OSAS Proof-Texts: John 3:18

John 3:18:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

OSAS Interpretation:

“The plain sense of this text is that if one believes now, he is not condemned (lost) now and will not be condemned later (cf. Rom. 8:1).” 1

If the interpretation was left simply as, ‘the plain sense of this text is that if one believes now, he is not condemned (lost) now’, there would not be much to dispute.  But developing the OSAS interpretation that bit further by adding ‘and will not be condemned later (cf. Rom. 8:1)’ is unwarranted, and the reasons are fourfold:

1. The text does not say it.  The text does not say, ‘Whoever once believed in him is assured of never being condemned, no matter what.’  It says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned…”  Whoever believes (presently) is not condemned (presently).  But that raises the question – why aren’t those who believe condemned?  The answer is: because through the sacrifice of Christ, their sins have been forgiven.  But that raises another question – what sins are forgiven? Past sins?  Present sins?  Future sins? The Scriptures are clear: only past sins that have been repented of are forgiven (cf. Luke 13:3, 5; 17:3-4; Acts 2:38; 3:19; Rom. 3:21-25; 2 Pet. 1:9; 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2).  The promise of not being condemned is conditioned upon belief, and is applicable only for past sins, not present ones that haven’t been confessed, nor future ones.  For a powerful refutation of the idea that future sins are already forgiven, see Dr. Michael L. Brown’s Hyper-Grace (2014: Charisma House).

2. The context does not demand it.  There is nothing in the context of the passage that demands that it be interpreted to mean that one act of faith unconditionally assures someone of never being able to resume a state of unbelief (condemnation).  In fact, other Scriptures (such as Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 11:32; Jas 5:12) indicate that there is a possibility of believers falling under condemnation, via sin.

3. The logical conclusion of such a belief is the same lie that Satan told Eve: that even if you sin, ‘you will not surely die.’  The OSAS interpretation was that “if one believes now, he will not be condemned later.”  On the contrary, the Scriptures say that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and what’s more, that was written to believers.  Even for the believer, the wages of sin is still death.  It would appear that the apostle Paul didn’t believe OSAS.

4. Citing Romans 8:1 as proof of OSAS is circular reasoning.  Romans 8:1 says:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Note that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For this passage to have any force, it must first be assumed that ‘once in Christ Jesus, always in Christ Jesus’, which is the very point in question.  In other words, we would have to assume OSAS in order to prove OSAS.  See also Feedback: A Christian Can’t Lose Their Salvation Because They’re a New Creation

Verdict:

John 3:18 does not prove unconditional eternal security.  As with the previous proof-text, John 3:15, the promise of security is only for those who believe (i.e., those who believe now, in the present).  There is no promise of security for those who once believed.  Indeed, we are warned in God’s Word that if a righteous person turns away from his righteousness, he will be destroyed.  His past righteousness will not be taken into account (Ezekiel 18:24).  One act of faith sometime in the past is not enough to guarantee an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our God.

At the very best, John 3:18 is inconclusive.


Notes

1 Geisler, Systematic Theology, p. 306

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.