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Saturday, 1 March 2014

O.S.A.S. - Quench Your Hellfire!

From time to time at Ascot Life Church we have an open meeting. That means, instead of the weekly preach, anyone in the congregation can go to the front and give a testimony, a reading of Scripture, an exhortation or anything that would edify the rest of the Body of Christ. So was the case of relating why I believe in Once Saved Always Saved, or OSAS for short, along with how this belief had been a bastion of spiritual strength particularly during the weeks my wife was confined to a hospital bed. As the testimony metamorphosed into an exhortation for everyone to read their Bibles freely, I was aware of the discerning looks I received from those in our church who were taught not to believe in OSAS, or eternal security of the believer, but instead to remain faithful or else lose one's salvation. One of them actually opened his Bible in preparation to read out a text "proving" the invalidity of OSAS, but his opportunity was denied, after returning to my seat, by someone else butting in with an exhortation totally unrelated to my testimony.
 
During the talk, I gave the chief reason behind my standing with eternal security - the Omniscience of God. This means that God is all-knowing, which would include knowledge of the future - and with such accuracy that he can foretell the future with astonishing precision. Therefore I concluded that for a saved person to lose his salvation through ebbing faith or committing a serious sin is a denial of God's Omniscience. In short, he does not know what will happen next.
 
The Case of Abraham
 
In Genesis 15:7 this verse appears:
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
 
This at first looks like an off-the-cuff statement, something thrown in at the conclusion of a revelation God had shown him. The revelation was that from his loins the whole of the land he was dwelling in will be inherited by his descendants. Abram, or still to be renamed Abraham, believed what God had told him, and he was credited with a righteousness which came from heaven. In other words, God's righteousness was credited to his account, without any work done by the man to earn or merit this righteousness. As God saw him, Abram was as righteous as Jesus Christ himself, and saw not the man's natural self, but in Abram, God saw him as he would see Jesus Christ.


 
Paul the apostle took this very verse in Genesis and made it a big issue in explaining about justification by faith. Paul wrote of it in two of his letters, one to Rome and the other to the churches in Galatia, western Turkey. Another term for justification by faith is Judicial Acquittal. It means that the believer has been acquitted from all of his sin - past, present, and future, and he is seen as equally righteous as Jesus himself was, because prior to his death on the cross, Jesus lived a sinless life and therefore fully qualified to atone for the sins of the whole world. Therefore it must follow that for the believer who has been acquitted, he cannot be charged with his sins ever again, because Jesus himself had never sinned. Then as if an endorsement to this line of thinking, Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb, Jesus Christ, was slain from the foundation of the world. Or as God sees it outside of the human time frame, Jesus was slain from eternity past. Therefore the slaughter of a beast to clothe Adam and Eve immediately after the Fall was a symbol of what was to come in human history, that the shedding of blood from an innocent substitute was required for redemption to take effect. Although the death of the innocent substitute did take place in human history, believed by some scholars to have been during AD 32, in God's perspective, Jesus was slain from the beginning of time. This could be the reason behind Paul's rather peculiar statement in writing that all believers are already seated in Heaven, even if they are still alive on earth, or even before birth - Ephesians 2:5-6.

Contradiction in Scripture?

As I stood at the front and spoke at the open meeting, I was aware of at least two individuals who were taught not to believe in eternal security of the believer. One looked bored, the other was leafing through his Bible in preparation to answer. They are the ones who believe that every Christian must hold out faithful or risk being thrown into Hell after death. These believers are often known as Arminians, after James Arminius, a 16th Century Dutch theologian who read the works of a Roman Catholic monk Louis di Molina, an active Jesuit, and from whom he built his own theological structure about God's grace. Methodist founder John Wesley was a devout Arminian, along with modern day itinerant preacher David Pawson, who is well known among churches here in the UK, including the guy at Ascot who was preparing his Bible quote.



David Pawson preaching against Eternal Security of the Believer.

So here I will quote several pairs of Scripture, set A and set B. Set A seem to endorse eternal security, while set B seem to deny eternal security. By reading them as I quote them, the contradiction becomes apparent:

A.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away...And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me but raise them up on the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:27, 39, 40, 44.

My sheep listens to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. John 10:28-30.

B.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, and thrown into the fire and burned. John 15:5-6.

A.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.

B.
Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider the kindness and the sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. Romans 11:20-22.

A.
-being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6.

B.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but how much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13.

-and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead. Philippians 3:11.

A.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14.

B.
But now he has reconciled by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1:22-23.

These are just a few pairs of Scriptures which looks as if group B contradict group A, if the idea of hell fire was read into all the group B verses. Arminian Christians always read into these and many more Scripture verses the threat of hell if one does not hold faithful. In explaining verses such as John 10:26-30, or Romans 8:38-39, these believers agree that no force of any kind, either in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, can wrench the believer out of the Son's hand/Father's hand against the person's will. But they insist that any believer can simply walk away on his own decision and perish forever. What I have found faulty with this sort of reasoning was that if a person walks away freely, out of his own choice, he must be going in some direction, to something or somewhere more attractive. If that was the case, the Devil and his forces would have an easy day. Furthermore, if this sort of thing can happen, it proves that (a) the Devil is stronger than God, and (b) God was unaware or unprepared for such a thing happening, and (c) God was caught out by surprise, without any foreknowledge that the gift he gave to his Son as a reward for his death was unsatisfactory.



By not reading Hell and damnation into Scripture where it's not called for, I believe, would clear up many of these apparent contradictions. In both John 15:5-6, and Romans 11:20-22, the subject in hand were about fruit trees. John dealt with the grapevine while Paul used the olive tree, but they look to me that the meaning is the same. Who benefits from the fruit? Isn't man who benefits? Trees bear fruit for man to eat and provide nutrition, although oil from olives can be used for other purposes as well. Trees of every kind are found here on earth. When a branch is severed, usually by a gale or a hurricane, it lies on the ground, and without a source of fresh sap, it slowly wilts. Men may indeed collect those branches and dispose of them, or they may lie on the ground for ages. But if burnt, it is quickly consumed into ashes, not suffering any eternal torment, for it is already lifeless. In other words, a believer not abiding in Christ may die a premature death in order for an assembly to be purified before unbelievers. Further clues of "severance" by physical death can be found elsewhere, such as in Acts 5:1-11. Here, a story is given of a believing couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold a piece of property for a certain price, then donated part of their money to the apostles, claiming that was the price they had initially received for the field. They paid with their lives for their deceit. They were seeking a honour they did not deserve. But after their deaths, did they go to Hell? Or to Heaven? It depends whether they believed in the first place, and according to the context, they were believers.

Ananias and Sapphira were believers who lied to the Holy Spirit. Therefore they were struck dead in order to preserve the reputation of the church before unbelievers, or else it would become a source of mockery, and would die before many more could be saved. I suppose these two were branches that did not abide in Christ, but they were still vine or olive branches, cast off from the tree and destroyed, as if burned. But they still went to Heaven afterwards, because God has promised eternal life to all who would believe in Jesus Christ, and no one can snatch them out of God's hand, not even the Devil who was behind Ananias' conspiracy.

The same could be said of believers who abused the Holy Communion, found in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. They were eating and drinking in the name of the Lord without recognising the holiness in the sacrament, and some have "fallen asleep" - that is, died prematurely, so not to be condemned with the rest of the world. This was a strong indication that these sinning believers were called home to be with the Lord.

Other Scriptures in the B group, such as Philippians 2:12-13 and Colossians 1:22-23 has nothing to do with Hell fire either. As with Ananias and Sapphira, along with the believers in Corinth, Paul exhorted them not to depart, fall, or ebb away from the faith. Another reason for this was not to become flavourless salt before other people. The name of Jesus Christ was in danger of suffering disrepute, and therefore believers worked out their salvation with fear and trembling, so that this disrepute did not occur among them, so not to be mocked and rejected by unbelieving men. It was all to do with earthly affairs, not eternal torment in Hell.

What I'm trying to get across here is: Don't read Hellfire into every "problem passage" you might come across when regarding eternal security. To read Hell into these Scriptures causes them to contradict each other as already shown, stirs fears and doubts, and have no edifying benefits. Instead, accept that you are once saved always saved, because God said so, and any verses that seem to say otherwise needs to be interpreted to bring out its full sense without causing controversy.

Other Scriptures, such as Hebrews chapters 6 and 10 would make this blog too long, and will be discussed in the near future.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Frank,
    I believe that scriptures are like a vocabulary. God speaks to us through them as we, as individuals, need to be spoken to through them. I know that I have been corrected through the Holy Spirit revealing scripture to me just at the right moment. Just like I would not speak every word of the English language to my child at the same time, neither does God speak all scripture to His children at the same time. We have to learn from the Holy Spirit as we grow in Him, otherwise He would not be classed as a teacher as well as a comforter.

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  2. Please note:
    Comments which carries links to other websites, especially on adverts for product sales will not be posted on this forum.
    Many thanks.

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  3. Dear Frank,
    What an excellent exposition of the pertinent verses on both sides of this issue. I participated in a similar discussion where both staunch Arminians and Calvinists were going at it without compromise. But finally it seemed that a good way to explain it was Once TRULY saved, always saved. I believe that most of the verses that appear to contradict OSAS refer to those appearing to be saved because of their religious practices, yet never truly knowing Jesus in their heart. To those He will say, Depart from me -- I never knew you. But for those of us who are truly saved, nothing can pluck us from our Father's hand.
    God bless,
    Laurie

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  4. Great article Frank.

    I John 2:19 is quite clear the reason they turn away is because they were never truly one of us. They would not have turned away if they had been saved.

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  5. Hi Frank again,
    I think we have to have a balance here. God loves us and is long suffering, but we have to be very careful not to turn OSAS into 'Once sinning always sinning.'
    God bless

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  6. Your citation of Jn 10:27-30 is actually contrary to what you believe. In their proper context, verses 28-30 are conditioned by v.27. Hence only those sheep who hear/listen and follow God's voice are promised eternal life. Conversely, those sheep who don't hear and follow God but persist in disobedience do not have such assurance.

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  7. The excellent comments already posted say much of what I would have also said Frank. Many pastors broad brush this issue, the Lord has much more to say than the short sound bites that pastors give to this topic, but I sense that you sincerely seek what Jesus wants us to know about it. Keep seeking what He says in His Word and rely on His Spirit to reveal the whole truth on this and every matter. God bless you Frank.

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