Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Questionable Eternal Security, Part I-B

“Finally, there is a difference in HAVING FAITH TO THE END and BEING FAITHFUL TO THE END. Perseverance in faith naturally involves the former BUT NOT NECESSARILY THE LATTER…that is, if one is a true believer, then he or she will continue to believe in Christ to the end. 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). Hence, continuance in the faith is a demonstration of who is saved, not a CONDITION of being saved. But continuance in faithfulness to Christ is not a demonstration of salvation or a condition for getting it” (Norman Geisler, “A Moderate Calvinist View,” from “Four Views on Eternal Security” by J. Matthew Pinson, general editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, page 85).

Last night I spent time exposing problems in Geisler’s proof-text (last post). Tonight, I will do much of the same.

Here, Geisler states that “there is a difference in having faith to the end and being faithful to the end. Perseverance in faith naturally involves the former [having faith] but not necessarily the latter [being faithful].” The problem with this statement, however, is that we have biblical proof against the idea that all a person needs is faith (without endurance).

2 Peter 1:5-7 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to SUPPLEMENT YOUR FAITH with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with ENDURANCE, ENDURANCE with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).

As you can see, endurance is to SUPPLEMENT faith, which means that not only is faith required to finish well and receive eternal life. Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary gives us the meaning of the word “supplement”:

1 a : something that completes or makes an addition.

At the very least, Peter writes to the believers of the Diaspora to ADD to their faith, to build on their faith. At the most, Peter tells them to “complete” their faith by adding endurance (among other things). James has this same message for his audience in James 2:

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can his faith save him?...foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is USELESS? Wasn’t Abraham our father JUSTIFIED BY WORKS when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that FAITH WAS ACTIVE TOGETHER WITH HIS WORKS, and BY WORKS, FAITH WAS PERFECTED” (James 2:14, 20-22, HCSB).

According to Geisler, “continuance in the faith is a demonstration of who is saved, not a CONDITION of being saved”; but Peter has something to say to this as well.

Look at 2 Peter 1:10—

“Therefore, brothers, make every effort to CONFIRM your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble.”

What does it mean to “confirm” one’s calling and election?

2 : to make firm or firmer : STRENGTHEN confirm one's resolve.

To confirm one’s calling and election then, means to “reinforce” it, to make it
stronger, to strengthen it. What does the word “strengthen” mean?

The word “strengthen” means “to make stronger.” In other words, to just have faith is not enough. Faith is incomplete, as James says, without works. But just because faith is incomplete, however, doesn’t make faith NONEXISTENT without works! Look at what else James had to say about faith and works:

“You see that a man is justified by works AND NOT BY FAITH ALONE.” (James 2:24)

We read in Romans 5 that we are “justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1); but we discover in James that faith is just the FOUNDATION of the Christian life, not ALL THERE IS TO IT! Go back to the James 2:14, 20 reference above—the one who has no work to support his faith has a faith that is “useless.” And something that is useless cannot serve the intended purpose; but that doesn’t mean that the object itself does not exist. Take for instance, Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 regarding salt:

“You are the salt of the earth. But IF THE SALT SHOULD LOSE ITS TASTE, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men” (Matt. 5:13).

If the salt loses its saltiness, it doesn’t become NONEXISTENT! It just becomes useless as a preservative. I’ve done some study on Palestine sea salt and discovered that, once the salt lost its saltiness, the salt then served a new function: it was used to stop leaks on the rooves of houses! The salt still existed—it just served a different purpose than what its existence was intended for…

And, without works, James says, our faith becomes useless to us. Our faith doesn’t do us any good, doesn’t benefit us at all to say that we “just believe,” without any lifestyle change to prove we believe. Our faith, however does serve a function: it is just a foundation without a building. In short, our sanctification becomes the equivalent of a brick foundation without the house upon it! Our sanctification becomes “the house that we never built”; and this is not because God didn’t desire to produce it in us…but because we never desired to see it done in our lives ourselves.

Now go back to James. Verse 26 tells us,

“For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

This doesn’t mean that, without the spirit, the body is NONEXISTENT! The body is still physically present—but the body CANNOT operate, cannot move, registers no activity because the spirit is gone. This analogy shows us the importance of works—because, without them, while our faith can be very much present, our faith will be still, stagnant, just merely existing. And what purpose does our faith serve EXCEPT to condemn us at the Lord’s coming?

I will tackle Luke 8 in my next post.

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