THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
"The saints in heaven are happier but no more secure than believers here in the world" (Boettner)
Is it possible for a person who has been a devoted Christian most of his or her life to suddenly fall into sin, die, and as a consequence for dying with unconfessed sin, to lose their salvation? Is it possible for one who is born-again to decide no longer to be a Christian and give up their salvation? Is it possible for a truly born-again Christian to continually live in sin, believing "once saved, always saved?" These are some questions this article will focus on as we examine the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints means "They whom God hath accepted in His beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere to the end and be eternally saved." (1) The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is one part of five in what is commonly called Calvinism. The others being, Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, and Irresistible Grace.
The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (DPS for short) teaches that those whom the Holy Spirit regenerates and God justifies, can never totally nor finally fall away from grace. Perseverance of the saints does not mean that believers do not sin, fall into sin, or never backslide. Nor does it mean that the grace of God within believers is always at the same intensity throughout the Christian life, or that the Christian's heart never grows cold. The life of the apostle Peter, as with the lives of many of God's best saints, confirms these facts to be true.
What the DPS does mean is that God will not allow a Christian to remain indefinitely in any one of these sinful conditions. The reason for this is not to be found in the Christian, but in the faithfulness and almighty power of our heavenly Father. DPS is further defined as: "That continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion" (2).
Many deny the DPS. Most who deny this doctrine are Arminian, though many would not recognize the word, or even themselves as such. Arminianism teaches that believers are secure from losing his or her salvation only if they remain faithful and obedient. In other words, as long as one is faithfully following Christ, one's eternal destiny is secure. Salvation is contingent on continuing in faith and obedience. In contrast, the DPS teaches two primary truths: First, those whom the Holy Spirit regenerates (3) can never totally or finally fall away, and secondly, believers are not keep despite faith, but through faith.
The DPS will be proven by: The immutability of God's decree of election, the intercessory work of Christ, the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit, and the many Scriptures that assert this fact.
THE IMMUTABILITY OF THE DECREE OF ELECTION
If it is true that God has from eternity chosen some to eternal life, as the Scriptures plainly state, (4) then the DPS also must be true, for God's decree is immutable and unchanging (5). Buswell says:
"If God has unconditionally elected to save a people, and if He has provided atonement which makes their salvation certain, then it follows by inevitable logic that those whom God has elected to eternal salvation will go on to eternal salvation. In other words, a denial of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is a denial of the sovereign grace of God in unconditional election." (6)
Nevertheless, even if one rejects the doctrine of unconditional election, and believes foreseen faith is the basis of election, then DPS still must logically follow. For if God foresees those who will believe and for that reason elects them, then they must persevere to the end, otherwise God foresees an event that is not true! God's elect will persevere--whether he is Arminian or a Calvinist! The only difference will be that the Calvinist will have the joy and peace that comes from the full assurance of salvation that the Scriptures give, while the Arminian cannot.
THE INTERCESSION OF JESUS CHRIST
"Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7.25).
Christ intercedes for His people. Now, if it is God's purpose to save and redeem a people for Himself, which is the design and intent of the atonement made by Christ, then Jesus is certainly interceding according to God's will. Is it possible, then, for Christ to be praying according to the will of God the Father, and He deny His request? The Arminian must say yes, for Christ's prayer of intercession in Jn. 17 is nothing less than a prayer for the perseverance of His people: "And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to Thee, Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one . . . I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word" (Jn. 17.11, 20).
God always hears Jesus. Because of Christ's intercession on behalf of God's elect, no one can lay a single charge against them. (7) How could it be otherwise? It is God's own Son who intercedes on our behalf! It is His own precious blood that He carries into the very presence of God and intercedes for us! But the FLSB (8) says:
"Christ's prayer for protection, joy, sanctification, love, and unity applies only to a particular people, that is, to those who belong to God, believe in Christ (v. 8), are separated from the world (vv. 14-16), and keep the word of Christ and accept His teaching (vv. 6, 8)." (9)
Now, if the benefit from Christ's intercession, our perseverance, is contingent on continuing in the faith as the FLSB insinuates, then we must ask, What need is there of Christ intercession if we continue in the faith? In other words, Christ's intercession on our behalf, which we need to continue in the faith, is contingent on continuing in the faith. Is this some divine catch 22? Again, the FLSB, (10) commenting on Heb. 7.25, states:
"Note that Christ does not remain an advocate and intercessor for those who refuse to confess and forsake sin and depart from fellowship with God . . . His intercession to save 'to the uttermost' is only for those who 'come to Him.' There is no safety and security for those who deliberately sin and cease to draw near to God through Him."
This is an obvious attempt to force one's views into the interpretation. The normal understanding of this verse is that those who come to God through Christ, meaning those who are saved, have Christ as their intercessor. Romans 8.34 clearly supports this interpretation, "Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us." Us clearly refers to God's elect, believers. Similarly, Heb. 9.24, "For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us."
In our lord's prayer of intercession in John 17, Jesus intercedes not for some believers, but for all, "I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word" (vs. 20). The one thing the intercession of Christ is design for is that our faith does not fail, but the Arminian view tells us Christ's intercession only applies to those who are drawing near to God, or as they would say, abiding in Christ. But what need is there for Christ's intercession if by my will I continually abiding in Christ? The apostle Peter is an excellent example of the intercessory work of Christ in action and effect. Although Peter's faith ebbed low, it never, through Christ's intercession went out, but rebounded greater than ever! Because of Christ's intercession on our behalf, believers do not continue in sin or reject their faith.
THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation - having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1.13-14).
Seals were used to authenticate, to mark as one's property, and to make whatever was sealed secure. No doubt Paul had all three ideas in mind in emphasizing the one major idea, the security of the believer. The word pledge means, "the first installment, deposit, down payment, pledge that pays part of the purchase price in advance, and so secures a legal claim to the article in question, or to make a contract valid" (11). Pledge, in the Greek, is more than a pledge in that it is both a pledge and part of the inheritance itself. The seal is a pledge that will be brought to its completion at the day of redemption. (12) "The point of greatest significance in the sealing of the Holy Spirit is the eternal security of the believer. It is plainly stated that the seal is placed on the Christian with a view to keeping him safe unto the day of redemption - the time of complete deliverance from all sin." (13)
THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT
Christ died for all our sins. This all Christians must admit. If Christ died for all our sins, then no sin can cause salvation to be lost. Arminians seemingly agree that no sin can cause salvation to be lost, but they also teach that one can no longer decide to believe and fall away. This Calvinists deny. For if a person no longer believes, this would be sin; (14) and if the Scriptures say Christ died for all our sins (1 Pet. 2.24), this must include the sin of unbelief.
Note, however, that this is not an argument for the no-lordship view, that a Christian can stop believing and still be saved. The DPS clearly states that the believer is kept in faith and holiness. We are merely arguing that unbelief is as much a sin that Christ died for as any other; and to say, as the Arminians do, that Christ died for all sins, yet through the sin of unbelief one losses their salvation is but another example of Arminian double talk.
OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE OF PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
It violates freewill:
This is nonsense. God never works against anyone's freewill. God does not force a person to come to Christ against their will, neither does He keep any in Christ against their will. God indeed controls freewill. He controls all things (15). However, God exercises control over the will of the individual without limiting their liberty. He makes us willing (16). Arminians, however, inconsistently argue that this is not true freewill, yet they themselves believe that believers will be perfectly secure in heaven and still have freewill. If such can be done in heaven, why not on earth?
The DPS leads to sinful living:
Opponents to Calvinism often resort to this type of objection. By "type," I mean they will at times isolate a doctrine of Calvinism from the whole, and then make objections to it. When objecting to the doctrine of unconditional election, for example, they object that it makes God's acts arbitrary. This objection can only have merit by dissociating it from other teachings of Calvinism; and this is the case with this objection. Clearly, if the DPS is viewed within the whole Calvinistic scheme, then it does not lead to, or cause, sinful living. For the true Calvinist knows only too well that God ordains all things, including the means to accomplish His purposes. God has ordained that His elect will persevere through faith (17), and holiness (18). When the DPS is considered within the whole of Calvinism, then the objection that the DPS leads to sinful living cannot be rationally made.
When Calvinists say that a believer is eternally secure in Christ, this must be carefully distinguished from the false teachings of certain individuals who insist a person is saved despite living a life of sin, that a person can accept the offer of salvation and not Jesus as Lord. This Sandemanian error of old teaches that a born-again believer can stop believing and still be saved. A none believing believer! But unlike our Arminian brother who would cast such a deformity into the abyss, no-lordship teachers cast it to heaven; Although they would reject their faith, these nevertheless fearlessly march into heaven along side of their committed brothers and sisters under the banner, "once saved, always saved."
Charles Ryrie, noted no-lordship teacher, writes in his book, So Great Salvation:
"Normally one who has believed can be described as a believer; that is, one who continues to believe. But, according to Ellicott, apparently a believer may come to the place of not believing, and yet God will not disown him, since He cannot disown Himself" (19).
Thus, we have the creation of an unbelieving believer. Charles Stanley writes:
"The apostle's meaning is evident. Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy. Christ will remain faithful."(20).
Indeed Christ will remain faithful. But He will be faithful by keeping us faithful (21). This is the heart of the DPS. It is God who will "put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn from Me" (22). The error of the no-lordship view is that it fails to understand that we will persevere not despite faith, but through faith. It is a perseverance in faith and holiness, and it is Jesus Christ who keeps our faith alive. The doctrine we preach is not the perseverance of the wicked, but of the saints.
If eternal security means that a person who believes the gospel is eternally secure despite a life of sin and unfaithfulness, then we must reject this so-called eternal security. The DPS says that those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit will persevere in holiness. The reason for this is not to be found in the believer, but in God and His eternal purpose to redeem His people. Therefore, the DPS does not mean that anyone who professes the Christian faith will, no matter what, go to heaven. It means that those whom God elects, calls, and justifies, will--not by their strength, but by God's grace, power, and appointed means--persevere to the end, and enter the presence of God. This is the DPS.
Arminians have a valid objection to the DPS if it is confused with those who teach "once saved, always saved" style of eternal security. The Reformed faith rejects the easy believism, no-lordship, "once saved, always saved" mentality of eternal security of the believer as much as it rejects the lie of falling from grace.
"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy" (Jude 24). This majestic doxology, perhaps part of an early church hymn, states clearly what God is able to do. He is able, says the Scriptures, to keep His people from falling. This falling can only refer to falling spiritually since Jude contrasts it with "standing in thy presence of His glory blameless with great joy." If God can keep us, then the only question is, Is He willing? Jude apparently believes God is not only able but willing. Otherwise, His doxology is without meaning! Notice, also, that Jude does not say, as many Arminians do, that God is able and willing to keep us if we fulfill certain conditions. This verse clearly and convincingly teaches the impossibility of a Christian totally and finally falling away spiritually.
"For this reason I suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tm. 1.12).
"Who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1.5). Protected means, "guard, protect, keep" (23). In the Greek, the word is a military term (24), and can refer to either protection from danger, or to keep from escaping. The word can refer to either protection from escaping, or protection from attack. Given what we know about the life of Peter, he may have both ideas in mind! Note that the present tense suggests the continuous exercise of this protection.
Arminians try to make the phrase "through faith" conditional. In other words, if the believer maintains the faith, then God will protect them. The FLSB, for example, says:
"The essential condition required for God's protection is 'faith' . . . God's keeping of us by His grace does not work arbitrarily, for only 'through faith' are believers protected by the power of God, just as only 'through faith' are believers saved (Eph. 2.8). Thus, a living faith in Christ as Lord and Savior is our present responsibility in maintaining God's continued protection" . (25)
Now, we fully agree that a true believer must and will continue in faith. However, faith is a gift from God, not a condition for His protection. Think about it. What need have believers of this protection if they, by their own will and strength, keep the faith? If our eternal security is contingent on our keeping "a living faith in Christ as Lord and Savior," what need do we have of God's protection? Only the sin of unbelief will ultimately damn anyone! And if I keep the faith, I do not need God's protection! The mindlessness of this interpretation becomes more apparent as the FLSB goes on to say:
"The ultimate goal of God's protection through the believer's faith is 'salvation.' Here salvation refers to the future final salvation, i. e., the obtaining of the inheritance in heaven (v.4) and 'the salvation of your souls."
However, are we not saved by grace through faith? And if one has a living faith in Christ as Lord and savior, as stated by the FLSB, will not such a one be saved? And if it is the believer's responsibility to maintain this faith, as also stated by the FLSB, will not this one also be finally saved? Who then, according to this view, needs the protection of God! NO ONE! We can do it ourselves!
"Through faith" is not a condition, but a declaration of the means that God has ordained to protect the believer by His power. The reader should observe carefully that there is no "if" in this text, a word frequently used by Arminians, but never, in the Arminian sense, used by Scripture. In 1 Pet. 1.5, the apostle Peter is concerned that we know our promised inheritance is safe in heaven. Peter describes our inheritance as imperishable, undefiled, and one that does not fade away. It is clear from his description that the Christian's inheritance is quite secure. But what about the Christian? What about the heir? For the Scriptures and experience plainly teach that enemies have besieged the Christian from all quarters. The flesh, sin, the world, and Satan may and do attack the Christian.
How can the Christian stand? As John Calvin pointed out, "What help is it to us that our salvation is secured in a quiet harbor, when we are driven to and fro among a thousand shipwrecks?" (26) Peter's answer to Calvin's question, and to thousands since Calvin, is that believers are protected by the power of God! In other words, the answer to Calvin's question, which he fully knew and taught, is the DPS.
Now, from what has been said so far, we must assume that if Christians can lose their salvation, then we must question either God's power, or His willingness to use His power to keep those whom He loves. We cannot hold to a biblical view of God and question His power. Many, therefore, must question His willingness. This unwillingness is often express by saying that it is not that God is unable or unwilling, but that He cannot violate human freewill. In short, if one no longer wishes to be a believer, God cannot do anything about it.
"ALL that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out . . . 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" (Jn. 6.37, 39). No passage in all of Scripture, except perhaps Rom. 8.28-33, can be any clearer. God's will is that all of those He chose persevere to the end, and be eternally saved. So if God is willing to secure the salvation of His elect, and yet some, for whatever reason fall away, then we must question God's power in keeping His elect from falling away. But who will dare to bring such an accusation against the one whom the Scriptures say is Almighty! Is not He the One who created the heavens and the earth by speaking a word? Is this not the same God whom the Scriptures say of, "Once God has spoken; Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God" (27) How then can any one question His Power! Jude tells us plainly enough, "He is able"! Yet if a believer loses his or her salvation, God's power must be questioned, for the Scriptures plainly say that we are "Keep by the Power of God."
"And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 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" (Jn. 10.28-29). Note that the KJ version incorrectly translates "any man." The Greek reads "no one." The RSV unfortunately translates it, "What My Father has given Me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of My hands." Manuscript evidence seems to support the NAS translation, quoted above.
One point the verse makes clear: It is not the believer's hold on Christ that guarantees security, but it is His hold on us. "It would be impossible to imagine words in which a saint's 'perseverance' could be more strongly asserted." (28) Many have mistakenly argued that while the sheep may indeed be safe from all attacks, the sheep may still fall away of their own choosing. In other words, they may nevertheless decide no longer to follow the Lord. If this is true, however, then they would perish, but our Lord Jesus Christ promised that they would never perish! More over, if born again believers could decide to fall away, it would involve a reversing of regeneration. If regeneration is not by human effort, but a supernatural work of God, how can one of their own will become unregenerate?
Arminians argue that since one rejects the faith they are no longer His sheep and are liable to perish, we must answer: But such a one was a sheep, and Christ said of His sheep that "They shall never perish." If they perish, for whatever reason, then this statement by Christ is false. Moreover, if a believer could decide not to believe, then the Father is not greater than "ALL." The believer who can supposedly walk away from God, whose will it is that none He chose perishes, is greater than God, having imposed his will over the will of God.
FLSB comments: "There is indeed safety and security for even the weakest sheep who follow and listen to the good shepherd." (29) Yet if the weakest believer is following and listening to the Lord, what need has he of safety and security? Can he lose his salvation if he is listening and following the Lord? This is just another Arminian catch-22: "As long as you stand, you will not fall." How secure does that make you feel?
If it is argued that God protects from the deceptions of Satan, from the lust of the world, and from our own sinfulness, so if we fall we do so by our freewill, we reply: Why would I fall then? What motive is there to engage my freewill to fall away that God does not protect? Surely it is not being suggested that we can make such a decision apart from motive? Yet this is exactly what the FLSB does suggest. It says that the sheep will never perish, nor "will any power or circumstance on earth take them from the Shepherd." What motive to engage the will is there which does not fall under the rubric "any power or circumstance." We can think of none. Accordingly, the will must decide without motive or cause to forsake Christ. It must act without rhyme or reason. Who dares to put their hope in this?
"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day" (Jn. 6.39) The FLSB argues (30) that this is not God's perfect will, but since God cannot force man's freewill in His permissive will, He allows the loss of some. This interpretation, however, misses the context entirely. The "all that the Father gives Me" in verse 37 is the same as the "all that the Father gives Me" in verse 39. This group of people all comes to Jesus (vs. 37) thus accomplishing God's perfect will.
"I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted" (Job. 42.2). "For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11.29). It is clear from the context of this passage that the apostle Paul is speaking of elect Jews. Note, however, that Paul is stating a general principle to further his argument. The Baptist theologian John Gill rightly observes that: "The argument holds equally good of all others, who have, or for whom God has designed, the same gifts and calling." (31)
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1.6). Unlike humans, who often leave unfinished many things they begin, God finishes what He starts. "God who is at work in (32) you, "will finish what he began. This is why believers will persevere to the end.
"All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 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. For this is the will of the Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day" (Jn. 6.37-40). If it is God's will that those given to Christ are resurrected at the last day, then their perseverance must be certain. If it is objected that the promise is for only whose faith endures to the end, we reply: ALL true faith endures to the end for it is Christ who is both the author and Perfecter of faith (Heb. 12.2).
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8.38-39). If it is true that a truly regenerated person can fall from grace and be finally lost, then Paul could not have written "things present or things to come," that is, no present or future event, or "any other created thing" including the believer.
"They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us" (1 Jn. 2.19). Those who are truly regenerate remain, that is, they do persevere to the end. Those who profess to be a Christian but later "fall away" only display to the rest that they were not real, they had no grace to fall away from.
"For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My loving kindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will no be shaken, says the LORD who has compassion on you" (Isa. 54.10).
"And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me" (Jer. 32.40). According to Heb. 8.10 this is the New Covenant that believers enter when they trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. Now, the very thing Arminians say will cause us to lose our salvation - turning away from God - God says cannot happen. Who then are we to believe?
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, and that He may be with you forever" (Jn. 14.16).
"Who shall confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord"(1 Cor. 1.8-9). The word "confirm" means, "Make to stand, to make stable." (33) The word "blameless" means, "Not merely unaccusable but unaccused, free from legal charge." (34)
"Truly, truly, I say on to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death and into life" (Jn.5.24).ARMINIAN PROOF TEXTS ANSWERED:
The many warning passages (35) against falling away, or exhorting to remain faithful, present no real difficulty for the DPS. As noted often, God foreordains all things, including the means to accomplish His purposes. The Scriptures teach that it is God's perfect will that none of His chosen ones fall away (36). One means God has chosen to bring about this purpose is through these warning passages and those passages exhorting His elect to remain faithful.
When a mother tells her small child not touch the hot stove or he will be burned, we do not assume that this mother will allow for her child to be burned. Although she strongly warns her child, she will nevertheless rush to the child if she believes her child was about to touch the stove. She may admonish her child again, or if necessary, take stronger disciplinary action, but despite all this, the mother never intends, or will ever allow, the harm of her child. This illustration is similar to the warning passages used in Scripture. They are the means that God uses to keep His children from falling away. Still, if a wayward child will not heed His warnings, God will take whatever action He deems necessary to protect His child. He will not allow His children to fall away.
There are, however, two passages in the Scriptures that seemingly teach that truly born again believers can, and in fact do, fall away and lose their salvation. The Arminian doctrine of personal apostasy relies almost exclusively on these two passages.
"For in the case of those who have once been enlighten and have tasted the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame" (Heb. 6.4-6). The difficulty of this text is quickly cleared away if we do not force more meaning out of the words enlighten, taste, and the expression, partakers of the Holy Spirit, then the Scriptures warrant. The word enlighten does not necessarily involve regeneration. Here it refers to someone who has come under the gospel message, understands it, and, perhaps, even accepts it, but does not place their trust Christ. Taste means just that, taste. The expression partakers of the Holy Spirit, which for the Arminian is decisive in this matter, means no more than what it says, that these people were only partakers of the Holy Spirit. Partaker is more precisely translated "sharer," or "partners." The NRSV translates it, "and have shared in the Holy Spirit." Judas, who had the power to preach and to cast out demons, is proof enough that one can share in, or be partners with, the Holy Spirit and still not be regenerate.
Note also what our Lord Jesus Christ said in Mt. 7.22-23, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?" and I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'." These people were partakers and shares in the work of the Holy Spirit, but they certainly did not belong to Jesus. Note also that Jesus did not say, "You were once mine, but you fell away," rather He emphatically states, "I NEVER KNEW YOU." The point we are emphasizing is that no where in Heb. 6, is it said that these people are born-again, or regenerated by the Spirit of the living God. Verse 9, in fact, suggest that the writer is not speaking of regenerate people.
It would have been an easy matter for the writer to say that these individuals were true believers, if such was the case. Other writers of the NT do not have a difficulty in distinguishing an unbeliever from a believer. We will cite but one example of many: "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1.30). Paul, who most likely wrote Hebrews, did not have a difficulty in describing true believers. But the terms and expressions employed in Heb. 6 are intentionally vague. It is, therefore, reasonable to believe that the writer of Hebrews did not intend that his readers to understand that this passage describes believers who fell away and lost their salvation.
The illustration used in verse 8-9 also supports this conclusion. The writer describes two pieces of ground. On both grounds the rain falls on often. Yet while one brings forth useful vegetation, the other brings forth thorns and thistles. Obviously, the illustration is for explaining and clarifying what the writer teaching. The ground that brings forth only thorns and thistles, although watered as others, can only refer to those whom the writer described in verse 4-5. It clearly is not in the same category as believers, who apparently are those who bring forth useful vegetation.
Heb. 6 is a perfect description of Simon Magus, who is, according to Acts 8.9-24, baptized after believing gospel. He even accompanied Philip on his evangelistic travels. The Scriptures say that Simon was constantly amazed at the great miracles that were taking place. Nevertheless, despite all this, Simon Magus was not a believer. He, like those in Heb. 6, shows how close one can come to the kingdom and not enter.
Our Lord's teaching on the Parable of the Sower also reminds us of how close one can come to eternal life, yet never possess it. In explaining the seed that falls in the rocky places, our Lord says, "This is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no firm root in himself, but only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away" (Mt. 13.20-21). That this individual was never regenerate is clear by the words of Jesus, "yet he has no firm root in himself, but only temporary." Although he received the word with Joy, his faith was not real, therefore, it did not last.
It should alarm us all, in some measure, to see how close one may come into association with God's word, grace, and Holy Spirit, yet remain eternally lost. The teaching of Heb. 6 should motivate us all thoughtfully to examine ourselves and to make our election and calling sure (37). This, no doubt, was the intention of the writer of Hebrews.
"For if after they escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happen to them according to the true proverb, 'A dog returns to its own vomit, ' and, 'A sow, after washing, returns to wallow in the mire' " (2 Pet. 2.20-21).
As in Heb. 6, there is no difficulty with this text if we do not force more out of certain words then the context and common sense allows. The word translated "defilements" is contrasted with 2 Pet. 1.4 describing believers as having "escaped the corruption that is in the world." Those whom Peter described in 2.20 only escaped from the defilements, or pollution of the world, whereas true believers have escaped from the corruption of the world. Peter's illustration of the pig and dog clearly illustrates this difference. The pig was only outwardly clean, that is, it merely got rid of the pollution, but its nature, as with the dog, remained unchanged. Despite the outward cleaning, the pig remains a pig, and soon gives evidence of its real nature.
- Westminster Confession of Faith, 17.1
- Repentance and faith always follow regeneration.
- See article on Unconditional election.
- Ps. 33.11; Isa. 46.9 ff.
- Systematic Theology, vol. 2, P. 145.
- Rom. 8.33.
- The Full Life Study Bible. The theology of this study Bible is clearly Arminian.
- A & G, P. 109c.
- Eph. 4.30
- Walvoord, The Holy Spirit. P. 158.
- Jn. 16.9
- Eph. 1.11.
- Ps. 110.33; Phil. 2.13
- 1 Pet. 1.5
- Eph. 1.4
- P. 141
- Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure, P. 93.
- 1 Pet. 1.5
- Jer. 32.40
- A & G, P. 867b
- 2 Cor. 11.32; Phil.. 4.7
- P. 1981. Emphasis is mine.
- Calvin's Commentaries, vol. 12, P. 233.
- Ps. 62.11.
- R. C. Ryle.
- P. 1605; 1060.
- The Cause of God & Truth, P.132.
- Phil.. 2.13
- Word Pictures of in the New Testament.
- Word Study Dictionary.
- Heb. 10.26 for example.
- Jn. 6.37-40.
- 2 Pet. 1.10.