“Jesus places those who ‘believe for a while’ among those who are not saved like the one who continues to believe (cf. Luke 8:13; cf. v.15)” (Norman Geisler, “Four Views on Eternal Security,” page 85).
In the last post, I quoted from page 85 regarding the issue of having faith and being faithful. Here, though, I’d like to deal with the reference to Luke 8:13 in Geisler’s argument.
I think the passage of Luke 8:11-15 shows us what endurance is all about. Shortly after Geisler’s words above, however, we find this:
“Arminians argue that the Bible uses the term ‘belief’ in the present tense, NOT AS A ONCE-FOR-ALL, COMPLETED ACT when we were first saved. For example, they assert that the participles in John’s Gospel that promise eternal life for believing speak of belief in the present tense, namely, as a continual process. Hence, they translate, for example, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever CONTINUES TO BELIEVE in Him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16)” (Norman Geisler, “Four Views on Eternal Security,” page 85).
In one moment, as with Luke 8, Geisler is praising “the one who continues to believe,” while in the next moment, he’s saying that John 3:16 doesn’t really involve “continued faith.” However, we’ve just seen Luke 8, where the types of soil are differentiated. Let’s look at the passage itself and see the difference in the four types of soil:
“the seed is the word of God. The seeds along the path are those who have heard. Then the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, SO THAT THEY MAY NOT BELIEVE AND BE SAVED. And the seeds on the rock are those who, when they hear, welcome the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and depart in a time of testing. As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. But the seed in the good ground—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit” (Luke 8:11-15, HCSB).
The seeds along the path get eaten up—the Devil snatches the word; as a result, “they may not believe and be saved.” The key to salvation is for these people to believe and let “the implanted word” save their souls (James 1:21).
The seeds along the rocks are those who “believe for a while and depart in a time of testing.” These people believe for a while, according to Jesus; therefore, if believing and being saved are connected in verse 12 (to believe is to be saved), then those of Luke 8:13 experience the blessings of salvation “for a while” and then depart, leave the gospel, walk away from the word because of persecution. These people, therefore, WERE SAVED for a time—albeit a short time. They did profess belief in Christ.
Let’s look at another inconsistency of Geisler’s: in his quote above, he states, that the seed that fell on stony ground and “believed for a time” was considered to be “not saved.” However, this is what he wrote on page 86 of the book:
“Thus, the act of faith that is the condition for receiving the gift of salvation can be a MOMENT OF DECISION. It simply means that ONE BEGINS TO BELIEVE IN THE PRESENT” (pg. 86, capitalization mine).
If Geisler’s statement from page 86 is true, then those who “depart in a time of testing” in Luke 8 are those who were saved—if only for a time. This contradicts Geisler’s statement about the stony seed above.
But here comes the difference-maker: Luke 8 is not so much about being saved per se as it is about understanding. Notice these words of Jesus in Luke 8:10—
“So He said, ‘The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given for you to KNOW; but to the rest it is in parables, so that
‘Looking they may not see, and HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND’.”
The key to understanding Jesus’ parable is to realize that the difference in the crops is more than just “receiving” the Word—it is about gaining understanding of the Word itself. And Jesus makes the point that it is easy to “believe,” but it’s another thing to “endure.” Only the crop that both believes AND ENDURES yields the abundant harvest.
In addition, I think Luke 8 proves the exegetical problem Geisler noted above. Geisler claims that John 3:16 is not discussing a “continued belief,” but rather, “ a moment in time.” However, as we see, the stony seed “believed for a time” but then fell away. The stony seed maintained a belief “for a limited time only,” and this wasn’t enough to bring forth a harvest in the end. I would say that this, too, applies to believers today. It is simply not enough to just believe in one moment in time. In order to inherit “the promise,” we must continue to believe. Only continual belief will bring forth endurance. “Blessed is a man who ENDURES TRIALS, because when he passes the test HE WILL RECEIVE THE CROWN OF LIFE that He has promised to THOSE WHO LOVE HIM” (James 1:12).