Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Question of Eternal Security

The endeavor of this particular Post is to address the erroneous teaching of “falling away” or “conditional salvation.” There is no possibility to make light of this doctrine. Either eternal security is correct and falling away is heresy, or falling away is correct and eternal security is heresy. This is a matter of the position of our salvation in Christ, and nothing short of a detailed, thorough examination of Scripture will suffice to find an answer. It is the Bible we seek our counsel from, and to that end we shall labor to avoid personal attacks. Having said this, let us press forward and see what we can learn concerning the doctrine of “falling away.” I hope to fully address the issue to the satisfaction of the reader.

We will attempt to define the idea of “conditional salvation.” To define this doctrine let us learn what “conditional salvation” implies. According to Oxford, the definition for ‘condition’ is, “1: the state of something or someone, with regard to appearance, fitness, or working order. 2: the circumstances affecting something. 3: a situation that must exist before something else is possible.” With this in mind we may deduce several logical statements regarding conditional salvation. #1: Salvation is not entirely of the Lord as Scripture states, but man has a hand in it; there is a condition that must be met, so to speak. #2: Man’s will apparently affects whether or not a believer remains in Christ or is removed from Him. The result is exalting human will above the preserving power of our Savior. The result being, we shift the focus from God’s glory to our actions. #3: “Eternal,” “Everlasting,” and similar terminology become moot; a Christian who believes in conditional salvation is presently (that is on this earth) not saved from anything. I would argue that salvation’s retention is eternal, because the quality of the salvation reflects the nature of the One who gives it to us. “Surely [the righteous] will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance,” Psalm 112:6.

Conditional salvation was the very heart and soul of the law. “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord,” Leviticus 18:5. Conditional salvation was also temporal; obedience or disobedience resulted in preservation of physical life or loss thereof. The law received at Mount Sinai was conditional salvation. God promised blessing for obedience, and punishment for disobedience; in other words, the blessing or cursing was dependent on the state of the Jews’ obedience to divine authority. “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people….Then [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you (note the word ‘you’) according to all these words,” Exodus 19:5, 8; 24:7-8.

It is evident that the Old Covenant made with Israel was contingent upon obedience to God’s word and will: “If you walk in my statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them…I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people,” Leviticus 26:3, 11-12. God’s blessing flowed only from the response of an obedient people, walking circumspectly in His word. Likewise, His curse flowed from the Jews turning away from Him. “But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant…I will set My face against you…I will break the pride of your power…and if by these things you are not reformed by Me (turned to Me), but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins,” Leviticus 26:14-15, 17, 19, 23-24. The reason being is that God covenanted with the nation of Israel, and the Book of the Law with its rituals and sacrifices, was the sign of their covenant. There were strict criteria to being included in the body of Israel. One had to be circumcised (Genesis 17:9-14; Exodus 12:48; Leviticus 12:3), observe the holy days (Exodus 12:14-20; Leviticus 23), sacrifice offerings to the Lord (Leviticus 1-4) and various other ceremonial, exterior regulations.

The law with its exterior rituals was the seal for the old covenant. Of the law Paul writes, “If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe…the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” Galatians 3:21-22, 24. The writer of Hebrews adds, “[God] takes away the first (the old covenant) that He may establish the second (the new covenant). By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…this Man, after He offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected forever (past tense) those who are being sanctified,” Hebrews 10:9-10, 12, 14. While there is Scripture that speaks about a believer’s former sins being wiped away (proponents of falling away using this to prove that sins committed while saved are not paid for) verses such as these address the reality that all sin (one sacrifice for sin forever; perfected forever) was dealt with by Christ at the cross.
To be Continued.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.