Friday, June 29, 2012

Jehovah is able to keep us

With this post a new theme is being introduced; is it possible for a Christian to quit being a Christian?  

This doctrine is called "eternal security" = Jehovah is able to keep us.
That must not be confused with "unconditional eternal security" = Jehovah will keep us as Christians even if we knowingly and deliberately turn against Him.  

Eternal security says only that Jehovah is able to keep members of "His flock" secure whereas "unconditional eternal security" insists that once a person has become a Christian there is nothing he can do to lose his born again state.  In the next few posts, I will prove that the Bible does not teach "unconditional eternal security".

As a foundation, it must be agreed that Jehovah is able to keep His children safe.  To imply anything less would demean Jehovah.   

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. 

Mr Thiessen, a Mennonite theologian, uses this verse 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.  He is saying that once a person is born again he can never lose his salvation.

If we were to accept that quotation as a statement of fact, we would still be required to ask: what about the other promises in the Bible, 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!  We will look at some of them later.

Furthermore, Mr Thiessen and Mr Wuest, who both believe, in unconditional eternal security, say that the verbs used in these verses 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 is that those 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 says my sheep means that they are born again.  In these verses, 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, 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 (a sinful lifestyle) they will die.  By this, he means a spiritual death because it is a given that everyone, born again or not, will die a physical death, and he would not have bothered writing these words if he would have been writing about a physical death.  If these people, he calls brethren, are in a position where they could lose their salvation then, Paul says, it is possible to lose one's salvation.

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 are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ, you will be glorified.  Or. in other words, eternal security is conditional!

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 8:29-30

Mr Thiessen uses these verses to prove the doctrine of unconditional eternal security but Mr Smith refutes his argument by pointing out that in the context of Romans 8, the subject of apostasy is not in view.  This text is not addressing the unconditional security of the believer but the certainty of our glorification with Christ, despite how difficult our present circumstances might be.

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. Very distinctly paul writes if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.  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 emphasised that God will not force a person to do anything against his will.  Why is it then, that only in this area, there is such a notable exception to the overwhelming doctrine of free will?