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Being Saved:

Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

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Question #1:

Robert, if the sin unto death is God taking a grievously sinning believer out of the world so as to save him and apostasy is the death of faith in a believer, why does God not just take all grievously sinning believers out to avoid apostasy? He says he does not want any to perish but all to come to repentance so why would he not do that to avoid any being lost?

Response #1:

It's a great question, of course. The answer has to do with free will. For God to be just and fair, He has to allow everyone to make their own legitimate decision about whether or not to spend eternity with Him through faith in His Son our Lord Jesus. After all, it would have been very simple for God to avoid the whole problem of human beings and angels too being lost and condemned. All He had to do was to make us without free will. Of course then we would be like dogs or cats but not who we are, moral creatures made in the image of God. That is the critical thing which makes us "who we are", namely, the ability to choose in moral terms.

Believers who won't give up sin but who also won't give up God have chosen for Him and refuse to relinquish that choice; the problem is that they also are unwilling to walk as they should in this world. Since they are providing a bad witness, and since they are making no progress for Christ but merely wasting their time, the sin unto death is appropriate in every way (and I would imagine that there are plenty of individual believers who do finally repent of whatever they are having a hard time giving up when the divine discipline gets near to that terminal level).

Apostasy is quite something else again. That is a case of someone abandoning their faith in Jesus – exactly what the believer under the sin unto death refuses to do. Oftentimes apostasy is not a question of gross sin or a person deciding they would rather give themselves over to debauchery rather than follow Christ. As our Lord explains things in the parable of the Sower, for example, trials and tribulations "on account of the Word" are what often result in marginal Christians abandoning faith. Either a person does not want the flak that comes with being a Christian or blames God for not delivering them from some trouble. I know of plenty of cases where people have blamed God for the death of a loved one, and in some seem to have deliberately rejected Him because of this perceived injustice on His part. Whatever the reason, the person in question has decided, chosen, not to continue in faith and faithfulness to the Lord. That is a very different thing from being tempted by sin, falling into sin, struggling with sin, and being tormented by the aftermath of sin and failure, all the while still loving the Lord and maintaining faith in Jesus Christ. The latter category of person is often wracked by guilt; the former is usually characterized by bitterness and hardness. The latter still clearly believes in Jesus Christ; the former reverts to an essentially atheistic posture and is frequently more hardened than before (cf. 2Pet.2:20-22).

The key thing is that we are all here on this earth to choose, in small things and in large, and if the Lord were to "take out" everyone who was not really committed to Him in faith or had no real intention of continuing to believe once times got rough, it would compromise the whole principle of His equity in dealing with us all. We are left here in life after we believe to confirm that choice and to demonstrate the quality of our faith. Those who go to the left demonstrate that they were not really serious about the their choice in the first place; those who go to the right demonstrate the level of commitment they are willing to invest in the One who died for them (and this determines the level of our eternal rewards).

We look at the surface of things and, if we are honest, should admit that even in the case of evaluating ourselves we have questions and incomplete knowledge. But God knows all things, the end from the beginning even before He initiated creation. He knows what is fair and what is not. I am certain that in each and every case God has done precisely the best thing for every human being in order to bring about each individual's salvation and best chance for it. This will all be revealed, moreover, at the last judgment of unbelievers (see the link). If it were possible to "take out" a marginal believer on the cusp of apostasy without violating that person's true, inner, essential and genuine choice, then I have no doubt that our God has always done so in a perfect way in order for that person to be saved. After all, many children have died young across history and across the globe, a tragedy by human standards, but guaranteeing their salvation when seen from the divine point of view.

These issues always test faith. What we need to remember is that God is perfect in every way; His character is perfect; He cannot be unjust and never has been. We need to have faith that He is indeed working all things out for the absolute good for those who love Him (Rom.8:28). All of our questions will be answered on this score in eternity, and it is absolutely the case that much of the true reality of what is going on down here on earth must continue to be hidden from our eyes during this short span of time we call "life".

So again, it all comes down to two things: 1) God, who He is and what He has done, is doing, and will do for us in Jesus Christ; and 2) our faith and trust in Him that He is good in every way and will always be our Savior. Failing to appreciate how good and great God is on the one hand, and failing to trust Him and believe that He is acting always in our best interest from perfect justice are always at the heart of unbelief and spiritual malaise.

I recommend you read Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology for a complete discussion of these issues from the standpoint of God's plan of salvation.

In great anticipation of the glories to come in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi again,

I read some where that during heavy trials, some will leave the faith. That blows my mind. Can you please help me with this?

Response #2:

Good to hear from you again. What you are referring to is the doctrine of apostasy. Christians are saved by God's grace . . . through faith. That is, believers are saved. But those who are not believers are not saved. Scripture is clear that it is, sadly, possible for faith to die out completely, and, as Jesus tells us, persecutions, disappointments and trials are often the catalyst for this dying off of belief:

"And those [whose seed fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize."
Luke 8:13

Thus nothing could be more important for any Christian than to nourish his/her faith so that it may be strong enough to endure when times of trouble set in (the Peter series is devoted to fostering this purpose; see the link).

This doctrine of apostasy is covered extensively at a number of places at Ichthys. Here is the main link:

In BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

Feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ the dear Savior in whom we have faith,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Dear Dr. Luginbill, some men of God I have ever argued with concerning the "once saved, always saved agenda", cite the immoral member in 1 corinthians 5:5 as the clear explicit qualifying that agenda. How do you understand this verse?


Response #3:

Good to hear from you again. I find this a strange verse to use for those who mistakenly believe that a person once saved will be saved no matter what. After all, as to this incident to which you refer, Paul felt he had to intervene in this very special way (using his special apostolic authority to bring on the "sin unto death"). But why, if the person were going to be "saved no matter what"? Paul tells us explicitly why he needed to take such drastic action: ". . . so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord". Now if there were no problem because "once saved, always saved", then this clause makes little sense. Paul could simply have let matters take their own course and the individual would have been "saved no matter what". But because Paul's action is said by him to be "so that his spirit may be saved", we have to take it that, absent this intervention by the apostle (and hoped for positive response by the sinner), his spirit would not "be saved on the day of the Lord". This then is a proof that salvation can be lost. Absent Paul's intervention, his fear was that the man's heart would continue to harden through the deceitfulness of sin to the point where faith was lost entirely.

Make sure, brothers, that none of you develop an evil heart of unbelief (i.e., lack of faith) by turning away (lit. "apostatizing") from the living God. Rather keep encouraging each other every day as long as we still call it "today" (i.e. still remain in this world), lest any of you be hardened [in heart] by the deception of sin.
Hebrews 3:12-13

Here are some links on the subject that may prove helpful to you in investigating this topic:

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification

In BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

The Process of Apostasy (in CT 3A)

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

Hope you and your family are keeping well.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

G'Day Brother!

Hope your keeping well.

What do you think about the way this guy explains John 10:28-29? It seems to make a lot of sense, never picked up on it before.

God Bless

Response #4:

I couldn't get the files to load/work. What's the gist of his argument? I saw on one of the preview boards the statement that "we don't have eternal life yet"; that is certainly true, at least experientially. But then we do have it positionally. Both propositions would be true, it seems to me, whether or not OSAS was correct. So if that's the argument, I don't find it particularly persuasive.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Brother!

Explanation for John 10:28-29. See if this works.


Response #5:

So, yes, it's as I thought and expressed before. The argument is that since eternal life is not yet given, there is no OSAS. While it is true that we have not yet been resurrected, rewarded, and taken up our inheritance in the New Jerusalem, yet we have been given eternal life in Jesus Christ, i.e., "positionally" (Jn.6:54; 1Jn.5:11; 5:13). Logically, therefore, this person's argument would be fine if OSAS was based entirely on possessing eternal life here and now. However, I have never heard that advanced as an argument for OSAS; so this approach is merely setting a straw man argument and then knocking it down. I think it may do more harm than good inasmuch as, obviously, we are not eternal yet; but on the other hand scripture does say we do have eternal life "positionally" (i.e., because we belong to Christ). So while this argument might seem obviously specious to OSAS-ers, it has the additional disadvantage of shifting the focus of the discussion away from the actual scriptures which very clearly teach that salvation is dependent upon the continuation of our faith in Christ – and so also everything else we have by virtue of our union with Him – but which are lost if that union is broken by us in our unfaithfulness.

Yours in the One who is faithful, but will not deny Himself, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

G'Day brother

Hope your keeping well.

In Acts 8:13; it says Simon believed and was baptized. Was he saved at that point?

Supporters of OSAS say this is exactly what is meant by the parable of the sower when it says; "they believe for a while". They say that their not true born again believers.

God Bless

Response #6:

I think if I were a OSAS-er, I would be very reluctant to call attention to this passage! We are not in a position to say whether or not Simon abandoned his faith so soon after being saved – Peter certainly seems to have his doubts about Simon's status, but the scripture is very clear about the facts at issue: "Simon himself believed . . ." (Acts 8:13). This must mean that he believed, which must mean that he was a believer – no doubt about it. If by "Simon himself believed" scripture is not talking here about saving faith, then wherever in scripture we find "believe" and "believer" we will have to wonder if it is a case of "really being born again" or not. That would be ridiculous if not for the fact that it would be potentially spiritually devastating to read the scriptures through that demonstrably false prism.

So believers are not perfect after being saved? Not exactly a new revelation. But if Simon quickly tossed aside his new faith entirely upon being tempted to possess the power of the apostles, that would demonstrate the falsity of the OSAS position, not establish it. In fact, I think that Simon is a good illustration of how "the deceitfulness of wealth" (Matt.13:22) can cause the one planted amidst the thorns to be unproductive. How Simon turned out, we will not know this side of eternity, but his ultimate status and ultimate reward (or lack thereof) will have been determined as in the case of us all by how he nurtured and employed his faith by continuing to choose what the Lord wanted from Him from that time forward (or failed to do so).

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #7:

G'Day brother!

Hope your doing well! I need you to help me respond to a few questions and thoughts posed to me by a pastor that believes in OSAS. I tried to explain to him that we are saved through faith in Christ; but as presented in the bible that faith can die if one is subjected to a life of unrepented sin as demonstrated in the parable of the sower and five foolish virgins. This is what he wrote to me (in italics), my writing is (in black). Feel free to write in between, and I will like to forward it straight to him:

The term salvation is a term that differentiates IT from every other religion in the world. EVERY religion in the world has a set of regulations and rules that if you follow you may ‘achieve’ salvation. Thus they are ‘saved’ and ‘lost’ from one moment to the next. I used to be in a church that taught that you could ‘lose you salvation if you sinned’. I also saw the destruction that this caused in the church. People were living the most miserable of lives, defeated from one moment to the next. And because the pastor of the church could never define what caused them to lose their salvation ( in other words what type of sins could lead to being unsaved ), then they never had any joy because they were maintaining their ‘salvation’ through self-effort rather than resting in the finished work of Christ. I notice that your ‘criteria’ for losing your salvation is different from other people who believe that salvation can be lost. And this is what I also notice from one person to the next. Most churches who believe this doctrine believe that if you sin then you can lose your salvation and they then (like the Catholic Church ) make a distinction between Mortal and Venial sins. Sins that can send you to hell and sins that won’t. But I see in scripture that being ‘foolish’ is listed together with ‘fornication’ in the scriptures and is typical of those who are unsaved. Your view ( if understood it correctly ) is that it is faith that determines whether you are saved or not. But I want to understand what exactly it is that you should lose in your faith that you would make you lost? For you said that sinning doesn’t make you lose your salvation, but what exactly will? Is it that a person actually denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who dies for my sins? On another point, what does ‘salvation’ actually mean? Salvation from what? Salvation to what? When Jesus saves a person, does salvation refer to a temporary state or an eternal state? Does it refer to something that one can own at one point but then not have at another point? If salvation can be a temporary phase, then salvation is no longer salvation for the salvation always speaks of the ‘END STATE OF A PERSON’ NOT A TEMPORAL ONE. If we change this definition then a person cannot be said to be ‘saved’ because that would mean that they are ( like the Catholics ) hoping that they will be saved one day. In other words, if I believe that I am ‘saved’ which is past tense, then it applies to the END of my life on earth, not just today. Like I said to you today, the common mistake many people make when reading the parable of the sower it to equate it to salvation. It really has nothing to do with salvation, but rather is a parable about the soils which represent the heart and its ability to ‘take in the gospel’ when they hear preaching. It shows the various types of heart. It is true that faith comes by hearing the word of God, but the clear teaching here is that faith can only increase and fruit produced when the heart is prepare to accept the word of God. thus when we preach the word, and someone accepts it with great joy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they become saved. It simply means that they love the message and they accept I with all readiness, but because they ar so wrapped up in the world, the word cannot take root and it fails to produce fruit in the life. If anything represents faith in this parable, it can only be the fruit that is produced AT THE END, not when they hear it. This is why I do NOT believe in easy believism. The lie that a person can say a quick prayer and expect to be saved. Our churches are filled with people who said a quick prayer in the past, were never really converted in their heart and play the game of religion. Notice the parable of the wheat and the tares. The tares look like the wheat but are NOT the same, they are sown by the devil and will only be separated at the end of the age. This is the challenge of today… that people WILL not examine themselves to see if they are really in the faith and in the end many will find out that they were never really believers at all. The same occurred during the life of Jesus. Most of his disciples left him but in the end they were never saved to begin with, they were simply false disciples.

I can never do anything to earn my salvation, it is a free gift from Christ. "NEVER EVER".

I agree.

However, it's through FAITH that I have possession of it. Thus, my faith must endure & perserver to the end or I've believed in vain.

This is true and I can agree to this, the only difference is that I also have the faith that God will protect me and seal me until the end when I have been glorified and have a new body. Faith is always the key, but, the difference between you and me is that I believe that true faith will ALWAYS endure till the end. So I don’t think you can call this easy believism or encouraging people to sin, or shipwreck their faith. I think your argument with OSAS teaching is not necessarily the teaching itself but the pastors who teach that sin is ok and not that serious. I have also found the same principle being taught in Pentecostal churches. I personally know pastors ( who believe you can lose you salvation ) who excuse sin, even adultery in their churches because they simply don’t want to lose their members if they are too tough! The thing you witnessed is common in churches that also believe in losing salvation. In fact I would be confident that the people at Faith lead more holy lives, and will endure ‘much more’ than people attending AOG, Community and other like churches who teach that you can lose your salvation.

People can and do lose faith.

Can you prove this last point? Can you actually prove that those who lost their faith had real faith to begin with? Can you prove this scripturally or is it simply your interpretation of events in your experience? You CANNOT use this as an argument because you cannot see people’s faith.

If a person allows their "FAITH" to die as presented in the parable of the sower & the parable of the five foolish virgins; that person is no longer a believer and only those with true living faith will be saved.

I would agree that a true Christian has a real, living faith in Christ.

Matthew 25:1-14; 5 Foolish Virgins: The oil is the "Word of God", the light in the lamp is our "Faith"; Hence, both had oil in their lamps, but the wise took extra in there vessels. At midnight Christ came and the virgins trimmed their lamps, and the foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." Hence, the "Word of God", was not stored in their heart anymore "NO FAITH." Their Faith had died.

I’m sorry but you have read this parable properly and thus producing a wrong interpretation of it. I think if you read the passage properly the five foolish virgins NEVER had oil in their lamps. Mat 25:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Mat 25:3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: Mat 25:4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Thus, if having oil in the lamps related to ‘being saved’ then the foolish virgins were never saved to begin with. Most Bible scholars equate the oil with the Holy Spirit which also is equated with oil in other passages. But either way it probably proves my point more than yours. In the end, there were the false virgins and the true virgins.

Luke 8:5-15 Parable of the Sower: You say this parable is not about salvation, examine this again.

I have examined this parable many. Many times.

For the "Word of God", is everything. It is God's Power to us for Salvation. Romans 1:16

Yes I agree. The only difference between you and me is that I believe that once the light of God’s Word has properly taken root in the heart ( like in the parable of the sower ) it cannot be uprooted, when the Holy Spirit comes and takes residence there the Holy Spirit will never leave, I cannot be un-adopted from God’s family, you cannot be un-sealed, you cannot be unenlightened of the truth when you come to a full knowledge of the truth, when the blood of Jesus has cleansed me from all sin ( past and future ) then that blood is powerful enough to keep me sin free.

If his "Word", is squeezed out of our heart, thus our faith is killed off, we are spiritually dead.

Can you show in scripture where God’s Word can be ‘squeezed’ out of the heart so that a person can lose their faith completely?

Anyone who does not have living faith in JC, is not a believer. We have free will after salvation, and it's all about how we respond to God or fail to do so.

Can I ask you a simple question? Do the angels in heaven have free will? I mean, at one time there was a rebellion and a third of them rebelled, but I do not see in any sense, angels changing sides now. Those that sided with God have stayed with God, those that sided with Satan have stayed with Satan. But have they lost their free will now? How about this one, when we are finally resurrected and receive new bodies, will we have free will? Can we rebel against God after we are glorified? What is it? I will put this illustration to you. If a person put their hand in the fire when they were young and thought it was beautiful, will they put their hand in again after? I firmly believe that when the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, illuminates the heart and a person finally sees the truth, that they will never again believe what they believed when they were living in total darkness. If you want to say we have free will, that’s ok, but I don’t think that any type of free will allow a person to turn their back on Christ once they have known Him on a personal level. Just like we don’t believe that we will rebel after we have been glorified, so I believe that we are the ‘sons of God’ right now and that which has been given to us cannot be given back because it is who we really are NOW, not just after we have been resurrected. Do you believe that this belief is dangerous?

I believe teaching OSAS is a false doctrine. There are many scriptures that refute this false doctrine.

I don’t believe that being confident that God will sustain me until the end is an extreme view. I think that it takes a deeper knowledge to get to this type of faith. Not the false faith that just wants to excuse sin and easy believism, but a godly faith that God will see me through until the end and I will never abandon Him nor he me. Let me give you a simple illustration. If you had a child under your care and you were crossing a busy road. You hold their hand because you don’t want them to be hit by a car don’t you? Let me ask you, if the child let’s go of your hand at one point because they become distracted by something and want to run off, do you let them go? If you and I who are sinful will protect the child from a fatal mistake will not God who is Holy hold us all the more? Is your love stronger than his? Is your care greater than His? Thus, even in my weakness, God’s power is made manifest in that His grace sustains me. Isn’t that what grace is all about?

God does not force us to continue to believe.

Like I said, God did not force us and will never force us. But once adopted into a family, it becomes your new identity. You cannot divorce yourself from your family, that is who you are.

To assume so, would be to trash all the warnings given in the bible.

There is no warning, that I will ever trash or belittle. Even committed Christians bear the consequence of their sin but will never deny the faith.

Persevering in salvation is everything. Scripture is full of verses that encourage us to perserver with our salvation, it's not automatic.

There is nothing automatic implied. It is guaranteed. The saved will persevere, the unsaved will not.

The Lord said, if your lukewarm he will spew you out of his mouth. Work that one out!

Something spewed out of the mouth was NEVER part of the body. Those who claim to follow Christ have often been found to be false witnesses of him. I am sure many of those are included in OSAS but also in those who believe in loss of salvation. How’s that, is that worked out enough? But let me give you another, even more important scripture to help you understand what I believe. Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Mat 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? Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Work this one out, if you can. How can someone call Jesus Lord, prophesy in His name, cast out devils and do many wonderful works BUT Jesus says that He NEVER knew them. If they were never known by Christ then they were never saved in the first place, that is obvious here. But they obviously believed that they were saved in the first place. This is what I was talking about. Our churches are filled with people who look like Christians, speak like Christians and even to works like Christians but they were NEVER saved in the first place. If someone like you knew them and they turned away, then by your own argument, you would assume that they were saved and then turned away. Would you be right? Obviously not. Look at this one: 1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. Look at what the APOSTLE JOHN says here. That at one time these prophets were part of the church! In fact , they were sent out as missionaries from the church! Now what does John say? Oh! They must have walked away from the faith! NO. Instead he rightly says ( as I am telling you now ) ‘they were not of us’! yes, they looked like us, we thought they were of us but then we found out that they were not. Now clear your mind and preconceptions and listen to what John says next and ponder this in your heart….." for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us". Can you explain this by your doctrine? No, because by your own admission, there IS NO guarantee that they will continue, in fact there IS a DOUBT over every person who calls themselves a Christian….. How can what you say be reconciled with what John is saying here? The scriptures are abundantly clear. Those who are saved WILL continue, otherwise John is lying here, is he not?

I hope you can help me, put a response to these statements and questions.

Love In Christ

Response #7:

Good to hear from you. Once again I want to commend your steadfastness in sticking up for the truth. Here are my comments.

Section 1: I certainly sympathize with this person's experience, and I quite agree that preaching and "teaching" that certain sins are capable of costing a person their salvation (while others are ignored), when it is faith that is the issue, not sin per se (sin degrades faith), is not only wrong but spiritually disruptive in the extreme. Let me point out, however, that because some groups misunderstand or misapply or incorrectly teach a doctrine or some aspects of it does not necessarily invalidate it. We all believe in the resurrection (I would hope). The fact that some groups are dead wrong about when it will occur (i.e., in fact it will not occur until Christ's final return at the second advent), does not invalidate the resurrection as a truth. Similarly, the fact that some groups are wrong about how salvation can be lost does not mean that salvation cannot be lost – that would be a similar lapse of logic, and, much more importantly, contrary to scripture:

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
Matthew 13:20-21

Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Luke 8:13 NIV

While there are many passages which demonstrate that salvation is dependent upon our continued faith and faithfulness, the parable of the Sower is unique in admitting of no other interpretation, none, that is, which will not force those who oppose the truth (that some believers do turn apostate) to engage in all sorts of unwarranted exegetical gymnastics to "defuse" the passage. If you "fall away", you fall away from something. If you "believed for a while", you believed, at least for a while. How could a person "believe" and not be a believer?

For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1st Peter 1:9 NIV

As this and plenty of other passages make clear, while we "are saved" when we believe, we are also "being delivered" through this life "through faith". If there were no need to test the genuineness of our faith, why would we still be here after salvation? For the vast majority of believers, immediate salvation, followed by a life of faith, is culminated in the end with the ultimate salvation Peter talks about above when we exit this world with our faith intact. We live on the cusp of the Great Tribulation, however, and during that dark time to come fully one third of believers are destined to lose their salvation in the Great Apostasy (see the link; e.g., 2Thes.2:3). Wrongly believing that one is "once saved, always saved" is going to result in many falling away (as in the parable of the Sower). After all, if we are saved regardless, why not take the mark of the beast in order to avoid persecution? In fact, that act will constitute apostasy in the case of believers who do so:

(9) And yet a third angel followed them, saying in a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives [his] mark upon his forehead or upon his hand, (10) he himself will also drink from the wine of God's wrath which has been mixed undiluted in the cup of His anger. And [that person] will be tormented in fire and sulfur before angels, [and] saints,(58) and before the Lamb. (11) And the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night, those who worship the beast and his image and whoever takes the mark of his name." (12) [But] the saints have perseverance, [even] those who in this way (i.e., by refusing the mark and worship of the beast) keep God's commandments and [retain] their faith in Jesus (i.e., so as to be saved).
Revelation 14:9-12

From what I read you have explained the truth accurately (i.e., sin does not directly result in loss of salvation but a pattern of sinfulness is often connected to the degradation of faith and usually contributes to a person's eventual, complete loss of faith). I think this person is new to this truth and will have to think it over a bit. Here is a link that explains it all in some detail: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

In theology is it often pointed out that scripture describes believers as those who "are saved, are being saved, will be saved". Consider:

The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11b NIV

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12 NIV

If we were irrevocably saved without any chance of change regardless of our behavior while we are still in this world, and if that is what salvation meant in every way of considering it, how could Paul write the above (Peter similarly equates "salvation" with the resurrection at 1Pet.1:5; 1:9; 2:2 – and none of us has been resurrected yet)? So the argument from definition is erroneous (i.e., "because I am saved I cannot become un-saved" misunderstands the way the word and its cognates are actually used in scripture). In Greek "safe" or "having been rendered safe" is a better way to understand sozo, the Greek verb for "save" which literally and etymologically means "make safe". We are "safe" as long as we are in Jesus – just as Noah and co. were safe as long as they were in the ark (which all conservative commentators take as a type of Christ). But what if we jump ship before it comes to rest on dry ground (analogous to believers abandoning Christ through losing faith in Him)? Destruction would be the result. We are "safe" – but only as long as we abide in Him.

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
John 15:6 NIV

And again, to "remain" in Jesus, we have to have be "in Him" in the first place. The passage above is a warning for believers.

As to "never saved to begin with, they were simply false disciples", this is the standard Reformation answer to explain away the reality of which we are (almost) all aware since we have (almost) all observed it in our lives, namely, that believers sometimes do lose their faith and fall away. The problem is that this blithe reply is neither to be found in scripture nor is it supportable with any biblical evidence (it is merely a supposition designed to put an end to legitimate questioning).

Section 2: Again, abuse by some is no reason for all to abandon the truth.

Section 3: First, the same is true in reverse. It is not possible to prove experientially that those who clearly are not believers but once seemed to be "really weren't in the first place". In fact, of course, if we were to weigh the experiential evidence, the fact that people seem by every measure to be believers means that they probably are; and the fact that some of these people later on seem by every measure not to be believers any more means that they probably aren't. If the Bible said nothing on the subject then "they never really were" might be somewhat less indefensible (although still very difficult for anyone with spiritual common sense to swallow). But what does scripture say?

They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Luke 8:13 NIV

The Greek word for "fall away" here is aphistamai, the verb from which "apostasy" is derived. A fine translation of the above would be "they apostatize". "Fall away" in Greek is "rebel" – in this context, they "rebel" from Jesus Christ. This is the abandonment of faith. After all, it is directly contrasted with "believe" – which they did . . . for a while. But now they have "fallen away" / "rebelled" from that faith = they no longer believe. That is the basis for apostasy, loss of faith.

Section 4: The 10 Virgins. They all have some oil. 1) no one goes out in the dark with a lamp with no oil; 2) the foolish say in verse 8 after "all" trim their lamps in verse 7 (i.e., fan them alight), "are lamps are going out", meaning that they have oil – their lamps are burning, but insufficient for the need at hand. This is an example of the gymnastics mentioned above. The clear sense of the passage is that lack of sufficient oil is a problem – not no oil at all in the first place.

Section 5: These wonderful things are all derivative of our status in Christ. Meaning that we enjoy them as long as we abide in Him – but not if we leave Him. E.g., we are sealed – but things are unsealed all the time. We are secure in our salvation – as long as we belong to Jesus Christ. But if we abandon Him . . .

If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
2nd Timothy 2:12-13 NIV

Section 6: Angels and human beings are different and have different experiences vis-a-vis salvation, obviously. It's not a persuasive argument (if interested, please see BB 2A: Angelology). Of course we are saved forever once ultimately saved in resurrection. Time is the place of choice. As long as we are alive, we have choices to make. Conflating time and eternity is indefensible. Why is there suffering here? Does that mean we will have suffering in heaven? I am glad your correspondent is so dedicated to Jesus Christ that he cannot imagine losing faith. That is wonderful. But teaching those who are marginal that there is nothing to worry about when there is everything to worry about (provided a person is straying from Jesus), does a grave disservice, and that will be compounded exponentially during the coming Tribulation.

Section 7: God does not take away our free will. This illustration suggests, if taken to its logical conclusion, that all will be saved. After all, God loves all, and Christ died for all. So how could, how would God let any single human being run off and get hit by that car? We are all here to choose. If God restricted our free will in this regard it would no longer be free. The fact that unbelievers for whom Christ died are allowed to make their own choice and go to hell demonstrates just how important God holds the freedom to make that choice. He doesn't change His attitude toward believers, just because we once believed. We continue to have our faith tested to demonstrate that come what may we do want heaven with Him and not hell without Him – and those who do not maintain that faith but change their minds are allowed to do so.

Section 8: All these sorts of analogies by definition are not strong and do not refute biblical proof. Children were disowned in the ancient world, and in the Law they were sometimes put to death at the behest of their parents.

Section 9: As to "the saved will persevere, the unsaved will not", yes, this is the Calvinist position, but it is not scriptural. The saved must choose and so must the unsaved, as Paul says:

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:22-23 NIV

Let us resolve to be among the number of those who "continue in His kindness", those who "abide in Him", and those who "keep their lamps of faith alight", and not of those who do "deny Him", who prove "faithless to Him", and who "fall away from Him".

Section 10: It is not logical to say that because some were always unbelievers as in these example, that there are no cases of believers apostatizing. That would not be persuasive in the least if scripture did not give us many examples of believer apostasy. Since it does, they are of no moment at all.

It is through this gospel that you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you – otherwise you believed in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:2

Let us resolve to continue in the number of those who are "being delivered safely" through this life to an ultimate salvation beyond this life, by "holding firm to the Word" of the gospel in Jesus Christ our Lord.

(3) May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised, who has in His great mercy caused us to be reborn to a hope which lives through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, (4) and to an inheritance which will never be destroyed, defiled, or dimmed, but which is being guarded in heaven for us, (5) who are ourselves also being kept safe by God's power and our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance ready to be unveiled at the end of time.
1st Peter 1:3-5

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

G'Day brother!

Hope your keeping well.

Can you help me put an explanation to Mat 7:21-23 & 1 John 2:19? Believers of OSAS always use these verses to their advantage to prove their position. Especially 1 John 2:19; where John says if they were true believers they would NOT have left us. Making it sound like ALL Born Again Christians WILL preserver to the end.

God Bless

Response #8:

Sure – happy to have another go at this.

Matthew 7:21-23: "I never knew you" has to mean that Jesus "never knew" them, i.e., they were never believers in the first place in this instance. There were many contemporary Jews who attended Jesus' healings and teachings and who spread palm branches before Him in the days before the cross – but not many believed in Him as the Son of God who was going to die for the sins of the world: Matthew 21:11 NIV: "The crowds answered, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee' ". That is not saving faith, anymore than when people today proclaim the Lord "a good man". In Matthew 7:21-23 and, in the entire context, our Lord is addressing the issue of absolute belief versus absolute unbelief, a critical and important issue, especially in the gospels; He is not addressing the issue of belief which later falls into unbelief here (although He does elsewhere, notably in the parable of the Sower and the 10 Virgins). Because Jesus is addressing the believer/unbeliever issue here, this passage does not in any way imply that believers cannot lose faith and thus fall away (a different issue altogether). What is says is that those who are not believers, even if they "do good things" and "say good things about Jesus" are not going to be saved for these "works": salvation only comes through faith in Christ.

1st John 2:19: In verse 18, John calls these people "antichrists", that is to say, individuals who are opposed to Christ even though they may seem "Christ-like" (the two meanings of anti in Greek, namely, "against" and "substituting for"). An "antichrist" is anything but a Christian. So we could be talking here about false teachers and pseudo-believers who had attempted to infiltrate the Christian churches under John's purview were expelled by the teaching of the truth and the steadfastness of the congregations in question. On the other hand, all John says is that they were not "of us" when they went out. So it is equally possible that we are talking about believers who had fallen away and left for that reason. This is more likely, because joining in a Christian fellowship, associating with poor people who were at this time targets of persecution, makes little sense for those who were never believers in the first place. Objectively speaking, therefore, this passage causes more problems for OSAS-ers than it solves. Please see the link:  1st John 2:19

Therefore neither of these passages teaches anything about perseverance through faith or the fact that faith can be lost. Inevitably, people who want to support OSAS are forced into these sorts of inventive arguments to prove their point since there is not a single scripture which does so on its face. Since there are plenty of scriptures which obviously and openly teach salvation as conditional upon persevering in faith, I have always found it odd (and worse) that these people "persevere" in this false teaching. Consider, "persevere!": it is a command, and it takes effort to pull off; it takes free will consistently applied to "hang in there" with one's faith. Well, if that is the case, how could anyone possibly maintain that every single person who receives this biblical command will carry it out? After all, that would make "persevere!" unique among all biblical commands: a command unnecessary to heed because it is automatic quite apart from the exercise of the Christian's will. In truth of course the Bible gives us commands and directions so that we may stick to them and follow them. It is not easy to do so, and it would be difficult to find any believer who has a perfect track record on even half of the commands we find in scripture – how much more inconceivable then to find a command that 100% of believers have a 100% success rate with – and without even trying? Bottom line: if staying "safe" in Jesus were not a matter of free will but automatic, then we would not be given the command to persevere in Him in the first place.

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
1st Timothy 4:16 NASB

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Hebrews 10:36 NIV

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Revelation 3:10 KJV

"But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."
Luke 8:15 NASB

[T]o those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, [He will give] eternal life.
Romans 2:7 NASB

Perseverance in the faith is a virtue listed in company with the other Christian virtues in passages such as Romans 5 and 2nd Peter 1. If it were automatic, then so would all of the other Christian virtues be, hope, for example, and also love – both of which are often commanded in scripture. So then faith would be too, but we all know that faith is a choice whereby we subordinate our will to God's WILL in accepting His Substitute for sins in place of our own inappropriate works. In fact, perseverance IS faith, its continuation until the end of life, the very thing that guarantees our salvation:

Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
Revelation 14:12 NASB

Yours in Jesus Christ on that wonderful day to come.

Bob L.

Question #9:

G'Day Brother!

I want to thank you so very much. That explanation was exceptional as always. I pray the Lord continues to bless your ministry. You have truly been an encouragement and blessing in my life.

I know and understand God's word more because of you. Can I make such a statement, to summarize one part of your explanation;

"Our Love is directly proportional to our Faith In Christ which is directly proportional to the time we spend in his Word & Prayer."

Thus, the byproduct of true faith is "Works", good fruit. Our works are like the exhaust that comes out of a car, if you block a muffler on a car, the car will stall. If you stop producing fruit, that means your faith is being chocked. This could be a result of an unrepentant life of sin or the pressures of life. As described in the parable of the sower. And if one continues down that track, he will eventually destroy his faith in Christ, thus die spiritually, apostasies.

God Bless You Brother

In Jesus Christ The Way The Truth and The Life

Response #9:

You are very welcome. Always glad to be of help.

On your statement, I would only wish to point out that it is what happens in a person's heart that is really the key to all this. The R.C.'s pray all the time (as do those in many other religions), and I believe it would be possible to memorize the Bible and yet not be saved. It takes responsiveness to the Lord and His truth, believing it, holding onto it deep in one's heart, and aggressively thinking about it and applying it to all we do, to make significant spiritual progress. David's intense love for the Lord which comes through in all of his psalms is a good pattern on which to meditate. We would all do well to try harder every day to walk close to the Lord in joy and intensity of the truth.

Yours in the One who died for us, so great is His love for us, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #10:

I think I may have committed apostasy. Can I tell you my story? I need help.

Also, hopefully I can have insight on what to do tomorrow, but whenever I work, I seem to distance myself from the Lord. Whenever I go through tough times involving faith, this happens. The only solution is to either mope around or leave. I can't do this indefinitely and the Lord is more important. So what do I do?

Response #10:

Dear Friend,

Apostasy is the total death of faith, a deliberate rebellion from the Lord, rather than a particular sin or bad attitude. If the Lord is important to you at all then, by definition, you have not lost your faith and are still a believer in Jesus Christ (please see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"), and all believers are saved:

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:17-18 NKJV

We all have trials and tribulations in this life. How we cope with them is part of the testing whereby the Lord hones and refines our faith – if we let Him do so. Being tried and tested is not a sin. In fact it's necessary for us to grow spiritually beyond a certain point. So it is very important to try might and main to keep a good attitude in difficult circumstances and situations, remembering that He is our Rock and our refuge, and that nothing is impossible for Him: He will deliver us if only we wait on Him. Here are a couple of links you may find helpful:

Spiritual 'ups' and 'downs'

Perseverance in the latter days of Laodicea

Doubting Salvation and Questions of Sin

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Fighting the Fight I

Fighting the Fight II

Fighting the Fight III

Yours in Jesus Christ who is our all in all,

Bob Luginbill

Question #11:

Brother Luginbill, is it possible to have only a three month salvation? Unfortunately I fear that may be what I did. I just couldn't understand the concept of faith after I hit my first trial, and it led down the road to what I now see as apostasy. I hope I didn't go all the way, because it felt involuntary at times. Like I could not control the outcome. When I went to see that speaker at the seminar I mentioned, he spoke to me things that I would have a realization of who He is, because I really did not know. And I had that morning, I realized the whole time it was me who messed up, and not Him doing anything but trying to bring me back. And now I am plagued with these blasphemous thoughts of negativity towards that I would never consciously utter! It keeps making me fall deeper and deeper. I don't know who this could have happened, when I was first saved, I told the Lord that I wanted to be another Paul, and meant it. But now this, and it's all my fault, but I have a tendency to blame God. Even though I know it isn't him. I just couldn't make the correct decisions. It's also so upsetting because I AM the type of believer who would do whatever he asked me to do if I was spiritually healthy. I was just being attacked so hard that I couldn't see clearly, and then I was worshiping based on feelings, and then I started to lose interest and then trying to get it back up and then trying to rely on Him and nothing seemed to work. And now this is where I'm at.

Response #11:

Your experience is very common. Many believers are "gung ho" for the Lord and then get tripped up in the early stages of the Christian life. We all stumble (James 3:2). If we wish to get better about running the Christian race, the only thing for it is spiritual growth. We cannot expect an infant to run a quarter mile. It takes growth and training to be a good runner. Same goes for the Christian life. Spiritual growth, progress and production is why we are here after salvation – and these things form the basis for our eternal rewards. First, learn the truth; second, believe it; third, begin applying it consistently to your life. This is a life-long process. Gaining control over the "mental battlefield" is not beginner's stuff and takes time, knowledge and experience to "get in the fight" effectively. Please see the links:

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Fighting the Fight I

Fighting the Fight II

Fighting the Fight III

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

Perseverance in the latter days of Laodicea

I appreciate that you have a heart for God. But even more important than good intentions is good follow-through. And the only follow-through that matters in the end is spiritual growth. No one can sustain a good attack on emotion alone. I'm afraid, like all the rest of your brothers and sisters, you'll have to do this the old-fashioned way. Sit down, read your Bible, pray, listen to good Bible teaching, remember it, believe it (anything and everything true), apply it to your life, pass the tests that come by means of this truth in your heart, get up and try again when you fail, confess your sins when you stumble, bear up under all divine discipline, grow in spite of all obstacles, and, eventually, help others in this noble quest once you have gained a measure of spiritual maturity through whatever ministry the Lord leads you to. There is much to say about all these matters, and much written at Ichthys about them – in addition to all other biblical subjects, all of which are important for any believer who wants to draw closer to the Lord.

One important word of advice. Don't worry about past failures. It is a satanic trap to keep looking backward. We are called to look and to move forward. Stop neurosing about past mistakes real or imagined. If you have done anything worthy of discipline the Lord will provide. Mature Christians live this life one day at a time. The only yesterday that matters is the one on which Christ died for you; the only tomorrow that matters is the one on which He will return for you. Today is a day to serve Him, and that is done by committing oneself to the Spirit's guidance in submitting to the process of spiritual growth (Q.E.D.).

Here at Ichthys you are more than welcome to all the "food" necessary for this growth. But whatever teaching ministry best suits you personally, the process is the same everywhere (at least if it is being correctly carried out in a godly fashion).

As you say, "I am a believer", so no more talk of apostasy. Set you sights ahead instead to your inheritance in the New Jerusalem (see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church"). You can do what the Lord asks you to do because He never asks more of us than is possible (1Cor.10:13), even if it sometimes seems impossible. And remember that He is our forerunner in all these things (Heb.6:20). Think of what He went through just to get to the cross and die for the sins of the world. With a Leader like that, we ought to be motivated to respond, emulating His example, and remembering that in Him we have the perfect Leader who can sympathize with all our problems, troubles and weaknesses because He bore up under much more Himself (Heb.2:18; 4:15; 12:3), who is ever providing us with more than enough to accomplish what He has called us to do (Heb.13:5), and who is employing, His soldiers, in just the perfect way. It's not scripture, but it is apropos of this conversation and the "spiritual battle" analogy above. In the words of General Lucian Truscott who said, when informed by his men that bridging the Volturno river under German fire was impossible, "What do you mean it can't be done? Have you tried it? Go out and do it!" How much more should we not be motivated to "go out and do it" being led by the perfect general, the Lord of Hosts Himself, Jesus Christ.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Please help us with your insight. Our small Bible study group has brought up this question and we are divided as to the answer: If a true Christian experiences devastating grief and becomes angry with God to the point of the unforgivable sin, does he lose salvation?

Thank you.

Response #12:

Good to make your acquaintance.

The unforgivable sin (aka the unpardonable sin) is the sin of denying Jesus Christ, that is, of refusing to become a believer, or, in the case of believers, of abandoning one's faith entirely (aka "apostasy"). So to put it another way, "a true Christian" can never lose his/her salvation. Only those who are not true Christians / believers are condemned. It is certainly true that one of the major causes for apostasy is the feeling that "God let me down!" – for whatever reason. However, there is a difference between alienating oneself from the Lord (by whatever means and for whatever reason) and actually falling completely away from Him into apostasy, the complete death of one's faith.

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:17-18 NKJV

All believers are saved. Only unbelievers are condemned. For a believer to lose salvation means first losing saving faith, and entirely so. This is not usually a quick or a simple process, but we do know from the parable of the Sower that there is an entire category of individuals whose faith is not very deep and which, when put under pressure, will die out like the faith-plant of the seed planted shallow soil. Clearly, there are all manner of behaviors which are dangerous for believers and which will at the very least damage their faith and slow down or reverse their spiritual growth, and blaming God (for anything) definitely represents one of those dangerous mind-sets. But it is faith that is the issue. As long as there is faith in Christ, there is eternal life.

You can find out more about this topic at the following links:

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death.

Have I committed the unpardonable sin?

The Unpardonable Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Yours in Jesus Christ in whom we who believe are safe forever,

Bob Luginbill

Question #13:


God bless you and thank you for your ministry. I am reading about apostasy in your ministry as it relates to 1 John 5:18. Can you please clarify about grace? Sufficient grace. Hasn't our Lord and Savior Jesus died for sin once and for all as reflected in Rom 6:10? And also if he died for sin once and for all, sin doesn't have dominion over you Rom 6:14.

So what I gather is that sin can never have a hold over grace. If you continue to sin, that one act of grace (Jesus death on the Christ) covers continual sin. So how can the grace of God be removed from a believer. I believe it can't. I believe if a believer is unfruitful and continues to backslide, then God will allow their death so their ineffectual testimony won't have an effect on others.

I believe if you confess your sin and accept Jesus as Savior the first time, grace always applies and apostasy doesn't. The judgement comes to believers if they have not been productive with the grace God has given them and therefore reflects in 1 Cor 3:12-14.

Apostasy, I believe, comes from blaspheming the Holy Spirit as Jesus said in Luke 12:10 and Matt: 12:31-32 which is the only unforgivable sin. This sin I believe is the continued rejection of God's offer for salvation through the atoning sacrifice and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Like always, I am here to learn and if I am amiss, please direct me. I don't go to many sites but yours is listed as the only 3 sites I visit for learning the Word of God. Yours and one other specifically for theological questions.

As a follow-up. To me, sin can never replace the blood of Christ. If that is the case, why did Christ die. I do believe that there are instances where an individual "think" they are saved but actually aren't because their hearts didn't confess what their mouth say. In instances like this, the blood of Christ was never an issue because it was poured on that sinner.

Thanks for your feed back and thoughts,

In Christ our Lord

Response #13:

Good to hear from you again.

Grace is often misunderstood. Grace is not some sort of "magic powder"; grace is "God's favor" (see the link). Those who turn to Him have it. Those who turn away from Him do not. God is not the issue. He is absolutely consistent in every way. Creatures are the issue – creatures, that is, who have free will. We are inconsistent in many ways. If we respond to Him in the right way, we enter into His grace; if we turn away from Him, we turn away from His favor. This is true in the absolute sense (of belonging to Him or not through faith in Jesus Christ), and for believers in the relative sense (i.e., the more closely we walk with Him, the more He favors us, and the opposite is true as well).

God has done everything possible for the human race, sending His own beloved Son into the world in order to die for the sins of every human being. Every sin has been paid for – because Christ paid the penalty for each and every sin in suffering spiritual death in the darkness of Calvary on the cross.

So why aren't all saved if all sin has been paid for? The reason is that salvation requires faith; we have to willing to accept God's great Gift in order to be saved. If we are unwilling, then, sins paid for not withstanding, we are not saved. An unbeliever does not possess the "redemption that is IN Christ Jesus" (Rom.3:24; cf. Eph.1:14; Col.1:14) or the "grace that is IN Christ Jesus" (2Tim.2:1) or the "eternal life IN Christ Jesus" (Rom.6:23), because an unbeliever is not "IN Christ Jesus". Everything we have in terms of blessing and deliverance comes from our relationship with Christ. God holds that relationship out to us and offers it freely, "by grace through faith" (Eph.2:8-9), because He is "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2Pet.3:9 NIV) – but that deliverance is dependent upon the free will response of the person in question towards God's one and only solution, Jesus Christ.

No, God is not the problem. We are the problem. The only reason that unbelievers perish is that they choose to do so. The only reason that believers fall away into apostasy is that they choose to do so. History is all about humanity being given free will in order to choose for or against God. And if God did not allow those who choose to deny Him and His Son, to reject Him and His Son, or to ignore Him and His Son to do so, then the entire plan of God and the entire principle of divine justice, righteousness and integrity would be violated:

If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
2nd Timothy 2:13 NKJV

Confession for a believer avails to forgive any and all sin (regardless of whether divine discipline continues: Heb.12:1ff.). Sin is not the reason for apostasy (though it often contributes to it); apostasy is the turning away from God entirely by one's own free will – it is the complete death of faith (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). God is willing to forgive. What He does not do is violate our free will to point of calling an unbeliever a believer (or, blessedly, vice versa, no matter how badly we have behaved), or switching our free will over from negative to positive (or vice versa): we are the ones who have to choose.

The "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is in fact the sin of active disbelief, namely, blasphemously gainsaying the Holy Spirit's gospel witness about Christ (which is what the unbelievers were doing when Christ made this reference: cf. Mk.3:30: "[He said this] because they said, 'He [Jesus] has an unclean spirit' ") – so, again, it is all about faith or lack thereof (see the link).

As to your second question, if a person believes in Christ, that person is saved. There is no such thing as a person who believes in Christ not being saved. It's not complicated. Because of various heresies out there in the ether, and because Christians have in this era of Laodicea generally not paid enough attention to the Bible and Bible teaching, I do run into many Christians who are not sure of their salvation. But that is not the same thing as not being saved. What that is is spiritual immaturity compounded by lack of spiritual nutrition and false information. Calvinists who wish to deny the truth of the clearly biblical doctrine of apostasy often do say that apparent apostates were never really believers in the first place, but that is a terrible canard which has all sorts of horrifically bad doctrinal repercussions for anyone unfortunate enough to believe it. One such is that if a person is sure of their status as a believer, then they are "once saved, always saved" and can do as they please without danger (which, ironically, sometimes leads to gross sin and even apostasy); another such is that those who are given to torture themselves for not being sinlessly perfect after salvation may begin to believe they are "not really saved" (which, ironically, can lead to them losing heart and thus losing faith and actually falling into apostasy).

Yes, it is true that God often does "take out" of this life believers whose witness has become so terrible through gross sinning that they become an open reproach to Jesus Christ – that is the "sin unto death"; but there are plenty of other examples of believers who fall away, who lose faith, who stop believing, not out of gross sinning and not with the result of gross sinning – that loss of faith is "apostasy". The distinction between the two is very important. The first leads to physical death without loss of eternal life (by God's grace), while the latter leads to loss of eternal life without immediate physical death (by personal choice). In both instances, the believers choice is key, with the former being unwilling to "behave" but also unwilling to part with faith, and the latter being unwilling to continue in faith, irrespective of behavior. This is all covered in detail at the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

Finally, genuine, Holy Spirit empowered "works" are a indeed a reflection of being a true believer, but please note that "works" are in the main different from what many people, especially "religious" people often suppose. Is there a believer who never thanked the Lord for anything, who never prayed for someone else, who never trusted God in any matter great or small, etc.? These are all "good works" in the biblical meaning of the term. James' discussion of these matters in chapter two of his epistle is directed to believers (i.e., the recipients of his letter; cf. Jas.1:1-5), and it is in that context that he denigrates "faith without works" – which is really an oxymoron inasmuch as just as it is impossible to produce Spirit-filled works without true faith, so also true faith has never existed without producing (some minimum of) Spirit-filled works. James, "preaching" to the marginal believers in his congregation, wants them to examine their lackluster performance in this regard, and gets their attention by destroying their rationalization: "I have faith! That's all I need!" – when they should be growing spiritually (a "work"), progressing in their walk with Christ (a "work"), and helping others do the same (ministry – but not at all necessarily restricted to the sorts of "works" the religious crowd would assume – a "cup of cold water" offered in the Lord's Name is a "work" that will not fail to be rewarded, after all: Matt.10:42).

The truth is the only answer to all such things. Please do feel free to write back about any of the above. I think that if you will invest some time in the rather extensive study, BB 4B: Soteriology (see the link), you will find the answers to most of these sort of questions therein.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

G'Day Brother!

Hope your keeping well. Is Peter speaking to true Christians in 2 Peter 2:20-21?

God Bless

Response #14:

Good to hear from you as always!

Peter's epistles are to true Christians. This passage you ask about, 2nd Peter 2:20-22, is speaking about hypothetical individuals in the third person. That is to say, he is not addressing this group directly but using them as example in the letter for the benefit of the recipients of the letter.

For if after having escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things, then they have become worse off than they were before. For it would have been better for them not to have accepted the Righteous Way in the first place, rather than – once having accepted this holy command [for faith in Christ] committed to them – to turn their backs on it now. And so in their case this proverb is true: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow, though washed, to her muddy sty".
2nd Peter 2:20-22

The unnamed persons for whom "it would have been better" not to have known the way of righteousness in the first place are persons who did believe, but who later turned away from the faith and went back to the world and their previous worldly way of looking at things, their faith in Christ having completely died out. That is analogous to a "dog returning to its vomit".

Instead of the simplex of the verb gignosko here, Peter actually uses the compound verb epi-gignosko in verse 21, this being the biblical way of saying "know completely", that is, actually make usable in the heart through believing it. Unbelievers might be able to study up and take a multiple choice quiz about the gospel and the Person and work of Christ and get 100% on it, but not actually believing the truth of these truths means that the information is merely academic to them and does them no good. This is an important distinction most version miss entirely when it comes to translating the New Testament (see the link: Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth), important, because it proves we are talking here about apostate believers, not unbelievers who refuse to accept the gospel. Also, in verse 20, Peter says that these individuals actually did escape the corruption of the world, which also means they were saved at some point in the past, although now they have abandoned that salvation: thus they have returned to the world (to the vomit and the filth they had previously escaped).

So these verses demonstrate the fact of the real possibility of believers apostatizing – through the complete death of their faith.

Yours in Jesus Christ who always remains faithful,

Bob L.

Question #15:

G'Day Brother!

I was reading the NIV study bible by Zondervan which is the one you recommended to me; and in his interpretation to this passage he says this is not referring to saved people but rather to false teachers. He seems to be pro OSAS.

I however believe, like you, this is talking to saved people.

God Bless

Response #15:

The first part of the chapter is talking about false teachers (who, it seems, may also have been believers at one time, but not necessarily), but verse 18 brings into the discussion also those who fall prey to the false teaching of these individuals, and that is made clear in context by the words "those who [previously] had truly escaped" (i.e., had been saved by obedience to the truth of the gospel, but now have heeded false teaching). With Peter's conclusion at the end of verse 19 we have the switch over from false teachers to deceived, enslaved, now apostate former believers:

For by what[ever] one is mastered (i.e., the victims of false teaching – who are the center of discussion from here on in), to this is he enslaved.
2nd Peter 2:19b

So while the effect Peter is discussing from here on in (2Pet.2:19b - 2:22) are, technically speaking, focused on the apostate adherents of false teaching, the same sorts of things could be said of the false teachers who have deceived them as well, especially if, as may well be the case given the specifics of Peter's discussion from the beginning of chapter two where this topic is introduced, some or all of the false teachers were originally believers as well (but have now become apostate). The important point is that these verses are speaking of apostasy, a "return" to the world and unbelief on the part of those who had once been enlightened by the truth. Here is how I translate the extended passage (with explanations added):

(18) For by pouring forth [statements] of outrageous folly, [by appealing to] fleshly lusts, and by making use of every [sort of] sensuality, [these false teachers] entice those who [previously] had truly escaped from those who live [such] lives of deception (i.e., the false teachers). (19) [These false teachers] promise [weak believers] freedom [from a disciplined life], though they themselves are truly slaves of corruption. For by what[ever] one is mastered (i.e., the victims of false teaching – who are the center of discussion from here on in), to this is he enslaved. (20) For if after having escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [these weak believers] should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things, then they have become worse off than they were before. (21) For it would have been better for them not to have accepted the Righteous Way in the first place, rather than – once having accepted this holy command [for faith in Christ which was] committed to them – to turn their backs on it now. (22) And so in their case this proverb is true: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow, though washed, to her muddy sty".
2nd Peter 2:18-22

It is very clear here to any careful reader, especially in the Greek but also in the English, that these verses demonstrate that if a believer gives his attention to lies, it can result in the death of faith and loss of salvation (whether he is a teacher or not).

Hope this helps!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior who is the truth,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hey brother Bill,

I was just reading on your site you said that if a believer becomes an unbeliever they commit Apostasy and therefore are not saved. My question is if they repent turn back to Christ do they than become born again "again"? And second doesn't Christ the one born of God keep the believer from continuing in sin and from the evil one touching him. So how can they lose their salvation if Christ protects and keeps them, as in:

1 John 5:18 ESV
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

Just a few questions I was wondering I read that in the case of the Prodigal Son it says that he came alive again and so I was wondering does that prove we can be born again more than once?

Response #16:

Good to hear from you – hope all goes well (I'm keeping you in my prayers).

It's a fair question and a good question. About the fact that a believer can entirely lose faith (the definition of apostasy = no longer believing), there is no doubt:

And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai).
Luke 8:13

As to the question of whether or not those who have once believed and turned away from the Lord ever come back to Him, I'm not aware of any scripture which either rules it out or rules it in. Your citation of the prodigal son is a good one, because it serves to show very clearly what we know from the entire Bible about the merciful nature of the God whom we serve: He is not wanting any to perish (2Pet.3:9) – so it would certainly seem to be in keeping with His love and goodness to welcome back any and all who genuinely do come back (treasuring them like the lost coin or the one sheep out of the hundred gone astray). The practical question here is whether or not these scriptural examples are describing believers whose faith dies out entirely, or believers who merely get off the track and go far off into the weeds through all manner of bad behavior and sloppy spirituality to point of being close to apostatizing (without actually losing their faith in an absolute way). What I can say is that in my opinion if it is true that no one who has ever apostatized has ever come back to be "re-re-born", it would not be because God is limiting them but rather because, in that event, in each and every case in human history the person who had once believed but then turned entirely away from the Lord chose of his/her uncoerced free will not to come back. That is, if there is a "null set", the problem would be entirely with the people in that set, not with God preventing them from coming back to His mercy. Since we can't be definitive about that point, it is hard to be dogmatic about the next step and say anything about the theoretical mechanics of being "re-re-born" again. As I say, in my opinion, where there is life, there is hope, because "nothing is impossible with God" (cf. Gen.18:14; Job 42:2; Jer.32:17; Matt.19:26; Lk.1:37; 18:27). If forced to give an opinion (as opposed to an interpretation), I would opine that, yes, the person can come back, and yes, the mechanics of rebirth would be the same as before, with the Holy Spirit entering the person (back) into Christ.

As to the passage you cite, there is a textual issue here (the Greek actually has heauton, not auton, for the first word translated "him" in your version). Here is my translation of the verse:

We know that everyone who is born [again] from God is not [continually] sinning, but the one who is born [again] from God guards himself [against apostasy], and [so] the evil one is not [able to] lay hold of him.
1st John 5:18

As you see, the real subject is the person of faith who defends his/her faith against all comers. That is our "job one" here on planet earth, with spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and spiritual production flowing out from that faith as we strive to walk closer to Jesus day by day.

I realize that there are a number of passages like this which seem to suggest to some that our security "in Christ" is absolute – and so it is from Christ's side. However, we are not deprived of our free will after salvation (and that explains all the stern warnings in scripture to persevere). Indeed, the entire reason we are left here after we believe is to prove the genuineness of that faith, with some falling away, some wasting their time, and some producing a bumper crop for Jesus Christ that will be rewarded for all eternity. Given the facts that 1) there are many passages which demonstrate the possibility of apostasy (see the link); 2) there are even more that warn believers of the dangers of becoming involved in sinful behaviors which may compromise their faith, sometimes fatally (see the link); and 3) none of the passages which reassure us of our security can be read to mean that we are secure regardless of what we do or how we act in this life (see the link), it seems best to adopt the clearest biblical approach to these matters and embrace the considerable security we do have in Jesus Christ while at the same time allowing not even a hint of backsliding either in our sanctification or in our spiritual growth to have any chance of compromising the glorious salvation we are working out or the ineffable eternal rewards we are striving to secure.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Thank you Bob for your prayers and answers to these questions I do appreciate it. And it does make things a lot easier, seeing that is possible to be born again more than once. So may people say it's impossible and it just confused me as far as Calvinism and Arminians different perspectives. Especially in light of the old testament were God continually calls and takes back those who have fallen like Israel.

You said in 1st John 5:18 that the believer keeps himself. I noticed in other translations like the ESV, NIV, KJV and such say that Christ keeps the believer from continuing in sin? Is it Christ or the believer according to the Greek because I can't seem to find a definitive answer.

Thanks again,

Response #17:

Here's my translation again:

We know that everyone who is born [again] from God is not [continually] sinning, but the one who is born [again] from God guards himself [against apostasy], and [so] the evil one is not [able to] lay hold of him.
1st John 5:18

"The one who is born again" is the believer, and all believers "guard themselves" by protecting their faith; all who so guard themselves (against apostasy) remain safe in Christ and cannot be touched by the evil one. John's Greek is very simple but also very elliptical, meaning that he assumes the reader knows what he is talking about and so does not fill in all the blanks. Such is the case in this verse wherein "the one who" is not spelled out. However, it is inappropriate to call Jesus "the one who was born of/from God" since He is God and the Son of God – this language is never used of our Lord. However, we believers are very often describes as "born again" and "born of God" (throughout the epistles). The key to seeing whether or not a version has this correct is the "himself". The Greek pronoun here is heauton, not auton. Some mss. of the Greek NT do have the latter, but Sinaiticus (the best ms.) and others have the former. Additionally, even without the extension, auton often stands for heauton in the Greek of this period and in the NT in particular (so that just from the theology of the verse this ought to be obvious to serious translators – of which, sigh, there are not that many, apparently). So KJV, NKJV, ASV, YLT, DBY, WEB, HNV are correct, whereas NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, RSV are wrong. Oddly enough, this is one of those places where the so-called "Textus Receptus" used by the KJV is correct but some modern critical editions of the Greek NT are incorrect.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord in whom we continue to be safe – as long as we trust in Him.

Bob L.

Question #18:

Thank you for your clarification Bob, I'm now starting to see a more conditional eternal security which really clears up a lot of confusion that is presented in the normal once saved always saved doctrine. God bless you and I continue to pray that Christ continues to bless you and your ministry.

Response #18:

Glad to be of help, my friend.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

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