Puritan Gems

Friday, July 10, 2009

Eternal Security and Sanctification

“… In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:4-5)

It is often said by the critics of the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints that such security trends to lead to lasciviousness. There is some cause for concern in this area, especially when this doctrine is mixed with “free will” salvation. I’ve met more than one poor deluded soul who, despite living a godless life, considered himself saved on the basis that, at one point in his life, he went to an altar and repeated a prayer (more on this tragic practice in a few weeks). In such cases, the problem with the “once saved, always saved” approach isn’t with the “always saved”, but rather with the “once saved”. Eternal security is not meant to be fire insurance for the wicked, and abuses of doctrine are not the cause of the doctrine itself. Those who profess such a vain religion would to well to heed the words of our Saviour.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7:21-23)

For the believer, however, the Doctrine of Eternal Security should lead to greater sanctification, for it is the secure believer who has the freedom to dig deep within his wicked heart and purge whatever great deformity he may find. He may pray as David did, with confidence:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23-24)

In contrast, those who fear losing their salvation are rarely led to greater sanctification. They are dangerously relying on what Charles Spurgeon referred to as “Carnal Security”. Rather than take joy in their adoption, they rely on their own works to maintain their justification, and then foolishly think that they have succeeded. They must lower God’s standard of perfection, and cannot be honest about their own sinfulness. They think well of themselves if they attend a church service, say a few prayers and devotions, and avoid any “big” sins. I would ask such a person, “How much is required in order to maintain ones justification? How many sins does it take to lose it? Do sins such as gossip and private, lustful thoughts count?” Indeed, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength…” (Jeremiah 17:5)

Look at these beautiful words. “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons…” (Ephesians 1:4-5). What glorious confidence that should provide for us as we continue to examine our hearts! Friend, there is no reason to hold anything back, for the Lord already sees it. Let us approach the Great Physician as a son approaches a father, allowing Him to perform the necessary heart surgery, confident that He is preparing us for glory.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you all the way on predestination, and I believe that a true Christian is led by the Spirit to deeper righteousness, not hedonism. But if an "altar call" doesn't guarantee that someone is truly saved, then why do you assume that infant baptism and other Covenant practices are sufficent guarantee? I smell a bit of hypocrisy. The Pharisees also assumed they could determine who was the true believer by who followed the rules they believed in, and they turned a blind eye to those things they couldn't control, like heart attitude.

Puritan Lad said...


Not sure what the ultimate point of your comment was, but for a short and simple answer to your question:

Anonymous: "But if an "altar call" doesn't guarantee that someone is truly saved, then why do you assume that infant baptism and other Covenant practices are sufficent guarantee?"

We don't make any such assumption. One has to assume "baptismal regeneration" in order to even ask such a question. The difference, for starters, is that baptism is a biblical practice, whereas altar calls are not.

Gary said...

Here is my story: I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. I repented of all my sins and accepted Jesus Christ into my heart to be my Lord and Savior at age nine…and again in my early teens…just to be sure. In my early 20’s my family moved to another state where we attended a non-denominational, evangelical mega-church (which taught Baptist doctrine) for several years. In my mid to late 20’s I stopped going to church because I didn’t “feel” God inside me and he didn’t seem to listen when I prayed.

I remained unchurched until I was married in my forties. I started attending liberal churches. When we had children, I started looking again at more conservative/fundamentalist churches, something closer to what I had believed as a child and teenager. We joined a conservative, orthodox Lutheran church. I became very involved in the church. I was happy and content in my orthodox Christian belief system. I read the Bible and prayed regularly.

One day I was surfing the internet and came across an atheist’s website. He was a former fundamentalist Baptist/evangelical pastor! I was shocked! I started to engage him in conversation, and also tried to bring him back to the Faith, to belief in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

However, this man pointed out to me some very big assumptions in my Christian belief system which I had never thought of, such as:

1. Just because there is evidence for a Creator does not mean that the Creator is the Christian God, Yahweh.

2. Our current Bibles contain thousands of scribe alterations, most of them inconsequential, but a couple of them are shocking. Why did God allow scribes copying the original Scriptures to change, delete, add, or alter his inerrant, Holy, Word?

3. How do we know that the books of the New Testament are the Word of God? Is there a verse that tells us? Did Jesus give us a list? Did Paul?

4. Do we really have any verifiable eyewitness testimony for the Resurrection or is it all hearsay and legend?

5. Modern archaeology proves that the Captivity in Egypt, the Exodus, the forty years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, and the great kingdoms of David and Solomon are only ancient Hebrew fables.

At first I fought him tooth and nail. I fought him for four months. At the very end I had to admit that there are no verifiable eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus in the Bible or anywhere else. All we have are four anonymous first century texts full of discrepancies and contradictions. The only thing I had left to attach my faith to was the testimony of the Apostle Paul: why would a devout Jewish rabbi convert to a religion he so hated unless he really saw a resurrected dead man on the Damascus Road?

But after studying the five Bible passages that discuss Paul’s conversion, I had to admit that Paul never says he saw a resurrected body. All Paul says is that he saw a light…and that this event occurred in a “heavenly vision”. Visions are not reality...not in the 21st century nor in the 1st.

And as for the improbability that a Jewish rabbi would convert to a hated religion, there is a Muslim cleric in Israel today who not too many years ago was an ardent Zionist Jewish settler and rabbi, intent on ridding the Muslims from Jewish land.

Strange conversions occur. They do not prove that the new religion is true and inerrant.

I was broken-hearted, but I saw my Christian Faith was nothing more than an ancient superstition that had been modified in the first century by Jesus, a good man, but a dead man. There is zero evidence that this first century Jew is alive and the Ruler of the Universe.

Puritan Lad said...

Hey Gary,

Thanks for sharing your story. Forgive me for the delay as I have been swamped lately. I would like to address your list, but I'm particularly interested in #2. What "shocking" alterations are you referring to?

Gary said...

One of the biggest alterations in the Bible is the Johannine Commae. I John 5:7-8 is the only passage in the New Testament that explicitly spells out the doctrine of the Trinity. It was NOT in the original manuscripts. It was added by a scribe during the period of time in the early Church when the issue of Christ's divinity and his relationship to Yahweh was a hotly debated and a very controversial issue. This "doctored" passage has been taught as God's inerrant word until only in the last century. Read this excerpt from a Christian website:

The Johannine Comma

(1 John 5:7-8)

The so-called Johannine Comma (also called the Comma Johanneum) is a sequence of extra words which appear in 1 John 5:7-8 in some early printed editions of the Greek New Testament. In these editions the verses appear thus (we put backets around the extra words):

ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες [ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ Πατήρ, ὁ Λόγος, καὶ τὸ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα· καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἔν εἰσι. 8 καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ] τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν.

The King James Version, which was based upon these editions, gives the following translation:

For there are three that bear record [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth], the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

These extra words are generally absent from the Greek manuscripts. In fact, they only appear in the text of four late medieval manuscripts. They seem to have originated as a marginal note added to certain Latin manuscripts during the middle ages, which was eventually incorporated into the text of most of the later Vulgate manuscripts. In the Clementine edition of the Vulgate the verses were printed thus:

Quoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant [in caelo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt. 8 Et tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terra:] spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis: et hi tres unum sunt.

From the Vulgate, then, it seems that the Comma was translated into Greek and inserted into some printed editions of the Greek text, and in a handful of late Greek manuscripts. All scholars consider it to be spurious, and it is not included in modern critical editions of the Greek text, or in the English versions based upon them. For example, the English Standard Version reads:

For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

We give below the comments of Dr. Bruce M. Metzger on 1 John 5:7-8, from his book, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, 1993).

Gary said...

Here is another scribe alteration:

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. (John 5:2-4) Here, the scribe appears to have added an additional line (as it also does not appear in the earliest manuscripts).

Gary said...

This is the part of the passage above which was inserted by a later scribe. It was never in the original.

For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

Gary said...

I guess these scribe additions do not bother you. That is too bad.

Take care.