Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Brief Commentary on the Doctrines of Eternal Security & Assurance

For me, the issue of eternal security (as well as most of the other seemingly contradictory doctrines) rest upon the basis of does Scripture contradict itself. If we believe that Scripture teaches that it cannot contradict itself because it is true in its entirety (Ps. 19:7-9; 33:4; 119:160, Jn. 17:17, 2Tim. 3:16-17), then Scripture isn't the issue, rather our interpretation of it is. Does Scripture teach eternal security? I would say yes. Does Scripture teach conditional security? I would also have to say yes. But this then poses a contradiction, which means how I and others have interpreted these passages are off.

I personally hold to the position of eternal security. The reason why I hold to eternal security rest primarily in several interwoven passages: John 6:39; 10:14-16, 27-29; 14:16-17, Romans 8:29-30, 1Corinthians 1:8, 2Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:5-6, 13-14, 1John 3:7-9; 4:13. Time does not permit for me to explore in this setting contextually all the passages I have cited. Nevertheless, from these passages we find that...
(1)Jesus will not lose (in context "let perish")(*1) anyone that comes to Him,
(2)Jesus will bring all His sheep into His one fold,
(3)absolutely nothing and no one can take away Jesus' sheep from Jesus,
(4)believers receive the Holy Spirit, and He is in them forever,
(5)believers are predestined by God to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus,
(6)believers are foreknown, called, justified, and glorified all by God,
(7)God will confirm (in context, "establish")(*2) believers blameless (literally "without fault in His sight")(*3) to the end,
(8)God has given and sealed (literally "stamped for ownership")(*4) believers with the Holy Spirit as a pledge (in context, "a deposit given as a guarantee")(*5),
(9)God has predestined believers to adoption as His children to the praise of the glory of His grace,
(10)believers have been sealed(*4) in Jesus with the Holy Spirit as a pledge(*5) of our inheritance to the praise of God's glory,
(11)a person cannot be truly born-again and still live in (practicing) sin because God's seed is in them, and
(12)believers have the assurance of knowing they're in God because God has given them the Holy Spirit.

I cannot read these handful of passages and believe somehow I, even with my free-will, can be truly born-again and still lose my salvation. I'm not denying free-will. I know full well I have a responsibility in working out my salvation and discipleship, in walking in the Spirit, in standing firm in the faith, and so forth. But just seeing from these handful of passages how active God is in keeping what He Himself has redeemed, it would be arrogant of me to say I can be truly born-again (regenerated) at one point and then, despite God's seed, seal, pledge, predestination, foreknowledge, call, justification, authority and power not to lose what He has, obligation to gather all of His sheep, confirming believers to the end, and the Holy Spirit being in us forever, I can become unborn-again (unregenerate). I acknowledge that their are passages that do speak to this very thing. However, while I may not fully understand what they mean just yet, I stand on the basis that Scripture cannot contradict itself, thus those passages somehow correlate with the truth mentioned in the above passages rather than the other way around. Those passages above do not fit whatsoever with conditional security. For example, to be able to somehow reverse or resist predestination contradicts predestination. I believe this is where our free-will and God's sovereignty work hand-in-hand. We do our part of working out and walking out our discipleship. God does His part of keeping us and sanctifying us along the way.

True born-again believers will bear fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives and will look more like Jesus over time (Jn. 14:16-26; 15:1-17, 26-27, Rom. 6:12-22; 8:9-14, Gal. 5:16-26, Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:12-16, 1Thess. 4:1-8, Tit. 2:11-14, 1Pet. 1:13-19, 2Pet. 3:18, 1Jn. 2:3-6); otherwise, they cannot say they have been truly born of the Holy Spirit if there is no evidence of the Holy Spirit in one's life. There is no one basic standard every Christian must reach. Each Christian who truly has the Holy Spirit will bear His fruit, but we all grow and mature differently--that is, at different times and in different areas. But there will be growth, for growth and maturity is a fruit of sanctification. Can true born-again believers fall back into sin? Sure. We see clear examples in Scripture. However, repentance is ever-present for a true believer because the Holy Spirit is ever-active in them. True believers may fall, but it will only be temporarily, not completely (Ps. 37:23-24, Prov. 24:16, Rom. 6:17-18, Phil. 1:6, Jude 1).

The doctrine of assurance is closely connected to the doctrine of eternal security. Our assurance of our salvation is the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is also one of our assurances of our eternal security, for He is our seal and pledge from God. Furthermore, in my estimation, the doctrines of eternal security and assurance do not create complacent, lethargic Christians, rather sin and selfishness does. Yet, on the contrary, the work of the Holy Spirit in believers' lives is to produce His fruit, Christ-likeness, and growth/maturity.

To be honest, I feel bad for the believers who are not so solid in their faith, because these types of arguments can very well have them second guessing what they believe. We have to do a better job of disagreeing in love and working toward some type of  common ground amid controversial doctrines.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Scripture Meditation: 1Cor. 1:17-18

"God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words. The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out." (1Cor. 1:17-18, Msg)

Here are some things we can take from this passage
1. Our coming and going, our service, and whatever else it is we do, is not about us. 
2. Our coming and going, our service in whatever it is we do, is about letting the Gospel be seen and heard---it's about Jesus! 
3. Some will not understand why we come and go, speak and listen, comfort and encourage, and love and serve like we do, and some will understand and be inspired. 
4. In all this know that God is at work, and the Gospel is the power of God for the saved and those being saved. 

Be encouraged, and be intentional on remembering "the powerful action at the center", the Gospel! 


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Scripture Meditation: Heb. 13:1-2

"Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" (Heb. 13:1-2, NLT) 

Here are some things we can take away from it
1. Keep loving each other as brothers and sisters, especially when it is hard to do so. That's when we need the love most! 
2. Be hospitable (friendly) to everyone. Why? Because we have no idea who the person may be or where they are at the moment in their life. Our hospitality could prove to be beneficial to us---as if we were to entertain an angel---or our hospitality could prove to be beneficial and life-changing to the recipient---they may come to know Jesus, they may be uplifted, they may be comforted, and so on. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

Sin & Infant Salvation

It is a difficult thing to talk to parent who just lost a child. What do you say? How do you console them? Do you say anything? It’s even more difficult when they ask you how could God do this or is their child in heaven. How as a Christian can we hold to the truth of inherent sin and believe as well as assure people that their infants and small children go to heaven when they die without sounding contradictory? This question is what I will be answering in this blog article.

Without thinking, majority of Christians and non-Christians believe infants and small children are essentially innocent of sin and guiltless. And someone would say, “Aren’t they? Infants can’t sin right?” You’re absolutely right. An infant would be “innocent” of committing a sin. And yet, someone else would say, “But, wait, how can this be when the Bible teaches that everyone is born in sin?”

David said in Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (NLT).
Job speaks on this as well, “So no one can be good in the presence of God, and no one born to a woman can be pure.” (Job 25:4, NCV).
Right here is where it can get tricky if we don’t understand sound theology. Yes, an infant would be “innocent” of committing a sin, but they are not without sin. Every human born is born “in” sin because Adam’s sin has been imputed (transferred, credited) to everyone born of the seed of man (Rom. 3:9; 5:12, 16-19). This means no person, infant to adult, is “guiltless” or “innocent” (Ps. 143:2, Prov. 20:9, Eccl. 7:20).

Now this begs another question, is the atoning work of Christ somehow applied to infants without their making a volitional decision to trust in Christ for salvation?
     This question is a much more difficult to answer. If I answer this from an Arminianist soteriological perspective, I’d say I believe God has some special grace for infants and somehow accounts the atoning work of Christ to them (cf. Matthew 18:14). If I answer this from a Calvinist soteriological perspective, I’d say only those infants whom God predestined does the atoning work of Christ apply to (cf. Ephesians 1:3-11). I do not identify as either an Arminianist or a Calvinist, but if I simply use both of the scripture references and arguments given I have a pretty good case for believing that the atoning work of Christ is somehow applied to infants without them making a volitional decision. Furthermore, David’s comment in 2Samuel 12:21-23 is very suggestive that he is speaking of seeing his dead child again in eternity. So between David’s story and what Jesus states in Matthew 18:14 is enough to make a case that in God’s sovereign plan, even though sin has been imputed to an infant, He--without violating His own law--makes some special provision for infants and small children who die.
     I believe this is one of those cases of Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belongs to the LORD our God” (NKJV). I’m okay with giving reasonable answers to this question rather than definitive ones in this case.

I hope this has helped us as Christians know and more certainly assure someone who’s lost an infant or small child that their infants and small children go to heaven when they die without sounding contradictory.