Eternal Security ~ Encore

Response to Comments

In my last post, I wrapped-up the series on Eternal Security.  As promised, I want to take a few minutes to respond to the comments made in the last several posts.

As a reminder, this series was inspired by my own quest to answer the question:  Can I Lose My Salvation? I did my best to present both sides of the coin impartially.  I spent a lot of time praying in addition to reading and researching Scripture, commentaries, study notes, dictionaries, theology books and other related material.  In my last two posts, I answered the question by stating that theologically, I am a Calvi-minian and am in no fear of losing my own salvation.  My responses are italicized.

In Eternal Security ~ Pat 21, Michael from altruistico posted:

Good morning, Donald;

Can a Christian lose salvation? First, the term Christian must be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer or walked down an aisle or been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of the Christian experience, they are not what makes a Christian. A Christian is a person who has fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and therefore possesses the Holy Spirit (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8–9).

I don’t disagree!  Trust and obey, there is no other way.

So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? It’s a crucially important question. Perhaps the best way to answer it is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation and to study what losing salvation would entail:(See: Can a Christian lose salvation? @ http://wp.me/p26QNa-3qg).

Michael, you have stated your position in your usual excellent manner.  We obviously disagree on the issue of can a Christian as you’ve described above and in your post, turn his back on His Savior and walk away.  I do believe it is possible by his own free will, but highly improbable by the working of the indwelling Ruach. 

Secondly, we must look to the question of “Is it possible for a person’s name to be erased from the Book of Life?” First, Scripture is clear that a true believer is kept secure by the power of God, sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and of all those whom the Father has given to the Son, He will lose none of them (John 6:39). The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29b). Salvation is God’s work, not ours (Titus 3:5), and it is His power that keeps us.

If the “anyone” referred to in Revelation 22:19 are not believers, who are they? In other words, who might want to either add to or take away from the words of the Bible? (See: “Is it possible for a person’s name to be erased from the Book of Life?” @ http://wp.me/p26QNa-2dZ ).

Michael, I going to take a pass on this position as my next series will be a look at the End Times.  I’ll examine this issue then.

And thirdly: We must answer the question “If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?” The Bible teaches that everyone who is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit is saved forever. We receive the gift of eternal life (John 10:28), not temporary life. Someone who is born again (John 3:3) cannot be “unborn.” After being adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15), we will not be kicked out. When God starts a work, He finishes it (Philippians 1:6). So, the child of God—the believer in Jesus Christ—is eternally secure in his salvation.

However, the Bible also contains some strong warnings against apostasy. These warnings have led some to doubt the doctrine of eternal security. After all, if we cannot lose our salvation, why are we warned against falling away from the Lord? (See: “If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?” @ http://wp.me/p26QNa-2To ).

I think I laid out my position of Apostasy clearly in Eternal Security ~ Part 4 & 5.  I stated above: I do believe it is possible by his own free will, but highly improbable by the working of the indwelling Ruach, for a believer to Apostatize.  

In Eternal Security ~ Part 23, Wally from Truth in Palmyra posted in response to a question I asked on where we disagreed:

I think it comes down to the extent of perseverance of the saints, Don. I know you lean towards even a saved believer being able to walk away from his salvation. I actually believe we might WANT to, and even intend to.  I just don’t get on board with the idea that, no matter how much we might think we want to walk away, or plan to, that God will actually let us. I honestly think in that case He revokes our will and keeps us anyway. He loves us so much that He stops us from being stupid.

I’m not convinced that He revokes our will; but, by the indwelling of the Ruach it’s not a fight that I think I could win.  It is that indwelling that I consciously rely on to keep me from doing the ultimate stupid. 

Also, in Eternal Security ~ Part 23, Patrick from Serving Grace Ministries commented:

I think you [Wally and I] are both right. It would be ludicrous to believe that the God who draws all men unto Himself would let go easily. Also, notice that Hebrews 6:5 the author (who I believe to be Paul) is dealing with the issue of maturity in the things of God… those who have advanced beyond the elementary teachings of the Gospel but have flowed in the gifts of the Spirit.

Patrick, you’ll get no argument from me, except for the authorship of the Letter to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews).

 And, Spaniard VIII from SPIRITUALMINEFIELD commented:

I disagree with Wally that God takes away our freewill, its unBiblical. I do agree with Wally that you cannot lose your salvation because Jesus plainly said so in John 10:28. Even though you have freewill, you will never choose to abandon Christ, its impossible. Why? Because through faith in Jesus we are born again, becoming a new man, not the same as the old one. Our soul becomes totally devoted to Jesus Christ. If we can lose our salvation, then we never had something that was eternal. Either we have it or we don’t. Thanks for the ping Son.

See my response above to Wally’s comment and the following.

Interestingly, over the last couple of days in my daily readings (both Scripture and devotionals) I have been seeing passages or comments that support the “once saved, always saved” credo of classical Calvinists. “He who wins the victory will, like them, be dressed in white clothing; and I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life; in fact, I will acknowledge him individually before My Father and before His angels.” ~ Revelation 3:5.   I’m not there yet, but who knows what the future may hold.  Regardless, I am convinced that I am saved and won’t be left behind.

I close with the following two quotes from devotions I have read in the last two days.

“So how does a branch keep from being pruned from the vine? If God is the divine gardener and we are the branches, how do we make sure that he doesn’t target us for trimming? How can we make sure that we survive the gardener’s shears?  Stay united with me, as I will with you — for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me” ~ John 15:4. According to Yeshua, the secret to growth is connection. The way we stay healthy is simply to stay attached. The formula for more fruit is to remain on the vine. To feed from its roots. To stay plugged into the source of all life. [1]

“As God’s child, live today with the surety, hope, and courage that come from knowing that your standing before God is secure.”  [2]

In my next post, I share about Hanukkah.

Click here for PDF version.

 

[1] Embracing Eternity: Living Each Day with a Heart Toward Heaven ~ December 16th.

[2] New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp ~ December 15th.

Eternal Security ~ Part 23

Perseverance of the Saints

In my last post, we looked back at Calvinism and Arminianism Contrasted and I stated my position on each issue, except Perseverance of the Saints.  In this post, I will now address that issue and wrap-up this series on Eternal Security.  I have color coded each of the cells using the three colors of a traffic signal with green signifying agreement; yellow for a mixture of both [orange in WordPress] ; and, red for disagreement.

[WordPress did not allow me to format the table like I wanted it to appear.  You may want to click on the PDF version below.]

 

CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM CONTRASTED
Doctrine Arminianism Calvinism My Position
Perseverance of the Saints Believers may turn from grace and lose their salvation. Believers will persevere in the faith. Believers are secure in their salvation; none will be lost. See discussion below.

The whole issue of Perseverance of the Saints is tied up in the issue of Apostasy, Election, God’s Sovereignty and (Man’s) Free Will.  I’ve covered each of those issues at length in previous posts.  Let’s take a quick look back at what we have learned.

Apostasy

In Eternal Security ~ Parts 4 ~ 6 we learned the definition for Apostasy and looked at several passages from Scripture that alluded to Believers possessing the ability to renounce their faith in Yeshua as their Redeemer.  Perhaps the clearest was Hebrews 6:4-6.

“For when people have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh, and tasted the goodness of God’s Word and the powers of the ‘olam haba [this age] — and then have fallen away — it is impossible to renew them so that they turn from their sin, as long as for themselves they keep executing the Son of God on the stake all over again and keep holding him up to public contempt.” ~ 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 word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” ~ Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)

Clearly, to accept the premise that a true Believer can walk away from salvation in Yeshua implies Man’s Free Will is already considered in God’s Sovereignty.  The verse under consideration here refers to a class of people who cannot “be brought back to repentance.”  The issue is not whether God would forgive them if they repented, but whether there is any way to bring them to repentance at all.  The answer is NO.

God’s Sovereignty and (Man’s) Free Will

In Eternal Security ~ Part 7, I declared that I accepted what  A.W. Tozer’s had to say on this topic.

“I believe in free will. Free will was given as a gift of God – He’s given us a little provisional sovereignty out of His absolute sovereignty … God Almighty is sovereign, free to do as He pleases. Among the things He is pleased to do is give me freedom to do what I please.  And when I do what I please, I am fulfilling the will of God, not controverting it, for God in His sovereignty has sovereignly given me freedom to make a free choice.  And when I make a choice, I’m fulfilling His sovereignty, in that He sovereignly wills that I should be free to make a choice.

If mankind does indeed have the free will to accept or reject the Ruach’s prompting to accept Yeshua as the Son of God by faith, then it only seems logical to me that once accepted s/he can recant that decision.  Certainly, we all know of friends, relatives or acquaintances who have initially rejected the calling of God to salvation and then have later accepted the reality of their need for Eternal Security.

Now, I freely confess, having walked with Him for the last thirty-eight years, I cannot imagine how I could possibly overcome the power of the Ruach within me to keep me on the straight and narrow to fall into Apostasy.  Nor, can I imagine how anyone else could commit such an Unpardonable Sin (see Post 20).  As A.W. Tozer stated: “Anyone who is concerned about having committed the unpardonable sin may be sure he or she has not!”

Wrap-Up

Having been trained in the ministry under the auspices of the Assemblies of God, I would be remiss in not sharing their doctrinal statement on the Security of the Believer.  The full statement can be obtained here.

Let me highlight a couple of paragraphs in that statement:

Certainly, there are true Christians who believe and teach Calvinism; there are also true Christians who believe and teach that men and women have free will. Unfortunately, both sides have spent more time arguing doctrinal terminology and interpretations of theology than reaching out to a lost world. The irony of the disagreement is that Calvinists, who believe in predestination, are sometimes more active in witnessing and evangelism than Arminians who believe that man has a free will and should be encouraged to accept Christ as Savior. God, of course, looks on the heart and the actions rather than on the eloquence with which one defends a position. 

Once saved can mean forever saved – if one continues in faith, growing in sanctification and holiness day by day. But God will not arbitrarily usurp mankind’s free will. Our sovereign God does not overrule free will just to prove He is sovereign.

I would also be remiss if I did not share with my audience a couple of blog posts that have been shared with me that take a different approach to this issue of Can I Lose My Salvation?

The first is by my good friend, Wally Fry at Truth in Palmyra.  Click here

The other two-part post is from Spaniard VII at Spiritual Minefield.  Click here and here.

I leave you with my final answer to the question I originally asked and three quotes from people who have influenced by walk with Yeshua:

  • Yes, I believe it is possible, but highly improbable to lose your salvation. I have no doubt, I will not lose mine.
  • “In God’s faithfulness lies eternal ” ~ Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)
  • “This is how God will revive a church and the only way He will do it: there must be among us a oneness of determination to glorify the Lord alone. The Lord will not ask if you are Arminian or Calvinist, but He will ask, ‘Are you determined to glorify Me alone?’” ~ A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)
  • Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life~ 1 John 5:12 – 13 (ESV).

In my next post, I hope to respond to your collective comments regarding the content of this series.

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Eternal Security ~ Part 22

CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM CONTRASTED

In my last post, I tackled the issue of Election and declared my position on this one issue as an Arminian.  In this post, I want to address the other primary tenets of Calvinism and Arminianism and declare my position on each.  I’ll be using the format that I used in Eternal Security ~ Part 15.  I have color coded each of the cells using the three colors of a traffic signal with green signifying agreement; yellow for a mixture of both [orange in WordPress] ; and, red for disagreement.

[WordPress did not allow me to format the table like I wanted it to appear.  You may want to click on the PDF version below.]

CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM CONTRASTED

Doctrine [1]

Arminianism

Calvinism

My Position

Total Depravity As a result of the Fall, man has inherited a corrupted nature. Prevenient grace has removed the guilt and condemnation of Adam’s sin. As a result of the Fall, man is totally depraved and dead in sin; he is unable to save himself. Because he is dead in sin, God must initiate salvation. From my perspective, both positions essentially say that we are all born sinners because of Adam’s sin and must accept God’s salvation through accepting Yeshua as our Lord and Savior.

 

Imputation of Sin God did not impute sin to the entire human race through Adam’s sin, but all people inherit a corrupt nature because of Adam’s fall. Through Adam’s transgression, sin was imputed ~ passed to the entire human race so that all people are born in sin. To me, this is another example of splitting hairs.  Sin is sin.  We are born with a sin nature, but we don’t pay the penalty for the sins of our parents.
Unconditional Election God elected those whom He knew would believe of their own free will. Election is conditional, based on man’s response in faith. God unconditionally, from eternity past, elected some to be saved. Election is not based on man’s future response. I covered this in my last post in Election ~ Part 21.
Limited Atonement Christ died for the entire human race, making all mankind capable for salvation. His death is effective only in those who believe.

 

God determined that Christ would die for all those whom God elected. Since Christ did not die for everyone but only for those who were elected to be saved. His death is completely successful. This is tied back to the issue of Election.  Clearly, His death is effective and completely successful for all who believe that He is the Son of God.
Irresistible Grace Through prevenient or preparatory grace, which is given to all people, man can cooperate with God and respond to Him in salvation. Prevenient grace reverses the effects of Adam’s sin. Common grace is extended to all mankind but is insufficient to save anyone. Through irresistible grace God drew to Himself those whom He had elected, making them willing to respond. This issue is also tied back to the issue of Election and the Will of Man below.  I believe that it is only by God’s Grace and sovereignty that we can accept salvation by the atoning blood of our Savior Yeshua.
Will of Man Prevenient grace is given to all people and is exercised on the entire person, giving man a free will. Depravity extends to all of man, including his will. Without irresistible grace man’s will remains bound, unable to respond to God on its own ability. I addressed this issue in Eternal Security ~ Part 7 wherein I agreed with A.W. Tozer’s position of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will when he stated: “God Almighty is sovereign, free to do as He pleases. Among the things He is pleased to do is give me freedom to do what I please.  And when I do what I please, I am fulfilling the will of God, not controverting it, for God in His sovereignty has sovereignly given me freedom to make a free choice.”

 

Perseverance of the Saints Believers may turn from grace and lose their salvation. Believers will persevere in the faith. Believers are secure in their salvation; none will be lost. I will address this in my next post.
Sovereignty of God God limits His control in accordance with man’s freedom and response. His decrees are related to His foreknowledge of what man’s response will be. God’s sovereignty is absolute and unconditional. He has determined all things according to the good pleasure of His will. His foreknowledge originates in advanced planning, not in advanced information. See Will of Man above.

 

In my next post, I will address my take on the issue of the Perseverance of the Saints.

Click here for PDF version.

 

[1] Those doctrines in BOLDFACE indicate the main Calvinistic doctrines known as T.U.L.I.P.

Eternal Security ~ Part 21

Election Redux

In my last post, we tackled the issue of the Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach.  I want to re-cap where we have been on this journey for those who may not have been on the whole journey with us and refresh the memory (including mine) for those who have walked this road with me.

Eternal Security ~ Part 1 Introduction to the series where I explained why the study was timely and why is was important to me (and presumably to my readers).  I asked the question ~ Can Salvation Be Lost?

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 2 I presented a Glossary of Terms that I would be exploring.

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 3 We began to explore the concept of Eternal Security.

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 4 ~ 6 We looked at the concept of Apostasy and touched on Backsliding.  Before wrapping up this series, I will return to this topic and reveal my personal position on this as I answer the question of Can Salvation Be Lost?

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 7 In this post, I presented scriptural references to God’s Sovereignty and Free Will and quoted from Clarence Larkin and A.W. Tozer.  I concluded that God’s Sovereignty takes into consideration man’s free will to accept or reject His offer of salvation.

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 8 ~ 9 In these posts, we looked at the beginnings of The Protestant Reformation and a brief bio-sketch of John Calvin and his teachings.

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 10 ~ 13 We explored spread of Calvinism, the Synod of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Five Points of Calvinism.

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 14 I presented a brief bio-sketch of Jacobus Arminius the ‘father’ of Arminianism.

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 15 ~ 18 In these posts, we were introduced to the Remonstrance, the historical development of Arminian Theology, as well as the tenets of Arminian Theology.

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 19 In this post, we explored the Calvinistic View and Arminian View of Election.

 

Eternal Security ~ Part 20 In my last post, we looked at the concept of the Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach.

 

I’ve done my best to provide a balanced approach to present the material to date by using the same sources to present the basic differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.  Now, I want to look at some of the contested passages I was not able to more fully address previously.

Election

In Part 12, we learned that Calvinists believe in Unconditional ElectionCalvinism teaches that from eternity past, God has unconditionally elected certain ones to salvation regardless of any merit on their part. Unconditional emphasizes that election is not conditioned on God’s foreknowledge that certain ones will believe in Yeshua. Election is not conditioned on man’s ability or response.  This is frequently referred to as God foreordained those who would be saved and those who would be sentenced to eternal damnation.  In support of that position, Calvinists look to the following passages of Scripture:

“Because those whom He knew in advance, He also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of His Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers; and those whom He thus determined in advance, He also called; and those whom He called, He also caused to be considered righteous; and those whom He caused to be considered righteous He also glorified!” ~ Romans 8:29-30.

“Before they were born, before they had done anything at all, either good or bad (so that God’s plan might remain a matter of his sovereign choice, not dependent on what they did, but on God, who does the calling)” ~ Romans 9:11.

“In the Messiah He chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in His presence.  He determined in advance that through Yeshua the Messiah we would be His sons … Also in union with Him we were given an inheritance, we who were picked in advance according to the purpose of the One who effects everything in keeping with the decision of his will” ~ Ephesians 1:4-5, 11.

In Part 19, we learned that Arminians believe that Election is not absolute or unconditional but Conditional, contingent upon the proper acceptance of such gifts of grace as God by His Ruach and providence puts within the reach of men.  In support of that position, Arminians look to the following passages of Scripture:

“He wants all humanity to be delivered and come to full knowledge of the truth” ~ 1 Timothy 2:4.

“Indeed, it is for this that we toil and strive: we have our hope set on a living God who is the deliverer of all humanity, especially of those who trust” ~ 1 Timothy 4:10.

Speaking to the Jewish rulers (clearly God’s elect), Stephen said: “Stiffnecked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You continually oppose the Ruach HaKodesh! You do the same things your fathers did!” ~ Acts 7:51.

“The next day, Yochanan saw Yeshua coming toward him and said, “Look! God’s lamb! The one who is taking away the sin of the world!” ~ John 1:29. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through Him, the world might be saved” ~ John 3:16-17 (emphasis added).

“In other words, just as it was through one offense that all people came under condemnation, so also it is through one righteous act that all people come to be considered righteous.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man, many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the other man, many will be made righteous” ~ Romans 5:18-19 (emphasis added).

“For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:22 (emphasis added).

So, the key difference between Calvinists and Arminians on the issue of Election appears to me based upon the question:  Did God foreordained those who could only accept the Gospel message or did He foreknow those that would?  As for me, there is no way that I can accept a God of love that foreordained His children to eternal damnation.  Consequently, I must come down on the side of the Arminians on this one issue.

In my next post, I will continue to examine several other the contested passages we have encountered along our journey.

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Eternal Security ~ Part 20

Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach

In my last post, we concluded our presentation of Election that we started in Eternal Security ~ Part 2.  In this post, I want to tackle the issue of the Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach.  Once those issues are fully addressed, I will move on to the contested passages before wrapping-up this series with my own personal position.

Unpardonable Sin

What is the Unpardonable Sin?  Interestingly, that phrase is not contained in the Bible.  It has developed over the years to refer to blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh“I tell you that people will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy, but blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh will not be forgiven” ~ Matthew 12:31.  Attributing to the Adversary the work of the Ruach can imperil the soul for eternity. “Someone who blasphemes against the Ruach HaKodesh never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin” ~ Mark 3:29. “Everyone who says something against the Son of Man will have it forgiven him; but whoever has blasphemed the Ruach HaKodesh will not be forgiven” ~ Luke 12:10.

Recall in Eternal Security ~ Part 2: Glossary of Terms, Unger stated:

This was a specific sin possible only during the earthly life of our Lord, when He was ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit. Under those unique conditions a person who attributed to Satan the power of the Holy Spirit, so visibly and openly manifested, was guilty of this peculiar sin. For this reason, there could be no forgiveness in the age then present or in the age immediately following. Since no such conditions exist in this age, the unpardonable sin is now impossible. An unpardonable sin and the gospel of “whosoever will” cannot coexist. Were such a sin possible today, every gospel invitation would specifically shut out those who had committed such a trespass.

In both Mathew and Mark, the context for Yeshua’s pronouncement is His defense against the P’rushim’s accusation that He was driving out demons under the power of Satan, not the Ruach.  The passage in Luke is contained in several mini-teachings to the talmidim on His way to Jerusalem.

With respect to Matthew 12:31, the ESV Study Bible [1] states:

The sin is attributing to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God, and doing this through the flagrant, willful, and persistent rejection of God and His commands. This sin is committed today only by unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation.

With respect to Mark 3:29, the ESV Study Bible states:

The opponents’ accusation against Jesus is the unforgivable, eternal sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Mark 3:28 emphasizes that “all sins will be forgiven,” anticipating the eternally valid, substitutionary atonement of Jesus. However, if a person persistently attributes to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God – that is, if one makes a flagrant, willful, decisive judgment that the Spirit’s testimony about Jesus is satanic – then such a person never has forgiveness.

With respect to Luke 12:10, the ESV Study Bible states:

Jesus closes this occasion of teaching his disciples with one of the most enigmatic, debated, and misunderstood sayings of His ministry. Key to understanding this passage is the distinction Jesus makes between, on one hand, the extreme case of blasphemy against “the Holy Spirit” and, on the other hand, the lesser case of speaking in a dishonorable way against “the Son of Man.” One who asks to be forgiven for disrespectful words hastily spoken against Jesus (the Son of Man) will be forgiven. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – that is, the persistent and unrepentant resistance against the work of the Holy Spirit and his message concerning Jesus – this, Jesus says, will not be forgiven. The person who persists in hardening his heart against God, against the work of the Holy Spirit, and against the provision of Christ as Savior, is outside the reach of God’s provision for forgiveness and salvation. Christians often worry that they have committed this sin, but such a concern is itself evidence of an openness to the work of the Spirit.

As we see, we have a difference of opinion between Unger and the authors of the ESV Study Bible on when the Unpardonable Sin can be committed.  Unger maintains that it was limited to when Yeshua was ministering on earth; while the ESV Study Bible it can still be committed by those unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation.  While I understand Unger’s position, I can’t reconcile it with the whole of Scripture.

What if someone after Yeshua’s ascension or even today were to repent of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  Is there no forgiveness for the person who repents of this sin?  Was Sha’ul sinning against the Ruach in the days when he persecuted Believers and even “trying to make them blaspheme” ~ Acts 26:11?  Evidently not!  He wrote to Timothy and stated: “I received mercy because I had acted in unbelief, not understanding what I was doing” ~ 1 Timothy 1:13.

A.W. Tozer has stated:

“I have discovered a very helpful rule in this matter. I believe it holds good throughout the whole church of God around the world. Anyone who is concerned about having committed the unpardonable sin may be sure he or she has not!” [2]

Grieving the Ruach

The concept of grieving the Ruach is found in Ephesians 4:30: “Don’t cause grief to God’s Ruach HaKodesh, for he has stamped you as his property until the day of final redemption.”   That the Ruach can be saddened or grieved points to the personality of the Ruach. The Ruach is a person who can be saddened by the way we live. Sha’ul has already explained that the Ruach’s power within gives new life to believers. While we continue to battle with our sinful nature, we should be living for Yeshua each day. To refuse to do so, to constantly give in to lying, anger, stealing, and foul talk is to grieve the Ruach of God. Because the Ruach controls and guides speech, praise, prophecy, and tongues, we offend him when we use them improperly.

Sha’ul reminded the readers that the Ruach within them gives both a privilege and a responsibility. Their responsibility is to not disappoint Him by the way they live; their privilege is their promised future, for through the presence of the Ruach, they were stamped until the day of redemption. The seal of the Ruach upon a Believer marks that Believer as God’s property until the day he or she is completely redeemed.

For further study, be sure to check out my friend Michael’s blog at Altruistico on “What Is the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?” and “What is the Unpardonable or Unforgiveable Sin?”

In my next post, I will begin to examine several of the contested passages we have encountered along our journey.

Click here for PDF version.

[1]  In my personal devotion time this year, I have been using the English Standard Study Bible as I re-read through the Brit Hadashah, Psalms and Proverbs.

[2] “Jesus, Author of Our Faith” by A.W. Tozer

Eternal Security ~ Part 19

Election

In my last post, we concluded our presentation of Arminian Theology.  In this post, I want to go back to Eternal Security ~ Part 2 to complete the definition of Election as it applies to the Calvinistic and Arminian Theology.

Recall that Unger defined the Biblical view of Election [1] as: “This word in the Scriptures has three distinct applications.

  1. To the divine choice of nations or communities for the possession of special privileges with reference to the performance of special services. Thus the Jews were “a chosen nation,” “the elect.” Thus also in the NT, bodies of Christian people, or churches, are called “the elect.”
  2. To the divine choice of individuals to a particular office or work. Thus Cyrus was elected of God to bring about the rebuilding of the Temple, and thus the twelve were chosen to be apostles and Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
  3. To the divine choice of individuals to be the children of God, and therefore heirs of heaven.”
The Calvinistic View of Election

The Westminster Confession, the standard of the Church of Scotland and of the various Presbyterian churches of Europe and America, contains the following statement:

“God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own free will freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw its future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes moving Him thereto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Therefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.”

In support of this doctrine several arguments are made by Calvinistic theologians: (1) According to the Scriptures election is not of works but of grace; and that it is not of works means that it is not what man does that determines whether he is to be one of the elect or not. For the descendants of Adam this life is not a probation. They stood their probation in Adam and do not stand each one for himself. (2) The sovereignty of God in electing men to salvation is shown by the fact that repentance and faith are gifts from God. These fruits of His Spirit are the consequences and signs of election and not its conditions. (3) The salvation that is of grace must be of grace throughout. The element of works or human merit must not be introduced at any point in the plan. And that would be the case if repentance and faith were the conditions of election. (4) The system of doctrine called Calvinistic, Augustinian, Pauline, should not be thus designated. That though taught clearly by Paul, particularly in Romans 8:9, it was taught also by others of the writers of sacred Scripture, and by Christ Himself. Reference is made to Matthew 11:25-26; Luke 4:25-27; Luke 8:10; John 6:37, 39. (5) That the sovereignty of God is evidenced in dispensing saving grace is illustrated also in His establishing the temporal conditions of mankind. Some are born and reared in the surroundings of civilization, others of barbarism. And precisely so some are blessed with the light of the gospel, while others, dwelling in pagan lands, are deprived of that light and consequently are not saved.

This system of strict Calvinism above outlined has received various modifications by theologians of the Calvinistic school. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, May 1903, adopted the following: “We believe that all who die in infancy, and all others given by the Father to the Son who are beyond the reach of the outward means of grace, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how He pleases.”

The Arminian View of Election

The Arminian view of election has been in recent years more generally accepted than formerly, even among denominations whose teaching has been Calvinistic or indefinite upon this point. This view grounds itself, in opposition to Calvinism, upon the universality of the atonement and the graciously restored freedom of the human will. Election, accordingly, is not absolute but conditional, contingent upon the proper acceptance of such gifts of grace as God by His Spirit and providence puts within the reach of men.

Inasmuch as this subject involves the character and method of the divine government and the destiny of the entire race, the following should be said:

  • According to the Arminian doctrine the purpose of God to redeem mankind was bound up with His purpose to create. The Lamb of God was “slaughtered before the world was founded” (Revelation 13:8). God would not have permitted a race of sinners to come into existence without provision to save them. Such provision must not be for only a part but for the whole of the fallen race. To suppose the contrary is opposed to the divine perfections. To doom to eternal death any number of mankind who were born in sin and without sufficient remedy would be injustice.
  • The benefits of the atonement are universal and in part unconditional. They are unconditional with respect to those who, through no fault of their own, are in such a mental or moral condition as to make it impossible for them either to accept or reject Christ. A leading denomination emphasizes the doctrine that “all children, by virtue of the unconditional benefits of the atonement, are members of the kingdom of God.” This principle extends to others besides children, both in heathen and Christian lands. God alone is competent to judge the extent to which, in varying degrees, human beings are responsible, and therefore the extent to which the unconditional benefits of the atonement may be applied.
  • The purpose or decree of God is to save all who do not, actually or implicitly, willfully reject the saving offices of the Lord Jesus Christ. Among those who have not heard the Gospel may exist “the spirit of faith and the purpose of righteousness.” Thus even those who have no knowledge of the historic Christ virtually determine whether or not they will be saved through Christ. They to whom the Gospel is preached have higher advantages and more definite responsibilities. To them, repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are the conditions of salvation.
  • Upon all men, God bestows some measure of His grace, restoring to the depraved will sufficient freedom to enable them to accept Christ and be saved. Thus, in opposition to Calvinists, Arminians assert that not only Adam, but also his depraved descendants are in a stage of probation.

In behalf of this doctrine the following is argued:

  1. That the whole trend of the Scriptures is to declare the responsibility of men and their actual power to choose between life and death.
  1. That the Scriptures explicitly teach that it is the will of God that all men should be saved. Only those perish who wickedly resist His will (1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; John 5:40; Acts 7:51).
  1. That the Scriptures declare the universality of Christ’s atonement, and in some degree the universality of its benefits (Hebrews 2:9; John 1:29; John 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:18-19; and many other passages).
  1. That the doctrine of unconditional election necessarily implies that of unconditional reprobation; and that is to charge God with cruelty.
  1. That unconditional election also necessarily implies the determinate number of the elect, a point that Calvinists hold, though they admit that they have for it no explicit teaching of Scripture. To the contrary, the Scriptures not only generally but particularly teach that the number of the elect can be increased or diminished. This is the purport of all those passages in which sinners are exhorted to repent, or Believers warned against becoming apostate, or to “make certain about His calling and choosing you” (Matthew 24:4, 13; 2 Peter 1:10).
  1. That the Scriptures never speak of impenitent and unbelieving men as elect, as in some cases it would be proper to do if election were antecedent to repentance and faith and not conditioned thereby.
  1. That the whole theory of unconditional election is of the same tendency with fatalism.
  1. That the logic of unconditional election is opposed to true evangelism.
  1. That the essential features of the Arminian doctrine of election belong to the primitive and truly historic doctrine of the church. Augustine was the first prominent teacher of unconditional election, and he, regardless of the logical inconsistency, granted that reprobation is not unconditional. This doctrine of Augustine was first formally accepted by the church in a.d. 529, in the Canons of the Council of Orange, approved by Pope Boniface II. The prominence of unconditional election in the theory of Protestantism is due largely to the influence and work of John Calvin, who not only set forth the Augustinian doctrine of unconditional election, but also taught unconditional reprobation. John Wesley and his followers were responsible in a large degree for reviving and developing the doctrine of Arminius.

The limits of this post do not permit an examination of the contested passages of Scripture. But as we used to say in our retreats: “The best is yet to come.”  In my next post, I want to tackle the issue of the Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach.  Once those issues are fully addressed, I will move on to the contested passages before wrapping-up this series with my own personal position.

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[1] New Unger’s Bible Dictionary by Merrill F. Unger provide all three views of Election.

Eternal Security ~ Part 13

Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 4

In my last post, we began to unpack the Five Points of Calvinism.   In this post, we will conclude our unpacking of the Five Points of Calvinism, as well as looking at Moody’s Summary Evaluation of Calvinistic Theology.  As a reminder, in order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Irresistible Grace

Grace “is the unmerited favor of God.” Calvinists emphasize the necessity of God’s grace in salvation. If man can do nothing to save himself, then God must act; God must provide grace in order that man might be saved. That is the work of irresistible grace, which is also referred to as special or efficacious (because it is effective) grace.

Opponents of this doctrine might suggest that if grace is irresistible then God forces someone to come against his own will. That is not the idea of irresistible grace, according to Calvinists. It does not make someone come contrary to his will. Rather, irresistible grace makes the individual willing to come. Irresistible grace is the supernatural work of God whereby He works in the soul of the individual, changing the entire nature by the Ruach’s operation.

In the logic of Calvinism, God, through His Spirit, draws precisely those whom God unconditionally elected from eternity past and Jesus died for. Thus the purpose of God is accomplished. He elected certain ones, Jesus died for those very ones, and now through the Rauch, God dispenses His irresistible grace to them to make them willing to come. They do not want to resist. Continue reading “Eternal Security ~ Part 13”

Eternal Security ~ Part 12

Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 3

In my last post, we began to explore Five Points of Calvinism and the Doctrinal Affirmations of Calvinistic Theology.  In this post, we will continue to unpack the Five Points of Calvinism.   As a reminder, in order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Total Depravity

The word depravity means that because of sin’s corruption “there is nothing man can do to merit saving favor with God,” while total means that depravity “has extended to all aspects of man’s nature, to his entire being.” Calvin defined man’s depraved estate as follows: “All men are conceived in sin, and born the children of wrath, indisposed to all saving good propense [leaning or inclining toward, disposed] to evil, dead in sin, and the slaves of sin; and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they neither are willing nor able to return to God, to correct their depraved nature, or to dispose themselves to the correction of it.”

The Scriptures emphasize the depravity of man by man’s continual sinning (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18). The reason is that man is born a fallen creature with the pollution of sin (Psalm 51:5). Depravity also affirms the inability of man to do good (Matthew 7:17-18; John 15:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:3). Depravity further affirms man’s inability to understand the good (Matthew 13:14; John 1:11; 8:43; Acts 16:14; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; Ephesians 4:18). Depravity also indicates man cannot desire the good (Matthew 7:18; John 3:3; 6:44; 8:43; 15:4-5; Ephesians 2:1). Continue reading “Eternal Security ~ Part 12”

Eternal Security ~ Part 11

Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore the basic tenets of Calvinistic Theology as well as its spread and affirmation to the faithful.  In my next post, we will begin to explore the Five Points of Calvinism and the Doctrinal Affirmations of Calvinistic Theology.    In order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Five Points of Calvinism

Calvin did not author the so-called “five points of Calvinism.” They originated at the Synod of Dort (1619) and are also a result of affirming the uniqueness of Calvinism over the centuries since. God as sovereign was central in the theology of Calvin, and that is reflected in the five points. The five points emphasize God in His sovereignty and grace but also man in his depravity and sin. The five points are popularly named: Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace; and Perseverance of the Saints. (Theologians have nicknamed these points T.U.L.I.P., a popular acronym based on the first letters of the doctrines.)

These five concepts are arranged logically and are contingent upon one another. If man is totally depraved, then he is unable to make an initial response to God; God must call man to salvation through unconditional election. God also makes provision for those whom He calls to salvation by the death of Jesus; He secures their salvation by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit and keeps them secure in order that they might receive the eternal life He has promised them. The accompanying table and the discussion that follows will give a more detailed explanation. Continue reading “Eternal Security ~ Part 11”

Eternal Security ~ Part 10

Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 1

In my last post, we looked at the influence that Calvin had on theology, education and church government.  In this post, we will begin to explore the basic tenets of Calvinistic Theology as well as its spread and affirmation to the faithful.  In order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

The theology of Calvinism or the Reformed faith finds its roots in the writings of John Calvin, particularly as expressed in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin’s theology centers on the sovereignty of God, the other doctrines being tied to that premise. The theology of Calvin is restated in the form of many confessional statements that have been adhered to over the centuries in Europe, Britain, and America.

Spread of Calvinism

John Calvin’s influence was felt throughout Europe as his doctrinal teachings spread quickly. The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563 by friends of Calvin, influenced the Reformed churches in Holland, Germany, and America. The Belgic Confession, written in 1561 by Guy de Bray, became the standard of belief in the Dutch Reformed church. The Synod of Dort met in 1618-1619, condemned Arminianism and the Remonstrants (a doctrinal statement embodying the teachings of Jacobus Arminius), and reaffirmed Calvinistic doctrine as expressed in the Heidelberg and Belgic Confessions.

Colonization of America brought Calvinism to the North American shores. The standards of the Westminster Confession became the doctrine of the Presbyterian churches.

The Synod of Dort

In the Netherlands a conflict arose between the followers of Jacobus Arminius and the Calvinists. Calvinism was attacked for its teaching of predestination and reprobation as well as for other issues. The States General called a synod in 1618 to settle the issue, but the Arminians did not come as equals. Rather, the Remonstrants were summoned to present their doctrines, which were subsequently condemned. The synod reaffirmed the Heidelberg and Belgic Confessions. The following points were affirmed at Dort and are given here in synthesized form.

  • Of divine predestination. All men sinned in Adam and lie under the curse, but God made provision for salvation through the death of Yeshua. The fact that some and not others receive the gift of faith stems from God’s eternal decree of election [1] and reprobation. Election is unconditional, not based on God’s foreknowledge; before the foundation of the world and purely out of His grace and according to His sovereign good pleasure, God chose some to salvation. The non-elect are left to condemnation, yet God is not the author of sin.
  • Of the death of Yeshua. While the death of Yeshua is of infinite value and sufficient to save the whole world, His atoning death extends to the elect only.
  • Of the corruption of man and his conversion to God. Man was created in the image of God, but through the sin of Adam all mankind is corrupted. Sin has passed to the human race so that all people are born in sin and are children of wrath. But while man is incapable of saving himself, God accomplishes salvation for elect individuals through the operation of the Holy Spirit. Those whom He has chosen in eternity, He calls effectually in time. The faith that realizes salvation is itself a gift.
  • Of the perseverance of the saints. Whom God calls, He also delivers from the dominion and slavery of sin. Since God is faithful, He preserves those who believe to the end.
Westminster Confession

The Westminster Confession arose out of the stormy political scene in England during the reign of Charles I. Charles met with resistance when he attempted to impose episcopacy on the Church of Scotland and to conform its services to the Church of England’s Common Book of Prayer. A civil war erupted and Oliver Cromwell led the Puritan forces to victory. Charles I was beheaded in the process. In 1643 the English parliament commissioned the Westminster Assembly to develop the creed of the Church of England. The 121 English Puritan ministers met for 1,163 daily sessions from 1643 to 1649. The Westminster Confession of Faith, completed in 1646, affirmed a strong Calvinistic position and disavowed “the errors of Arminianism Roman Catholicism, and sectarianism.”

The following points summarize the Westminster Confession of Faith:

  • Scripture. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments are recognized to provide “divine inspiration, authority, and sufficiency as an infallible rule of faith and practice.” The traditions of Roman Catholicism, the Apocrypha, and humanism are to be rejected.
  • God. God, who is infinite in His being, exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He is absolutely sovereign, having from all eternity, by His own free will, ordained whatever comes to pass. The triune God has created the world out of nothing in the space of six days. God, in His providence, upholds all things by His sovereign authority.
  • Man. Man fell from original righteousness and became dead in sin, that sin and death being imputed to all mankind. God originally entered into a covenant of works with Adam, but when he sinned, God enacted the covenant of grace. In his sin man lost all ability to will anything spiritually good.
  • Christ. Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father; became virgin born; as the God-Man became the Mediator, offering a perfect sacrifice. Yeshua purchased reconciliation for all those whom the Father has given Him.
  • Salvation. Through His Word and His Spirit, God effectually calls all those whom He has predestined to eternal life. He renews their spirit and draws them to Jesus Christ. Hence, salvation is entirely by grace. God justifies these believers, declaring them righteous; He adopts them as His children; and He sanctifies them. Saving faith is a gift of the Spirit of Christ. Repentance is a doctrine to be preached along with saving faith. Good works are the fruit of a true faith.
  • Perseverance. Those whom God has saved can neither totally nor finally fall away from grace but shall persevere to the end and be eternally saved.
  • Assurance. Only true believers will have assurance that they are in the state of grace; unbelievers will not have that assurance.
  • Worship. God is to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served with all the heart, soul, and might. Worship is to be accorded the Father, Son, and Spirit and no one else. Prayer is to be offered to God. A lawful oath may be part of religious worship.
  • Civil duties. God has appointed those in authority, and believers ought to pray for them; believers may also be called on to serve as magistrates.
  • Divorce. Marriage is between one man and one woman. The innocent party may divorce when adultery or fornication has taken place.
  • Church. The universal church consists of the whole number of the elect; the visible church consists of those who confess their faith. All believers are united to Yeshua and are in a holy fellowship in the worship of God. The sacraments are the seals of the covenant of grace. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation or sacramental union. Baptism is a sacrament and also a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. Baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water on the person. The Lord’s Supper is spiritual nourishment and promotes growth in Yeshua. No remission of sins is made in communion; it is a commemoration. Yeshua has given authority to the church officers in which they enact church discipline. For the better government of the church there ought to be synods or councils.
  • Death and judgment. After death, bodies return to dust, but the soul immediately returns to God: the righteous are received into heaven; the wicked into hell. All authority has been given to Yeshua who will judge the world in righteousness.

In my next post, we will begin to explore the Five Points of Calvinism and the Doctrinal Affirmations of Calvinistic Theology.

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[1] I will be dealing with the concept of election in subsequent posts.  For now, see the definition in Eternal Security ~ Part 2.