Thoughts On Eternal Security

From Faith Pulpit, Spring 2016. Used by permission.

It has been twenty-four years since the topic of eternal security was last addressed in the Faith Pulpit. In the February 1992 issue Dr. Myron Houghton presented the four major views on security and then explained how Romans 8:28–30 supports eternal security. In this issue Dr. Alan Cole, professor of Bible and theology at Faith Baptist Bible College, extends the discussion by presenting additional evidence to support the view that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation.

I appreciate the article Dr. Myron Houghton wrote in 1992 about eternal security, and I completely agree with his position. The article provides valuable help to Christians regarding this important issue. Since Dr. Houghton’s article examined Romans 8:28–30, I want to explore several other passages that support eternal security.

Psalm 51:12

The context of this psalm is David’s repentance for his sin with Bathsheba. He was guilty of a number of sins, including murder and adultery. He confessed in verses 1–4 that he was a sinner. He used several designations for sin such as “transgressions” (v. 1), “iniquity” and “sin” (v. 2), and “evil” (v. 4). In verse 5 David stated that he was a sinner even before birth. In verses 7–12 he requested to be “purged” (v. 7) and to have his sins “blotted out” (v. 9). In verse 12 he asked God to reinstate the joy of salvation that once was his.

It is noteworthy that David requested to have his joy returned but not his salvation. As terrible as David’s sins were—and they were terrible—he did not request to be “resaved.” In verse 11 David requested that he not lose the special anointing of the Holy Spirit that was given to a king or leader of the theocratic kingdom. This ministry of the Holy Spirit does not refer to salvation but to an empowerment that enables the leader to guide and direct the kingdom of Israel. When David was anointed to be king, the “Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:13). David had witnessed Saul lose this anointing (1 Sam. 16:14), and David was afraid of the same thing happening to him. In Psalm 51:12 David pleaded with God that he have his joy restored. He was not asking to be saved once again.

John 6:39, 40

In John 6:39 Christ stated, “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Jesus here affirmed that He will not lose those who have been given to Him by the Father. In other words, He will not lose to condemnation, or hell, those who have received Him as their Savior. If individuals have been given to Christ through salvation, then they will be resurrected. Just as their resurrection is secure, so also is their salvation.

John 10:28, 29

In John 10:28 Jesus declared, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” The expression “never perish” is a strong term. The word “never” is a double negative in Greek (ou ma), showing the strongest denial. This expression then denies the possibility of an individual ever losing his or her salvation. Christ also illustrated the security of the believer by stating that “neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” The believer is kept safe in the hand of the Almighty Savior.

In verse 29 Christ further emphasized this point by stating that the believer is in the hand of God the Father Who “is greater than all.” There is no one strong enough to steal a believer from the Father. At different times I have heard the argument that although one cannot snatch another from God’s hand, we can snatch ourselves from God’s hand. The double negative, however, contradicts such a possibility. Furthermore, Christ denies that anyone, including us, can be snatched from God’s hand. A finite person cannot overpower the infinite God. Genuine believers are safe in the hands of God the Father and God the Son.

Romans 8:35–39

In Romans 8:35 the Apostle Paul asked the following question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” For the Christian to be separated from the love of Christ would mean that the genuine believer had lost his or her salvation. In the rest of verse 35 Paul listed several misfortunes that might indicate one has lost his salvation. In verse 37 Paul denied that these events can cause one to be separated from the love of Christ. In verses 38 and 39 Paul further denied possibilities that might cause one to think that he or she is outside the love of Christ. Paul strongly contested that one cannot be separated from the love of Christ. In other words, one cannot lose his or her salvation.

Philippians 1:6

Paul expressed in Philippians 1:6 a strong indication of a believer’s security. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Christ will continue the work of sanctification which He has begun in Christians at the point of salvation until the Day of Christ, which is the rapture. For this work of sanctification to continue, Christ must keep the believer saved. If a person is genuinely saved (initial sanctification—“begun a good work in you”), he will remain saved throughout his life until he reaches final sanctification at the rapture (“will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”).

1 Peter 1:5

Peter declared in this verse that we are “kept by the power of God.” The point is not that a believer must keep himself or herself saved. The point is that it is God who keeps the individual saved. One must ask if God has enough power to do this work. The obvious answer is “yes.” He is all powerful. For a person to be able to lose his or her salvation is to affirm that finite sin can overcome an infinite God. This kind of affirmation is incorrect.

These additional references help support the position that a genuine believer cannot lose his or her salvation. Once an individual truly trusts Christ, he or she is secure in Christ. There is not a sin that can “unjustify” one who has been justified. A person cannot be plucked from God’s hand or Christ’s hand, and a person cannot be separated from the love of Christ.

Conflicting Situations

When I have discussed this issue with my students, I have been asked about situations in which people claim to be saved but their actions deny what they claim to be true. How do we understand cases like these?

First, we must remember that we cannot see into a person’s heart. Only God knows for sure the spiritual condition of the individual.

Second, we should remember that this type of individual is in one of two conditions. He or she is either lost and facing God’s eternal condemnation (John 3:18), or the individual is living a fleshly lifestyle and is facing God’s discipline (Heb. 12:7–11). Neither of these situations is a place where a Spirit-filled Christian should want to be.

Third, we should treat the individuals where they are at the moment. If a person is acting as if he or she is unsaved, then that is how we should regard them. In dealing with the Pharisees, John the Baptist called on them to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Two verses later he warned them that “every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 3:10). Further, Christ stated that we can discern false prophets by their work (Matt. 7:15–19). “Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:20).

Fourth, we should remember that not everyone who claims to be saved is actually saved. Christ warned that there are individuals who will claim to be saved, but in reality they are not (Matt. 7:21–23). In the judgment of the sheep and goats, Christ made a similar statement (Matt. 25:31–46).

These reminders are not cited in order to set ourselves up as judges of another person’s salvation. We should make comments such as these to another individual only after much prayer and with love, grace, and tact. For genuine believers, passages such as the ones discussed here provide great comfort in the confidence that they have eternal security.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Craig wrote:

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Craig wrote:

From what I've read monergism is normally associated with Calvinism while synergism with Arminianism.

It would be better for all involved if everyone would stop looking at what ideas are associated with, and instead focus on whether they are true.

Quote:

Many believe salvation is a work of God, but man must make the choice to believe.

This is actually what "calvinists" believe. Nobody teaches that the believer does not make a choice to believe. In fact, Reformed soteriology is often criticized for its teaching that sinners must actually *repent* in order to be saved.

Sounds good to me. Maybe you're different, but I've encountered people who taught that God does it all and man has no choice. The real point is one does not have to be a Calvinist to believe in eternal security. The moment a person is saved they are baptized into the body of Christ and indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. The believer doesn't do anything to persevere, because he is preserved in Christ.

I think this is more often a matter of misunderstanding than anything else, and it happens on both ends. On the receiving end, prejudgments about 'calvinism' tend to distort what the alleged calvinists are asserting. On the other end, the person who is trying to communicate a comprehensive, self-consistent soteriology that answers well to everything revealed can often fall into overstatement or other forms of unhelpfully worded expressions.

But in all the many, many debates/quarrels about 'calvinism' I've seen & heard over the years, more than 90% of it has been various participants not understanding one another and getting tangled in meta-debate (debate about the debate rather than about the questions). Another big chunk--overlapping--has consisted of folks who do not really know their own position.

But I have never met even a "hyper" Calvinist who maintains that the believer does not choose. Rather, the classic view, and every variant I've ever seen (however poorly stated) tries to explain that all beings make choices within the limits of their nature (even God cannot choose to sin), and it is the unregenerate person's nature to reject God. When God graciously frees someone from that, which of necessity includes seeing clearly his condition and God's gracious escape, he chooses differently. His nature has been altered in some respect. That choice is, in most versions of calvinism, inevitable--so it is termed "irresistable." But there is no version of calvinism I've seen that actually says the sinner does not choose. It pretty consistently denies that the sinner "freely" chooses, because this position understands that beings do not really choose "freely"... ever.

The central problem, as I believe dmyers noted earlier, comes down to what distinguishes the sinner who believes from the sinner who does not.

There are ultimately only two possibilities (and even these dissolve into one if you keep thinking them through): either something within the sinner prompts him to make a better choice than the one who rejects the gospel, or something from God prompts him to make a better choice. The NT is pretty clear on what we should view as the better answer in those two options.  Classical Arminianism tries to have it a bit too much both ways... but even that older, purer Arminianism has God being the decisive factor, at least it talks that way some of the time. I'm not sure classical Arminianism actually coheres (it seems to break up in self contradiction eventually).

Anyway, if it comes down to either something in the sinner that is better vs. something God sovereignly does, I'm certainly not going to say that better sinners get saved and worse ones don't!

Some try to introduce a third possibility: it's random or just happens without any sort of cause. I don't really have an effective answer for these folks. It's obvious to me that the universe does not work this way and I don't know to prove a concept that is that fundamental to a world that makes anything like sense.

Yet others try to introduce another pseudo option: that the causal factor between those who believe and those who don't is just mysterious and unknowable. But this is not an answer at all. It's embracing a non-answer. ... which is OK,really, but those who take this non-view should not cast stones at those who want to pull all that is revealed together and accept where it points--however disturbing that answer may be at times.

Craig's picture

Does a person believe because they have been regenerated or are they regenerated because they believed?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Let Scripture answer the question.  "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

(I Corinthians 2:14)  Can a natural man believe?

G. N. Barkman

Craig's picture

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

Craig's picture

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

Craig's picture

Romans 4

1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

 

Don Johnson's picture

 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

J. Baillet's picture

Yes, God ordains the means as well as the ends.

JSB

Kevin Miller's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Can a natural man believe?  (I Corinthians 2:12)

Can a natural man be convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit? John 16:8 says the Holy spirit would come to convict the world of sin, and the explanation of conviction of sin given in verse 9 is in regards to those that don't believe. That would be the natural man, right?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

In Scripture a couple of things that never exist are...
1 a natural man who believes
2 a regenerate man who does not believe

This makes any proposed *sequence* of events in regeneration & faith meaningless.
"Conviction" is a bit tricky because of some language issues. Conviction can describe what the Spirit does but also how a person responds.
But again, there is no such thing as a convicted (convinced) man who does not believe.
Think of it as transportation. If I convey you to the store, you are an "away from store" person until I finish conveying. So a natural man is an unbelieving man until the Spirit finishes convicting him.
At that pt, as Jesus put it, he has passed from death to life.
But convicted can have another sense: condemned. This requires no response & and does not have to end in faith... in fact usually doesn't!
Which sense of "convicts" is meant in the passage?

Kevin Miller's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

In Scripture a couple of things that never exist are...
1 a natural man who believes
2 a regenerate man who does not believe

This makes any proposed *sequence* of events in regeneration & faith meaningless.
"Conviction" is a bit tricky because of some language issues. Conviction can describe what the Spirit does but also how a person responds.
But again, there is no such thing as a convicted (convinced) man who does not believe.
Think of it as transportation. If I convey you to the store, you are an "away from store" person until I finish conveying. So a natural man is an unbelieving man until the Spirit finishes convicting him.
At that pt, as Jesus put it, he has passed from death to life.
But convicted can have another sense: condemned. This requires no response & and does not have to end in faith... in fact usually doesn't!
Which sense of "convicts" is meant in the passage?

I like words that have more than one sense of meaning. They make me really think. If "convict" meant "condemn" in this passage, than wouldn't the verse be saying that the Holy Spirit would come to condemn the world of sin and condemn it of righteousness and condemn it of judgment? "Condemn" would work with sin, but I don't see it having that same meaning with righteousness and judgment. I'm also not sure it means completely "convinced" either. Isn't Agrippa in Acts 26:28 an illustration of someone who was convicted but not completely convinced?

Lee's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

...

But again, there is no such thing as a convicted (convinced) man who does not believe.
...

How would the rich man of Mark 10:17-22 fit your paradigm? Certainly if conviction is discerned by the evidence he was clearly under the conviction of the truth of Christ's words yet still did not believe.

Lee

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

To Kevin & Lee...

"Conviction" is a word we use in a variety of ways in Christian tradition. But it isn't used in such a wide variety in Scripture.

A very popular sense is something like "pressure toward repentance" or maybe "discomfort with sinful condition." Using that definition, sure, you can have all sorts of degrees of conviction short of actual faith.

Kevin, I'm inclined to agree that the "conviction" in John 16 is not "condemn" for the reasons you alluded to. It seems to require the word to change meanings once or twice in the space of a single sentence.

Going back to the question of "Can a natural man believe?" The argument that he can believe because the Spirit 'convicts' natural men doesn't work if 'convict' means pressure toward repentance/discomfort with sinful condition. Because this is not synonymous with ability (I would say ability=willingness here) to believe.

The question is actually pretty hard to answer--for me at least. Since I don't think there is any passage of time between regeneration and faith (or faith and regeneration), it's logically difficult to say whether belief happens when the sinner is still natural... But it seems problematic to say that at the moment of belief he is both natural and regenerate! So maybe my long-preferred posture of simultaneity of regeneration and faith is untenable after all.

But I'm going to chew on it for a while before I yield that point. Smile

Lee, it's not obvious to me that the guy in Mark 10 is "under conviction" (a phrase we have completely invented, by the way--though I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad one. It's just not a term used in Scripture.) He has some interest in Jesus, but what is really motivating that? And when Jesus tells him to sell all, He is putting His finger on the man's idolatry. Does he go away sorrowing because he is "under conviction" or because he has discovered he can't have his cake and eat it too, so to speak?

But I do accept that the conscience God has given to both the believing and the unbelieving can certainly make someone very uncomfortable with where they stand with God in some sense--and certainly in reference to specific offenses. And it seems fair to say as well--based on experience not Scripture--that many who come to faith experience a prolonged period of Spirit working on them, giving them a divine discontent, etc., before they arrive at belief.  (Edit: No, there is at least one biblical example, possibly: Saul finding it hard to "kick against the goads")

But is this what convict means in John 16? There is nothing there to suggest this is a prolonged experience. It could refer to an instantaneous act, and "the world" as the general arena where He does this work (rather than every individual in it.)

But back to the more foundational question... Does the phenomenon of people experiencing unease, sorrow, guilt, etc. before believing prove anything at all about what finally determines who believes and who does not? Those who emphasize sovereignty in conversion have long accepted that God draws those whom He has chosen, and this drawing can--for reasons known only to God, really--be quite gradual. But up to the point of belief, the sinner is dead in trespasses and sins and alienated from God, darkened in heart and mind and not willing to believe. There can be no transcending our nature by our own power, so at some point God must change the nature of the sinner.

So I find myself reluctantly moving toward a stronger inclination to say that regeneration must precede faith. I've long thought that the distinction many make between "logically preceding" and chronologically preceding kind of silly... but I understand the desire to avoid elapsed time between regeneration and faith, yet have the better "making sense" factor of saying regen. comes first.

I'm meandering all over so... I'll try to wrap up w/one more tangent. I've been dismissive of the attitude that says "well, the decisive factor between those who believe the gospel and those who don't is just a mystery." I still see this as a non-answer, but I want to qualify it a bit: I accept that there are mysteries. No, I'm glad there are mysteries! But I believe we have to take what's revealed as far as we possibly can before we throw our hands up and say "this is just beyond understanding."

But the simultaneous non-simultaneity of faith and regeneration... I may have to hold to the mystery card on that one.

Lee's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

...

Lee, it's not obvious to me that the guy in Mark 10 is "under conviction" (a phrase we have completely invented, by the way--though I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad one. It's just not a term used in Scripture.) He has some interest in Jesus, but what is really motivating that? And when Jesus tells him to sell all, He is putting His finger on the man's idolatry. Does he go away sorrowing because he is "under conviction" or because he has discovered he can't have his cake and eat it too, so to speak?

But I do accept that the conscience God has given to both the believing and the unbelieving can certainly make someone very uncomfortable with where they stand with God in some sense--and certainly in reference to specific offenses. And it seems fair to say as well--based on experience not Scripture--that many who come to faith experience a prolonged period of Spirit working on them, giving them a divine discontent, etc., before they arrive at belief.  (Edit: No, there is at least one biblical example, possibly: Saul finding it hard to "kick against the goads")

But is this what convict means in John 16? There is nothing there to suggest this is a prolonged experience. It could refer to an instantaneous act, and "the world" as the general arena where He does this work (rather than every individual in it.)...

Conviction, like the term Trinity, is a coined term. Like Trinity it was coined to describe the collective information about a subject.  The Holy Spirit work of reproving/convincing men of sin, righteousness, and judgment and then, coincidentally, revealing Jesus Christ as the answer for the sin, righteousness, and judgment issue is, in a very general sense, what conviction entails. I think most in the evangelical world have no issue with that understanding.

The responses of the rich man of Mark 10, Nicodemas of John 3, the Samaritan woman of John 4, Saul/Paul of Acts 9, Felix of Acts 24, Festus and Agrippa of Acts 26, or any number of unnamed others throughout the Gospels or the Book of Acts provide us with observational evidences of what conviction "looks like". And while all their experiences and responses were not identical, that these came to a convincing reality of their need ("sin...righteousness...judgment") and the truth that that need could only be met in Jesus Christ the Savior is undeniable.

Yet their responses were as varied as the general assessment Luke gave of reactions to Paul's preaching in Acts 17--"...some mocked [believed not...{Acts 28}]..others said, We will hear thee again of this matter [i.e., tarried]..Howbeit certain men...believed." And these basic responses can be observed under similar evidences of conviction: "some believed"--the Samaritan woman; some "believed not"--rich man, Felix, etc.; some tarried--Nicodemas, Saul/Paul (Acts 22:16).

Except to make it fit some paradigm I cannot see why we can't determine that the rich man, Felix, etc., were evidently under the same type of conviction as was Nicodemas, the Samaritan woman, or the Apostle Paul, to name a few.

Lee

Craig's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

In Scripture a couple of things that never exist are...
1 a natural man who believes
2 a regenerate man who does not believe

This makes any proposed *sequence* of events in regeneration & faith meaningless.
"Conviction" is a bit tricky because of some language issues. Conviction can describe what the Spirit does but also how a person responds.
But again, there is no such thing as a convicted (convinced) man who does not believe.
Think of it as transportation. If I convey you to the store, you are an "away from store" person until I finish conveying. So a natural man is an unbelieving man until the Spirit finishes convicting him.
At that pt, as Jesus put it, he has passed from death to life.
But convicted can have another sense: condemned. This requires no response & and does not have to end in faith... in fact usually doesn't!
Which sense of "convicts" is meant in the passage?

Every saved person was a lost person who believed.

Craig's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

To Kevin & Lee...

 

So I find myself reluctantly moving toward a stronger inclination to say that regeneration must precede faith. I've long thought that the distinction many make between "logically preceding" and chronologically preceding kind of silly... but I understand the desire to avoid elapsed time between regeneration and faith, yet have the better "making sense" factor of saying regen. comes first.

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)

That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:14)

We received the Spirit through faith.

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13)

You hear the word of truth (the gospel) ... you trust ... after you believed you were sealed with the Spirit.

 

Craig's picture

 Every saved person was a lost person who after hearing the word of truth trusted and after having believed was sealed with the Holy Spirit.

 

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13)

Craig's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

In Scripture a couple of things that never exist are...
1 a natural man who believes
2 a regenerate man who does not believe

Disagree on point 1; agree on point 2.

"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said
unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is
he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast
both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I
believe. And he worshipped him." (John 9:35-38)

This man believed and he was a natural man. He was not regenerate  "for the
Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified"
(John 7:39).

For that matter while Abraham was justified he was not regenerate. How could
he be since the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet
glorified (John 7:39)?

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto
him for righteousness. (Romans 4:3)

What about exercising faith? None of the following were regenerate yet Jesus
commends their faith.

But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of
good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole
from that hour. (Matthew 9:22)

Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.
(Matthew 9:29)

Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it
unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very
hour. (Matthew 15:28)

When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy
sins be forgiven thee. (Mark 2:5)

 

dmyers's picture

But, Craig, what distinguishes the person who trusted from the person who didn't trust?  What was the difference between the two of them?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Craig wrote:

Aaron Blumer wrote:

In Scripture a couple of things that never exist are...
1 a natural man who believes
2 a regenerate man who does not believe

Disagree on point 1; agree on point 2.

"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said
unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is
he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast
both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I
believe. And he worshipped him." (John 9:35-38)

This man believed and he was a natural man. He was not regenerate  "for the
Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified"
(John 7:39).

I'll admit I'm a bit at a loss for words here. I don't think I've ever heard anyone do that with those passages before. I might have missed it further up the thread....

So I need to explore your view a bit more to see if I understand it.

  • Do you believe the Holy Spirit never did anything in peoples' lives before He was "given" in the sense Jesus meant in John 7?
  • What do you believe this giving of the Spirit Jesus spoke of means and why?
  • What do you believe a "natural" man is?

You have a large quantity of verses in your list there, but none of them say the persons involved are "natural." How are you concluding that they were not regenerate?

Further, the verb 'believe" does not always automatically mean the object is the gospel. In some of these cases, they may believe nothing more than that Jesus is a great prophet who has the ability to meet their need. But it's entirely possible that in every case, they believed He was the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (after all, it's not like there wasn't a prophet named John who told everybody the Lamb was coming).

But even accepting these highly doubtful premises, I'm having trouble following the reasoning.

Are you saying that the Spirit never convicted anyone until after that time, so therefore all these people believed the gospel on their own without Him, and because they believed without Him they were not born again even though they believed the gospel? Just out of curiosity, would you say they became born again later after the Spirit was "given"?

... or do you believe they were born again but still natural?

This would be a very very hard position to (a) maintain without self-contradiction and (b) make fit the whole of the NT (or the Old either). That's, as they say, a tough row to  hoe. I don't envy you the work.

Craig's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

 

Craig wrote:

 

Aaron Blumer wrote:

In Scripture a couple of things that never exist are...
1 a natural man who believes
2 a regenerate man who does not believe

Disagree on point 1; agree on point 2.

"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said
unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is
he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast
both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I
believe. And he worshipped him." (John 9:35-38)

This man believed and he was a natural man. He was not regenerate  "for the
Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified"
(John 7:39).

 

 

I'll admit I'm a bit at a loss for words here. I don't think I've ever heard anyone do that with those passages before. I might have missed it further up the thread....

So I need to explore your view a bit more to see if I understand it.

  • Do you believe the Holy Spirit never did anything in peoples' lives before He was "given" in the sense Jesus meant in John 7?
  • What do you believe this giving of the Spirit Jesus spoke of means and why?
  • What do you believe a "natural" man is?

You have a large quantity of verses in your list there, but none of them say the persons involved are "natural." How are you concluding that they were not regenerate?

Further, the verb 'believe" does not always automatically mean the object is the gospel. In some of these cases, they may believe nothing more than that Jesus is a great prophet who has the ability to meet their need. But it's entirely possible that in every case, they believed He was the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (after all, it's not like there wasn't a prophet named John who told everybody the Lamb was coming).

But even accepting these highly doubtful premises, I'm having trouble following the reasoning.

Are you saying that the Spirit never convicted anyone until after that time, so therefore all these people believed the gospel on their own without Him, and because they believed without Him they were not born again even though they believed the gospel? Just out of curiosity, would you say they became born again later after the Spirit was "given"?

... or do you believe they were born again but still natural?

This would be a very very hard position to (a) maintain without self-contradiction and (b) make fit the whole of the NT (or the Old either). That's, as they say, a tough row to  hoe. I don't envy you the work.

 

You stated "in Scripture a couple of things that never exist are"...with one being "a natural man who believes".

I gave examples of people who believed and exercised faith in Jesus who were not regenerate, so they were natural, unsaved. No they weren't expressing belief in the gospel as Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 because Jesus had not yet died (and the only people He had mentioned His coming death to were His disciples and they didn't have a clue what He was talking about). These folks were however expressing faith and belief in Jesus and were receiving healing and forgiveness.

Did I say the Holy Spirit never did anything in peoples' lives before He was "given" in the sense Jesus meant in John 7? He most certainly did, except He didn't regenerate them until after the cross.

The giving of the Holy Spirit speaks of His permanent indwelling and sealing which is available only to those who have believed the gospel as Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

You asked --

"Are you saying that the Spirit never convicted anyone until after that time, so therefore all these people believed the gospel on their own without Him, and because they believed without Him they were not born again even though they believed the gospel? Just out of curiosity, would you say they became born again later after the Spirit was "given"?... or do you believe they were born again but still natural?"

These people, if they got saved, didn't believe the gospel and get saved until after Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Before His death, burial and resurrection, even though they were not yet born again they expressed faith and belief in Him as for as things such as healing. As a matter of fact no one in the Old Testament is regenerate yet many believed God.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

If your goal was to develop a novel view, you've certainly succeeded. But it has a wee problem or two.

How would anyone have been regenerate in thousands of years before Christ died?

The NT is quite clear that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him for righteousness. Since there is no intermediate condition between unregenerate and regenerate in Scripture, Abraham was regenerate (as so many before and after him) by faith.

You didn't respond to my observations about the passages you listed. It is not clear at all that these people were not regenerate (or indeed that any of them were unregenerate), nor is it clear what the scope of their faith was/what-all was included in their "believing."

Admittedly, the transition from the Old Testament times, the period of Christ's first advent, and the post-cross situation can be a little tricky at times (was Apollos converted before or after Aquilla and Priscilla straightened him out?), but there is no need to propose a situation where nobody is regenerate until after the cross... and this idea is not sustainable biblically.

Craig's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

If your goal was to develop a novel view, you've certainly succeeded. But it has a wee problem or two.

How would anyone have been regenerate in thousands of years before Christ died?

The NT is quite clear that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him for righteousness. Since there is no intermediate condition between unregenerate and regenerate in Scripture, Abraham was regenerate (as so many before and after him) by faith.

You didn't respond to my observations about the passages you listed. It is not clear at all that these people were not regenerate (or indeed that any of them were unregenerate), nor is it clear what the scope of their faith was/what-all was included in their "believing."

Admittedly, the transition from the Old Testament times, the period of Christ's first advent, and the post-cross situation can be a little tricky at times (was Apollos converted before or after Aquilla and Priscilla straightened him out?), but there is no need to propose a situation where nobody is regenerate until after the cross... and this idea is not sustainable biblically.

This "novel" view is and has been held by many believers across the world.

Are you saying Abraham was indwelt and sealed with the Holy Spirit and baptized into the body of Christ? How could he or any other OT saint experienced this if Jesus had not yet died. Paul was the first one to present these truths and they are applicable only to those who have believed the gospel..

I did respond to your question. It is abundantly clear they weren't regenerated, in the body of Christ, and indwelt and sealed with the Spirit because Jesus had not yet died.

In the OT and up to the time of the cross people were saved by faith in the truth that was available to them. They certainly weren't saved by Jesus' death on the cross because it had not yet happened and while OT writers predicted it they really didn't understand it. They were looking for a Messiah to come and established the promised kingdom to Israel. The very disciples who walked with Jesus for 3 years didn't understand it until after the fact.

Matt 16

21   From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22   Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

Mark 9

9   And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.
10   And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.

Luke 18
31   Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.
32   For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:
33   And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
34   And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.

Luke 24

9   And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
10   It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
11   And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

John 20

8   Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
9   For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Craig wrote:

Are you saying Abraham was indwelt and sealed with the Holy Spirit and baptized into the body of Christ? How could he or any other OT saint experienced this if Jesus had not yet died. Paul was the first one to present these truths and they are applicable only to those who have believed the gospel..

See Genesis 15:6.  how could Abraham have been declared righteous without God looking forward and seeing Christ?  There are really quite a few places in the Old Testament where people are clearly looking forward to and even seeing forgiveness through Christ, but without naming Him as such.  Lots of good, deep theology in that that I admit I do not completely understand.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Craig's picture

Look at Genesis 15:5-6

Genesis 15:5-6

5. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

6. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

 

 God made a promise. Abraham believed God’s promise and it was counted to him for righteousness. Prior to the cross people were saved by faith in the truth that was available to them. Abraham believed the promises God made to him and he was justified accordingly. He (nor any other OT saint) didn’t believe the gospel as outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 because it had not yet occurred. If the OT saints were looking forward to the cross as has been preached by some then why did Jesus’ closest disciples not understand?

Yes, God knew that Jesus was going to die on the cross. Romans 1:18-21 indicates God has revealed Himself to man, but it is man who has rejected the truth. From Adam forward man has had some revelation of who God was and they were responsible for believing that truth. I would say they were saved on credit. Their sins were covered by animal blood but not removed (Hebrews 10:4). When O.T. saints died they did not go to heaven. They went into the bottomless pit in a special reserved place called 'paradise' or 'Abraham’s bosom' (Luke 23:34: Ephesians 4:8-10 with Psalm 63:9;. It was on the opposite side of the pit from, and within sight of, the suffering damned (Luke 16:22-26). When Jesus was resurrected, atonement was complete and now applicable to those whose sin had been covered but not removed (Romans 3:25). So he was then justified in saving them (Romans 3:26), and so raised the O.T. saints (Matthew 27:52), and moved paradise to a heavenly place (2 Corinthians 12:4).
 

Ron Bean's picture

It appears that Paul believed that the Gospel was known to Abraham.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

Craig's remarks are a very good example of classic dispensationalism. Read Chafer's systematic to get the full effect! 

Craig, how do you explain Acts 2:25-31 from your perspective? The Apostle Peter says that David fully understood the prophetic content of his own words from Psalm 16. 

Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:
27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Kevin Miller's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Going back to the question of "Can a natural man believe?" The argument that he can believe because the Spirit 'convicts' natural men doesn't work if 'convict' means pressure toward repentance/discomfort with sinful condition. Because this is not synonymous with ability (I would say ability=willingness here) to believe.

Aaron, can I chew on your paragraph here for a moment, specifically what you said about "willingness." A little later in the same post, you added "But up to the point of belief, the sinner is dead in trespasses and sins and alienated from God, darkened in heart and mind and not willing to believe. There can be no transcending our nature by our own power, so at some point God must change the nature of the sinner."

My question is about the Philippian jailor. He most likely heard Paul and Silas singing and praying during the night, but the Bible doesn't tell us if he was being convicted or was mocking the message in his mind. We do know that after the earthquake, he expressed a willingness to be saved when he asked "What must i do to be saved?" This salvation would not have been a physical salvation from the Romans, since he was aware the prisoners were still there and he would not be killed. It must have been a willingness for spiritual salvation. So is it your position that he was already regenerated, that his nature was already changed, before he was able to express this willingness and before he was even told what he must do to be saved?

 

 

 

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