By Ron F. Hale.
He has served as Pastor, Church Planter, Strategist (NAMB), Director of Missions, Associate Executive Director of Evangelism and Church Planting for a State Convention, and now in the 4th quarter of ministry as Minister of Missions.
While living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I loved looking down at the cityscape from the perch of Mt. Washington. You could ride the incline car up the steep hillside and see the confluence of the Ohio River as the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers came to an end at “The Point” in downtown Pittsburgh; Three Rivers Stadium is nearby. Depending on the weather in southwestern Pennsylvania, some days you could see muddy waters from one river flowing into the headstream of the Ohio River, while the other river brought much clearer water. These two rivers (one cloudy and one clear) seemed to flow side-by-side while slowly mixing and mingling together in the formation of the mighty Ohio.
Two rivers of theological thought have historically flowed through the mainstream of the Southern Baptist Convention. The waters have been muddied a bit by the Great Awakenings in America, the Sandy Creek revivalist tradition of Separate Baptists in the South, the Charleston tradition influenced more by Particular confessions of faith and their pastors trained in Presbyterian seminaries like Princeton, and the adoption of new Baptist confessions and statements of faith forged in the New World.
Why Your Faith Is Secure, Part 3:
It Is a Scriptural Promise
We have been examining reasons for the security of the believer from Ephesians 1 and other Scriptures – that persons who are genuinely saved are saved forever. We have seen two reasons in previous articles why the Bible teaches that we cannot lose their salvation: — “(Part 1) Salvation Is of God, Not of Us” — salvation is not ours to lose since God provides it, not we ourselves, and “(Part 2) It is Based upon a Life Changing Experience with God.” In this third article of the series is the most compelling reason why we believe that we cannot lose our salvation – because eternal salvation is a Scriptural promise.
Continuing our in-depth study of Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul (in reference to his own salvation and the salvation of the Christians in Ephesus) spoke of being “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13b, see also Eph. 4:30). What does being “sealed” mean? In the first century as Paul wrote these words, seals were a very important tool in communicating messages. Important instructions from a king to his army commander would usually be sent on a scroll and delivered by a messenger or courier. Two challenges came with this method of communication. First, it was possible that someone else might counterfeit a message and send the commander the wrong instructions. Second, the enemy might intercept the message, open the scroll, and read its secret contents. How could these problems be avoided? The king would put wax on the scroll to seal it, and then would imprint his signet ring on the soft wax. The commander could then know that the message was authentic and from the king because it had his sign upon it. And since the seal had not been broken, the commander could be sure that the message had not been compromised by the enemy.
Matt O’Reilly is Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Union Springs, Alabama, a Ph.D candidate in New Testament at the University of Gloucestershire, and Adjunct Instructor of New Testament Greek at Asbury Theological Seminary. Connect at www.mattoreilly.net or follow on Twitter @mporeilly.
New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg recently wrote on the different understandings of grace as irresistible as opposed to prevenient. After describing the difficulty that many have with “limited atonement,” namely that it means “Christ’s death went for naught for those who do not repent,” he goes on to suggest that prevenient grace may have a similar problem:
What if the problem with prevenient grace is parallel? Would God extend sufficient (but resistible) grace to those he knew would forever resist and reject it? Wouldn’t that just be a waste?
Blomberg is a fine scholar and has contributed in a variety of ways to sound biblical scholarship. Here I would raise a question, though. He seems to be speaking of grace as if it were a substance. It is something that God “extends,” something that can be wasted. Many of us often speak in such ways, and I would like to hear Blomberg discuss this more thoroughly. Grace is not a substance; grace is a person. There is no grace other than the person of Jesus Christ Himself. Salvation by grace means being joined in a relationship of union with Jesus such that all that is His is shared with those who are joined to Him. When we think of grace as a person rather than as some other sort of thing, it is difficult to make sense of terms like “waste.” Can a person be wasted?
Why Your Faith Is Secure, Part 2:
It is Based upon a Life-Changing Experience with God
by Steve Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, McFarland Chair of Theology, and Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
The previous article in this series is “Salvation is of God, Not of Us.”
Can you lose your salvation? This is the second in a series of articles that show that the Bible affirms that once you are genuinely saved, you are saved forever. In the previous article, we saw that we cannot lose our salvation because salvation is simply not ours to lose. It is God who took the initiative in our salvation and who accomplished our salvation, not we ourselves. We did not earn or deserve our salvation; it is God who provided it for us.
The second reason that we can know the assurance of our salvation is that it is based upon a life-changing experience with God. In Ephesians 1, even as the Apostle Paul is talking about God choosing us from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and predestining us (Eph. 1:5, 11), just verses later he also speaks of the role of a believer’s faith response to God.
Paul speaks first of his own life-changing conversion experience and that of the other early Christians. He said that in response to God’s initiative in salvation, “that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12, NKJV). Perhaps as he wrote these words, Paul was reflecting back on his own dramatic salvation experience on the Damascus Road. Saul the persecutor of the church became Paul the apostle. Paul’s testimony of this experience is so pivotal to him that the entire account is repeated three times in Scripture (Acts 9:1-31, 22:1-22, 26:2-23). Paul’s confidence in his own salvation was based in part in his absolute assurance that the experience he had with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road was real and genuine. You simply could not have convinced the Apostle Paul that this dramatic, life-changing experience was a dream, illusion, mirage, or hallucination. He knew it was real, and it changed his life. As he came to know the other early apostles and believers in the Jerusalem church whose lives had also been dramatically transformed, he had confidence in the genuineness of their salvation as well. Whenever any doubts arose about his own salvation, all he had to do was remember the reality of his own salvation experience, and remind himself, ”I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 2:12, NKJV).
Why Your Faith Is Secure, Part 1:
Salvation is of God, Not of Us
From time to time, many Christians struggle with the issue of the assurance of their salvation. Often these doubts arise out of a sense of unworthiness when the believer becomes aware of stubborn sins in their own lives that hinder their fellowship with God. Some other denominations teach that even true believers can lose their salvation. Does the Bible teach that once we are genuinely saved, that we are saved forever? Or can we lose our salvation?
Southern Baptists have always believed in what is known variously as the security of the believer, the perseverance of the saints, or “once saved, always saved.” Each of these three names brings out a different aspect of the doctrine. Article V of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 words our Baptist belief in assurance of salvation in this way:
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. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Why do Baptists believe in the security of the believer? What biblical reasons do you have to feel a firm assurance in your salvation? This is the first in a series of articles that will examine biblical reasons for affirming the doctrine of security of the believer. The first argument I will make is that the Bible teaches we cannot lose our salvation because it is not ours to lose.