The Donahue - Morrison Debate
on "Once Saved, Always Saved?"
Steve Morrison's First Rebuttal
In order to best respond, let me first make my own position (perseverance) clear, because there are some differences among those who hold to once-saved-always saved, and my view might not be exactly what might he think it is. You will see why I even need the verses he brought up to support my position. Also, let me say that if a person has a wrong view on once-saved-always-saved, I believe they can still be a genuine Christian, effectively serving the Lord.
The Perseverance Position in a Nutshell
1. Foreknowledge and predestination: Before the universe began, God knew with complete certainty every individual who would be saved and lost, He chose us (Ephesians 1:4,11; Titus 1:2; Romans 8:28-30; 9:22-23; Matthew 22:14) and there are no surprises with the God who knows everything (1 John 3:20; Isaiah 46:10-11; Psalm 139:16, see Romans 11:29). However, Gods foreknowledge and predestination neither coerced anyone to sin, nor reduced their responsibility. The fault of why they lost the salvation that could be theirs (Jonah 2:8) is entirely their own (Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 7:30).
2. Assurance: Believers can have assurance (1 John 5:13,18; Romans 8:31-38), confidence (Ephesians 3:12), and a guarantee of salvation (Ephesians 1:14), based on Gods promise, strength, and active working through the Holy Spirit (Jude 24). No one can snatch us out of Gods hand (John 10:29).
3. Not by Works: We not only needed Gods initiative, leading, help, and strength to get saved (by grace through faith), we need Gods help and sustaining strength to stay saved (by grace through faith). We are called of God (2 Tim 1:9; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1:24,29-30; Ephesians 1:18). We do not get saved by works, and we do not stay saved by works either. So what role do works have? Works are evidence that we have a living faith, as brain waves are evidence of being alive (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).
4. We strive hard for Christ (Romans 12:11-12), to be more holy and Christlike (1 Peter 1:16; Ephesians 5:1), not to earn the right to keep salvation, but for love of God (Romans 12:1-2), looking to what Jesus did for us (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 3:1; 12:2-3; 2 Corinthians 5:15), because reward in Heaven (1 Corinthians 4 3:11-14; Galatians 5:9), and compassion for others (Philippians 1:24-26; Colossians 1:24). We are a new creation in Christ, and we want to follow our new nature (Romans 6:1-7; 7:4-6; 8:8:5-17; 2 Cor 5:17; Galatians 2:19-20).
5. However, counterfeit conversion happens in the Bible and today, where people within the visible church can believe for a while and then leave (1 John 2:19), and people who intellectually believe can fool not only others but also themselves (Matthew 7:21-23). Some who were never saved can know the scriptures (John 5:39-47), have a false assurance (Jeremiah 17:9-10), and have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). They can escape the worlds corruption for a while, but then be overcome (2 Peter 2:17-22; 1 Peter 1:9-11). Some can perish without seeing a need for a savior for themselves (1 John 1:9-10).
6. We are commanded to test that we are in the faith (doctrinally in 1 Corinthians 3:18-20; 15:1-6; by our works in James 2:14-26; in love in 1 John 2:9 and Revelation 2:4, and in our lives in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13; 6:9-11; 2 Peter 1:10-11). How are we are to make our hope sure (Hebrews 6:11)? The genuine elect will persevere, if they are the genuine elect (2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:23; 1 John 2:19).
7. Our balanced attitude should be gratitude and confidence in God (Hebrews 10:35), not pride and self-confidence (Philippians 3:3-11); Watchfulness of our life and doctrine striving hard (2 Peter 3:14), not lazy complacency (Hebrews 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). We are to have a reverent fear of the awesome Lord, not dread of future trials (Hebrews 12:18-29). Paul writes, of our responsibility to work-out our own salvation because God is working in us in Philippians 2:12b-13.
8. There is a lostness in two senses but not a third. By birth we were estranged from God (Ephesians 2:1-3; 11-13); none of us had the Holy Spirit from birth, (except for John the Baptist in Luke 1:15). Visibly, people can appear to be Christians, but they wither and fall away (Matthew 13:5,20-21), and be eternally lost. However, God does not change His mind. He does not unpredestine, unchoose, or unregenerate the elect.
As my nine-year old daughter asked, if a real Christian stopped being a Christian would they go to Heaven or Hell?
Many Arminians say No; they lost their salvation.
Cheap grace says Yes; they came forward, once intellectually believed, and said some words.
Perseverance says No; like Simon in Acts 8:13,20, they were never genuine believers in the first place.
I recommend carefully studying the verses Patrick brought up, not only because they show cheap grace to be wrong, but they are also good verses to demonstrate the counterfeit conversion and test yourself points. Now allow me to give what I think is some needed correction and Biblical balance to Patricks fitting together of these important verses.
Galatians 5:4 the Greek word here, katergethete, means severed, alienated, or estranged, and the verse says fall from grace, not fall from salvation. A genuine Christian can fall from living in the grace of Christ due to legalism, even as the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-30) and Peter (Galatians 2:11), but Peter did not lose his salvation. In addition, consistent with the counterfeit conversions and test yourself points, a reprobate person can hear the truth, but turn aside from grace to legalism. But nobody should use this verse against legalism, to support a legalism of staying saved by works.
Revelation 3:5; 20:15; 21:27; (not 22:19) does mention the Book of those who are saved. All who are not written in the book will perish, but God chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Ephesians 1:11 and Roman 8:29 say we are predestined. Now we might want to discuss exactly what that means, all Christians have to agree that at least somehow, Christians are predestined. The promises at the end of each of the seven Revelation churches are for all believers to hope in. Revelation 3:5 gives only positive affirmation, providing genuine Christians comfort that in no way will our names ever be blotted out of the book of life.
By the way, there is overwhelming evidence that Revelation 22:19 is actually tree of life, not book of life. Only 1 or 2 late Greek manuscripts says book; all others say tree. However, in the 1500s when Erasmus made his copy, the Greek manuscript he used was missing the last six verses; so he translated back from the Latin textus receptus, which said book. As the NKJV says in a footnote, this is one place where the textus receptus [book: ligno in Latin] differs from the majority text [tree: libro in Latin]. See The Expositors Bible Commentary volume 12 p.603, 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.13, The Expositors Greek New Testament volume 5 p.493, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.990, Aland et al. in their 3rd and 4th editions, A Textual Commentary on the New Testament 2nd edition p.690, the NASB and NIV for more info.
James 5:19-20 can refer to two cases: one who never was genuinely saved in the first place, and a genuinely saved person who turned away to sin (but was still saved), and then was brought back and persevered. It cannot be a person who is genuinely saved, loses their salvation, and then gets saved a second time, because that goes against Hebrews 6:4-8 and 10:26-31.
I Corinthians 9:25-27 has the context of a crown, which is rewards in heaven, not salvation. Yes, Paul could have lost his rewards in Heaven, though Paul had confidence he was called to go heavenward (Philippians 3:14). Paul discusses heavenly rewards and their loss in detail in 2 Corinthians 3:8-15. By the way, Jer 6:30 refers to the entire people of Israel, not just individual salvation.
II Peter 2:20-22 I think is one of the best verses to show cheap grace is wrong. But notice that they were always dogs, always pigs, and 1 John 2:19 is still true. Yes they appeared to others as Christians, but they were never one of the elect, for those cleaned-up dogs and pigs were never genuinely born again.
II Peter 1:9-11 shows that a person can have a cleaned up life for a while, but fall away and be eternally lost, as 2 Peter 2:20-22 also shows. 2 Peter 1:10: making your calling sure, as well as 2 Corinthians 13:5, are important truths. No one is ever unelected, but believers should make sure we are not deceived counterfeit Christians. Contrary to what you implied, a Christian does not stay saved by his Christian graces or any other works or merits either (Galatians 3:2-3).
Hebrews 3:12 is a serious reminder of the counterfeit conversion and test yourself points. Hebrews 3:13-15 does not sound pleasant, but Gods warnings to all of use are not meant to be pleasant. But these are actually words of love, for our benefit, that God warns us, to test ourselves that we are not counterfeit Christians. Hebrews 3:16-19 shows that this is referring to eternal lostness, not loss of reward. You can look at this as eternal loss of salvation offered to all (1 John 2:2), not any loss or specific salvation or un-predestination. When Jesus said people were lost, he did NOT mean everybody is born found and saved, and some get lost. Yes, these and other verses show a condition, but it is a condition of demonstration of result, not cause. It does not mean if you do not do works (and show Christlike character), it will cause you to lose salvation. Rather, if a person does not do work and show Christlike character that demonstrates the result that they never were a genuine believer. I do believe someone who is a believer, whom others and he himself think is a genuine Christian, can become an unbeliever and depart from God and His truth. However, they were never a genuine believer, and they cannot depart from a true abiding relationship with God.
John 15:2-6 does not mean that believers earn keeping their salvation. This warning is for people who think they are genuine Christians, but are counterfeit, and their lack of fruit proves it. They will be pruned, cut off from the life of Christ, and perish forever. Counterfeit Christians can temporarily be clean her just as dogs and sows can in 2 Peter 2:22. Remaining in Christ, which gives evidence of fruit, includes remaining in your mind, heart, and outward life.
Hebrews 10:26-27 refers to people who leave the faith, depend on another instead of Christ, and end up in Hell. As Romans 8:29 and 1 John 2:19 show, they were never among us, or predestined in the first place. These verses rule out a second salvation. Yet I have known people who have left the faith, in one case praying that God get out of their life, in another case becoming a Mormon, and yet later both repented and came back to Christ. How can this be? These people were not saved again, but Hebrews 10:26-27 and 6:4-8 refer to counterfeit Christians who do not persevere and never come back.
Acts 8:12-13,22-23 uses a different word for believed than saving faith. Simon intellectually believed (episteuse), but it never says He truly believed (pestuvo). As a side note, though Simon could have repented and truly believe later, Church History tells us that he never did. In fact, he started a heresy, went to Rome, and had people worship him as a god according to Eusebius Ecclesiastical History (book 2 chapters 1,13).
I John 1:9; Acts 8:22 a Christian must confess, repent, and believe. You ask, what if he refuses to do that? The answer is simple: he is going to Hell, because, regardless of what he might claim, he never was a genuine Christian in the first place. I think your other verses, Romans 6:23, Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:8, are good verses to show how important these things are to demonstrate our salvation. How many Christians will die, refusing to repent of and confess their sins, and be lost? I think the answer is zero genuine Christians, but many counterfeit Christians.
A genuine, persevering Christian is unconditionally saved by Gods grace, with no merit from his own works or perseverance.
I feel 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 is one of the most significant verses in the Bible to show vital doctrine verses eternally fatal error, and it is important to support the counterfeit conversion point. Likewise 1 John 1:9 is supports the not by works point. Now these are problems for cheap grace, but not perseverance. Revelation 2:9-10 refers to a crown; that is, rewards in heaven. Not all the saved have rewards in Heaven, as 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 and 9:25-27 show.
Numbers 14:12 is punishment in this life, and is questionable to refer to salvation. However, I agree with your thrust, that we should live on guard, examining ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). However, you left out the balance that we also live with assurance knowing we have eternal life (1 John 5:13), with a guarantee of the eternal life (Ephesians 1:14-15). How is eternal life eternal if it could be only temporary? How is it an unearned gift if we have to earn keeping it?
In John 3:16 God promised that For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish Praise God for everlasting life! (Posted 7/22/2005)
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