Monday, December 13, 2010

Fellowship or Salvation: Divided Or United?, Pt. 1

I heard a sermon yesterday on Judges 16 regarding the life of Samson, one of the judges of Israel. The chapter focused on Samson’s downfall with women. All through chapters 14-15, Samson’s problem with women has not hurt him it seems. He manages to escape every lust problem he gets himself into. In chapter 14, he gets disappointed with his wife when she tells Samson’s bodyguards the answer to his riddle. He later returns to his wife (betrothed) to discover that the girl’s father has given her to Samson’s “best man.” Samson indulges in his sexual lusts once more as he has a one-night stand with a prostitute. Last but not least, Delilah (a Philistine woman) proves to be his stumbling block. He “trips” over her and “falls” miserably in his calling from the Lord and his relationship with the Lord.
In Judges 16 Delilah gets Samson to reveal the secret to his strength. The answer is found in his hair, seeing that God told his parents he was to be a Nazirite from birth and never shave his head (Judges 13:5). The Philistines desire to trap Samson, seeing that he is an Israelite whose strength cannot be conquered by any man. The Philistines recognize that Delilah is Samson’s weakness; they go to her and promise her a ton of money in exchange for the answer as to the source of Samson’s strength. In the text, Delilah does not try only ONCE to get Samson to reveal his secret, but FOUR times (Judges 16:6, 10, 13, 15). In addition, she then begins to pester Samson every day about the answer (Judg. 16:16). Finally, he tells her his entire story (Judg. 16:17). Once he tells her, however, she then gets the Philistines to come get Samson. She lulls Samson to sleep and then shaves his head. Verse 20, as the preacher said, is one of the saddest verses in all of Scripture:
“And she said, ‘the Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ So he awoke from his sleep, and said, ‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!’ But he did not know that THE LORD HAD DEPARTED FROM HIM” (Judges 16:20, NKJV).
At this point, the preacher interjects with a word or two to the believers:
“Now let me say that true believers, those who are genuinely saved, YOU CANNOT LOSE YOUR SALVATION; YOU CAN LOSE GOD’S PRESENCE IN YOUR LIFE...the favor and blessing of God can depart when you walk in rebellion and disobedience to your God.”
In other words, according to the preacher, a person can live without God’s presence and remain saved despite an active lifestyle of sin.
His words about salvation versus presence took me back to a claim that I’ve read over and over again from Calvinists: that is, that a person can lose fellowship with the Lord, but not salvation. Somehow, salvation and fellowship are two distinct things that cannot be joined.
Nevertheless, I see problems with such an approach. How do we know that fellowship is separate from salvation? To find this answer, we must look to the Scriptures themselves; but by so doing, however, the Calvinist is humiliated even more than before.
I did a search at for the word “fellowship” and found 16 references to the word in the New King James Bible.
1 Corinthians 1:9 states “God is faithful, BY WHOM YOU WERE CALLED INTO THE FELLOWSHIP of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We were called into fellowship with Christ; but notice also that Christ is “our Lord.” To be called into fellowship, then, is to be called to salvation. There is no distinction in 1 Corinthians 1:9 between fellowship and salvation. The phrase “abide in Christ” or “remain in Him,” as the Johannine Epistles so often emphasize, are other phrases that attest to the same concept: that of fellowship (as a result of salvation) with Christ.
There are other references to fellowship and salvation that I will not mention here. Rather, I will discuss these references in posts to come. What I desired to do in this post is begin a discussion concerning fellowship and salvation: why is it that so many believers I know often say, “You can lose fellowship, but not salvation”? To say this is to imply that fellowship and salvation are distinct and separate in the Christian life. The problem with such a presupposition is that it is not found in the Scriptures themselves. And it’s high time we examine the Bible’s teachings and stop inventing fancy phrases to disguise our misguided theological ideas.

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