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Compelling Questions for Those Who Believe Salvation Can Be Lost

I want to say from the start, I am not making the case here for the doctrine of the perseverance of the believer, even though I firmly believe it to be taught throughout Scripture. In fact, I could take up all the space on your screen with both a firm biblical argument for this doctrine, and a corresponding polemic against the opposite view if I needed to. At the present time, however, I am just looking for solid answers to some genuine questions I have for the individuals who do not believe in the doctrine of the believer’s perseverance. This doctrine is sometimes referred to as eternal security or the perseverance of the saints.  I will not post any Bible verses or any of “my interpretations” whatsoever in this post – I simply want answers to a few questions.

It’s pretty crucial because if any doctrine is to be proven biblical, and therefore true, then it should be fully developed in Scripture. In other words, it shouldn’t just be one thing and nothing else. It should be the game of basketball and not just the ball or the goal. If you hold the view that a believer can lose his or her salvation, you should be able to explain the whole doctrine with all of its facets and implications. It’s not enough to just say, “You know the Bible teaches you can lose your salvation, right?” You should be able to explain how this teaching, if true, relates to every other teaching in Scripture – and that’s where my questions come in. I want to know what the implications are for some other areas in Scripture if this teaching is biblical. I also want to know how it relates to other areas of the believer’s life. These questions have to be answered clearly, with examples, and with plenty of Scripture, otherwise there can be no real case for this view. It has to be more than just the ball – it must be the whole game.

With that said, all of my questions are listed below with brief commentary. Feel free to answer these questions in the comment section, or however you wish.

  • What must a believer do in order to lose his salvation?

In other words, what must take place for the believer to lose his salvation? If this teaching is true, then believers should definitely guard themselves against doing the very thing which causes him to lose his salvation. So what must the believer do to lose his salvation, what line must he cross, or what requirement must he fulfill to no longer be a believer?

  • Can salvation be regained? If so, how?

If there are passages which mean that salvation can be lost, then equally there must be passages which speak to it being regained. I may be wrong, but if God clearly prescribes what one should do in order to be saved, and if Scripture teaches salvation can be lost, then surely it states in some way that it can be regained. If it cannot be regained, then just say so. But if it can be lost, then surely it can just as easily be regained.

  • Can a believer lose their salvation multiple times, and can they regain it multiple times?

This is banking off the previous question, but if there is a way for the apostate to gain his salvation back, then can he lose it again? And if he can lose it again, then can he regain it again? Is there an endless cycle here, a certain number of times, or no such thing at all?

  • How does a believer remain saved, so that he doesn’t lose his salvation?

This is probably the most pressing question – if salvation can be lost then what must a believer do to ensure that he doesn’t? In other words, what must a believer do to maintain his salvation so that it cannot be lost? Or is it an absolute mystery, where you cannot know whether or not you have lost your salvation?

  • Who or what decides when a believer loses his salvation?

As an extension of the previous question, is there an action or person which decides that the believer becomes an apostate? Said another way, does the believer do something which causes him to lose his salvation or does God decide that unbeknownst to him?

  • What are the mechanics of how a believer loses his salvation?

This is something I would really like to know. What actually happens when a believer loses his salvation? I have a lot of questions following this one because of how extensive the effects of the gospel are for the believer. Is the Holy Spirit withdrawn from him and is he now dead in sins again? What happens to the progress he made during his sanctification? Does God remove the righteousness of Christ from his account, and credit his sin back to him? Does he have any recollection of what his life was like when he was saved? What spiritual state is the once-a-believer in, now that he is once again unsaved? Is everything about his salvation now reversed, or is he better or worse off than he was before?

  • What did Jesus actually accomplish through the atonement at Calvary if salvation can be lost?

Did Jesus die for all sins except for the one sin which causes the believer to lose his salvation (whatever it may be)? Is the atonement temporary, or eternal? What exactly is salvation for the believer who loses it? In my view, it is by all accounts a significant wreckage if salvation can be lost if it was purchased by Christ for the believer. Wouldn’t it be a waste of Christ’s crucifixion if the believer can lose what Christ bought for him?

  • Where, specifically in Scripture does it state that a true believer can lose his or her salvation?

While all of these questions are pressing, this is probably the most significant. If salvation can be lost, there should be clear exegetical proof from Scripture as a whole. It shouldn’t be a few verses here, and a few verses there. This should be a clear message throughout all of Scripture. Additionally, there should be plenty of examples of this in the Bible – nothing occurs in Scripture without an existing personal account.

So if you hold this view that a believer can lose his salvation, then feel free to answer below or e-mail me.

From the Desk Podcast #5 with Guest Bro. Michael Chadwick

February 20, 2016

Can you be gay and Christian? Will God send me to hell if I’m gay? Can you have friends who are gay? What if I struggle with homosexuality? Get answers to these questions and more on today’s episode of the From the Desk podcast, with guest Michael Chadwick joining us today.

Missions Panel Discussion With Bro. Nicholas J. Rafael and Bro. Brandon Bramlett

Following Bro. Nicholas’ message on missions emphasis, we had a panel discussion on missions. Several questions were submitted to us that we attempted to answer on this panel, that you can listen to below:

  1. What is/are missions?
  2. Does God call all Christians to missions?
  3. How do I know if I’m called to missions?
  4. Why are missions so expensive?
  5. How can I be mission-minded?

WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION HERE:

I invite you to listen to his message that was preached that night also. You can hear it by clicking here: Missions Emphasis Message.

You’ve Got Questions: Can a Personal Testimony be Used for Evangelism, All by Itself?

A testimony  is defined as “evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.” An example would be, “his blackened finger was testimony to the fact that he had hit it with a hammer.” But in the Christian realm, what we usually mean by testimony is our personal story of conversion, how we came to faith in Christ. It is our testimony of how we came to Jesus.

Many Christians share their testimony with their coworkers, family, and friends – recounting the events that led up to their salvation, and what their life is like now because of salvation. Some Christians aren’t sure how to share their testimony, and many simply do not because of fear of rejection. With that in mind, should we even share our testimony as an evangelistic effort? If we do share our testimony for evangelistic purposes, are there certain things we should keep in mind? Can a personal testimony be used for evangelism?

I would say, yes with certain qualifiers. A genuine salvation testimony will have in it the essential components of the gospel message. If it is a true conversion story, it will tell how conversion takes place. That is, how the gospel transforms sinners. It should include those basic elements of the gospel: realization of the need for Jesus, repentance from sin, and receiving Jesus as your Savior. For example, when I share my story, I make note of the fact that I realized I was a sinner, a turned away from sin once and for all and then placed my faith in Jesus and His finished work for my salvation and eternal life.

I understand, if we were to share our story in a hurry or with someone who we assume knows us personally, we may be tempted to leave out the gospel’s key elements for convenience. It might be a simple, “Jesus changed my life,” or “I gave my heart to Jesus.” However, it seems strange if we were to go through our testimony in a detailed manner with someone, and leave out the essential elements of the gospel message.

So then, a personal testimony “by itself,” should already have the key gospel elements included in it, but a testimony shared carelessly without those elements is not a good means of evangelism. It’s not evangelism at all if it doesn’t include the gospel.

And perhaps it is helpful to add at this point that while a personal testimony should already include the key gospel elements, I think it should lead one to share the key gospel elements as a separate conversation. We should use our own testimony as a bridge to sharing the truths of the gospel. We should begin with listening to someone’s story, sharing our own, and then sharing God’s story. With that being said, sometimes all we have time to share with someone is our own testimony, but if that is the case (and sometimes it will be), I believe we should place much more emphasis on God’s testimony about His Son: the gospel.


Do you have a question about God, Jesus, or the Bible? Submit it here: Ask A Question

You’ve Got Questions: Tearing Out Our Eyes and Cutting Off Our Hands? (Matt. 5:29-30)

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we read, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30). Very powerful language there. Jesus tells His followers that if their right eye or hand causes them to sin against God, they should remove it and forcibly cast if from them. Why? Because according to Jesus, it’s better to lose their eye (or hand) than to lose their own soul in hell. In the context, Jesus is talking about lust and the urgency of taking action against it, because the cost of doing nothing about it is far more expensive than taking whatever measures necessary to eradicate it from our lives.

So then, we know from the context that Jesus isn’t demanding literal amputation—we know Jesus better than that, and we know the Bible better than that. But His logic makes perfect sense—it’s better to lose a little than a lot. It would be far better for His followers to lose their eye or hand than to lose their own soul in hell.

Should we resort to chainsaws to eradicate lust from our lives? Understand first, that for Jesus’ audience, the right side was seen as more valuable—how many of you are right handed? Likely the majority of you. Most people are right handed, and because of this, they do everything with their right hand. You write with your right hand, hold drinks, spoons and forks to eat, toothbrushes to clean your teeth, use your cellphone, and many other things. If you’re right handed, that’s your dominant hand—it’s more useful and valuable to you than your left.

Jesus is saying that if even what is very valuable to you causes you to sin, then it should be cast away and removed from you. The reason why is because of the high cost of doing nothing about it. It will cost you far more to do nothing, than it will to do something about removing the sources of temptation and lust from your life. Pornography might be valuable to you, but you should cast it away forcibly. Sexual relations before marriage might be valuable to you, but you should cast it away from you. Whatever it is that is causing you to sin, even if it is valuable to you, should be cast away from you!

But even further, if Jesus’ audience actually followed His figurative language literally, if they did gouge out their eye and cut off their hand, would this completely take care of the problem? No it wouldn’t—where does Jesus say that adultery takes place? In the heart (Matt. 5:28).

Jesus is saying that, yes lust happens in the heart, but outside sources can and will contribute to it. And if there are sources in our lives that are causing us to lust, we need to take radical measures against them. Jesus’ point here is that it is urgent that action is taken against lust, because it could lead to God’s judgment. If nothing is ever done to conquer lust in your life, then you don’t view it as very serious. If you don’t view sin as serious, then it is very casual to you. If you see it as casual, then you will likely do nothing about it.

Perhaps a short story from church history will illustrate this point. Origen, who was one of the early church fathers, took this command literally and emasculated himself, but immediately found out that he still faced temptations. Ironically, he later wrote, “[The believer] amputates the passions of the soul without touching the body.”¹


1. Cited in Davies, W. D. and Allison, Dale. C. Matthew: A Shorter Commentary (New York, NY: T & T Clark, 2004), 79.

 

You’ve Got Questions: What Does Jesus Mean by “You Are the Salt of the Earth” in Matt. 5:13?

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), after concluding the section known as the Beatitudes (5:2-12), He says this: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matt. 5:13).

First, to discover what Jesus is saying, it’s important to see that He doesn’t literally mean that the disciples are salt. That would be utter insanity to say that the disciples’ physical form is composed of entirely salt. Because of the context of this passage, we know that Jesus compares the disciples to salt. Jesus compares them (and us) to this earthly element. Still, we might think that this is a strange comparison. To find out what Jesus means here, it’s helpful to define how salt would have been used in Jesus’ day. There were many uses for salt in His time (nearly all of them still in use today). It was used as a preservative to prevent corruption, fertilizer, it was used to add flavor, and it was used to symbolize wisdom (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24). There were many other uses, as an element in sacrifices, a purifier, a condiment, a preservative—and it was associated with several symbols: it was a sign of purity, of necessity, of loyalty, of peace, of good speech, and even wisdom. It’s not likely that Jesus is limiting His comparison of the disciples any one of those uses for salt. Because of the wide range of uses, it’s really impossible to single out any one, and attempt to do justice to the passage.

But essentially, when it comes to the uses of salt—it affects what it comes in contact with right? It affects meats by preserving them, it affects food by adding flavor, it affects ice by melting it, and so on. That’s what Jesus was saying here. He is talking about making an impact on the world—affecting the world around you. We know this is true from what Jesus says we are the salt of. We, as His disciples are the salt “of the earth.” Jesus wants us to act like salt here, and make an impact. The way we will make a true impact is by being effective for the glory of God (see v. 13b and v. 16). Jesus wants us to make an impact on everybody (for God’s glory) just as salt affects everything that it comes into contact with.¹


1. To learn/read more, see Kingdom People Making a Difference where this entire passage is explained.

 

 

You’ve Got Questions: What Does “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit” Mean (Matt. 5:3)?

You’ve Got Questions: What Does “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit” Mean (Matt. 5:3)?

Jesus says in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The word “poor” here is from a Greek verb ptochos meaning “to shrink, cower, or cringe,” as beggars often did in that day. Classical Greek used the word to refer to a person reduced to total destitution, who crouched in a corner begging. As he held our one hand for alms he often hid his face with the other hand, because he was ashamed of being recognized. The term did not mean simply poor, but begging poor. Jesus is speaking here of spiritual poverty. To be poor in spirit is to recognize one’s spiritual poverty apart from God.

The Scriptures have much to say about our spiritual poorness apart from God. Just to name a few, Romans says that we are haters of God (Rom. 1:30), not seeking Him or doing any good (Rom. 3:11). The prophet Ezekiel says that the “soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20, KJV). If that’s the case (Rom. 6:23), then who has sinned? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Ephesians probably describes our depravity with the most vivid picture: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Further, Paul describes there that we walked with the world, followed Satan, and were “sons of disobedience” (2:2); that we lived in the passions of our sinful flesh, and were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (2:3). Similarly in Colossians, we were “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). This is only a brief examination of our spiritual poverty apart from God, and being “poor in spirit” is to see oneself as one really is: lost, hopeless, helpless. Apart from Jesus Christ, every person is spiritually destitute, no matter what his education, wealth, social status, accomplishments, or spiritual knowledge.

That is the point of the first Beatitude. The poor in spirit are those who recognize their spiritual poverty and their complete dependence on God. They perceive that there are no saving resources in themselves and that they can only beg for mercy and grace. They know they have no spiritual merit, and they know they can earn no spiritual reward.

Similarly, Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-gather to “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Jesus says that “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:10-13). The Pharisee was listing his spiritual accomplishments, and considered himself to be self-righteous, while the tax-collector would not even lift his eyes to heaven! The Pharisee was proud in spirit; the tax-collector was poor in spirit.

Who are you like most in this story? The proud, self-reliant Pharisee or the humble tax-collector?

For further reading, please consult Sermon on the Mount: The Poor in Spirit

You’ve Got Questions: What’s Wrong With Using Allegory to Interpret Scripture?

You’ve Got Questions: What is Wrong with Using Allegory in Interpreting Scripture?

Any time spent in the Word of God is time well-spent. Reading one verse of Scripture is worth having been born just to have the existence to read it. However, while it is always beneficial to read and study the Word of God, it must be recognized that there are faulty interpretative methods used in study of the Bible. One of these flawed interpretative methods used often times is the allegorical approach to interpretation.

Not long after the period of the New Testament, some early church fathers began to use allegorical methods of interpretation (Origen for example). Allegory as defined, is a genre of literature that assigns symbolic significance to textual details. A good example of the use of allegory is in John Bunyan’s famous work, Pilgrim’s Progress. Every character has a signification in relation to the Christian life. Now, when allegory is intended by the writer and understood by the reader(s), allegory can be a powerful literary tool. But, if it is not intended by the author and is used as an interpretive method by the reader, then a dangerous and faulty misrepresentation of the author’s meaning will surely be the result.

A significant reason why allegorical interpretation is flawed is defined in what we are trying to accomplish through interpretation in the first place. What goal are we striving to reach when we study the Bible? We are striving to discover the author’s intended meaning in a text. We are not studying the Bible to discover some secret meaning. If we are using an allegorical approach, then we aren’t trying to discover the author’s intended meaning—we are concluding on an interpretation that appeals to our senses. Just think if two or more people used the allegorical approach to studying the Bible—if that’s the case, then there can be as many interpretations as there are readers! We shouldn’t arrive at an interpretation of a text based on some mysterious skepticism, we should arrive at an interpretation of a text based on the author’s intended meaning.

You would not interpret the Constitution using allegory. The goal is to discover what the Constitutional writers meant by what they wrote. You would not interpret the daily newspaper using allegory. The goal is to find out what the reporters mean by what they write. You wouldn’t even consider using allegory to correctly understand any material you are reading (unless of course the literary genre is allegory). Why should you use allegory in interpreting the Bible? You shouldn’t use allegory unless it is implied by the author. The problem isn’t the literary tool of allegory—the problem is illegitimate importation of allegory.

In any act of communication, there are three elements: a writer or speaker, a text or spoken words, and a reader or listener. So when it comes to the Bible, who decides what the correct meaning is? Many say that the reader is the determiner of meaning, but if that is so, then there can be as many interpretations as there are readers—and they can’t all be right. Some say that the text is the determiner of meaning, but a text is an inanimate object. Texts cannot construct or create meaning, but they can convey meaning. Someone has to put these words on paper, they don’t just evolve onto papyrus or scrolls. The determiner of meaning is the author. The author intended something for a specific group of people at a specific time in history. Any act of communication can progress only on the assumption that someone (the author) is trying to convey meaning to us and we then respond to that meaning by the speaker or writer.

For further helps on interpreting the Bible, please consult: A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Robert H. Stein and 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible, Robert L. Plummer

 

You’ve Got Questions: What Will Heaven Be Like?

You’ve Got Questions: What Will Heaven Be Like?

The Bible gives us many images that are full of implications about heaven. For example, the author of Hebrews writes that heaven is a city: “For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (11:10, emphasis mine), “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (13:14, emphasis mine). When we hear the word ‘city,’ we shouldn’t scratch our heads and think, I wonder what that means? We understand cities. Cities have people, buildings, activities, gatherings, art, music, athletics, events of all kinds, and goods and services.

Heaven is also described as a country: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). We know about countries. We also know what Earth is like, and thus we know much about what the New Earth (Rev. 21) will be like. If we can’t imagine our present Earth without rivers, mountains, trees, and flowers, then why would we try to imagine the New Earth without these features?

If the word Earth means anything, it means that we can expect to find earthly things there—including atmosphere, mountains, water, trees, people, houses—and even cities, buildings, and streets. Those things are even mentioned in Revelation 21-22:

“the holy city” (Rev. 21:2).

“walls” and “gates” (Rev. 21:12-15, 17-19, 21).

“the river of the water of life” (Rev. 22:1, 2).

“street” (Rev. 22:2).

“the tree of life” and “fruit” (Rev. 22:2)

Just as a new car is a better version of an old car—but with all the same essential components (four wheels, an engine, transmission, steering wheel, etc.), so too will the New Earth be a far better version of the old Earth, but with the same essential physical components. The New Earth will be God’s dwelling place, but it will also be fashioned by God for resurrected people to live there. We’ll love our eternal home, and we’ll love being with Jesus and His family—which will be our family forever.

(This answer is adapted from the book, Heaven by Randy Alcorn)

 

You’ve Got Questions: Do Children/Babies Go to Heaven?

You’ve Got Questions: Do Children/Babies Go to Heaven?

The Age of Accountability

The idea of the “age of accountability” is that children are not held accountable by God for their sins until they reach a certain age, and that if a child dies before reaching the “age of accountability,’ that child will, by the grace and mercy of God, be granted entrance into Heaven. Is the concept of an age of accountability biblical? Is there such a thing as an “age of innocence”?

First of all, it is important to mention that the fact that children, no matter how young, are not “innocent” in the sense of being sinless, and this is frequently lost in the discussion regarding the age of accountability. The Bible tells us that even if an infant or child has not committed personal sin, all people, including infants and children, are guilty before God because of inherited and imputed sin. Inherited sin is that which is passed on from our parents. In Psalm 51:5, David wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” David recognized that even at conception, he was a sinner. The very sad fact that infants sometimes die demonstrates that even infants are impacted by Adam’s sin, since physical and spiritual death were the results of Adam’s original sin.

Still, what about babies and young children who never reach the ability to recognize sin? The age of accountability is a concept that teaches those who die before reaching the age of accountability are automatically saved, by God’s grace and mercy. The age of accountability is a belief that God saves all those who die before reaching the ability to make a decision for or against Christ. Thirteen is the most common number given for the age of accountability, based on the Jewish custom that a child becomes an adult at the age of 13. However, the Bible gives no direct support to the age of 13 always being the age of accountability. It likely varies from child to child. A child has passed the age of accountability once he or she is capable of making a faith decision for or against Christ.

David’s Confession

The one passage that seems to identify with this topic more than any other is 2 Samuel 12:21-23. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, with a resulting pregnancy. The prophet Nathan was sent by the Lord to inform David that because of his sin, the Lord would take the child in death. David responded to this by grieving, mourning, and praying for the child. But once the child was taken, David’s mourning ended. David’s servants were surprised to hear this. They said to King David, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” David’s response was, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” David’s response indicates that those who cannot believe are safe in the Lord. David said that he could go to the child, but that he could not bring the child back to him. Also, and just as important, David seemed to be comforted over this. In other words, David seemed to be saying that he would see the child (in heaven), though he could not bring him back.

Conclusion

While these passages imply that God applies Christ’s payment for sin to those who cannot believe, the Bible does not specifically say that He does this. Therefore, this is a subject about which we should not be adamant or dogmatic. God’s applying Christ’s death to those who cannot believe would seem consistent with His love and mercy. But we can safely assume that God applies Christ’s payment for sin to young children and those who are mentally handicapped, since they were not mentally capable of understanding their sinful state and their need for the Savior, but again we cannot be dogmatic. Of this we are certain: God is loving, holy, merciful, just, and gracious. Whatever He does is always right and good.