Whole Counsel Theology

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Part Three of the Analysis of the AoG Position on Security

As before, I'll be putting the AG statements in BOLD and mine will be in regular type, like this.

"II. Salvation Is Received and Kept by Faith"

This is the title of their next section, and when I first read it, it rubbed me wrong. I decided that the problem was how they were saying faith was maintained, which is that man is responsible for maintaining it. Now that I understand what the problem was, I'm now ready to discuss their reasoning.

"The Bible clearly states that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and that the just shall live by faith (Hebrews 10:38; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Habakkuk 2:4)."

These verses indicate just that! I suspect that they are going to try to use Hebrews 10:38 to indicate that someone can indeed lose salvation, if they "draw back." However, I will maintain (as discussed a little in previous posts and I will further discuss) that the true "righteous one" will not draw back, and those that do were never truly saved at all, hence verse 39:

Hebrews 10:39 But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life.

The second "but" in that verse is a word that indicates STRONG contrast. In other words, the author is saying that we are not those who draw back.... BUT, we are those who have FAITH! In other words, those who drew back didn't really have faith. The contrast appears to indicate that those who have faith are NOT those who draw back and are destroyed.

"As the believer's salvation is received, not by an act of righteousness but by an act of faith, so the believer's salvation is maintained, not by acts of righteousness but by a life of faith!"

This is true. However, to say that the faith is maintained on our own is not correct. God gave us the faith, and He maintains it and brings it to completion! This is best seen in Hebrews 12:2.

Hebrews 12:2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne.

This is a verse that I cited before, but only emphasize the first part. (the bold in it is my epmhasis and not in the text itself) Before, I mentioned that Jesus is the source of our faith, which indeed is required if salvation is to be all of grace and not works. The SECOND word there, "perfecter" means "a completer, that is, consummater: - finisher." (Strong) So then, Jesus starts our faith, and HE is the one who finishes it. So then, I have no problem at all agreeing with the words of the AG statement, but their theological underpinnings...with these I cannot agree, given the text I just cited.

Allow me to quote from Dr. Wayne Grudem, from a couple of footnotes on pages 790 and 791 of his Systematic Theology:
"Of course, those who believe in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (such as myself) would affirm that the way God keeps us safe is by causing us to continue to believe in Christ. . . so to say that Scripture also emphasizes the necessity of continuing in faith is not to object to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints as it has been expressed by Reformed theologians frequently in the history of the church. In other words, there is a way to believe in both sets of texts without concluding that people who are truly born again can lose their salvation."

...and the second quote on page 791....
"Rather than assuming that passages on human responsibility negate the idea of God's sovereign protection, it seems better to adopt the Reformed position that says that God's sovereign protection is consistent with human responsibility, because it works through human responsibility and guarantees that we will respond by maintaining the faith that is necessary to persevere."

He says it better than I do. :)

"Being a Christian then is not a matter of works; it is a matter of faith. This must be emphasized. In no case is the sinner accepted by God on the basis of any good that he has done. He is saved totally and solely by grace through faith. By faith he accepts the fact that Christ died in his stead. By faith he throws himself upon the mercy of God and accepts Christ as his Saviour. By faith he sees himself clothed with the righteousness of Christ--a standing imputed to him through no merit of his own (Philippians 3:9). He knows that he is accepted through faith, and this knowledge gives him peace and joy."

Wow, I LIKE this statement. Glory be to God; in NO case are we accepted based on any good we have done. However, as I am sure the reader of this blog will see by this point, this statement by the AG is somewhat contradictory to their views of election. How can it be, if there is absolutely NO good in us that would cause God to accepts us, that God elects on the basis of forseen faith? The two positions are contradictory and cannot both be true.

The only thing I *might* change is rewording the statement about "accepting" Christ and replace the word with "receive" (see John 1:12) since it is a biblical term. Other than that, bravo!

"The believer's state must not be confused with his standing, however. He stands secure because of faith. His standing is the result of God's grace which he has accepted by faith. He stands justified, clothed with the righteousness of Christ! The believer's state, or the working out of the righteousness of Christ in the believer, is another matter. It involves spiritual growth, a progressive sanctification by obedient cooperation with the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:5-7; Romans 6:12, 13; 8:13; Colossians 3:1-5). During this maturing process the believer must learn by his mistakes as well as by his victories. Nevertheless, his security is never in doubt as long as his faith in Christ is steadfast, for he is kept by faith."

OK, the last sentence is the most important here. However, our security is never in doubt, period. The reason for it is above; Christ causes us to remain in faith. It is the working of His grace that maintains both our state and our standing.

I would also agree that the believer must learn by mistakes and victories, but I would maintain that, if we are truly talking about a believer, God will bring him through these situations. If the faith never really was true, than such a person will "fall away" because they never really had faith. A true believer does indeed stand justified, clothed with the righteousness of Christ! Christ never removes that righteousness either, but maintains it, and raises up ALL true believers at the last day:

John 6:37 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.
John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
John 6:39 This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day.
John 6:40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

Salvation, and its maintenance, are the works of Christ (above emphasis mine). The subjunctive use here appears to be indicating purpose and result rather than possibility (as my saying "I turned on my computer that I may print my paper." my purpose was to print and the result is that I did; it wasn't intended as a statement of possibility).

"His spiritual growth varies in excellence and degree according to the yieldedness and attention he affords to the Spirit who is at work within him. Yet all the while as the perfecting processes go on, he is credited with the perfection through the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith. Through the process of "becoming conformed" he is secure; his salvation is sure."

As seen before, we are secure by the power of God. The very fact that we are "being conformed" indicates that God is working in us. Of course, there are plenty of counterfeits, but if we truly are "being conformed" then out salvation is secure since it is God who is causing us to maintain faith.

"'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus' (Romans 8:1)."

This is an important verse! If we are truly in Christ Jesus, then there is no condemnation for us. The question to ask is this: if someone in Christ, whom Christ has saved, were to lose salvation, would that not be a form of condemnation? The answer I think is obvious.

"The believer's security, then, is solely through faith, both in the receiving of salvation and in the keeping of salvation. This security is made possible through the mercy of God in imputing the righteousness of His own Son to the fallible and faulty believer as long as he maintains a living faith in Christ. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:21)."

The thing is, as stated above, it is GOD and NOT us that causes us to "maintain a living faith in Christ." We definitely act it out and benefit from it, but it is GOD who is the source and completer. Again, in the verse the AG cites above has a subjunctive in it -- it appears to be one of purpose again. This is not a possibility; this is a purpose/result clause again. "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" could well be worded, with the same meaning "that we would (or should, or shall) be made the righteousness of God in him." Some Bible translations, though few and far between, render it that way for understanding, but it isn't necessary to translate it that way; all that is required is an understanding of grammar, English, Greek, or otherwise, in how the subjunctive tense works.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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  • God is Sovereign. Many I teach in my SBC church recoil in horror from any hint that God is in complete control of our lives. Yes, we must act them out, but no, we aren't puppets. Very nice post.

    Soli Deo Gloria

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    By Blogger Mike Ratliff, at Friday, February 03, 2006 9:32:00 AM  

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