Apostates: Never Really Saved to Begin With?

One of the most common tactics employed by OSASers when confronted with the Scriptural case for apostasy is to concede that apostasy may indeed be possible, but if a person was to apostatize, it is sure proof that that person was never really saved to begin with.  This post aims to show the nonsensical conclusions (i.e., that it leads to Scriptural absurdity) of this seemingly ad hoc line of reasoning.

Ezek. 18:24 But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness… thus proving that he was never righteous to begin with?

Mat. 18:21-35 When his debt had been credited back to him, it proved that the unforgiving servant’s debt had never been forgiven to begin with?

Luke 8:13 And the ones on the rock… receive [the Word]… they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away thus proving that they never received the Word, nor believed, to begin with?

John 15:5-6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away… and withers; and [are] thrown into the fire, and burned thus proving that the branches were never abiding in the vine from which they were cut off?

Rom. 11:19-22 Branches were broken off… because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith… if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off which would prove that they were never standing by faith, nor grafted into the olive tree from which they were cut?

Rom. 14:15 By what you eat, do not destroy [your brother] for whom Christ died which would prove that he was never your brother to begin with?

1 Cor. 15:1-2 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel… which you received… unless you believed in vain which would prove that 1) they were never really brothers to begin with, 2) they never actually received the Gospel, and 3) they never actually believed in vain, for they never believed to begin with.

2 Cor. 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain because it would prove that you never received it to begin with.

Gal. 5:4 You are severed from Christ… you have fallen away from grace which proves that 1) you were never really joined to Christ, and 2) you never had the grace from which you fell.

1 Tim. 1:18-20 Some have made shipwreck of their faith which proves that the ship was never really floating to begin with.

1 Tim. 4:1 Some will depart from the faith thus proving that they never had a faith from which to depart.

1 Tim. 5:8 He has denied the faith which proves that he never really had a faith to deny.

1 Tim. 5:8 Worse than an unbeliever If he was never really saved to begin with, he has always been an unbeliever, which begs the question, how can an unbeliever be worse than an unbeliever?

1 Tim. 5:11 Their passions draw them away from Christ thus proving that they were never with Christ.

1 Tim. 5:12 Having abandoned their former faith which proves that they never had the faith to abandon.

2 Tim. 2:16-18 Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth thus proving that they never really received the truth from which they swerved.

2 Pet. 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome they would prove that they had never actually escaped the defilements of the world to begin with, and because they have thus always been entangled therein, they couldn’t have become ‘again’ entangled.

2 Pet. 3:17 Take care that you are not carried away from what… unbelief?

2 Pet. 3:17 Take care that you [do not] lose your own stability which would prove that you were never in a stable position to begin with.

Hat tip: Ben from Arminian Perspectives

Be Sober-Minded; Be Watchful… But Why?

1 Peter 5:8-9 says,

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

But if the fundamental tenet of ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (OSAS) – that once a person is saved, they are unconditionally always and forever saved – is correct, why should we be sober-minded and watchful?  After all, if OSAS was correct, the devil prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour can’t affect our eternal destiny. Even if he does manage to devour us, we will still be saved, according to OSAS.  Notable OSAS advocate Charles Stanley writes,

“[T]he unfaithful believer will not lose his salvation … Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy … Christ will not deny an unbelieving Christian his or her salvation … believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation, for God remains faithful.” 1

And furthermore, who is the devil seeking to devour, and what’s the point?  It makes no sense that he would be seeking to devour unsaved people – they’re already the sons of disobedience, and because they believe not, they are already under condemnation (see John 3:18; Eph. 2:2). If OSAS was true, it makes no sense that he would try and devour saved people – he’s had long enough to study the Scriptures, and if he knew that OSAS was true, why would he try and devour someone whose salvation cannot possibly be put in jeopardy, even if they resume a state of unbelief?

The only view which can make sense of 1 Peter 5:8-9 is the view which affirms that true believers can in fact apostatize, and come under condemnation.  That’s why the devil is prowling around – he knows that though the spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak.  He knows that if he can get someone to sow to the flesh, they will reap destruction (Gal. 6:7-9). He knows that if he can get someone to stop standing by faith in God’s kindness, they will fall and come under God’s severe judgement (Rom. 11:17-22).  He knows that if he can get people to live according to the flesh, they will die (Rom. 8:12-14), and have no inheritance in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

So why should believers be sober-minded and watchful?  Because our eternal destiny is at stake. We must continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, if we are to be presented holy and blameless before God (Col. 1:21-23).  We must be holy, if we are to see God in the end (Heb. 12:14).  We must continue abiding in Christ, if we are to avoid being cut off and thrown into the fire (John 15:1-6).

The Gospel is about the ‘Way’ of salvation, along which we must travel, if we are to reach our destination; the Christian life is about the ‘race,’ in which we must run, if we are to receive our prize (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:1).  

May we never let anyone deceive us into thinking that such a thing exists as an ‘unbelieving Christian’ or a ‘saved unbeliever’ (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one).

May we never let anyone deceive us into thinking that we can abandon our faith and yet still retain our share in God’s household (see Heb. 3:6). May we never be deceived into thinking that we can have an evil heart of unbelief, while remaining partakers of Christ (see Heb. 3:12-19).  May we never let anyone deceive us into thinking that we can become unbelievers without our salvation being put in jeopardy (cf. Ezek. 18:24-26; Rom. 1:18; 11:20-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 6:14-15; Heb. 3:12-19; Rev. 21:8).  

Rather, let us continue on the ‘Way’; let us run with endurance the race set before us; let us strive for holiness, for without holiness, no one will see the Lord; and let us be sober-minded, let us be watchful, for our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  If we are not careful, that someone could be us.  Our eternal inheritance is a high price to pay for our spiritual neglect.

Notes

1 Charles Stanley, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (1990, Thomas Nelson), pp. 92-94

OSAS Proof-Texts: John 3:15

John 3:15:

“That whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

OSAS Interpretation:

“John 3:15 states that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will “have eternal life.”  If you believe in Christ today and have eternal life, but lose it tomorrow, then it was never “eternal” at all.  Hence if you lose your salvation, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error.” 1

There are two flaws in this reasoning:

The problem with using this as a proof text for OSAS is the assumption that ‘eternal life’ is the inalienable property of the believer.  Such is not the case: the same apostle who recorded these words of Jesus also wrote that “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12; cf. John 1:4; 5:26; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6; Col. 3:3-4; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 1:2)  This makes it clear that eternal life is the inalienable property of Jesus Christ, not the believer; the believer can only share in this blessing as long as he is in Christ.  It should also be noted that John 3:15 does not say anything about whether it is possible to get ‘out of Christ’ and thus forfeit eternal life (which means that the verse by itself does not come close to proving OSAS), but later in the same gospel, Jesus makes it clear that it is, in fact, possible for a branch to stop abiding in Christ (John 15:1-6).

The second flaw is in the OSAS proponent’s view of eternal life.  They said, “If you believe in Christ today and have eternal life, but lose it tomorrow, then it was never “eternal” at all” (emphasis added).  But this does not follow.  

Think of it like this: Willy Wonka gives Charlie an everlasting gobstopper.  In the end, Charlie gives it back to Willy Wonka, thereby giving up possession of the everlasting gobstopper.  In this scenario, has the quality of the gobstopper changed?  No; Charlie has simply forsaken his possession of it.  It makes no sense whatsoever to think that because Charlie gave up possession of the everlasting gobstopper, that it was never an everlasting gobstopper to begin with.

And so it is with eternal life – if someone were to lose it, it would in no way affect the eternal quality of the life. It would just mean that such a person is no longer is in possession of eternal life.    Whether we choose to accept the gift of eternal life or not has no bearing on the quality of the life that is offered.  Eternal life is in Christ Jesus, and it will remain eternal regardless of whether we possess it or not.

Verdict:

John 3:15 by itself does not prove OSAS, as it simply promises that those who believe will have eternal life.  From this it follows that those who don’t believe (regardless of whether they once believed) will not have eternal life.  Example: think of the statement, ‘He who breathes will have life.’  The phrase ‘he who breathes,’ carries the notion of a continual action, and not a ‘one-off’ action, performed sometime in the past.  The life that results from breathing is a consequence of a present tense action.

Likewise, the eternal life that is offered in John 3:15 is not promised to those who once believed (sometime in the past), but to those who believe (i.e., those who believe now, in the present).


Notes

1 http://www.gotquestions.org/once-saved-always-saved.html

OSAS Proof-Texts: Ecclesiastes 3:14

Ecclesiastes 3:14:

“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.”

OSAS Interpretation:

“Scripture’s application of this principle to salvation (cf. Eph. 1:4) results in the doctrine of eternal security.  If what God does is forever, and if salvation is a work of God (Jonah 2:10), then salvation is forever.  If salvation can be lost, then it is not forever. Therefore, salvation cannot be lost.” 1

The error of this statement is assuming that the verse is teaching that God does not cease any action that He starts.  Using the above logic, then, I can ‘prove’ that God’s act of creating the world is never-ending:

Premise #1: What God does is forever (Eccl. 3:14).

Premise #2: Creation is a work of God (Gen. 2:2).

Conclusion: Therefore, God’s work of creation is forever (in direct contradiction to Genesis 2:2).

The fallacy of such logic is taking the phrase ‘whatever God does endures forever’, divorcing it from its context, and then applying it to a completely different subject (in Geisler’s case, salvation; by way of analogy, creation). With that in mind, does whatever God do endure forever?  Well, yes… but only within the context of the passage in which the phrase appears.

In the context of Ecclesiastes 3:9-15, all that is being taught is that God has given the business of toil to mankind (v. 10), and has put eternity in the hearts of mankind (v. 11). Verse 14 simply means that this is the way that God has made things, and there is nothing that we can do to change it (‘nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it’).  It is not teaching that God does not cease any action that He commissions.  If such was the case, we are left with absurd conclusions.  For example:

» God would be creating the world forever, contradicting Genesis 2:2;

» God would be striving with man forever, contradicting Genesis 6:3;

» He would be commanding all men everywhere to repent and offering salvation to whosoever will forever, thus making Acts 17:30-31 devoid of any meaning;

» He would be telling people to seek Him forever, thus making Isaiah 55:6 devoid of any meaning.

Verdict:

Ecclesiastes 3:14 does not prove OSAS. Ecclesiastes 3:14 doesn’t have anything to do with the doctrine of eternal security.  Geisler’s use of it leads to Scriptural absurdity.


Notes

1 Geisler, N., Systematic Theology, p. 306

OSAS Proof-Texts: Job 19:25-26

Job 19:25-26:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

OSAS Interpretation:

“Job was certain of two things: (1) that his Redeemer lived, and (2) that he would one day see God in his flesh (affirming resurrection). In other words, Job had present knowledge that he had been redeemed (‘my Redeemer’) and that he would see Him in his heavenly resurrected body: I ‘know’ (now) that I ‘will see God’ (later, in heaven). Such knowledge implies his assurance of eternal security.” 1

The passage simply says that Job was certain that he would one day see God, nothing more.  Nothing is said as to how he arrived at such a conclusion.  Nothing is said as to whether Job was unconditionally assured of seeing God.  It could well have been that Job was only conditionally assured, for he was described as a one of a kind, blameless, upright man, by none other than God Himself (1:8).  Also, through his sufferings, Job did not sin, nor did he accuse God of any wrongdoing (1:22).  Furthermore, if one wants to see God, there is a condition which must be met: holiness (Heb. 12:14).

All that conjecture aside, the plain truth is: this passage neither proves unconditional eternal security, nor does it disprove conditional security.  The passage simply affirms that an individual person felt secure.  It proves absolutely nothing one way or the other.

It should also be noted that whoever uses Job 19:25-26 to prove OSAS has actually missed the whole issue.  Believe it or not, the issue is not about the eternal security of the believer, for those who accept OSAS, and those of us who reject OSAS, both affirm the security of the believer.  As Shank says,

“It is abundantly evident from the Scriptures that the believer is secure.  But only the believer.  Many who have debated ‘the security of the believer’ have missed the issue.  The question is not, Is the believer secure? but rather, What is a believer?” 2

Verdict:

Job 19:25-26 proves nothing.  It affirms neither unconditional security, nor conditional security; it negates neither unconditional security, nor conditional security.  This passage should not be used as a proof-text for either view, as it affirms nothing more than what both sides already agree on, namely that the believer is secure.


Notes

1 Geisler, N., Systematic Theology (2004: Bethany House), 4 Vols, Volume 3, pp. 305-6

2 Shank, R., Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (1989: Bethany House), p. 55, footnote 3

OSAS Proof-Texts: Introduction

Commencing shortly will be a series of posts examining the passages of Scripture that OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved) advocates use to substantiate their belief in unconditional eternal security.  For convenience, the vast majority of the interpretations from the OSAS point of view come from Norman Geisler, in volume three of his Systematic Theology.  At this stage, there appears to be approximately 35-36 proof-texts that I will be examining, and (hopefully) showing that they do not, in fact, prove OSAS.