God to bring them to the consummation of their salvation.
Thus, as we just saw, Paul writes in Philippians 2:12, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling". The good work the Lord began in the believer (Rom. 8:29, those He "foreknew) will be completed if the believer continues in the faith. The Lord desires to complete the good work (the believers salvation), and the Lord is able to complete the good work. The Lord gives the believer all the grace necessary for the believer to continue allowing the Lord to work through him in order to complete the good work. The Lord is faithful and able to deliver the believer from every kind of peril. Nothing can separate the believer from the love of God, except the believer himself as this paper makes quite clear.
What did Paul mean when he said in verse 23 above that the believer must "continue in the faith" if the believer is to "not [be] moved away from the hope of the gospelÖ"? Is not Paul saying that it is possible that the believer not continue in the faith (1 Tim. 1:18-20)? Clearly he is. What would it mean to be "moved away from the hope of the gospel"? What is the hope of the gospel? ETERNAL, RESURRECTION, SINLESS LIFE WITH THE LORD (1 John 3:3). To be "moved away" means what it says. Remember Jesus says in Matt. 12:30, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he that does not gather with me, scatters abroad". One is either with or against Christ one is either His and thereby moving towards Him, or not His, and moving away. These words of Pauls are strange indeed if Paul believed once saved, always saved.
1 Tim. 1:18b-20, "...that by them [previous prophecies regarding Timothy] you may fight the good fight,  keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.  Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme."(brackets mine)
Paul exhorts Timothy to "...fight the good fight, keeping [the] faith and a good conscience". First off, why would Paul not say, "rest in your faith and the salvation it guarantees" if salvation were guaranteed? Why must Timothy fight? This certainly seems to imply that our will is involved with "keeping the faith". Paul then says that two believers, Hymaenaeus and Alexander have, "rejected [keeping the faith and a good conscience] and thereby shipwrecked their faith. These men must have had the faith to possess if they had subsequently "rejected" it. Certainly the shipwreck metaphor strongly implies that the ship, their faith, is now "wrecked". "Rejected" and "shipwrecked" are hardly terms I would use to describe believers bound for glory.
Some will make reference to 1 Cor. 5:5 and say the two situations are perfectly analogous. This verse says, "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus". However, upon close examination, assuming the two passages are perfectly analogous is a highly questionable assumption. The key difference between the two passages is that in 1 Tim. 1:18, Hymaenaeus and Alexander were at one time clearly believers. They had "rejected...keeping [the] faith and a good conscience" and "...have suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith". In the case of 1 Cor. 5:5 however, the one delivered to Satan for physical death was an unbeliever in the Corinthian congregation's midst - a tare among the wheat. This man "ha[d] his father's wife" and is identified only as "the wicked man" (v.13) and never as "brother" or one who at one time kept the faith. Paul even gives the purpose of delivering this man to Satan, which was "...that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus". This construction, and the context of this verse, certainly lends itself to the interpretation that this wicked man was handed to Satan so that through the terrible trial of the "destruction of his flesh" he might repent unto salvation.
Calvinistic theologians will say that they were handed over to Satan to "be taught not to blaspheme", not to be punished for blasphemy. This response is inadequate and equivocal, for the construction of the verse and the context certainly allow for, indeed advocate, that believers being handed over to Satan to "be taught not to blaspheme" is a one time event with no expectation of deliverance (Matt. 12:32). Indeed the word "blaspheme" is even used. Although the word "taught" usually means the conveyance of ideas with a beneficial outcome, it is not impossible for the word to simply mean punishment. One can think of a convicted criminal going to the electric chair and someone commenting, "he'll be taught the ultimate lesson today". In this case, the context and the full counsel of the scripture lead us to the conclusion that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is what is spoken of in this passage.
1 Tim. 4:1-2,  "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,  by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron..." (emphasis mine)
Regardless of your belief as to when the "later times" are, one thing about this passage is crystal clear - that "some will fall away from the faith". As with Galatians 5:4 (which makes a strong case for the "later times" meaning this age of the church), the question must be asked, how can someone fall away from something they did not possess?
The only other item of note on this passage is that some will insist that those who are falling away from the faith are the false teachers noted in verse 2, and therefore they never had the faith to start with. This is weak, for several reasons, not the least of which is that the text plainly says that "some will fall away...by means of..." (beginning of verse 2) the false teachers.
1 Tim. 4:16, "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and those who hear you." (emphasis mine)
Paul is writing to Timothy, and I don't know anyone, Calvinistic or semi-Calvinistic theologians, who would question whether Timothy was a believer or not. Paul exhorts Timothy to persevere in the exercise of the gifts Paul believes God had given him. Then the implied conditional statement comes, "..for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and those who hear you." Why does Timothy need to "insure" salvation if it is guaranteed to him? Something that is guaranteed does not need to be "preserved", for by definition, guaranteed means no chance of forfeiture. Verse 16b in the King James reads, "...for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." Through the scripture we know, however, that Timothy was a believer, yet this verse makes it clear that forfeiture is possible. Remember, don't get abiding in Jesus (and thus eternal life - which Timothy had) confused with the possibility of forfeiture in the future through willful sin leading to unbelief. We have eternal life, yet we must cling in faith to Jesus, and choose to walk with Him, in order to retain our relationship with Him. And as long as we are trying with all our heart to love Jesus no matter how far we fall short, we will also be blessed with the assurance of God's promises to those who truly believe in Him and love Him (1 John 5:13).
2 Tim. 2:11-13,  "For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him;  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself."[italics mine]
Here we have a beautiful series of verses that sequentially lay out God's plan of salvation. Verse 11 speaks of the new birth, that of our regeneration and our current life in Jesus. The first half of verse 12 speaks of perseverance, and the reward of perseverance being our reigning with Him in His Kingdom. The second half of verse 12 is the solemn warning that if "we" - the same "we" that Paul has been talking about in verse 11 and the first half of 12 - "deny Him, He will also deny us". It is virtually impossible to make a reasonable interpretive case for saying that here Paul is referring to unbelievers with the pronoun "we".
"If we deny Him, He will also deny us". This appears to match perfectly with Matt. 10:33, and here in the letter of second Timothy, Paul is clearly speaking about believers. This case is made stronger by the fact that in the verse just prior, Paul is exhorting the saints to persevere. Naturally, he next lists the cost of not persevering in the faith - that Christ "shall deny us". Paul then closes with a statement about the unchanging nature of God and the certainty of His faithfulness, irrespective of our choices. Even for those believers who choose to disown Him, He will remain faithful to those believers who choose to persevere and abide in His love - and He will remain faithful to all those who desire to come to Him for salvation (Matt. 11:28-30; Jn. 6:37). The Lord cannot deny Himself, for His promises are sure, unlike promises made by men. His salvation will remain available to all who desire to enter into it and remain in it, until He returns to consummate His redemptive plan for mankind.
PART V. DOES "FEAR" HAVE A PLACE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?
Many professing believers seem to think that "fear" only has a place in the Old Testament age. The reason they think this appears to be twofold. First, what is to fear if one's salvation is guaranteed? Second, and closely related to the first, the full counsel of the scripture is generally not being taught particularly regarding all aspects of the nature of God. God is being created in the eyes of the contemporary culture rather than allowing scripture to reveal Him. As such, Jesus Himself is shaped into a happy-go-lucky guy with a 'good sense of humor' and who really isn't that concerned with sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. God's Son died a terrible death to ransom those who would trust in him away from the evil one. For example, the apostle John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:20), arguably knew the Lord better than anyone who has ever lived. He lived with Jesus for over 3 years and experienced all that Jesus said and did during His earthly ministry. Yet when John saw Jesus in his Revelation, he did not run up to Him and give Him a hug, but rather he "fell at His feet as a dead man", and Jesus had to reassure Him, "Do not be afraid" (Rev. 1:17). Clearly, John did not view Jesus as a friend only, but also as the the One appointed by the Most High God to judge all things.
The Greek word for "fear" that we are considering is transliterated "phobos" and the Greek scholar Vine has this to say about the word:
first had the meaning of "flight," that which is caused by being scared; then, "that which may cause flight," (a) "fear, dread, terror," always with this significance in the four Gospels; also e.g., in Acts 2:43; Acts 19:17; 1Cor. 2:3; 1 Tim. 5:20 (lit., "may have fear"); Heb. 2:15; 1 Jn. 4:18; Rev 11:11; Rev 18:10, Rev 18:15; by metonymy, that which causes "fear," Rom. 13:3; 1 Pet. 3:14, RV, "(their) fear," KJV "(their) terror," an adaptation of the Sept. of Isa. 8:12, "fear not their fear"; hence some take it to mean, as there," what they fear," but in view of Matt 10:28, e.g., it seems best to understand it as that which is caused by the intimidation of adversaries; (b) "reverential fear," (1) of God, as a controlling motive of the life, in matters spiritual and moral, not a mere "fear" of His power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him, a "fear" which banishes the terror that shrinks from His presence, Rom. 8:15, and which influences the disposition and attitude of one whose circumstances are guided by trust in God, through the indwelling Spirit of God.
We will now make a very brief review of the use of this term in the New Testament. It is used over 40 times and is almost always associated with the genuine, sincere motivation of actually fearing the Lord first because of His awesome holiness and righteousness and second, so as not to displease the Lord for fear of incurring His chastisement.
a) In Luke 12:5, Jesus says, "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you to fear Him!" Stern and grave words by the Master to His disciples. If Jesus believed that love was the only motivation necessary for His disciples, why would he say this? In addition, Jesus is basing fear on the consequences of placing one's opinions of men higher than God - that consequence being the possibility of being "cast into hell".
b) After watching the Son of God calm the storm, His disciples "became very much afraid and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him'?"(Mark 4:41)[italics mine]. Notice how the disciple's fear of the Lord surpassed their fear of the storm. Hear is a clear example of the fear of the Son of God produced by glimpsing the power granted him by his Father.
c) In the book of Acts, sin against God brought death to Ananias and Sapphira and as a result, "great fear came upon the whole church" (Acts 5:6, 11). The entire corporate attitude of the believers described in Acts included "going on in the fear of the Lord" (Acts 9:31).
d) Peter writes, "And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth" (1 Pet. 1:17) Peter says in essence, 'understand the price of your redemption and live in fear of displeasing the One Who redeemed you'. And what displeases the Lord? Disobedience / rebellion / sin.
In Revelation, the concept of fear of the Lord is continued in passages such as 14:7 and 15:4. Then Rev. 19:5 says, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great"[italics mine]. In this great passage of God's triumph over the harlot who "was corrupting the earth with her immorality", God's bond-servants are described as "you who fear Him". Notice particularly that God's bond-servants are not described in this particular passage as 'you who love Him'.
Since fear of the Lord has a place in Jesus' teachings and New Testament teachings, the question must be asked, why should we fear Him if it is impossible for us to forfeit our salvation? I believe the first part of the answer to this question is simply because Who He is warrants our fearing Him. God's holiness and righteousness should at times produce awe and yes, fear. Fear is an emotional response to something/someone. We are to fear God only, not men (Luke 12:5) or anything else. Perhaps fear, or reverential awe, of the Lord occurs as one matures. For example, a young scientist may develop a thermonuclear bomb and know all about its abilities to destroy on paper, but he only experiences fear/awe when he actually sees it detonated i.e. he has come to "know" it more fully. In the same way, those relatively young in the faith can't appreciate all facets of God's nature (truly 'see' Him) and therefore His awesomeness and perfection is experienced less frequently until one's faith matures. Behold the maturity of John's faith as he falls at the Lord's feet in fear (Rev. 1:17).
The second part of the answer to the question of why we should fear God, however, does in fact involve our salvation. God sent His beloved Son and he was mocked, spit upon, tortured and nailed to a tree in order to ransom us and show us the Way to the Father. This love is truly difficult to grasp. Because He loves us so, he laid down his life for us at Calvary and now offers the fruit of that work, salvation, to all who will receive it through repentance and belief. And even though the gift is free to us, it is the most expensive gift ever purchased. In addition, and most remarkable of all in light of His free offer to all, we all deserve to go to hell for our unbelief and sin against the Lord. We in fact justly deserve eternal punishment and don't deserve His mercy! As such, if we choose to receive that gift of eternal life made possible by His mercy, we will desire to love, thank and honor the One who gave it to us. If we do choose to receive God's mercy and that incredible gift of His forgiveness and eternal life, then love/gratitude compels us to love Him back and give Him the place in our hearts and lives that He rightfully deserves as our Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Savior and Lord.
Therefore, for one to receive His salvation and yet subsequently "trample[d] under foot the Son of God, and [to] regard as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified" by continuing to willfully sin - knowing the ransom price that Jesus paid for those sins - that willful sin will lead to a turning away from the Lord and thereby the forfeiture of that person's salvation (Heb. 10:26-29). This is why scripture warns us to fear and hate sin against the Lord (Jude 23), for if we willfully continue to sin, it will lead to a willful turning away from the Lord and a forfeiture of our salvation through unbelief.
In summation regarding fear in the New Testament, the issue is simply this - love and gratitude are supposed to be our highest motivation, but God, in His wisdom, knows how sinful we really are, and as such, our lack of faith in Him necessitates His having fear as the secondary motivator. As we mature in the faith, love should become more and fear should become less in terms of motivation for obedience - yet at the same time our reverential awe of Him should also increase as we come to see God for all of who His is. Remember, true love, agape, is BEING/ACTING like the Son - not feeling good about oneself, which is selfish if not experienced through doing the will of God. God wants us to ACT like His Son, because He is glorified by it and because He knows this is how the maximum amount of true love will be manifest among this sinful race. We are to fear the Lord when our love for Him fails to bring us to act like Jesus. If we rely solely on "feeling or experiencing His love" (oftentimes selfish) rather than obeying Him (which is truly selfless), which is true love (2 John 6), we deceive ourselves and thereby should fear forfeiting our salvation as the scripture makes abundantly clear (John 15:6; 2 Pet. 1:10).
Oftentimes those with a strong Calvinist theology who disagree with the conclusions reached in this paper resort to mocking the idea of a believer "losing" his salvation by stating it is like a child picking petals from a flower saying "he loves me, he loves me not". This sarcastic barb is aimed at an erroneous assumption that the position of forfeiting one's salvation calls into question the nature of God's love and makes it fickle. As should be obvious, this is not the position stated in scripture or this paper. God's love is both infinite and unchanging and He is always pouring His love out on both the believer and the unbeliever. It is the objects of His love and mercy who have the problem of either no response or a changing response. However, one point is clear in scripture, THAT IF ONE DOES CHOOSE TO FORFEIT ONE'S SALVATION, THEN HE WILL NOT BE BROUGHT BACK TO REPENTANCE (Heb. 6:4, 6) AND HAS COMMITTED THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN (Matt. 12:31).
Therefore, the position stated in this paper does not entertain the possibility of a "he loves me, he loves me not" back and forth possession of ones salvation. Possession of eternal life is a one time state-of-being and you either choose to abide in the Lord through faith after being truly born again and thereby retain eternal life, or you forfeit eternal life never to receive it again. If a believer continues to willfully sin and ultimately reaches a place of turning their back on the Lord, then that is it - they seal their doom in the everlasting fires of hell (Matt. 12:31). Unfortunately, at the point of turning away, they will not be able to see this dreadful price since they will be at a place of unbelief (Heb. 3:12-4:2) and will thereby deny in their heart that their is a hell to go to or a Lord to send them where they choose to go. This is the fearful cost of trampling under foot the Son of God after having received His incredible love and mercy.
Clearly many are "professing" believers in this nation, but equally clearly many who profess to be believers are not (Matt. 7:13-14 & 21-23). In regard to the context of this paper, many who teach the bible claim that most professing born again believers who do not obey Jesus were never actually saved in the first place. This is said since it is commonly believed that one cannot "lose" ones salvation. I hope this paper has demonstrated otherwise. In addition, this claim simply cannot stand up against countless personal testimonies to the contrary.
This authors own personal beliefs on this issue are as follows. I don't claim to know how many professing believers who dont live like Jesus commands either never were truly born again in the first place (counterfeits), or eventually turned their back on the Lord and forfeited their salvation (apostates). There are, however, two places in scripture which shed some light on this issue. The first is the parable of the sower already partially examined in this paper. In Luke 8:11-15, the Lord explains the parable He gave in verses 5-8 by explaining, "Now the parable is this: the seed is the scripture. And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved. And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in the time of temptation fall away. And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. And the seen in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."
Here Jesus contrasts two ways people choose - life in him or death without him. The first three choose different paths to death, whereas the last one chooses life by abiding and persevering in Messiah. Those people whose hearts are described as "beside the road" hear the Word of the Gospel of Jesus, but allow Satan to quickly give them reasons to not believe. These were never born again as the phrase "...so that they may not...be saved" tell us. However, the next two types of people are saved and then forfeit their salvation. The people whose hearts are described as "rocky soil" give up on Christ after a "while" when temptation comes. The people whose hearts are described as "among the thorns" eventually give up on Christ and choose to love the world instead of Jesus (1 John 2:15). What appears to be a common theme underlying the context of this passage is that the people who forfeit their salvation do so relatively recently after having been saved. Those with hearts described as "rocky soil" appear to be relatively young in the faith. Therefore, I would conclude that the majority of people who claim to follow Jesus yet dont, if they forfeited their salvation, did so relatively recently after having been saved. This insight from the scripture calls for our diligence in prayer and especially tender and diligent discipling of newly saved people. Just after repentance and being born again is a critical time to love one further into the Kingdom of God and to make true disciples of Jesus.
The last type of people who do not choose life in Messiah, are those whose hearts are described as being "among the thorns". In Matt. 12:30 Jesus says "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters". Although Jesus addresses this to the unbelieving Pharisees, the principle of "gathering" or "scattering" applies to everyone, including believers (Mark 9:40). Clearly the "among the thorns" people are among those who choose death instead of the Way, the Truth and the Life (Luke 8:14; John 14:6).
I have heard many professing believers run to Paul to nullify Jesus' teachings on this point of the "among the thorns" people Jesus refers to in Luke 8. Their favorite verse of nullification is 1 Cor. 3:1-3 which they use to justify their sins and their lack of a loved-based devotion to the Lord. This strongly indicates that they are scattering away from the Lord since the essentials of loving the Lord include a humble, contrite, sincere and repentant heart that is seeking Him. Open justification of sin and rationalization of worldliness could very well describe either counterfeits (never truly saved) or those who choose to make their hearts "among the thorns" (either unsaved through apostasy or on that road). One thing is certain - one cannot continue indefinitely to stay fleshly in ones walk with the Lord, for if one does, then he is "...choked by lifes worries, riches and pleasures, and [he will] not mature". Friends, that which does not mature by bringing forth fruit dies (Matt. 21:18-19; Matt. 7:16-23; John 15:6). That which is alive grows - only that which is dead does not grow. Grow or die - abide in, gather, persevere OR fall away, scatter, apostate - this is what the scripture teaches are the only two options for the true believer. True believers love their Lord and Master and delight in seeking him by reading his Words and talking about him with others and talking with him in prayer and witnessing of his Father's great love for the lost. Counterfeits (tares) do not delight in seeking him and find it difficult or unpleasant to seek him by reading his Words and talking about him and his Kingdom with others. Counterfeits (tares) generally dislike witnessing to unbelievers and their heart-set is the opposite of what Luke 6:22 teaches. May the close and prayerful examination of the preceding verses in the scripture be a solemn warning to all those who claim the precious name of Jesus yet essentially ignore their alleged first love and refuse to pick up their cross and follow Him.
For those people who read this paper and sense conviction, turn to God's marvelous mercy. If you sense conviction or that you have been grieving the Holy Spirit, then it is never too late to repent and finally and fully embrace the Lord with all your heart and live a life pleasing to Him. If you continue to fall short and sin, don't despair, simply turn to the Lord and confess your sin to Him and to other mature brothers or sisters and He will remain faithful and true to forgive you your sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). The key to the disciples life is simple intellectually but oftentimes extremely difficult for our wills, and it is this: Have a repentant, humble, sincere and contrite heart towards the Lord and continue to seek Him with all that is in you. If you do this, you will experience His incredible blessing as you grow in your relationship with Him. Love Him with all your heart and there will be no limit to the ways He will use you to His glory, for your good, and to the benefit of all those around you.
Send comments to the author Tim
To Top of Page
Return to "Interesting Articles" Page Table of Contents