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Once Saved, Always Saved? Part 5

by Karl Kemp  
11/02/2011 / Bible Studies

Part 5 continues where Part 4 ended.

I'll quote a small part of the next section of the Appendix, which is titled, "Excerpts from 'Salvation and Apostasy' by Dale Moody." "Salvation and Apostasy" is section 55 in Moody's book, "The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation" [Eerdmans, 1981] (pages 348-365). Moody's viewpoint is all the more interesting because he is a Southern Baptist scholar. It is well known that Southern Baptists along with most other Baptists are strong for the viewpoint once saved, always saved. Moody started teaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1945.

"There are several warnings in the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] about the danger that disciples may fall away, but perhaps the plainest passage is...the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:9-15). Some only hear the word of God without believing it, but those in a second group 'believe for a while and in a time of temptation fall away' (8:13). A. T. Robertson [a Southern Baptist scholar known especially for his expertise in New Testament Greek] comments: 'Ostensibly [apparently] they are sincere and have a real start in the life of faith.' ("Word Pictures in the New Testament" [Nashville: Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1930], Vol. II, page 114.)

Superficial believers are not the only type that falls away. The thorny ground in the Parable of the Sower represents those who hear the word of God, 'but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature' (8:14). Those who hold fast the word of God 'in an honest and good heart' are the only ones that 'bring forth fruit with patience' (8:15). It is amazing how preconceived dogmas blind so many to the realism of this parable. It happens before their eyes in so many ways, but they refuse to see what is so obvious" (page 349).

Now I'll quote part of what Moody says in his last subsection, titled "Apostasy in Tradition" (pages 358-365). "Warnings against the danger of falling away from faith may be noted in every New Testament writing but Philemon, which has no doctrinal discussion at all! Why then has this teaching been excluded in much of the Christian theology of the West? The answer on examination comes home loud and clear: tradition has triumphed over Scripture. At least three distorted traditions and interpretations may be noted in Western theology." Moody goes on to discuss Augustinianism, Calvinism, and two branches of Evangelicalism that have their roots in Calvinism.

The next three sections of the Appendix are titled, "Excerpts from 'Apostasy: A Study in the Epistle to the Hebrews and in Baptist History' by Dale Moody"; "Excerpts from The Universal Power of the Atonement' by Terry L. Miethe"; and "The Nature of Divine Sovereignty' by Jack W. Cottrell (10 pages)." I won't quote from any of those sections here.

The following section in the Appendix (13 pages) is titled "Excerpts from 'God's Strategy in Human History' by Paul Marston and Roger Forster." (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000; previously published by Highland Books in 1974. In the preface to the new edition, the authors mention that this is a major new edition.)

I was directed to this book by Clark Pinnock in the Introduction to "Grace Unlimited," from which I quoted earlier in this paper. After saying "Augustine's view of irresistible grace was a new theology in the early Christian church. Before that time her teachers...had emphasized the universality of grace and the possibility of declining it," Pinnock referred to this book in a footnote. The footnote said, "On the novelty of Augustine's theology, see Roger T. Forster and V. Paul Marston, 'God's Strategy in Human History.' " I'll just include brief excerpts from the Appendix of this book, which is titled "Early Teaching on Freewill and Election" (pages 289-342). ...

Excerpts from under the heading, "The early church" (pages 290-296).

"The great divergence between Augustine and earlier writers is generally accepted. ... Actually, Augustine can really not be called an 'early church father,' since he was some 350 years after Paul.... Unlike some key earlier figures, he spoke a different language [Latin], struggled with Greek, and knew little or no Hebrew. It is therefore very surprising that so many writers conclude that he got it right and effectively everyone else before him got it wrong. ...."

For one thing, a very important thing, the early Christian Fathers didn't believe, as Augustine (in his latter viewpoint) did, that man is so fallen that he has no capacity to respond to God with faith or cooperate with His grace. I wouldn't say that the Fathers before Augustine always said everything just right on this topic (there is room to balance out some of the things they said), but I believe they were more right than Augustine. These pre-Augustine Fathers are also sometimes criticized for speaking of being saved/justified by faith and works (or the equivalent), which supposedly shows they didn't understand grace. Again, I'm not suggesting that the earlier writers always said it just right, but more often than not the greater problem is that those criticizing them don't understand that works are required of Christians. As I have discussed at length in my previous writings, there is no such thing as faith in Christ that doesn't work, producing works (righteous works; a righteous life), by the grace/Spirit of God; works aren't optional for Christians.

Excerpts from under the heading "The early church and freewill" (pages 296-305).

First I'll quote part of what Marston and Forster said on page 114 regarding freewill. "Humans have been given the freedom to will something different from the will of God. The early church referred to this as human 'freewill.' "

"Not a single church figure in the first 300 years rejected it [free will] and most of them stated it clearly in works still extant. We find it taught by great leaders in places as different as Alexandria, Antioch, Athens, Carthage, Jerusalem, Lycia, Nyssa, Rome, and Sicca. We find it taught by the leaders of all the main theological schools. The only ones to reject it were heretics like the Gnostics, Marcion, Valentinus, Manes (and the Manichaens), etc. In fact, the early Fathers often state their beliefs on 'freewill' in works attacking heretics. Three recurrent ideas seem to be in their teaching:

1. The rejection of freewill is the view of the heretics.

2. Freewill is a gift given to man by God...for nothing can ultimately be independent of God.

3. Man possesses freewill because he is made in God's image, and God has freewill." We must acknowledge, however, that the fall greatly affected man and the extent to which his will is free.

Marston and Forster quote extensively from the early church Fathers in their appendix, and I included quite a few of those quotations in the Appendix of my paper on 2 Peter.

Excerpt from the next sub-heading heading in their book, "The new theology: Augustine (AD354-430)" (pages 305-314).

"It may seem surprising that after such universal agreement among early Christian writers there should be a change. Nevertheless there was.... ... Augustine became obsessed with the denial that human 'merit' was involved in salvation. Augustine speaks of the 'merit of faith,' and so arrives at the extraordinarily non-Pauline notion that faith is itself a kind of 'work' and so must be a result of an irresistible gift." That is, Augustine came up with the idea that if faith was something that man did (in response to God) he would merit salvation; therefore God must give faith to His elect. And once you accept the idea that God chooses some, and that man has no capacity to cooperate with God's grace or to have faith, and that God gives them faith, it is easy to accept the idea that God will also make sure that none of His elect fall away. (pages 305, 306)

The next section in the Appendix of my paper on 2 Peter is titled, "Excerpts from 'Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity' by David Bercot." I quoted a short excerpt from these excerpts in the body of this paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?"

The next section in this Appendix is titled, "Excerpts from 'Life in the Son' by Robert Shank" [Bethany House Publishers, 1960, 1961, 1989]. I'll include three brief quotations from these excerpts.

Shank mentions that his "study of the Scriptures led him to abandon a...doctrine he once cherished [as a Baptist minister], and who sincerely hopes that his endeavor will encourage others to re-examine a doctrine of critical practical importance. [Then he says:] Sometime we no longer shall know in part. The final word awaits the coming of Him who is Alpha and Omega. Meanwhile, believing that to disagree with sincere men is not to dishonor them, and that truth is served by honest inquiry, let us press toward a fuller understanding of the Holy Scriptures and a more accurate definition of saving faith in Jesus Christ" (page vii).

"Please excuse me [Shank says] from the company of any who 'maintain that the believer is insecure.' It is abundantly evident from the Scriptures that the believer is secure. But only the believer. Many who have debated 'the security of the believer' have missed the issue. The question is not, Is the believer secure? But rather, What is a believer?" (part of footnote 3 on page 55).

"There is no warrant in the New Testament for that strange at-ease-in-Zion definition of perseverance which assures Christians that perseverance is inevitable and relieves them of the necessity of deliberately persevering in faith, encouraging them to place confidence in some past act or experience..." (page 64).

The last section (32 pages) in the Appendix is titled "Excerpts from 'The Believer's Conditional Security: A Study in Perseverance and Falling Away' by Daniel Corner." I make many comments myself in these excerpts.

"I [Karl Kemp] wanted to make the reader aware of this book and to include some excerpts from it in this paper [the paper on 2 Peter]. Daniel Corner takes a very strong stand against the doctrine of once saved, always saved (OSAS) in this lengthy book (801 pages). He is intensely involved with this topic - he says he hates OSAS. I agree with most of what Corner says in this book and he is thorough; I'll quote extensively from him here (and I could have quoted a lot more), but sometimes he goes too far for me. I have two primary concerns: (1) I believe Corner is too quick to say that Christians have lost their salvation, and (2) I believe he is far too quick to say that many Christians, including many respected leaders, aren't real Christians." In the Appendix I included a copy of the letter I sent to Corner that deals with these two concerns after giving these excerpts.

Corner discusses a large number of passages from the New Testament (and quite a few from the Old Testament) to demonstrate that the doctrine OSAS just isn't true. He discusses many of the faulty arguments used by those who believe OSAS. He also includes extensive quotations from many early Christian writers to demonstrate that they did not believe once saved, necessarily always saved. And he deals extensively with the strong correlation between this doctrine and the somewhat backsliden condition of much of the Christian church of our day. I'll quote a statement from Corner's Internet site:

"Because of the teaching once saved always saved, grace has been taught as a license for immorality for so long, and without challenge, that when Scripture is quoted, such as 1 Cor. 6:9, 10 or Rev. 21:8, it is disregarded, and the giver of God's Word is falsely accused of teaching legalism, bondage, works, etc. This reflects how truly dark are the days in which we live!"

[Still quoting Kemp] There's no doubt in my mind that an abuse of the doctrine once saved, always saved is one of the primary causes for the sinful state of so much of the church in our day. I believe it should be said, however, that some Christians who hold this doctrine so emphasize the need for Christians to learn and to live in the truth of God (in accordance with His Word) and the need for Christians to deny self, to walk in love (especially toward God) and to live in the righteousness and holiness of God that they substantially limit the damage caused by this erroneous doctrine" (page 103 of the Appendix of my paper on 2 Peter). A Christian could believe once saved, always saved and live a life full of the righteousness and holiness of God by His grace, but an abuse (a widespread abuse) of the doctrine once saved, always saved has done great damage to the cause of righteousness and holiness in the body of Christ for large numbers of Christians.

Excerpts from Corner's Chapter 10, "Grace, the True and the False" (pages 166-199).

"Because of the way many understand grace today, they would either unconsciously discount Paul's words in Ephesians [5:5-7] and Romans [2:7-9] [and in many similar verses written by the apostle Paul and by others] or would tend to label them legalism, bondage, cultic or some sort of work's salvation" (page 168). [Quoting Kemp now] Some of those teaching OSAS are so far off that they say we don't even need to stay in faith to the end, and many of them teach that how we live as Christians has nothing to do with whether we will go to heaven (in other words, works are not required for salvation). Corner quotes from quite a few OSAS teachers in this chapter to document this, and he lists many verses from the Bible to show how wrong they are.

It's true that Paul frequently said we are saved by faith, not works, but it's extremely important for us to learn the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches on this topic. I have discussed this topic (and the closely related topics) extensively in my previous writings. (Start with my "A Paper on Faith" and "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism.") Paul would be quick to agree with James that faith without works is dead (it's not real faith), and he would, of course, be quick to agree with what the Lord Jesus said in Revelation chapters 2, 3 about the need for Christians to have the necessary works. Paul's epistles make it very clear that he didn't consider obedience to God in righteous, holy living to be optional for Christians. Obedience to God and the gospel in our daily lives is included in what faith means; we obey by God's enabling grace through faith. We cannot earn salvation by faith, but we must cooperate with God's grace through faith; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling and all diligence by faith.

But what did Paul mean by faith, not works. A careful study of what Paul said regarding this topic in his epistles reveals the following four points: (1) Paul was against works without having faith in Christ. This was a problem Paul faced with the Israelites. (2) Paul was against bringing the ceremonial works of the Law into the new-covenant. This was a problem Paul faced with the Judaizers. (3) Paul was against man's trying to earn salvation by his works (especially works of the Law). We terribly confuse the issue and frustrate the grace of God if we try to earn what God has freely given. And, (4) Paul was against works of the flesh (our works are to be done by/in the grace/Spirit of God) being done for the glory of man. God must receive all of the glory!

I'll quote part of what Corner says under the heading "What Is the True Grace of God, According to the Apostle Peter?" "It seems that the Apostle Peter shared the same concern that both Jude and Paul had about false grace teaching that existed back then (Jude 1:3, 4; Eph. 5:5-7). Peter wrote:

"I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that THIS IS THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD. STAND FAST IN IT" [Corner had bold print for emphasis (1 Pet. 5:12 NIV).

[Corner then goes on for the next two and a half pages quoting verses that Peter wrote earlier in this epistle which demonstrate the need for Christians to obey God and to be dead to sin and to live in righteousness and holiness (by God's grace in Christ). Corner then concludes this section with two paragraphs that I'll quote:] "We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8, 9), kept and strengthened by the Lord (Jude 1:1; 2 Thess. 3:3). We can add nothing to the finished work of Christ (Heb. 10:12). However, according to the Apostle Peter, there are some basic Christian responsibilities that do exist under the umbrella of the true grace of God, which CANNOT BE [Corner had bold letters for emphasis here] adding works to grace, making salvation by faith and works, or denying the infinite work of Christ, as some would falsely accuse. Otherwise, Peter was in error and teaching falsehood by telling the Christians to do or be all of the aforementioned things, and then at the end of his letter, stating that THIS WAS THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD IN WHICH CHRISTIANS WERE TO STAND FAST [Corner had bold letters here].

Apparently Peter had a vastly different understanding of grace than many do today! ... DEAR READER. ANSWER THIS QUESTION FOR YOURSELF; ARE YOU STANDING IN PETER'S TYPE OF GRACE - THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD OR SOME COUNTERFEIT UNDER THE NAME OF GRACE [Corner had bold print for emphasis]?" (pages 178-182). 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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