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Once Saved, Always Saved? Part 4

by Karl Kemp  
10/31/2011 / Bible Studies

Part 4 continues where Part 3 stopped.


John 6:39. "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day." This verse certainly emphasizes God's role in our salvation. If this was all the Bible had to say on the subject, I would still believe in eternal security. However, I should mention that God's will isn't always done. He doesn't will for His born-again children to rebel against Him or turn their backs on Him.

John 10:27-29. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; (28) and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." There is some emphasis on God's sovereign role in these verses, but we can also see something of man's part in verse 27. Also, the issue is not whether anyone is able to snatch a believer out of the Father's hand (they aren't able), but whether a believer can apostatize and stop following Him, thereby willfully abandoning His hand. This paper shows that there are a large number of passages in the New Testament which show that true Christians can fall away from God.

Most of the other verses that have been used to support eternal security fit into the category of God's being able to protect and/or keep His people. I have seen the following such verses so used: John 17:11-23; Rom. 8:31-39; 2 Thess. 3:3; Heb. 7:25; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:24; and Rev. 3:10. Thank God for all such verses, but they don't begin to demonstrate that we are eternally secure no matter what we believe or do. They help put the emphasis where it should be - on God's part. We must look to Him to keep us, but at the same time not neglecting to fulfill our covenant responsibilities (by His sufficient grace through faith). It is significant that essentially every passage listed in this paragraph is strongly balanced out by other verses in that very book of the Bible (not to mention the other books of the Bible), as the many verses discussed in this paper demonstrate. I'll cite two examples: Hebrews 7:25 says: "Hence, also, He is able to save forever [or, completely] those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." For one thing, we can see something of our part in drawing near to God. But, more significantly, the book of Hebrews is filled with awesome warnings that some of these Christians were on the verge of apostasy and eternal destruction. Many such warnings from Hebrews are quoted and discussed in this paper. Revelation 3:10 says: "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance [that is, they had kept His word, which required perseverance on their part], I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth." These significant words were not spoken to all the Christians, but to Christians who were faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ (see Rev. 3:8-11). The Lord had something very different to say to the Christians who were not being faithful, as the passages from Revelation chapters 2 and 3 that we discussed above demonstrate. He warned them that they would no longer be His people if they did not repent. And as we discussed, it is clear that Jesus was warning people who had become born-again Christians.

Two other verses that I have seen listed to try to prove eternal security are Rom. 11:29 and Phil. 1:6. The first verse doesn't provide much support for the doctrine (and especially when read in the light of Rom. 11:19-24) since Paul is dealing with God's promise to ultimately save Israel, not with a promise to save every Israelite. Nor does Phil. 1:6 really support the doctrine. For one thing, these words were not spoken to all Christians, but to the Christians at Philippi. This church had a special relationship with the apostle Paul, who had founded the church. As the epistle to the Philippians shows, this church had supported Paul's ministry in a very special way, and he knew of their overall faithfulness to God and His gospel. However, even this church needed to deal with a few problem areas, and there certainly was no guarantee that every single Christian at Philippi would persevere to the end. Paul exhorted the Philippians with some very significant words, words fully applicable for us too. Every Christian who heeds these words can be sure of their eternal security. I'll conclude this paper (except for the Appendix I added later) with these words:

Philippians 2:12-16. "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; (13) for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. [His grace is sufficient, but not effective without our cooperation. He doesn't force us to believe the truth or to keep believing the truth, and He doesn't force us to live according to the truth or to keep living according to the truth in the righteousness and holiness of God.] (14) Do all things without grumbling or disputing; (15) that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, (16) holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ [judgment day] I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain." If, in the very worst case scenario, all of the Christians at Philippi turned their backs on the Lord Jesus Christ (which wasn't about to happen), the apostle's work at Philippi would have been in vain.

May God's will be accomplished and His people be edified through this paper!
Karl Kemp
September, 1996

A few changes were incorporated in July 2000; and several paragraphs were added along with a few revisions in September 2011. Also I am including some quotations from the Appendix of my paper titled "A Verse-by-Verse Study of 2 Peter: Includes a Lengthy Appendix that Contains Excerpts and Comments Dealing with the Doctrine 'Once Saved, Necessarily Always Saved?' and Related Issues (Mostly Dealing with the Viewpoints of Augustine and the Calvinists); the Appendix Includes Many Quotations from the Early Christian Fathers Dealing with Eternal Security and Related Issues." The Appendix is 100 pages. (Here I'll just be quoting some ten percent of what is quoted in that Appendix.) You could get at copy of this 133 page paper for $7, which won't cover the cost of the printing and postage, but I want to make it available to you. (Karl Kemp; P. O. Box 1816; St. Charles, MO; 63303. E-mail: [email protected])

That Appendix also serves as an appendix for this present paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?" I also dealt with this important topic in several other papers; see "A Paper on Faith" (dated May 1997); "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism" (dated December 1997); "Verse-by-Verse Studies of Ephesians Chapters 1 and 4; and Romans 8:16-23," which includes extensive excerpts from Norman Geisler's "Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of Divine Election" (dated November 1999); and "A Verse-by-Verse Study of Romans Chapters 9-11" (dated March 2001).

The first section in that Appendix it titled, "Excerpts from Douglas J. Moo's Commentary on 2 Peter that Deal with Eternal Security" ("2 Peter and Jude" [Zondervan, 1996], pages 153-159). I don't always agree with what Moo, a Calvinistic scholar, says, but I have a lot of respect for his ministry and I have appreciated his writings for a long time. I'll make some comments in brackets [ ] or [[ ]] in the middle of this quotation, as I frequently do in my writings.

"I am therefore faced with a series of texts that appears to conflict with my belief in eternal security. What do I do? ... [Moo says that the best option he can come up with at the present time is to deny that the false teachers of 2 Peter had become true Christians, but as he continues in the last paragraph on page 154, he says:] this alternative, however, does not ultimately satisfy me at the exegetical level. [I'm thankful that Moo admits there are serious problems with this interpretation; we need more such honesty in the body of Christ. We must make it a top priority to be faithful to God and be aiming for the balanced truth, not trying to prove that we have been right or trying to win an argument. We, and especially ministers, are going to have to answer to God.] Peter in the text we are looking at, and even more clearly the author to the Hebrews, gives every indication of describing these people as they really are [as those who had become true Christians], not as they appear to be. [And this fact, this very important fact, a fact that can't be disregarded, isn't just true for the passages in 2 Peter and Hebrews. Many other passages, including Revelation chapters 2, 3, make it quite clear that the warnings against falling from grace deal with true Christians.] At this point, then, I have failed to come up with a natural and convincing interpretation of 2 Peter 2:20-22 that harmonizes with my 'eternal security' theological context. ...

[I'll drop down to Moo's concluding paragraph of this subsection. Still believing that eternal security is a biblical doctrine, he says:] my hesitant conclusion is that the best interpretation I can now discover is that Peter is not talking about truly regenerate believers. [In other words, his commitment to the doctrine of eternal security forces Moo, at least for now, to interpret 2 Peter 2:20-22 (and many similar passages) in a most unnatural (and I would say clearly wrong) way.] But I will honestly admit that I am not finally satisfied with this conclusion, and I keep coming across warning passages that I struggle to do exegetical justice to. ...I am in process on this issue, still convinced that eternal security is a biblical doctrine, but less convinced that I used to be." Moo is at least headed in the right direction.

Before leaving Moo I'll quote part of what he says in his "Contemporary Significance" section dealing with 2 Peter 2:17-22 under the subheading "Concern about holiness of life" (pages 157-159). "To be sure, I am inclined to think that eternal damnation is not a real threat for the Christian. But the danger is that such a theological position will lead to smug satisfaction, a presumption on God's grace. Belief in eternal security must not lead to unconcern about holiness of life. ... ...we Christians are called to respond to the truth about God that we learn and are warned about the consequences if we fail to do so.

... 'Cheap grace' is endemic among contemporary evangelicals. ... The problem is that we don't often enough hear that God is holy and terrible in his majesty, that he is just and cannot abide sin.... [[An equally serious "problem," if not a greater problem, is that we don't often hear that the new covenant in the blood of Christ provides grace sufficient for Christians to walk in victory over sin. Most Christians, including most Calvinists, teach that we can never stop sinning until we get to heaven, and they even quote verses to supposedly prove this point. I deal with this super-important topic in my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" and in many of my papers.]] ... We Calvinists must be extremely careful that we do not allow our belief in or teaching about eternal security to remove or lessen the responsibility that God places on our shoulders to grow in the grace he so richly makes available. ...."

The second section in the Appendix is titled, "Excerpts from 'Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away' by I. Howard Marshall." The book was published by Paternoster Press, 1995 (third edition).

In the opening paragraph I said, "Although I don't agree with I. H. Marshall on every detail, he effectively demonstrates that the Scriptures don't back up eternal security, and he deals with this topic in a more balanced way than most writers do. He deals with a large number of passages from the New Testament, including essentially all those I dealt with in "Once Saved, Always Saved?" I'll quote quite a bit from what Marshall says in this book, but I won't be able to get into the details regarding most of these passages here [in the Appendix of the paper on 2 Peter].

Here at the end of my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved?," I'll just quote part of what Clark Pinnock says in the Foreword of this book. (I recommend getting a copy of Marshall's book, and my 133 page paper on 2 Peter, with the 100 page Appendix.)

"Dr. Marshall is an eminent New Testament scholar of evangelical convictions whose name is associated with scholarly work of the highest quality. ... He conducts a historical-grammatical investigation of all the Scriptural materials which treat the subject of apostasy and falling away, and produces ample evidence to support his thesis that the security of the believer is conditioned upon his faithfulness to Jesus Christ. It is simply not possible to maintain that the warnings in the Bible against turning away from the truth describe an imaginary or hypothetical danger. They are addressed to us all, and we all must heed them.

... Biblical truths when they are carefully examined are often controversial and challenging. It is so with the biblical doctrine of apostasy. Belief in...eternal security, is very widely entertained by multitudes of evangelical Christians, even though it belongs generically to the Augustinian-Calvinistic tradition in theology, a doctrinal system which they do not generally hold in its other dimensions. Nevertheless, it is a fact that Dr. Marshall's argument is controversial and will not be immediately accepted. One reason for this is the understandable fear that the doctrine of conditional security may unsettle a proper and vital Christian assurance. After all, the Word of God continually reminds us of our spiritual rights and possessions, and breathes an atmosphere of settled confidence. There is nothing in Dr. Marshall's book that undercuts this assurance. We are kept by the power of God, as his title boldly states. However, he would not have us disregard the threats to perseverance which the Bible presents or the commands to abide steadfastly in the truth with which its pages abound. ...." (pages 11, 12).

The next section in the Appendix of my paper on 2 Peter is titled, "Excerpts from 'From Augustine to Arminius: A pilgrimage in Theology' by Clark H. Pinnock." This article by Clark Pinnock is the first chapter (pages 15-30) of the book titled, "The Grace of God and the Will of Man" [Bethany House Publishers, 1995; the book was originally published by Zondervan in 1989]; the book was edited by Clark Pinnock.

"In speaking of Augustine and Arminius in the title of this chapter, I am using the names of two famous theologians to symbolize two profound ways of structuring the answer [to the question "how divine sovereignty and human freedom relate to each other"] - Augustine placing the emphasis on the sovereignty of God and Arminius putting it on significant human freedom. [Arminius, unlike Augustine, left room for the input of man in salvation.] My pilgrimage can be described as a journey from Augustine to Arminius. But I could as easily have spoken of Calvin and Wesley, or Luther and Erasmus..." (page 16).

I'll quote part of what Pinnock says in his section titled "A Hole in the Dike." "I held onto this view [the Calvinistic TULIP view, which he was taught when he became an evangelical Christian] until about 1970, when one of the links in the chain of the tight Calvinistic logic broke. It had to do with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints [once saved, necessarily always saved].... I was teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School at the time and attending to the doctrine particularly in the book of Hebrews. If in fact believers enjoy the kind of absolute security Calvinism had taught me they do, I found I could not make very good sense of the vigorous exhortations to persevere (e.g., [Heb.] 3:12) or the awesome warnings not to fall away from Christ (e.g., 10:26), which the book addresses to Christians. [[I had a footnote here: Hebrews chapters 6 and 10 were two of the first passages that forced me [Kemp] to begin to reconsider what I believed about the impossibility of Christians losing their salvation. It was quite difficult for me because I had accepted eternal security as a foundational doctrine of Christianity. It took me a couple of years, but eventually the teaching of the New Testament forced me to abandon the doctrine. I'm thankful that I can say that I still have the assurance of salvation that I have had since I became a born-again Christian. God is good and full of mercy, but I do have a fear of sinning against Him, a healthy fear, a fear required by both the Old and New Testaments.

I would have preferred learning the gospel in a more accurate form to begin with (regarding eternal security), but I'm very thankful I wasn't taught the gospel by those who think that they are always losing their salvation. Talk about serious insecurity.]] [[Pinnock has a footnote here, "I. Howard Marshall called my attention to the same conundrum in the entire New Testament in his book published about that time 'Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away' (London, Epworth, 1969; ...Bethany, 1975)."]] It began to dawn on me that my security in God was linked to my faith-union with Christ and that God is teaching us here the extreme importance of maintaining and not forsaking this relationship. The exhortations and the warnings could only signify that continuing in the grace of God was something that depended at least in part on the human partner. And once I saw that, the logic of Calvinism was broken in principle, and it was only a matter of time before the larger implications of its breaking would dawn on me. The thread was pulled, and the garment must begin to unravel, as indeed it did" (page 17).

I'll also include part of the quotation I included in the Appendix from what Pinnock said in the Introduction of the book "Grace Unlimited," which was edited by him [Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999]. "Augustine's view of irresistible grace was a new theology in the early Christian church. ... [Pinnock has a footnote here, "On the novelty of Augustine's theology, see Roger T. Forster and V. Paul Marston, 'God's Strategy in Human History'.... I'll quote from that book later in this Appendix.] ...

The standard criticism leveled against a theology of this kind [which holds that we have a definite role to play in our salvation] is synergism [which means man is working together with God, cooperating with God]. It is supposed to bring into the event of salvation a decisive human work, and thereby destroy its purely gracious character. But this is simply not the case. Faith is not a work at all (Rom. 4:16). It is not an achievement and has no merit attaching to it. It is simply the surrender of the will to God, the stretching out of an empty hand to receive the gift of grace. In the act of faith, we renounce all our works, and repudiate completely every claim to self-righteousness. Far from encouraging conceit and self-esteem, faith utterly excludes them (Rom. 3:27). ... Faith is...the response to grace God calls for through which salvation becomes a reality to the individual concerned. We are saved by God's grace through faith" (pages 14, 15).

Pinnock didn't stop with rejecting the Calvinistic TULIP; he eventually went beyond the Arminians and espoused a viewpoint that has caused many evangelicals to be concerned, including many Arminians, and me. As the quotations from him that I included in the Appendix of the paper on 2 Peter show, Pinnock went on to question whether God can know with certainty the choices we will make in the future. Also, I quoted from another book where Pinnock strongly argues for annihilation, not hell.

That concludes Part 4 of this article. We'll finish the article in Part 5.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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