Jul 05 2007
“What we believe is important!” I remember a visiting preacher saying that, over and over again throughout his sermon. I remember thinking how refreshing it was to actually hear a minister say that. I firmly agree! In this day and age, we see so many people clamor for the next big feel good, Christian best seller, while rarely questioning whether or not what they are reading is doctrinally sound. One well known, mega church Pastor and best selling author said, “I talk about things for everyday life, I don’t get deep and theological.” I have a question. How much of what we read on the Christian best seller list, reflects the tone or content of God’s word? How much of it is meat, and how much is dessert? How much of what we hear taught even on Sunday mornings or on talk radio shows, actually contradicts good theology and clear scripture? What I find alarming, is that so few people are alarmed about anything. To me, this indicates that we embrace nearly everything. I still contend, that “What we believe is important.”
I was recently questioned by a guy at work concerning certain doctrines. After a lengthy discussion, I told him I would get back to him, and as a result I went home and wrote the following discourse. Realizing that this may be helpful to others, I decided to post it on TheologyBlog.net. I hope it accomplishes what it is supposed to.
One thing that is very important through all of our studying and doctrinal hair splitting is this. We must make maintaining our relationship with God a number one priority!The Bible says in Eph 4:14-16
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
So we should move forward, and dig deep, but be careful not to get too caught up too soon, with so much doctrinal debate, that it starts affecting our relationship with God. It can become overwhelming at times. After all, the goal is not debating, but discovering truth, so that when we are fully convinced of where we stand, we can teach others. As the verse above states though, there are cunning, crafty men, who are deceitful schemers. If you don’t believe that there are schemers, take some time and read some accurate biographies of men like Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, and L. Ron Hubbard. Granted, none of us are perfect, but the extreme flawed character of these men, should be a red flag to anyone who seeks to follow them. I would not follow them down to the corner of my street, yet there are those who would follow such men, in pursuit of spiritual truth. These are the types of men that the verse above is speaking of. With all this in mind, let’s continue.
Some people can get discouraged with the doctrinal mud slinging to the point of throwing in the towel. Sadly, that is the wrong response. They end up throwing the baby out with the bath water. There is much to be gained by discovering doctrinal truth. When we embrace God’s truths, we have a great future of living productive, fruitful lives and seeing many great things happen for God’s glory. Doctrine is vitally important. I have a saying that goes like this. “What we believe affects what we do and say. What we do and say, affects eternity.” That is not a Bible verse, but it is a true statement or (truth nugget) and is very much supported by many scriptures (basically, we reap what we sew). Think about it. If we believe false doctrine, and live by its principles and we teach others false doctrine, we are potentially affecting generations of people and their souls. We will be accountable to God as to what we teach others. This is why doctrine is important. Let’s look at a verse in 2 Timothy.
2 Tim 2:15-17
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene.
And in the Book of James we read this warning:
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Give yourself time, even years to read the word of God daily. Study it and think on it, and this is very important, believe it. Pray for God’s understanding. There are too many people, pastors, and denominations, that through the years have begun to treat the Bible like a buffet table, picking and choosing what they will believe and accept and what they won’t. That is why I often say… “Stop bringing scissors and a black marker to your Bible reading”. Read it and believe it is for you, to enrich your life.
If I could say this next statement a thousand times, it wouldn’t be enough. Pray daily, read the Bible, and seek after God with all your heart! Remember, this is relationship not just religion. Find and attend a good church on a regular basis. When you find a good one, make it your church home. I said a good Church not a perfect one, those don’t exist. These things are vitally important. It is the difference between growing in Christ and not growing at all.
Everyone claims to be Bible based! The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be Bible based. The Mormons use the Bible. The Seventh Day Adventists claim they are Bible based. The Catholics use the Bible, the Baptists, the Pentecostals, but yet they all disagree on major doctrines. So we all disagree some, what is wrong with that? Yes, we all will disagree on some points, but here is the big problem. When it comes to major doctrines, we can’t afford to be wrong.
Major doctrines affect people’s salvation and their relationship with God. So how can we better understand what to believe about major doctrines? We must understand God’s Character (personality and attributes). We can begin to discover this, by reading His word, the Bible. Throughout the depth, the height, and the breadth of the scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, we see God revealed to us. He is revealed to us how? By what He does and says! By how He deals with people and what He reveals about Himself to us.
Through God’s word we begin to clearly see what His characteristics, attributes, and personality are like. God is as God says and does, and true doctrine will be in perfect harmony with His character. For example: Did what you understood about your parents character and behavior affect how you behaved yourself at home and how you conducted your relationship with them? Of course it did! If you did what was expected and avoided wrong behavior, you could expect to be in very good standing with them. But let’s imagine that you did outrageous things like crash the car into the house for fun, or maybe offer to sell drugs to your parents and inform them of your string of burglaries. Now how do you suppose they would react? But instead, you knew what was right and acceptable because you knew their character, personalities, and their expectations. To go out and tell others that your parents are pushovers and you can insult them and damage their property without repercussion would be false and dangerous. Yet there are those who portray God that way. Does God always love? Yes, but He is also always just.
God’s Character and Major Doctrines:
To begin listing scriptures for this section would be too numerous, so I will mention things that most people know about God, that have been revealed to us in His word. God is first and foremost Holy. He is a God of justice, He is a God of Love, He is a God of Truth and He does not lie. He is perfect, He is all knowing, He is all powerful, He is everywhere present, and He is timeless and eternal, never having beginning, or ending. He is a judge, who will judge every person. He has a plan, to save as many people as possible, and He is carrying out that plan.
There are many different views on any number of Bible doctrines, but there are some that definitely should be categorized as Major. What separates the majors from the minor doctrines? That could be measured in the amount of affect that those doctrines have on the lives of people. Doctrine will affect people’s every day lives and, most importantly, their eternal lives. In the realm of everyday Christian life, doctrine can affect how deep, rich, rewarding, happy and productive our relationship with God is. It can make the difference between a powerful, joyful, and productive, peace filled life that others will see and take notice of, or on the flip side, wrong teaching (doctrine) can lead to a frustrating, lack luster, legalistic, and even depressing experience. In short, false doctrine can destroy people’s lives temporally and eternally! God wants your experience with him to be a joyful one, hopefully one that others will see and be drawn to. Jesus said…
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Jesus did not come to make life miserable for us. On the contrary, who better than God, knows how to lead us into a life that is more happy and satisfying than any other? I know first hand, because I have experienced it, and after 23 years with him, yes there were and are ups and downs but life is great! I would not have enough paper to tell people how much he has changed me, and made life the best it can be. Now let’s get back to doctrine.
The following is a list of what I feel are the “Majors”. We are first going to address salvation.
How we are saved and gain eternal life is the most major and important doctrine. The reason for this is that it has eternal consequences, not only for those who believe what’s being taught concerning this subject, but also for those who teach it. If I tell people that worshiping a rock is the way to heaven, not only have I put their eternal souls in jeopardy, but I have condemned myself before God as well. Do you remember the verse earlier that told us that those that teach will be judged more strictly? (James 3:1)
Jesus died and paid a terrible price and sacrifice for people in order to give them eternal life! We dare not be wrong about this subject! Too much is at stake! Yet, there is disagreement on this vital subject among major Christian denominations. The Seventh Day Adventists believe that you must accept Jesus Christ and repent, but that you must keep the original Sabbath day as well, which is Saturday. They are adding to the perfect work Jesus did on the cross. A light reading of the book of Galatians alone will destroy that belief. In fact there are many so called “Christian” denominations and doctrines out there, that teach salvation is achieved by accepting and believing on Jesus Christ, but you must also do what they do. They will have some sort of extra “exclusive” belief or practice that sets them apart from every other Christian and has them on the inside track with God. So it essentially ends up being Jesus plus what they do. I like to refer to those people as the “Jesus Plus Us” crowd. Yes it is the cross, but that was not enough for them. Jesus said “It is finished”. But they didn’t think so. They have a little something else to add to the cross in order to help God out with salvation.
This exclusiveness creates in them a legalistic, Pharisaical, arrogance that is easily recognizable. Where this kind of doctrine is, other legalistic rules are not far behind. When a church becomes too legalistic, the people spend so much time condemning themselves and each other and judging others that they can’t enjoy their relationship with the Lord and get on with the exciting things God has for them to do. Not only that, but the scriptures declare them to be lost. Galatians needs to be quoted here. I will list some important passages. Remember, when Paul mentions the “Law”, He is speaking of the Old Testament ceremonial laws and works that were a part of the Old Covenant first given to the Jews. Jesus became the fulfillment of those laws for us. We could not do it, and law could never save a person anyway. It only showed how guilty we are. Let’s look at some of those verses.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. NIV
Paul was speaking to them concerning laws that were originally given by God. But now, we have many who not only try to attach some of those laws to salvation, as the Galatians did, but they add on more and more “things that men make up”, (1 Peter 2:3) and the end result is often the same. Shipwreck! Some people get so discouraged they give up on God and some never seek after him again. Some tough it out through the years, but never find the joy filled relationship that God intended them to have. This is why doctrine is so important.
In some churches, you can’t even find out how to get saved. Some of them have the “show up and you got it” approach. As long as you attend and look religious, you are good to go. Forget about a real noticeable relationship with God, or being born again as Jesus told us about in John 3:3. They usually rely on religious/family tradition that makes them feel secure because of the name of their denomination. They say “I am a _____________”. The name in that blank makes them feel safe because it is either the “true” church or it is the church they grew up in, so it must be right. When in reality the statement should be like this. “I am a believer in Jesus Christ”. There are also those who want to attach spiritual gifts to salvation. This is also wrong.
I am a believer in what the Bible teaches concerning spiritual gifts (Acts and 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14). I believe there is one New Testament Church, and the New Testament was written for that New Testament Church, which you and I are a part of. The New Testament had ample opportunity to attach spiritual gifts to the work of salvation, but it never does. Those that believe that, are trying to find it and are reading into scripture something that is not there. Had it been that crucial to salvation, it should have been heralded from every page of every book in the New Testament, but instead, it becomes a “developed” doctrine, and yet another way to add to the perfect work of the cross.
Hopefully, all who read this are in agreement that we are saved by grace, through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone. I don’t know if any scriptures say it better, concerning how we are saved, than these.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. NIV
If we are fortunate enough have been born into God’s kingdom by “grace through faith” as cited in the verse above, we are truly blessed, however, it seems that not long after that great experience, we eventually find out that large segments of our Christian family are in serious disagreement regarding two major teachings related to our salvation. The doctrines I speak of are known by these names. 1. Unconditional Eternal Security, (also known as “Once saved, always saved”, for reference sake, I will call it “eternal security” from now on. 2. Predestination, (also known as Calvinism).
I need to state something here before I go further. The people that adhere to the following doctrines are our family in Christ. They are our brothers and sisters they have been saved “by grace through faith”. That being said, I hope that we, as the Church, can continue to have open discussion on doctrinal issues and not be afraid of a challenge to them.
In addressing these two issues, I want us to remember a couple of crucial things. First, we must keep in mind God’s character. God is, as God says and does. His words, and actions, and his dealings with man, should help us to better cut through false doctrine. Secondly, and this is very, very important. Since we are talking about salvation, we are talking about the most serious issue of peoples eternal souls. Salvation is an eternal issue subject! If we are believing, or more importantly, teaching other people something false concerning this area, mark my words, we will have to answer to God for it and we will be held accountable for their souls!
The Big Debates: Eternal Security and Predestination
1. Eternal Security:
This theology tells us that we had free will when we were lost, but lost free will the day we got saved. After salvation, there is no chance of being lost again. Let’s clear something up here from the start. Most of us that take an opposing view on eternal security, do not believe that you lose salvation like you lose your car keys. The more appropriate phrase would be, “We believe you can leave your salvation”. This would be the equivalent of driving your keys and your car off a cliff, with you in it, because you are tired of the effort that a relationship with Jesus requires or maybe you’re just tired of someone else being the captain of your ship. This is all based in the “fact” of free will. God gave free will to Adam and Eve in the garden and has never taken it away. He stated that fact in Genesis when he said…
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” NIV
Did you notice the “You are free” phrase? We had free will before we got saved, used it to accept Christ, and can forfeit that relationship, with a life of continual, intentional, and unrepentant disobedience. Do you remember my example of growing up under our parents rules? Those are our Earthly parents. We are being raised in God’s house now and I believe that those temporal training grounds were set in place by God to give us examples for eternal truths.
Eternal security is not questioned much any more. It has swept through Christianity like a hurricane, and now seems to be the accepted norm for most Christians today. But I contend that just because something becomes popular, or a standard does not make it scripturally correct. Yes, it is possible for the crowd to be wrong.
I will not make an exhaustive statement on this doctrine because there is already one available, written by “Cappy”. His exhaustive commentary on this is right on track. It may be accessed by anyone on his website, TheologyBlog.net. Once there, find the heading “Eternal Security” on the right hand side of the home page and click on it. I will now make some additional observations concerning this subject. As I wrote earlier, I believe we can arrive at better doctrinal understanding by understanding God’s character, I will use that approach to this subject.
What does God say and do in his dealings with men? Let’s start out with a strong statement in Ezekiel.
24 “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. NIV
God’s dealings with man have always been conditional! When God made promises to the Israelites, they were always conditional to obedience. Consider the Israelites who were delivered by God from Egyptian slavery. (a type and shadow of our slavery to sin). Not long after that great deliverance and parting of the Red Sea, God had this to say to his people.
There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” NIV
Did you notice the “Ifs” there? I underlined them. Ifs are always an indication of conditional situation. Was God lying? What was the end result of the generation of His people whom He rescued out of slavery? Death!
All those who came out of Egypt-all the men of military age-died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. NIV
6 The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. NIV
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. NIV
Looks like God keeps his word. Looks like God’s dealings with man are conditional. These people were delivered out of Egypt. Most theologians will tell you that Egypt is a type of our slavery to sin. The blood on the doorframes of their homes (Exodus 12:7-13) was a type of the blood of Christ applied to our lives, then the deliverance came and they began their journey to the Promised Land. To spiritualize Exodus, they got saved, washed in the blood, baptized, and were headed for the Promised Land. But “because of unbelief” they died! This was their choice, and our conditional God kept his word! The Lord also has this to say.
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. KJV
Does God have requirements for us today? Does He have expectations for New Testament Christians? Of course he does. Lest any should think I can only site Old Testament verses concerning God’s conditional treatment of His people, let us not forget the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5.
9 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. NIV
Now we must get one thing clear before we go further. This is where some get confused. We are saved by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8,9. Not by works. At the moment of faith and confession, we are declared righteous in the sight of our Holy God by the perfect work of His Son Jesus Christ, who paid for our salvation with His own blood. After that, God expects us to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, who will lead us daily, for the rest of our lives to gradually become what we have been declared, (that is called sanctification). We are to walk, talk, and live lives like Jesus Christ. We don’t live right to get saved, we live right because we are saved, and we serve a Holy God. God would not require us to live better lives than the rest of the world, if he did not give us the ability to do it. Understand though, that becoming Christ-like is a daily, lifelong pursuit. We should pursue it aggressively, but we should not let our failures keep us down. More than anything, our Christian walk is an endurance test.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. NIV
1 Peter 1:15-16
15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” NIV
Notice, in the previous verse (Heb 12:14), He did not say no one except my people. He said “no one”. I will not list all of the scriptures that call us to righteous, holy living. You can hardly read a page in the New Testament without reading that. So since our proponents of Once saved always saved can’t argue with those scriptures nor the plethora of warnings issued to “Christians”, yes Christians, the false teaching had to change. It could not stand as it was in light of so much scripture, so it had to morph. When pressed, the doctrine is changed to sound like this. “If you go back to a life of habitual sin, then you were never saved to begin with? How convenient! Now these people have the supernatural knowledge of God himself! They know that that a person did not mean it when they prayed, and God did not save them. That’s amazing. They say, “A real Christian would not live that way.” “A real believer would not turn back”. Well, first of all, you can’t make a statement like that, because a “real believer” can not turn back, according to eternal security. They just won’t do it. But when Peter was denying Christ, was he not saved? When Peter was embracing Jesus plus circumcision and was openly rebuked by Paul and charged with “hypocrisy” Galatians 2:13, was he not a Christian? Of course he was. But Paul made it clear just a few chapters later where Peter was headed if he did not repent and get his doctrine lined out. We quoted the verse already.
4 “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace”.
That verse makes it clear. But eternal security says, “You can not fall from grace”. They teach that you just weren’t saved to begin with”. But don’t you have to be in grace, before you can be “fallen away from grace”? Peter’s salvation and position as an apostle were in jeopardy at that point. In fact, this verse (Gal 5:4) was the result of an illustration Paul used concerning Peter’s error! Let’s read more about that.
11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. NIV
Paul just accused Peter of hypocrisy! If Peter had continued in this false doctrine and lifestyle, he would have no doubt been labeled a heretic by Paul, and been shunned by those of the true faith. This lead to Paul’s statement above, which clearly declares the possibility of falling from grace. Remember, “fallen away from grace” is not an invented Arminian phrase, they are the words of the Apostle Paul.
Question: who were all the warnings of the New Testament scriptures written to, warnings of the possibilities of falling away? Warnings of being cut off?
22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. NIV
Answer: They are warnings to Christians!
Do you see that conditional phrase in the last verse? “provided that you continue in his kindness.” “Otherwise”. What? Go ahead and read it. “you will be cut off”. Don’t you have to be “on” before you are “cut off”?
There is so much scriptural support for maintaining a living, breathing, holy relationship with God, and harsh warnings to “Christians” (Yes Christians) for not doing so, that it is hard to believe that the eternal security teaching has gained such ground.
Let’s get even more logical here. Who are all of the warnings in the New Testament addressed to? The scriptures themselves make that clear. The titles of many of the New Testament books make that clear. They were written to Christians and to Christian churches! The language always assumes the readers are saved. So why are there so many warnings against falling away if it is not possible to fall away? I would like you to read the following verses, and then try to misunderstand them. Ask yourself the interrogative questions (who, what, when, where etc), when you read it, and then come to a conclusion as to who the writer is talking to, and what he is saying.
19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. NIV
Was that difficult to understand? If it was, I have another verse that may clear things up a bit.
2 Peter 2:20-22
20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” NIV
Notice, how they “have escaped” “by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”, “and are again entangled”. And the final clincher. “A sow that is washed goes back…” If I were to get any literature or English teacher to interpret that verse for us, they would, no doubt, interpret this verse correctly. Do you know any sinners that are washed, in the spiritual sense? No, because if you did, they would be called Christians and believers! Let’s read a couple more, and I will move on.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. NIV
35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. NIV
Did you notice that “The Lord will judge his people.” “Need to persevere”, is a condition. What do you think will happen if we don’t persevere? What do you think will happen if we “shrink back”? It says they are “destroyed”.
The Dangers of Teaching False Doctrine:
If we are teaching something false, as it relates to salvation, we are in deep trouble! What if those of you who teach eternal security are wrong? What if a person ends up in hell because you taught him he could never forfeit his walk with God? Will God not require his blood at your hands? Most certainly! And those that teach predestination. What if someone sits in your church week after week, waiting for God to make him repent? Will you not give an account for his soul on judgment day? You most certainly will!
6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. 7 So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. KJV
This is your job Pastor! This is your job teacher! You are a watchman! You are a shepherd! This is your job theologian! This is your job Christian! God has given you sheep to care for. If you tell them the wrong thing, and they end up missing heaven because of you, you will stand in judgment for it! The shepherd not only feeds the sheep, as Jesus asked Peter to do, but he protects them from danger! Sheep do not know enough to stay away from danger. It is up to you to tell them. The only trouble is, you tell them there is no danger! The only “Danger” many of you warn them about, is to stay away from the fullness of the work of the Holy Spirit, outlined for all of us in 1 Corinthians 12,13,and 14. Heaven forbid that they should have a word of knowledge for someone or maybe even get healed. How scandalous! The previous verses show us two truths at work concerning God’s character. The first one is that God’s dealings with man are always conditional. Always look for the “Ifs”. The second characteristic/principle we see here is this, “To whom much is given, much is required”. If you are a teacher, much is required.
Big Debate Topic Number 2:
Basically states that you were born without free will as it concerns your salvation. Those that believe in the teachings of John Calvin believe that everything, even our salvation, is a work of God’s predestination. You had nothing to do with responding to God’s call of salvation. He actually did it for you. (I need to state here, that some Calvinists believe in a measure of free will on our part to accept Christ). The true teachings of Calvin tell us that we never had free will. I will not be exhaustive on this subject. I may have to address it more at a later date
Yes, both eternal security and predestination infringe upon our free will, and if there was no free will, there would never have to be a command, a rebuke, or a warning from God that says, If you behave this way, I will bless you, but if you disobey, I will bring judgment on you. If it was God doing everything, God would not need to require anything of us, because we would all do His will anyway.
Anything other than freewill would make God the only player, in a silly game with eternal consequences for those of us he claims to love. God’s character would seem to be less than the character He expects of us! How men can embrace this teaching is beyond me. But embrace they do and they would call me a heretic for teaching anything else.
The Early Church Speaks!
Speaking of heresy, let’s see what the early church leaders had to say about these beliefs. You see, “there is nothing new under the sun”. (Eccl 1:9)
The early church fathers were speaking out against predestination (Calvinism), and eternal security (once saved always saved) before dear old John Calvin or other theologians were even born. Let’s take a look. I will first tell you, that not one of those we call the “ante- Nicene fathers” believed in what we now call eternal security or predestination. They all believed in free will, and more importantly, they saw the doctrines of eternal security and predestination as heresy! That’s right, the early Church leaders taught that these were the beliefs of heretics! Today, those doctrines are so widespread, that teaching anything but them is considered heresy.
Quotes from the early Christian Leaders: Here are some quotes from the early Church Fathers. Do you notice the early years of these writings?
“No one is a Christian but he who perseveres even to the end” (Tertullian, 197 A.D.)
The following quote attacks both eternal security and predestination as being introduced by heretics!
“Certain ones of those (heretics) who hold different opinions misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost” (Origen, 225 A.D.)
“You who are still in the world. You are still in the battlefield. You daily fight for your lives. So you must be careful , that…what you have begun to be with such a blessed commencement will be consummated in you. It is a small thing to have first received something. It is a greater thing to be able to keep what you have attained. Faith itself and the saving birth do not make alive by merely being received. Rather, they must be preserved. It is not the actual attainment, but the perfecting, that keeps a man for God. The Lord taught this in His instruction when He said, “Look! You have been made whole. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”…Solomon, Saul, and many others were able to keep the grace given to them so long as they walked in the Lord’s ways. However, when the discipline of the Lord was forsaken by them, grace also forsook them. (Cyprian, 250 A.D.)
Quotes from the early church leaders on predestination (Calvinism):
“In the beginning, He made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God.” (Justin Martyr 160 A.D.)
“Each of these two orders of creatures (men and angels) was made free to act as it pleased. They did not have the nature of good, which again is with God alone. However, it is brought to perfection in men through their freedom of choice. In this manner, the bad man can be justly punished, having become depraved through his own fault. Likewise, the just man can be deservedly praised for his virtuous deeds, since in the exercise of his free choice he refrained from transgressing the will of God….. And the power of Logos has in itself a faculty to foresee future events. He foretold from time to time the issues of things to come- not as fated, but as taking place by the choice of free agents.” (Taitian 160 A.D.)
“This expression…sets forth the ancient law of human liberty. For God made man free from the beginning. Possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the commandments of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God. …And in man, as well as in angels (for angels are rational beings), He has placed the power of choice, so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good-given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves” (Irenaeus 180 A.D.)
If those on the side of eternal security and predestination had quotes such as these from the early church fathers, I guarantee they would be shouting them from the roof tops. Strangely though, you never hear these quotes.
Some Closing Thoughts:
The scriptural view is that salvation is accepted by our own choosing and is ours as long as we abide in Christ and do not turn back to the former lifestyle. We do not slip in and out of salvation like we slip in and out of bed every night. Salvation is relational. It is a relationship that is sustained on our part, by faith, obedience, and fellowship with God. God’s part is being a faithful Father to those who believe, obey, and seek Him. We know when we are headed away from the Lord. The Holy Spirit warns us when we are drifting and calls us back to holiness and repentance. It is the continual and or complete return to the former unrepentant life that put us in danger. When does the moment of falling from grace occur? I don’t know, but I do know, that when it does, it is not God’s fault. It is the path that we chose by our own free will!