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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Assurance of Eternal Security (pt. 2)

Last week I introduced a short series of articles I plan to post addressing the Arminian concept of conditional security, or the belief that a Christian can lose his or her salvation.

I will refer the reader to part 1 to get the full background for the context of why I am addressing this subject. My introduction was a tad lengthy, but it was necessary to establish a foundation for my responses. Hopefully, these next handful of posts will not be as long.

I believe that having a firm grasp on the doctrine of eternal security is vital for the spiritual health of the Christian. I have met many Christians who have fretted restlessly over whether or not they had "lost" their salvation because they were fearful they had engaged themselves in some form of sinful behavior. One individual I recall worried that God had disowned him because he thought he had smoked way too many cigarettes.

The doctrine of eternal security, as I noted in my introduction, does not stand alone. It is the capstone truth in the entire theological superstructure of salvation. The goal of God's saving grace is to turn rebellious sinners into being humble servants of Christ and to bring those sons and daughters into His glorious presence.

Salvation is the work of all the members of the Godhead. The Father chose to bestow His grace on a countless number of sinful individuals and to bring them to salvation. However, in order to deal with the penalty of their sin and His just wrath against them, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in perfect payment for those sinners. God's wrath is averted from them and they are made righteous before God in faith as they are drawn out of the world by God's Holy Spirit. The sinner who could never merit good works to even court God's favor now stands before God his creator declared an innocent and righteous person all on account of Christ's work on his behalf.

When we have a biblically informed understanding of all the foundational doctrines of salvation as they are revealed in scripture, then our understanding of eternal security will be focused into the correct perspective. Rather than being plagued with anxiety and doubt, a person can truly examine his heart as to the nature of his salvation and joyfully praise God for his eternal life.

It must be understood that the plan of God to bring sinners to salvation is perfect in all that was intended to accomplish and complete in the totality of what it affected. Paul affirms this truth in his letter to the Philippians when he writes, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete until the day of Christ Jesus. A person can be confident that if God has saved him by making him a recipient of Christ's justifying work on the cross, setting him apart by the work of the Spirit in his heart, and giving the person a love for God in Christ, then God will complete that work He began so that the person will stand in the presence of God in eternal life.

Yet in spite of these many clear words found throughout the entire revelation of God, there are those who would teach that such a confidence is unwarranted. They argue that a Christian must maintain a consistent pattern of good works and conduct himself in such a manner of personal holiness that any deviation from the path of righteousness with disobedience does not merely risk the chastisement of the Lord, but risks being permanently cut off from Christ resulting in the forfeiture and utter loss of one's salvation.

I believe this view of conditional security, or the teaching that a Christian can lose his or her salvation, is deplorable and undermines the core doctrines pertaining to our salvation.

With the first post, I stated Conditional Security is Contrary to the New Birth

The new birth is simply defined as that divine heart change God works in the unbeliever that turns the person from being a God despiser to being a God worshiper. The new birth is also known in scripture as regeneration, and it is likened to experiencing a spiritual resurrection where in a spiritual principle is implanted in the sinner that frees him from the power of sin and imparts to him a willingness to follow Christ which grows stronger and more vibrant as the new Christian puts off his old way of life of sinfulness and puts on the new way of life that pursues Christ-likeness and righteousness.

Moving along, I wish to address two more doctrines undermined by the idea of conditional security:

II. Conditional Security Ruins the Doctrine of Redemption

The basic New Testament idea of redemption is Christ's priestly work on the cross where in he delivered us, His people, from our bondage to the law, sin, and God's wrath, through the purchase by ransom of His substitutionary obedience in life and in death. Hence, by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God purchases the ransom for sinners.

The doctrine of redemption has it roots in the book of Exodus where the concept is employed to speak of God's freeing His people Israel from their bondage as slaves in Egypt. Beginning in Exodus 6:6, God tells Moses, ... and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Deuteronomy 7:8 reiterates this, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. This redemption was accomplished by the blood of the Passover lamb placed upon the door post that turned away God's judgment upon that household. By this passing over, Israel was freed from their Egyptian masters and were now God's servants.

This seed image of redemption bloomed in the NT as it is applied to Christ's salvific cross work. In fact, Jesus Himself stated in Mark 10:45, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Paul likens Christ's death to the Exodus Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7 by writing, For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us...

Peter provides an extend commentary on the redemptive work of Christ in his first epistle. He writes in 1 Peter 1:18,19,
18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible [or perishable] things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
There are a few things to note about Peter's words in regards to Christ's redemption:

1) Our redemption was set at a price - Christ's precious blood; it's not corruptible, or perishable.
2) Our redemption required a payment - Christ's sacrificial death, just like the Passover lamb.
3) Our redemption is Divine - It is Christ who redeems us- God incarnate - not gold nor silver.

Those truths should inspire hope and joy when we consider the significance of them in light of who we are as sinners and who Christ is as the God-man who gave Himself for us.

In addition to Peter's words, the NT reveals to us other truths in relation to our redemption. For example:

1) Redemption is based solely upon God's grace working in Christ (Romans 3:24). In other words, we do nothing to earn our redemption, but it is grounded solely upon Christ alone.

2) Redemption provides total forgiveness from our sins (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14). The word for "forgiveness" is aphesis and has the idea in both these passages of cancellation of, and the release of debt to, sin.

3) Redemption delivers those for whom it was paid (Galatians 1:4). In the case of Paul's thought here in Galatians, we are delivered from this evil world. Just like the Jews were delivered from their slavery in Egypt in order to serve God alone, so too Christians are delivered from this world to serve Christ alone.

4) Redemption is complete and certain (1 Timothy 2:6). There are two key words in this verse. The word "ransom" which translates antilutron and has the idea of affecting freedom for whom it is intended, and the little preposition "for" translated from huper meaning instead of or in the place of. These two words tell us Christ most certainly ransomed those for whom it was made.

All of this exegetical information affirms for the Christian that the design and extent of Christ's ransoming death makes certain our eternal security. His ransom wasn't partial, like a down-payment that put the person on "lay away" and thus in the position of being lost if the remainder of the payment isn't paid. Moreover, Christ's ransom in place of sinners doesn't make them merely "saveable" where it is up to the sinner to receive the ransom payment in order for it to be complete. The language of these ransom texts specifically state Christ's death in payment for those whom He died was satisfactory in all that it accomplished. Sinful men could not have contributed anything to the process of their own ransom because they had no ability, nor any desire. Only the Father and the Son could engage in such a transaction and because our ransom is of a divine nature, nothing we can do can ever undo it. Thus, the Christian's salvation is secured on that basis alone.

However, there is more. God continues to affirm to His people the certainty of their eternal security.

III. Conditional Security Denies the Lordship of Christ

Building upon the last point, the Scriptures tell us Christ's ransom has affected a change in the sinner's identity and relationship with God. Just as the Passover freed Israel from the tyranny of their Egyptian masters and brought them into subjection to their God, so to is it with the redemption of sinners by Christ's death. The sinner is freed from the bondage and enslavement to the world-system, as it were, and is now made a subject to Christ who is his Lord.

It is sad there has even been a debate among Fundamentalists over whether Christ is Lord in a person's life, especially when the Bible is so clear on the issue. Though there are still many Christian's tenaciously clinging to the erroneous idea that "making Jesus Lord" is somehow adding works to the gospel, the Bible plainly states that Jesus is Lord, period; and when the Spirit draws a person to Christ and the merits of His atoning cross work are applied to the person by faith, that individual is no longer identified with the world, but is now identified with Christ.

Paul writes to Titus that, [Jesus] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). Those for whom Christ gave Himself in His death redeemed those people from every lawless deed and set them apart to be His own special people. That speaks of a new identification. One that has Jesus as Lord.

Paul expands on this concept even further in Romans 6 to the point of utilizing the terminology of slavery and masters. He writes,

17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered
18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness...
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness...
22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
Paul contrasts two identifications for the person. Before salvation, the person was a slave to sin. According to 6:20, the sinner was "free in regard to righteousness." In other words, he had no ability, nor desire, to be righteous. That is because the sinner is enslaved to sin. It is only after he is delivered, set free from the enslavement of sin, that he is now a slave of righteousness.

That last point is an important one to notice, because Christ doesn't ransom a sinner so that now he can go live as he pleases without the fear of judgment. Christ ransoms the sinner so that now he can be a slave to righteous living with Christ as His Lord. That is the only possible way to understand the text. A slave must have a master. For the sinner it is sin, condemnation of the law, the world-system; for the ransomed believer, it is Christ and righteousness.

How does conditional securists deny the lordship of Christ? By suggesting a Christian, once purchased by Christ's death has the liberty to walk away from His master Jesus, and return to his former master, sin and the world. Christ didn't ransom His people so they now have that freedom. They don't and they never will. We are His possession as slaves. Christ not only had the power to redeem us from God's wrath, the law and sin, but He also has the power to keep us as His possession, and knowing how Christ does all things to glorify the Father, He will be certain to possess us for all eternity.

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