John 15 – The Vine and the Branches

stormsDr. Sam Storms: Article – The Vine, the Branches and Christian Perseverance (original source here)

A lot of people struggle with John 15:1-11 and our Lord’s teaching on the vine and the branches. This week I’ve been looking at the question of the relationship between professed faith in Christ and consistent obedience to his commands. This passage speaks directly to the issue. Let’s look closely at it.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:1-11)

Here we read that God, as the Vinedresser, lovingly “prunes” believers (v. 2), i.e., cleanses, purges, and purifies them of whatever does not contribute to their spiritual maturity (or fruitfulness). This might occur in any number of ways: discipline, teaching, testing, etc. The debate centers on what God does with the fruitless branches, and what the latter represent. There have generally been three views of this passage.

One popular view is that the “fruitless branches” are genuine Christians who, because of their fruitlessness, or because of their failure to persevere in holiness of life, lose their salvation. When Jesus says these branches will be “thrown into the fire, and burned” (v. 6b), he is referring to eternal punishment in hell. Continue reading

Many Hear the Gospel with Joy but Don’t Continue in the Faith

“Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You” (Matt. 12:47, NASB). But Jesus answers, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” (v. 48, NASB). Then, indicating His disciples, He says: “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (vv. 49–50, NASB). Jesus says that His true brother is the one who does the will of the Father, not one who simply makes a decision to follow Him.

We should always keep in mind that nobody forced Judas to become a disciple. Judas chose to follow Jesus; he made his own decision to enter the school of Jesus, and he stayed with our Lord during His earthly ministry for three years. Yet we are told that he was a devil (John 6:70). It wasn’t that Judas was genuinely converted and then fell out of grace and was lost; rather, although he was close to Jesus, he was never a converted man. That ought to give us pause as we consider the states of our own souls.

A little later in the book of Matthew, Jesus gives an explanation of His parable of the sower. It is one of the rare times in the Gospel accounts where we are given an explanation of a parable. That explanation is most helpful because this parable differs from normal parabolic instruction. Most parables have just one point. It is generally dangerous, therefore, to turn parables into allegories, which tend to have symbolic meanings sprinkled throughout the story. But the parable of the sower approaches the level of an allegory as Jesus makes several points of application.

Jesus begins His explanation by saying: “Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path” (Matt. 13:18–19). The first group He is talking about is represented by the seed that fell on the path. In antiquity, at planting time, a farmer sowed his seed first, then plowed the ground. But any seed that fell on a roadway or pathway was not plowed under. Lying on the hardened path, it had no way to take root, and was devoured by birds. Jesus likens the birds to Satan. Many people are like this seed. They hear the preaching of the gospel, but it makes no impact on them. It does not take root in their lives.

Jesus continues, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (vv. 20–21).

If you go to an evangelistic meeting or watch one on TV, you may see huge crowds thronging to the front of the church in response to the call of the gospel. In fact, I once saw a report about a massive international evangelistic campaign in which millions of people supposedly had made decisions for Christ. When I read that, I wondered how many of those decisions for Christ were true conversions and how many of them were spurious. People like what they hear at these events and can be emotionally moved to make a decision to follow Christ. However, it is an established fact that many of those who come forward at evangelistic meetings soon abandon their commitments altogether. Their spur-of-the-moment responses are often groundless.

I don’t want to be too harsh in my response to reports about the successes of evangelistic events. I recognize that all outreach ministries face the problem of measuring their effectiveness. Churches generally do it by reporting the number of members in their congregations and how much they have grown over a period of time. Evangelistic ministries often do it by reporting the number of people who come to the front, raise a hand, sign a card, or pray a prayer. These ministries want to have some kind of statistic to measure the response people are making.

But how does one measure a spiritual reality? Anyone who has been involved in evangelism knows that we cannot see the heart, so the next best thing is to count the number of decisions that people make. But Jesus warns us about that here in the parable of the sower when He says that many people hear the gospel with joy—but they don’t continue in the faith. This second type of seed falls on stony ground—ground that is so shallow the seed cannot put down roots, and as soon as the sun comes up, the seedlings begin to wither. The result is that they die away and never bear fruit. Jesus tells us that these people fall away because of the tribulations and persecutions that inevitably arise in the way of faith.”

Explaining the third type of seed, Jesus says, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). This seed represents a category of people who also hear and receive the Word, but who are overwhelmed by the cares of this world. Like thorns, worldly cares “choke the word.”

Lastly, Jesus says: “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit” (Matt. 13:23a).

Clearly, then, there are many who respond to the message of the gospel with joy but ultimately do not continue in the faith. Not everyone who hears the Word of God is saved, and the same is true for many who respond to it initially. Those who are genuinely saved are those who prove themselves to be doers of the Word. When the seed takes root and grows, there is fruit.

What would it mean if a child of God were finally and forever lost?

Sam Storms:

Have you paused to consider what would be true were it possible for one of God’s blood-bought children to fall fully and finally from saving grace? Often I hear people casually speak of “losing” their salvation. But there would be far more involved were it possible for a justified-by-faith-alone-in-Jesus-alone believer to suffer eternal damnation. I was awakened to this yet again on reading Marcus Johnson’s excellent book, One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation (Crossway). Here is how Johnson put it:

“When God joins us to Christ through faith, he is making real in our temporal lives what he has already decreed in his eternal will and accomplished in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of his Son. To be severed from the Son would require that the Father rescind what he has already decreed and accomplished. Every benefit that we have received from being united to Christ would have to be undone. Having already justified us in Christ, God would have to re-condemn us and repeal our participation in Christ’s righteousness; having already sanctified us in Christ, God would have to reverse our baptism into Christ’s death, burial, and new resurrection life; having already adopted us in Christ, God would have to make us orphans; having already resurrected us with Christ and raised us in his ascension, God would have to lower us into death and cast us from the heavenly realms; and having already glorified us in Christ, God would have to terminate the end to which he appointed all of his blessings. In sum, having joined us to Christ, God would have to dismember the body of Christ” (175-76).

So, may I suggest that you be careful should you ever find yourself questioning the reality of the saints’ perseverance in faith, fully and finally unto the end. To argue that a redeemed and reconciled child of God can undergo un-redemption and un-reconciliation is to destroy God’s eternal purpose that he ordained for us in Christ. Praise be to God that his unshakable determination is “to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24b)!

Can a True Christian Be Blotted from the Book of Life?

Piper11Can I Be Blotted from the Book of Life?

John Piper answers – original source the Bible mentions the phrase ‘the book of life’ about fourteen times, and quite a few of those passages mention getting blotted out of the book of life. How does this NOT mean losing your salvation?” What would you say Pastor John?

When it comes to the doctrine of eternal security or perseverance of the saints, we need to speak with precision. And I think it is not quite precise to say, as Charles does, in quite a few of the Scriptures it mentions you can be blotted out of the book of life. I don’t think it ever says you can be blotted out, at least not in the sense that sometimes God does it. It says we will be blotted out if we fail to meet certain conditions. Now whether that ever happens or in God’s sovereignty can happen is another question. I don’t think so and let me try to show why.

The book of Revelation is the book that refers to this most often and it is the book that has the text that sounds most problematical, I think. Revelation 3:5 says, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

Now some say: Well, that is a foolproof text against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or eternal security. They assume that when Revelation 3:5 says that God will not erase a person’s name from the book of life, it implies that he does erase some people from the book of life, and that these people would once be born again, justified, saved, and, nevertheless, in the end condemned, lost, and perish. In other words, they lose their salvation on that reading of the verse.

But is that a true assumption?

The promise: “I will not erase his name from the book of life” does not necessarily imply that some do have their names erased. It simply says, to the one who is in the book, and who conquers in faith: I will never wipe your name out. In other words, being erased is a fearful prospect, which I will not allow to happen to those who persevere. In fact, there are two other passages in Revelation that teach that to have your name in the book of life means that you will most definitely persevere and conquer and thus meet the condition not to be blotted out.

Revelation 13:8 says: “And all who dwell on the earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Now that verse teaches that those whose names are written in the book of life definitely will not worship the beast. That is what it says. In other words, having your name in the book of life from the foundation of the world means God will keep you from folly. He will cause you to persevere in allegiance to God. Being in the book means you will not apostatize. You won’t forsake the faith.

Revelation 17:8 says: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.” Now that means having your name in the book of life means you will be kept from marveling at the beast. Those whose names are not written in the book will marvel at the beast, and those whose names are in the book will not marvel. It is infallible as far as the way this author is arguing. To have your name in the book means you won’t marvel, you won’t worship.

So the point is that having one’s name written in the book is effective. It keeps you from making shipwreck of your faith. John does not say: If you worship the beast, your name is erased. He says: If your name is in the book, you will not worship the beast. Now back to Revelation 3:5: “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”

Does that mean God erases some people?

No.

The conquering that keeps you from being erased is guaranteed by being in the book. That is the point of Revelation 13:8 and 17:8. Being in the book keeps you from doing what would get you erased from the book if you did it.

Let me say that again. Being in the book, having your name in the book, keeps you from doing — like worshiping the beast — keeps you from doing what would get you erased from the book if you did it. And that is not a contradiction any more than the way Paul is a contradiction when he says: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

It is not nonsense to state the condition: if you conquer, God will not erase your name, and then to state the assurance, if your name is in the book, you will conquer. That is not a contradiction. God’s written down ones really must conquer, really will conquer. They must and they will. One side highlights responsibility, you must. And one side highlights God’s sovereignty, you will.

So the message for us is this: Never, never, never be cavalier or trifling about your perseverance. God uses real warnings to keep us vigilant and to keep us persevering. We are safe. But we are not careless. That is the point. Press on to make salvation your own, as Paul says, because Christ has made you his own (Philippians 3:12).

Blotted from the Book of Life?

Piper11Original source the Bible mentions the phrase ‘the book of life’ about fourteen times, and quite a few of those passages mention getting blotted out of the book of life. How does this NOT mean losing your salvation?” What would you say Pastor John?

When it comes to the doctrine of eternal security or perseverance of the saints, we need to speak with precision. And I think it is not quite precise to say, as Charles does, in quite a few of the Scriptures it mentions you can be blotted out of the book of life. I don’t think it ever says you can be blotted out, at least not in the sense that sometimes God does it. It says we will be blotted out if we fail to meet certain conditions. Now whether that ever happens or in God’s sovereignty can happen is another question. I don’t think so and let me try to show why.

The book of Revelation is the book that refers to this most often and it is the book that has the text that sounds most problematical, I think. Revelation 3:5 says, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Now some say: Well, that is a foolproof text against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or eternal security. They assume that when Revelation 3:5 says that God will not erase a person’s name from the book of life, it implies that he does erase some people from the book of life, and that these people would once be born again, justified, saved, and, nevertheless, in the end condemned, lost, and perish. In other words, they lose their salvation on that reading of the verse.

But is that a true assumption?

The promise: “I will not erase his name from the book of life” does not necessarily imply that some do have their names erased. It simply says, to the one who is in the book, and who conquers in faith: I will never wipe your name out. In other words, being erased is a fearful prospect, which I will not allow to happen to those who persevere. In fact, there are two other passages in Revelation that teach that to have your name in the book of life means that you will most definitely persevere and conquer and thus meet the condition not to be blotted out.

Revelation 13:8 says: “And all who dwell on the earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Now that verse teaches that those whose names are written in the book of life definitely will not worship the beast. That is what it says. In other words, having your name in the book of life from the foundation of the world means God will keep you from folly. He will cause you to persevere in allegiance to God. Being in the book means you will not apostatize. You won’t forsake the faith. Continue reading

Kept for Jesus Christ (Series)

Dr. Sam Storms, Lead Pastor at Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, OK, teaches a seven part series on the doctrine known as the Perseverance of the Saints:

1. “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” – John 6:35-44 & John 10:27-30

2. “So Close, Yet So Very Far Away” – Matthew 7:15-23; 12:22-32 & 13:1-9, 18-23

3. “The Dangers of Fickle Faith” – John 15:1–6

4. “The Logic of Love” – Romans 5:6–11

5. “Inseparable: Now and Forever” – Romans 8:1

6. “God Will Sustain You to the End!” – 1 Corinthians 1:4–9

7. “Test Yourselves!”, Hebrews 6:4-12 & 2 Cor. 13:5

Understanding Perseverance

Why Your Faith Will Not Fail

What makes you think you will be a Christian tomorrow morning? In 15 minutes, John Piper builds a foundation for the perseverance of your faith through all the world’s temptations and all of life’s trails. Your faith will not fail because God holds your faith and is utterly committed to keeping you.

Rejoicing in the Refiner’s Fire: Lessons from 1 Peter on Living as Exiles, Part 7 from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Biblical Reflections on Hebrews 6

John-HJohn Hendryx: who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.: – Hebrews 6: 4-8

Perhaps this is one of the most terrifying passages in Scripture, but, as is usually the case, when a passage is read in isolation and without regard to the context of the surrounding passage, theological error is bound to creep in.

We all know that Hebrews was written to give witness to the superiority of Jesus Christ to all other means of pleasing God such as temple sacrifice and the Law. In fact He is seen as replacing them all. Jesus Christ is shown to be more excellent than the Prophets (1:1), Angels (1:4-14), Moses (3: 3-6), the Levitical Priesthood and sacrifice (Heb. 5 & 9) and even Abraham (7: 4-14). The new covenant is shown to be better than the old because it fulfills everything the old covenant pointed to (Heb 8). Jesus Himself is revealed as the climax of the covenant of grace. The author of Hebrews says, “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” (Heb 8:6) Since this is the case, the text warns that, we must pay more attention and not fall away from believing that Jesus alone is sufficient, and is therefore more excellent, by order of magnitude, than all other means of pleasing God. There is no hope in trusting, even partly in, anything else as they can never forgive sins or make you just before God.

The passage that warns the Hebrews against falling away is warning them against one thing: abandoning trust in Christ alone by going back to now worthless and obsolete things, such as trusting in the temple sacrifice and obedience to the Law in order to be justified. The warnings are given to those in the faith community that they would not be tempted to turn from trusting Jesus alone (who is God over all) to some lesser, meaningless or obsolete ritual act that supposedly now can curry God’s favor. Trusting in anything except Christ alone, who is the light that scatters all shadows, is said to be tantamount to “trampling under foot the Son of God” believing that His once for all sacrifice is insufficient in itself to save. If something in place of, or in addition to, Jesus is trusted in it is no different than a denial of Him. So in context, the persons who go back by trading in Christ for the now-empty ritual of the temple (that itself was meant to point to the fulfillment in Christ), are then re-crucifying the Son to their shame. Hebrews 6:4-8 is often read in isolation apart from this context.

Tragically, the very next text (which is crucial) is also often left off by those who claim regenerate Christians can fall away … a text which qualifies the preceding text. The writer of Hebrews in verse 9 says, “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation.” If the author of Hebrews is confident of better things of the persons he is speaking with, things that belong to salvation, then obviously falling away does not belong to it. This is a clear statement that the author was not describing saving faith of those who are in danger of falling away in the preceding passage, because the kind of response that falls away, he says, are not among the “things that belong to salvation.” So whatever the things the author just described about falling away in Heb 6:4-8 are not the characteristics of true regenerate persons. People can be enlightened and taste and partake …. They may be externally a part of the church and receive external blessings, yet if they abandon trust in Christ for ritual or something else, there is no hope for their salvation. They were never regenerate to begin with for falling away does not accompany or belong to true salvation, according to the text.

Ironically, those who teach that this passage speaks of the ability of regenerate Christians to fall away are actually committing the very error the passage itself warns against. How do I figure? The very assertion that a Christian can lose their salvation is tantamount to saying that what Christ accomplished on the cross was insufficient to save completely and so you need to (at least partly) trust in yourself to maintain your own righteousness, and this is not unlike Roman Catholic theology. To say Christ can lose us is the same as believing that what Christ did is not enough for us… That you MUST MAINTAIN YOUR OWN JUSTIFICATION.

This is a form of legalistic self-justification to believe that you can either attain or maintain your own righteousness before God and it is itself a denial of Christ, the very error the Hebrews were tempted to make, that the author was speaking of. In fact this is a backdoor to the Galatian heresy where Paul says, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3) To believe one can lose salvation, therefore, is trusting in something other than Jesus Christ to keep you righteous in Him. The Hebrews were tempted to go back to temple sacrifice (trusting in something other than Christ) and the doctrine that one can lose salvation is likewise trusting in ones’ own moral ability to maintain a just standing before God, since Jesus, according to them, is unable to save completely those who He came to save. Even though the author of Hebrews declares that Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him (Heb 7:25) and “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb 10:14), Either we are trusting in Christ alone to both attain and maintain our just standing before God or we are trusting in something worthless which the author of Hebrews gives severe warnings about. Quite ironic. That passage is a warning passage for the very error those who teach we can lose salvation are making.

In the passage, turning back to Judaism is a deliberate and final forsaking of Christ and the guilt of His blood. They had been enlightened by the Word, tasted of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, shared as companions in the Holy Spirit i.e. shared the benefits of His supernatural work and manifestations…. … Perhaps you may recall the passage in the gospels where Jesus describes something similar about those who approach Him on judgment day. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” These persons shared in the outward benefits of church but trusted in something other than Jesus alone to both attain and maintain their salvation. “I never knew you” spoken to those who did miracles clearly indicates that while such people shared outwardly in covenant benefits, were themselves never at any time saved. Jesus did not say, “I knew you at one time and now I don’t know you any longer.” No, never means never. Again, the belief that a regenerate Christian can fall away, like some Hebrews were tempted to do, is dangerously close to believing that Christ in Himself is not sufficient to maintain our just standing before God: “we must do something in addition to what Jesus did to remain justified.” Those who believe such things take heed to the warning and trust in Christ, not self, who is both the author and perfecter of our salvation.

Question: “But doesn’t that go against the doctrine of efficacious grace? Is it possible for the Spirit to work on someone only partly?”

Answer: The doctrine of efficacious grace does not mean, nor has it ever meant, that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. In Acts 7:51 Stephen says to the Jewish leaders, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did.” And Paul speaks of grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). It means, rather, that the Holy Spirit can and does overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible according to His sovereign good pleasure at a time of His choosing. The Spirit does not exercise efficacious grace every time we preach the gospel to someone. When God undertakes to fulfill his eternal purpose to save those he covenanted with the Son to save (John 6:37, 39), no one can successfully resist Him. Notice in the passage in Acts above it says those who resist the Holy Spirit are “uncircumcised in heart and ears” >>> a phrase used for the unregenerate and yet in this passage the Spirit at work is being resisted. The gospel is being preached, the Spirit is at work but men are resisting. WHY? Because, the passage says, their hearts are “uncircumcised”!!!! They are natural men and cannot think spiritual thoughts. Water does not rise above its source. Their ears must first be circumcised by the Spirit or they will continue be hostile to the gospel for that is what they are by nature. Not being willing to repent is the same as resisting the Holy Spirit. So if God gives repentance (John 6:65, 2 Tim 2:25) it is the same as removing that hostile resistance. This is why we call this work of God “irresistible grace”.Also see 6:67-39

So this should be sufficient evidence in itself that the Spirit does often work partly, and not savingly, toward individuals. This is also what Paul explained in Romans 9:14-18, which caused a similar opponent to say, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” To which Paul answers: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me thus?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?” (Romans 9:20f).

Efficacious grace refers to the sovereign work of God to overcome the rebellion of our heart and bring us to faith in Christ so that we can and will be saved. That is why no one can enter the kingdom unless they are first born again. As for Hebrews 6:9, this text clearly proves that whatever was described in the previous text about falling away was not equal to salvation. So this alone disqualifies this verse from meaning what you may believe it to mean.

Question: if perseverance of the saints is true then why do we need to give true Christians warnings?

Answer: Because the Holy Spirit almost always uses means to accomplish His purposes. Just as the Holy Spirit does not usually save people in a void but through the preaching of the gospel, so likewise He sustains and feeds the saints through the preaching of the word, prayer, fellowship and sacraments. The Word only has value to us if the Holy Spirit applies it to our heart and likewise the Holy Spirit does not work in a void but uses means just as a seed needs water to grow. There may be extraordinary circumstances where a Muslim may be converted to Christianity in some remote region of northeastern China after hearing a radio broadcast, a person who does not have a Bible or a preacher at hand. In such circumstances the Holy Spirit may sustain a true believer by pouring out an extra portion of Himself, but commonly the Spirit only feeds/sustains His people though the appointed means. God both calls us to persevere and promises to preserve us (John 15:16).

Here are some passages which show that we MUST persevere to the end: Colossians 1:21-23; 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6; Hebrews 10:26-3; Hebrews 12:1

And likewise here are passages which teach that true believers WILL persevere to the end: John 6:38-40; John 10:28-29; Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 1:4-6; Philippians 2:12-13 1 John 2:19

Question: So if a fake Christian falls away (thus, proving he was never saved in the first place), he can “never be renewed unto repentance”? Why — now we are confronted with a problem against Unconditional Election. Some people are too evil to become saved.

The sin these persons were tempted to commit, according to the text we are investigating, is they had received all possible external benefits, light and conviction of the Spirit, to bring them to faith yet they chose to finally reject Christ alone as Savior …going back to Temple sacrifice. Continue reading

The “loss” of salvation and the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

keptDr. Sam Storms has written a new book called “Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security” (Crossway, 2015), where he looks at every passage in the New Testament that addresses assurance, security, and perseverance. I highly recommend it. He has also written a bonus chapter, available as a pdf here, where he answers a number of questions including these two:

1) “My son just turned thirty and told us today that he no longer believes in Jesus. He says he’s an atheist. What happened to him? Has he lost his salvation?”

We’ll call this young man Charley. Perhaps Charlene would be a more suitable name in your case. In any case, his (her?) life presents us with a painful and difficult dilemma.

Charley was born into a Christian family. His parents were devout followers of Jesus, and both of his siblings, an older brother and a younger sister, came to faith in Christ and have remained vibrant and deeply committed to him.

Charley was raised in the church and was usually present whenever the doors were open, whether at a Sunday service, a youth meeting, special events throughout the week, or a summer retreat. When he turned twelve, he professed faith in Jesus, largely through the influence of his parents and older brother. He was baptized soon thereafter and was discipled by his youth pastor over the course of the next few years. Charley’s faith appeared to be quite vibrant and joyful. He endured the same trials and temptations as do virtually all teenaged boys, but he never wandered far or failed to repent when he sinned. He prayed every day and read his Bible and was growing in his understanding of God.

Following graduation from high school, he went to college and fell in with a different group of friends. They challenged his faith and insisted that he was being naïve to believe in Jesus. It wasn’t long before Charley stopped attending church and eventually declared himself to be an atheist. He grew increasingly angry at the institutional church and nurtured a deep resentment toward those who had influenced him while he was growing up, having become convinced that they had hidden the truth from him and only wanted to control his life.

Charley is now thirty, twice divorced, an alcoholic, and painfully bitter and unpleasant to be around. He wants nothing ever again to do with Christianity.

So what’s up with Charley? What happened?

Some believe Charley was truly saved as a young boy but subsequently apostatized and in doing so lost or forfeited his salvation. Others also believe Charley was genuinely saved and always will be, but they believe that his reckless and unrepentant lifestyle will result in the loss of rewards in the age to come.

In ‘Kept for Jesus’ I argue for what is known as the Reformed or Calvinistic view. Those who embrace this perspective interpret Charley’s experience in one of two ways.

Some Reformed believers would argue that if Charley was truly saved at the age of twelve, he is still saved at the age of thirty and will, by God’s grace and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, eventually come to his spiritual senses and return to the Lord. This may happen only after Charley endures severe discipline from his heavenly Father, but eventually God will bring him back. In some cases, people like Charley are disciplined straightway into heaven; that is to say, the discipline of the Lord results in their physical death. They die prematurely, under the discipline of God, but they are saved eternally.

Others who hold the Reformed view contend that the likely explanation for Charley’s departure from his professed faith in Christ is that he was never genuinely born again in the first place. His so-called faith was spurious. His life of apparent obedience was prompted by factors other than a genuine love for Jesus. He was self-deluded and deceived everyone who knew him. If he had been truly born again, he would have persevered in his faith.

2) “Is it possible that Charley was really born again and that he has blasphemed the Holy Spirit? Can a Christian commit blasphemy of the Spirit?”

This question is provoked by a well-known passage in Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus responds to the religious leaders who had accused him of drawing on the power of Satan to heal a young boy. Jesus says:

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt. 12:31–32)

For Jesus to declare that whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, neither now nor in the age to come, comes as a jolt. This ominous declaration doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Something happened to provoke it. So let’s look at the context. Continue reading

The Warning Passages in Hebrews

In the New Testament book of Hebrews there are a number of “severe warning passages.” Many Christians have been perplexed and confused when reading them. How exactly are these passages to be interpreted and understood? Can we in fact be sure of what the passages mean? If, as Scripture teaches elsewhere, Jesus the great Shepherd never loses any of His true sheep (John 10), and as Paul states in Romans “these whom He justified He also glorified” (Romans 8:30) who exactly are these passages aimed at? Is the writer to the Hebrews seeking to teach that true Christians can lose their salvation?

In the video below, Dr. James White gives a very helpful overview of these warning passages. I recommend this study very highly.

Now to the specific texts of Hebrews 6:

Verses 1-3

Verses 4-9

Now, turning to Hewbrews 10: 26 -31 – one of the main sections of Scripture that some have used to teach the erroneous idea that genuine Christians can lose salvation. However, to see this as its interpretation is to misunderstand the passage entirely. It is so important that we rightly interpret these words. With this in mind, I encourage you to listen to these two sermons by Dr. James White:

Sermon 1: If We Go On Sinning Willfully… (Hebrews 10:26-29)

Sermon 2: By Which He Was Sanctified (Hebrews 10:29-31)