Patrick Donahue's Second Affirmative
Against "Once Saved Always Saved"
Let me begin by commenting on a few things in Steve's "Position in a Nutshell" section that relate to the issue at hand. First John 10:29 is used to assert that no man is able to snatch us out of God's hand. The word "snatch" itself indicates that what is under consideration here is someone taking us out of God's hand by force. This of course is impossible. God is infinitely too strong for that. But the real question is, can we voluntarily leave God's hand? The following two verses imply that we can:
Jude verse 21 "Keep yourselves in the love of God ..."
Revelation 3:11 "... hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown ..."
So it is possible for a man to "snatch/take" us out of God's hand if we allow it. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves in God's love, a statement that makes no sense whatsoever if it is impossible for us to fall out of God's love.
Saved By Works
Steve goes on to say we are not saved by works, but the Bible reads "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). This doesn't mean that a person's good works earn his salvation; to the contrary, the blood of Christ does that (Matthew 26:28). But it does mean that our salvation is absolutely conditioned upon our obedience to God (Hebrews 5:9). This is equivalent in concept to the knocking down of the walls of Jericho. Joshua 6:2 teaches that the walls fell by grace (it was "given" to them). Hebrews 11:30 says the walls fell "by faith." Joshua 24:13 says God had "given" the Israelites "a land for which ye did not labour" (earn by works). But did the Israelites have to meet any conditions in order for God to knock those walls down and give them the city and land? Steve would agree that the answer is a resounding yes (Joshua 6:3-21)! So having to meet conditions does not negate the fact that God gives us something "by grace through faith" (Ephesians 2:8-9). If this is true of the walls of Jericho, pray tell me why the same wouldn't be true of our salvation from sin? Obedience is just as necessary a condition of salvation as belief is (Matthew 7:21).
Steve asserts "The genuine elect will persevere, if they are the genuine elect (2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:23; 1 John 2:19)." But II Corinthians 13:5 says nothing close to that. And Colossians 1:23 teaches the very opposite. It reads beginning in verse 22, "... to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel ...." The necessary implication is that Jesus will not present us holy, unblameable, and unreproveable if we do not continue in the faith and/or are moved away from the gospel hope. Paul's statement here only make sense if it is possible for a Christian to cease continuing in the faith and to move away from the hope of the gospel, the result being eternal rejection by God. And I John 2:19 doesn't help Steve's position either, because all you can get from this text is that at the time these people went out they were not "of us." No respected version says they "never belonged to us," which is what Steve needs to give evidence for his position that those who fall away "were never genuine believers in the first place." But even if this passage did teach that those who left were "never" of us, that does not contradict our position, because we believe that many who think and claim they are Christians have never actually become Christians to begin with.
Steve's response to my argument on Galatians 5:4 is essentially that "A genuine Christian can fall from living in the grace of Christ," but that is not the same as to "fall from salvation." First, this contradicts Steve's previously stated position that people who stop living the Christian life "were never genuine believers in the first place." Second, Steve's response won't work if you consider the context. In talking about the same people, Galatians 5:2 says "Christ shall profit you nothing." Can a person be saved if he is not profited by the death of Christ? Certainly not; therefore since "falling from grace" is equivalent to "Christ shall profit you nothing," Galatians 5:4 is talking about falling away from salvation. Steve next asserts without proof that Peter did not lose his salvation in Galatians 2, but if you examine what he did in light of II John verse 9 ("Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God"), you will have to conclude that Peter was without God in his transgression (Galatians 2:14,17,18). Surely Steve doesn't think a person can be saved without God.
Steve writes "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." But if words mean anything, the implication of Revelation 3:5 is that it is possible for a Christian to fail to overcome, and if he fails, his name will be blotted out of the book of life (lose his salvation). This is plain. It should be very easy for the reader to judge what the Bible teaches in this verse.
Steve's basic answer doesn't address what I said about James 5:19-20, so I will repeat here. The passage considers a "brother" who errs from the truth. He needs converting, because if he isn't converted, his soul will die. That proves my position beyond doubt that it is possible for a brother in Christ to sin so as to be lost. Steve said it might be addressing someone who was never genuinely saved, but God said it was a brother. Steve said it might be talking about a brother who turned away but was still saved, but the text says his soul would die if he was not converted back. Steve says that my position on the verse would contradict Hebrews 6:4-8 and 10:26-31. Hebrews 6:4-8 shows that it is possible for a Christian to "fall away," but that he will not be converted back as long as he crucifies to himself the Son of God afresh. That concurs with my position exactly. I will address Hebrews 10:26-31 below.
I Corinthians 9:25-27
Steve asserts that the "crown" (possibly lost in I Corinthians 9:27) represents rewards in heaven, even though every time this word is used in the new testament as a reward, it is talking about the reward of heaven itself. The same idea here is found in James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 which terms it "crown of life." This has to be talking about heaven itself, else a person can go to heaven without (spiritual) life. Steve ignored my main point here that Paul could possibly become a "reprobate," which means "rejected by God" (according to Random House and Jeremiah 6:30). It is simply amazing to me that Steve's position has a person "rejected by God" still going to heaven, but only losing some rewards in heaven.
I Corinthians 8:11
I Corinthians 8:11 actually says that a "brother" can be lost. Steve's response is that this was not a genuine brother, but only a brother visibly. The only problem with that is the inspired writer says it was a brother, not just someone "called a brother" as in I Corinthians 5:11. And if God says someone is a brother, I think He would know. He wouldn't be deceived by a pretender.
II Peter 2:20-22
Steve's response to my argument on II Peter 2:20-22 is that the persons in question were always dogs and pigs. But he is missing the point of the analogy. The illustration is that the dog leaves the vomit, and the sow is cleaned up. That represents the changing point of becoming a Christian. The pig being cleaned of mud illustrates a sinner being cleaned of his sins. This is confirmed by the actual text which says these people had escaped the sins of the world through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This could only describe a person becoming a Christian.
II Peter 1:9-11
Steve's response to II Peter 1:9-11 is that these people who fell had never become Christians to begin with. But the text says this person was "purged from his old sins." The ASV has "cleansing" and the NASV has "purification" where the KJV has "purged." I don't know how much plainer it could be that this person had been forgiven of his sins. The text goes on to say that this person who could fall needed to make his calling and election sure, which refutes Steve's assertion that "No one is ever 'unelected.'" Is it possible that people are being more loyal to a particular belief system than to God's word and what it says beyond question?
Steve's response to Hebrews 3:12 is similar to his other responses; a genuine brother is not under consideration. But the inspired text says he was a "brother." Do I need to remind Steve that "inspired" means that God wrote it and therefore it cannot be wrong? If God himself says these people were "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" (verse 1), just why doesn't Steve believe it is really so? And just like it is impossible to depart from Atlanta if you never were there to begin with, it is impossible to "depart from the living God" if you never were with Him (saved) to begin with.
In this section Steve claims that "Counterfeit Christians can temporarily be 'clean,'" but I think the reader knows better. Counterfeit Christians receive no cleansing from sin whatsoever. And Steve ignored Jesus' point here that these people were "in" Christ. Steve, are counterfeit Christians "in Christ"?
Steve again claims this passage is talking about "counterfeit Christians," but the inerrant word of God calls them "brethren" in verse 19. Do we love God enough to accept what He plainly says (Luke 6:46)? There is nothing in this passage to preclude a "second salvation" (as Steve terms it), anymore than John 3:36b precludes a first salvation.
Steve claims that the Greek word for "believed (episteuse)" in Acts 8:13 is not a word that refers to saving faith, but Steve doesn't really even believe his own argument here, unless he thinks the Samaritans of verse 12 were not saved either. The same Greek word (Strong's 4100) is in verse 12. Steve believes the believers of verse 12 were saved, and verse 13 says that Simon believed (same Greek word) also. The word "also" indicates Simon believed just like they did. Either both the Samaritans and Simon were saved or they were both lost. The word "also" indicates the same thing happened to both of them. And this same Greek word for "believed" (4100) is used in countless places where Steve thinks it is referring to saving faith (John 3:16, Acts 10:43, 16:31, Romans 10:9-10, etc.). Why not here, unless it is only because it doesn't fit Steve's theory?
Steve asks "How is eternal life eternal if it could be only temporary?" But "eternal" and "unloseable" are two different concepts. "Eternal" tells how long spiritual life is to last. But that doesn't mean that spiritual life is "unloseable." Adam and Eve possessed eternal physical life, but lost it as a result of their first sin (I Corinthians 15:22, Genesis 3:22-24). The same is possible of "eternal" spiritual life.
The reader should ask the following question about this debate: Who is just accepting the plain meaning of the Biblical texts, and who is working real hard to explain away (get around) the plain meaning of the Biblical texts? Yes, it is really true that "the wages of sin is death" for sinner or saint (Romans 6:23). It is possible for a genuine Christian to sin and therefore die spiritually.
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by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.