This is Part 3 of our study of the AMC Statement on Salvation. All but the last sentence has been examined already; we'll be examining it here.
Let's being with the entire Statement:
THE AMC STATEMENT ON SALVATION
"WE BELIEVE THAT ALL BELIEVERS ARE KEPT ETERNALLY SECURE BY THE POWER OF GOD THROUGH THE NEW BIRTH AND THE INDWELLING AND SEALING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT"
Two issues are at stake:
So let us turn to the Scriptures and see what they say. We will first examine various passages that support eternal security, and then some that appear to support conditional security.
PASSAGES THAT SUPPORT ETERNAL SECURITY
We'll begin by using the AMC's declaration as a framework.
All believers are kept eternally
the power of God...
It is the great and mighty power of God that keeps our salvation secure, not feeble and faltering human effort. Can there be any insecurity when guarded by almighty God?
the new birth...
If the Spirit abides in the believer from the moment of salvation until the end of eternity, then there is not a moment of time in which he is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Can a believer indwelt by the Spirit - and the Spirit within him - be cast into Hell? Will God cast Himself into Hell?
and sealing of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit seals the believer in Messiah until the day of redemption, which is the resurrection or translation of the body at the rapture. The Spirit sees to it that the believer will never fall out, break out, or be kidnapped from being in Messiah. The Spirit is also the earnest, the down payment, that God has placed on us until He takes us home, body and soul, to be with Him on that day.
FURTHER SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT FOR ETERNAL SECURITY
The Believer Has Died to the Law,
and Can No Longer Be Judged by the Law
Galatians 2:19-20: 19. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20. I am crucified with Messiah: nevertheless I live....
These passages bring out the following:
Sanctification and Spiritual
Growth Will Be Carried
Forth to Completion
Yeshua's Definitive Statements Concerning Those
Who Believe in Him
If we can believe Yeshua, then we can believe what He stated emphatically
in different ways, that the believer will
never ever perish.
The very purpose that Yeshua intercedes for us is that we may be saved to the uttermost. The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible renders to the uttermost as to the end completely. That ought to be "uttermost" enough for anyone. For Messiah has not entered into the Holy of Holies made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).
The Assurances of Romans 8
Romans 8 continues in the train of that worshipful exclamation, extolling the assurance of the salvation that is in Messiah. Here are some of the highlights:
1. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yeshua.... 2. for the Law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has made me free from the law of sin and death. The believer will not be eternally condemned even though he still sins, for he has been set free from the law of God that demands eternal death because of sin, For He [the Father] has made Him [Yeshua] who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Yeshua] (2 Corinthians 5:21).
15. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father! We need no longer fear eternal judgment. We have been adopted into the family of God.
29. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son. God has predestined the elect to be conformed to the image of His Son. Can the predestination of God be undone even by the elect themselves? Not a chance in eternity! That is why Paul said so emphatically,
38. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39. nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.
Nothing and no one in all of eternity - not even the believer himself - will be able to separate him from the love of God which is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.
PASSAGES THAT APPEAR TO SUPPORT CONDITIONAL SECURITY
By conditional security is meant that believers retain eternal life only upon meeting certain conditions or avoiding others. This position does not necessarily hold that the power of God is not involved in the retention of eternal life, but that God may withdraw His keeping power if the believer does not meet those conditions. (We have already seen that believers are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time [1 Peter 1:5]). Surely a more appropriate term than conditional security can be found, as the term is an oxymoron. How can one's salvation be secure this side of heaven if it is conditional? Nonetheless, this observation neither proves nor disproves what the Bible says on the matter.
Louis Sperry Chafer declared, "As many as eighty-five passages are listed by those holding the Arminian view as establishing the doctrine of conditional security" (Major Bible Themes, p. 220. See endnotes). We are not going to examine eighty-five passages! but we will examine those that seem to be the strongest and most commonly used; but first a word about human observation and judgment.
It is not only the apparent meaning of certain passages that cause many to believe in conditional security, but also observation and experience. Many of us have known people who seemed to be zealous for the Lord and then forsook Him, plunging headlong into a life of sin. It is these kinds of observations that have caused many to conclude that a believer can lose or throw away his salvation. However, it cannot be stated emphatically enough that human observation or experience must never be used to determine Biblical truth. The Scriptures are given to judge our observations and experiences, not the reverse! Our interpretations of our observations and experiences are often faulty, incomplete, biased, or just plain wrong. It is precisely because the Word of God is infallible and unbiased that it, and it alone, must be the light and the standard by which we judge and interpret our observations and experiences.
We have already examined passages that
uphold the doctrine of eternal security. Let us now examine passages that
appear to uphold conditional security.
The verse seems to say that believers who do not endure to the end of their lives spiritually will lose their salvation. The problem is, the verse is not referring to believers at all, nor even to eternal salvation. Verses 3, 14 and 15 show that the context is the Great Tribulation, and verses 15 and 16, in particular, indicate that Yeshua is referring to Jews. Zechariah 13:8-9 and Ezekiel 20:38 state that, during that terrible time of "Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7), the Great Tribulation, God will kill the rebels of Israel, who will constitute two-thirds of the nation, by the armies of Antichrist; and that the one-third remaining, those receptive to spiritual truth, will endure unto the end of the Great Tribulation - physically - by the protection of God. They will then be saved spiritually by the sovereign outpouring of the Spirit among them (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1).
The verse cannot be used to support conditional security. It has to do with unbelievers enduring physically, not believers enduring in their faith or in the quality of their walk.
Believers Who Do Not Abide in Messiah are
Cast as a Branch into the Fire
John 15:4-6. 4. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5. I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered. And they gather and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Yeshua is teaching his disciples by means of allegory. The purpose of an allegory is to make a main point, and caution must be exercised in interpreting the details. The point that Yeshua is making is that His disciples need to abide in Him for fruitfulness; and we must beware the pitfalls of assuming that the branch cast into the fire means that the unfruitful believer will be cast into Hell, and that the exhortation to abide in Him means that he needs to hold on to his salvation by continuing in fruitfulness.
One sound hermeneutical principle is that the unclear needs to be studied in the light of the clear. The figure of the branch cast into the fire must be studied in the light of a clear declaration of some other passage dealing with the issue of fruitlessness. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is just such a passage: 11. For any other foundation can no one lay than the one being laid, who is Messiah Yeshua. 12. And if anyone builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, 13. each one's work shall be revealed. For the Day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try each one's work as to what kind it is. 14. If anyone's work which he built remains, he shall receive a reward.15. If anyone's work shall be burned up, he shall suffer loss. But he shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
The passage makes it plain that the believer who leads a fruitless life will receive no reward; yet, he will still be saved. Therefore, the figure of the branch cast into the fire cannot refer to an unfruitful believer being cast into Hell. It may simply emphasize the ministerial worthlessness of a fruitless believer. By extension, the exhortation to abide in Yeshua cannot mean that the believer needs to continually exercise his will to remain saved. It must mean that he needs to avail himself of those means that the Lord has provided him for fruitfulness: prayer (Acts 4:39), meditation in His Word (2 Timothy 3:16), trust (Proverbs 3:5; Matthew 28:18), and action (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Believer May Become a Castaway or Reject
Here, again, some say that the passage shows that a believer may lose his salvation; but what is Paul actually saying? Once again, we'll look at the verse in context: 16. For though I preach the gospel, no glory is to me. For necessity is laid on me; yea, woe is to me if I do not preach the gospel!... 24. Do you not know that those running in a stadium indeed all run, but one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain. 25. But everyone striving controls himself in all things. Then those truly that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. 26. So I run accordingly, as not uncertainly; so I fight, as not beating air; 27. but I buffet my body and lead it captive, lest proclaiming to others I myself might be disapproved.
Paul is comparing his solemn charge to preach the Gospel to running in a race or fighting in a boxing match in which only one receives the prize. His reference is to the earning of rewards, the incorruptible rewards of the gold, silver, and precious stones of 1 Corinthians 3:12, not the retention of salvation. He disciplines his body and makes it his slave so that he would not be like the loser in an athletic contest who does not win the prize.
To become a castaway or reject, then, in the context of one who believes, has nothing to do with the loss of salvation, but the loss of rewards.
The Believer Can Fall from Grace
Some interpret falling from grace as loss of salvation; but a look at the very next verse renders that interpretation invalid: 5. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness out of faith. The ones who fell from grace are among those who are waiting through the Spirit. Now, it is impossible for an unsaved person to do anything through the Spirit as he does not have the Spirit. Therefore, those who fell from grace are still saved, and falling from grace must mean something other than the loss of salvation.
What does it mean? Verses 1 and 2 juxtapose the freedom that is in Messiah with the bondage of being under the Law, and verse 2 declares that those believers who place themselves under the Law as requisite for justification have fallen from grace; they no longer depend solely on the grace of God for their justification, but include the keeping of the Law. To the extent that they have placed themselves under the Law they have placed themselves under a merit system, the polar opposite of the grace of God. In that sense, and in that sense only, have they fallen from grace.
The passage is not speaking of the loss of salvation, but the placing of oneself under the merit system of the Law while yet saved.
If a Believer Dies with
Unconfessed Sin, He will Die Unforgiven by God
Some also misunderstand the verse as being an evangelistic call to unbelievers. However, 2:1 makes it clear to whom John is speaking, and also declares that the sinning believer has a safety net beneath him in the heavenly advocacy of Yeshua on his behalf: My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Messiah Yeshua the righteous. John is writing to believers as only they have an Advocate with the Father. As has been shown, the Advocacy of Yeshua on behalf of the sinning believer assures his salvation. Therefore, even if a believer dies without having confessed some of his sins - and who could know or remember them all! - his salvation will hold secure.
The confession that John is encouraging here is not confession for salvation; confession for salvation requires only the confession of Yeshua as Lord (Romans 10:9), not the confession of sins. The confession that John is encouraging is for the restoration of quality fellowship with the Lord and for continued sanctification.
If a Believer Dies in Unforgiveness Toward
Others, He will Die Unforgiven by God
Unforgiveness is a sin, and Messiah died for all sins, past, present and future (Acts 3:19; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:28). Here, again, the Lord is speaking of the quality of one's relationship with his Father. If one bears unforgiveness in his heart toward a neighbor, then the Lord will withhold the blessing of quality fellowship from him, not eternal life.
When a Believer Adopts an Extremely Sinful Lifestyle,
It Indicates He Has Lost His Salvation
The latter situation is the case of the Corinthian man who had illicit relations with his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5). We know that he was a believer, for if he wasn't, Paul would not have been able to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (to be put to death either by progressive degeneration or an instant blow) as he would already have been in the hands of Satan for that purpose pending the command of the Lord (Hebrews 2:14). It is Yeshua who normally puts believers to death (Revelation 1:18); 1 Thessalonians 4:14 speaks of believers who have fallen asleep through Yeshua. It is because the man was already saved and in the hands of Yeshua for death in due time that Paul was able to deliver him to Satan.
Did the man lose his salvation? No. Paul
extreme discipline upon the man
so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua
(15:5). It was a work that only the Lord could authorize, and we can trust
that, even as He authorized this extreme measure to sustain the salvation
of the man even had he not repented, He will do whatever is necessary to
sustain the salvation of even His most sinful followers.
These statements have caused many to believe that believers who commit serious sin or plunge into persistently sinful lifestyles will be condemned to eternal death; but let's examine the chapter.
In every case, the word used for soul is nephesh. In English, soul is normally equated with the immaterial part of a person. However, there are a good many instances in the Tanach (Old Testament) in which the death of the nephesh refers to the death of the physical person. Joshua 11:11: And they struck every nephesh in it with the edge of the sword, destroying them. And he left none breathing. Obviously, swords were used to kill breathing bodies. It is clear, then, that the killing of the souls in Ezekiel 18 could easily refer to the physical killing of people. But was that actually the case?
According to Charles Ryrie's introduction to the Book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel's ministry was to keep before the exiles the sins which had brought God's judgment on them... (The Ryrie Study Bible). The Babylonian exile was a national, temporal, earthly judgment. Chapter 9 prophesied the slaying of Jerusalem's inhabitants, and chapter 22:13-22 prophesied the eschatological scattering of Israel and subsequent judgment upon her in Jerusalem; both of them temporal and earthly judgments. The point is that chapter 18 is bathed in the context of temporal, earthly judgment, not eternal judgment.
The chapter contains lists of good deeds which, if people will do, they will live. Similarly, there are lists of evil deeds which, if people will do, they will die. The context of earthly judgment renders it almost certain that the death referred to throughout the chapter is temporal, physical death, not eternal death. Those who sin will die physically because of their sins. Those who do righteously or turn from their sins will live physically. Such judgment had already occurred in Israel as can be seen in the account of Korah's rebellion against Moses. Those who sided with Korah were killed by the LORD; those who sided with Moses were spared (Numbers 16).
To sum up, thus far,
These points render it rather certain that the death referred to in the chapter is physical, not eternal; but now let's look at the passage that controls the discourse of the entire chapter.
Ezekiel 18:1-4: 1. The word of Jehovah came unto me again, saying, 2. What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? 3. As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. 4. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
The people were complaining that they were suffering because of their fathers, to which God replied through the prophet, ...the soul that sinneth, it shall die (v. 4). What kind of suffering were they complaining about? Certainly not the suffering of eternal punishment. They were still alive! Furthermore, never in Scripture is one condemned to eternal punishment because of the sins of another or of a previous generation. The sufferings they complained about must therefore refer to their sufferings as a conquered and captive people, which included the slaughter of many of their brethren, and will perhaps include some of them.
All talk of death in the chapter refers to physical death, not eternal. Therefore, none of the death verses in the chapter supports conditional security.
If a Sinner is Saved through Faith, Then He
Can Become Unsaved through Loss of Faith
A question arises here: It is the believer who must exercise saving faith, not God. How, then, does a sovereign God sustain faith in a believer through faith who must continually exercise it of his own free will? The answer is, the same way He saves a person through faith. In John 6:44, Jesus said, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. God draws a person to Jesus, and that person exercises faith unto salvation of his own free will. Once the person is saved, the Spirit and the Son intercede for him unto the sustaining of his faith.
In Romans 8, in which Paul states so emphatically and in so many ways that the believer will never be eternally condemned or separated from the love of God, he says in verses 26-27,
Our weaknesses must, of necessity, include every vulnerability imaginable through which we could lose faith or desire to throw it away. The verses, then, tell us that the Spirit intercedes for us so that we would not lose faith. Adam Clark comments on the verses thus: "Our Lord makes intercession for us, by negotiating and managing, as our friend and agent, all the affairs pertaining to our salvation" (Adam Clark's Commentary on the Bible).
The Spirit's intercession for us guarantees that we will never lose faith; and if we will never lose faith, we will never lose salvation. As if that is not enough, the Son's intercession for us guarantees the same. This is illustrated beautifully in the case of Peter, which we will now look at.
If Confessing the Lord Saves, then Denying or
Renouncing the Lord
What did the Lord tell Peter before his threefold denial (Matthew 26:69-74)? 31. Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not. And when you are converted, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32). If one sees this as saving faith that the Lord prayed for, then He kept it secure via his intercession. If one sees it as faith for continued service, sometimes called living faith, then the loss of saving faith is not an issue, as faith for service cannot exist except on the foundation of saving faith. Whichever the case, Peter's denial did not constitute a loss of saving faith for even a moment. He never became unsaved.
What, then, did Yeshua mean by when you are
converted? Peter already had faith, which is why the Lord could
pray that it fail not. Peter's conversion,
then, had to do with his transformation from one who runs from trouble, as he
did when he denied the Lord three times (Matthew 26:69-74), to one who stands
strong in the face of persecution, as he did in Acts 4:18-20 and 5:27-29.
The Believer May Commit a Sin Unto Death
What is the sin unto death? As we have seen, 1 Corinthians 5 tells of a church member who was living in fornication with his father's wife. He had rejected the preliminary steps of church discipline, and now, in verse 5, Paul instructs the church to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua. The sin unto death, then, is refusal to accept the preliminary steps of church discipline in such serious matters as described in 1 Corinthians 5, placing the offender in jeopardy of being delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh.
What are we to see here? The man did repent (2 Corinthians 2:5-8); but supposing he did not. Satan would have killed him (destroyed his flesh), but his spirit would have been saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua. His salvation would have remained secure in the Lord despite his lack of repentance. The sin unto death is a sin unto physical death, not eternal death. No believer can commit a sin unto eternal death.
May Commit the Unpardonable Sin/Blaspheme
the Holy Spirit
What about the phrase,
it shall not be forgiven him, either in this
world or in the world to come
The unforgiveness that Yeshua spoke about had nothing to do with eternal unforgiveness, but of unforgiveness in regards to the Messianic Kingdom. Because of the nation's blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom would not be established at that time (in this age), nor would they be alive to see it in the age to come;" but instead, declared Yeshua, 38. Behold, your house is left to you desolate. 39. For I say to you, You shall not see Me from now on until you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:38-39). Their house (temple) was to be destroyed (70 A.D.), and the nation would not see Him again until they receive Him as Messiah, at which time He will return and establish His kingdom.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was the national sin of Israel attributed and attributable only to that generation (Matthew 23:36), and it is not a sin attributable to individuals. An unbeliever named Saul of Tarsus was part of the nation at that time, and yet, the Lord forgave and saved him (Acts 9:4-6). As blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a national sin and not attributable to individuals, it is impossible for an individual to lose his salvation by committing it: He cannot commit it.
The Warning Passages of The Book of Hebrews
Hebrews 6:4-6. 4. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5. and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come, 6. and who have fallen away; it is impossible, I say, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify the Son of God afresh to themselves and put Him to an open shame.
Hebrews 10:26-29. 26. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, 27. but a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28. He who despised Moses' Law died without mercy on the word of two or three witnesses. 29. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy of punishment, the one who has trampled the Son of God, and who has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Once again, let's look at the passages in their historical and biblical contexts.
The letter was written to Jewish believers in Jerusalem during the Roman siege prior to the judgment of 70 A.D. Concerning that judgment, Yeshua warned and instructed His disciples, 20. And when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that its destruction has come. 21. And let those in Judea flee to the mountains. And those in its midst, let them go out (Luke 21:20-21).
His followers were not to remain in the city, but to flee. This proved to be a tremendous test on two fronts. The first was the pressure put on all Jewish believers in the Land, through persecution, to forsake Yeshua and return to rabbinic Judaism. The second was the expectation of all Jerusalem Jews by the Zealots, who were in control, to join the armed resistance against Rome. The believers had no qualms about fighting the Romans, but the Lord did tell them to flee; so here they were, caught in the middle. The Book of Hebrews was written to strengthen their resolve to obey the Lord; to not return to rabbinic Judaism, but to flee to the mountains. Every warning of judgment in the Book had to do with the impending judgment of 70 A.D., not with eternal judgment. If they remained and returned to rabbinic Judaism, they would be slaughtered. If they made a clean break with it and fled, their lives would be spared.
The Book had its intended effect. In the Lord's providence, He opened a window of time for obedience. In 66 A.D., the Romans lifted the siege as they needed their troops elsewhere. The Jerusalem believers fled across the Jordan to the mountains, and found refuge in Pella. In 68 A.D., the Romans resumed the siege and, in 70 A.D., destroyed the city and the Temple with a great slaughter.
None of the warnings of judgment in the Book of Hebrews had to do with eternal judgment, but with physical judgment. The repentance in the Hebrews 6 passage had nothing to do with repentance unto salvation, but with repentance unto obedience to the Lord's command to flee; and no more a sacrifice for sins was a reference to the Mosaic Law under which there were certain sins, such as, adultery and murder, for which no sacrifice could be offered, but which necessarily incurred capital punishment. No more a sacrifice for sins also had a more immediate reference in that not even the Lord's crucifixion would save them from physical judgment for disobedience, but that they would need to pay with their physical, not spiritual, lives.
None of the Hebrews passages, therefore, support the idea that a believer could lose his salvation.
We examined what seem to be the strongest and most commonly used passages in support of conditional security, and saw that not a single one stands the test of hermeneutical scrutiny. We also saw definitive declarations of eternal security, and explanations of various ways that the Lord keeps His believers secure.
We have discovered no evidence that Scripture contradicts itself, and can rest assured in the trustworthiness of all that it truly says, such as...
"I give to them eternal life, and they shall never ever perish." (John 10:28)
The believer need not serve the Lord for fear of losing his salvation, but for joy in the salvation that is eternally his by the grace of God. As it says of Yeshua, for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).
Let us so serve Him!
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WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
"What must I do to be saved?" was the cry of the Philippian jailor to Paul and Silas.
Is that your cry? Then we implore you to consider the
response of Paul and Silas:
Believe on the Lord Messiah Yeshua, and you shall be
For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Messiah died for our sins according to the scriptures; ...he was buried, and ...rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
As Yeshua implored His listeners, we humbly
"Believe the Gospel".
Please let us know if you've just begun to believe.
For further study, the author recommends these materials, which may be obtained from Ariel Ministries:
Messianic Bible Studies by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum:
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© Norman Manzon, 2008.