Friday, June 29, 2012

Jehovah is able to keep us

First, it must be clarified that Jehovah is able to keep His children safe.  To imply anything less would demean Jehovah.  This doctrine is called eternal security, which is not to be confused with unconditional eternal security.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. John 10:27-29.  

Not surprisingly, Mr. Thiessen uses John 10:27-29 to prove unconditional eternal security.  He does this by quoting Mr. Strombeck, God makes two kinds of promises to His children: conditional and unconditional.  But He always makes it clear whether or not they are conditional or unconditional.  When conditional, He uses the word "if" or its equivalent; but when His statement is unconditional, He leaves out the "if".  This is therefore an unconditional statement.   Were we to accept that quotation as a statement of fact, without debate, we would still be required to ask: what about the other promises, (which we will study latter) which are based on the word, if or its equivalent.  By his own argument, those other promises, which Mr. Thiessen, seemingly, purposefully ignores, would prove him wrong!

Furthermore, Mr. Thiessen and Mr. Wuest, who both believe in unconditional eternal security, say about John 10:27-29 that the verbs used are in the present tense (continuing action).  Wuest translates it like this, The sheep which are mine are in the habit of listening to my voice.  Their point being that people who are born again continually keep on following Christ, and if people do not continually follow Christ they never were born again.  However, their logic turns against them.  The very fact that Christ calls them His sheep means that they are born again.  Christ’s promise of being kept is based on the present tense act of following Him.  Wuest thereby disproves the validity of his own argument of unconditional eternal security.  The promise of being kept is to those “sheep” who continually keep on following, even by Theissen’s and Wuest’s own arguments. Therefore, if one does not follow anymore, one has fallen away, thereby proving that falling away is possible..

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  Rom, 8:12-13 

Paul again points out that he is writing to his brothers in Christ but he reminds them that if they will live (keep on living, so as to show they have turned their back on Christ), according to the flesh they will die.  By this he means a spiritual death, because it is a given that everyone, carnal or spiritual, will die a physical death, and he would not have bothered writing these words if he would have been writing about a physical death.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if (since) children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Romans 8:16-17  

The word if should be read as since.  However, either way, this is a conditional promise.  According to Wuest’s translation, we are God’s children…provided that we are suffering with Him in order that we also may be glorified together.  Paul says that the people he is writing to are Christians, yet, he says, they must take this threat of eternal death seriously.  He says to Christians, that if you will not suffer you will not be glorified.  Or. in other words, eternal security is conditional!

Romans 8:29-30  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:16-17  

Mr. Thiessen uses these verses to prove the doctrine of unconditional eternal security.  However, Mr.  Smith  refutes  his  argument.   In  the  context  of  Romans 8, the subject of apostasy is not in view.  A text like Ro 8:30 is not addressing the unconditional security of the believer but the certainty of our glorification with Christ, despite how difficult our present circumstances might seem.

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. Romans 11:22-23  

       One cannot be cut off from that of which one is not a member, and Paul writes that whether or not one is cut off is based on provided you continue.  Eternal security is conditional!

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.  

These verses are over-used as proof of unconditional eternal security.  However, it is to be noted, that in the list of things that cannot separate us from the love of God, Paul does not mention a Christian's own will or desire. Throughout the teachings of the church it is emphasized and re-emphasized, that God will not force a person to do anything against his will.  How is it than, that in this one area, there is such a notable exception to the overwhelming doctrine of freewill?

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  1 Cor. 15:1-2  

       Paul states three positives about the Corinthian Christians.  First, he calls them brethren.  By this, Paul means fellow Christians.  Second, he says, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received.  They have received the Word of God as Paul preached it.  Thirdly, he says, by which (word) also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you.  These things are in place, they are Christians and still Paul lays it on the line by saying, if you hold fast.  Seemingly, this leaves no room for the theory of unconditional eternal security but in spite of that, Wycliffe says, Believed in vain does not indicate loss of salvation as a possibility.  The apostle means…that a faith that does not persevere is not true saving faith.   Paul, however, said that they were saved.  Why do some say that the apostle does not mean what he said?

You are being saved (as Wuest has it)  and Thiessen and Wuest have already said it is in the continuing tense.  It is not, you have been saved.  It says that the continuing salvation pertains only if you hold firmly.  The people He is writing to already believe, Paul said so by calling them brethren, still he is concerned that they might believe in vain.

you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him - provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel. Col. 1:21-23 
   Paul said he has now reconciled you.  That is, they have received the new life.  He did not write: you fooled some people and caused them to think that you had accepted Christ, but actually, you never did.  This, however, is the flavour of the argument that is usually used by those who insist on unconditional eternal security.  Christ will present those who continue in the faith holy and blameless before the Father.

For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. 2 Tim. 1:12-14 

Verse 12 is often used as a proof text for unconditional eternal security; this however, is erroneous Bible teaching.  In the context, the argument for unconditional eternal security takes a real beating.  Notice that the following two verses each start with a warning.  Verse 13, Hold fast the pattern of sound words and verse 14, That good thing which was committed to you, keepIf falling from grace were not possible, warnings like this would be redundant.  What Paul is saying is that God is capable of guarding that which he (Paul) had committed to Him, but that He will not force people against their wishes, just like He did not force people at their initial repentance.  This is an argument for conditional eternal security but not for unconditional eternal security.

The next post will continue with more Bible verses to prove that the doctrine of unconditional eternal security is not found in the Bible.