Eternal Security ~ Part 18

Arminian Theology ~ Part 4

In my last post, we continued to drill down into Arminian Theology.  In this post, we will conclude our presentation of Arminian Theology.  As a reminder, in order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Calvinistic Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Terms of Salvation

Human responsibility in salvation involves knowledge of sin, turning from sin, turning toward God, and faith in Christ. Repentance has the idea of change. To repent means that sin must be forsaken; change has taken place. Repentance, therefore, involves action; moreover, repentance, comes before faith.

John Wesley (an Arminian) defined saving faith in three terms: (1) to put one’s trust in the mercy and forgiveness of God; (2) to receive assurance in the Believer’s life for instance, that Jesus is the Son of God; (3) to express reliance upon Christ, turning one’s life over to Christ as Lord. For Wesley, belief is ultimately expressed in obedience. This is in agreement with Arminians today who also emphasize the importance of works as a condition or result of salvation.

Meaning of the Atonement

Arminians generally hold to the governmental view of the death of Christ, which, as taught by Grotius, teaches that Christ did not die a substitutionary death for sinners. Christ suffered to satisfy the justice or government of God. Instead of dying for mankind, Christ made a “token payment” that satisfied the government of God. God therefore sets aside the requirement of the law and forgives sinners on the basis that His government has been upheld and honored.

Extent of the Atonement

Arminians teach that the atonement of Christ was universal. “This does not mean that all mankind will be unconditionally saved, but that the sacrificial offering of Christ so far satisfied the claims of the divine law as to make salvation a possibility for all.” The provision of Christ in His atonement is for everyone; it is sufficient for everyone to be saved (although not all are). The Scriptures emphasize universal provision (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8, 18; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 10:29; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2; 4:14). Since Christ made provision for all, the proclamation of the Gospel is to all (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47).

Arminians also teach that the benefit of the atonement includes the following:

(1) The continued existence of the race. It is hardly conceivable that the race would have been allowed to multiply in its sin and depravity, had no provision been made for its salvation.

(2) The restoration of all men to a state of solvability. The atonement provided for all men unconditionally, the free gift of grace. This included the restoration of the Holy Spirit to the race as the Spirit of enlightenment, striving and conviction. Thus man is not only given the capacity for a proper probation, but is granted the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit.

(3) The salvation of those who die in infancy. We must regard the atonement as accomplishing the actual salvation of those who die in infancy.

Salvation May Be Lost

Arminians have adhered to the doctrine that believers can lose their salvation. Although Arminius himself did not clearly state that Believers could be lost, his conclusions pointed in that direction. Arminius taught that man is saved by grace but not apart from his free will. The will remains free. Arminius emphasized that the free will had to concur in perseverance, otherwise the Believer could be lost.

John Wesley also taught that the believer may “make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish forever.” The basis for losing one’s salvation is found in passages like Luke 13:14; Colossians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 6:4-6; and 1 Peter 1:10.

Summary Evaluation of Arminian Theology

Arminianism stresses a number of important features. The emphasis on man’s responsibility is surely a Biblical factor: man must believe to be saved (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). If man refuses to believe, he is lost (John 5:40; 7:17). Arminianism’s emphasis on the universality of the atonement is also biblical (1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2).

Several features within Arminianism should be evaluated:

(1) Arminianism denies the imputation of sin; no one is condemned eternally because of original sin. Man is condemned because of his own sins. This appears at variance with Romans 5:12-21.

(2) Though variously interpreted, Arminians generally teach that the effects of the Fall were erased through prevenient grace bestowed on all men, enabling individuals to cooperate with God in salvation. There is, however, no clear indication of this kind of prevenient grace in Scripture.

(3) Arminians teach that the Fall did not destroy man’s free will; furthermore, they teach that prevenient grace moves upon the heart of the unbeliever, enabling him to cooperate with God in salvation by an act of the will. While it is true that man must bear responsibility in responding to the gospel (John 5:40), man’s will has been affected because of the Fall (Romans 3:11-12; Ephesians 2:1); man needs God’s grace in order to be saved (Ephesians 2:8; Acts 13:48; 16:14).

(4) Arminians relate predestination to God’s foreknowledge of man’s actions. They stress that God knew beforehand who would believe, and He elected those. In Arminianism, election and predestination are conditioned by faith. The word foreknowledge (Gk. prognosis), however, is basically equivalent to election (cf. Romans 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20). The data of God’s foreknowledge originates in advanced planning, not in advanced information.

(5) Arminianism stresses human participation and responsibility in salvation: recognition of sin, turning from sin, repentance, confession, and faith. For Arminianism, repentance involves change of actions, forsaking sins, whereas the biblical word repentance (Gk. metanoia) means “change of mind.” Although the stress on human responsibilities is significant, if it involves multiple conditions for salvation, this stress becomes a serious matter because the purity of salvation-by-grace-alone is then at stake. The sole condition of salvation stressed in scores of Scriptures is faith in Christ (John 3:16, 36; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9).

(6) Arminianism teaches that Believers may lose their salvation because the human will remains free and so may rescind its earlier faith in Christ by choosing sin. Frequently this view is based on controversial passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 and 2 Peter 2:20-22. The clear emphasis of Scripture, however, is that the Believer has eternal life as a present possession (John 3:16; 1 John 5:11-13) and is kept secure by Christ (John 10:28) because of what He has done (Romans 5:1; 8:1).

In my next post, I want to go back to the topic of Election which we briefly defined in Eternal Security ~ Part 2 as it applies to the Calvinistic and Arminian Theology.

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Eternal Security ~ Part 2

Glossary of Terms

In my last post, I introduced this new series and began to answer the question of … Can Salvation Be Lost?   I stated: The reason I want to tackle this topic is simply because I want to know in my knower and heart what it is I really believe about eternal security.”   So, let’s get started.

In this post, I thought it might be helpful to start with a basic glossary of terms that will be discussed in more detail in this series, but may not be widely understood.  Unless otherwise stated, all definitions are from the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary by Merrill F. Unger.  I’ve taken the liberty of editing some of the definitions for brevity.  As most of my readers know, my default Bible is the Complete Jewish Bible translated by David H. Stern.

Apostasy A “falling away.” The common classical use of the word has to do with a political defection (see Genesis 14:4, 2 Chronicles 13:6, Acts 5:37). In the NT its more usual meaning is that of a religious defection (see Acts 21:21; 1 Tim. 4:1; Hebrews 3:12). This is called “apostasy from the faith:” a secession from the church, and a disowning of the name of Christ. The grave nature of apostasy is shown by such passages as Hebrews 10:26-29, 2 Peter 2:15-21, and John 15:22. Apostasy as the act of a professed Christian, who knowingly and deliberately rejects revealed truth regarding the deity of Christ (1 John 4:1-3) and redemption through His atoning sacrifice (Phil. 3:18; 2 Peter 2:1) is different from error, which may be the result of ignorance (Acts 19:1-6), or heresy, which may be the result of falling into the snare of Satan (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Both error and heresy may accordingly be consistent with true faith. On the other hand, apostasy departs from the faith but not from the outward profession of it (2 Tim. 3:5). Apostasy, whether among the angels (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:15; Jude 1:6), in Israel (Isaiah 1:1-6; Isaiah 5:5-7), or in the church (Revelation 3:14-16) is irremediable and awaits judgment. Mankind’s apostasy in Adam (Genesis 3:6-7) is curable only through the sacrifice of Christ. Apostates apparently can only be professors and not actual possessors of true salvation, otherwise their defection would incur severe chastening or, if this failed to restore them, untimely (physical) death (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Cor. 11:32; 1 John 5:16).
Assurance A term brought into theology from the Scriptures, sometimes used broadly by theologians as referring to certitude respecting the validity of Christian revelation; most commonly employed to denote the firm persuasion of one’s own salvation. The latter must of course include the former. In experience the two are closely connected. In both senses assurance is a product of the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:2; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22).

As to the assurance of personal salvation it must be emphasized that this must not be confused with the eternal security of a genuine Believer. The latter is a fact due to God’s faithfulness whether it is realized by the Believer or not, whereas the former is that which one believes is true respecting himself at any given moment.

Election Unger divides his definition based upon the subject:  Biblical Meaning, The Calvinistic View and the Armenian view.  Here is the Biblical Meaning:  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.
We will look at The Calvinistic View and the Armenian view when we examine each doctrine.
Security The doctrine that maintains the continuation of salvation for those who are saved. It must be distinguished from the doctrine of assurance. It must also be clearly remembered that it concerns only the regenerate (saved). The doctrine of security is based upon twelve undertakings of God for His people, four related to the Father, four to the Son, and four to the Holy Spirit.  I will unpack these undertakings in my next post.
Unpardonable Sin 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 (Matthew 12:22-32; Mark 3:22-30). 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.  My Note: This is not the same as grieving the Holy Spirt found in Ephesians 4:30.

The following are only brief definitions which I will spend whole posts unpacking.
Both definitions are from The Moody Handbook on Theology by Paul Enns

Arminianism A doctrinal system formed by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) as a reaction to Calvinism in the Netherlands. These beliefs were later affirmed in the five points of the Remonstrance:

1.    Conditional election based on God’s foreknowledge.
2.    Unlimited atonement.
3.    Although man has a free will he cannot save himself.
4.    Prevenient grace, which enables man to cooperate with God in salvation.
5.    Conditional perseverance – Believers can be lost.

Calvinism A doctrinal system expressed in the following five points formulated by John Calvin, frequently referred to with the acronym ~ TULIP.

1.    Total depravity of man.
2.    Unconditional election.
3.    Limited atonement.
4.    Irresistible grace.
5.    Perseverance of the saints.

The sovereignty of God is central in Calvinism.

In my next post, we will start to unpack the topic of Eternal Security.

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Eternal Security ~ Part 1

In my last post, we wrapped-up our series on the Christian Torah.  However, in What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 11, we left one topic hanging ~ Can Salvation Be Lost?  We were looking at the Parable of the Talents.  I stated that:

This is a topic I hope to cover in more depth in future posts.  But suffice it to say that this parable, seems to imply that a servant on the inside is thrown outside when judgment falls.  Christian churches are divided on whether a person saved by faith in Yeshua can lose his or her salvation.

Here’s what we can know from the Bible:

  • There is no security apart from Yeshua. He saves us, keeps us, and promises heavenly happiness after a life of faith and service. Only Yeshua can do that. Rest only on him.
  • The security we enjoy in God’s promises should not make us presumptuous. Don’t become cocky with God. Don’t assume that God must let you in, that you can demand entrance, that you have a right!
  • Live each day in faith, believing in God’s great promises, dedicating your time and talent to God’s work, loving your Messianic brothers and sisters, being generous with the weak and poor. Your life is secure in Yeshua, but what you do with your day is often your own choice. Make choices that please God.

In this new series, I want to answer the question for myself … Can Salvation Be Lost?

You may be wondering why this question is important to me.  Do I doubt my salvation?  I can categorically respond: “NO!”  Do I have some sick need to start a debate between the followers of this blog?  Again, the answer is: “NO!”  Am I afraid that I might have committed an unpardonable sin?  “NO!”  So why am I writing about this?  The simple answer is because elephant’s have flat feet.  Oh, wait a minute, that’s what I used to tell my kids when they asked a “why” question.  Sorry about that, old habits die hard.

The reason I want to tackle this topic is simply because I want to know in my knower and heart what it is I really believe about eternal security.

To me, I have traveled an interesting path in my walk with Yeshua.  I was raised in the Episcopal Church with all its creeds, catechisms and traditions.  All I knew from what I was taught was that if I believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that He was crucified and rose on the third day, my sins were forgiven and I would go to heaven.  I thought that was easy enough, so I bought into that belief.  I became quite religious as a result.  The problem was that I didn’t even know that I could have a personal relationship with the Lord of Lord and the King of Kings.  I don’t recall one sermon or Sunday School class on the issue of eternal security.  It wasn’t until I went through my own mid-life crisis at the age of 32 that I learned from some fellow lay Episcopalians that I could have such a personal relationship.  (See my About the Author page for more details.)

As I began to grow in my faith, I was exposed to the topic of the unpardonable sin.  It was at this time that I was exposed to the teachings of Jacobus Arminius who maintained that salvation could be lost.  It made sense to me given my understanding of man’s free will to accept or reject the teachings of the Bible.

While working at the City of Jacksonville, Florida, I began attending a Men’s Morning Bible Study hosted by First Baptist Church of Jacksonville on my way into the office.  “First B” was huge!  It covered seven (7) blocks in downtown Jacksonville.  When I went to work for the City I was told that the best parking available was in one of their three multi-story parking garages.  The study was held in one of their buildings between my parking garage and City Hall.  Needless to say, I was exposed to some of the teachings of John Calvin ~ “once saved, always saved.”   I wasn’t buying it, but it wasn’t an issue that I felt strong enough over to break fellowship.  After all, we were just doing a Bible study, the issue only came up infrequently and they readily accepted this kippah wearing Messianic Believer.

Fast forward several years to 2014 when I was asked to assist my present church develop the curriculum for a basic discipleship training program.  Rather than using some of the material readily available on the market, we wanted to develop our own to reflect the culture of our congregants.  At the time there were three of us writing on various topics.  One of mine was Assurance of Salvation.  [I’ll be using that material in a latter post.]  Big Valley Grace Community Church is currently non-denominational but has a rich history of evolving from a Brethren background and still have many Brethren in attendance.

I pointed out that getting into the topic of Assurance of Salvation would naturally lead to questions on the issue of Eternal Security, so I asked what the church’s position on that was.  Apparently, it’s a mixed bag.  So, I suggested that we present a brief description of the two main doctrinal positions on the subject and inserted the following note in the Leader Guide:

SPECIAL NOTE:  Ensure they do not confuse assurance of salvation with eternal security.  Although information is contained in the section on Eternal Security, it should only be discussed if the issue is raised by the student(s).  Remember, the topic of Eternal Security has divided many believers over the years.  As the students mature in their faith, they need to carefully meditate on God’s Word and come to their own conclusions on this issue.

I was then confronted with the issue in the Christian Torah series mentioned above.  My good friend, Wally Fry, over at Truth in Palmyra wrote on the subject recently taking a position different than my thinking.  And, just this last weekend my Pastor preached a message on Eternal Security as he was taking us through Romans.  Ok, Lord, I get the picture.  You want me to come to an understanding of what it is I personally believe on this topic.  So here we are.

Over the course of the next several posts, we will be examining the topics of election, free-will, assurance, apostasy, eternal security, Calvinism, Arminianism, Universalism, grieving the Holy Spirit, unpardonable sin, backsliding, and any other topic that seems germane to what we are discussing.  And, I hope that we will discuss this topic in the comments section.

I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m just one beggar on the road of salvation willing to share a morsel of bread with my fellow travelers.  My goal is not to convince you of any particular position of this topic, but to share with you my journey as I discover what I believe and why.  I’m fortunate to have an extensive electronic library of commentaries and books on theology which I will be drawing from in addition to the most important resource, God’s Word.

May God richly bless us on our travel together.

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What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 11

In my last post, we began to look at the Parable of the Talents and what transpired with the first two servants.  In this post, we will conclude the parable by examining the third servant who was given only one talent.

The Parable of the Talents ~ Part 2

One

“Now the one who had received one talent came forward and said, ‘I knew you were a hard man. You harvest where you didn’t plant and gather where you didn’t sow seed.  I was afraid, so I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here! Take what belongs to you!’  ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’ said his master, ‘So you knew, did you, that I harvest where I haven’t planted? and that I gather where I didn’t sow seed?  Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would at least have gotten back interest with my capital!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten.  For everyone who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he does have will be taken away.  As for this worthless servant, throw him out in the dark, where people will wail and grind their teeth!’” ~  Matthew 25:24-30

We can only speculate how this last servant reasoned.  All we know is that he was afraid.  Perhaps this last servant was thinking only of himself.  He hoped to play it safe and protect himself from his hard master, but he had accomplished nothing for him.  His words to the master reveal a self-centered character.  He accused his master of being hard and exploiting the labors of others.  You harvest where you didn’t plant and gather where you didn’t sow seed. Continue reading “What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 11”