Thursday, May 23, 2013

Can one lose salvation by sinning?

It is only in moving back to Memphis, in the mid-south, in the middle of the bible belt that this question arises. My blog has been targeted at those who already believe in the eternal security of the believer. Yes, I am writing about the idea that is pejoratively described as once saved always saved. I realize that there are many, many segments of evangelical Christianity here in the bible belt that view the idea that once one is saved they are always saved, as ridiculous and totally unbiblical. But, is that true? Or, are the ones who believe that one can lose salvation by sinning the ones who do not properly understand the bible? I, of course, am convinced that the latter is the case.

This is not as cut and dried as using proof texts would make one believe. There is a fair amount of nuance in understanding that one does in fact have eternal security. Nuance is important in understanding our relationship with Father God. I feel that the strongest evidence for eternal security is found in the many redemptive decrees. Redemptive decrees are passages of scripture that make declarative statements that if they are not true as they stand then the scripture itself is simply not truthful. My favorite of all of these is Romans 10:9-10  “ That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  (10)  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” If you put other conditions on salvation, like *not sinning,* then you make Romans 10:9-10 simply a poetically expressed lie. There is absolutely no wiggle room in “thou shalt be saved.” If one is not saved by confessing with their mouth and believing in their heart then it is quite simply untrue.

Another powerful redemptive decree is the ever popular, most memorized passage in all of the bible. John 3:16-18  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  (17)  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  (18)  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  Here again, if one believes on Jesus they will not be condemned but be saved and if they do not believe in Jesus, they are condemned already. Look at the passage in the Amplified Bible:

John 3:16-18  For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.  (17)  For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.  (18)  He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation--he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ's name.]

Beyond the redemptive decrees, there are verses that plainly state that one cannot lose salvation once they have obtained it. The one that states it unequivocally is John 10:28-29: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  (29)  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” When it says that no man shall be able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand it means no-one including they themselves. If no man can pluck me out of my Father’s hand it means that I cannot pluck myself out.

So then, if what I have posited thus far is true, then, there must be a way that the verses that are used to prove that one can lose salvation have to be taken out of their context. I can say that in every case they are. When you read them in their total context they do not end up saying that one can lose salvation. Let’s look at a couple to see if this is so.

Here is one that is often used to prove that one can lose salvation: 1Co 6:9-11  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  (10)  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  (11)  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” It is important to read verse 11 in the context of this passage. Yes, some of them were the things mentioned but, not before God, why... because it was covered by the blood of Jesus.

The fact is this. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting sin. He made Jesus, who knew no sin, not only did not sin, but did not know how to sin… He made him to be made sin for all believers, that the believer might become the righteousness of God in Him (Christ Jesus.) The fact is this. Sinful humanity has been declared and decreed righteous by God based upon faith in Jesus. Now then, it is for a greater purpose. The purpose is so that man can really truly love God. How is this accomplished? Well, read Romans chapter five and it will be explained. We have been justified, that is made right with the Father or, in other words, we have been declared the righteousness of God to give us peace with God. It is from peace with God, a peace that surpasses all understanding, that we develop our true love for God. This is the catalyst for our obedience to God and is the source of supernatural transformation. This post is getting too long, and I will need to do a series to explain this fully.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Importance of Literal and Historical Context: Part One

Everyone, at one time or another has accused someone of taking what they said out of context. What exactly does context mean? I am including the first and second definition found at 1) the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect: You have misinterpreted my remark because you took it out of context. 2) the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc. Now then, when we speak of literal context we are speaking of definition number one and when we speak of historical context, we are speaking of definition number two.

Literal and historical context are very, very important when one is understanding the meaning of a biblical text. Literal context always includes all that pertains to a definite subject the author is describing and historical context always includes what was going on, what occasion precipitated what was written. Whenever, one eliminates either of these two elements of context, the result will likely be a misunderstanding of what the author wrote and what the intended reader would have understood. 

The scripture must be read in a way that what is being said is totally understood by the one using it before taking parts of it to make a specific point. Here is an example. One cannot take Romans 10:1-2 without at the very least including the understanding found in Romans 10:1-4. Furthermore, it should always be understood within what is written from Romans 9:1 through Romans 11: 36. The main reason is that the larger passage, Romans nine through eleven is a parenthetical explanation of why the Jews did not receive Christ Jesus readily and the Gentiles did.

One cannot point out that Israel had a zeal for God but not according to knowledge and allow that to stand alone without including Paul's explanation of what it means to have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. Therefore one could comment that the Muslims have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge and that statement would be true but, while it is true that one can have a zeal for God which is not according to knowledge it would not be proper use of the scripture when presenting it to a Christian group or audience to use verses one and two without including three and four. The pit fall that Paul is warning of is not recognizing and accepting the righteousness of God. 

The passage explains how one is made right with God. It explains how one enters into covenant with God. Jesus Christ, his death burial and resurrection have made it possible for people to be declared righteous and enter the covenant based upon faith in Christ and his aforementioned work on the cross. It would never be possible in context to use this passage without reading that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe." That is an important part of the passage which cannot be eliminated without doing violence to Paul's actual meaning.

Now, while I admit that there can be debate over what Paul's comment that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness"  actually means in the greater context of Romans chapters nine through eleven, the fact that he posits that Christ is the end/goal of the law for righteousness must be factored into every use of Romans 10;1-2.

In part two of this two part post we will examine historical context.