Friday, October 30, 2009

Against "Once Saved, Always Saved," Part II

“Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we SHALL BE SAVED from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, WE SHALL BE SAVED by His life” (Romans 5:9-10).

Schreiner responds,

“Notice the logic in both verses: since we are NOW justified and reconciled, WE CAN BE SURE THAT WE SHALL BE SAVED. Paul does not say that we can be sure that we are saved but that we WILL be saved. He thinks of salvation as a future blessing that we shall receive” (49-50).

I finished my post yesterday with the above Scripture and quote. I’ve started doing a series here at CTS on “Once Saved, Always Saved,” examining the view itself and showing that Scripture opposes such a view (also abbreviated as “OSAS”).

Schreiner wants to create assurance here in the minds of believers, but he does so at expense to the biblical text. As we get further and further into his book, you will find that Schreiner often dismisses propositions without sufficient evidence for so doing (except that the proposition opposes what he believes). And, while he doesn’t agree with “Once Saved, Always Saved,” he will still advocate “always saved” in his exegesis, especially when it comes to the “warning” passages.

Besides this, however, there are other passages regarding the issue of future salvation that we must address.

Here then, is Romans 13:11—

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is NEARER than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11, NKJV).

If salvation is “nearer,” then that means it is “closer,” which means that “salvation” is “coming” or on its way to believers. They have yet to inherit eternal life. In the words of Schreiner, “We are summoned to live godly lives because salvation lies before us” (“The Race Set Before Us,” page 50).

Next in our study of Scripture is 2 Timothy 4:18—

“And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Tim. 4:18, NKJV)

In Schreiner’s exegesis, “the verb ‘sosei’ is rightly translated by the NRSV as ‘save,’ and it is a FUTURE TENSE VERB. That the salvation is on the last day is clear since it will involve induction into the Lord’s heavenly kingdom” (51).

Two more texts of Scripture that present future salvation are Hebrews 1:14 and Hebrews 9:28—

“Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who WILL INHERIT SALVATION?” (Hebrews 1:14, NKJV)

“So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him HE WILL APPEAR a second time, apart from sin, FOR SALVATION” (Hebrews 9:28).

Then we have Thessalonians 5:8-9 and 1 Corinthians 5:5—

“But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet THE HOPE OF SALVATION. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:8-9).

Regarding the “hope of our salvation,” Schreiner says that “...1 Thessalonians 5:8-9 confirms the FUTURE DIMENSION of our salvation” (caps mine).

Last but not least, we have 1 Corinthians 5:5—

“deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5).

According to Schreiner,

“The hoped-for salvation is obviously future, since it will occur ‘in the day of the Lord’” (50).

1 Peter 1:4-5 states,

“to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

The last verse I will mention in this post is James 1:21—

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is ABLE TO SAVE YOU” (James 1:21, NKJV).

Schreiner tells us the significance of this verse:

“Apparently, THE WORK OF SALVATION IS NOT COMPLETED, since the Word planted in them must be given free rein so that they will ultimately experience salvation” (52).

I will refer to these verses in future posts. What I want to note now is the phrase I capitalized in the quote above. This is a phrase to keep in mind as we go through Schreiner’s book. What he will do is make it seem as if salvation is “guaranteed”; however, if the believers have to submit to the work of salvation, which is still a “work-in-progress,” then how can they be sure (without their submission) that they will still experience final salvation? This is just a question we need to ask ourselves while reading Schreiner. I’m afraid that the question I pose to you now is a question that not even Schreiner himself can answer...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Against "Once Saved, Always Saved," Part I

I realize that the title of this post may get me labeled a “heretic,” “false teacher,” and a demented theologian. Most people (me included) grew up believing in “once saved, always saved.” I was taught that, from the moment of confession, my salvation was secure forever, that I had nothing else to worry about! I was simply sitting around in life, playacting in good deeds and works of righteousness, waiting for Jesus to return for me...

However, upon being prompted to study Scripture by Byron Gillory III, the original owner of this blog, I began to study what I had always believed; and I found that my beliefs were wrong.

And that is what this post is all about. If you think I’m a heretic, I’m not alone; Reformed theologian Thomas R. Schreiner of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes the following in his book:

“Almost all Christians think of salvation exclusively in terms of the past. Believers often say, ‘I have been saved,’ or ask some one else, ‘Have you been saved?’ We will argue that most evangelical Christians DO NOT USE THE WORD ‘SALVATION’ AS IT IS USUALLY USED IN THE BIBLE, where THE TERM DENOTES OUR FUTURE SALVATION. Hence, the emphasis of the biblical text often gets lost when we speak about salvation” (Thomas R. Schreiner, “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 48).

So according to Schreiner, there are aspects of salvation: both present and future aspects.

Schreiner provides Scripture references to show us these two aspects of salvation.

First, we have Ephesians 2:5—

“[He loved us, v.4] even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you HAVE BEEN SAVED)...” (Eph. 2:5, New King James Version; will be in the NKJV unless otherwise stated).

Verse 8 of the same chapter states,

“For by grace you HAVE BEEN SAVED through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God...” (Eph. 2:8).

Next, there is Titus 3:5—

“not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy HE SAVED US, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit...” (Titus 3:5)

Then, there is 2 Timothy 1:9—

“[God] who HAS SAVED US and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began...” (2 Tim. 1:9)

According to Schreiner,

“The word ‘have been saved’ demonstrate that salvation now belongs to believers” (49).

Salvation is a present possession of the believer—at this moment, those who confess Jesus (or already have) and are believing in Him are saved.
But then, Schreiner removes the so-called popular view of OSAS, “Once Saved, Always Saved”:

“When we study the New Testament writers, however, we discover something quite surprising. Though they occasionally describe salvation as the present possession of believers, they usually envision salvation as something that WILL OCCUR IN THE FUTURE. For example, Jesus says, ‘All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved’ (Matt. 10:22 NIV; cf. also Matt. 24:13). Matthew does not say that the one who endures to the end has been saved or that this person shows evidence that he or she was saved. Matthew says that the one who stands fast and perseveres will be saved, that is, will be saved on the future day of the Lord” (49).

Schreiner explains that Paul also believes salvation to be a future act as well, and quotes Romans 5:9-10 to make his case. Let’s read this passage:

“Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we SHALL BE SAVED from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, WE SHALL BE SAVED by His life” (Romans 5:9-10).

Schreiner responds,

“Notice the logic in both verses: since we are NOW justified and reconciled, WE CAN BE SURE THAT WE SHALL BE SAVED. Paul does not say that we can be sure that we are saved but that we WILL be saved. He thinks of salvation as a future blessing that we shall receive” (49-50).

I want to point out a disagreement I have with Schreiner’s response here. While I agree that salvation has both present and future aspects, I cannot say that Paul wrote here believing that it is certain that every person who professes Jesus will experience future salvation. This will be a good place to start for tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

God's Will Nullified?

“God wills all men to be saved; but if every person will not be saved, then how do we reconcile God’s will and reality?”

I heard a question similar to this some time ago from someone I know. What I think stunned me most about this person is that I believed that he would never see these two things as irreconcilable. Evidently, I was wrong.

When people ask the question above regarding the salvation of every person and the reality of supposed “failure,” it seems to me as if they’re really asking, “Since GOD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SAVING EVERY PERSON, and He desires that all be saved, why then are they not saved?” This question now places the responsibility for salvation on God’s shoulders, and blames Him for the fact that numbers of men and women will not be saved. To assume this, however, is to assume “universalism” as a valid position.

And yet, Scripture tells us that universalism is NOT a valid position! God will not save men and women WITHOUT the condition of faith.

Romans 9 shows us Paul in anguish over the salvation of his brethren, the Jews. In Romans 9:3 he writes,

“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3, New King James).

But then, in verse 6 he writes,

“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect” (Rom. 9:6, NKJV).

Although he is in grieving in heart because his people have not yet received salvation, he goes to great lengths in verse 6 to uphold the Word of God and its purposes. He says here that the Word of God has not been nullified because of the present reality among his people.

Romans 9 has been a passage used in every debate about Calvinism and Arminianism, and with issues such as election and salvation in general. I will not go into all the details here, but I will point out the fact that Romans 9 talks about an “elite” group of “elect” persons. But who are these “elect” persons? Are they just arbitrary selections of God, or are they people who have met the conditions stipulated by God? I would answer and say, “The latter—those who are the “elect” have come to God by faith. And Paul confirms this at the end of chapter 9 when he writes,

“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith:

But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.


So the reason why the Jews have not come to salvation is because they have not come BY THE CONDITION OF FAITH!

So God’s purposes, according to Paul, have not been nullified—because, while the Jews have not come to faith, the Gentiles have. And they have done so by meeting God’s condition of faith.

John talks about God’s will for all to be saved and the reality of those who reject Christ in John 1:

“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own, and HIS OWN DID NOT RECEIVE HIM” (John 1:10-11, NKJV).

Look at verses 10 and 11. We find that Jesus “came to His own,” first visited His people to bring salvation; and yet, “His own did not receive Him.” Jesus’ own people, the Jews, did not accept Him and the salvation He had to offer.
If we focus on these verses alone, all we will see is God’s will nullified. However, John doesn’t leave us here in the dark; instead, he emphasizes the positive:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13, NKJV).

We find here that, while Jesus’ own people, the Jews, did not receive Him, there were Gentiles who did; and for those who receive Him, they are given the authority, the power, to become children of God. Who is given this right? “Those who believe in His name.” Only those who believe can become sons of God.

We find, then, that as Paul writes, God’s Word is not nullified by the unbelief of the Jews. And John tells us that, while Jesus’ own people (the Jews) did not receive Him, there were those who did; and those who believed on Him experienced the adoption of God as His sons, His children.

These two passages of Scripture serve a very important purpose for the question above. Why is it that God desires all to be saved, yet only some do? It’s not because God has a “second will” or “more than one will” that this happens; it is because God wills the salvation of all BY FAITH... and when this condition is placed upon God’s gift, suddenly, we see the line of the saved getting shorter and shorter.

2 Timothy 4:5-8

“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:5-8, New King James).

This text is one of the most classic texts of Paul’s letters. I love reading Paul’s letters to the churches, but none comfort me more than this passage. Ironically, this passage happens to be Paul’s “farewell”. Who could get such comfort out of a “farewell,” a “goodbye”?

And yet, I find myself coming back to this passage time and time again for motivation to continue running the race that is set before me (Hebrews 12:1-2).
In this passage Paul gives Timothy some lasting advice: “Be watchful in all things, ENDURE AFFLICTIONS, do the work of an evangelist, FULFILL YOUR MINISTRY” (v.5). Paul has just told Timothy in verses 2-4 to stand firm because “the time will come when they [hearers] will not endure sound doctrine...and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (vv.3, 4). There would come a day when those who had once listened to Timothy, who had once heeded biblical instruction, would turn away from the Word of God as the ultimate authority and pay attention to myths and falsehood. In verse 5 Paul tells Timothy to “endure afflictions,” which means he must suffer hardship. For “no one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4, NKJV). Timothy was a soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3), so his focus had to be on pleasing Christ. Christ was the one who enlisted him into the Army of the Lord, and Christ was the One he would have to please in order to hear the Lord say “well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

In verse 7, Paul shows his assurance of a race well-run: “I have fought the good fight...” The word for “fought” is “egonismai,” which comes from the word “agonizomai,” meaning “to engage in a contest, fight, struggle.” The word “agonizomai” is where our word “agonize” comes from. And what does it mean to “agonize”?

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary gives us the following definition:

“to suffer agony, torture, or anguish; to struggle.”

What does it mean to “struggle”?

1 : to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition
2 : to proceed with difficulty or with great effort

When Paul states that he “fought the good fight,” he’s saying that he struggled to stay strong despite the opposition—but with the Lord’s strength, he did.

Next, Paul states that he has “finished the race.” Here he knows that his departure is at hand (v.6), he is soon to die, so he’s looking back and evaluating his life. He recognizes that life is a “race,” and that he has finished the course of his life. Paul recognizes here that he lived the full time of his life and has used all the years he was given by God to the fullest. Every year and day God designed for him has taken place. He has not cut his life short one day in the plan of God. Every day allotted to him is a day that has been spent.

Finally, Paul states, “I have kept the faith.” This little sentence is so important because it shows us Paul’s theology in a succinct sentence. Why is “keep[ing] the faith” even important? Because the only way to win the race is to keep the faith.

Read Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Therefore I run thus: NOT WITH UNCERTAINTY. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27, NKJV).

Here in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul gives an analogy of running the race. Notice he says “they do it to obtain a PERISHABLE crown, but we for an IMPERISHABLE crown” (v.25). Our crown is not made of earth, is not earthly, and is immaterial. We are running for something that is everlasting—and that is a “crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8).

“Keeping the faith” is not only the way to win the prize—it is also the message of the Scriptures. In Luke 8 in the Parable of the Sower, we find that the seeds “on the rock” only “believe for a while” and then fall away because of temptation (Luke 8:13). Only the seed that falls on good ground is the seed that “keeps” the word and “bears fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15, NKJV). The seed that falls on good ground is the seed that “believes” and receives eternal life (John 3:16).

“Keeping the faith” was also the message of exhortation by the apostles in the early church. In Acts 14, we find Paul and Barnabas traveling back to churches they had already started, “exhorting them to continue in the faith and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22).

In verse 7, all the actions listed are in the perfect tense (“have fought...have finished...have kept”). According to A.T. Robertson, these three verbs are placed in a specific type of perfect tense, known as the “extensive present perfect”, which is:
“a completed state. This act may be durative-punctiliar...with a backward look” (A.T. Robertson, ”A Grammar of the Greek New Testament In The Light of Historical Research.” Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934, page 895).

Applying Robertson’s grammatical analysis to the verbs in 2 Timothy 4:7, we find that Paul has given a “backward look” to his life, that he is reflecting on all he has done in Christ. He has “completed” his course (“finished the race”), and he is looking back to all the things that have brought him to his current state: “for I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4:6, NKJV).

In verse 8, Paul discusses the joy that lies ahead for him:

“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8, NKJV).

Paul says that, because he has run his race, because he has endured to the end, he will receive “the crown of righteousness.” I want us to notice two things about this crown.

First, the Greek word for “crown” is “stephanos,” which can mean “crown” but can also mean “prize” or “reward” (“A Reader’s Greek New Testament, Second Edition” by Richard J. Goodrich and Albert L. Lukaszewski. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, page 461).

How do we determine the meaning of the word “stephanos”? We do so based on the
context of the passage. As we can see, Paul has discussed his life as a “race” (“I have finished the race,” v.7). He has also used the analogy of competing for a crown to show Timothy that hard work and effort win the prize:

“And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not CROWNED unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5).

If this isn’t enough, we have Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9, where he discusses his fear of being “disqualified” from the race:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Cor. 9:24-25).

Notice that in verse 25, he talks about “crowns,” while in verse 24, he refers to a “race,” the act of running, and “the prize.” In verse 24, Paul is very general with his analogy, but becomes more detailed in it when he arrives at verse 25. As I just mentioned, the word for “crown” can also be used generically for “reward,” so it becomes clear to us that Paul is able to use these words interchangeably because of the nature of the word “stephanos.”

Secondly, notice what Paul says about the recipients of the crown:

“the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and NOT TO ME ONLY, but also TO ALL WHO HAVE LOVED HIS APPEARING” (2 Tim. 4:8).

Did you notice that? Paul says that “all” believers will receive the crown of righteousness. According to Zane Hodges and others who advocate the loss of eternal rewards, there will be a hierarchy of rewards in eternity; however, here, Paul says that EVERYONE who is a citizen of glory will receive this reward—no believer in glory will be left out! The question then becomes, is this a reward given to everyone (which contradicts the hierarchical rewards idea), or IS THIS REALLY ETERNAL LIFE being discussed here?

This depends on what Christ “will give” to all believers. But don’t fear—Scripture is here!

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews (9:27-28).
So what will He bring with Him when He comes? Salvation.

Jesus discusses His return in Revelation 22:

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Rev. 22:12).

But what is the “reward” that He will bring? We read John’s words in verse 14:

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have THE RIGHT TO THE TREE OF LIFE, and may enter through the gates into the city” (v.14).

So having “the right to the tree of life” means to have “eternal life.” John tells us this same truth in 1 John 2:

“And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

Remember the Fall in the Garden of Eden? What did the Lord God say after punishing Adam and Eve?

“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the TREE OF LIFE, and eat, and live forever’—“(Gen. 3:22)

So the Lord decides to send Adam and Eve from the Garden because He had promised them that they would die if they ate the forbidden fruit. Now that Adam and Eve had done so, they would not avoid their punishment. God had warned them of death, and He would execute the punishment. Adam and Eve would not live forever by eating the fruit of the tree of life (and thereby, do away with their punishment). To keep Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of life, God sent them from the Garden and put an angel at its entrance (Gen. 3:24). The Tree of Life, then, is what the children of God will "eat" from, which means that, when the Lord returns, they will be given eternal life and will live forever with Him.

The “reward of righteousness” then, in 2 Tim. 4, is not a golden crown that we think of from the Olympics. Rather, the “crown of righteousness” is the prize to be won at the end of a life well-lived: in short, the crown is “eternal life.”
2 Timothy 4 shows us the importance of keeping the faith and striving to enter the kingdom of God. Paul labored for Christ unceasingly, and it was now time for him to be received into the arms of His Savior, whom, as Paul writes, “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Against Hodges

“In speaking of heirship in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, the Apostle did not threaten his readers with the loss of eternal salvation. He did not even raise a question about their salvation. But he warned them plainly that if they did not correct their unrighteous behavior, they confronted a serious consequence. They would not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Zane Hodges, “Gospel Under Siege,” page 134; quoted in “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance by Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 27).

Irenaeus wrote a work called “Against Heresies.” I’m gonna write a spin on Irenaeus’ work, called “Against Hodges.”

The above quote from Zane Hodges is a defense for what is known as the “Loss-of-Rewards” view. According to Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday,

“...its advocates contend that the biblical admonitions and warnings threaten believers with a possible loss. However, the loss that a Christian may encounter concerns ‘rewards’ only, not salvation or eternal life, which comes to us only by faith in Jesus Christ” (24).

The Zane Hodges quote above is his exposition on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which reads as follows:

“Do you not know that wrongdoers WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10, NRSV; quoted in “The Race Set Before Us,” page 27).

Notice that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 talks about “not inheriting the Kingdom of God”; yet and still, Zane Hodges can advocate a “loss-of-rewards” view. Losing rewards and losing eternal salvation are not the same thing. So how can Zane Hodges make the above statement about 1 Cor. 6:9-10?

“This may sound like double talk. However, Hodges and fellow advocates of this view distinguish between INHERITING the kingdom of God and ENTERING the kingdom of God. Hodges explains: ‘Many have assumed, without much thought, that to “inherit” the Kingdom must be the same as “ENTERING” it.’ BUT FOR HODGES THERE IS A GREAT DIFFERENCE. He contends that entrance into the kingdom is of grace, and inheritance of the kingdom is based on the merits of our deeds for Christ and thus is costly” (27).

Unfortunately for Zane Hodges, his statement above is not true. To show that to “inherit” and to “enter” are the same, let’s use a few passages of Scripture.

First, Matthew 19:29—

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, SHALL RECEIVE A HUNDREDFOLD, AND INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE” (Matt. 19:29, New King James Version).

Notice that eternal life is “inherited”; in addition, there is a connection between “eternal life” and “receiv[ing] a hundredfold.” What “hundredfold” is being mentioned here? In the context of Matthew 19, Jesus has just told the apostles that “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, YOU WHO HAVE FOLLOWED ME WILL ALSO SIT ON TWELVE THRONES, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28, NKJV).

It seems clear then, that to receive possessions is connected with eternal life, not SEPARATED from it. In Zane Hodges’ view, a person can still receive eternal life while not receiving any other rewards. With the apostles, however, we see that they couldn’t receive a throne to judge the tribes without also receiving eternal life. It is all a package deal!!

Matthew 25 is another passage that testifies to the contrary of Hodges’ claim. In the parable of the sheep and the goat, Jesus says to the sheep (on His right hand),

“ ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, INHERIT THE KINGDOM prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

What happens to the goats?

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, INTO THE EVERLASTING FIRE prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

We see in Matthew 25 that to “inherit the kingdom” is the exact opposite of “the everlasting fire” that the goats enter into. Since we know from Revelation 20:14 that the “everlasting fire” is the lake of fire and brimstone, the “inheritance” of the kingdom must be eternal life—and those who are sheep receive eternal life. Here in Matthew 25, there is no distinction (as Hodges believes) between eternal life and rewards. To receive one is to receive the other.

The next passage is Mark 10:17-23. We read of someone running to Jesus, someone wealthy (in Luke’s Gospel he is called “the rich young ruler”) asking Jesus,

“Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?” (Mark 10:17)

Notice that “eternal life” is to be “inherited.” This by itself doesn’t fit Hodges’ view that you can “enter” eternal life and lose rewards. But look at what’s next!!
After Jesus tells the man what he needs to do to follow God, the man walks away.

Notice Jesus’ response:

“How hard it is for those who have riches TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD!” (Mark 10:23)

So when the rich man asked about “inheriting” eternal life, he wanted to be able to “enter the kingdom of God.” Here, there seems to be no difference between the two—“inheriting” and “entering” are the same thing.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:50—

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”

According to Hodges, “inheriting” the kingdom is different from “entering” into it; however, reading the context of 1 Corinthians 15:50ff, we find these words:

“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality...then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘DEATH is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. 15:53-54).

“Inheriting” the kingdom of God now becomes connected to “incorruption” and “immortality”; in addition, “Death” is defeated. This is what eternal life is made of. Paul doesn’t mention a distinction here about rewards after death, or anything else.

Last but not least, Hebrews 1:14 links “inheriting” and “eternal life” together once more:

“Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will INHERIT SALVATION?” (Heb. 1:14, NKJV)

Here we understand that to receive “salvation” is to “enter” the kingdom of God.

The language of the Bible connects “inheritance” and “entrance” of the kingdom of God together with no distinction between them. How then, can Zane Hodges hold to such an unbiblical idea?

Sunday, October 25, 2009


“I am not speaking of attempting psychological archaeology here but rather of developing a heightened sensitivity to the fact that the author was not omniscient in dealing with his congregation(s), a fact to which the author hints in the text of Hebrews. The discussants have alluded briefly to this question, but it needs more attention. Too often in debates about apostasy, we treat the text as if the author thinks of those to whom he writes, or of those of whom he speaks, as ‘believers’ or ‘unbelievers.’ Yet, real ministry situations, of course, are not so cut and dried. Any group of people gathered in the name of Christ will manifest a spectrum of spiritual conditions. That this was the experience of the early church seems to me to have a great deal of New Testament evidence in its favor. The author of Hebrews, others in the early church, you and I, are LIMITED IN OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF ANY OTHER PERSON and, as pointed by Jesus, as well as other New Testament authors, are dependent on outward manifestations in discerning the spiritual conditions of others (cf. Matt. 7:15-23; James 2:14-26)” (George Guthrie, “Conclusion,” from “Four Views On The Warning Passages In Hebrews” by Herbert W. Bateman IV, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007, pages 438-39).

I promised in my last post that I would return to the Hebrews 10 reference I gave in that post (called “The Reason To Remain: 1 John 2:28”). While thinking on the material for today’s post, however, George Guthrie’s quote from the book “Four Views On The Warning Passages In Hebrews” came to mind. I thought on Guthrie’s quote and then the text of Hebrews 10 and all of a sudden, I found a connection...
Before I get into what that connection is, I just wanna reprint the text of Hebrews 10:37-38 for all to see:

“ ‘For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now THE JUST shall live by faith; But if ANYONE draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him’” (Hebrews 10:37-38, NKJV).

The verses quoted are a reference to Habakkuk 2:3-4. Let’s read those verses to get an idea of what the writer is saying:

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, it will not tarry. ‘Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; BUT THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY HIS FAITH” (Habakkuk 2:3-4, NKJV).

In Habakkuk 2:3-4, we see a distinction between “the proud” and “the just” (v.4). So clearly, “the just” or “the righteous one,” is being mentioned.

Now, on to Hebrews 10:37-38. Verse 38 begins with the words,

“Now THE JUST shall live by faith.”

Notice that these words are the exact same words as those found in Habakkuk.

However, let’s look at the last phrase:

“But if ANYONE draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

What the writer has done is add this last phrase to Hebrews 10:38. However, who is the “anyone” of the New King James translation?

If you look at the “anyone” of verse 38 in the New King James translation, you will find that this seems to be an odd “insertion” into the biblical text. First, the New King James claims that the subject of the first phrase of verse 38 is “the just.” However, the Nestle-Aland and UBS texts (Greek manuscripts) state that the subject of verse 38 is “ho dikaios mou” [“my righteous (or just) one]. The Stephanus New Testament (1550) translates the subject as “ho dikaios” (“the righteous”--

Although there are mild differences between these descriptions of the subject, we see that the key word in all of them is “dikaios,” meaning “just” or “righteous.”
Either way, Hebrews 10:38 becomes weird when it reads like the New King James:

“Now THE JUST shall live by faith; but if ANYONE draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

There is a problem with subject agreement here. In the first sentence of the verse, the subject is “the just”; in the second, the subject is “anyone.” While the first sentences gives a SPECIFIC subject (“the just”), the second sentence gives a very broad and INDEFINITE subject (“anyone”).

How can a verse give a DEFINITE and INDEFINITE subject in the same discussion? This is weird. But I’ll tell you why it’s been done in the New King James Version: it’s been done because of a theological presupposition.

Think about it: if the subject of the one drawing back is “anyone,” then it doesn’t just include the righteous of the earlier sentence—but also the UNJUST, the UNBELIEVER!! For “anyone” is more broad than “just,” and includes more than the “just.”

What is the real subject of the second sentence of verse 38? “the just.” Let’s read the sentence in the Greek from the “Reader’s Greek New Testament” UBS text published by Zondervan:

“ho de dikaios mou ek pisteos zesetai,
Ouk eudokei he psuxe mou en auto.”

We are concentrating now on the second part of the verse, starting with “kai” and going through “auto”.

The “kai” means “and.” “Ean” means “if.”

So we have translated the first part of the second sentence to be “and if.” The key word we want to focus on is “huposteiletai.” The word itself comes from the word “hupostelo,” which means “to draw back, to shrink from.”

The word “hupostello,” however, is different from “huposteiletai.” What’s the difference? The ending, “etai.” Why is the ending significant? Because the “etai” ending tells us that the verb is a third singular, which refers to one person (it’s singular) and third person (he, she, or it).

So “huposteiletai” means “he draws back” (or “she draws back”). And in the context of Hebrews 10:38, who is the “he” who “draws back”? the answer is—“THE JUST OR THE RIGHTEOUS” (quoted in Habakkuk 2:3-4).

The translators of the NKJV have done what they’ve done because of a commitment to a theological presupposition. In their minds, a “just” or “righteous” person cannot turn away from Christ, so they translate the subject at the end of verse 38 as “anyone.” However, this translation doesn’t fit in the sentence itself.

I looked up the King James Version, and it does something similar with the “he draws back”: it translates the verb “huposteiletai” as “any man draw back.” However, as with the NKJV, this is a problematic translation. You can’t have a definite subject that then becomes broadened in the same sentence. For instance, I can’t say, “Jamie bought a pair of shoes; I told them not to buy them.” If Jamie (singular) is the one who bought the shoes, I can’t then direct my frustration with a PLURAL, indefinite group of people who I’ve given no introduction to in the beginning of the sentence.

There are two clues left, however, that will solve the problem. Look at the end of verse 38: “My soul has no pleasure in HIM.” At the end of the verse, the words of God refer to “him,” which is the singular pronoun. The “him” of verse 38 matches the “righteous one” of the start of the verse itself (“the just” or “the righteous one”).

Last but not least, verse 39:

“But we are not OF THOSE WHO DRAW BACK TO PERDITION, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39, NKJV).

Most translators of these verses attempt to disconnect “the righteous one” from “drawing back”; however, the writer now places himself in the same group as the Hebrew congregation and tells them that, since they are “righteous” ones, they should press on. This is why he says, “we are not of those who draw back to perdition” (NKJV). Why would the writer even compare he and the congregation to “those who draw back to perdition” IF they could not do so, if they could not “draw back” and face eternal destruction? If there was no such possibility, then the writer gave unprofitable advice to the hearers—and the warning is just a good prank. If this is just a psychological scare tactic, then George Guthrie's quote above couldn't be more right...

However, I believe that such translations have done an injustice to the Word of God. The truth is, the writer speaks of “the righteous one” who suddenly draws back; and if the righteous one does go back, he will be eternall destroyed. This is consistent with the rest of the biblical message (Ezekiel 18:24; Luke 12:42-46; Matt.10:22; Matt. 24:13; James 5:19-20).

The Reason To "Remain": 1 John 2:28

In my last post on 1 John 2, I took time to show the distinction between the antichrists, those who deny Jesus is Lord, and the rest of the congregation. It is true of the antichrists that “they were never really of us,” never part of the invisible body of Christ (to use a statement of old). Their actions proved that they never knew Christ. On the other hand, John was certain that the rest of the congregation knew Christ and had a genuine salvation (1 John 2:20). Nevertheless, he still wrote the congregation and warned them about “those trying to deceive” them (1 John 2:26); we can infer from this warning that he had a genuine concern that, despite the genuineness of their salvation, they could still turn from it and be led astray by the antichrists. In other words, they were not so close to Jesus that they couldn’t be pulled back into the world.

In this post, I am going to tackle “the reason to remain” given in 1 John 2:28. Let’s read the text:

“And now, little children, ABIDE IN HIM, that when He appears, WE MAY HAVE CONFIDENCE AND NOT BE ASHAMED BEFORE HIM AT HIS COMING” (1 Jn. 2:28, NKJV).

Just so we see the importance of this verse, I will provide a little of the verse in Greek:

“kai nun, teknia, MENETE en auto, HINA ean phanerothe sxomen parresian…”

The first capitalized word, “menete,” comes from the Greek “meno,” meaning “to remain.” It is used here as an imperative (a command). The next word capitalized, “hina,” is what goes before a “purpose” clause. And a purpose clause is that which provides the reason for doing something. Here in 1 John 2:28, then, to “have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” is the reason we should “abide in Him.”

There are three key words in 1 John 2:28 that we should pay attention to: “abide,” “confidence,” and “ashamed.” In my last post, I already showed the importance of “abiding” as Jesus speaks of it in John 15. Here, however, I will focus on the words “confidence” and “ashamed.”

The words “confidence” and “ashamed” are rather opposites of each other: those who are confident of themselves are usually not ashamed of themselves. But these words serve an even greater purpose to John’s message than just being exact opposites of each other! These two words reappear in other places of Scripture, notably Revelation 3 with the church of Laodicea:

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the BEGINNING OF THE CREATION OF GOD: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, THAT YOU MAY BE CLOTHED, that the SHAME OF YOUR NAKEDNESS may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (Revelation 3:14-18, NKJV).

In 1 John 2:28, we are told that we should abide in Christ so as to not be “ashamed before Him” when He returns; in Revelation 3, the church at Laodicea is told to buy white garments “that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (Rev. 3:18).

We see here a theme of “shame.” But notice that the “shame” here is also connected with “nakedness” (“the shame of your nakedness”).

So the question is, “What do shame and nakedness have to do with each other?” A hint of this is found in the fact that God describes Himself to the Laodiceans as “the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14). Now God is not saying here that he is “created.” What He is saying here is that He is the one who brought creation into existence (John 1:1-3). What this reference to God does, though, is bring to mine the story of our first parents, Adam and Eve, found in Genesis. There is one reference to this connection of shame and nakedness, found in Genesis 2:

“And they [Adam and Eve] were both NAKED, the man and his wife, AND WERE NOT ASHAMED” (Gen. 2:25, NKJV).

In Genesis 2, the man and woman were confident of their relationship with the Lord God. They were naked, but this did not unnerve them or make them feel uneasy about themselves or their mate. But notice what happens after they eat the forbidden fruit:
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and THEY KNEW THAT THEY WERE NAKED; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Gen. 3:7).
They covered themselves because they realized they were “uncovered.” This came about as a result of sin, for this condition after eating the fruit was the exact opposite of life in the Garden before eating the fruit (see Gen. 2:25).

Now, we see the theme of nakedness in Genesis after they eat the fruit. But this nakedness is also connected with shame. Listen in on Adam’s response to God’s call:
“ ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I WAS AFRAID BECAUSE I WAS NAKED; and I HID MYSELF” (Gen. 3:10).

Here Adam admits that his nakedness is made apparent because he “was afraid”; and his fear, in turn, made him “hide” from God.

Adam’s confession here tells us that sin brings shame, leading to fear, which, in turn, causes us to hide from the Lord. And this is what John was telling the congregation back in 1 John 2:28—“if you do not remain, when the Lord returns, you will hide from Him because sin will cause you to fear His judgment.

But John also shows them the blessing of “remaining” or “abiding” in Christ: when He comes, they can have CONFIDENCE, which is the opposite of shame. Scripture also has something to say about confidence as well:

“Therefore do not cast away your CONFIDENCE, which has great REWARD. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Now the JUST shall live by faith:
But if ANYONE draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:35-38, NKJV).

Why does John tell his readers to “abide”? so they can have “confidence.” And what is the importance of “confidence”? Confidence brings “great reward” (Heb. 10:35). And what is the reward? “the promise” (Heb. 10:36). And what is the promise?
“And THIS IS THE PROMISE that He has promised us—ETERNAL LIFE” (1 John 2:25, NKJV).

Thus, John tells his readers to abide so that they can have confidence when the Lord returns, confidence that results in eternal life (which is the great reward and promise).

I have some remarks to make regarding the Hebrews 10 passage quoted above. However, I will save that for some other time...

Friday, October 23, 2009

"They Were Not Really Of Us"

“The Bible explains in a sixth type of passage that people who fail to remain loyal to Christ NEVER WERE GENUINE BELIEVERS. Once again the apostle John explains: ‘Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but THEY DID NOT REALLY BELONG TO US. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that NONE OF THEM BELONGED TO US’(1 Jn 2:18-19)” (“The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance” by Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 13).

In case you didn’t know, I’m back to blog on a new book, called “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance” by Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday.

Tonight’s post is an interesting one. The verses quoted in the post title as well as in Schreiner’s quote are verses often used by many conservative evangelicals to defend their view of unconditional perseverance (which states that, those that Christ chooses for salvation will certainly persevere until the end). I wanna tackle this proof text right away because as we travel through Schreiner’s book, we will find that eventually, he claims that we cannot perfectly evaluate every person’s spiritual condition—which totally does away with this proof text he offers here!!

I looked up 1 John 2:18-19 in other major translations ( and discovered that very few cross-references are provided for this supposedly “all-important” passage. The New American Standard (NASB) references 1 Corinthians 11:19 with this text, which doesn’t really mean much. 1 Corinthians 11:19 addresses factions within the church, amongst members regarding Holy Communion. The passage itself is not addressing members who walk away from the congregation (so while it does mention “factions,” those who misuse and abuse the Lord’s Supper are not called “antichrists”). The English Standard Version references 1 Corinthians 11:19. The Holman Christian Standard doesn’t give a reference verse (which is surprising). The Amplified Bible doesn’t cross-reference; and the New King James (NKJV) cross-references Deuteronomy 13:13.

In this post, I want to tackle the passage of 1 John 2 itself and point out some main features of the chapter and see what it has to say about the text of 1 John 2:18-19.

I’ve pointed out that 1 John 2:19 makes it clear that those who walked away “were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (NKJV).

However, to pull out this verse and use it as justification of one’s salvation (or to disprove another’s salvation) is to do a disgrace to the Word of God and a serious injustice to this text.

I was taught by my hermeneutics professor to examine a verse within its context. “A verse means what it means in its context,” he’d always say. We can’t do justice to the text of 1 John 2:19 without examining the rest of 1 John 2. More specifically, when studying a verse, we must study its “immediate” context (“immediate” refers to the verses right before and after the selected verse). In this case, the immediate context of 1 John 2:19 would be verse 18 (the verse right before it) and verse 20 (the verse after). The full context of the passage in question would involve the entire chapter of 1 John 2, as well as 1 John 1, as well as the rest of the book of 1 John, and then all of the rest of the canon of Scripture (the other 65 books of the Bible).

Looking at the immediate context, we can see the problems with Schreiner’s interpretation. Verse 18 reads, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the ANTICHRIST is coming, even now MANY ANTICHRISTS have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” Those who left out from the group were “antichrists.”

But notice what John has to say in verse 20 about the antichrists:

He separates those to whom he writes of those who have left the congregation entirely. Those to whom he writes “have an anointing from the Holy One”—in other words, they are believers, filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

Now that we know what we are dealing with, the antichrists versus the faithful, let’s look into the context of 1 John 2 itself. John writes,

“Who is a liar but HE WHO DENIES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST? He is ANTICHRIST who denies the Father and the Son” (1 Jn. 2:22).

The antichrists are those who are “antichristos,” meaning “against Christ.” Notice that the antichrists are the ones who “deny that Jesus is the Christ.” The Amplified Bible translates this verse in the following manner:

22Who is [such a] liar as he who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah)? He is the antichrist (the antagonist of Christ), who [[l]habitually] denies and refuses to acknowledge the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22, Amplified Bible)

Notice that the denial of Jesus as the Christ is the issue being discussed here, not a person’s refusal to cease sinning in their personal walk with the Lord. These people, according to what the context gives us, never even believed. They continued to deny Jesus as Lord and Messiah. But remember Paul’s words:

“Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord EXCEPT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT” (1 Corinthians 12:3, NKJV).

If a person, then, does not deny Jesus as Lord, then they acknowledge He is Lord—and they can only do this IF the Holy Spirit is present in their lives. Therefore, those in the church who denied Christ were those who never believed.

To take this, however, and apply this to every situation is to stain the Word of God. Let’s look at the rest of 1 John 2 to get a deeper understanding of what the “antichrists” are all about.

As I said, keep in mind that the antichrists are divided from the rest of the congregation. As for the rest of the group, John is confident of their salvation—for he writes, “BUT you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (v.20). The believers to whom John is writing have a genuine salvation, unlike the antichrists who continually denied the Lord and walked away. In verse 21, he tells them, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, BUT BECAUSE YOU KNOW IT, and that no lie is of the truth” (v.21). The congregation has come, to use a Pauline phrase, “to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), and knows right from wrong, truth from error.

In verse 24, John writes,

“Therefore let that abide in you which you have heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning ABIDES in you, you also WILL ABIDE IN THE SON AND IN THE FATHER” (v.24).

These words regarding “abiding in the Son and the Father” automatically bring to mind Jesus’ words in John 15:

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will[b] ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:5-8, NKJV)

Notice that “anyone [who] does not abide in Me” (v.6), anyone who “does not remain,” is “cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” Those who do not remain (“the branches,” John 15:5) are thrown into the fire. Those who bear fruit are those who “abide” in Christ (John 15:5). If someone fails to remain in Christ, the little fruit they have borne for Christ will die, and they will become “withered” (Jn. 15:6); the branch is then fit for nothing but the flames.

Go back to 1 John 2 and let’s read about the importance of abiding in Christ and the Father:

“And this is the promise that He has promised us—ETERNAL LIFE” (1 Jn. 2:25, NKJV).

So right after mentioning the importance of abiding in the Son and the Father, John gives us the effect or result of so doing—“eternal life.” We see from 1 John 2 that only if we “abide” will we receive eternal life. In other words, “he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:17b, NKJV).

There are two other verses I would like to cover in 1 John 2. The first concerns verse 26:

“These things I have written to you concerning THOSE WHO TRY TO DECEIVE YOU” (1 Jn. 2:26).

Connecting the context of 1 John 2, we discover that those who deny Jesus is Christ are also those who are attempting to “deceive” the believers. It is one thing to walk away from one’s faith, but another entirely to attempt to pull others away from their faith. To lead others astray is a mark of the false prophets and antichrists that are present and are to come. Jesus speaks of such people in Matthew 24:

“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Matt. 24:11).

“For FALSE CHRISTS and FALSE PROPHETS will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, EVEN THE ELECT” (Matt. 24:24).

After telling His disciples these things, Jesus says,

“See, I have told you BEFOREHAND” (Matt. 24:25).

Jesus was warning His disciples about the end and their need to endure (Matt. 24:9-13). So those in the church to which John is writing who have a full-scale campaign waged to turn people against God are those who have never believed in Him; for, how can one believe in a God that they then raise themselves up against?

I have made it clear in the following study of 1 John 2 that Thomas Schreiner cannot use 1 John 2:18-19 as a proof text against every person who turns away from the faith. Why? because every person who walks away from Christ is not doing what the antichrists did (leading others astray). Such deliberate deception stems from someone who is not only bent on not following Christ, but someone who wants Christ done away with, at all costs. Most of those who fall away, however, don’t hate Christ—they just don’t want to conform to His image.

Finally, Jesus also declared woe against those who lead others astray:

“38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our[c] side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:38-42, NKJV)

I will cover 1 John 2:28 in my next post.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The "Arminian" Verses, Part II: The "Free Will" References In The New Testament

I am back for Part II of my work on “Arminian” verses. Let me just say first, that I don’t label these verses “Arminian”; I am only doing that because R.K. McGregor Wright does so in his book. Secondly, while I am a Classical Arminian and do advocate the theology of Arminius himself (who, by the way, was Reformed in his theology), I do not seek to find proof texts to justify what I believe. I want the Scriptures to speak for themselves on this subject. My only task here at The Center for Theological Studies is to investigate theological claims and see the truth or inconsistencies in them.

Now, on to the task at hand. First, there is 2 Corinthians 8:3—

“For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were FREELY WILLING…”

Let’s read R.K. McGregor Wright’s response to this verse:

“Second Corinthians 8:3 (RSV) says that the believers of Macedonia ‘gave…of their own free will.’ The Greek word translated as ‘free will’ here is ‘authairetoi,’ which simply means acting ‘of themselves’ or ‘of their own accord.’ It does not contain the Greek words for ‘free’ or ‘will’ or anything similar. The point is only that they GAVE WITHOUT IT BEING DEMANDED OF THEM. WITHOUT EXTERNAL CONSTRAINTS, they gave voluntarily” (R.K. McGregor Wright, “No Place For Sovereignty: What’s Wrong With Freewill Theism.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996).

Notice that in the above quote, Wright says that 2 Corinthians 8:3 discusses free will only in the sense that the Corinthians “gave…without external constraints.” But watch his twist on this fact:

“The further philosophical question of whether their choice HAD SOME METAPHYSICAL OR SPIRITUAL CAUSATION BEHIND IT is not touched. Certainly there was no apostolic command involved. This is a case of Paul commending what the Old Testament calls ‘voluntary offerings’ in over twenty places” (164).

After he acknowledges the “freedom from external constraint,” Wright runs back into his presupposition when he assumes that there is “some metaphysical or spiritual causation behind it.” But Wright fumbles here because he doesn’t seem to know the definition of what it means for the will to be “free.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, one of the definitions of “free” is:

2 a : not determined by anything beyond its own nature or being : choosing or capable of choosing for itself.

So if the will is “free,” then this means that the human being is not “determined” in his or her actions; rather, there is nothing “beyond its own nature or being” that forces the person to choose one action over another. One thing you’re gonna discover as I cover Wright’s book from time to time is that he assumes that when people say “free will,” that they are referring to an “autonomous” will that people believe to not have been affected by the fall. I will go so far as to say that our will has been corrupted, but not destroyed. We are restrained in our decisions by our sinful tendencies, but these tendencies are not determinative. For instance, just because I have a “tendency” to like dessert does not mean that every time I go to the coffee company, I will necessarily have a piece of chocolate cake. Having the tendency to eat chocolate and actually choosing to eat chocolate cake are two different things, and one does not necessarily entail the other. The flip side of the previous sentence is that sometimes, I eat chocolate cake not because of the tendency, but because I am depressed or having a bad day, or I am just “craving” dessert.

The next instance Wright supplies is Philemon 14:

“But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but VOLUNTARY.”

The Greek word for “voluntary” is “hekousion.”

Wright comments as follows:

“Paul wants the slave-owner Philemon to be good VOLUNTARILY, not because he feels compelled by the sheer authority of an apostle: ‘that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will’...Paul wants Philemon to forgive Onesimus out of his own regenerate nature, recognizing the returning slave as his brother in Christ and not merely submitting to apostolic authority unwillingly. Again, THE QUESTION OF WHETHER THE DECISIONS OF A REGENERATE (or unregenerate) NATURE ARE CAUSED OR UNCAUSED (the Arminian freewill theory) ARE NOT IN VIEW HERE” (164-165).
For the first part of Wright’s second quote, he was fine. When he gets to the second part, we see his bias: that he believes the will could possibly be affected by “external” factors—although he writes that “Paul wants Philemon to forgive Onesimus out of his own regenerate nature.” I have to ask: what else is R.K. McGregor Wright looking for? What “else” is needed to convince him that a will that is “free” has no external constraints? Let’s read his statement on why the will isn’t “free”:

“This question therefore arises: Since the assertion of free will is a claim that no outside causes are controlling the will’s choices, how can anyone know for sure that this is so? THE ACTIONS OF THE WILL ARE MOTIONS OF THE SOUL, and THESE IN TURN ARE INVOLVED WITH THE WORKING OF THE BRAIN. The brain is an electrochemical machine of wonderful complexity, but it can be affected by many physical things, from a simple concussion to stimuli from electrical currents. It can be affected by the growth of a tumor or by chemicals in the blood, such as LSD. How do we know that it is not also affected BY COSMIC RADIATION? MILLIONS OF TINY PARTICLES FROM DISTANT STARS AND GALAXIES PASS THROUGH OUR BODIES ALL THE TIME. WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT EFFECTS THEY MAY HAVE ON THE ATOMS AND MOLECULES IN OUR BODIES WITH WHICH THEY COLLIDE. How can a person who believes in free will be certain HIS BRAIN IS NOT BEING MODIFIED AT ANY INSTANT BY A SUBATOMIC PARTICLE, CAUSING HIS OTHERWISE ‘NEUTRAL’ WILL TO TURN THIS WAY RATHER THAN THAT? One would need to have exhaustive knowledge of the situation in order to be sure there were no causes whatsoever operating on the human will. Thus, belief in free will seems to require omniscience” (51-52).

To be honest, I think Wright’s quote above is “extremely” laughable. What shocked me the most when I read it is that I would never have thought of a “biological” argument being used to argue against free will. However, if this argument were true, we could all get away with doing all sorts of things. The bottom line is that we all know that our justice system is built upon the laws of our society; and the laws of our society hold people responsible for the crimes they commit (except in cases of insanity). When a person is declared insane, the law presupposes that there are chemical issues in the brain or a lapsed mental state such that the person was not “cognizant” of what they were doing. Those who are held responsible are those who are perfectly normal (possess apt mental capability) and yet, commit crimes in cold blood.

I’m gonna lay it out on the table: Calvinists cannot argue that man is specially made in the image and likeness of God, and yet, downplay the “will of man” (John 1:13). If God acted by His will when He made man and gave him His image and likeness, as well as dominion over the earth, then when Adam was given the power to “name the animals,” he acted on his will and “chose” to name them what he wanted to. By naming the animals, he was acting like his Creator who had named the earth, land, sea, sky, day and night, as well as the sun, moon, and stars.

The last reference of Wright’s is 1 Corinthians 9:17—

“For if I do this WILLINGLY, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.” (NKJV)

Here, Paul is talking about his calling to preach the gospel. In verse 16 he writes, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for NECESSITY IS LAID UPON ME, yes, WOE IS ME IF I DO NOT PREACH THE GOSPEL!” (NKJV)

The word for “willingly” in verse 16 is the word “hekone” (he-cone), from the word “hekousion” or “hekousios.”

Notice in verse 17, Paul discusses preaching “willingly” or “against” his will; in verse 16, he states that “necessity” is his external constraint—but then he says, “woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” He has told us that he must preach the gospel—but here, he says that he could choose not to...he would just face dire consequences from the Lord Himself is he failed to preach the gospel. Paul’s words “I have been entrusted with a stewardship” take the reader back to Matthew 25 with the parable of the talents. There were three servants—one had five talents, one two, and the other had one. The story goes that the Master gave them the talents and went away. When He returned, He required them all to give a report (account) of what they had done with their money. While the servants with five and two talents respectively were rewarded, the servant with one talent was condemned and cast into Hell because he failed to use the talent he had. So, once again, we see that Paul had a choice as well—but the choice of not preaching the gospel would only hurt him more!

This is what Wright says regarding 1 Corinthians 9:17—

“When we compare verses 16-17 from the Living Bible with the New American Standard Bible, we discover that the point again, in the more literal translation, is that something may be voluntary or obligatory, but the issue is not addressed as to whether the PROCESS OF VOLUNTARY CHOICE IS CAUSED OR NOT. This question of causation is the aspect of free will separating Arminians from Calvinists” (165).

“Process of voluntary choice?” Can the process itself really be “caused?” I think it’s safe to say that certain things motivate all of us, whether it be selfish or spiritual, etc. Back to my dessert craving: I go eat dessert a lot not because of “subatomic particles” acting on my brain, but because my body wants the dessert and I give in. I eat it because it serves an emotional purpose for me: when I eat dessert, the caffeine and ingredients in chocolate make me extremely happy. However strong the craving, my body does not make me go and put money on the counter at the coffee shop for the piece of cake! My own inner desires can only take me so far. At the end of the day, not even the inner desires can bind me to one choice over the other. Arminians, in arguing free will, are saying that the will itself is not “externally forced” to do anything. Arminians can never argue away inner motives or reasons for certain actions; but even in those cases, the inclination to do something does not NECESSITATE the action itself!

Volition is caused in one manner: it was given by the Lord, and He continues to sustain the will of man. However, if one is to argue that man’s choice is caused, then man can also plead innocent in the Garden of Eden for the fall. Unfortunately, God holds us responsible (Romans 5:8, 12).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't Underestimate The Knowledge Of The Writer...

“I am not speaking of attempting psychological archaeology here but rather of developing a heightened sensitivity to the fact that THE AUTHOR WAS NOT OMNISCIENT IN DEALING WITH HIS CONGREGATION (s), a fact to which the author hints in the text of Hebrews. The discussants have alluded briefly to this question, but it needs more attention. Too often in debates about apostasy, we treat the text as if the author thinks of those to whom he writes, or of those of whom he speaks, as ‘believers’ or ‘unbelievers.’ Yet real ministry situations, of course, are not so cut and dried. Any group of people gathered in the name of Christ will manifest a spectrum of spiritual conditions. That this was the experience of the early church seems to me to have a great deal of New Testament evidence in its favor. The author of Hebrews, others in the early church, you and I, are limited in our knowledge of the spiritual condition of any other person and, as pointed out by Jesus, as well as other New Testament authors, are dependent on outward manifestations in discerning the spiritual conditions of others (cf. Matt. 7:15-23; James 2:14-26)” (George Guthrie, “Conclusion,” from “Four Views On The Warning Passages In Hebrews,” by Herbert W. Bateman IV, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007, pages 438-439).

These words from George Guthrie are included in the conclusion of the famous book I’ve been dealing with for weeks now: “Four Views On The Warning Passages In Hebrews.” Just so you’ll know, Guthrie declares the Classical Reformed writer, Buist M. Fanning, as the winner of the four views. However, I’ve shown here at the Center for Theological Studies, Buist M. Fanning has major inconsistencies in his argument...

And George Guthrie is no different. The fact that he believes Fanning “wins” the argument shows that he is, hands-down, a “Classical Reformed” theologian himself.

I’m back to talk about Guthrie’s statement above. As he tells us above, the writer of Hebrews was not omniscient—he did not know the exact spiritual condition of every person in the congregation.

However, the writer provided clues as justification for his belief that the Hebrews had genuine salvation. I will only approach four chapters to make this case: Hebrews 5, 6, 10, and 13. The reason I will approach these chapters only is because they are the only ones that give us any insight into the spiritual condition of the congregation itself.

First, Hebrews 5. Let’s look at verses 11-12:

“[Christ, v. 5] of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, SINCE YOU HAVE BECOME DULL OF HEARING, for though by this time YOU OUGHT TO BE TEACHERS, you need someone to teach you AGAIN the first principles of the oracles of God; and YOU HAVE COME TO NEED MILK AND NOT SOLID FOOD” (New King James Version unless otherwise stated).

Notice that Hebrews had to “again” be taught “the first principles” of God’s Word. This tells us that the congregation had been taught these things once before, and that the writers were aware of this fact. The Hebrews congregation was no “new converts” congregation. We know this because the writers go on to say “by this time you ought to be teachers…” If the Hebrews were to be “teachers” by now, this signifies that the Hebrews were supposed to be mature in the faith, strong, since they had been in the faith for some time. However, they had become “dull of hearing,” which means that they were “retreating” in their growth in the faith.

In Hebrews 6, after discussing the impossibility of restoring to repentance those who fall away, the writers show their confidence in the congregation:

“But, beloved, WE ARE CONFIDENT of BETTER THINGS concerning you, yes, THINGS THAT ACCOMPANY SALVATION, though we speak in this manner” (Heb. 6:9, NKJV).

The writers are “confident of better things” with the congregation, which means that they were not panicking about the spiritual condition of the congregation. But these “better things” are “things that ACCOMPANY SALVATION.” What does it mean for something to “accompany” something else?

This is the definition according to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:

“to cause to be in ASSOCIATION” or “to be in association with.”

For something to be in “association” with something else, it must be connected to it or related to it. To add to this, it must be an ADDITION to something, a COMPANION of something.

Therefore, when we read of “things that accompany salvation,” we are reading of actions CONNECTED TO salvation, or actions FOLLOWING salvation. This means, then, that the actions the writers are confident of are IN ADDITION TO salvation. In order for the writers to be concerned with “additions” regarding salvation, they had to be confident of the congregation’s salvation as genuine.

Peter speaks of “additions” or “accompaniment” to salvation in his second epistle (2 Peter):

“But also for this very reason, GIVING ALL DILIGENCE, ADD TO YOUR FAITH virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control PERSEVERANCE, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7, NKJV).

Peter tells the congregation to “add to your faith”; in other words, “build upon your faith.” And the congregation of the Hebrews was counted by the writer(s) to have a genuine salvation that, like any other, needed building upon. The writer or writers was charging the congregation to build upon their firm foundation (faith in Christ).

Why is the writer and his companion confident of the salvation and better things of the congregation?

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10).

The Hebrews have performed a “labor of love” by “ministering to the saints”; in addition, not only have they ministered in the past, they “do minister” currently in the present moment of the epistle. They are continuing to endure for the cause of Christ.

In Hebrews chapter 10, the writer gives us more insight into the spiritual condition and persecution of the Hebrew congregation:

“But recall the former days in which, AFTER YOU WERE ILLUMINATED, YOU ENDURED A GREAT STRUGGLE WITH SUFFERINGS: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated;” (Heb. 10:32-33)

Notice that he says the believers were “illuminated,” or “enlightened.” Once again, the writer is allowing us to see how stern his warning in Hebrews 6 is to the congregation: for, if they, being enlightened, do what the persons of Hebrews 6 do, then they cannot be renewed to repentance—for to do so would be to recrucify Christ. He also says that they “endured a great struggle with sufferings...” The Hebrew congregation has endured much suffering. The persecutions that were given on account of the word (as Jesus discusses in the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:17 and Matthew 13:21) have come. And up to this point, the Hebrews have remained faithful despite persecution and tribulation.

In addition, they have also aided the writer and subjected themselves to public shame:

“for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Heb. 10:34, NKJV).

The Hebrews had compassion on the writer (who was in prison) and had their own possessions taken away—possibly by governmental officials. And they did this “knowing that you have a BETTER and an ENDURING possession for yourselves in heaven.” The sole reason they allowed themselves to be persecuted so is because they realized their reward was greater in heaven than on the earth. The writer seems to know quite a few intimate details about the congregation to which he writes. Notice also, that the congregation reached out to the writer while he was in prison.

Therefore, it seems that the writer(s) knew his congregation quite well. Such statements, then, doesn’t sound like a writer who is ignorant of the congregation, or one who doesn’t have some idea of the spiritual condition of the congregation.
I included Hebrews 13 on the list of chapters I would include not because it tells us of their spiritual condition (although it does), but because the writer concludes with words encouraging them to persevere in the faith:

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore LET US GO FORTH TO HIM, outside the camp, BEARING HIS REPROACH. For here we have no continuing city, BUT WE SEEK THE ONE TO COME. Therefore BY HIM LET US CONTINUALLY OFFER THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE TO GOD, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:12-15).

Notice that the congregation seeks “the one to come,” the “one” being the “continuing city.” Notice that, like Jesus, the Hebrews are to “bear His reproach” in their everyday lives. This “bearing reproach” is not just a one-time deal, for the Hebrews had already borne such reproach with their possessions having been taken from them.

It seems then, that the writer of the Epistle certainly considered the faith of the congregation to be genuine. However, their genuineness doesn’t prevent the writer from warning them of the consequences of turning back. While, as Guthrie says, the writer of Hebrews wasn’t omniscient, he was well-informed of the congregation’s spiritual condition. And if we believe that every word of the Bible is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16, Proverbs 30:5), then the spiritual evaluation of the congregation by the writer and his companion must count for something...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The "Arminian" Verses

R.K. McGregor Wright does what no other Calvinist writer does: in his book, he writes a chapter (chapter 9) titled “Are There Any ‘Arminian Verses’ In The Bible?” Chapter 9 focuses on verses that refer to the concept of “free will.” Keep in mind that the sole purpose Wright provides this chapter is so that he can refute the Arminian belief that all persons have been endowed by God with a will free to choose and make decisions.

McGregor Wright notes that the King James Version of Scripture has about 16 references in its text. From the sixteen, I will produce certain references that include the Greek word for “free will” in the text.

First, there is Leviticus 23:38—

“ ‘besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD” (New King James Version).

The word for “freewill” in Leviticus 23:38 is the word “hekousion.” McGregor Wright notes:

“The Greek phrase…’kata hekousion,’ which literally means ‘according to what comes from (your own) being.’ The contrast is with the Greek notion of fate (ananke), translated ‘necessity’ (KJV) or ‘by compulsion’ (RSV)” (“No Place for Sovereignty: What’s Wrong with Freewill Theism.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996, page 164).

We can see, then, from McGregor Wright’s definition, that “hekousion” refers to “of one’s own being,”; a more literal definition would be, “of each one.” Biblegateway defines “freewill offering” as “a spontaneous gift (Ex. 35:29), a VOLUNTARY sacrifice (Lev. 22:23; Ezra 3:5), as opposed to one in consequence of a vow, or in expiation of some offence.”

Another reference to “free will” is found in Numbers 15:3—

“ ‘and you make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a FREEWILL offering, or in your appointed feasts, to make a sweet aroma to the LORD, from the herd or the flock…” (NKJV)

The word for “freewill” here is “hekousion.” The “freewill offering” was an offering given “from one’s own being,” from the person’s decision to do so (thereby showing us the existence of free will). The person could voluntarily choose to give this offering to the Lord.

Next, we have Numbers 29:39—

“These you shall present to the LORD at your appointed feasts (besides your vowed offering and your FREEWILL offerings) as your burnt offerings and your grain offerings, as your drink offerings and your peace offerings.”
The word for “freewill” here is “hekousia.”

Then, we have Deuteronomy 12:6—

“There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your FREEWILL offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.”

The Greek phrase for the English phrase “your freewill offerings” is “ta hekousia humon.” As you can see, the word “hekousia” comes from the Greek word “hekousion” or “hekousios.”

Last but not least, we have a reference from the Psalms:

“Accept, I pray, the FREEWILL offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me Your judgments.”

The Psalm reference is Psalm 119:108, but the reference is Psalm 118:108 in the Septuagintal text (LXX). The Greek phrase “ta HEKOUSIA tou stomatos mou” becomes “the freewill offerings of my mouth” in English. The freewill offering the writer desires to give is an offering that comes from the writer himself. He is giving this offering “of his own accord”—he is not forced or made to do so.

The trace of “freewill” throughout the Old Testament shows us that “Arminian” verses existed throughout the Old Testament. But they just didn’t stop there; they also existed in the New Testament. The use of the word “hekousios” or “hekousion” doesn’t stop in the Mosaic Law; it reappears in Hebrews:

“For if we sin WILLFULLY after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no
longer remains a sacrifice for sins…” (Hebrews 10:26, NKJV)

The word for “willfully” here is “hekousiose.” It serves as an adverb here in Hebrews 10, giving us the “manner” of sin that will cause a person to be judged (in this case, deliberate sinning). Accordingly, the “Reader’s Greek New Testament” published by Zondervan gives us the following definitions beside the footnote of “hekousiose” at the bottom of the page:

“77 hekousiose, ‘WILLINGLY, intentionally. TNIV: deliberately” (“A Reader’s Greek New Testament, Second Edition” by Richard J. Goodrich and Albert L. Lukaszewski. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, page 486).

There are other words the New Testament uses for human volition that I will cover in the next post. For now, it’s safe to say that if a person does something “voluntarily,” then they initiate the choosing and are not coerced into doing it (not forced by an external pressure of any sort).

Let Us Reason, Gleason!

“Many have recognized the warning against ‘sinning willfully’ in Hebrews 10:26 as an allusion to the defiant sin of Numbers 15:30-31 and the presumptuous sin of Deuteronomy 17:12. The word ‘willfully’ (ekousios) denotes the deliberate intent to disregard God’s law. This is illustrated in the context of Numbers 15 with the example of the man found picking up sticks on the Sabbath (vv. 32-36). Since his action was a clear violation of the Sabbath law, the penalty was severe: ‘the person shall be cut off,’ that is, ‘put to death’ (Exod. 31:14-15). In the warning of Hebrews, the author clearly has this physical penalty in mind because he mentions in the following verse the need for ‘two or three witnesses’ (Heb. 10:28) to confirm a capital offense (cf. Deut. 17:6).Far from a public repudiation of belief in Christ, the sin in view denotes any deliberate act of covenant unfaithfulness, including the Old Testament context even the seemingly harmless act of picking up sticks on the Sabbath. The gravity of the sin is determined by the defiant attitude with which it is committed. However, the penalty is not eternal damnation but rather physical punishment resulting in death” (Randall Gleason, “A Moderate Reformed View,” from “Four Views On The Warning Passages In Hebrews” by Herbert W. Bateman IV, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007, pages 358-359).

Once again, I’m back to involve Gleason’s exegesis. I’ve done a post on Gleason (just posted although written several days ago) and will do more posts in the near future.

Gleason’s exegesis on the spiritual condition of the Exodus generation is wonderful. He makes it clear that by using certain words in Scripture, the author (traditionally believed to be Moses) reveals that the Exodus Generation was saved when they came out of Egypt; and it wasn’t just a PHYSICAL salvation—it was a SPIRITUAL one as well…

Tonight, though, I’m back to tackle other “not-so-good” parts of Gleason’s exegesis. Here’s a tip about moderate Calvinists: moderate Calvinists are more “Arminian” in their exegesis than they’d like to believe—until they arrive at the issue of eternal security. When they get to eternal security, they ally with Calvinists, although, when it comes to matters of election and atonement, they disagree completely. I’ve already tackled J. Matthew Pinson’s edited book entitled “Four Views on Eternal Security.” We’ve seen Norman Geisler’s exegesis, and how he twists Scripture to affirm his position. Gleason in Bateman’s book on Hebrews is no different. No matter how impressive the exegesis is (or isn’t), though, all Moderate Calvinists give themselves away when it comes to the issue of unconditional eternal security. They will affirm unconditional security at all costs—even if the exegesis doesn’t support it.

Gleason notes in the quote above that the issue of “sinning willfully” in Hebrews chapter 10 refers to the Mosaic Law—those who disobeyed willfully, intentionally, deliberately were stoned to death; and all of Israel had to play a role in the stoning. However, when he gets to verse 28, he writes,

“In the warning of Hebrews, the author clearly has this physical penalty [from the Mosaic Law] in mind because he mentions in the following verse the need for ‘two or three witnesses’ (Heb. 10:28) to confirm a capital offense (cf. Deut. 17:6)…” (Gleason, from “Four Views On The Warning Passages in Hebrews,” by Herbert W. Bateman IV, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007, page 359).

Gleason’s reasoning of Hebrews 6 (with Hebrews 10) is that both passages pertain to physical penalties for deliberate sin. He believes this is so because of the references to the Old Testament Mosaic Law. However, what about the following verses of Hebrews 10?

28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[e] says the Lord.[f] And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”[g] 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:28-31, New King James Version)

The punishment of verse 29 is “much worse” than the punishment of verse 28 (which is the physical punishment of the Mosaic Law). If the punishment is WORSE than a physical penalty, what else could it be but eschatological judgment?

In his section on “Nature of the Judgment,” he attempts to rebut the Classical Arminian view of eternal judgment:

“When speaking of final judgment, Jesus warns of the ‘unquenchable fire of hell’ (Matt. 5:22; 18:9; Mark 9:43-48), ‘eternal fire’ (Matt. 18:8; 25:41), and ‘eternal punishment’ (Matt. 25:46). Similarly, other New Testament authors speak of ‘eternal destruction’ (2 Thess. 1:9) and ‘punishment of eternal fire’ (Jude 7). In light of the frequent use of the term ‘eternal’ (aionios) throughout Hebrews (5:9; 6:2; 9:12, 14-15; 13:20), its absence in the warning passages is significant, particularly if the author intended to warn his readers against the finality of judgment in the life to come. Final judgment mentioned in Hebrews 9:27 occurs after death (‘it is appointed for men to die once and after this [comes] judgment’) and therefore should be distinguished from the immediate threat the readers ‘see…drawing near’ in their present circumstances (10:25)” (361).

Gleason once again, however, still has questions he cannot answer. Go back to Hebrews 6. In verse 8, the writer talks about the land that drinks the rain but bears only thorns and thistles has only one consequences: “whose END is to be burned” (Heb. 6:8). Then, in verse 9, the writer states, “but beloved, we are confident of better things…that accompany SALVATION.” In verse 11, the writer states, “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence…UNTIL THE END.” The question is, “What END is being discussed here? If the end of time as we know it, if the judgment, is not being discussed, what “end” in time are we dealing with? Hebrews 6:12 emphasizes how important it is that the congregation “inherit the promises.” What “promises” are being discussed? And how do they connect with the end? Surely, then, we are talking about more than immediate punishment for their current slothfulness. Here we find that salvation is an important issue and is in discussion in Hebrews 6.

In Hebrews 9, however, we find that the writer reveals the “promises” to us. He discusses Christ as follows:

“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called MAY RECEIVE THE PROMISE OF THE ETERNAL INHERITANCE” (Heb. 9:15, NKJV).

So when we read about “the end” and “the promises,” the writer is not speaking of an earthly inheritance/ punishment in the immediate future, but rather, what will come to pass at the end of time as we know it—the judgment before the eschaton.

At the end of Hebrews 9, the writer discusses eschatological judgment, as Gleason notes in his quote. However, we see that salvation is what Christ will give when He returns:

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. TO THOSE WHO EAGERLY WAIT FOR HIM He will appear a second time, apart from sin, FOR SALVATION” (Heb. 9:27-28, NKJV).

Once again, the end of time is in view. Here we see that everyone will be judged in the end; but for those who love Christ, who “eagerly wait for Him,” He will appear to give “salvation.” Here, the word “salvation” doesn’t have the word “eternal” in front of it; yet and still, we all know what “salvation” is in view—and it isn’t just a PHYSICAL one, either…

In Hebrews 10:25, we are told to be busy “exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” What “Day” is being spoken of here? It is a day in the future, for it is a “Day APPROACHING.” This is a future day being discussed. What else could it mean but eschatological judgment?

If one looks at the verses following verse 25, we can see that there will be a “certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation” (v. 27), and the Day itself will be a time in which “the Lord will judge His people” (v.30). This is the day when God’s people will stand before Him and be judged for their deeds; it sounds a lot like 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul says that we will all stand before “the judgment seat of Christ.” In Hebrews 10:34, the congregation is said to have “a better and an enduring possession.” The possession of verse 34 is “better” than what? The “goods” which had been taken away from them; in other words, their “earthly” and “material” possessions. The only possession better than an earthly inheritance is a heavenly one!

Last but not least, verse 37 is interesting in and of itself:

“ ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming WILL COME and WILL NOT TARRY.”

Notice the future tenses with “will come” and “will not tarry”? This is telling us of a future event. The New King James Version references Luke 18:8 for this verse. Let’s read what it says:

“I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Jesus here is talking of a future day (“will He find faith”). Looking back at Hebrews 10:37, we see that the “He” referenced is the Lord Jesus. And it says He is coming in a future day. So all the references given point to a judgment day in the future. Unlike Gleason’s analysis, the Hebrews text itself does not point to a present day of judgment—or a physical penalty.

As I said earlier, Randall Gleason is an example of a typical Moderate Calvinist. Moderate Calvinists always seem to have good exegesis, but affirm the WRONG conclusions! Gleason’s exegesis here in Hebrews 10 is all over the place—but that’s not because Gleason is not aware of the truth. Gleason writes his exegesis on chapter 10 the way he does because it’s the only way to dodge responsibility for his conclusion. If the truth were told, Gleason couldn’t affirm the text as presenting CONDITIONAL eternal security, while holding to UNCONDITIONAL security and still have a solid justification for his personal presupposition.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Randall Gleason and The Moderate Reformed View, Part II: Hebrews 3-4 And the Exodus Generation

“…the same place name, ‘Kadesh,’ suggests the Old Testament author’s intention to liken the sin of the people in Numbers 14 to the sin of Moses and Aaron (Num. 13:26; 20:1). The sin of the Exodus generation was a growing lack of trust in God’s life-sustaining presence (Exod. 17:7) to provide for their needs (Num. 11:4-6; 18-23; 14:7-9). Their sin culminated in their decisive refusal to trust God to bring them into the land and overcome its inhabitants (Num. 14:8-10). Their sin was certainly grievous! BUT IT WAS NOT A TOTAL AND FINAL REJECTION OF FAITH IN GOD, INCURRING ETERNAL CONDEMNATION for the following reasons. First, the Lord ‘pardoned them’ in response to Moses’ plea (Num. 14:20). Note that Moses requested God to pardon Israel’s ‘iniquity…according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now’ (v.19 NASB). When God ‘pardoned them according to [Moses’] word’ (v. 20 NASB), he declared their forgiveness was complete as Moses had requested. Second, in response to the Lord’s oath of judgment on them, ‘the people mourned greatly’ (v. 39). The next day they confessed, ‘We have indeed sinned,’ and they attempted to possess the land the Lord had promised (v.40). Though their confession and resolve to enter the land was now too late, their response is hardly representative of a people who had totally renounced belief in God. Third, their redemption (i.e., salvation) from Egypt was not forfeited because they were never allowed to return to their former bondage under Pharaoh. Instead, God ‘carried’ them along in the wilderness ‘as a man carries his son’ (Deut. 1:31). Finally, since their sin is identical in description and punishment to that of Moses and Aaron, it must be regarded as the same. Therefore, since no one considers the sin of Moses and Aaron as total apostasy thereby incurring eternal destruction, neither should the sins of the people be regarded as such” (Randall Gleason, “A Moderate Reformed View,” from “Four Views On The Warning Passages In Hebrews” by Herbert W. Bateman IV, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007, pages 349-350).

Last night, I looked at Randall Gleason’s exegesis regarding the salvation of the Israelites when they were delivered out of the hands of the Egyptians at the Red Sea. The exegesis clearly shows us then, that the Israelites were saved; as Exodus 15 told us, they were “redeemed” and “purchased” by God. This surely requires a greater meaning than physical deliverance!!!

Let’s look at the passage in question:

14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said:

“ Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”[a]

Failure of the Wilderness Wanderers

16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebrews 4

The Promise of Rest

1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them,[b] not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 3:14-4:2, New King James Version)
Now, look back at Randall Gleason’s analysis above: “Their sin was certainly grievous! But it was not a total and final rejection of faith in God, incurring eternal condemnation…” (349).

What is the problem with this statement is that, if Gleason’s right, then the above
passage from Hebrews 3 and 4 makes no sense! First of all, the writer makes clear in Hebrews 4:2 that “the gospel was preached to us AS WELL AS TO THEM, but the word which they heard DID NOT PROFIT THEM, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” Here the writer compares the Exodus generation to the congregation of Hebrews. They heard the gospel as well, but they did not have faith to go along with it. What we discover is that they didn’t hear any different message than the Hebrews heard—or we hear today!!! This is the first point to note: there was no difference in the message then and the message to the Hebrews.

Let’s examine Gleason’s reasons for why the Israelites didn’t suffer eternal condemnation. First, he says that “the Lord ‘pardoned them’ in response to Moses’ plea (Num. 14:20)” (349).

Let’s examine Numbers 14:20—

“Then the LORD said: ‘I HAVE PARDONED, according to your word…” (NKJV)
However, it is at this point that the tables turn on Gleason’s analysis (starting in Numbers 14:21ff):
“but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord—because all these men who have seen MY glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, THEY CERTAINLY SHALL NOT SEE THE LAND OF WHICH I SWORE TO THEIR FATHERS, NOR SHALL ANY OF THOSE WHO REJECTED ME SEE IT” (Num. 14:21-23, NKJV).

So, while the Lord pardons the Israelites and spares them from death, He does tell Moses to tell them that they will die out in the wilderness. They will not see the Promised Land:

“Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: ‘The carcasses of you who have complained against Me SHALL FALL IN THIS WILDERNESS, ALL OF YOU WHO WERE NUMBERED, ACCORDING TO YOUR ENTIRE NUMBER, FROM TWENTY YEARS OLD AND ABOVE. EXCEPT FOR CALEB THE SON OF JEPHUNNEH AND JOSHUA THE SON OF NUN, YOU SHALL BY NO MEANS ENTER THE LAND which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, YOUR CARCASSES SHALL FALL IN THIS WILDERNESS. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of YOUR INFIDELITY, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the LORD have spoken this, I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. IN THIS WILDERNESS THEY SHALL BE CONSUMED, AND THERE THEY SHALL DIE’” (Num. 14:28-34, NKJV, caps mine).

The above seven verses are not what anyone would wanna hear from the Almighty Himself; and yet, this is what Israel would receive for her constant complaining, murmuring, and rejection of the Lord. Gleason is wrong on his first reason: while God pardons them, He doesn’t pardon them permanently. He spares them for now, but reveals to Moses that they will not go into the land…even though Moses is still to turn around and lead them (after knowing of their final end!!).

Gleason’s next reason:

“Second, in response to the Lord’s oath of judgment on them, ‘the people mourned greatly’ (v. 39). The next day they confessed, ‘We have indeed sinned,’ and they attempted to possess the land the Lord had promised (v.40). Though their confession and resolve to enter the land was now too late, their response is hardly representative of a people who had totally renounced belief in God” (350).

I will talk about this after reprinting Gleason’s third reason:


Gleason says that the people showed remorse over their sin, and they didn’t get to return to Egypt. According to him, these reasons are supposed to justify why their crime was not apostasy.

However, Gleason is incorrect twice more!! First, while they did respond as though they were remorseful, they were remorseful AFTER the Lord’s pronouncement to them (vv. 28-34), not BEFORE! Look at what they said just prior to the Lord’s pronouncement of death:

“And all the children of Israel COMPLAINED against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, ‘IF ONLY WE HAD DIED IN THE LAND OF EGYPT! OR IF ONLY WE HAD DIED IN THIS WILDERNESS! WHY HAS THE LORD BROUGHT US TO THIS LAND TO FALL BY THE SWORD, that our wives and children should become victims? WOULD IT NOT BE BETTER FOR US TO RETURN TO EGYPT?” (Num. 14:2-3, NKJV)

They actually believed Egypt would be better than the wilderness! But the next verse is the most heartbreaking:

“So they said to one another, ‘LET US SELECT A LEADER AND RETURN TO EGYPT’” (Num. 14:4).

At this verse, the Israelites had hardened their hearts for the last time against their Lord! Now, they had sealed their fate: although physically free, their hearts and minds were still in Egypt. And now, as the consequence for their sin, they would end up in a worse state than their first state—in the wilderness, where their bodies would rot and become food for the vultures.

So even though they didn’t go back to Egypt, they did go back—IN THEIR HEARTS! And in God’s sight, the Israelites made the same choice Lot’s wife did: although they were freed, they wanted to be bound and in chains!! No wonder the Lord said in Luke 17:32, “Remember Lot’s wife!”

The last reason Gleason argues is that the sin of Israel was the same as that of Moses and Aaron, so their sin did not result in eternal condemnation. However, while Moses’ sin was a sin of unbelief, it was not a sin of constant rebellion against God. Moses committed a sin, but he was not constantly complaining against God, constantly questioning the Lord and His power. The Israelites complained and murmured against God at every turn. In Numbers 14, their final decision to “go back to Egypt” sealed the deal. In the mind of God, this was the nation’s final rejection of His goodness to them. Think about it: this was the ultimate “slap” in the face of the Lord, who had brought them out of Egypt and was taking them into the Promised Land. For Israel to wanna go back to Egypt was the same thing as Israel saying, “Lord, we despise everything you’ve done for us! We don’t want it at all; keep your Promised Land! We’re going back into bondage!” What a hurt to the Lord who had heard their cries and seen their distresses, and sent Moses to deliver them—after 430 years!!!

The very thing the Lord was trying to give them was the very thing Israel wanted nothing to do with! What else was there to be done for such an ungrateful nation? God had already sent plagues and illnesses to them out in the wilderness to chastise them for their complaining and unbelief—and what had it done? Nothing, absolutely nothing. So ask yourself: what ELSE could God have done? Nothing else would have gotten their attention. But, once God declared they would die in the wilderness, what was their reaction?

“And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, ‘Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!’” (Numbers 14:40, NKJV)

At this point, they are now ready to conquer the land. But look at what happened when Joshua tried to encourage them to go forth and conquer the land:

“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes: and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only DO NOT REBEL AGAINST THE LORD, nor dear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, AND THE LORD IS WITH US. Do not fear them” (Num. 14:6-9, NKJV).

See the reaction of the people?

“And all the congregation SAID TO STONE THEM WITH STONES” (Numbers 14:10a, NKJV).

They went so far as to even wanna have their leaders stoned!! They not only rejected their human leadership, but the LORD who had appointed the human leadership! In short, their rejection of their leaders was a rejection of the Divine Himself! This was the rejection of God at its best.

Yes, as Moses said, “The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy” (Numbers 14:18a); but He is also just, “BY NO MEANS CLEARS THE GUILTY, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation” (Num. 14:18b).