Saving Faith?

When you somehow soil, mar or deface another’s beautiful piece of art or craftsmanship that they put all of themselves into, giving it their best, how does that, or would that, make you feel? Have you ever accidentally left a footprint on a child’s drawing and witnessed their crestfallen expression? By accident, I have done both on more than one occasion. It is not a good feeling. How do you think God feels when the same is done, whether on purpose or not, to His will as set forth in His Word, the Bible? God’s Word is a beautiful piece of art and it has been defaced time and time again over the centuries. I obviously cannot go into all the ways that is done. I have instead chosen to focus on one, a concept styled ‘saving faith’.
Saving faith is sadly an integral part of many mainstream churches today. It is also deadly to people that believe it and those they teach. As a concept, it is derived from the Calvinist doctrines of Unconditional Election and Perseverance of the Saints. To sum up the concept of ‘saving faith’ in a few words; it is something that the predestined to election receive upon hearing the word. They are zapped by God with saving faith and will then never lose their salvation.

The reason this idea sprang to being is the simple fact that a lot of people abandon their churches and beliefs and “fly off the deep end”, you might say. Well, this undeniable truth simply does not square with Perseverance of the Saints. And saints do not wallow in debauchery right? The easiest solution was to just say that these people who “fell away” had never been saved in the first place; i.e., they were never elected or predestined, therefore they were never saved, never saints, in the first place—false doctrine secure.

Maybe not; the idea of saving faith, which is something God selectively gives some who believe the gospel but not others, has many issues, all of them from the Bible.

Just a cursory glance at a few New Testament scriptures is revealing for starters.

Hebrews 3:12 speaks of departing from the faith which, in the Greek, means “instigate revolt”, “draw away”, “fall away”, “refrain” or withdraw”. Galatians 5:4 also, some are estranged and fallen from grace. The former means “severed”, “cut off”, “cause to fail”, “abolish”, or “make void” and the latter is to be “driven out or off one’s course”. I Timothy 5:12 says that some have cast off their first faith:  despise, disannul, frustrate, bring to naught, reject; and 6:10 that these have strayed from the faith:  stray, err; and verse 21, they have strayed concerning the faith: swerve, deviate, miss the mark. None of these so described were in good standing with the church or with God. Were they still saved after having “fallen from grace”? I thought Jesus came to give us grace? If we did not need redemption after having already fallen from grace the why did Jesus have to die?

Not only is the concept of ‘saving faith’ erroneous, but it is also absurd. It assumes that there are only two kinds of faith, both of which are static: Saving faith, which is real, genuine, and saves, and every other kind, which is/does none of the preceding (meaning worthless). But the Bible teaches that faith is dynamic, it ebbs and flows like ocean waves, it has seasons if you will. Why else would Paul encourage his readers (nominal Christians?) to continue in or remain steadfast in the faith on so many occasions? Carefully consider the following scriptures that show just how dynamic, or fluctuating, faith can be:

1)      Faith may Fail—Luke 22:32

2)      Faith may become Weak—Romans14:1

3)      Faith may be Lacking—I Thessalonians3:10

4)      Faith can Increase—II Colossians10:15

5)      Faith Grows—II Thessalonians1:3

6)      Faith may be Overthrown—II Timothy 2:18

Most of us experience some of these. Does that mean we never had ‘saving faith’? There is no ‘saving faith’ as is supposed by some. There is only biblical faith and because of our human failings it can, at various times in our lives, be described as above and more. If I have ‘saving faith’ then who cares if it grows? And should we kick out all the ‘nominal brethren’ who obviously do not have ‘saving faith’ because their faith is weak?

Grace saves us through the avenue of faith per Ephesians 2:8. It is necessary for salvation, just like breathing is necessary to keep on living. Continuing this analogy, some of us are shallow breathers, some of us are deep breathers, some of us have difficulty breathing and others do not. Does this mean that those having difficulty breathing or are shallow breathers are not living? No. It means they need our help, just like the weak brothers whose faith is lacking. But should someone’s breathing be overthrown or made void, what does that mean? Will they continue to breathe and live? Sadly, no and faith is the same. A believer whose faith is strong, like a strong breather, can have that faith weaken and be made of no effect, as also may be the case for their capacity to breathe.

I fear what ‘saving faith’ and all its derivative teachings could do to some who are not as strong in the faith. Like God’s Word, everyone is a piece of His craftsmanship and for a Christian, is a new creation in Him, a work of God. Implying that a new or struggling Christian, by default both may be considered lacking or weak in faith, defaces God’s art and could overthrow what little faith that believer has, an individual that God put his best into and gave his all to create (Jesus). Would it be better for you to hang a millstone around your neck or to teach one of His ‘little ones’ such things and cause them to stumble? Think hard before answering.

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Kyle Stephens Written by:


  1. First Last
    May 21, 2010

    You seem to be arguing with Jesus, who declared…Luke 7 – 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among [8] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

  2. Kyle
    May 21, 2010

    @First Last How so? I never implied anywhere in the article that Jesus does not have the power to forgive sin. I did, however, make the point that, as a concept, ‘saving faith’ is not what the Bible teaches. Does faith save? Yes, and I referred to Ephesians 2:8. Do some depart from the faith? Yes, and I referenced many New Testament passages to prove that. I was taking exception to ‘saving faith’ adherents who would argue that those who ‘depart’ were never actually ‘in’, i.e., they never had ‘saving faith’. But to say they ‘departed’, by definition, means that they had been ‘in’. To ‘depart’ from my house means that I must first be ‘in’ my house. For Adam to be driven from the garden he had to be in the garden to begin with.

    I’ll be happy to discuss Luke 7 if you can please elaborate on how I am arguing with Jesus. Thanks.

  3. First Last
    May 23, 2010

    In your piece, you said, “There is no ‘saving faith’…”However, Jesus acknowledges the ‘saving faith’ of the woman who wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment, when HE said, “Your faith has saved you” See Luke 7:50

  4. Kyle
    May 23, 2010

    @First Last That is true, but this passage in no way demonstrates what is today commonly referred to as ‘saving faith’, which is a quasi-mystical thing that God gives the elect once they have heard the word. My point is that faith is not something God puts in us (per ‘saving faith’), faith is something we put in God.
    At that moment in Luke 7 the woman was saved because she had faith in Jesus. Speaking purely hypothetically, what would be her fate if she, later on in life, converted to the worship of Isis? Could you then say she had faith? Could you then say she was saved while being a part of a demonic cult? ‘Saving faith’ says that this scenario is impossible, yet countless christians have backslid in the past and one of God’s people abandoning his worship is certainly nothing new (Solomon).
    At this time the woman chose to have faith in Jesus. What if she later chose Isis?

  5. First Last
    May 23, 2010

    I think I now understand what you are concerned about.Is your concern also directed at yourself?
    Are you concerned that your own faith is not a ‘saving faith’?
    Does your own faith in God give you no assurance of your own salvation? Are you, yourself subject to abandon Him some day?
    Do you see yourself as “saved for eternity” or are you waiting to find out some day in the future if you actually are saved or not?

  6. May 24, 2010

    @First LastJust a few thoughts…

    Paul exhorted the believers in Corinth with these words: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5). What do you understand “disqualified” to mean? I take Paul to be saying that those presently qualified for the inheritance of heaven (Col. 1:12) are capable of disqualifying themselves, thus losing that inheritance. Paul acknowledged that he himself was subject to the possibility of being disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27).

    There can be no question that the Scriptures teach a Christian can have assurance that he is heavenbound (2 Cor. 5:1; 1 John 5:13). Such present assurance, however, does not negate the possibility that through future disobedience he could throw that hope (and his faith even) away (1 Tim. 1:19-20; 4:1; Heb. 3:12). The Christian must regularly examine and test himself (per 2 Cor. 13:5) to keep himself on the right track, yea, to “keep [himself] in the love of God” (Jude 21).

    If the doctrine of “saving faith” were true, why would such self-examination be necessary? Why would Paul be talking about being disqualified?

  7. First Last
    May 24, 2010

    John and Kyle,I hear and understand your arguments against the doctrine of ‘saving faith’.
    But – I am wondering… what are you offering as an alternative?
    If you do not have a ‘saving faith’ – what DO you have?

    Are you saved now? Are you confident of your salvation? On what basis? If you are saved now – what is it that will keep you saved? – your own efforts?
    Does your faith in Christ give you no permanent assurance of salvation?
    Is the indwelling Holy Spirit not a guarantee of your inheritance?
    Is your faith such that you are likely to abandon Him some day?
    Are you waiting to find out some day in the future if you actually are saved or not?
    Do you question your salvation each day of your life?

  8. May 25, 2010

    @First LastI appreciate your interest in this site. As a courtesy to the contributors who have responded so far, I would ask that you state your own position on this doctrine. Kyle and John have both presented their point of view and supplied evidence from the scriptures. While you may be unconvinced, they deserve to hear your side of the discussion with accompanying scriptures. Further, I also think it courteous that you submit your name as all other users have on the site. While I respect one’s desire to remain anonymous, there is no reason why you remain so in a friendly discussion about essential doctrinal issues.


  9. Kyle
    May 25, 2010

    @First Last I am glad you understand my point and am further heartened by your concern for me. To your questions please consider:
    2Co 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
    1Co 9:24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

    The Bible teaches us to guard ourselves and these are only two of the verses that expressly warns us to ‘stay on our toes’. It also teaches us that if we continually use God’s Word as our only measure we have no need to fear the judgment (cf. Romans 15:4; I John 5:entire chapter). Therefore, we can know and be comforted by the fact that our lives eternally are ‘hidden in Christ’. I do not fear for my soul due to what I know from the scriptures and that is biblical faith (Romans 10:17).
    Speaking solely for myself, I am confident that I am saved now and I base this assurance on the Bible. To safeguard this, as much as depends on me, I must daily ‘work out my own salvation with fear and trembling’ (Php. 2:12) and strive to ‘keep [myself] in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life’ (Jude v.21).
    Since I do not fear that I will turn away from Christ I trust that I am permanently assured salvation, so I do not question my salvation at all, much less every day. I was fully immersed and I know that my sins are washed away and have received the indwelling Spirit of God. Because the Bible tells me these things I need not guess or ever fear otherwise.
    What I do fear are “certain people [who] have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). Additionally, and even moreso, I am afraid for “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14). ‘Saving faith’, as we have discussed, poses the gravest danger to newborn and struggling members of the Lord’s body. It has and, I am afraid, will continue to lead some Christians to ultimate destruction. These wayward brothers and sisters lack deep roots and are easily pulled back into licentious lifestyles and abandon the faith.
    I do not fear for myself, but for the “ignorant and unstable [who] twist [the Scriptures] to their own destruction” (2Pe 3:16).
    To answer one last question you posed: I am not offering anything as an alternative to the erroneous doctrine labelled ‘saving faith’. The Bible, however, does just that. As with any other false teaching, it is only the sound doctrine in God’s Word that may serve as the alternative.
    God Bless!

  10. First Last
    May 28, 2010

    Thank you for sharing so personally. I’m right there with you, brother, only I place more confidence in Jesus’ ability to keep and safeguard me, than in my own ability to, as you said, “keep [myself] in the love of God”
    [ John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. ]

    I am sorry that the term ‘saving faith’ has taken on such a negative connotation for you. I have always thought of the term ‘saving faith’ as being a reference to that true and genuine faith in Jesus Christ that:

    (1) – Makes one right with God (imputed righteousness)

    [Romans 3:21-25 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.]

    (2) Reconciles one to God

    [Romans 5:10-11 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.]

    (3) Puts one at peace with God

    [Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ]

    …and much more…

    May The Lord Bless You and Keep You

  11. Kyle
    June 3, 2010

    @First Last Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate the scriptural references and your sincerity.
    Nevertheless, I respectfully must say that I take exception to your statement “only I place more confidence in Jesus’ ability to keep and safeguard me”. I think you and I, though we will agree on what the scriptures say, have a different perspective on what these passages are actually teaching. I do not think that in itself is bad as long as you and I both can agree that the Bible is the only authoritative Word (cf. II Timothy 3:16-7). As sincere, well-meaning people we should be able to delve into the Bible and figure these things if we have ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’ like the devout Berean Jews of antiquity.
    As to Jude :21, I wholly believe that is our responsibility to ‘keep’ ourselves, just like it is our responsibility to ‘build [ourselves] up’ in the verse before. Now these two verses tell us two things which I will reiterate: 1) vs.20 tells us to build ourselves up and 2) vs.21 admonishes us to keep ourselves in the love of God. These two things are our responsibilities for our own persons. Yet, there are passages that comfort us with the knowledge that our Lord does these things too. You mentioned John 10:28, which I will say something about later, but it is just one that tells us of Jesus’ great care and shepherding of us. Just staying in the writings of John one finds beautiful references to us being ‘kept’. Remember in John 17 when Jesus prays that wonderful prayer? One thing he asks of the Father is to (11) “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (12) While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction”. (see also II Timothy 1:12)

    It seems to me that we have a share in our ‘keeping’ as well as God. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (emphasis mine). I think you and I would agree that there are things God wants us to do and there are things He most definitely does not want us to do. Whether for good or bad, there is a lot of ‘doing’ when it comes to living on this earth and even more so if we ‘lose’ this life for His sake and follow Him. My warning in the article was essentially not to use our liberty in Christ as a license to sin, because we can depart from the faith. Our contributor Tad wrote a piece called Eternal Security which I fully endorse and would encourage you to review what he wrote if you have not read it recently.

    On this, consider your reference in John 10. In verse 28 Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”. Like you I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. No one can snatch us from His mighty hand. Praise Him!

    But can we jump from His hand?

    Yes—and I refer you back to my article and comments for proof of that. I believe, and the Bible bears this out, that we must do our part to stay in His hand. As further biblical evidence I remind you of what I have previously written and the following for your consideration: II Timothy 4: 7-8, Hebrews 10: 36, I John 2: 3-5 and Revelation 2:10. There are so many more which emphasize the necessary role we play in ‘saving ourselves’ per Peter’s directive in Acts 2: 40.

    But especially review this passage: Col 1:21-23 “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, (22) he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, (23) if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (emphasis mine) Again, it is stressed that we must do our part.

    If I am drowning in a stormy sea but do not lay hold of the life-vest that is tossed to me can I blame anyone other than myself if I die at sea? Can I reasonably complain if in order to be saved I had to swim a little way to reach it?

    I do not think it is any different with salvation (again see Acts 2:40). Jesus is our life-vest. In order to be saved we must, as Paul told Timothy, “Take hold of the eternal life” (I Timothy 6:12). So the Bible tells me that the Lord saves us and keeps us. He is The Good Shepherd after all. But I must be a good sheep and follow his voice when he calls.

    ‘Saving faith’, as it is taught and believed, denies the possibility of ‘falling away’ or becoming ‘disqualified’, etc. So how does He ‘call’ us and ‘keep’ us? John 16:1 is very telling because it touches on both concepts we are presently considering which I will italicize: “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.” Through His Word, and our observance of it, we are kept from falling away. This is how He keeps us. We keep ourselves by keeping His Word (2Jn 1:9 “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son”). It is logical to assume that it is indeed possible to ‘fall away’ if we do not stick to it. Sadly, I have seen brothers and sisters depart. Will He keep anyone who no longer wants to be kept? No. How can you save someone from themselves? We must first and perpetually desire His salvation.

    God Bless!

  12. June 3, 2010

    @KyleI would add Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” This verse shows us the very duality about which Kyle spoke. We must hold fast our hope without wavering. Wavering would include all of the warnings which Kyle has highlighted throughout this exchange. The hope we have in Jesus Christ is not wishful thinking like we use it today (e.g. “I hope it doesn’t rain.”) Rather, this hope is a “favorable and confident expectation”. When we do not waver, we can be supremely confident in the Lord, “for He who promised is faithful.”

  13. FirstLast
    June 4, 2010

    My dear friends.
    Do you not sing,
    “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and [HIS] righteousness”?
    “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name”?

    Your comments in this exchange do not match the firm confidence in Jesus expressed in the words of this hymn.

    With all due respect, …what one must lay hold of and hold fast to is a saving faith in Jesus. Why would anyone who fully trusts in Christ ever “jump out of His hand?

    What do you have that was not given to you?
    Will you boast before God of your faithfulness?
    Boast not in yourself – boast in the Lord who saves you!

    1 Cor 1:26-31
    For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

    Gal 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

    Eph 2:8b-9 …this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    Romans 3:27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.
    By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

  14. Joshua
    June 5, 2010

    @FirstLastI noticed in the good verses you brought out that you were missing a key part to one of the verses especially. As you recall, Ephesians 2:8 states in its entirety, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”.

    The unfortunate thing about this false idea that Kyle has us considering is that both saving and faith are scriptural ideas. “For by grace you have been saved.” Without the grace of God there is no salvation. I Thessalonians 5:24 tells us that God is faithful, and will save us. Therefore, we can rest fully on that hope in Christ Jesus. Having our hope built on Nothing less that Jesus blood and righteousness. Our hope is not built on ourselves, but rather fully on the grace of God. Knowing this, that we cannot save ourselves.

    However, notice the very next words in Ephesians 2:8, “through faith.” What happens if I don’t believe in the ability of God to save me? What happens if I act in such a way that God sees we do not believe in Him, nor trust His way as the only way? If we believe in God. If we rest our hope on His ability to save us, we naturally would follow Him correct? As you rightly point out, “would anyone who fully trusts in Jesus ever jump out of His hand.”

    And yet, Paul was concerned for men straying from the faith (II Timothy 2:18), Peter was concerned about men conforming to their former lusts (I Peter 1:14), the writer of Hebrews knew how difficult it would be to return if one did fall away, indicating this was a certain possibility (Hebrews 6:4-6). While we would think that it should be once one has tasted that God is good, they would seek no other well to drink from, the apostles and prophets never closed the door on the possibility that man could fall away. Therefore, Hebrews 2:1 states, “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”

    Recognizing God’s power to save, and coupling that with a realization that God has provided us with free will. We choose to accept Him or reject Him, even choosing to reject Him after we had chose to accept Him. The choice is ours. Do we choose to follow Jesus will, and rest on the hope that He will save us? The false idea of “saving faith” takes the scriptural truths of salvation and its necessary faith, and removes from the the choice we have to decide whether we want to serve God or not.

  15. June 5, 2010

    I endorse what Joshua has just stated and join you both in the query why, “would anyone who fully trusts in Jesus ever jump out of His hand?” Indeed, it makes no sense, yet as Joshua rightly points out this was a possibility thus the insistent warnings of NT apostle and prophet alike. I won’t reiterate the overwhelming amount of evidence which supports this assertion. I would be interested in hearing your case against it. So far as I can see, the only verse which you have cited is John 10:28. What other verses directly contradict what we have stated, that faith can erode to the loss of one’s salvation? I would also value your commentary on the meaning of those citations so that we can understand your point of view.
    Admittedly “First Last”, I am a little confused by where you stand. In your previous entry, you state, “With all due respect, …what one must lay hold of and hold fast to is a saving faith in Jesus.” Agreed. What I wonder is what do you mean by “one must lay hold of”? This entire exchange is predicated on the assertion that saving faith, as it is widely taught and understood, is, “something that the predestined to election receive upon hearing the word. They are zapped by God with saving faith and will then never lose their salvation.” (emphasis mine) In other words, faith is a gift which God places in you because you are unable to place it in Him. That is the doctrine of saving faith. Yet your statement implies that we are active participants, that we must lay hold of saving faith in order to be saved. If this is what you believe, on what do we disagree? No one disputes that faith is essential to salvation. The point of view expressed here is that we place our faith in God and remain steadfast for there are clear warnings against unfaithfulness. If we hold fast this hope without wavering, He who promised is faithful. If that is not what Hebrews 10:23 means, then what does it teach us?

    I think it worth your while to interpret John 10:28 in light of what Jesus teaches in the opening verses of chapter 15. If the branches represent disciples, why are some “taken away…cast into the fire to be burned”? Because they are unfruitful. Why are they unfruitful? Because they do not abide in the vine. How does one abide in the vine? By keeping the commandments of Jesus and loving the brethren, two things which Jesus exemplified in His own ministry by obeying His Father and laying His life down for His friends. Whose fault is it if they fail to keep the commandments of Jesus or love their brethren? Surely it cannot be Jesus’ fault! If faith cannot fail, then why does Jesus warn His disciples about its failure in disobedience and failing to love the brethren?

    Finally, after reading through all of this exchange, I am wondering where we have boasted about our own self worth? It seems to me that a Christian who sincerely examines themselves by the mirror of God’s word has no reason to boast. Nor do I see in any of the aforementioned entries of Kyle, John, Joshua or I any expressed desire to establish our own righteousness. We simply want to follow the commands of Christ, His apostles and prophets. By doing this is God made our debtor? May it never be! We just want to be obedient children and please our Abba, Father. What child does not want to please their father?

    As this site’s administrator, I think you owe it to Kyle, the contributors to this thread and site, and the visitors to our site to present your case and support it with scripture. Tell us what you think the scripture teaches, not what you think we’re saying and what that means. Come, let us reason together. I appreciate your contribution to this end.

  16. David Neil
    July 12, 2011

    I think it’s important to remember that our Lord Jesus came to save his people from their sins (note: – not to provide potential salvation, but to save) and that is exactly what he did.
    Hebrews chapters 6 and 10 are frequently misunderstood but a little background should go a long way. Hebrews was written to Jews, who were conversant with the Law of Moses. They were now to go on from animal sacrifices, to believe in Jesus Christ and his final sacrifice. Some professed to do this but, if they rebel and return to Old Testament practices, they show that they are not genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ at all (cf. Hebrew 6:1-8 and contrast that with verse 9, where the author says he is “…persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.”).

    Ephesians 2:8-10 shows clearly that faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from God, not something that we can generate.

    Man, in his unregenerate state, will always reject God in his heart (although he may make a profession of faith in Christ) because he will not receive the things of the Spirit of God – 1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.

    God has ordained, in advance, those who will believe in Jesus Christ – Acts 13:48 “…as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”; verse 46 also shows us man’s accountability before God for rejecting the Gospel.

    It is an easy way out to say that people who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, who then return fully to the world, have lost their salvation. The Bible is very clear that such people have never been saved. Remember that the Lord Jesus Christ himself said – Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    Note that our Lord does not say that he once knew them, then they backslid, he says that he NEVER knew them.

    This is eternal life – John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
    3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    This matter should not need to be debated – God is sovereign in salvation, just as in everything else, any other “faith” is unbelief in sheep’s clothing.

  17. Kyle
    July 12, 2011

    @David NeilHi David, thanks for joining the discussion. I agree with some of what you wrote, but take exception to a few critical points:

    1) I think the ‘gift’ given by God in Eph. 2:8 is salvation, not faith. I addressed this at length in the article and responses to other queries. We put faith in God.
    2) In I Cor. 2, the ‘natural man’ spoken of are nonchristians–those who have not received the Spirit. Otherwise, christians would never be able to know the will of God. In this context, christians are ‘spiritual’. You would also have to assert that christians ‘receive not the things of the Spirit of God’. That would be tough to argue. The world, however, does actively reject God, being ‘natural’. In Romans 8, the same author would say ‘carnal’.
    3) Acts 13:48 does indeed say that those who believe are ordained/appointed to eternal life. I wholly believe this. Many times we are told in the NT that faith/belief in Christ is essential. However, I think you’re hinting at is predestination in the Calvinist sense (there are several articles in this site adressing that). But believing in predestination contradicts the universal invitation, open to all, and makes God choose us, rather than giving us the opprotunity to choose Him–‘turn to Me and choose life’, ‘whoever thirsts may come’, etc.
    4) I agree that Matt. 7 warns that hypocrites and any professed believers with false motives stand condemned in the eyes of Christ. My article does not address these people.
    5) As to your last statement, I could not disagree more: I think all topics in Bible should be studied and discussed, especially regarding those brothers and sisters who are weak in the faith and in danger of falling. We all need to share one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1). Unfortunately, life happens and it sometimes comes down hard on those of the church who are the least prepared spiritually and their faith may be shipwrecked. It is incumbent on stronger brothers and sisters to help them through such times.

  18. David Neil
    July 12, 2011

    Hi Kyle,
    I hope you don’t mind if I respond to your points.

    1) I don’t know NT Greek, so I can’t vouch for the truth of this but I’ve read that the Greek grammar in Eph. 2:8 implies that it is the whole of the first clause i.e. “For by grace are ye saved, through faith…” that is not of ourselves, rather than grace and salvation being of God, which, of course, they are and faith not being from God but from us.

    2) I completely agree that the “natural man” spoken of in 1 Cor. 2:14 refers to non-Christians – and that was the point that I was making i.e. since the natural man will not receive the things of the Spirit of God, God has to make him a new creation before he will trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

    3) I did not intend to hint at predestination because Acts 13:48, among many other passages, states it quite clearly. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” There is also no such thing as a “universal invitation”. The invitations to come to Christ always have limiters, whether it be “thirsting” or having been ordained to eternal life or feeling the burden of sin, etc.. The point is that they never refer to everyone without exception.

    4) The point I was trying to make, with Matthew 7:22 and 23, was that those who go back to their previous, worldly ways, having professed Christ, were not born again but I agree that those verses, taken on their own, don’t prove that, because the Lord could have been referring to a subset of lost, professing Christians. This is more all-encompassing – 1 John 3:6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. So, whoever sins (habitually) has neither seen, nor known the Lord (and it is eternal life to know him, not just know about him); therefore, anyone who has professed faith in Jesus Christ but now lives in habitual sin, has never seen (spiritually) nor known him and, consequently has not been born again.

    5) I did not mean that study and discussion are out of place. What I was referring to, is the fact that Jesus came to save his people from their sins Matthew 1:21 “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” and again John 6:39 “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”

    These verses (and many other places) are very clear: –

    A) Jesus came to save his people from their sins. (not to try to save everyone)
    B) God the Father has given certain ones to Christ, of those he will lose none but will raise them up at the last day.

    These two things would be impossible, if salvation depended on fallen man’s will and these truths are so basic that it’s hard to see how someone could be born again, if he genuinely believes, in his heart of hearts, that the reason why he is saved and someone else, who has also heard the Gospel, is not, is that he somehow rustled up faith in Christ and the other did not.

    I have to ask you to consider this: – do you, when you’re on your knees, alone in prayer, thank God that you are not as other men, because, having the same spiritual ability, you made the right choice and they did not? Or,do you thank God for having mercy on such a sinful, helpless wretch and for giving you repentance from sin and faith in him?

    I’m not asking for an answer to that last question, it’s just something for you to think about.

  19. Kyle
    July 13, 2011

    @David Neil1) That seems right, David, in Eph. 2:8; the gift is salvation, which God offers by Grace–we receive this gift (salvation) when our faith is in Him.

    2) I wholly agree with what you’re saying here concerning I Cor. 2. ‘It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps’.

    3) I understand what you mean by ‘limiters’ or conditions. My point is that God does not decide who thirsts and who doesn’t. ‘God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ If it is not God’s will that men reject Him, why do they? Their own free will and by their own choice–NOT God’s. If God decides willy-nilly who puts faith in Him than He and/or Peter is a liar, because that would be exactly what He was doing–willing some to perish (meaning they have no choice). Also, John 3:16 would be meaningless. It would mean not that God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only son, but He only so loved those He had already selected. Anyone can ask, seek, knock–it is up to them, not God.

    4) Because this is such a danger, as Jn. 3:6, we who are spiritual must help our weaker brethren so that they do not backslide into their old, carnal habits and fall away. Since this is essentially what my entire article is about, I’ll not rehash my arguments, but stand by what I wrote therein.

    5)A: If Jesus did not die for everyone, then why does it matter that ‘God so loved the WORLD’ (Jn. 3:6)? Wouldn’t it have been more accurate to say that ‘God so loved a few’? Again, if God is not willing that any should perish, why will any perish (2 Pt. 3:9)? If He indeed loves us all, why wouldn’t He just choose all of us? God did not destroy Korah and his followers because God had chosen to–Korah was destroyed because he CHOSE to reject God’s servant,Moses. Overwhelmingly, the scripture puts the onus on us to choose. Joshua 24:17 says “CHOOSE FOR YOURSELVES this day whom you shall serve…” It is always our choice to serve God or not. God does not make this decision for us and we make this choice day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, choice by choice. We too often fail, but, thanks be to God, ‘we have and Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the rigtheous.” (I Jn. 2:1)
    B) I discuss this indirectly in the article above. True, none shall fall from His hand, but I make the point that we can choose to jump.

    I thank God that He gave Jesus, His only begotten Son, to save me from the condemnation I so deserve. I also pray that others will make the same choice I did and ask God to strengthen me so that I may boldly proclaim to them that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone.

    God bless

  20. July 13, 2011

    @David Neil I would like to buttress one of Kyle’s points if I may. If the invitation is limited to those whom God has chosen, then one must conclude that the sacrifice which makes the invitation possible must also be limited. Yet as Kyle points out, scripture unambiguously teaches that Christ’s sacrifice was for the whole of mankind. To his citations I would add 1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” The sacrifice is universal in scope, therefore I conclude the invitation is as well. The invitation is not limited by an arbitrary election by God but by the condition of the soil which receives the seed.

  21. Kyle
    July 13, 2011

    @WadeGreat scripture reference, Wade. It perfectly and unambiguously points out the fact that God’s desire is for everyone. Jesus’ soil analogy from ‘The Sower’ is very apt in expressing this, as you point out. God does not determine which soil we are–we do. And, like soil, we can prepare ourselves to receive the seed. Thanks

  22. David Neil
    July 13, 2011

    Words like “all”, “world” and “whole” are, not only sometimes but usually, limited in scope, in the Bible (and often in everyday speech). This may be hard to accept, so let me give several examples: –
    Acts 2:17 I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. – I’m sure that we can agree that this does not include all flesh literally (not all people who had ever lived, not even all people alive at the time). So what does it mean? It means all kinds of people, not all people without exception.

    John 3:26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. – Again, this does not mean everyone without exception, it means large numbers of people and of all different kinds.

    John 6:33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. – If this meant everyone without exception, then everyone would be saved. Clearly “the world” here means those people who would come to trust in him.

    There are many, many more examples of this; I repeat, universal terms are normally reduced in scope and we do this so naturally that we don’t even think about it.

    We must obtain our doctrine of the atonement from words that describe it, words like “redemption”, “reconciliation” and “propitiation”, not from the general terms used of those who benefit from it.

    Our Lord redeemed his people from sin, reconciled us with God and propitiated his wrath. These things are all (without exception this time!) described as having been done, they are not merely potential.

    The “soil analogy” is very apposite because it does precisely nothing by itself, it relies entirely upon people, animals, bacteria, rain and especially God and cannot do a single thing to produce life or fruit, of itself.

  23. David Neil
    July 13, 2011

    I think one of the problems people have, with God’s sovereignty in salvation, is that they confuse accountability with ability. Some seem to suppose that, because we are accountable to repent from sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, this means that we can make ourselves willing to do it. The problem with this is that our will is not free, it is fettered by sin. We can only will to do what is according to our nature. God is also “bound” in this way – he cannot lie because that would be contrary to his nature. An unregenerate man will only act, speak and desire according to his nature. He is at war with God, he hates God, the thoughts of his heart are only evil continually. There is nothing in him which desires God or his ways. It is true that unsaved people are not as bad as they could be but they all hate God and his people. John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

    Praise God that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, it is not from us and not completed by us. He who has begun a good work in us will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Finally – John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Amen.

  24. David Neil
    July 14, 2011

    Regarding 2 Peter 3:9, it is vital to look at the context, this usually clears up misunderstandings.
    2 Peter 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
    9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    Peter is speaking to the “beloved”, i.e. the elect, and is long-suffering to “us-ward”, i.e. towards us – the elect, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. The context does not suddenly and without warning switch from the elect, to everyone without exception. God is not willing that any of his elect should perish but that all of us should come to repentance and this is exactly what happens!

    I really need to leave it at that, there is no point in having to clear up every misunderstood scripture and I have given enough for any reasonable Christian to take before the Lord, for him to give understanding.

  25. July 15, 2011

    @David Neil I call into question your application of “understood or implied reduction in scope” (my words). There are instances where this occurs (such as John 3:26). However, what if one applied that principle to the scripture I previously cited, 1 John 2:2? John limits his scope by the first statement, “And he is the propitiation for our sins,” meaning the sins of Christians (or the elect). He then expands the scope with the second statement, “and not for ours only (the elect), but also for the sins of the whole world.” The “whole world” cannot refer to the elect from among “all kinds of men.” Such an interpretation creates a tautology since the elect of all nationalities fall under the first clause. Throughout this epistle the Holy Spirit through John distinguishes two classes of people — Christians and the world. In the KJV of 1 John “world” occurs in 17 verses and 23 instances. In each it represents what is either temporal or carnal. The simplest, contextual explanation is that Christ’s sacrifice removes God’s wrath from the present elect as well as any who will abandon the world’s ways in the future by obeying the gospel through faith in Jesus Christ.
    Consider this: subscribers to the doctrine of original sin and its handmaiden total depravity point to Romans 5:12ff to support their doctrine. In verse 18 Paul says, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Total depravity’s adherents point to the first clause and declare, “See, all of mankind has inherited the taint of Adam’s sin.” However, total depravity interprets the second clause as, “The free gift is not offered to all of mankind, just the elect from among all kinds of men.” I am familiar with total depravity’s interpretation of Romans 5, so please do not feel compelled to rehearse it. I do not misunderstand, I respectfully disagree. When I apply your suggested hermeneutic to Romans 5:18 or 1 John 2:2, it yields an incongruous interpretation.

    I agree with you on 2 Peter 3:9: let’s broaden the context. Retreating to verse 3 I note the appearance of scoffers in the last days, skeptics who will question the veracity of inspired text. Peter urges Christians to be patient and to recognize the vast differences between our perceptions and the Lord’s. Christians should not regard the Lord’s tarrying as loitering or lateness – this is the error of the scoffer. Instead the Lord deliberately waits; He is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” There are two groups mentioned in verse 9: the Christian and the scoffer. If the Christian’s salvation is irrevocably secured by God’s sovereign election, why is He waiting for the elect to repent? Repentance in that scenario is a moot point. God is longsuffering toward the sinner (or scoffer in this case) desiring his/her repentance. Ezekiel 33:11, “Say unto them, ‘As I live,’ saith the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?’”

    Why does God command “all men every where to repent” if repentance is beyond man’s capability? How can a just God demand something which is beyond an unregenerate man’s capabilities? How can God hold an unregenerate man accountable if indeed he is powerless to pursue righteousness? The answer previously suggested is that Acts 17:30 represents all kinds of men in all kinds of places. Yet this is undoubtedly a universal judgment which awaits: God will, “judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.” Contextually, all men everywhere is synonymous with the world, therefore the world is commanded to repent. And if God commands the world to repent, it is His will that the world do so; He is, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
    This is corroborated by 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” The article which prompted this thread questions a doctrine that teaches faith’s creation by an imposition of God’s Spirit, not a persuasion to believe. If we have no free will then why does one need to be persuaded of the judgment to come (i.e. to induce one by words to believe)? The need to persuade men implies the existence of a free will. The existence of a free will implies the capacity to choose. And the capacity to choose means we are accountable for those choices.

    Did Jesus die for the sins of the world, or the sins of the elect? Did God love the world or did He love the elect? Has the grace of God that brings salvation appeared to all men or only to the elect? Can everyone who calls on the name of the Lord be saved or can only the elect call on the name of the Lord? Can whosoever will take of the water of life freely or can only the elect drink? Are these spiritually idiomatic expressions discernible only by the elect? Or are they the loving, universally understood invitations of a God who desires the wicked to repent and does not delight in their death?

  26. David Neil
    July 15, 2011

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
    In 1 John 2:2 – And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. – John says that Jesus is the propitiation, not only for the sins of the group to whom he is writing, presumably either Jewish believers, a particular church, or believers in a particular region (this information has not been supplied, so we cannot tell) and then widening that to every region and/or every cultural background. He cannot be the propitiation for ever single person because then every single person would have had God’s anger turned away from him and would go to heaven. The Bible nowhere says that the propitiation the Lord Jesus accomplished was merely potential.

    You say, “The simplest, contextual explanation is that Christ’s sacrifice removes God’s wrath from the present elect as well as any who will abandon the world’s ways in the future by obeying the gospel through faith in Jesus Christ.” and I agree with this statement, especially in the light of Acts 13:48 “…as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

    Regarding 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”, you asked, “If the Christian’s salvation is irrevocably secured by God’s sovereign election, why is He waiting for the elect to repent?”. The answer is that God has not only ordained the ends, he has also ordained the means and the times. It is not that the elect will repent and believe, no matter what; it is more that they will repent and believe in the way and time that God has ordained. If God judged the earth and all its inhabitants too early, then some of his elect would not even have been born yet and others would still be in their sins.

    You asked, “Why does God command “all men every where to repent” if repentance is beyond man’s capability? How can a just God demand something which is beyond an unregenerate man’s capabilities?”, and this is a sensible question. The answer is that God commands us to do things that we ought to do and that we ought to be able to do. The fact that the unregenerate will not do this, is because of their sin and rebellion against God, not because God took the ability from them.

    Again you asked, “The article which prompted this thread questions a doctrine that teaches faith’s creation by an imposition of God’s Spirit, not a persuasion to believe. If we have no free will then why does one need to be persuaded of the judgment to come (i.e. to induce one by words to believe)?”. Again a reasonable question, and the answer to this is again that God uses means to his ends. He uses the preaching of the Gospel to save people, when he accompanies it with his power. 1 Thessalonians 1:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
    5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

    Some have even been saved, whilst mockingly preaching the Gospel, to ridicule real preachers. Holy Spirit conviction has come upon them, through the message they were deriding and they have been brought to repentance and faith, much to the amazement of the ungodly people they were entertaining.

    The other main reason, for using persuasion, is akin to one of the reasons for the giving of the Law of Moses, in the Old Covenant: it is to show that sin is exceedingly sinful and, just as law cannot save anyone, because of man’s sinful inability to keep it, so Gospel persuasion cannot save anyone, for the same reason, unless God accompanies it with his saving power.

    Finally you asked a series of related questions, “Did Jesus die for the sins of the world, or the sins of the elect? Did God love the world or did He love the elect? Has the grace of God that brings salvation appeared to all men or only to the elect? Can everyone who calls on the name of the Lord be saved or can only the elect call on the name of the Lord? Can whosoever will take of the water of life freely or can only the elect drink?”. I would answer that yes, whosoever will can take of the water of life freely, yes, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, yes, the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, yes, God loves the whole world (in the sense that he gives us sunshine, rain, air to breathe, etc) but that his saving love is reserved for those who repent and believe and only his elect are willing to do that. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world in at least two ways: firstly because he draws his elect from every race, tribe and tongue and secondly because the new heavens and the new earth will contain only his elect, who will therefore be the whole world.

    I also agree that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked and wants him to repent but God knows that he won’t; so, rather than send everyone to hell (which he could have done justly) he has chosen to save some (to show his love and mercy) and is willing to show his wrath and justice towards others, whilst making it plain that they go hell because of their wickedness and unwillingness to repent (their inability to repent is due to their unwillingness) – Romans 9:22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
    23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.

  27. Kyle
    July 18, 2011

    @David NeilOne small point: Christians are a new creation in Him. However, you seem to indicate that God ‘recreates’ us prior to us trusting Him. I think the reverse is true–we put our hope and faith in Him, then He makes us new.

  28. July 18, 2011

    @David Neil You suggest that the pronoun “our” in 1 John 2:2 refers only to John’s immediate audience. Does only John’s immediate audience have an advocate with the Father (2:1)? Would only those in John’s immediate audience know Jesus by keeping His commandments (2:3)? Was only John’s immediate audience capable of knowing they were in Him by keeping his word (2:5)?

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