Division In The Church - Eternal Security
Division In The Church
The seemingly small division in the church concerning the action of God in its fulfillment and work escalates as church doctrines are delved into in a deeper manner. One of the main differences is seen in the doctrine of eternal security. Does God have complete control over His sheep to keep them from falling to the point where they no longer are His, or is their eternal future insecure once the Holy Spirit does His regenerative work in their heart? Is the action of eternal salvation dependent upon the creature or the creator? Can a believer sin to a degree in which the work of the Holy Spirit at "New birth" is nullified and if so do we know from the scriptures at which point this will occur? These and other similar questions will be asked as we compare the scriptures with the doctrinal statements of the day. Does God have complete control so far as eternal destination over his sheep?
No say the following statements:
Wesleyan (Basic Principles: XI Sin After Regeneration) "We believe that after we have experienced regeneration, it is possible to fall into sin, for in this life there is no such height or strength of holiness from which it is impossible to fall. But by the grace of God one who has fallen into sin may by y true repentance and faith find forgiveness and restoration." United Methodist Book of Discipline: Page 69 Article IX- Justification and Regeneration "...... We believe, although we have experienced regeneration, it is possible to depart from grace and fall into sin;...."
Church of the Nazarene: "We believe that the grace of entire sanctification includes the impulse to grow in grace. However, this impulse must be consciously nurtured, and careful attention given to the requisites and processes of spiritual development and improvement in Christ-likeness of character and personality. Without such purposeful endeavor one's witness may be impaired and the grace itself frustrated and ultimately lost."
The following statements show a belief in eternal security:
Southern Baptist: V. God's Purpose of Grace "Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners ..... All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end."
The Westminster Confession: Chap.3 Art.VI "As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto, Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation."
The main difference between advocates of eternal security and those who believe salvation can be lost hinges on the role God plays in our salvation. Those who adhere to eternal security base their belief on the sovereign power of God to keep his people forever. Those on the opposite side believe that once God saves it is up to man to continue in his salvation by his good works. In both cases the end justifies the means; if our eternal security is based on our action toward God, we as sinful creatures will always have a tendency to fall from grace in our present sinful state. If however our eternal state is dependent totally upon the action of God toward man we can never fall because God in His omnipotence does not possess the frailty needed to let us go. Is the action of eternal security Godward by men or manward by God? Looking at the scriptures both sides use to arrive at their doctrines may help those of opposing views to understand where each other is coming from. In each of the following scriptures both views and the interpretation given by each of the advocates will be surveyed: For simplification those who believe that eternal security rests on man's action will be known as side "A", those who believe it is the act of God side "B".
Scriptures used by man to God advocates:
I John 2:24-25 "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye shall also continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life."
Side A: The "if" of these verses show that there is a prerequisite to eternal security, i.e. we are secure only IF we continue in the Son and in the Father.
Side B: This verse refers to the testing of our salvation. We know we are saved and therefore secure IF we continue in the Son, and in the Father, i.e. those who do not continue were never sanctified in the first place for if they were they would have continued.
Heb. 10:35-39 "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back into perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
Side A: The argument again is that the scriptures speak of a drawing back of some men into perdition, men which the Lord will have no pleasure in.
Side B: The drawing back is seen to be only by those who were not of the household of faith, note the last verse. Paul says "we are not of them who draw back into perdition." insinuating that true believers will not draw back.
I Tim. 4:1,16, draws basically the same interpretation from both sides.
Scriptures used by the God to man advocates: Psalms 69:28, Rev.3:5, and Ex.32:32, which speak of the blotting out of names from the book of life.
Side A: These verses speak of men who have at one time accepted Christ and fell away at which time they were removed from the book of life.
Side B: These verses speak of all mankind having the chance and being given the command to repent. If they refuse to repent they will be blotted out of the book of life and will be cast into the lake of fire.
John 10: 26-29: "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
Side A: Those I spoke to concerning this verse believe that the plucking out of the hand speaks of an outside influence against the believer's eternal security, they agree that this is impossible but they believe that an inside influence can remove them from the Father's hand. In other words, as one pastor stated, "Nothing can pluck them out of the Father's hand but the believer can of his free will leap out of the grasp of the Father."
Side B: The verses are self explanatory, the action is completely manward from God. "No man" includes the believer as well as outside influences.
Another question which arises is this. What sin or combination of sins does a believer need to commit in order to loose his or her salvation? If God expects a certain standard of holiness from each believer will the believer know when this limit has been reached or must he wait until he dies to know for sure if he has fulfilled his part of the agreement? Unfortunately there are no scriptures which clearly define the line at which we fall from regeneration, so the individual believer must go beyond scripture if he is to find that boundary which he dare not cross over. This in itself will cause division among brothers in Christ. One will base his eternal security on his faithful attendance at church and the taking of the Lord's supper. Another will make lists of greater and lesser sins which will determine his or her standing before God. A third will base his or her security on the way they treat the poor and helpless of the community and the support they give to those in need. Still others claim that the difference is not in our actions but in our thoughts, if our thoughts are evil enough we will fall or perhaps if we sin at all or have any evil thought we are in danger of hell. Unfortunately when there is no clear Biblical standard to which we can adhere there will always be division.
Are we secure in our salvation or are we not? Both views have their able defenders and eternity will tell us for sure. Perhaps those who do not believe in the perseverance of the saints need that continual sin search in order to keep their lives pure and undefiled before God, while those who rest secure in their salvation can continually praise the One whose omnipotent hand will ever keep them from falling.