Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Implications of Endurance

In my last post, I looked at Matthew 10 and Matthew 24 and showed how Schreiner’s response to Marshall’s interpretation is strange. Schreiner does this, though, because of his commitment to “always saved.” As long as one holds to a view of “Once Saved, Always Saved,” even getting rid of the “once saved” doesn’t change the outcome: Schreiner, like OSAS proponents, will still argue unconditional eternal security. The difference between Schreiner’s argument and the OSAS argument is that Schreiner has more biblical evidence which should lead to a different conclusion...however, his presupposition won’t allow it, so he ends up at the same place as OSAS proponents.

I’m back to give further commentary regarding Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:22 and Matthew 24:13 (including Mark 13:13). Schreiner doesn’t seem content to just attack Marshall, but even the implications of Jesus’ words on endurance:

“So what is Jesus saying? He is saying that perseverance to the end is God’s means by which anyone will be saved. At the same time his words assure all who persevere and remind us that there is no other way to face persecution, even unto death, if we want to be saved in the final day. It is really this simple! But you ask, ‘What if I fail to persevere to the end?’ The answer from the context is simply that YOU WILL NOT BE SAVED, IF YOU FAIL TO PERSEVERE TO THE END. Again you may ask, ‘So are you telling me that Jesus’ words mean that IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ME TO LOSE MY SALVATION?’ No, that is AN UNWARRANED CONCLUSION TO DRAW either from the text or from our explanation of the text. Jesus’ words say nothing about the possibility of losing one’s salvation; that is not the function of his conditional promise. Rather, HIS WORDS FUNCTION TO ASSURE YOU THAT YOU WILL BE SAVED, IF YOU PERSEVERE” (Thomas R. Schreiner, “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 152).

It is at this time that I can announce to you, my readers, that Schreiner’s bias is upon us! We have arrived at one of the most classic statements Schreiner will make again and again throughout his book. He understands what Jesus is saying when he asserts, “you will not be saved, if you fail to persevere to the end.” As I noted in my last post, Schreiner seems to understand that Jesus’ promise is conditional (“if you endure to the end...”) However, the implications of such a condition he cannot accept: “ ‘So, are you telling me that Jesus’ words mean that it is possible for me to lose my salvation?’ No, that is an unwarranted conclusion to draw either from the text or from our explanation of the text.” Why does this implication fail?

“Jesus’ words say nothing about the possibility of losing one’s salvation; that is not the function of his conditional promise. Rather, his words function to assure you that you will be saved, if you persevere” (152).

Here’s the fundamental problem: earlier in Schreiner’s book, he discussed that eternal salvation was first, a PRESENT possession—that we have eternal life now:
“John regularly maintains that eternal life is something that believers possess NOW. He says that ‘whoever believes in the Son has eternal life’ (Jn. 3:36). John does not say that believers will have eternal life but that they HAVE eternal life. In fact, John emphasizes often that eternal life is a present gift, as the following texts demonstrate: Jn. 5:24...Jn. 6:47...Jn. 6:54...1 Jn. 5:11-13” (66, 67).

Then Schreiner went on to state that eternal life is also a future goal:

“Jesus forges a link between the age to come and eternal life in Mark 10:29-30, where he says, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age...and in the AGE TO COME, ETERNAL LIFE’ (NIV)...thus we can conclude that ETERNAL LIFE IS A GIFT OF THE COMING AGE (cf. Luke 18:30)” (65, 66).

So here’s the grand question: if I have current possession of eternal life, but I can fail to persevere and obtain the future possession, why do Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:22, Matt. 24:13, and Mark 13:13 NOT imply loss of salvation? If I receive a 30% coupon from a local bookstore and am told to bring the coupon back the following weekend and redeem it, doesn’t this imply that I can lose or throw away my coupon and fail to get 30% off of one of my purchases? The fact that I receive the coupon doesn’t mean that I will hold on to it and redeem it at the bookstore. It simply means that I have the POSSIBILITY of getting the discount—not that I WILL get it!

What is Schreiner’s response to the “loss of salvation” view?


Schreiner only wants to point out the exhortation and confidence of Jesus’ words; and yet, within the same passage of Matthew 10, there are words of warning (as I stated in my last post). For example, within Matthew 10, Jesus not only talks about the one who “confesses” Him, but also the one who “denies” Him. It seems then, that even Jesus believed there would be two responses to persecution: either Jesus would be acknowledged, or Jesus would be rejected (to save one’s life). Why then, can Schreiner not acknowledge that when Jesus encourages the disciples to persevere to the end, that He is also implying the possibility that they can fail to endure and thus “forfeit” the salvation that they have?

We are given the example of Esau in Hebrews 12:

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person LIKE ESAU, who for one morsel of food SOLD HIS BIRTHRIGHT. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, HE WAS REJECTED, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:14-17, NKJV).

Esau had his birthright. He was the eldest, and therefore, possessed it when he had come of age. But one day he was hungry, and wanted some stew. He asked his brother to give him some of the red stew and his brother said, “I’ll do it if you give me your birthright in return.” So Esau gave Jacob his birthright and from that day forward, it is recorded in Genesis 25 that Esau “despised” his birthright.

The story of Jacob and Esau points to a spiritual reality. If it didn’t, the writer couldn’t have used them. So what exactly was the writer of Hebrews trying to say when he referenced the story of Jacob and Esau? I’ll get into that question at another time...

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