Whole Counsel Theology

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

An Analysis of the AG Security Position, part the fourth

As before, my words in plain type, theirs in BOLD.

"III. Continued Sin Will Adversely Affect the Believer's Faith"

This is their next section title. They are building on their previous arguments, as one would expect; it is simply logical progression. The problem is that the points they have made thus far really don't jive well with sound doctrine or, by the same token, good biblical hermeneutics.

I wouldn't have a problem with this statement if they meant that a believer will have increased doubts if he/she continues in sin. However, I doubt this is their meaning given their official position and the thrust of their paper.

"The Bible makes it clear that in this life Christians do sin and that the Christian's recourse when he has sinned is forgiveness through Christ (1 John 1:8, 9; 2:1)."

I agree completely! That statement was pretty well worded and well supported with Scripture. Nicely done indeed; I was encouraged when I read it.

"On the other hand, it is unnatural for a Christian to continue in a life of sin. That is, as long as he has the life of Christ within him, he cannot habitually sin. (See 1 John 3:8, 9 where the Greek tense is the continuous present.) The one who practices sin is of the devil. Whoever is born of God does not practice sin, does not keep on habitually sinning. He cannot keep on sinning the way the child of the devil does."

WOW! Again, nicely done! They brought out a good point with the grammar too, which I always appreciate. Sadly, this appears to be an isolated incident; they didn't do their grammar work on many of the texts they cited for their position (noted in my earlier posts). Had they, then they might have a different view on this matter of security.

"Instead, the Christian should grow spiritually and lay aside sin, recognizing that continued sin will adversely affect his faith."

YES, the Christian should grow spiritually and lay aside sin. Otherwise, I would say, the chances are great that the person was never a Christian to begin with. Continued sin should affect one's ASSURANCE, and I pray that God's grace would work that out in those who really don't have faith that they would be saved, and would also restore true believers to fellowship with Himself. However, the AG implication here appears to be (from the context of this passage) that a true believer, if he continues in sin, will lose salvation. Perhaps I'll borrow from John on this point, since they did too. I'll just use a couple of verses down from where they stopped in 1 John 2:

1 John 2:3 This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands.
1 John 2:4 The one who says, "I have come to know Him," without keeping His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:5 But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him:
1 John 2:6 the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.

The Scripture seems clear. If someone claims to have come to know Christ and doesn't keep His commands, that person is a liar. He never came to Christ. No life change = no real salvation. Furthermore:

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.
1 John 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.

John indicates that "many antichrists" went out from the church, but said that they didn't really belong to the church. If they really did, then they would NOT have left. John then indicates something different for his readers -- that they are different from those that left, that they "all have knowledge" and have God's annointing. Those that leave didn't have it; those that remain (and continue to remain by the grace God provides, I might add) do have it.

"Does this imply that a Christian can sin and still be saved? The first impulse of many may be to say that he cannot. Yet it is necessary in this connection to consider the fact that worry, pride, envy, and bitterness are accepted as common failings. Few would suggest that believers committing these sins are lost.

Moreover if it be insisted that God demands present sinless perfection from believers, then the question must be raised: "Is man's standing in Christ based upon his own righteousness or upon the righteousness of Christ imputed to him by faith?" If man is saved only as long as he maintains a flawless life, then salvation is not of grace, but of works!

Then too if man is accepted by God only if he is without fault, Christian living is not free from condemnation as Paul insisted in Romans 8:1. It is rather a continual exercise in soul-searching and penance, full of fear and condemnation and void of the joy and confidence that a knowledge of salvation can bring. (See Romans 5:9-11 where it is clear that the God who loved us enough to provide for our salvation loves us enough to provide for us all the way to glory. This assurance gives us joy in Him.)

A related question is: "What would happen to a believer who commits a sin at that moment Jesus returns?" Those who maintain that a Christian cannot commit a sin and still be saved would teach that such a believer is lost and doomed for eternity. What despair!

The believer is not in a revolving door, moving in and out of the grace of God! He is secure in the hand of God, and neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate him from the love of the Father!"

WOW. I find this statement to be VERY good. Given all of the Scripture they cited and the conclusions they draw, I honestly cannot understand why they don't bring it ONE step further and say "because of this, our salavation is secure, because for it to be forfeited would be condemnation for a believer (which is not allowed per Romans 8:1) and would therefore be something that would separate us from the love of Christ (violating Romans 8:39). It would also be a violation of Romans 5:9-11 that they cite above (hit the link!), since Paul states clearly that since we (Christians) have been "declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath." (emphasis mine) Those who are justified (declared righteous) WILL be saved! When do we get justification? We get it when we place our faith in Christ (that of course He gives us)!

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What peace would there be if we could indeed lose our salvation, if maintaining it were based on some work of our own? Would we really have "peace with God" or would He be still be at war with us, having some sort of armistice agreement, until we sin too much? Food for thought.

"This must be said, however, with further emphasis that it is not the natural thing for the Christian to sin. He cannot keep on sinning the same old sins. Having been born of the Spirit, the believer is a new creature for whom old things have passed away and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB).

It is thus now unnatural to sin. The old life is a thing of the past, a latent force within, subdued and reckoned dead by the new Presence (Romans 6:11). What was the custom and practice before now becomes unnatural and contrary to the new impulses of the heart.

"He that is born of God," John said, "cannot sin [or keep on practicing sin]." That is, sin is foreign to the new nature. The new nature that is ours by faith does not sin. Thus when the old nature temporarily and unexpectedly regains ascendancy, the whole new being revolts against this unnatural intrusion. The immediate recourse is to Christ."

MORE good stuff! Again, I'm very happy with their statement here, and I wish it were taught more often.

"As the believer who has sinned turns to Christ, he turns not with the despair of a lost soul, but with the secure knowledge that as a son of God he has an Advocate with the Father--who is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse from all unrighteousness. Thus the believer exercises his prerogative as a child of God, never needing to doubt his standing, which he knows is based upon the infallible righteousness of Christ by faith."

Oh, if they would but continue on this course! Sadly, however, they do not.

"Having stressed the sovereignty and grace of God, it is also imperative to bring the free will and responsibility of the believer into focus. God does not withdraw the power of choice from the person who believes. By the exercise of free will the believer becomes a child of God, and by the continued exercise of free will he remains a child of God. To keep on believing is the believer's responsibility."

Much of this contradicts what they just said, and also contradicts Hebrews 12:2, which I cited before in a previous post. Truth be told, they have already talked about the responsibility of man in their previous statements! We are indeed responsible for our sin, and responsible to live for God. However, it is JESUS who gives us the grace to live that way. As they indicated above, HIS imputed righteousness is what we rely on -- not our own works! Someone who is truly born again will NOT live habitually in sin; John indicated it, as did Paul. That being the case, a true believer WILL be convicted and repent, unless God kills them outright as His means of keeping them in faith (as is mentioned in a previous post of mine referencing 1 Corinthians 11:30-32 in relation to the Lord's Supper). Salvation is of the LORD from beginning to end; we must not lose site of that!

"The believer must also be careful that he does not take a light attitude toward sin. He dare not use the grace of God as a license to sin."Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" asked Paul (Romans 6:1). The answer is an emphatic negative."

Again, I agree completely!

"Paul knew and taught that continued sin will adversely affect a believer's faith, and faith is the very thing that makes a relationship with God possible."

Yes, faith is the thing that makes a relationship with God possible, but Paul didn't indicate that continued sin will affect a believer's faith. To make that statement based on the above text is NOT doing exegesis. In the answer Paul gives to the question he poses in verse one, it is indeed an emphatic negative. However, it is more than that:

Romans 6:2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

It is unthinkable that a person who truly was dead to sin could still live in it. It doesn't happen; God doesn't allow it to happen, one way or another. He'll either restore or remove. If someone is experiencing NO conviction from the Holy Spirit and is living in sin, then they were NEVER saved, or as Scripture says, are "illegitimate children."

Hebrews 12:8 But if you are without discipline--which all receive--then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

"All receive" -- all who? All true sons. If someone doesn't receive discipline from God, they are not really true sons, period.

"Continued sin becomes presumptuous, high-handed, and is evidence of rebellion. (See Numbers 15:30, 31.) Rebellion is the opposite of the trust and obedience of faith."

OK, now things get more interesting. Let's look at those verses:

Numbers 15:30 "But the person who acts defiantly, whether native or foreign resident, blasphemes the LORD. That person is to be cut off from his people.
Numbers 15:31 He will certainly be cut off, because he has despised the LORD's word and broken His command; his guilt remains on him."

The context of this passage is that of unintentional sins , for which a sacrifice could be offered (going back to verse 22), and intentional ones (described in the above verses as defiant sins) which would indicate someone being cut off. Making a connection between how God worked then, that is, betwen all biological descendents of Israel compared to the spiritual children of God, needs to be done carefully. There are some (indeed many) parallels, but putting it in here doesn't quite work. The reason is that, as Christians, we sin both unintentionally AND intentionally. If I am ignorant of a biblical command and I violate it, then I sin unintentionally. If I speak harshly to my wife, then I intentionally sinned. If I were to lie to someone, then I would be intentionally sinning. If I were to look at a neighbor's car and want that for myself, then I would be sinning willfully. Would we then say that if we ever sin on purpose that we forfeit our status with God? Of course not! Yet, that appears to be the case here in this passage in Numbers if we apply it to the church and to Christians. I would again say that if a person were to remain defiant with no conviction of sin, they then were never saved. The fact that I, when I have sinned intentionally, am convicted and then repent would therefore indicate the opposite for me, and for that I thank and praise God!

"Believers must be on guard constantly, "looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God" (Hebrews 12:15). The Bible's exhortation is: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves" (2 Corinthians 13:5)."

Agreed, we must be on guard constantly. However, do these verses indicate a person who is losing his salvation? Let's examine them.

First, we have Hebrews 12:15. Let's look at the context.

Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness--without it no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.
Hebrews 12:16 And see that there isn't any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal.

OK, without holiness no one will see the Lord. That is verse 14. What appears to follow in verse 15 is an exhortation to the believers to be aware that there are likely people among them who are not truly believers, giving Esau's attitude as an example (16). Given that verse eight (cited above) is in this chapter as well, this fits the context. So then, for someone to "fall short of the grace of God" would then indicate that they didn't ever have it; "fall short" is, according to Strong, a better translation of the Greek hustereo. If you want to keep the word "fail" then that is fine, but it would mean part of what Thayer indicates on it: "metaphorically fail to become a partaker."

Second, for 2 Corinthians 13:5, a better word for "prove" would be "test" or "discern." Paul, like the writer of Hebrews, understood that there might be wolves among the sheep. He was not indicating that a person could lose salvation here by any means. Let's get the context:

2 Corinthians 13:6 And I hope you will recognize that we are not failing the test.
2 Corinthians 13:7 Now we pray to God that you do nothing wrong, not that we may appear to pass the test, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear to fail.
2 Corinthians 13:8 For we are not able to do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.

Hmmm... Paul goes on to say that he and his companions (most notably Timothy) are not failing the test. Not only that, but he was appealing to GOD that they would do nothing wrong, showing understanding that it was God who enables them to "do what is right."

I find verse eight to be fascinating. Paul was not ABLE to do anything against the truth. The word is dunamai, indicating they had no power to do it. They did not have the ability to go against the truth, the Gospel. So much for "free will." :)

"Why such precautions and concern? These repeated warnings are meaningful only when it is recognized that the loss of faith means the eternal loss of the soul. For while it is true that the believer's salvation is not earned by his righteous deeds nor his salvation maintained by them, it is equally true that as the believer obtains his salvation by faith, so he can lose it by unbelief!"

Saying "only" is making a very strong statement. I would contend that I made a meaningful statement relating to the two above passages without indicating that someone can lose faith in Christ, which eliminates this whole argument. The "precautions and concern," given the context, appear to indicate what I mentioned, and since it is God who maintains our faith, then our deeds cannot change that. Rather, our deeds will confirm whether or not God ever granted us faith in the first place.

"Sin and unbelief are closely related."

Well, since unbelief is sin, I would have to agree. :)

"Sin jeopardizes faith, and loss of faith means loss of standing."

Since our faith is carried to completion by God, then no, a sin we do won't jeopardize it. See what I've said before on this in this post and previous ones.

"Hebrews 3:12-14 bears this out. The writer warned the brethren against unbelief which will lead to a departure from the living God. He mentioned the deceitfulness of sin as the cause of unbelief and reminded them that we are partakers of Christ only if we hold the beginning of our confidence unto the end."

OK, let's grab Hebrews 3:7-14 and then a couple of verses in chapter 4.

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice,
Hebrews 3:8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert,
Hebrews 3:9 where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works
Hebrews 3:10 for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, "They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways."
Hebrews 3:11 So I swore in My anger, "They will not enter My rest."
Hebrews 3:12 Watch out, brothers, so that there won't be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God.
Hebrews 3:13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin's deception.
Hebrews 3:14 For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start.

The bold above is an Old Testament quote and appears that way in the HCSB text. It is interesting to note that in verse ten that the writer indicates that they "have not known my ways," these who will not enter God's rest. These people "always" went astray as well. Based on this example, we then look at verses 12--14. It would appear that someone then who is departing "from the living God" would have been a person who, despite the encouragement offered in verse 13, "always" goes astray. Their supposed profession of faith, their "reality that [they] had at the start," proved to be false. Why? Verse 14 indicates that if we truly "have become companions of the Messiah" then we'll "hold firmly to the end." Not only that, the beginning of chapter four looks back to this:

Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, while the promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear so that none of you should miss it.
Hebrews 4:2 For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith
Hebrews 4:3a (for we who have believed enter the rest)

Do you see? The message that the people mentioned previously (in chapter three) received didn't benefit them; they didn't get "united with those who heard it in faith." What do those who really believe get? They get the rest. Those that don't really believe do not get the rest that God promises.

"Standing in Christ is by faith."


"Remove faith, and there is no longer any standing."

Well, yes, but that never happens, as was demonstrated.

"This is why Scripture admonishes the believer to "take heed . . . lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:12)."

It would be better, given the context, to say that we are talking about people in the community of believers who were not truly Christians. In the same way, there were people in the community of Israel who truly didn't fear God. The parallel works this time. :)

To God ALONE Be the GLORY!

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