Thursday, November 19, 2009

Falling away from grace Part 2

Another text which is helpful in this discussion is 2 Peter 2:18-22. "For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: 'The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.'" I suppose one could argue that this is about people who are never truly regenerate but merely being part of the Christian community and giving a false profession. This is, however, not the obvious intent of the passage. They have escaped the defilements of the world and have known Jesus Christ. There is no where in the New Testament where these things would be claimed about an unbeliever. Knowledge of Christ implies saving knowledge. Some other passages which may be cited are, "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." (Matthew 10:22), "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9), "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20), "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), and finally, "Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved" (Matthew 24:12-13)

So how does one deal with these and other passages that teach that a true Christian can lose faith and be lost eternally? Does this fit with a monergistic view of salvation or must we adopt a Wesleyan doctrine wherein man is responsible for his own perseverance? Observe what Pieper states about the Scriptural doctrine of perseverance. "What Scripture teaches on final perseverance may be summarized in these two statements: 1. He that perseveres in faith does so only through God's gracious preservation; the believer's perseverance is a work of divine grace and omnipotence. 2. He that falls away from faith does so through his own fault; the cause of apostasy in every case is rejection of God's Word and resistance to the operation of the Holy Spirit in the Word. This doctrine the Christian Church must maintain and defend on two fronts: against Calvinism and against synergism." (Dogmatics Volume III pg. 89)
Scripture does clearly teach that it is God who preserves man in faith. Observe a few statements which make this point clear, "Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (Jude 24-25)
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10)
It is clear that scripture teaches two things: 1. Man can fall away from the faith, and when he falls away it is blamed upon his own unbelief, not on God's decree. 2. God preserves man monergistically in faith. Sanctification is wholly His work. We must necessarily hold to both since the scripture teaches both. There is one more set of texts left to look at, those used to defend perseverance which reference election.
Romans 8 is a classic defense of the doctrine of perseverance. "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." This is often called the "golden chain of salvation." This is an unbroken chain. All whom God foreknew end up finally glorified. There is no possibility here of a foreknown, elect, justified man falling away and failing to be glorified. This does not, however, support the doctrine that man cannot fall away from faith. It shows that those whom God elects will not fail to be glorified. The Lutheran confessions are clear on this point. This does not imply however, anything about other men being regenerate and falling away. 1 John 2:19 can be explained in the same way.

Thus we now see three things clearly taught in scripture.
1. God sanctifies man monergistically, through the means of word and sacrament.
2. Some men can and will fall away from the faith through neglecting word and sacrament, and willingly disregarding repentance and faith.
3. All of God's elect will be infallibly saved.

Thus if man perseveres it is entirely God's work. However, if a man falls away, it is entirely his own fault.
If perseverance is merely an outcome of election, as many Calvinists including James White have explained it, then we agree. However, that does not mean that no others can be truly regenerate and then fall away


Anonymous said...

'It is clear that scripture teaches two things: 1. Man can fall away from the faith, and when he falls away it is blamed upon his own unbelief, not on God's decree.'

Surely unbelief is a sin but if it is a sin is it not covered in the death of Christ? Is this not why we can cry to God, 'I believe, help my unbelief!'? How can this sin cause me to fall away if Christ has dealt with it on the cross?

Godlymama said...

this is quite an interesting topic. i wonder why we christians let ourselves to be deceived by satan using wrong doctrines as once saved always saved. Jesus covered all our sins when He died on the cross including unbelief, but that does not mean that we are permitted to live in unbelief because Jesus covered it in His death. In fact He covered all our sins in His death, and that is why we should not let ourselves live in sin again. Falling away comes in when we stop walking with Christ completely and start living the way we did before we believed. is it not the same unbelief that is leading many people to hell every day. what does the bible have to say about those who do not believe on the Son of God. Christ has covered all our sins but that does not mean that we should live in sin because He has covered them. 1John 1:1 says that "my little children, these things write i unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. This means that if we sin, we can ask for forgiveness, however this does not mean that we can sin willfully. John instructs us to sin not. I believe that unbelief left unattended to by a believer can cause them to fall away from the grace of God. Hebrews 10 : 35-39 is a good example of what can happen to a Christian who walks in unbelief. The world does no believe in Jesus Christ, are they also going to heaven because Jesus has covered their unbelief in His death. We are only saved when we choose to believe and hold fast to that which we believe in. Dear Child of God do not be deceived, God hates sin, if your Father God hates sin, then why live in it and call yourself a child of God? Why defend living in sin if you say you totally given to Christ? Shouldn't we be advocates for righteousness in wicked day and age? I think here the major key here is REPENTANCE. Unbelief is the opposite of believing, and it can lead a christian to lose their faith in Christ and start living like everybody else. Our walk with Christ is a walk of faith. whether we feel like it or not, we need to believe at all times that we belong to Christ. I think we need to be very careful the things we bring ourselves to believe. What comes out of our hearts reflect the condition of our hearts. It is important to examine what is in our hearts and what we defend. Paul tells us to workout our salvation with fear and trembling, if there is no possibility of falling away from grace, why should we fear and tremble? Whys should we also workout our salvation if Jesus has covered it all. I believe we have a big role to play here, and that is to deliberately choose adhere what the bible is telling us and living accordingly. The devil's lie is to make us believe that we cannot fall away from grace. I believe we cannot just do what we want and think that is it, we have been saved. i would rather believe what the bible tells me about working out my salvation with fear and trembling than to believe the lies of satan that because Jesus has covered every sin in His death i can live my christian life careless and only to find out when it is too late that i have fallen from the grace of God through my foolish actions. The bible tells us to be wise, why? because the days are evil. Revelation 21:8 warns us what will happen to unbelievers.Let us not be wise in our own eyes.

Jordan Cooper said...

Yes unbelief is a sin; however, faith is the means by which we recieve the benefits of Christ. Therefore if the means is gone, then Christ's death will not be applied to you. You probably believe as well that faith is necessary to accept the benefits of the cross. Aren't even the elect for whom Christ died before faith under the wrath of God? Look at 1 Peter 1:5, we are continually looked at by God as righteous through Christ by faith.

Jordan Cooper said...

Godlymama, it seems that you are approaching this from a very different perspective than myself. It is God's power and grace alone that keeps us saved, not our cooperation with God. Salvation is all of God. You point out that we must work our our salvation with fear and trembling, however if you look at the rest of the verse, Paul tells us that it is God who works in us. Read 1 Peter chapter 1.

Anonymous said...

So, how can know that I'm elect so I can rest in that knowledge? What if I'm not elect?

Sean said...

I am wondering after reading this post, can one be regenerate and not be elect?

Jordan Cooper said...