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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God | Main | 16 Rules of Biblical Interpretation »

    Does Hebrews 6 Teach that a Christian Can Lose His Salvation?

    There are those who teach that Hebrews chapter six is a clear statement that Christians can fall away from the faith and thereby lose their salvation. The purpose of this short reflection is not only to show this to be a erroneous interpretation, but also that the persons making such assertions are in danger of making the very error which the passage is warning about. Lets take a look at the passage together:

    "....it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.: - Hebrews 6: 4-8

    Perhaps this is one of the most terrifying passages in Scripture, but, as is usually the case, when a passage is read in isolation and without regard to the context of the surrounding passage, theological error is bound to creep in.

    We all know that Hebrews was written to give witness to the superiority of Jesus Christ to all other means of pleasing God such as temple sacrifice and the Law. In fact He is seen as replacing them all. Jesus Christ is shown to be more excellent than the Prophets (1:1), Angels (1:4-14), Moses (3: 3-6), the Levitical Priesthood and sacrifice (Heb. 5 & 9) and even Abraham (7: 4-14). The new covenant is shown to be better than the old because it fulfills everything the old covenant pointed to (Heb 8). Jesus Himself is revealed as the climax of the covenant of grace. The author of Hebrews says, "Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises." (Heb 8:6) Since this is the case, the text warns that, we must pay more attention and not fall away from believing that Jesus alone is sufficient, and is therefore more excellent, by order of magnitude, than all other means of pleasing God. There is no hope in trusting anything else which can never forgive sins or make you just before God.

    The passage that warns the Hebrews against falling away is warning them against one thing: abandoning trust in Christ alone by going back to now worthless and obsolete things, such as trusting in the temple sacrifice and the Law in order to be justified. The warnings are given to those in the community that they would not be tempted to turn from trusting Jesus alone (who is God over all) for some lesser or meaningless ritual act that supposedly now can curry God's favor. Trusting in anything except Christ alone, who is the light that scatters all shadows, is said to be tantamount to "trampling under foot the Son of God" believing that His once of all sacrifice is insufficient in itself to save. If something in place of, or in addition to, Jesus is trusted in it is no different than a denial of Him. So in context, the persons who go back by trading in Christ for the now-empty ritual of the temple (that itself was meant to point to the fulfillment in Christ), are then re-crucifying the Son to their shame. Hebrews 6:4-8 is often read in isolation apart from this context.

    Tragically, the very next text (which is crucial) is also often left off by those who claim regenerate Christians can fall away ... a text which qualifies the preceding text. The writer of Hebrews in verse 9 says, "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation." If the author of Hebrews is confident of better things of the persons he is speaking with, things that belong to salvation, then obviously falling away does not belong to it. This is a clear statement that the author was not describing saving faith of those who are in danger of falling away in the preceding passage, because the kind of response that falls away, he says, are not among the "things that belong to salvation." So whatever the things the author just described about falling away in Heb 6:4-8 are not the characteristics of true regenerate persons. People can be enlightened and taste and partake .... They may be externally a part of the church and receive external blessings, yet if they abandon trust in Christ for ritual or something else, there is no hope for their salvation. They were never regenerate to begin with for falling away does not accompany or belong to true salvation, according to the text.

    Ironically, those who teach that this passage speaks of the ability of regenerate Christians to fall away are actually committing the very error the passage itself warns against. How do I figure? The very assertion that a Christian can lose their salvation is tantamount to saying that what Christ accomplished on the cross was insufficient to save completely and, as such, you would need to trust (partly) in yourself to either attain or maintain your own just standing before God. How is this different than Roman Catholic theology. To say Christ can lose us is the same as believing that what Christ did is not enough for someone... That you MUST MAINTAIN YOUR OWN JUSTIFICATION.

    This is a form of legalistic self-justification to believe that you can either attain or maintain your own righteousness before God and it is itself a denial of Christ, the very error the Hebrews were tempted to make, that the author was speaking of. In fact this is a backdoor to the Galatian heresy where Paul says, "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3) To believe one can lose salvation, therefore, is trusting in something other than Jesus Christ to keep you righteous in Him. The Hebrews were tempted to go back to temple sacrifice (trusting in something other than Christ) and the doctrine that one can lose salvation is likewise trusting in ones' own moral ability to maintain a just standing before God, since Jesus, according to them, is unable to save completely those who He came to save. Either we are trusting in Christ alone to both attain and maintain our justification or we are trusting in something worthless which the author of Hebrews gives severe warnings about. Quite ironic. That passage is a warning passage for the very error those who teach we can lose salvation are making.

    In the passage turning back to Judaism is a deliberate and final forsaking of Christ and the guilt of His blood. They had been enlightened by the Word, tasted of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, shared as companions in the Holy Spirit i.e. shared the benefits of His supernatural work and manifestations.... ... Perhaps you may recall the passage in the gospels where Jesus describes something similar about those who approach Him on judgment day. "On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" These persons shared in the outward benefits of church but trusted in something other than Jesus alone to both attain and maintain their salvation. "I never knew you" spoken to those who did miracles clearly indicates that while such people shared outwardly in covenant benefits, were themselves never at any time saved. Jesus did not say, "I knew you at one time and now I don't know you any longer." No, never means never. Again, the belief that a Christian can fall away, like some Hebrews were tempted to do, is dangerously close to believing that Christ in Himself is not sufficient to maintain our just standing before God: "we must do something in addition to what Jesus did to remain justified." Those who believe such things take heed to the warning and trust in Christ, not self, who is both the author and perfector of our salvation.

    Someone recently challenged this interpretation by asking: "But doesn't that go against the doctrine of efficacious grace? Is it possible for the Spirit to work on someone only partly?"

    Answer: The doctrine of efficacious grace does not mean, nor has it ever meant, that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. In Acts 7:51 Stephen says to the Jewish leaders, "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did." And Paul speaks of grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). It means, rather, that the Holy Spirit can and does overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible according to His sovereign good pleasure at a time of His choosing. The Spirit does not exercise efficacious grace every time we preach the gospel to someone. When God undertakes to fulfill his eternal purpose to save those he covenanted with the Son to save (John 6:37, 39), no one can successfully resist Him. Notice in the passage in Acts above it says those who resist the Holy Spirit are "uncircumcised in heart and ears" >>> a phrase used for the unregenerate and yet in this passage the Spirit at work is being resisted. The gospel is being preached, the Spirit is at work but men are resisting. WHY? Because, the passage says, their hearts are "uncircumcised"!!!! They are natural men and cannot think spiritual thoughts. Water does not rise above its source. Their ears must first be circumcised by the Spirit or they will continue be hostile to the gospel for that is what they are by nature. Not being willing to repent is the same as resisting the Holy Spirit. So if God gives repentance (John 6:65, 2 Tim 2:25) it is the same as removing that hostile resistance. This is why we call this work of God "irresistible grace".Also see 6:67-39

    So this should be sufficient evidence in itself that the Spirit does often work partly and not savingly toward individuals. This is also what Paul explained in Romans 9:14-18, which caused a similar opponent to say, "Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" To which Paul answers: "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me thus?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?" (Romans 9:20f).

    Efficacious grace refers to the sovereign work of God to overcome the rebellion of our heart and bring us to faith in Christ so that we can and will be saved. That is why no one can enter the kingdom unless they are first born again. As for Hebrews 6:9, this text clearly proves that whatever was described in the previous text about falling away was not equal to salvation. So this alone disqualifies this verse from meaning what you may believe it to mean.

    Someone may ask, if perseverance of the saints is true then why do we need to give true Christians warnings?

    Answer: Because the Holy Spirit almost always uses means to accomplish His purposes. Just as the Holy Spirit does not usually save people in a void but through the preaching of the gospel, so likewise He sustains and feeds the saints through the preaching of the word, prayer, fellowship and sacraments. The Word only has value to us if the Holy Spirit applies it to our heart and likewise the Holy Spirit does not work in a void but uses means just as a seed needs water to grow. There may be extraordinary circumstances where a Muslim may be converted to Christianity in some remote region of northeastern China after hearing a radio broadcast, a person who does not have a Bible or a preacher at hand. In such circumstances the Holy Spirit may sustain a true believer by pouring out an extra portion of Himself, but commonly the Spirit only feeds/sustains His people though the appointed means. God both calls us to persevere and promises to preserve us (John 15:16).

    Here are some passages which show that we MUST persevere to the end: Colossians 1:21-23; 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6; Hebrews 10:26-3; Hebrews 12:1

    And likewise here are passages which teach that true believers WILL persevere to the end: John 6:38-40; John 10:28-29; Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 1:4-6; Philippians 2:12-13 1 John 2:19

    - J.W. Hendryx


    P.S. Remember, the very assertion that a Christian can lose their salvation is tantamount to saying that what Christ accomplished on the cross was insufficient to save completely and, as such, you would need to trust (partly) in yourself to either attain or maintain your own just standing before God.

    Posted by John on November 26, 2012 04:09 PM

    Comments

    Thanks J.W. for such a perspicacious article. Two places in Scripture come mind to add to that part about the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. The one is in Phil. 3:20-21. Here we see the invincible work of our Lord transforming us. The other place is where Peter is writing about what our Heavenly Father "Himself" promises to do to us. That place in his epistle is 1 Peter 5:10-11(ESV)!

    Not sure how one these Three placing their Hand upon can resist or overcome Them or Their saving work?

    Again, thanks for a clearly laid exposition of this saving Truth!!!

    After reading this....I am sooooooo glad I'm Roman Catholic!

    Dear John Hendryx:

    Yes, the great warnings in Hebrews: what to think of them, how to interpret them? I have written previously on your fine site concerning this topic, and have stated I believe there are three key warnings in the book: 6:4, 10:26, and 12:15. That one cannot lose one's salvation is beyond doubt, but the true meaning, and purpose, of the great warnings... is not perfectly clear.

    Throughout the letter, there is a message to press on, as Paul advised, to not turn back, and to "hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope" (3:6b). But such boasting is not completely of oneself, if it is genuine, but comes partly from the Grace of Christ. The Lord would have us all saved, you know ("I have no pleasure in the death of the unrighteous...", Ezekiel 18), but alas not all will be saved, unfortunately.

    I have read a commentary that the Lord uses these verses to turn the elect back to Himself, and I believe there is a lot to be said for this. But even if there is an secret elect in the Providence of God, it is very difficult to realize this, until one is saved. The doctrine of the elect is not usually very helpful in drawing people, that is to say. It is above all important to understand that the Lord moves in different ways, with disparate people.

    But my answer to the query is that it is possible to *get close to salvation* without ever attaining it. Not that one can lose it, therefore, but that one can draw close. What of those people, then, that drew close? They did feel a tug, or draw, of the Spirit - the gentleman of the conscience, usually - yet they resisted, or left for less worthy matters, as Pastor Hendryx was aptly explaining in this fine letter. (And I have not seen a better short explanation of Hebrews 6) There is nothing of more worth than Christ: therefore to leave Him is to forsake the Mountain top (spoken of earlier this month), being Redemption.

    So then I believe there are people on the fence, to whom this letter to the Hebrews applies. Almighty God may know the final result, yes, *but so much is left for man, to work out his own salvation*. This is why, if these solemn words in Hebrews trouble you, it is essential to heed the call, repent, and return to the Lord with all your heart, mind and strength.

    - John G. Lewis

    Bob,

    Perhaps you could elaborate when you say you are so glad you are a Roman Catholic? This is an orphaned assertion without an argument to back up why this is?

    Are you saying that you are glad that Jesus is not sufficient to save you completely and as a result, glad that YOU must either attain or maintain your own just standing before God to make up for where Jesus left off? If so, then how is this good news at all since we all woefully fall short of God's holy standard? If you think Jesus' work is not enough and we must contribute to our justification, then is this not the same heresy Paul mentions in Galatian 3:3?

    Sounds like you believe in the necessity of Jesus but not the sufficiency of Jesus. Do you obey because you are saved or in order to be saved?


    John G. Lewis,

    The warnings in scripture are used as means by the Holy Spirit to work perseverance in believers. In this we probably agree, but the topic today was whether or not regenerate Christians could actually lose their standing before God as adopted children and whether Hebrews 6 was actually declaring that regenerate believers could fall away and have their regeneration revoked.

    The argument here is that those who think so are trusting in their own righteousness, not in Jesus alone. Which is what Hebrews is warning against... trusting in shadow rituals and/or self-merit over Jesus alone. You and I agree that we must obey. But the motivation behind why we obey reveals the condition of the heart.

    thanks for this excellent piece. I've searched long and hard for someone saying the same thing with this passage. I had the privilege to preach Heb 5:11-6:12 last year, http://www.davidould.net/you_are_what_you_eat.htm
    , and found that getting the passage right in it's context unlocked it as you have rightly said. Can I point you towards my text where I have developed the issues further? All comments would be welcome.

    What a wonderful explanation of Hebrews 6, and clear refutation of those that teach that a true believer can lose their salvation. It will truly be a gift to those believers struggling with the false notion that they may lose their salvation. I've only heard one other theologian give such a clear, concise, and purely scriptual explanation.
    I just came across your website yesterday and must certainly commend you for your pure Reformed theology and work for our Lord.
    Believe me, I immediately 'bookmarked' this page!
    In Christ,
    David O'Dowd

    There are no words to describe

    the blessing this site is to me.

    Thank You with all my heart!

    Jerry

    It seems rather straightforward that one can profess to be a Christian and say/do all the right "Christian" things yet never abide in the vine of Christ having a regenerating relationship with God. It's Pharisaism at the core and is rampant in Western Christianity. The problem is, "Pharisees" can be very convincing. Those who assert that one can lose salvation seem to do so out of an erroneous presupposition that "sincere outward confession/profession of Christian faith" equals "salvation". Perhaps they've seen someone surprisingly fall from the faith and assume that they had to have once been saved. Understandable sentiments, but misinformed nonetheless.

    Bob,

    Perhaps you could elaborate when you say you are so glad you are a Roman Catholic? This is an orphaned assertion without an argument to back up why this is?

    Are you saying that you are glad that Jesus is not sufficient to save you completely and as a result, glad that YOU must either attain or maintain your own just standing before God to make up for where Jesus left off? If so, then how is this good news at all since we all woefully fall short of God's holy standard? If you think Jesus' work is not enough and we must contribute to our justification, then is this not the same heresy Paul mentions in Galatian 3:3?

    Sounds like you believe in the necessity of Jesus but not the sufficiency of Jesus. Do you obey because you are saved or in order to be saved?
    ----------------------------
    Dear John,

    Do not fear! I will not leave you an orphan! (I think that's in the Bible somewhere).

    First, I am quite busy attending to my wife who underwent 3 brain surgeries, meningitis, and six weeks of coma.

    What I will try to do is give you a Catholic point of view, since you made reference to Catholicism in your post. Because I think most of your assertions are incorrect. I will try and be gentle. Hopefully, this will be fruitful.

    Let me get to the thrust of your argument then. I guess your first point is that the grace of Christ is sufficient to save us...(Jesus did say specifically to Paul that, "My grace is sufficient for thee) If that's all you want to say, I cannot disagree. If you want to say that this grace is unconditional, (we do not deserve it) Ok, I agree too.

    But, and this is a big but....

    If you are asserting that "unconditional" and "irresistible " somehow equates to "irrevocable" (as in once saved, always saved), then I disagree.

    You see, Adam was born without sin. Yet there was a condition, namely, that he did not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. So Adam had a choice. Eve had a choice.

    Lucifer, the "Light Bearer", also created without sin, fell. His folly? To wish to place himself above God.

    Abraham was put to the test. He had a choice too. Moses also failed to please God in the desert. David, after having tasted, also fell. Soloman, the wisest of men, also fell. etc..etc...

    I guess your second point is, "The very assertion that a Christian can lose their salvation is tantamount to saying that what Christ accomplished on the cross was insufficient to save completely and, as such, you would need to trust (partly) in yourself to either attain or maintain your own just standing before God. How is this different than Roman Catholic theology."

    Quite frankly, this is a straw man argument. You see, it is not a matter of attaining or maintaining one's standing before God. It is a matter of cooperating with the grace that has been given. Unless you wish to assert that God does not give one the grace to resist temptation? Does not God give grace? Can he increase it? Can he decrease it? Of course.

    If Adam cooperated with the grace, he would not have fallen. Eve could have resisted. Etc...etc...

    What did Paul, chosen to preach to the Gentiles, write? "Woe to me if I do not." He did not not write that he could not resist. He did not write that he did not have a choice. He did not write that he could not fall. Rather, he still feared falling!

    To reverse your argument, I could certainly assert that your position of once saved, always saved is in direct contradiction of Scripture. You are basically saying, once one is saved, either, God forgives his sin immediately, or one cannot sin anymore, or sin means nothing in God's eyes....because you are going to heaven anyway.

    What? If I am going to heaven, take me now. What are we doing doing here? God, why are you wasting time?

    In other words, I could make the assertion from what you wrote that it is tantamount to saying, "Once saved, I can do whatever I want....I'm still going to heaven because I believe in Jesus." Such people are the ones Jesus does not know.

    I know this is a long post....

    Sacraments? What is that to a Protestant? A symbol of the grace already received? Just a sign, without meaning? Let me get this straight....God commands superfluous rituals and rights? As a Catholic, we believe that our Sacraments contain the grace that they show. If not why do we need them? They mean nothing. But if they contain grace, they are not meaningless and ritualistic as you assert. So PROTESTANTS are actually the ones with meaningless rituals, not Catholics!

    In other words, to use your terminology, if God decides to regenerate me....then why do I need you, or your church, or the Bible (I can interpret that by myself since, all are taught by God)...I don't! But, if the Sacraments increase my grace, or help me to obtain, maintain, or regain it when I fall (Since God is present in them), then I need the Church.

    Finally, sorry for going on so long, Jesus established the Church. He gave the Keys to Peter. A new Priesthood to replace the old. Are you asserting that the Priesthood is no longer valid? When did God change his ways?

    I believe in Apostolic succession and the Roman Catholic Church assembled the Bible (before Luther decided to change it 1,000 years later). So, the R.C. Church has the authority to interpret it.

    Where do you get your authority?

    Bob,

    Interesting post and you made a lot of assertions but I did not see any reference to the Bible to confirm your ideas.

    We do not believe in once saved always saved but believe in preservation of the saints, as the Bible teaches. Once saved always saved, you are right would lead one to do whatever they want and still be saved. This is antinomianism and I know some people that actually hold to this, but we don't. We are commanded to persevere. The Holy Spirit uses these commands as a means to urge on his saints. The preaching of the word is a means of grace. So it is Christ who is sufficient to save us and not we ourselves. We not only believe in the necessity of Christ's grace but its sufficiency. Those who he calls and saves will persevere to the end.

    The Bible teaches us that we are to persevere and so we exercise our will to do so. Colossians 1:21-23; 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6; Hebrews 10:26-3; Hebrews 12:1 BUT YOU CANNOT DENY Scripture where it also says true believes WILL persevere to the end >>> John 6:38-40; John 10:28-29; Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 1:4-6; Philippians 2:12-13 1 John 2:19

    Augustine taught something similar ....He said,

    "In some places God requires newness of heart [Ezek 18:31]. But elsewhere he testifies that it is given by him [Ezek. 11:19; 36:26]. But what God promises we ourselves do not do through choice or nature; but he himself does through grace."

    He also said,

    "Can you say, ‘We will first walk in His righteousness, and will observe His judgments, and will act in a worthy way, so that He will give His grace to us’? But what good would you evil people do? And how would you do those good things, unless you were yourselves good? But Who causes people to be good? Only He Who said, ‘And I will visit them to make them good,’ and, ‘I will put my Spirit within you, and will cause you to walk in my righteousness, and to observe my judgments, and do them’ (Ezek.36:27). Are you asleep? Can’t you hear Him saying, ‘I will cause you to walk, I will make you to observe,’ lastly, ‘I will make you to do’? Really, are you still puffing yourselves up? We walk, true enough, and we observe, and we do; but it is God Who He makes us to walk, to observe, to do. This is the grace of God making us good; this is His mercy going before us. Augustine - Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 4:15

    Understood? So Ironically, even your so-called doctor of the Church agrees with my position.

    And the Counsel of Orange also agree with it
    Council of Orange 529 AD

    "If anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, or that we can be saved by assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the effectual work of the Holy Spirit, who makes all whom He calls gladly and willingly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray from the plain teaching of Scripture by exalting the natural ability of man, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

    So to answer your question where I get my authority. It is from the Bible and without qualification many in the ancient church also testify to the same view of Scripture.... we stand on their shoulders. It appears that you have rejected the teaching on grace from your own church father and council.

    Also you are confusing the pre-fall and post fall will of man when you place Adam and Abraham in the same boat. Even Augustine rightly taught that prior to the fall men were "able to sin and able not to sin" but after the fall they are "not able not to sin".

    Dear John,

    Do I really need to refer to the Bible for you? You should know where the passages are located.

    You see, the Lord said to the woman with a flow, "Your faith has saved you." He did not say, "the faith that I gave you." So she cooperated. The "faith" belonged to her. She wanted to touch his clothes.

    Like-wise, the Gentile women, whom the Lord referred to as a dog. He said, " Because you have said this...." The Lord gave her credit. She cooperated with grace.

    Or the Centurion, what he said, "I am not worthy", the Lord granted his request. (This is what Catholic say before they receive Communion ( a Sacrament in which the Lord is present).

    So Soloman, the Lord said, "Because you did not ask for health or riches..."

    So you see, all throughout Scripture, people must either do something, or not do something, or say something, or not say something....to obtain, maintain, regain, grace. It kinda refutes your entire theology, doesn't it?

    I know of a Council that says that the grace of perseverance cannot be merited. Why do you accept one Council and not another? On what grounds?

    We are to exercise or will? I thought you taught the we have no free will?

    I contest your statement on perseverance. The Church Council teaches that this cannot be obtained without a special revelation from God. On what grounds do you refute this?

    As far as Augustine is concerned, do you wish to assert that the Roman Catholic Church has misconstrued his teaching? He is Roman Catholic and a Doctor of the Church and a Saint. Do you wish to correct that? What? The Church God established got it wrong? Because Luther or Calvin said so?

    It seems to me that your entire theology is based of of one Council, the Council of Orange. Hey, there were more Councils. Why do you accept this one and not the others?

    Sorry, I have not rejected anything from the Church Fathers or Councils. Perhaps, I simply understand them better than you? If you read the Church Fathers, you will certainly find that they are indeed Catholic.

    Bob

    PS: I know in the Bible it says that Peter has the authority to bind and loosen...but, I missed the part where your name is mentioned.

    Bob, You said "So you see, all throughout Scripture, people must either do something, or not do something, or say something, or not say something....to obtain, maintain, regain, grace. It kinda refutes your entire theology, doesn't it?"

    Did I ever say that mean are not supposed to do something? Did I say they are not to act? Quite the contrary. If you would have taken the time to read what I wrote and what Augustine wrote in the quote above you would have never have made erroneous assertion about what I believe. For your convenience I will post Augustine again:

    .. ‘I will put my Spirit within you, and will cause you to walk in my righteousness, and to observe my judgments, and do them’ (Ezek.36:27). Are you asleep? Can’t you hear Him saying, ‘I will cause you to walk, I will make you to observe,’ lastly, ‘I will make you to do’? Really, are you still puffing yourselves up? We walk, true enough, and we observe, and we do; but it is God Who He makes us to walk, to observe, to do. This is the grace of God making us good; this is His mercy going before us. Augustine - Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 4:15
    .

    This is what we believe along with Augustine, and what you and your church have rejected. Of course we all act and do, but God causes it and makes it effectual. We never said otherwise. So all of your comments make no sense. Further, you not only reject your own source of authority but the Bible itself.

    You make orphaned assertions about how Augustine is Catholic and you believe him, yet you reject him here at the most crucial place. God commands us to do many things, but commands do not equal ability. Ability to believe and persevere comes through Christ alone. We do it BECAUSE the grace of God works in us, not in order to make God give it in us, as you believe. Since you believe we can maintain grace you thereby reject the grace of God in Christ as if what he did was not enough. You contribute or add to his perfect salvation as if your works had any saving value. The heresy of Galatians 3:3

    God ordains both the means and the ends. Election does not save anyone itself but is a blueprint of what God plans to do through time and space and history in his Son Jesus Christ. We cast the seed of the gospel but only God opens the heart to receive that seed.

    No one is saved apart from the gospel. We are not fatalists. We believe that he carries out his plan through the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gathers his elect when they hear the gospel. That is why it is necessary to act and do and preach. He does not save in a void, but has determined to do it through the preaching of the gospel.

    So not only does your view not "refute our entire theology" but confirms it. Let me turn it around and ask you. If God is not completely sovereign in who he saves then why pray for the lost at all. If God cannot save them or overcome their hardened wills, then for what purpose does prayer serve?

    You see it only makes sense if we have "been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." (Ephesians 1:11)

    If he is not sovereign over all things and does not change people's hearts from stone to flesh so they will believe then men have no hope. Left to themselves they are lost. They love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light (john 3:19, 20)

    Dear John,

    Please do not take my question about where you get your authority personally, but rather vocationally. In other words, I can name a lot of people, "religious" people, who claim that they have had a revelation from God, or their preaching is based on the Bible, but whom we would both agree are in error. How can that be? How can one be sure?

    My answer is that it conforms with the established Church from the beginning, and by that I mean the Roman Catholic Church. How can there be any other? Did God mislead people for 1,000 years after Christ established the Church, in order to raise up Calvin or Luther or whoever? Doesn't make sense. I do not believe the Church was wrong for 1,000 years. I do not believe her teaching is wrong today.

    I read your quote of Augustine, as God is the Creator of all things, but nowhere does it say we do not need to cooperate with grace. In other words, free will. I have listed Scriptural examples in my above posts. We are not robots.

    The Roman Catholic Church has not rejected Augustine, but rather embraced him.

    Ah, where did I reject the Bible? Don't think I did. Rather illuminated it.

    "If God is not completely sovereign in who he saves then why pray for the lost at all. If God cannot save them or overcome their hardened wills, then for what purpose does prayer serve?" Your question....

    Exactly. Thank you for agreeing with me.To put it another way, in your theology, people either die and go straight to heaven or straight to hell. So my question to you is, why pray for a person in heaven? They do not need your prayers. Why pray for a person in hell? Your prayers will not help them. So why do you pray for them at all?

    Now tell me that if a person who was close to you died you would not pray for them because it does no good. But, if they were still in the process of getting to heaven, as we believe, then a prayer would be worthwhile. No? It is your theology that would resign prayer for another to just another ritual, not mine.

    We can also pray for the living, with hardened wills, like Augustine's mother did for him. In other words, we can make a sacrifice on behalf of another. Ever read Augustine's "Confessions?" In your theology, this is not necessary. In ours it is essential and prayer always has a purpose. So you reject Augustine?

    An "orphaned assertion" that Augustine was Catholic? He was a Catholic Bishop for Pete's sake. What was he then, Calvinist! 1,000 years before Calvin. Yeah, right.

    "Reject the grace of God in Christ as if what he did was not enough?" Huh? Check your Bible again. It was Paul who wrote that he makes up in his body what was lacking in Christ's sacrifice! That's right, Paul. Not me. How do you explain that?

    I am not contributing or adding to anything (like Luther did with the word "alone"), only cooperating with grace.

    Predestination is God's business, not ours.

    Gentlemen:

    Very many wise and godly statements have been made; it has been, and is, a wonderful discussion. I think the central question here involves the relationship of free will with the saving power of Almighty God. John Hendryx: your two quotations from Augustine were outstanding.

    But Bob: as John wrote, the parallel to Adam is misplaced. It is by his choice that humanity arrived into it's present fallen condition, and in need of Redemption. And you are consistently overlooking what it means to be a born again Christian (John 3). What it means to pray "father God": to enter into an eternal relationship with the Father through Christ, where our sins of the past, present, and future are forgiven. Yet His salvation is so mighty, that He even forgives [overlooks] our good works, of the past, present, and future, because Redemption has no basis in such. It is the merit, the Grace, of Christ alone which consitutes salvation. This action, this final confirmation (one may say) of God, is irrevocable; and so yes, once saved always saved. This much, I believe, is certain.

    Additionally, you are neglecting part of our Reformed theology, Bob. If once saved always so, you state: "What? If I am going to heaven, take me now. What are we doing here?" The answer is, to glorify God, to prove his forgiving nature by being a witness to it, and to illustrate to others, and bring all the more people into the Kingdom. As John Hendryx wrote, this is His ordained means of salvation: by using man to call the lost. See (especially) the parable of the Laborers of the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1 - 16)

    ---------------------------------

    John H: I believe my difference with you, if there is such, are on subtle issues: relating the doctrine of perseverance, and the conception of free will to the foreknowledge of God, and the notion of the elect. Is there fate? I think there may be, yes, but if this is the case, it is beyond the ability of man to know, as a general principle. But also: the inquiry, "Are there people saved outside the Church?" is *not identical* to asking "Are there people saved outside the Gospel?" The latter is a negative, but there is evidence for the former. (Romans 2:14 - 16).

    But anyway, back on point... My position may be succinctly summarized: Is there a difference between the notion of justification before the Lord, and the born again experience of John 3, being the central experience of all Evangelical Christianity? I believe there may well be... We know of the belief by some Christians in "second works of Grace". Yet... it seems more than a mere belief; rather it appears to be true, that this phenomenon can, and does, occur. But if *this viewing is accurate*, how are we to account for appearance? That is, when did the Lord, in this particular case, make His 'irrevocable decision' in the saving of the person [the born again experience]? When (a) the indivual was accepted into the Church, and had made a good & honest confession, similar to Nicodemus's position of John three. Or rather, are people confusing these "second works" with the born again experience itself (b)? The latter is my position. And my point, John, is that... if (b) is, after all, correct, was the individual justified at his entrance into the Church? A corollary to (b) would be the danger of "neglect[ing] such a great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3a) by "throw[ing] away [one's] confidence, which has a great reward." (Hebrews 10:35)

    Additionally, to back such a interpretation, there exist the following warnings in Revelation: "[see] that no one seizes your crown" (Rev. 3:11b); and again: "The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life." So may an individual church member... be so 'negated' by the Lord, the head of the Church? If one responds in the affirmative here, as I am, is this not saying one can lose justification? Suppletorily, note Hebrews 12:14 "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."; and Paul on "pressing on" (Philip. 3:12 - 20)

    In conclusion, therefore, how are we to view an individual's successful perseverance, and someone else's *failed* perseverance? How are we to honour the Lord here, with correct doctrine and judgement; and with an ear, to hear properly scripture, and the Lord? This is a delicate issue; the accepted Church notion of justification is a doctrine coming out of the Reformation, yet against the mistakes of the Catholic Church. But do we, being the Reformed Church, have everything right?

    - John G. Lewis

    {P.S. I would request, since we have two Johns, and evidently two Bobs (!) on this thread, that everyone leave at least there last initial. Thx.}

    Dear Bob:

    Btw, John Calvin, in his works (the Commentaries, Institutes of the Christian Religion, others) quoted no man more, outside the Bible, than Augustine.

    - John L.

    Bob, your words are laden with works-righteousness. There is no "process of getting to heaven". Salvation is a gift of God. If there truly is a process of getting to heaven in the afterlife, then the absurdities of Mormonism may just be true (celestial exaltation/baptism for the dead, etc.). Christians do not pray for the dead just as Christians do not baptize the dead.

    As for Church error, there have always been God's true elect in all ages of history apart from outward denominational/sectarian forms of the faith. It is absurd to assert that one prominent European denomination of Christianity is "the Church infallible" and that there wasn't anything else until the reformation. Catholicism simply did not have a monopoly on Christianity for the millennium that you assert. Even if they did, that doesn't mean they couldn't be wrong.

    As to your isolated quote of Col 1:24, Matthew Henry speaks well to it: "He suffered in the cause of Christ, and for the good of the church. He suffered for preaching the gospel to them. And, while he suffered in so good a cause, he could rejoice in his sufferings, rejoice that he was counted worthy to suffer, and esteem it an honour to him. And fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh. Not that the afflictions of Paul, or any other, were expiations for sin, as the sufferings of Christ were. There was nothing wanting in them, nothing which needed to be filled up. They were perfectly sufficient to answer the intention of them, the satisfaction of God's justice, in order to the salvation of his people. But the sufferings of Paul and other good ministers made them conformable to Christ; and they followed him in his suffering state: so they are said to fill up what was behind of the sufferings of Christ, as the wax fills up the vacuities of the seal, when it receives the impression of it. Or it may be meant not of Christ's sufferings, but of his suffering for Christ. He filled that which was behind. He had a certain rate and measure of suffering for Christ assigned him; and, as his sufferings were agreeable to that appointment, so he was still filling up more and more what was behind, or remained of them to his share."

    Dear John L.,

    I don't think my parallel to Adam was misplaced since, my actual point was, there was a condition placed on his state of grace by in which God created him, namely that he did not eat the fruit of the Tree Knowledge.

    The other point I was making is that, for example, God credited Abraham with righteousness. Although I would agree that only God is righteous, nevertheless God gave credit to Abraham.

    Another example would be Job. God increased his grace in the end and would only accept Job's intercession for his three companions.

    The point is, God gives grace and can increase it or decrease it based on a man's actions. The Bible is full of examples. It is not that we, as Catholics are trying to justify our works before God...but the Bible is pretty clear that God justifies them and credits them to us. So I would disagree that God overlooks them. Especially since it says the martyrs will be first.

    I always hesitate to use the words, "Born again." That is the interpretation of Nicodemos. The same word in Aramaic, can be translated as, "born from above", as Jesus meant it.


    Andrew,

    As far as my comment on the "process of getting to heaven" - perhaps I should have wrote, "still on the way to heaven."

    Jesus is certainly a "refining fire" and I believe that this refining takes a longer time than we have in this life. What is there to prevent God from further purifying the soul after it leaves this earth? Jesus says that souls have spiritual bodies, like the angels. God certainly can add grace to a departed soul, say as in glorification or beatitude. God can decrease grace, like the fallen angels.

    We do pray for the departed because prayers can help them on the way. God is the God of the Living, not the dead.

    As far as "asserting one prominent European denomination" - er, ah, isn't this what you are doing? I mean one could actually put the shoe on the other foot.

    So in the final analysis, the answer lies in the question of authority. God is not the God of confusion and wisdom is putting things in their proper order. God certainly orders all things. It certainly seems to me that you have confused ordering and authority with monopoly.

    Bob, you can reword "process" to "way" and it still bears the same connotations. If the soul has an opportunity to "progress down a path towards heaven" in the afterlife then hell can not possibly be eternal (which God's Word is clear on) because one could theoretically be refined by the fires of hell straight into heaven. This is nothing more than the heresy of universalism. God is a God of the living, you're absolutely right. But this does not mean what you imply it to mean. Hebrews 9:27 says, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." After death is judgment not salvific progress. When one dies, they stand before God to be judged and they either are received to Him or cast into hell. Our prayers from earth do not sway that post-death judgment for eternal fate is sealed at our bodily death. Our prayers can only affect that judgment when that person is still alive and able to receive the gift of salvation.
    As for denominational assertions, pushing the antithesis back at me is a distraction. No where am I arguing the truth of one particular church over another. We’re talking about doctrines of Scripture here. Your presupposition is that all doctrines must be packaged with the truth claim of a particular church. I simply don’t do that. Your question of church authority is exactly what Mormons argue. They assert that there has to be a laying-on-of-hands directly down from the Apostles in order for there to be authority. The Catholic church as well as the Eastern Orthodox assert something similar with regards to apostolic succession. Problem is there is no evidence of perfect succession from the Apostles. And the Eastern Orthodox Church has a better claim on it than the Roman Catholic Church does. In the end, when Mormons or Catholic argue this problem of authority, I point out that this is exactly what the Pharisees did to Christ in Matthew 21:23-27. And Christ asserted that John the Baptist received His authority from heaven and not from Abraham. In Matthew 3:9, Jesus bulldozes down their authoritative presumptions: "And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” In the final analysis, authority is from heaven, not from familial/authoritative successions. God bestows it as a gift on whom He chooses.

    Dear Andrew,

    Sorry to disagree again, but...remember I am just giving a Catholic point of view here.

    I would argue that the fire of hell is a punishing fire, and not one of refining or purifying. Not the same thing.

    Second, I think it is an erroneous assumption to know God's verdict in advance as simply "guilty" (hell) or "innocent" (heaven). What if God's judgement is that the soul doesn't deserve hell, but instead is still in need of further purification before entering heaven? This is our view. I frankly don't know anyone who died without some imperfections and certainly one must be perfect before entering heaven. So they need more time. The purpose of praying for these people is not to sway God's judgement of them, but we can certainly shorten or alleviate some of their purifying by prayer and sacrifice, just as we doing for the living.

    And, quite frankly again, I just don't get your other point. It makes no sense to me. You accuse me of universalism, but at the same time, you "do not argue the truth of one particular church over another?" What does this mean? That there is more than one truth? That is relativism and is the greatest danger to the faith today. Since there can only be one truth, so there can only be one Church which possesses it. Likewise, one authority. Who is your authority? Calvin?

    The laying on of hands is in the Bible.

    Finally, of course John the Baptist got his authority from heaven. Peter got his authority from Christ Himself and passed it on by the laying on of hands. There was no Bible then (300 yrs. later put together by the Roman Catholic Church), so a claim to any "authority from the Bible"...I would think one has to be Catholic and have hands laid on by the proper authority, as the Apostles did.

    Dear Bob:

    Concerning the father of the faithful, if it isn't Noah, it is Abraham, where "the Church" (J. Calvin) was commenced. Yes, I know that Almighty God recognizes differences in people's works, among those of the Church, and among those not of. Yet neither of these works are sufficient to merit eternal favor; there is only one "work" that suffices here: believing in his Son (John 6:28 - 29). And how did the Lord credit Abraham with righteousness? The fact that he believed the Lord. (Genesis 15:6)

    My difference with John Hendryx is difficult to examine. We might need to go back to the original language, even, so not to deal with translations. Yet, perhaps it can be boiled down to something I believe you raised, Bob: is perseverance of Grace, or is it earned? I do happen to be arguing for the latter position, but hold, again, even if it is earned, and although consequently meritorious in a sense, is is not praiseworthy sufficient to earn salvation.

    I remember perusing through a theological book, that I would later give to my Pastor (perhaps unfortunately for me, because I never read it), that theorized: Grace is unmerited, but from the fact that it is so [that is, there exist no necessary work on our part that can sufficiently please the Lord so as to earn salvation], this does not entail there is *no reason* why He savingly reaches forth, and so embraces an individual for eternity.

    - John G. Lewis

    Hello,

    I am really disturbed by how complicated you all are making this and wonder why the simple message of the Gospel has to been intellectually stained. It's not difficult to understand, Jesus made it simple for all. Jesus sacrificed himself to attone for all sin past, present and future. this formed a new covenant no longer bound by law and ritual.Jesus became the high priest but because of his sacrifice he erased the need for renewed purification (Hebrews 7:27). One must be born again (belief in Christ as the son of God) and Repent of your sin. Only then can you be saved. However if you choose to sin again you must repent for that sin and you shall be forgiven.
    its not rocket science or something that needs to be drowned in deep thought. Why, would Jesus state that you should be forgiven IF you repent. Then go on to say if you tresspass 7 times in a day and IF you repent 7 times you should be forgiven. Why teach this if he expects something different from you according to grace. Why not teach, if someone offends you and they repent once, forgive no matter how many times they offend in the future. This all takes place in Luke 17 for you scripture needy.
    As for the statement in the blog on context, you failed to extend your evaluation of Hebrews 6 through to Hebrews 10 where the point is concluded and it is stated
    "26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
    27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."

    KISS
    Keep it simple stupid

    Proverbs 3:7

    Hello,

    I am really disturbed by how complicated you all are making this and wonder why the simple message of the Gospel has to been intellectually stained. It's not difficult to understand, Jesus made it simple for all. Jesus sacrificed himself to attone for all sin past, present and future. this formed a new covenant no longer bound by law and ritual.Jesus became the high priest but because of his sacrifice he erased the need for renewed purification (Hebrews 7:27). One must be born again (belief in Christ as the son of God) and Repent of your sin. Only then can you be saved. However if you choose to sin again you must repent for that sin and you shall be forgiven.
    its not rocket science or something that needs to be drowned in deep thought. Why, would Jesus state that you should be forgiven IF you repent. Then go on to say if you tresspass 7 times in a day and IF you repent 7 times you should be forgiven. Why teach this if he expects something different from you according to grace. Why not teach, if someone offends you and they repent once, forgive no matter how many times they offend in the future. This all takes place in Luke 17 for you scripture needy.
    As for the statement in the blog on context, you failed to extend your evaluation of Hebrews 6 through to Hebrews 10 where the point is concluded and it is stated
    "26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
    27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."

    KISS
    Keep it simple stupid

    Proverbs 3:7

    That KISS comment was not meant to offend anyone it was just meant to say please keep the awesome message of Christ simple as it was taught by him.

    Dear John L.,

    James 2:20-24.

    Gentlemen:

    Bob: I do know about James, and this is in part why I am on your side. Joe: matters are not so simple, for the ultimate interpreter of the Bible, other than the Spirit, is the Bible itself. So matters of doctrinal importance can be difficult and complex.

    What might be said to be 'my project' here is to preserve Salvation be Grace alone, but to let in some element of cooperation, by the individual, as a necessary element in the soteriological process. Would doing this destroy the notion of the elect? No, because Divine foreknowledge knew that the individual would fall away. Yet then how would it keep the notion of once saved always saved? Unknown. I am generally supportive of this, yet it is not to be found, definitively, in the Bible. The danger (in this perspective) is that one could lose one's Justification before entering into a 'final' saving relationship with the Lord: that Justification and the Born Again process are two different events, which only sometimes temporally correlate.

    It might be said, however, that those who would later fall away, were never in fact Justified to begin with (there was something wrong with their faith), but those that did perseverve to the "holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14) were justified a pace back, and that the BA experience was delayed in this case, as a Wesleyan (?) second work of Grace. This is possible.

    Why I mentioned the ancient lanquages previously, is that, for example, the word "faith" has a richer meaning in the older lanquages, perhaps especially the Hebrew, involving notions of trust. The many phrases in the New Testament, such that "your faith has saved you, go in peace" may be then explained, that the noted individuals did have this 'greater faith'.

    - John G. Lewis

    John ,

    I disagree with you. Matters are made difficult and complex by men. They are not and were never complex to begin with.
    1corinth 6
    "4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?
    5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
    6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
    7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?
    8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!
    9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
    10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
    11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
    12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

    Dear Joe:

    Thank you. My second Pastor, after knowing me for a while, interestingly thought that an excellent book for me to read was the same: 1 Corinthians. So I will. Probably some John Owen on Justification. (Others too: there was a late 19th century volume, additionally, on this - I have forgotten the author.) You know, Owen perhaps wrote the definitive interpretation of the book of Hebrews: but in 7 volumes! I have read condensed versions of this (a paperback by the Banner of Truth), and he was supportive of the main article here, that concerned Pastor John Hendryx: that one cannot lose one's salvation.

    -------------------------------------------

    Are the Reformed Doctrine's of Justification and Perseverance accurate? I am not quite sure, myself. The Reformation's key advance, in my consideration, was the sufficiency of Christ. The problem is, arriving at this: how, and in what order? I believe it is very possible people may be justified - and not know it. But there is certainly the reverse, as is mentioned in the Gospels: there are some people who think they are saved, and are not.

    But finally, going back to Hebrews, I believe the idea, here, as far as the warnings are concerned, was a call to persevere, which generally means (except for some of the elderly): *to advance* (in the faith), to not falter, and above all else, do not fall back. If the latter *is* done, the Lord may wake you up, in his benevolence and lovingkindness, as David wrote of, and which is his essential nature. Remember: "You shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. *And a second is like it.* You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [Matthew 22:37 - 39; italics, mine.] (...) Yet, there may come a point, where the Glory of God becomes involved, in the soteriological process, in a negative manner: so that He cannot save one, because of the trespasses, which has besmirched His name, being equivalent with his glory. He cannot save; for He will not: it would be a negation of His glory. Such a case was Judas.

    So I believe the warnings in Hebrews, especially 6, concern this principle: of the holiness of God, and that one *must* draw toward this, and not away. The warnings, therefore, in 6, 10, and 12 are real, and not hypothetical, for the individual. [Not for the Lord, who knows those who are his.] We must heed this great book, in combination with the teachings of Paul, to press on, conquer, and secure our crown (Rev. 3:21, Rev. 21:7, Rev. 22:12).

    - John G. Lewis

    Dear John L.,

    A very thoughtful and interesting post indeed. And I would certainly agree that you have correctly identified the problem of the soteriological process as "how and in what order?" I have been contemplating this for the last 12 years. Mind if I chime in with a few thoughts?

    What does it really mean to "advance (in the faith)?" To "advance in the faith" to me would mean to study. To "advance the faith" would mean preaching or teaching. But if what you meant to write was, "advance in faith" well to me that can only mean one thing and that is "to advance in humility." Jesus found no greater faith than that of the Centurion who said, "I am not worthy."

    However, I would certainly disagree with your statement that God "cannot save one because of the trespasses" and "He will not:it would be a negation of His glory."

    When the Apostles said to Jesus, "Then who can be saved" he replied that all things are possible with God. Your statement would lead one to believe that one's sin is greater than God's mercy. Is this not the "sin against the Holy Spirit" that cannot be forgiven in this life or the next? Mercy certainly does not negate the Glory of God, but redounds to it.

    As far as the ordering of salvation is concerned, although judgement and mercy are alike with God, in us, judgement certainly precedes mercy.

    Finally, one must not draw towards the holiness of God,-that would be presumption- but rather, "wait for the Lord" (as expressed for example in the Psalms and the Canticle of Mary and the Gospel of John) to "draw us."

    Dear John H.,

    Since John L., and I discussed the order of salvation process, I thought it might be useful to elaborate on the major difference between us and get back to your original article.

    I understand your position to be "Regeneration precedes faith" as expressed in this link:

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul01.html

    What is "regeneration" actually, but the Love of God (the Holy Spirit) poured out on us. But the Bible, specifically Paul, is clear about an order of faith, hope and love. He teaches us that it is possible to have faith, and hope, but without love, we are just "clashing cymbals."

    Now, since this is so, it is impossible for me to think otherwise. Augustine teaches that faith exceeds the intellect; hope exceeds the imagination; and love exceeds the will. Love is the greatest because it not only exceeds the human will, but also the intellect of man and therefore exceeds both faith and hope also.

    The Reformed position of "regeneration (the Love of God) precedes faith" therefore cannot be correct since Paul says we can possess both faith and hope, but not have love (regeneration).

    Simply put then, I guess the Reformed order would be love, faith and then hope? Love is the prize.

    So referring back to your article, my question to you is, "Does God still love those who have turned their backs on Him?" One cannot turn one's back to God without first having known Him." One certainly can fall from grace.

    So maybe now you can see why I (a Roman Catholic) would disagree with what you wrote.

    Thanks for letting me express that.

    Bob:

    To advance in the faith, though studying and teaching are parts of this, is essentially a growth in piety.

    John H's essay perhaps should be seen in a less controversial light, and of which I have earlier mentioned: that the danger, being expressed in Hebrews, is that one may hear the Gospel, read, study, and even attend church... and so grow *close to salvation*, but because of trespasses intermixing with a lack of fervent faith, not attain to it.

    - J. G. Lewis

    Dear John L.,

    Certainly, I am not trying to raise any controversy here, which does not already exist between Catholics and Reformed Calvinists. I am simply taking a position from reason, and I believe that faith cannot contradict reason as John Paul II explained in his encyclical "On Faith and Reason." (A brilliant document in my opinion.)

    I do not disagree with what you wrote that one may "hear the Gospel, read, study and even even attend church and so grow close to salvation and not attain to it."

    But, if my understanding of monergism is correct, then our views are not those those of Reformation Theology, as I explained above.

    This is why I am waiting for John H. to respond.

    Dear Bob:

    Faith and reason cannot contradict each other? I would agree with you. Yet it is very difficult to determine what the conclusions of reasoning truly are. The disciplines of philosophy, science, math and logic (& .etc) are in question here. In opposition, true faith is essentially very simple. Do not be misled: this is what Satan *did in the Garden*.

    I would like to warn everyone: do not be led astray by philosophy, and the vain conjectures of certain scientists, sociologists, and psychologists. There are now, in our century and the last, spreading enormous lies which are over-taking society, and now the world. Doctrines such as Darwinism, Scientism, and Humanism. The hypothesis, for example, that we are derived from ape-like creatures, and that the Earth is eons old, depends on *assumptions* which have not been proved, are very difficult to establish with certainty. They are therefore speculative! (More so, I feel, Evolutionary thought than Geophysics - but still both.)

    It is human presumption, even arrogance, to say "we can, and have, figured out the truth." And maybe we have to an extent... But ultimate truth resides with the Almighty God - and he will reveal it to whomsoever He wills.

    The Grace of Christ is a world, a wonder in itself. This is the ultimate goal, is it not? I argue, more so against John H., that it is something that we, as Christians need to work for, like hurdles lined up that we must overcome, not unlike Abraham, the father of the faithful. The hurdles vary among individuals, and are to be seen... as something like the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. We must sacrifice our own life for the faith, must we not?

    I am somewhat more "work-driven" than John, perhaps, yet he will not deny that the Royal Law should be obeyed. Grace is beyond works, and I will agree here, but the attainment of it may not be. Perseverance in the faith is necessary, but not sufficient, therefore. But also: the Lord will set different bars, for different people.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    - John G. Lewis

    @Joe:

    Hebrews 10 is the same issue. There is nothing intellectual or complex about this. it is merely looking at the context of the Text. You quote:

    "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."

    In the context of Hebrews, the sin he is speaking of is going back to temple sacrifice, the Law, the Levitical Priesthood, rather than trusting Christ alone The sin is to trust something other than Jesus Christ. And if someone continues to sin willfully without a care for Christ and his commands in any area, it is obvious He does not know Christ. It is of him that Jesus will say "I never knew you." He says "never' he does not say I once knew you and now do not. But never.

    Likewise 1 John 2:19 states of those who appeared to leave the faith

    "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."

    You are either a Christian by your nature or you are not. This is God's doing, not ours. Christ is the Savior, not someone who merely helps us save ourselves.

    Works do save, Jesus' works, not ours. But we do work and are commanded to obey Christ. But we do not trust in such works, since our salvation has already been accomplished according to the Scripture. Our works spring OUT OF our salvation. Now that we are regenerate we will work and we will persevere, by the grace of God. Christ Himself guarantees it with the pledge of the Holy Spirit. Unless you are willing to say that Christ will not fulfill his promise.

    John 6:37-40 Jesus declares: All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    According to your view, the will of the Father in verse 40 can be thwarted.


    Is it really possible for a Muslim to convert to evangelical Christianity and then de-convert back to Islam?

    One of the major tenets of (Baptist/Reformed) evangelicalism is that a true believer can never lose his salvation. This is referred to as the Doctrine of Eternal Security or "Once saved, always saved".

    Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American who came to the United States as a teenager. He was raised Muslim. At age 15, he converted to evangelical Christianity. He states that after his evangelical conversion, he had a "burning in his soul for Jesus" and actively shared the Gospel with others. However, during his post-graduate studies, his "burning" for Jesus as his Lord and Savior fizzled out. He returned to the faith of his childhood...Islam.

    How do evangelical Christians explain this man's "de-conversion"; the unraveling of his "decision for Christ"?

    At the moment of his conversion to Christianity, the moment of his salvation by the grace of God, received through faith in Jesus Christ, did Mr. Aslan just not "do it" right...or did this man once truly believe, but now has rejected Christ as his Lord and Savior, and has therefore lost his salvation through Jesus Christ?

    Please explain how this happened, evangelical brothers and sisters. To we orthodox, it certainly appears that this man once believed and possessed the Holy Spirit; he once was saved, a Christian, a true believer...and now is not. What happened?

    (Mr. Aslan has recently published a book entitled, "Zealot, the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth".)

    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/09/muslim-to-evangelical-christian-to.html

    Gary. Regarding Mr. Aslan 1 John 2:19 appears to explain it: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." If Mr. Aslan were a born again Christian, he would suffer some temporal judgments to chasten him and bring him back into the fold or God would simply take him away from this world. See 1 Corinthians 11:28-32; Hebrews 12:6-8; Revelation 3:19. See also Galatians 6:7. As this doesn't appear to have happened, then 1 John 2:19 seems to best explain the matter.

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