Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What does the Bible really say about Eternal Security? (Part 1)

This is going to be quite an expository read for you folks, so bear with me. 
There are a lot of verses thrown around for and against Eternal Security. A lot of them make sense when read alone. A lot of them make sense when read in context. So, if there are many good points for both side, one would have to analyze every single reference of Scripture that is in favor of Conditional Security and Eternal Security to come up with a legitimate conclusion... or he could find at least one reference of  Scripture that explicitly states whether one can lose his salvation or not. That's what I've intended to do here. So I have one question:
What does the Bible say about Eternal Security?

John 6:35-40 says, 

"35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in  me shall never thirst. 36 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 37 For i have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (ESV) 

Here is one of seven "I AM" claims of Jesus recorded in this Gospel. There are also several absolute statements where Jesus refers to himself as "I AM," in keeping with the reference to God as "I AM" in Exodus and Isaiah. Jesus as the bread of life nourishes people spiritually and satisfies the deep spiritual longings of their souls. In this sense, those who trust in him shall not hunger; that is to say that their spiritual longings to know God will be satisfied (corresponding with what John Piper claims in his book Desiring God). Verse 37 states that whoever comes to Jesus will never be cast out. This implies that people should never think that they have not been chosen by God. Jesus promises to receive everyone who comes to him [alone] and trusts in him [alone] for salvation. Yet, in verse 44, Jesus states the almost paradoxical statement that only those who are called by the father may come to Jesus. It is only until the Holy Spirit reveals to them that they realize that behind their willing decision to come and believe lies the mysterious, invisible work of the Father who was all along drawing them to Christ. 

My Bible footnotes that this corresponds with Romans 9:1-23 and Ephesians 1:3-6. Then in verse 39, Jesus says, "this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but will raise it up on the last day." I think that this implies two things: that everyone who has been chosen by the Father has been "given" by and from the Father to the Son for salvation will indeed(!) be saved. In verse 40, Jesus further explains that these people whom the Father has "given" to him will believe and have eternal life. This last verse is, I believe, the nail in the coffin of Conditional Security, or the idea that one can lose their salvation. This final verse in this passage explicitly says that it is God's decreed will that everyone who believes in Christ will attain eternal life, and will be raised up on the last day. The implications are that one must truly believe to attain salvation and that those who believe for a time or only appear as if they believe will not attain salvation. So then, here it has become not a question of whether or not one can lose his salvation anymore. It has become a question of who is actually saved, or, on an even deeper level, who truly believes.

John 10 concurs much with the previous passage, and I would hope so because it's in the same Gospel! 

John 10:26-29 says, 

"26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 26 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (ESV) 
This passage says that those who belong to Jesus' flock (i.e., those who are chosen by him) are those who believe or will believe. The reason people do not believe is because they are not a part of his flock, which implies that God must first give them the ability to believe and make them part of his people with a new heart. Eternal life by its very definition cannot be taken away, especially when Jesus' sheep belong to him and his Father. Then in verses 28 and 29, his sheep are given utter assurance of their salvation. He says no one can snatch them out of his hand (contrast with Romans 8:38-39). This should be our assurance. There's nothing that can snatch us away from Christ.
And finally in 1 John 2:19, it says, 

"19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." (ESV)

This verse is in reference to John's readers seeing people who had recently left the church. Although they were outwardly part of the church, their departure revealed that they were not truly ever part of it ("not of us"). (See also Luke 8: 4-15.) It says that if they were truly "of us" they would have stayed, they would have persevered. This implies those who are truly "of us," or truly of Christ's fold, or truly saved will never abandon Christ. We are kept by his grace (Romans 6:1, Jude 24). And finally the phrase, "that it might become plain" again reveals God's sovereignty in all situations and choices, and the divine plan that he has for everything, even the departure of this group.

There are a multiplicity of other verses and passages that confirm this, but only one is truly needed. I hope I cleared things up if anyone was struggling with this or confirmed what some people were suspicious of or wondering about. 

Until next time,
Daniel Glover.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.

It's been roughly four months since I finished reading John Piper's Desiring God. It's amazing how the doctrine of Christian Hedonism has been coming back to my mind over and over, displaying itself to me in many different situations. I have to say, when I finished the book itself I wasn't 100% convinced that that particular doctrine was one that the Bible actually promoted. But as I've begun my life in a totally new environment, a totally new denomination, and a totally new style and of worship I have begun to see the legitimacy of that doctrine and how applicable it really is.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Desiring God or with John Piper's doctrine of Christian Hedonism, I will define it for you. Christian Hedonism states that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. That is to say that we find our joy, our satisfaction in Him. All of it. This is not to say that we actually do find all of our joy in him, because we're human. We fail all of the time. And I'm not trying to make a case for why Christian Hedonism is true, but I would like to make the effort to say that it is and I highly recommend the book to everyone.

I think it's a great read and a great doctrine. Anyway, I highly recommend Desiring God to everyone who wants to find that satisfaction in God that they've been craving but don't understand how.

Good day and good reading.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Thoughts on Calvinism

Calvinism does two things:

1) Calvinism humbles people. Calvinism makes man realize that he can do nothing. He can do absolutely nothing. And it makes him realize that there is nothing about him that makes him any better than any unsaved person because of grace alone. Unconditional election shouldn't make someone feel special. It should make them feel grateful. It shouldn't make someone feel prideful. It should make someone feel humble. There's no reason that he was elected over someone else except grace. It should humble him. It should floor him. It should show him his complete and utter depravity, inability, and impotence. This should humble a man. But oftentimes this is not the case.

2) Calvinism puffs people up. Calvinism makes people feel superior. When people feel superior they are exceedingly prideful. This is why Calvinists come off as supremely pretentious. They feel as if they have some hidden knowledge that all other Christians need to find otherwise they are stupid or ignorant of Scripture. It gives a terrible name to a wonderful doctrine.
I'm not a very cocky person, but I am quite confident enough in my knowledge of the Scriptures that I could prove the doctrines of Calvinism to virtually anyone that is willing to actually listen and not argue the whole time. But Calvinism is a completely tertiary issue. If someone is a full-fledged Arminian and they know why they are Arminian then I'm not going to bother them with the doctrines of election. Having them believe true doctrine (and I think that Calvinism is in fact true, not just likely to be true) is the job of the Holy Spirit and the elders of their church, neither of which am I. But if someone is willing to listen to the Scriptures themselves (for that is the only way I could possibly prove Calvinism; philosophy and logic don't matter when Scripture clearly says otherwise) then I am more than happy to share the wonderful doctrine of election with them.
2 Timothy says that all Scripture comes from the mouth of God and is profitable for doctrine. So this doctrine is very profitable. Profitable for humility. Profitable for flooring the Calvinist and having him realize the true authority, majesty, justice, love, sovereignty, grace, and character of God.

Why am I a Calvinist? Because it's Scriptural: We were slaves to sin, with no way to escape. We might as well have been dead (Romans 6:17-19; 2 Peter 2:19; Ephesians 2:1-10). God chose us before the creation of the universe (Eph. 1:4-6) to be his servants, to follow him, not based on works (Eph. 2:8), not based on merit (Rom. 9:11), not based on whether they would choose to follow him in the future (Rom. 9:10-12, 14-18, 22-24), but based upon what would bring him the most glory (Eph. 1:5-6, 11-14; Rom. 9:22-23), for we were created for his glory (Isaiah 43:1-7). He saved us because he loved us for no reason other than he chose to. He died for us while we were still dead in our sins. He died for us while we were still enemies of God. And even then he loved us. So much that he died and rose again. And we love him because he first loved us. He calls us to himself just like a shepherd calls his sheep to himself (Jn. 10:1-4, 14, 16-18). He laid down his life for his sheep. He died effectively for us, his sheep (Jn. 10:15). He separated his people from those who were not his people (Mt. 25:31-46). And his sheep cannot cease to be his sheep. His people cannot cease to be his people. They will not fall away and they will not be torn apart. He died for his people and gave them eternal life so that they would not perish and no one could ever snatch them out of his hand (Jn. 10:28-29).

The doctrine of sovereign grace is worth infinitely more than we could ever imagine. The doctrine of sovereign grace is a gorgeous picture of the sovereignty and grace of God. And this is why I love Calvinism. I hope that it humbles you like it has humbled me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Bondage of the Will" by Martin Luther.

I've recently read Martin Luther's "Bondage of the Will," which is pretty much a response to Erasmus's writings that emphasize the freedom of the will. Luther, as a reformer, obviously disagrees, but he does in such a sarcastic and spiteful way. To be blunt, he is a jerk. As I progressed through the book and agreed with many of the points he made, I often came back to realize that he was still being extremely rude to Erasmus. It's a shame, and I have lost a bit of respect for Luther because of this reading, not because his theology is poor, because it is dipped deeply in Scripture, but because his attitude is poor, lacking in love.

Why is much of the respect I have for him hinged upon the attitude he showed to those- in this case Erasmus- who were wrong? Well mostly for two reasons: One, the Scriptures say to share the truth in love; and Two, the Roman Catholic Church was doing the same thing... burning people at the stake when they disagreed. So, he was acting much like the people, or system, he was trying to reform. Although he had an immense understanding of Scripture and doctrine and theology for the day, he did not share the truth in love. He shared the truth with pride and contempt. This is a dangerous practice for someone who calls himself a Christian, and I highly suggest that all of us in the Church today do not follow his example of approaching disagreement.

I very much recommend Martin Luther's "Bondage of the Will" for his arguments and the great theology alone, and use Martin Luther's poor example of teaching the truth in love to our own benefit.

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