Perseverance of the Saints Part 6: Hebrews 10:26-30

We now examine what I consider to be the most significant warning against apostasy in the entire Bible: Hebrews 10:26-30, 35-39.  I will quote the entirety of the text I wish to examine below but this post will deal only with verses 26-30.  Verses 35-39 will be examined in a future post.

[26] For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, [27] but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. [28] Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. [29] How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? [30] For we know Him who said ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’  And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.” [31] It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God…[35] Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. [36] For you have need of endurance, so that you will have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. [37] ‘For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. [38] But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’  [39] But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

We will examine this passage verse by verse with exegetical notes along the way.

Verse 26: “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”

The willful sin described here is generally understood to be the sin of apostasy (the same as in Heb. 2:1; 3:12; 6:6 and 12:25).  It is the decisive act of repudiation of the faith.  This is the general consensus despite the present participle.  Calvinists Peterson and Williams write:

Because of the severity of the rest of this verse, we understand sinning “deliberately” as indicating a deliberate renunciation of one’s faith rather than speaking generally of intentional sin. [Why I Am Not An Arminian, pg. 85]

Donald A. Hagner agrees:

The words if we deliberately keep on sinning do not refer to ordinary sins, but to the most grievous and final sin, apostasy.  (NIV’s keep on sinning is an interpretive addition intended to reflect the present participle of the Greek; here, however, it may be that the KJV’s and the RSV’s straightforward “if we sin” is a more appropriate translation.) [NIBC: Hebrews, pg. 169]

The parallel with the other warning passages in Hebrews would support this interpretation.  The use of the present participle could also have reference to the continuing rebellion which hardens the heart to the point of outright apostasy, while it is the repudiation which results from this hardening that is specifically in view in the rest of the passage.

The second part of the passage tells us that this repudiation takes place “after receiving the knowledge of the truth”.  This is a significant phrase especially in light of the use of the Greek epignosis for “knowledge.” I will quote from my post on 2 Pet. 2:20 with regards to the significance of how this Greek word is used here:

It is significant that the Greek word for “knowledge” used in this passage is epignosis.  This Greek word is predominately used by NT writers with reference to a full and complete knowledge, in contrast to an investigative or superficial knowledge (gnosis).  Strong says of epignosis, “full discernment” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Greek word # 1922).  Kittel says, “The compound epignosis can take on almost a technical sense for conversion to Christianity” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 121 [one volume edition]).  Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says of gnosis, “primarily a seeking to know, an enquiry, investigation”, and of the stronger epignosis: “denotes exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition, and is a strengthened form of No. 1 [gnosis], expressing a fuller or a full knowledge, a greater participation by the knower of the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him” [pg. 631]. The NASB renders epignosis as “real knowledge” in Phil. 1:9, and “true knowledge” in 2 Pet. 1:3, 8. In Col. 1:9 epignosis has reference to “all spiritual wisdom and understanding” and “a spirit of wisdom and revelation” in Eph. 1:17 (also see Philemon 4-6).”

Especially consider the salvation language of 1 Tim. 2:3, 4, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge [epignosis] of the truth”, compared with Heb. 10:26, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge [epignosis] of the truth…”  While this is strong evidence in favor of viewing the apostate as one who had come to a complete and saving knowledge of the truth, the choice of epignosis by the writer of Hebrews does not, by itself, prove that such is the case.  Epignosis and gnosis are sometimes used interchangeably in Scripture but the stronger sense of epignosis should not be ignored.  Even if gnosis were used the context would still suggest saving knowledge.  Paul Ellingworth writes in his commentary on the Greek text that this “knowledge of the truth” is:

…the content of Christianity as the absolute truth (Bauer 2b); ‘the decisive knowledge of God which is implied in conversion to the Christian faith’ (R Bultmann in TDNT 1.707).  The language is not typical of the author, and suggests a formula.  The closest NT parallels are 1 Tim. 2:4; 2Tim. 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1, all anarthrous; cf. John 8:32; 1 Jn. 2:21; 2 Jn. 1…Kosmala’s view (137) that ‘the knowledge of truth’ in this verse ‘does not yet include faith in Jesus Christ’ has not won support and is alien to the context. (The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, pp 532, 533)

The last part of the verse creates big trouble for Calvinism with regards to the doctrine of limited atonement: “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”  By repudiating the faith there is no longer any sacrifice available for the apostate.  However, if Calvinism is correct then there never was any sacrifice made for the apostate to begin with.  The “apostate”, according to Calvinism, is really just a reprobate who came to the very edge of saving faith and then turned away.  The apostate never put faith in Christ and his turning away only revealed his true unregenerate and irrevocably reprobated nature.  Calvinism asserts that Christ did not die for reprobates and never made any provision for their sins.  How then can it be said that by the act of apostasy that there “no longer remains a sacrifice for sins?”  This difficulty only magnifies later in the passage as we shall see.

Some may object that the verse could be understood as simply stating that there is no other sacrifice available for the apostate to turn to and no other sacrifice that can be made since Christ died “once for all [time].”  The fact remains, however, that such a statement seems unnecessary in light of the warning itself as there would never have been any sacrifice provided for the apostate (reprobate) to turn to in the first place (according to Calvinism). It also seems clear from the context that the fact that no sacrifice remains is directly connected to the act of apostasy itself rather than to some secret decree which eternally barred the reprobate from any benefits of the atonement.  The fact that there is nowhere else to turn, then, is directly related to the act of rejection (apostasy) and not to any secret eternal decree.

Verse 27: “…but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

There remains no more sacrifice for sins for the apostate but there is something which remains, the promise of eternal fiery judgment.  This verse plainly teaches that the destiny of the apostate is Hell fire.  The destiny of the apostate is “the fury of fire which will consume the enemies,” for the apostate has made himself an enemy of God through his rejection of Christ’s sacrifice and will therefore suffer the fate of God’s enemies.

We need to pause briefly to consider an interpretation offered by some proponents of unconditional eternal security which looks to draw a parallel between this passage and 1 Corinthians 3:14-15:

If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

Based on their understanding of 1 Cor. 3:14-15 it is claimed that only a loss of rewards is in view in Hebrews 10:27.  However, the context of Heb. 10:27 does not allow for such an interpretation as it is describing the destiny of the apostate and not his or her rewards.  The apostate has become God’s enemy and will suffer the same eternal ruin as all God’s enemies.  The parallel with Heb. 6:8 is significant:

…but if [that land] yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

It is important to note that the land is burned and not just the thorns and thistles.  The land plainly represents the final state of the apostate in Heb. 6:8 and parallels the final state and destiny of the apostate in Heb. 10:27.  It is forced exegesis at best to insist that rewards are in view in either of these passages.  We should further comment on the context of 1 Cor. 3:14-15.  Those who may “suffer loss” are those workers (Paul and Apollos specifically in the immediate context cf. 3:6-9) who have “built” on the foundation of Jesus Christ (verses 11-12).

This passage is speaking of the quality of the work done by those who were building on the foundation of Jesus Christ.  Only believers can be in view here, which is not the case in Hebrews 10:27.  1 Cor. 3:14-15 is not speaking of the fruit of faith and the Holy Spirit in someone’s personal life (e.g. John 15:1-6; Gal. 5:22-23), but the quality and effectiveness of ministerial work in building the body of Christ (verses 12-15).  These workers will remain saved because they built on the sure foundation, but they will have nothing to show for their labor because they did not build on that foundation wisely.  Their efforts, therefore, will prove to be in vain.

Verses 28 and 29:  “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

These verses pose great difficulty for Calvinism and have endured some of the most unfortunate acts of exegetical torture by those who have desperately tried to keep their doctrines from suffering shipwreck on the plain implications of these verses.

Verses 28 and 29 indicate that the punishment in view goes beyond physical death as was noted above.  The writer is here demonstrating God’s justice in His wrathful and eternal punishment of the apostate that was so vividly described in verse 27.  This “more severe” punishment is well deserved because the apostate has “trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace.”

The greatest difficulty for Calvinism in these verses is the fact that the apostate is said to have been sanctified by the blood of the covenant.  We will discuss this further in a moment, but it is also important to note that the apostate has “trampled under foot the Son of God” and “insulted the Spirit of Grace.”

The nature and scope of the atonement comes into sharp focus in these passages in view of God’s just judgment of the apostate.  We need to remember that in Calvinism no provision has been made for the reprobate.  Jesus Christ did not shed His blood for the reprobate.  His sacrifice was not intended for those whom God had decreed to destroy even before the world was created.  Most Calvinists say that the Holy Spirit “passes over” these reprobates and denies them the necessary grace to believe and be saved.

If the Holy Spirit has no intentions of saving the reprobate and has deliberately withheld saving grace from them, then how can it possibly be said that these supposed “reprobates” (i.e. apostates) have “insulted” the Spirit of Grace?  In what sense could they possibly have trampled under foot the Son of God when the Son of God made no provision for them?  They have not truly rejected the blood of His sacrifice, for that blood was neither intended nor provided for them.  The reprobates have nothing to reject for God has not made anything available for them.  How then is God justified in judging them with regard to that “rejection?”

The passage answers this question for us in a way that creates even bigger problems for Calvinism’s cherished “P”.  The apostates are condemned because the blood of Christ was not only truly shed for them but had in fact “sanctified” them.  God’s gracious gift of salvation had not only been truly provided for the apostate but also applied to the apostate.  The decisive act of apostasy is, for that reason, such a grievous sin and outright insult to the Spirit of grace who Himself applied that sanctifying blood of the covenant (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1, 2; 2 Thess. 2:13).  This is why the apostate deserves such “severe” punishment (vs. 29).

Calvinists are well aware of the implications of these verses and have come up with some ingenious ways in which to alleviate the difficulty.  We will examine two of these proposed interpretations in our next two posts.  After that we will examine verses 31-39.

Go to Part 7

Go to Part 1

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53 Responses

  1. Kangaroodort,

    I pray that my interaction with your post will be gracious and humble and that the Spirit lead me in seeing what you have to teach me on this topic. I will state up-front that I will probably not do justice to your work, while your post was well written and lengthy I wish to hone in on only one part at this time. I am aware that you will discuss two interpretations of these verses in the near future, so if what I am about to discuss is part of one of those interpretations than I apologize for jumping the gun.

    I pray that the Spirit guide us in our interaction and that I display a gracious spirit and a humble heart as we discuss some of these things. As I stated at the beginning I only want to concentrate on one part of your post for now, and that is the term “sanctified” and its meaning in this particular verse (Heb. 10:29).

    We are told that the “true” believer has been sanctified in the past and that it has a lasting effect (Heb. 10:10). It seems that what is being described in that verse is a positional “sanctification”, but we learn a few verses later that we are presently being “sanctified” by an outside force (Heb. 10:14). Now I will just assume that we agree that this outside force that is “sanctifying” us is Jesus, if I am mistaken please let me know. So what we have is progressive sanctification, we know that as “true” believers we are becoming more holy and this should give us great joy and comfort. I also know that this side of heaven I will not be completely holy, but in a positional view I am completely holy.

    Now that we have laid some groundwork we can delve a bit deeper into Heb. 10:29 and what it could mean. Earlier in Hebrews we are told that we are partakers of Christ If we hold fast our assurance to the end (Heb. 3:14). Now it seems clear to me that this is vital in how we view Heb. 10:29, the implication and the meaning that I get from Heb. 3:14 is that if I do not hold fast unto the end then I was never a partaker of Christ. Since they were never partakers of Christ then this is not a case of losing one’s salvation, instead it shows that they never had it in the first place. That being said I do not see how this verse is a problem for the “P” in Calvinism. In fact, it seems to only re-enforce it. If you believe that I am mis-representing the text please tell me, all I ask is that you show my error from Scripture.

    Praise be to God.

  2. That was really good. Nice job tying in the problems of limited (or definite) atonement with verse 26.

  3. Man I tell ya . . . if anyone is gong to convince me, it’ll be you guys! Good stuff. I can’t wait to read it all (from older posts).

    Billy

  4. Mitch,

    Thanks for stopping by. I have to admit that I am having difficulty following some of what you are saying concerning sanctification. The passage speaks of being sanctified with the blood of the covenant and I think the surrounding context makes it clear that this is true sanctification wrought by Christ’s blood. I will be getting more into that in a future post.

    Heb. 10:14 indicates that Christ’s work is sufficient to sanctify believers. Christ’s once for all act of sacrifice provided the grounds and means by which we can be holy and cleansed before God, but this continuing sanctification is conditioned on faith and Heb. 10:26-29 is speaking of those who repudiate the faith they once had. Verse 29 makes it very clear that they had indeed been sanctified prior to this repudiation.

    You wrote:

    “Now that we have laid some groundwork we can delve a bit deeper into Heb. 10:29 and what it could mean. Earlier in Hebrews we are told that we are partakers of Christ If we hold fast our assurance to the end (Heb. 3:14). Now it seems clear to me that this is vital in how we view Heb. 10:29, the implication and the meaning that I get from Heb. 3:14 is that if I do not hold fast unto the end then I was never a partaker of Christ. Since they were never partakers of Christ then this is not a case of losing one’s salvation, instead it shows that they never had it in the first place.”

    I think that your understanding of 3:14 is not correct and must be dealt with in its immediate context. We must first note that if your understanding of 3:14 is correct then the writer of Hebrews was wrong to say that the apostate had been sanctified by the blood of the covenant in 10:29, because according to your understanding of 3:14, the apostate never was sanctified.

    You must also consider Heb. 6:4 where those who had been made “partakers” of the Holy Spirit yet fell away. The text is clear that they had truly been made partakers prior to falling away, and 3:1 calls those being admonished “holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling” and yet warns these “partakers” of failing that heavenly calling by hardening their hearts.

    So the issue is both partaking and continuing to partake by continuing in the faith firm until the end. The language of 3:14 could support your view but I think the context and the specific statements in Heb. 10:29 forbid that interpretation.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. Ben,

    Thank you for your reply and for providing me additional thoughts on this topic. First I do not see how Heb. 6:4 hurts my position at all; in fact, I say that it only reinforces it. Let us look at Heb. 3:6,14 to see what I mean, please show me where I am misusing it and how my reading does not flow with the context.

    Hebrews 3:6 … And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence…

    Hebrews 3:14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

    Looking at these and not getting to in-depth, the picture that is drawn is that if one does not “persevere” to the end then they were never a *partaker*. The verses seem clear that this is not a falling away from partaking; instead they show that they were never “truly” partakers in the first place.

    As for your alluding to Hebrews 3:1, I must admit that the relevance escapes me at this time. It seems that the writer of Hebrews had the rebellion in the wilderness in view through much of this chapter. Notice though what our Heavenly Father said of that generation ”They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.” (Heb. 3:9).

    I fear that you have not grasped my use of Hebrews 10:14 and how it related to my overall argument. I first pointed out that And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10) is talking about our “sanctified” state being accomplished, completed and that its effects are continuing into the present and forever. I then went on to talk about For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14), I stated that this shows “progressive” sanctification. We know that as we become more and more holy that we are “true” children of God.

    As for the author of Hebrews being *wrong to say that the apostate had been sanctified by the blood of the covenant* I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Inspired by the Holy Spirit the author of this letter was not wrong, perhaps our interpretation is wrong, but Scripture is not. I think that I have shown that these apostates were never true *partakers* at all and only showed their true colors. Or as Scripture would say they went out from us, but they were not of us (1 Jn. 2:19).

    Praise be to God

  6. Hello Mitch,

    You wrote:

    Thank you for your reply and for providing me additional thoughts on this topic. First I do not see how Heb. 6:4 hurts my position at all; in fact, I say that it only reinforces it.

    You are going to need to explain to me how it is that you think 6:4 reinforces your position. The text reads:

    “[4] For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, [5] and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6] and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.”

    You will notice that the text plainly states that these apostates had been made partakers of the Holy Spirit. Verse 6 tells us that these same ones who had been made partakers had also “fallen away”. Verses 7-8 make it clear that the consequences of such falling away is damnation.

    “Made partakers” and “fallen away” are both aorist tense in the Greek denoting completed action. Just as surely as these apostates had fallen away, they had also been made partakers of the Holy Spirit. This kills your argument as far as I am concerned because you assert that if one falls away, then it proves that they had never been partakers in the first place. Heb. 6:4-6 flatly contradicts that assertion and in no way reinforces it as you have claimed.

    Let us look at Heb. 3:6,14 to see what I mean, please show me where I am misusing it and how my reading does not flow with the context.

    Hebrews 3:6 … And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence…

    Hebrews 3:14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

    Looking at these and not getting to in-depth, the picture that is drawn is that if one does not “persevere” to the end then they were never a *partaker*. The verses seem clear that this is not a falling away from partaking; instead they show that they were never “truly” partakers in the first place.

    The language does not necessitate your interpretation and the context forbids it as I noted in my last comments. We are of Christ’s house for as long as we remain in the faith (3:6). We have been made partakers with Christ (with continuing results—which the perfect tense indicates) if we continue in the faith.

    The emphasis is on continuing to partake and this partaking is conditioned on continuing in the faith. It is not dealing with whether or not one had ever partaken in the first place. That must be read into the text and is contrary to the context and in contradiction to what the author states in 6:4-6 as well as 10:26-29.

    It should also be noted that the writer speaks of holding fast (or firmly) to the confidence, courage, hope, etc. That the writer tells them to hold fast to it indicates that the thing which they are to hold fast to is indeed genuine. There would be no benefit in holding to a false hope, confidence; or a courage that they never had. The writer is not admonishing his hearers to get these things, but to hold to (continue in) what they already possess.

    As for your alluding to Hebrews 3:1, I must admit that the relevance escapes me at this time. It seems that the writer of Hebrews had the rebellion in the wilderness in view through much of this chapter. Notice though what our Heavenly Father said of that generation ”They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.” (Heb. 3:9).

    Let me try to explain why I find it relevant. In 3:1 the writer addresses his audience as “holy brethren” which would indicate that they have been and are being sanctified. He further states that they are “partakers” of a heavenly calling. They were called to faith in Christ and have been called to persevere in that faith which made them holy.

    Perseverance is the issue in this chapter (and most of the epistle) but the writer does not question the fact that they are presently “partakers” and “holy brethren”. It is to these partakers and holy brethren that the encouragement to continue is given. It is also to these partakers and holy brethren that the warning against hardening ones heart to the point of unbelief is given.

    This point is crucial because it suggests that the writer of Hebrews is plainly warning believers who are truly saved and sanctified and that they may yet fall away through the hardening of the heart which results from continued disobedience.

    The use of the OT imagery is to demonstrate that some Israelites failed to enter God’s rest because they did not trust God when their faith was tested (Ps. 95 is an allusion to Num. 14 where the Israelites were about to enter the promised land but refused to trust God due to the presence of giants in the land). They did not heed the call to take possession of the land because they did not trust in God’s power to aquire it for them. God, therefore, denied them entrance into the promised land.

    They had, however, been truly delivered from Egypt just as the writer’s audience had been truly delivered from sin by faith in Christ and were thereby holy partakers of the heavenly calling. However, the Israelites failed to reach their destination despite their initial deliverance. In the same way, the writer’s audience is in danger of failing to reach their final destination despite their initial deliverance.

    Again, the writer is not questioning whether or not they have been truly converted through faith, but only whether or not they will continue in that faith so that they might fully attain the promises of God. There is more that I could say on this but I will be addressing it in my last post on the Hebrews warnings.

    I fear that you have not grasped my use of Hebrews 10:14 and how it related to my overall argument. I first pointed out that And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10) is talking about our “sanctified” state being accomplished, completed and that its effects are continuing into the present and forever.

    It is only continuing in those who are “being sanctified” which is conditioned on continued faith.

    I then went on to talk about For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14), I stated that this shows “progressive” sanctification. We know that as we become more and more holy that we are “true” children of God.

    Daniel Whedon put it well when he wrote:

    “He has once, fully and forever, potentially and conditionally, perfected all; but the full reality takes effect only in those who are sanctified [being sanctified] through faith in Him.”

    You seem to want to say that this passage speaks of an eternal and irrevocable “positional” sanctification that is evidenced by progressive (actual) sanctification. Even if that were what the passage was teaching I am still left to wonder how this helps you make sense of Heb. 10:29. Feel free to explain.

    As for the author of Hebrews being *wrong to say that the apostate had been sanctified by the blood of the covenant* I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

    And of course, I never said that he was wrong. I said that if we accepted your interpretation of 3:14 he would be wrong, which should be an indication that your interpretation is not correct. If it is true that one who falls away was never really a “partaker” or truly “sanctified” as you are arguing, then the inspired writer would contradict himself by saying that the apostate had been “sanctified by the blood of the covenant” in Heb. 10:29.

    Inspired by the Holy Spirit the author of this letter was not wrong

    I agree.

    perhaps our interpretation is wrong, but Scripture is not.

    Which was exactly my point. If the writer is correct in what he says in 10:29 then your interpretation of 3:14 is wrong.

    I think that I have shown that these apostates were never true *partakers* at all and only showed their true colors. Or as Scripture would say they went out from us, but they were not of us (1 Jn. 2:19).

    I don’t think that you have shown anything of the sort but we will likely just have to agree to disagree on that.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. Ben,

    Thank you for the reply; I fear that we will never see eye to eye on this. It seems obvious that you apparently believe that all Israelites in the wilderness originally were *true Israelites and of course I think that Scripture tells us that is not true. One of the things that I pointed too was that even though the wilderness generation saw & experienced God’s *work* they were not true Israelites. They did not know God’s ways and their heart always went astray. Same in the NT, there are people who hear the gospel, who partake of the sacraments and fellowship with the community of believers but they are not “true” partakers. It seems that what you are advocating is that we must maintain our own justification before God. I urge you to read Galatians for this is one of the things that is addressed in the letter. I fully agree that we must persevere through faith, but that is not of my doing it is by the grace of God that I persevere. It appears what you are saying is that the work that began in the Spirit, is now being perfected by the flesh. If you are right then we are all damned and none of us have hope of entering the true & final rest. We must remember that we are saved *unto* good works, not because of them. Again if we look at Scripture we see this in John 2:23-24. Notice that it says that many believed, they saw the *works* and even *partook* of them, but they were not *truly* saved.

    As for the language not necessitating my interpretation, I believe it is your view that is clearly in error here if we just use Scripture. Again these verses do not talk of a falling away from partaking; in fact they show the exact opposite. If you do not persevere to the end the author is telling us that you were never a *true partaker*. Contrary to your view the *emphasis* is not on continuing to partake, I struggle to see how you can even justify your point and I see that you have not interacted with the Scripture verses at all you are just saying ‘well that view just can not be right because that would mean my other belief about Heb 10:29 would need more thought.’

    I appreciate you letting me interact with what you wrote and I agree that much more can be said, however I will leave it at that.

    May our gracious lord and savior keep you.

  8. Hello Biblicist,

    Who do you think is right and who do you think is reaching? Also, is that the link oyu meant to leave. I looked at it briefly and didn’t see how it related to the discussion.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. Mitch,

    You are quite right that we will likely never see eye to eye on this but I wanted to address a few things you wrote. I know you said you were done with this conversation but you are welcomed to reply if you like.

    It seems obvious that you apparently believe that all Israelites in the wilderness originally were *true Israelites and of course I think that Scripture tells us that is not true. One of the things that I pointed too was that even though the wilderness generation saw & experienced God’s *work* they were not true Israelites. They did not know God’s ways and their heart always went astray.

    I think you are pushing the parallel too far. The first thing that you need to remember is that these were the same Israelites who, by faith, had put Passover blood on their doorposts believing that God was about to deliver them. Truly they had faith in God at one time though they did not continue in that faith (though some did).

    There are other statements in the OT that suggest these Jews were saved but I personally feel that their personal salvation is beside the point. A strict parallel is unwise as entering the Promised Land did not refer to final salvation for the OT Israelites while the writer of Hebrews is using it as an example to his audience of entering into God’s final salvation.

    It should also be noted that the Israelites who failed to enter the promised land were forgiven for their rebellion after Moses prayed for them while the temporal consequences of their actions were not revoked (they were forgiven but still denied access into the promised land). Obviously, one cannot be forgiven and denied access into God’s final rest in the new covenant since it is speaking specifically of spiritual realities; so again, a strict parallel cannot be drawn.

    The point is that the writer’s audience is on a pilgrimage of faith. They are on a journey towards a goal. They cannot be satisfied with their initial deliverance but must continue if they are to obtain the goal of their faith. If they turn away in disobedience and unbelief they will not enter that final spiritual rest just as the Israelites failed to enter the Promised Land. That is as far as the parallel can be accurately drawn.

    They did not know God’s ways and their heart always went astray.

    This is a general statement and should not be pressed too far. This is speaking of a general pattern of rebellion in the wilderness but does not preclude any instances of true faith or salvation (as noted with the deliverance from Egypt—were they being disobedient when they put blood on their doorposts and prepared themselves for God’s deliverance?).

    The writer’s audience is in some sense suffering a “desert” experience. Their faith is being tested and some are becoming hardened in rebellion just as the Israelites were. That is the reason for the serious threats and admonishments to persevere. Are they to persevere in rebellion? No. They are to persevere in faith which can only be accomplished by those who have faith to begin with.

    I fully agree that we must persevere through faith, but that is not of my doing it is by the grace of God that I persevere.

    But how does one persevere in a faith that was never there in the first place? We cannot persevere without God’s power and enablement but we are still capable of resisting God’s power to save as the warnings plainly indicate. We do not have the power to persevere apart from God but we do have the power to turn away in disbelief and rebellion.

    It appears what you are saying is that the work that began in the Spirit, is now being perfected by the flesh.

    You might want to read that passage in Galatians because it is not very friendly to your position, and I am in no way suggesting that we perfect the work of God by the flesh.

    If you are right then we are all damned and none of us have hope of entering the true & final rest.

    That is quite the slippery slope.

    We must remember that we are saved *unto* good works, not because of them.

    I agree. I never said we were.

    As for the language not necessitating my interpretation, I believe it is your view that is clearly in error here if we just use Scripture. Again these verses do not talk of a falling away from partaking; in fact they show the exact opposite.

    Something you have still not bothered to demonstrate.

    If you do not persevere to the end the author is telling us that you were never a *true partaker*. Contrary to your view the *emphasis* is not on continuing to partake, I struggle to see how you can even justify your point and I see that you have not interacted with the Scripture verses at all you are just saying ‘well that view just can not be right because that would mean my other belief about Heb 10:29 would need more thought.’

    I think I have interacted with all of the relevant verses while you have ignored much of what I wrote concerning the fact that the warnings are given to those who are “partakers” of the heavenly calling and are “holy” [sanctified] brethren in chapter 3. You have also ignored the implications of Hebrews 6:4-6 and the fact that the apostate in Heb10:29 is said to have been “sanctified by the blood of the covenant”. I suppose I could say that you have just basically said “well that view just can not be right because that would mean my other belief about Heb 3:14 would need more thought”.

    I appreciate you letting me interact with what you wrote and I agree that much more can be said, however I will leave it at that.

    I appreciate the interaction and I assure you I have given the matter a great deal of thought. even if I find your proposels unsatisfying. Feel free to drop by anytime and give you two cents.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  10. Ben,

    It seems apparent to me that Hebrews 3:14 says without any twisting or manipulation or adding or removing meaning that if you hold fast then you are a true partaker of Christ. If you were to fall away then you prove that you were never a partaker of Christ. That is the plain, simple and un-adulterated meaning of 3:14 and 3:6. That is based on sentence structure and Greek, there is no hint of falling away from partaking at all in the language used or the structure of the sentence or context

    I must say though while we are on different theological sides you are very gracious and thoughtful. I pray that the Lord bless and keep you and that in all things we glorify His name.

    Praise be to God

  11. To understand the meaning of Hebrew 3:14 it is helpful to read it in the context of the surrounding passage (bold mine):

    12See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”(NIV)

    The context is explained in the larger passage. It is written as a warning to those who are brothers- to those who hear the voice of God. These are believers who are receiving direction from the Holy Spirit.

    It is not inevitable that we obey. Three times in the passage the audience is warned to not turn away – Verse 12, verse 13, and verse 15.

    Verse 14 taken in context does not support the position that the Calvinist to force on it. It instead is a warning to as as believers! It shows that we only receive the rewards of salvation if we “hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

  12. Hello Mitch,

    Ben already did address the issue of the Greek tenses, pointing out the relevance of the perfect tense in Hebrews 3:14, which gives the verb a facet of present effect contingent upon remaining in Christ along with verse 6, making both statements very compatible with conditional security. A few other points,

    It doesn’t follow to say that believing salvation is conditional is ‘perfecting’ anything in the flesh, for we believe in perseverance by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit.

    “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14)

    The idea that salvation is conditioned upon continuing in the grace of God has nothing to do with turning back to the Mosaic law. The other point is about the Israelites in the wilderness, though they were hard-hearted, they were still partakers of Christ at one time,

    “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

    At which point he says that despite this, God was not pleased with many of them, and states,

    “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)

    Notice in verse 4 that those who came out of Egypt did indeed (spiritually speaking) drink of Christ, concerning which I would think it would be hard to spiritually drink of Him and yet not be a partaker in Him (or be a true Israelite). Tying it back to Hebrews (at the beginning of chapter 4), it draws the parallel that just as those in the wilderness were on their way to enter into the promised land, so we are on our way to our eternal rest, stating that we who have believed are entering it (Hebrews 4:3), but then warns in verse 11 that we are to be diligent to enter into that rest, lest we fall after Israel’s example of obstinacy. This stands as not only a powerful warning for those who truly believe and are entering God’s rest to persevere, but also a consequence to those who don’t — which is another reason we both embrace conditional security.

  13. J.C.

    Thank you for the interaction and I am thinking of what you wrote and will, with the help of the Spirit, try to answer. Before that though may I ask a question? Let us say that we see someone profess to be a Christian, they get baptized, the partake of the Lord’s Supper and the attend service on a regular basis. Would you say that they are “true” believers? Also, do you hold that if you renounce the faith you once had that you cannot be reconciled to God anymore?

    Kevin,

    When it comes to verse 12 a quick search shows that the “fall away” there is the same Greek word as was used by our Lord in Luke 8 :13, notice what is said about them *these have no root* or were not truly “in Christ”. It would seem then that this only strengthens my case and weakens your own. Lord willing I will take a look at the rest of what you wrote and will try to reply at some point.

    Praise be to God

  14. J.C.

    Ben already did address the issue of the Greek tenses, pointing out the relevance of the perfect tense in Hebrews 3:14, which gives the verb a facet of present effect contingent upon remaining in Christ along with verse 6, making both statements very compatible with conditional security.

    I disagree with you and would hope that you show me from these verses where I am wrong. What is being stated in these verses is if you hold fast to the end then it is a sure sign that you have been a partaker of Christ.
    If one does not hold fast then it shows that he/she had believed in vain and they were never a partaker. Again, neither you nor Ben has shown that this is a falling away from a true partaking, the point of the perfect tense is to show that this is not a speaking of becoming a partaker at some point in the future, rather the perfect tense is used to convey that they have become and remain partakers and that this is a sign to them that their holding fast means that they are true partakers of Christ.

    This is not saying that your present salvation is contingent upon your continuing to partake; instead it says that the evidence that you are a true partaker is that you hold fast unto the end. Again, show me where in the verse or in the context it says that this is a falling away from partaking? Instead the simple reading is that by not holding fast one can see that they were never partaking in the first place. Just saying that you have addressed the Greek tense does not show anything, nor does it further your cause as I have discussed above.

    As for the wilderness generation, it seems that both of you believe that they were all *true* Israelites at one point. I find that view untenable and refuted by Scripture. Just as we have many professed Christians today that “partake” of Christ- by baptism, fellowship and receiving communion – it does not mean that they are born from above or have saving faith.

    Praise be to God!

  15. Mitch,

    A few things…

    First, the Greek and language of 3:14 in no way necessitates your view. In fact, I would dare say that most scholars do not read it the way that you do except for a few Calvinists.

    Second, the admonition is given to those who are addressed as “holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling”. So the writer of Hebrews is not questioning whether or not they are truly sanctified or true partakers but is encouraging them to continue in that which makes them holy. You have still not dealt with 3:1.

    Third, I made it clear that I didn’t really think it matters whether or not those Israelites were “true” Israelites with regards to the way the inspired writer is using the illustration, but there are strong Biblical reasons to think that they were as JC and myself pointed out which you have so far ignored.

    Fourth, Arminians believe in the existence of false professors as well as apostates from genuine saving faith. It is not either/or as you seem to be implying.

    Your reference to Luke 8 is, however, problematic. You mentioned that the same word for “fall away” is used in Luke 8 as if that is supposed to prove something. Well, let’s try this. The same word for “believe” that is used in verse 13 is also used in verse 12 where it is described as a saving faith. Therefore, according to your logic, the “believe” in verse 13 must also be a believing unto salvation since it is the same Greek word for believe, correct?

    But there are even bigger problems since I would assert that the believing in verse 13 was indeed to spiritual life though that life did not continue because the one who believed did not continue in that belief. Verse 6 says that a “plant sprouted” which indicates the beginning of life. Therefore, the one who believed believed unto spiritual life but did not believe unto final salvation because it fell away during times of testing, which is not incompatible with the situation in Hebrews though it probably does not serve as an exact analogy. The fact remains that they “believed for a while” and that faith produced life. Your view would have to say that they never believed in the first place and certainly has no room for spiritual life (even temporary life) being given to those who were irrevocabley reprobated by an eternal decree, unless you believe that God does indeed temporarily regenerate reprobates and that reprobates truly “believe for a while”.

    You wrote:

    Just as we have many professed Christians today that “partake” of Christ- by baptism, fellowship and receiving communion – it does not mean that they are born from above or have saving faith.

    That is quite correct. It does not mean that as you say, but that also doesn’t mean that the warnings against falling away in Hebrews are not addressed to true believers, nor does it mean that the examples cited are examples of false proffesors. That must be decided by context and the descriptions of the spiritual states of those apostates before they fell away, and that is where your position becomes impossible to sustain IMO. And, of course these Hebrews passages are not the only passages which do not comport with you “never really saved in the first place” hermeneutic. I have addressed some of those other passages earlier in the series. You need to also realize that the writer of Hebrews doesn’t say that they were “partakers” but partakers. Your concept of false partaking is read into the text for the inspired writer is speaking of things as they are and not merely as they appear to be. Would you say that a false professor as you described above could be said to have been “sanctified by the blood of the covenant”?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  16. Ben,

    Just a quick note, I have no problem saying that some people “believe” I just do not think it is a “true” believing. As I pointed out in John 2:23-24 many “believed” yet we can see what our Lord said about them. If I might ask in Arminianism what distinguishes one from being a false professor and an apostate? Meaning how do you know the difference in the two? Also, you have not demonstrated nor shown that this is a falling away from partaking, but we will disagree on this.

    BTW, my minister this Sunday addressed the congregation of 3,200 as we were all “true” Christians and he urged us to hold firm, now I would love to think that all 3,200 present were “true” believers, but should I make much out of him addressing all 3,200 present as “true” believers?

    Brother it has been an honor to interact with you and I look forward to reading your site in the future.

    Praise be to God

  17. Guys,

    I’ve been a silent observer on this blog up till now. Great dialogue! I enjoy the professionalism and passion with which people explain themselves.

    As for my comment, I wanted to speak for a moment about the way we interpret scripture. It is my understanding that the letters and texts that were written down were meant to be shared and read by other people. (Col 4:16) A lot of emphasis was given on the public reading of scripture (1st Timothy 4:13) as well as thinking about the oral traditions handed down. (2nd Thessalonians 2:15)

    Do people honestly think the gospel was intended only for the intellectual? Was it intended only for those who had copies of the text and debated over the meaning of them for years before coming to a conclusion? Or perhaps the meaning is simple to understand, and able to be grasped by most anyone? We do the nature of the gospel a disservice by calling into question every phrase, word, and thought, and by casting doubt on every meaning. The common person now views the scripture as a confusing mess of ideas, and on most occasions people who speak to me about the scriptures say “but who can understand it?”.

    Look at what we’ve done! Clear warnings in scripture are swept under the rug of theology. The phrase “Do not be deceived” no longer gives pause to those engaged in unrighteous actions. The examples that have gone before us serve as nothing but bed-time stories, having no impact on those “forever lost in sin” and those who are “once saved, always saved.”

    While calvinists continue to twist verses like a rubix cube until things line up, I will be content to live in ignorance, and read scripture with my family, an unlearned scholar and common man.

    1Corinthians 2:5 “… that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

  18. Mitch,

    You wrote:

    Just a quick note, I have no problem saying that some people “believe” I just do not think it is a “true” believing. As I pointed out in John 2:23-24 many “believed” yet we can see what our Lord said about them. If I might ask in Arminianism what distinguishes one from being a false professor and an apostate?

    The Lord may have known that their faith would not last but that does not mean it was not genuine faith; just like in 8:13 the faith produced life which later died because the faith did not continue. For this reason, Jesus knew not to commit Himself to them because He knew that their commitment would not last (which is only one of many possible ways to understand this passage). Even if this text is speaking of a false faith we need to be very careful not to read this into the passages in Hebrews. The Hebrews passages need to be read in there own context and faith needs to be understood as the writer of Hebrews defines and expresses it. Again, there would be no need to admonish false believers to persevere in a faith that was not genuine.

    As far as distinguishing between the two it does not really matter if we can distinguish between real instances of apostasy and false professions. What matters is whether or not true believers can abandon the faith to their own destruction. However, I would venture to say that there were far less “false professors” in the days of the apostles as there are today since confession and commitment to the faith brought with it persecution and often death, which is rarely the case today (except in certain countries where, again, fasle converts are likely an extreme rarity due to the high cost of becoming a believer).

    Despite this, I think we can have some confidence that someone is saved by the spiritual fruit that they bear and this fruit is indeed observable. There are certainly many who have maintained an impressive testimony for Christ (more impressive than my own) who have eventually fallen away from the faith. We would be very bold indeed to say that such people “were never really saved to begin with”. I would personally have issues with my own assurance if that were the case since some who have fallen away have produced more fruit than me.

    The hermeneutic you impose on these passages will leave little room for assurance and assurance has historically been a big problem for Calvinists (see much of the Purtan’s writings concerning assurance and the extreme anxiety they suffered trying to discern whether or not they were of the “elect”).

    If “genuine” faith can only be determined by whether or not one perseveres in it till the end, then one cannot even be sure of their present spiritual state because they have not yet endured to the end and may yet prove to be a false convert with a spurious faith (due to “evenesant grace”, perhaps, as John Calvin suggested) after all. I will be addressing this more fully in a future post in this series.

    Also, you have not demonstrated nor shown that this is a falling away from partaking, but we will disagree on this.

    I think I have answered this question but will address it more fully since you are having trouble with it. However, let me remind you that you have left many of my questions as yet unanswered.

    One partakes in the heavenly calling, Christ, and the Holy Spirit through faith. The writer of Hebrews is warning against falling away from faith and so one who abandons the faith can no longer partake in those benefits which can only be attained through faith. So one falls away from faith and therefore ceases to “partake” of Christ since we can only partake of Him through faith union, etc.

    BTW, my minister this Sunday addressed the congregation of 3,200 as we were all “true” Christians and he urged us to hold firm, now I would love to think that all 3,200 present were “true” believers, but should I make much out of him addressing all 3,200 present as “true” believers?

    The question is who does your pastor have in mind when he addresses you as believers? Does it make sense to urge an unbeliever to hold firm to a faith he does not have? I am sure that your pastor also speaks to those who are unbelievrs at times and urges them to repent and believe. Would you say that he is also addressing believers and urging them to repent unto life because there happens to be believers in the congregation as well?

    There is little doubt that there may have been unbelievers who would have heard the letter of Hebrews when it was read to the congregation, but that does not mean that the writer of Hebrews has them in mind when he warns “believers” to continue in the faith and explains the terrible eternal consequences of repudiating that faith.

    Brother it has been an honor to interact with you and I look forward to reading your site in the future.

    I have very much appreciated your gracious and humble tone and am thrilled that we can disagree while treating each others as brothers in Christ. I am honored that you find my site worth your time.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  19. Dear brother,

    I agree that we should read Hebrews in its context and that we should understand the term faith as defined and expressed by the author, but the Lord has deemed that we see it differently at this time. I say that the wilderness generation were false believers. If you look at their faith it was the same shallow faith of the ones discussed in John 2, if one reads Numbers 14 it is clear that even though they saw all the “signs” done by God they still did not believe and their heart always went astray.

    When you wrote that “there would be no need to admonish false believers to persevere in faith that was not genuine” we have to remember that this letter was written and heard by all people, not just believers. We are encouraged to make sure that we have true faith and we should always work out our salvation with fear and trembling. When it comes to “partaking” I will just leave it at what I already said the perfect tense is used to convey that they have become and remain partakers and that this is a sign to them that their holding fast means that they are true partakers of Christ..

    Rather than go round and round on this I will drop it for now, I do have one question though- when you wrote

    just like in 8:13 the faith produced life which later died because the faith did not continue.

    Are you referencing Jn. 8:13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

    I admit that I am puzzled by that reference and your take on it. Perhaps if you have some spare time you could email me the thinking behind it.

    Praise be to God

  20. Sorry for the confusion Mitch. I was referencing Luke 8:13 and not John 8:13. It is good to see that you are checking references as many will not take the time to bother.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  21. BTW, I already explained that the salvation of the wilderness Israelites may well be a moot point, but it surprises me that you seem to hold to a view that would say that not a single Israelite was saved (out of the perhaps a million or more) that were brought out of Egypt except for Joshua and Caleb (even Moses and Aaron were denied access into the promised land, which according to your strict understanding of this parallel would suggest that they were never saved either). I think this is clear evidence that you are pressing the parallel too far.

  22. Dear Ben,

    I hope that I never stated or implied that ALL Israelites were un-saved. What I was trying to point out is that the wilderness generation shows that not all who see the *signs* or *partake* are saved. This is critical when we read Hebrews imho.

    As for the parable of the Sower, it seems we disagree on that as well:) It seems clear to me from Scripture that only the last group bore fruit. Hence the others were not truly saved or ever had any saving faith. I think MacArthur had similar view; he just expresses it more clearly than me.

    Praise be to God

  23. Mitch,

    You wrote:

    I hope that I never stated or implied that ALL Israelites were un-saved. What I was trying to point out is that the wilderness generation shows that not all who see the *signs* or *partake* are saved. This is critical when we read Hebrews imho.

    Again, I believe you are pushing the parallel too far. It is one thing to “partake” in the context of the wilderness wanderings, but it is quite another to “partake” under the New Covenant. One can only “partake” of the New Covenant by the blood of Christ and one can only partake of Christ’s blood through faith. This is brought out quite clearly in Hebrews 8-10 which leads to the warning and description of the apsostate as being “sanctified by the blood of the covenant”. One could partake in the Old Covenant in some sense by just being an Israelite, while one can only partake in the New Covenant through faith in Christ (cf. Rom. 9-11).

    As for the parable of the Sower, it seems we disagree on that as well:) It seems clear to me from Scripture that only the last group bore fruit. Hence the others were not truly saved or ever had any saving faith. I think MacArthur had similar view; he just expresses it more clearly than me.

    I understand what you are saying but you still need to explain how the one who believed for a while was given life as opposed to those who never believed. John 15 creates further problems for your view as Jesus speaks of branches “in Him” being cut out because they do not bear fruit. See my post on John 15 for more detail.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  24. Ben,

    I just wanted to add to your point about the Parable of the Sower. Even though you effectively answered Mictch’s point on this, I think you still give his point too much credit, The fact is that in the parable those who are said to believe for a while do in fact grow with life. And indeed, they show forth what is identified in Scripture as spiritual fruit–joy from their faith in the word. I believe Mitch is confusing the principle of bearing fruit as the result of faith elsewhere in Scripture with the figures used in this parable. Again, we could describe the picture the parable gives us by saying that this faith does bring genuine life, a plant does actually grow up as a result believing, which also produces the spiritual fruit of joy. The explanation of the parable itself does not expressly say that these did not produce fruit (though the agricultural reality in the background implies such a picture), but does indicate the problem to be that they fall away from their faith, which is said to save in the previous verse (Luke 8:12). Very damaging to Mitch’s case is the fact that the text implies that the soil that was choked out by thorns/worries/riches/pleasures did produce fruit, but simply did not bring that fruit to maturity. Again, we have the picture of spiritual life being brought through faith, but that this life does not endure and is not brought to full maturity. That is one of the main issues in the parable, persevering in faith to the end, which is to continue in spiritual life and thus bring the fruit produced by faith to maturity or completion. Notice that the good soil is said to bear fruit with perseverance. That is the issue. Not just bearing fruit, but persevering also with that fruit and that which produced it–faith. If one bears fruit but falls away, then it will be worthless.

  25. Arminian,

    Thanks for the input. You make some excellent points.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  26. Actually Mark tells us that they never bore fruit. As for the point that there was life, we see that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit and a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, both trees have life though. One is a saving life and the other is not. Would you guys agree with MacArthur that the soil is referencing the heart?

    Peace

  27. But we were discussing the parable as it appears in Luke. It is a basic principle of Gospel interpretation to allow the various inspired Gospel authors to bring out their own emphases in the way they relate similar material. Moreover, Jesus probably told that same parable many times, and likely told different versions with different emphases. In Mark’s version, the seed that fell among thorns relates to people who never actually bear fruit, though they do still gain spiritual life from the word. We could consider different possibilities for what this means in Mark. But there is no need to. In Luke, what is in view are people who have spiritual life and bear some fruit, but do not hold onto their faith and so do not bring that fruit to maturity.

    You again make an unwarranted interpretive move by trying to switch to a different context and figurative expression in mentioning the types of fruit that trees bear. This is actually similar to the type of thing I was getting at when I said (in a previous comment) that you are confusing the figures used in this parable with different uses in different contexts. Anyway, your point misses the correct interpretation because in the parable, the thorns choke out the life that is there; the life is seen as spiritual life produced by the word. It is presented as a bad thing that the thorns choke this life out. You are trying to apply a different figure from a different context.

  28. I fail to see where it says that they bore fruit, in fact looking at the three gospel accounts it does not say that any bore fruit. Perhaps it is you that is reading things into the text that is not there. Also, where exactly does it say that they had “spiritual life”? This is not even talking about perseverance, as for using the same parable many times- well I will have to remember that one.

    Peace

  29. Mitch,

    In Luke it implies that they bore fruit when it says that they did not bear fruit *to maturity*. There’s no point in saying that they did not bear fruit *to maturity* if in fact they did not bear fruit at all. The point is that the fruit they bore did not make it to maturity because they forsook the faith before it did, which is to say because they forsook the faith before the end. In fact, the distinguished Greek lexicon by Louw-Nida translates the relevant part of Luke 8:14 like this: ‘they are choked and their fruit never matures’ or ‘… never ripens’. Perhaps you are overlooking the clear implication of the text because it contradicts your theology.

    As for the idea of spiritual life, it also is not directly stated with those exact words. It is implied by the fact that we are told that for some of the soil, the word is sown, and then the response to the word is the growing of a plant, which is certainly a picture of the growing of life, though in some cases the plant does not continue, but withers or is choked, that is, it dies.

    As for perseverance, the parable directly raises the issue:

    “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13; ESV)

    “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:14; ESV; ah, note the translation of the ESV, “their fruit does not mature”; what fruit? you claim they had none; the word of God says rather that “their fruit does not mature”)

    “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) It explcitly mentions perseverance as part of the parable’s climactic statment. Clearly perseverance is a main theme in the parable. I am not saying it is the main point, but it is a prominent concern of the passage.

    BTW, you would do well to remember that Jesus must have used some of the same basic stories and teachings in different situations and contexts and perhaps sometimes with minor differences, since it is most likely (do you think Jesus only taught things once during his ministry?) and it goes along with the basic principle of interpretation I mentioned in a previous comment (It is a basic principle of Gospel interpretation to allow the various inspired Gospel authors to bring out their own emphases in the way they relate similar material).

    Look, the fact is that the parable says some people receive the word with joy and that they believe for a while, and it indicates that believing brings salvation. It also indicates that these same people stop believing. You say that must mean it was false faith or non-saving faith. But the parable says nothing about different types of faith, and it only indicates belieing as bringing salvation. It talks about believing unto salvation, and indicates that some forsake the faith they had, they fall away. You read your theology in here. One reason I am an Arminian is that I can take the Bible for what it says more plainly in general.

    God bless you brother.

  30. Dear brother,

    I agree with you when you wrote It is a basic principle of Gospel interpretation to allow the various inspired Gospel authors to bring out their own emphases in the way they relate similar material, but would you not agree that we can use other accounts of the same story to get a clearer picture?

    When we get to the Parable of the Sower we see that all 3 Gospel writers are relating the same event and at the same location? Each one tells us that our Lord got into a boat to teach the crowd that stood beside the sea. Would it be your contention that this parable as related in all three Gospels occurred at different times and places? It seems that a stronger case can be made that the three inspired writers each relate the same parable that was delivered at the same location and at the same time.

    If that is the case then surely we can look to the other writers to get a clearer picture of the event and/or the teaching. That being the case we see that Mark clearly tells us that the first three soils produced no fruit. If I am wrong about this and the three writers are not relating the parable as it was spoken at the same time and at the same place then I pray that the Holy Spirit open my eyes to the truth and that I repent. As of right now though, I see that this is relating the same parable, given at the same place and at the same time. That being the case I will let each writer tell me what he wants to stress, but I will also look at all three to get a clearer picture of the story and event.

    Praise God for giving us His word

  31. Hey Mitch,

    Luke does not say that Jesus got into a boat. But it was probably the same occasion. I do agree that (most likely) the three inspired writers each relate the same parable that was delivered at the same location and at the same time. But I don’t think that really helps your case. I do agree that we can look to the other writers to get a clearer picture of the event and/or the teaching. But why would we not take Luke’s version to qualify Mark’s rather than vice versa (especially since most scholars believe that Luke wrote later than Mark and actually used Mark as a source)? Indeed, Calvinist commentator Matthew Henry takes it exactly in this way: “It is not enough that the fruit be brought forth, but it must be brought to perfection, it must be fully ripened. If it be not, it is as if there was no fruit at all brought forth; for that which in Matthew and Mark is said to be unfruitful is the same that here is said to bring forth none to perfection.” This makes the most sense of all versions of the parable. In fact, Matthew’s version says of the seed sown among the thorns that it *became* unfrutiful, which may suggest that, as Luke indicates, there was some fruit born, but that it was not lasting in its production, and so from the perspective of the harvest (most likely with the eschatological harvest in view, when we stand before God in the final day), there is no fruit. Or to put it another way, the only fruit that counts is fruit that lasts, for perseverance is necessary for the fruit to be harvested or accepted. As Luke tells us of the good soil, they “hold it [the word] fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”

    BTW, Mark does not clearly state that the first three soils produced no fruit. Where do you see that? He does state that the first one was taken away, so obviously it produced no kind of fruit whatsoever. But he does not say the second did not bear fruit. And the third, I have addressed in this post.

    I should mention that discussion of whether the third soil produced any kind of fruit is a relatively minor point that gets away from the main discussion. The fact that Luke and possibly even Matthew implies that it did really undercuts your argument that the other soils did not bear fruit. But whatever ones judgment about the third soil, the second soil is said to represent the person who believes for a whilebut falls away. As I said in my last post, the fact is that the parable says some people receive the word with joy and that they believe for a while, and it indicates that believing brings salvation. It also indicates that these same people stop believing. You say that must mean it was false faith or non-saving faith. But the parable says nothing about different types of faith, and it only indicates belieing as bringing salvation. It talks about believing unto salvation, and indicates that some forsake the faith they had, they fall away. And on top of this, Luke emphasizes the need for perseverance [see my lst post for documen tation of this]. It is not that the second soil needs to get the right sort of faith, but that it should not forsake the faith it has. You read your theology into the parable against its plain meaning IMO. Again, as I said, one reason I am an Arminian is that I can take the Bible for what it says more plainly in general.

    May God bless you. His word is truly wonderul. May we trust it, hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

  32. Dear brother,

    Would you agree that the emphasis of this parable is not on *WHICH ONE* perseveres, rather our Lord is telling us the kind of person that *DOES* persevere. Notice what is lacking in the three soils compared to the last soil- Matthew tells us the first three lack “understanding”, Mark tells us the first three lack “accepting the word” and Luke tells us that the first three lack “holding it fast”. There is no indication that any of the first three believed unto salvation, this is merely you reading your presupposition’s into the text. There are many places where we read in the sacred Scripture of people “believing” but not in a saving way. We also know that faith without works is dead and that true faith bears fruit, granted some will bear more than others but they bear fruit. Also, if the soils in the parable do represent ones heart then it becomes even clearer that this 2nd soil was not fertile and that they still had a rock as a heart.

    We will not see eye to eye on this, but we do agree that we must persevere and hold fast to our faith. The reason that I believe in the doctrine of grace is because it is so plainly taught in Scripture and while at times it is hard for me to comprehend the sacred text, I know that with the grace of God and the guidance of the Spirit he will teach me all I need to know.

    Praise God for his grace & mercy

  33. Mitch,

    I diagree that the emphasis of the parable is about the kind of person who perseveres, but it really is about the different responses to the word that people might have and so encouraging us in the right response. It is very interesting that you mention various details as being in the text when they are not. It suggests that it is you who is reading presuppositions into the text. let’s look at some of the things you assert as being in the text that are not in fact there: (1) you say that “Matthew tells us the first three lack “understanding”,” Really? Where does he say that? He actually implies that the second soil does understand. He tells us that when someone does not undersatand, the devil comes and steals away the word. But the second soil appears to understand, since he receives the word and responds to the word with joy; Luke tells us he believes.

    (2) You say that “Mark tells us the first three lack “accepting the word” ” Really? Mark actually says, “when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;” (Mark 8:16; NASB) That is the very oppsite of what you have said. It really seems like your presuppositions keep you from seeing even some basic facts of what the text says. This seems to be why you interpet it Calvinistically, imposing the idea of different kinds of faith, false vs. true into the text, when as I have said, the text’s concern about persevering in faith suggests keeping the true faith one has, with no hint of a false faith that needs to be abandoned and then a true faith obtained.

    (3) You say that “Luke tells us that the first three lack “holding it fast”. There is no indication that any of the first three believed unto salvation” Really? Of course the first three do not hold the word fast, that is the point, the need to do so. The word for “hold fast” has the idea of continuing to hold on to the word, or as Friberg’s Greek lexicon lists as one defintiion of this word, to “continue believing”. It is hard to see how you can say that “There is no indication that any of the first three believed unto salvation” when the text indicates that believing brings salvation, and then says that they believed for a while but fell away. Of course, their experience of salvation would necessarily be limited to present salvation. Part of the point is that forsaking faith forfeits final salvation. One must persevere in faith to come to final salvation. That’s exactly the Arminian position.

    I think your assertion that there are many places where we read of people believing but in a non-saving way is false. The James passage you reference is using “believe” in a different way than normal for the NT, talking about demons believing! The context indcates clearly that James argues against mere mental assent for faith but for the typical NT meaning of trust. Do demons accept the word like the person in the parable. Commentator J. Nolland tells us that this language is typically used for a right believing response to the gospel (see his commentary pp. 385, 388). And the word for fall away was frequently used in the OT for falling away from God (p. 386). It is true that true faith bears fruit. But we see the second soil producing the spiritual fruit of joy in response to the gospel. And the third soil is implied as producing fruit. Its problem is that it does not hold it fast, that is persevere (again, not that it had spurious faith, which is nowhere even hinted at).

    As for the rock as a heart comment, you seem to be trying tp press the figures of the parable too far. That is always a danger in parable interpretation. Beside that, it is questionable that you can directly equate the soil with each person’s heart. It seems more to represent the people. But since the heart may be udnerstood as the center of our being, it can be said that the seed was sown in the heart. But it is not a matter of simply saying that the soil repreents the heart. it represents the person and his response to the seed/word.

    To me you seem to be stretching to conform the parable to your theology with its conviction that people who are said to believe, if they forsake their faith, are to be understood as never having believed, even though God’s word says that they believed and enjoins continuing in faith. And this overreaching is furthered along by your missing basic and obviuos facts of the text and even sometimes saying the text says the opposite of what it actualy says (see above)!

    God bless.

  34. Dear brother,

    We could go on and on about this, but I must defend myself against the charge of not seeing the text clearly. I would like to take just one example and show that you have not shown your case and also that it is you that is reading your theology into the text. Let us focus on point number 2 above where you imply that the second soil “accepts the word” just like the fourth soil. The two Greek words are λαμ.βά.νου.σιν in verse 14 and παραδέχομαι in verse 20. The meaning in verse 14 is (to admit or receive into the mind); when we get to the meaning for the word in verse 20 we see it defined as (to admit i. e. not to reject, to accept, receive). So we see that the 4th soil is the one that *accepts* the seed, while the 2nd one does not. Please notice that the only thing that is different in the parable is the soil or heart that the seed is being sown; there is no talk of the soil changing or going from being “fruitful” one minute to “unfruitful” the next minute. That is why this parable tells us the kind of person that *does* persevere. You interpretation would lead to the soils constantly changing from one form to another. I understand when you write One must persevere in faith to come to final salvation. That’s exactly the Arminian position. the problem I have is that this is very close to works salvation and your closer to Rome than you are to Protestantism.

    I understand that we will not see it the same and seeing as we could just go back and forth on this from here to eternity I will bow out.

    May our gracious Lord and Savior bless and keep you

  35. Mitch,

    You said that Mark “Mark tells us the first three lack “accepting the word”. So I showed that mark actually says the very opposite about the second soil (BTW, I did not even mention that Mark does not indicate that the third soil does not accept the word; where does he say that?) Now you claim that the Greek word used for “receive” in Mark 4:16 (you say 14, but it is 16) merely means to receive into the mind and is to be contrasted with the different Greek word used in 4:20, and meaning accept and not reject. But the facts don’t back you up. The Greek word Lambano used in 4:16 does in fact mean “to receive, accept”, as can be seen by looking at any number of lexicons. You are probably relying on the now dated lexicon by Thayer, which lists “to admit or receive into the mind” as the meaning of the word in conjunction with “the word”. But more recent and authoritative lexicons do not agree. But even Thayer probably meant this in the sense of “believe”, and not what you are trying to get out of it. He lists the usage under the meaning “to take, admit, receive”. And he says the meaning of the word with “testimnoy” is “to believe the testimony”, citing John 3:11, 32. But then when you look at more recent and authoritative lexicons, you find that the word means in such cases, “to accept as true, receive” (BDAG), or “to come to believe something and to act in accordance with such a belief – ‘to accept, to receive, to come to believe.” citing, ‘whoever rejects me and does not accept my message has one who will judge him’ Jn 12.48. Look at that usage there in John sounding very similar to the very definition you give for the word used ofthe good soil in 4:20. Well, I should cite Thayer also under the same general meaning of lambano that he lists Mark 4:16 under, another indication that for him, “receiving into the mind” had to do with accepting the word: to receive what is offered; not to refuse or reject: tina, one, in order to obey him, John 1:12; 5:43; 13:20. Friberg’s lexicon lists this meaning for Matthew 13:20, the parallel to Mark 4:16 (i.e., the same usage; notice the word “accept”!): (f) as taking to oneself someone’s words, teaching, or testimony receive, accept, come to believe (MT 13.20);” So while lambano can mean to comprehend, it more typically means “receive, accept”, and certainly does here, especially since Luke speaks of this as the person believing, and the person responds with joy, and when he forsakes his faith, it is called falling away, and his faith is fosrasken in response to persecution, clearly showing this speaks of faith in Christ, and not something merely admitted into the mind, but something embraced, also a meaning of lambano, in the sense of taking something into one’s possession. Anyway, the funny thing is that Matthew uses the word understand of the people who produce fruit, which is towards the definition you are trying to force on “receive” of the second soil.

    Well, in light of all that, your claim does not hold up. It is more likely that the two Greek words are roughly synonymous. Both can be translated as “receive” or “accept”. It may be that Mark chose the more forceful paradexomai to more positively describe those who persevere. But the word Mark uses does get used in the NT for true acceptance of the Gospel. When Luke describes it, he says they believe after just having indicated that believing brings salvation.

    You say that the only thing that is different in the parable is the soil. That’s not quite right. The parable emphasizes the difference of how the people respond to the word. Moreover, as I mentioned, the soil represents the people themselves. The difference between them is how they choose to respond to God’s word. It is strange you say there is no change in soil as if this made a difference. In the explanation of the parable, the soil represents the people themselves, and the people do change as a result of their response to the word. The second, third, and fourth soil begin to grow, though only the fourth produces mature fruit. What’s more, the people seem to be characterized by their response to the word taken as a whole, so your point just doesn’t apply as of any significance. as if we would expect the soil to change. You seem to be again trying to push the symbolic imagery too far, trying to squeeze your interpretation out of the text when it just is not there.

    And that brings me to something I mentioned in one of my first comments, but lost sight of a bit over our disagreement of whether the text really indicates that none of the other soil produced any sort of friut. And that is that even if that point were correct, it still would not help your position because of the fact that in the parable, the only fruit that counts is fruit that lasts in accord with the parable’s concern for prsevering in faith. To say that the other soils did not produce fruit is, from the perspective of the parable, God’s word, merely to say that they did not produce fruit that perseveres to the end. And that does not help your point, which rests on the assertion that if someone does not persevere then they never believed. As I said in an earlier post, Calvinist commentator Matthew Henry takes it exactly in this way: “It is not enough that the fruit be brought forth, but it must be brought to perfection, it must be fully ripened. If it be not, it is as if there was no fruit at all brought forth; for that which in Matthew and Mark is said to be unfruitful is the same that here is said to bring forth none to perfection.” This makes the most sense of all versions of the parable. In fact, Matthew’s version says of the seed sown among the thorns that it *became* unfrutiful, which may suggest that, as Luke indicates, there was some fruit born, but that it was not lasting in its production, and so from the perspective of the harvest (most likely with the eschatological harvest in view, when we stand before God in the final day), there is no fruit. Or to put it another way, the only fruit that counts is fruit that lasts, for perseverance is necessary for the fruit to be harvested or accepted. As Luke tells us of the good soil, they “hold it [the word] fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”

    Finally, it is thoroughly unbiblical to charge that something by faith is by works. If we persevere by faith, which is the Arminian position, then it is not by works. I believe that Ben has addressed this sort of argument before very effectively at Arminian Perpsectives. I would encourage you to look at what he has to say.

    God bless.

  36. Dear brother,

    I agree that perseverance is necessary and this parable gives us a clear idea of who will persevere. The ones with an “honest and good heart, which, having heard the word, understands it (so it is in Matthew), receives
    it (so it is in Mark), and keeps it (so it is here), as the soil not only receives, but keeps, the seed”- (Matthew Henry). Surely you are not trying to say that Matthew Henry is saying that one can lose his/her salvation, if you are I would say that you have grossly misread him. As for the words being “roughly synonymous” I fear that you are not giving the inspired writer credit, if he wanted to say that he could have easily used the same word, the fact that he did not speaks volumes. We see in John 2 and John 8 of people believing on Jesus, but not in a saving way. Also, Simon Magus “believed” yet we know that this was not “saving faith”. The parable also tells us that the 2nd soil was still rock underneath and that they never were made “new creatures” nor had their heart of stone been replaced with a “heart of flesh”. One more thing about the soil of number 2, notice that they had no root I would venture a guess that it is very hard to bear fruit with no root system in place. While you seem to want to stress that the “for a while believe” part it seems clear that this is just a superficial surface belief. In fact some versions render it that while they are hearing it they believe, but as soon as they stop hearing it they fall away. So while it seemed that they believed in a saving way the fact that they did not persevere showed that even what they seemed to have was taken away.

    One question that could clear this up is a hypothetical. Say that you are preaching the Gospel to 4 individuals and that these are the reactions that you encountered, say then that 1 minute after you stopped preaching and they responded like the parable said they would they all 4 dropped dead. Which one/ones would you say are saved? Would say that all but the first are saved or would you say that God knows the heart and only 1 or 2 are saved. Granted you would not see the weeds “choking” or the “for a while believe” or the “bearing fruit” part since they each dropped dead before you could see that, but which ones are saved in your view?

    Praise be to God

  37. Mitch,

    In regard to Matthew Henry, my point was not that he was saying that someone can lose their salvation, but that he contradicts your point that none of the other soil produced any kind of fruit. That has been your major point about the parable of the sower, trying to establish from that that those who believe for a while did not really believe for a while. But let me note again that although even this point seems incorrect, it still would not establish what you want it to becasue of the perpective of the parable as explained in my last post.

    In regards to words being roughly synonymous, if you are claiming that words cannot be roughly synonymous or that whenever a writer uses different words he has a distinctly different meaning in view, then I would have to say that you do not understand basic literary and biblical convention. Are you saying that biblical authors never use synonyms? That would be an incredible position. But you might have to resort to such claims to uphold your position. As I have pointed out, the language in Luke is typically used of believing the gospel message unto salvation. (People use synonyms all the time without any real difference between them. And scholars recognize that biblical authors do so too. Have you never heard of stylistic difference in word choice? )

    You had said that there were many places in Scripture that people are said to believe in a non-saving way. I disputed that and still do. Just because there may be a few times Scripture speaks like this does not make it frequent. The fact that it is infrequent at best stands against your case. There would need to be strong evidence in the context to indicate false faith. There is no such evidence in the Parable of the Sower. If you say forsaking faith is such evidence, that would be begging the question. But not only is such langauage infrequent, but some if not all of the few examples you provided are qustionable. Simon Magus for example seems to have have been a true believer who sinned and was in great spiritual peril, but then repented. As one of the foremost commentators on Acts says, “There is nothing in this verse to suggest that Simon, in his believing . . . and in his receiving baptism . . ., was less sincere or in any way a less satisfactory convert than the other Samaritans” (Barrett, 409). And Calvin himself held that Simon seems to have repented.

    Yor statement here seems odd: “The parable also tells us that the 2nd soil was still rock underneath and that they never were made “new creatures” nor had their heart of stone been replaced with a “heart of flesh”. ”

    First, you are still pushing the figures too far. Second, where does it say that they were never made new creatures “nor had their heart of stone been replaced with a “heart of flesh” “? This is more evidence of you reading your theology into the text. You assert it says things it does not say at all. I would in fact infer from the fact that it says they believed, and indicates that believing brings salvation, in conjunction with other passages that describe reegeneration etc., that they were indeed made new creatures, though it should be remembered that this is to bring in theological categories from outside the context (but I address it because you have introduced those theological categories).

    As for the lack of root, you must remember that this is symbolism. So what does that symbolize? Thankfully, Jesus gives us the interpretation of the parable. He interprets the figure of having no root as meaning their faith (remember, faith was said to bring salvation in the previous verse) is temporary: “But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13; ESV) You say it is only a superficial surface belief, but where does it say this? It says they believe for a while, and again, has indicated that belief brings salvation. And it encourages persevering in faith later in the parable. As I have said before, there is no hint that they should forsake their false faith, but that they should continue in the faith they have; they should not fall away from their faith. In your view, it should not be a bad thing that they fall away, since they would only be falling away from false faith.

    As for versions that has them immediately falling as soon as they stop hearing, that is untenable. They fall away at persecution, not at ceasing of hearing the word.

    BTW, it is interesting that you allude to Jesus’ principle of what the spiritually poor have being taken away because of their spiritual ignorance/unbelief, because Matthew’s and Mark’s versions do not say “what he thinks he has”, but “what he has”, i.e., what he in fact has. Luke does have “what he thinks he has”, but therte is no problem squaring this with Matthew and Mark. It is true for those who actually have faith but forsake it, and those those who think they are saved and are not.

    I have to say that your hypothetical is confusing and hard to follow. But maybe it will help for me to say this: if someone is believeing, then he is saved and will go to Heaven. If he forsakes Christ, stops believing, then he will not go to Heaven.

    God bless and glory to God.

  38. Dear brother,

    The parable is about the different soils that the Gospel seed is sown in. We see that while it would seem that 3 out of the 4 soils seem good only one is truly saved. Now you seem to want to say that soil 2 was changed inwardly, but the text clearly says that it was always rock. Could you point to me where it says that they were at one point no longer rock? God knows our nature/heart and he knows who is coming with a “true” heart. As for Calvin and Magus, again this is just plain dishonest what you are doing and you did the same thing with Matthew Henry. You are trying to insinuate that Calvin thought that he “truly” was saved when he did not. I notice that you did at least write that it “seemed” that he repented, but that is the whole point my friend. We may think that someone is being “true” and coming with a “good & honest” heart, but they are not. Show me where the 2nd & 3rd soil are said to “understand” / “receive it” / “keep it” the seed? A sign for being a “true” believer is “perseverance”. I pointed to John 2, John 8 and you can look all through the OT about false faith, James, Peter, Paul all write about it.

    The point of the hypothetical, which apparently you could not follow due to my poor communication skills, was that God knows our “nature” and/or “heart” and if we are coming with an “honest & good” nature/heart.

    BTW, this is pretty funny if you think about it-
    You- Luke does have “what he thinks he has”, but therte is no problem squaring this with Matthew and Mark.

    You- It is a basic principle of Gospel interpretation to allow the various inspired Gospel authors to bring out their own emphases in the way they relate similar material.

    Praise God for his grace & mercy

  39. Mitch,

    I will let Arminian address what you wrote, but I wanted to say that as someone who is observing the converstaion, I think you have misunderstood him with the last comment you made here:

    BTW, this is pretty funny if you think about it-
    You- Luke does have “what he thinks he has”, but therte is no problem squaring this with Matthew and Mark.

    You- It is a basic principle of Gospel interpretation to allow the various inspired Gospel authors to bring out their own emphases in the way they relate similar material.

    You seem to be implying that his comments about squaring Matt. and Mark with Luke contradicts what he said previously about letting authors speak for themselves. Look at the rest of what he wrote here:

    It is true for those who actually have faith but forsake it, and those those who think they are saved and are not.

    What he seems to be saying is that when we look at all three accounts they can be used to describe both those who think they have someting but really have nothing (Luke), and those who really have something, but it is taken away from them (Matt., Mark). So really he is allowing the authors to bring out their own emphases and just pointing out that the emphasis in Matt. and Mark supports the idea of losing what someone truly has, which does not comport with your “never really saved to begin with” hermeneutic that you want to force into every conceivable passage of Scripture.

    Like I said before, Arminians do not deny the presence of false converts, though such instances seem to be extremely rare in Scripture; we affirm both the presence of false converts and those who fall away from genuine faith. This allows us to avoid such awkward interpretations with passages such as Luke 8:13 and numerous other passages where the “never really saved to begin with” interpretation simply will not work.

    You have still dodged the obvious question which was aked initially and has been repeated several times. What kind of life is being described in Luke where it says that a plant sprouted upon believing with joy? If it is spiritual life then your interpretation is proven to be false. If it is not spiritual life then what is it? Why would it be bad for it to die if it was describing something other than spiritual life?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  40. Dear brother,

    When it says that “sprang-up / grew-up” what is it referring to when it says that? I would say it is referencing the person’s apparent faith or belief. We see that the soil in Luke 8:13 was shallow and underneath it was still rock. It was a superficial faith that one has when they hear the good news, but they do not take the time to count the cost and when persecution and tribulation come they just as quickly fall away. What our Lord is telling the disciples is that when they preach the gospel (sow the seed) they will encounter these four responses. Only one soil (heart) had saving faith, now if I understand you correctly apparently you do not believe in a false/superficial faith that does not save, if you do might I ask what you think false/superficial faith looks like. To me it looks just like what our Lord is telling us here in this parable.

    Praise be to God

  41. Mitch wrote: “The parable is about the different soils that the Gospel seed is sown in. We see that while it would seem that 3 out of the 4 soils seem good only one is truly saved. Now you seem to want to say that soil 2 was changed inwardly, but the text clearly says that it was always rock. Could you point to me where it says that they were at one point no longer rock?”

    ***I have addressed this very thing more than once. You are pushing the sumbolic imagery of the parable too far, which can lead to all sorts of wild and fanciful interpretations. Jesus himself gives us the interpretation of the parable. it is a picture used to communicate spiritual truth, and he tells us what that truth is. He mentions nothing about the emphasis you try to lay on it. He certainly says nothing about their heart being a rock. The soil is said to be rocky in the figure. Does Jesus say that they were not changed? If anything, he indicates they were changed, for they believed and had joy at the word. So how does Jesus actually interpret the picture? “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13) In fact here, the people are actually pictured as the seed on rock. So are people now seed? Should we say that they are also pictured as rock, so perhaps they were changed from rock to seed? Do you see how silly it can be if we try to eek out our doctrine from every detail that is part of a whole symbolic picture and assigning an arbirtrary spiritual mean to each part?

    Mitch said: “God knows our nature/heart and he knows who is coming with a “true” heart.”

    ***Yes he does, but that does not change that Christ himself said that those of the second soil believed after having just indicated that believing brings salvation, and in the context where he encourages persevering in faith (not forsaking false faith, and then getting true faith; that’s nowhere on the radar for the parable).

    Mitch: “As for Calvin and Magus, again this is just plain dishonest what you are doing and you did the same thing with Matthew Henry. You are trying to insinuate that Calvin thought that he “truly” was saved when he did not.”

    ***Ok, now that is just uncalled for. I am not being dishonest. I was talking about Calvin’s view of Maugus’ response to Peter’s rebuke. See more on that below. And as for the Matthew Henry point, I dealt completely forthrightly with his comments and explained to you how I was using it; I already corrected your wrong impression. As I said, “In regard to Matthew Henry, my point was not that he was saying that someone can lose their salvation, but that he contradicts your point that none of the other soil produced any kind of fruit. That has been your major point about the parable of the sower, trying to establish from that that those who believe for a while did not really believe for a while.” And that is exactly right. Henry disagrees with your view that those who fall away did not bear any kind of fruit wahtsoever. Do I need to quote him again? This doesn’t mean he thinks one can lose his salvation. It just means he would deny the point you have been trying to use to uphold the Calvinistic view. You are displaying even in your approach to my comments your method of interpreting Scripture, reading your assumptions in rather than to dealing fairly with what is actually said. This could partly explain why on a number of occasions you have actually asserted the text something it does not actually say at all.

    Mitch said: “I notice that you did at least write that it “seemed” that he repented, but that is the whole point my friend. We may think that someone is being “true” and coming with a “good & honest” heart, but they are not.”

    ***As I said, I was referring to Calvin’s view of Magus’ response to his rebuke. And I was just paraphrasing. What he actually said was bit stronger: “We are entitled to conjecture that he did repent . . .” (quoted in Barrett, 418). I.e., while we do not know for sure, the most natural way to read the text suggests that Magus did repent. But in any case, you said we know he was a false believer, and that is far from obvious. As Imentioned, one of the foremost commentators on the text takes the view that he was a sincere believer. Sincere believers can sin and be called to account and warned.

    Mitch said: “Show me where the 2nd & 3rd soil are said to “understand” / “receive it” / “keep it” the seed?”

    ***The fact that you can say this and not realize that I will immediately produce the text where it indeed says that they received the word and believed may be yet anbother indication of how you seem to bend Scripture toward your interpretatrion and sometimes fail to see even basic details in the text. Concerning the second soil:

    “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, *receive it* with joy. But these have no root; *they believe* for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13; ESV; emphasis mine)

    “In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately *receive it* with joy;” (Mark 4:16; ESV; emphasis mine)

    “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately *receives it* with joy,” (Matthew 13:20; ESV; emphasis mine)

    Of course it does not say that they keep it, because that is the point; they eventually forsake their faith, which is seen as a bad thing, since the faith is genuine. The issue is to persevere in it and not forsake it.

    Mitch: “A sign for being a “true” believer is “perseverance”. I pointed to John 2, John 8 and you can look all through the OT about false faith, James, Peter, Paul all write about it.”

    ***You amke the claim that a sign of being a true believer is perseverance, but that is exactly what is in dispute. In his posts, Ben has been refuting that claim, and this conversation has resulted partly because you appealed to the Parable of the Sower to try and refute his exegetical work on Hebrews, where we see your view refuted IMO. In one sense you are right, since we have salvation by faith, as long as we are believing we are saved, and so perseverance in faith becomes both the means by which we continue in salvation and so is therefore a sign that we are a true believer. But if we forsake faith/Christ and so stop being a true believer then we will perish. hence all the warnings in Hebrews to not forsake our faith in Christ lest we perish.

    Again, those passages that you cite are not themselves clear cut. But as I said, just because there may be a few times Scripture speaks like this (speaking of false faith) does not make it frequent. The fact that it is infrequent at best stands against your case. There would need to be strong evidence in the context to indicate false faith. There is no such evidence in the Parable of the Sower. If you say forsaking faith is such evidence, that would be begging the question.

    Mitch: “The point of the hypothetical, which apparently you could not follow due to my poor communication skills, was that God knows our “nature” and/or “heart” and if we are coming with an “honest & good” nature/heart.

    ***This is true, and since God inspired Luke to say that the people represented by the second soil believed, we can be sure tha they did in fact believe.

    Your final point was addressed well by Ben, so I won’t take it up. What he said is exactly my view of it. It seems strange that you did not get that. And thank you Ben for addressing it.

    Finally, let me amen your words to this effect: Praise God for his grace & mercy

    God bless.

  42. Small correction to my last post. It is Luke 8:14 that pictures the peole as seed rather than 8:13. But the basic point still stands. If one wants to press all the pictorial details, then that could be said to show a change in the people from being soil to seed, whic also represents the bvery word of God itself. Of course, the point is not that this is the way to read the parable, but that your (Mtich’s) overly allegorical method of interpretation is faulty.

  43. Dear brother,

    So I assume that it is your position that one can go from believing to unbelieving to believing etc. Do you believe in false faith? If so what does it look like? When it refers to the 2nd soil and it says “on the rock” it is saying that while the ground looked good on the surface that right below the shallow soil was rock (limestone if you read some of the commentators) and since the root could not go deep into the soil (due to the lack of depth because of the limestone/rock underneath) it just as easily falls away. We are also told that the seed (gospel) is sown in the soil (heart) of individuals. The parable makes it clear which type of soil (heart) will “understand-receive-keep” the seed.

    Now are you saying that there are other responses that people have when hearing the gospel, if so could you point me to where in the Bible I could study the different responses not spoken of here by our blessed Lord? If not and you say that you believe in false converts then where exactly in this parable would they be described?

    Praise God

  44. Mitch said: “So I assume that it is your position that one can go from believing to unbelieving to believing etc.”

    ***Not really. Scripture seems to indicate that apostasy, forsaking the faith in a definitive way, is not something that can be recovered from. We are talking about repudiating the Christian faith here. Even practically embracing Christ and the Christian faith is not something done and then forsaken and then done again over and over. However, there is a difference between backsliding and total apostasy. Someone might not really be walking in obedience for a time or something like that. That does not mean that they need to become a Christian again, but that they need to repent as someone who is already a Christian. Scripture does not give a lot of specifics on all the ins and outs of this. But it clearly emphasizes this–do not forsake faith in Christ but persevere in following him!

    Mitch: “Do you believe in false faith? If so what does it look like?”

    ***Yes, I believe that false faith exists. I think it could probably look many ways. One example would be that given in Matthew 7:21-23 “21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ”

    Claiming to believe in Jesus but not obeying him is at least one significant way that false faith looks. But these people do not believe in the biblical sense. They do not trust in the gospel. Rather they do wickledness while doing some things in Christ’s name. These types of people were never saved. This passage seems to fit many churches in our day, typically more liberal ones that name the name of Christ and do some works of mercy etc., but do not believe the basci gospel or preach it.

    Mitch said: “When it refers to the 2nd soil and it says “on the rock” it is saying that while the ground looked good on the surface that right below the shallow soil was rock (limestone if you read some of the commentators) and since the root could not go deep into the soil (due to the lack of depth because of the limestone/rock underneath) it just as easily falls away. We are also told that the seed (gospel) is sown in the soil (heart) of individuals. The parable makes it clear which type of soil (heart) will “understand-receive-keep” the seed.”

    ***You draw attention to the *physical picture* from which Jesus draws his spirutal parallel. But all the physical details vcannot be read into the spiritual meaning as you have been trying to do, as I keep pointing out to you. That yields silly results. The thing to focus on for understanding the parable is to Christ’s own explanation of the meaning of the picture. Here is what he says: “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13) Looked at as a whole such people’s faith could certainly be called shallow, since they forsake it. But that does not make the faith any less real. Shallow faith is faith that is forsaken. It is still real faith. If it was not forsaken, then it would yield final salvation and could be called deep faith or something like that. But it has nothing to do with the kind of spin you are tying to put on it IMO.

    Mitch said: “Now are you saying that there are other responses that people have when hearing the gospel,”

    ***No.

    Mitch said: “if so could you point me to where in the Bible I could study the different responses not spoken of here by our blessed Lord? If not and you say that you believe in false converts then where exactly in this parable would they be described?”

    I would place many false converts in the first soil. Since they do not believe, they fit there. Other false converts *might* fit in the third soil, people who might not actually believe the gospel, but think they are Christian for one reson or another, but whose religion is part of a genuine response to God’s work in their lives, who are growing toward faith, though that soil would *certainly* also include people who truly believe and therefore obey the Lord to some extent, but whose faith gets choked out by other concerns.

    Now, I have been answering questions from you. I notice that continue to evade some questions that have been asked of you, like those posted by Ben in his last post to you above. I think I will leave you to address those with him.

    God bless.

  45. Dear brother,

    The point of the parable to me is Jesus telling his disciples that when they “sow” the “seed” these are the types of reactions that they will get. When you say that the 2nd soil could have lasted and be called “deep faith” I think you are clearly wrong. Why? Because as you so aptly pointed out our Lord said they have no root. Now why do they not have root? I would say because underneath the shallow topsoil was still rock. The ground was never broken up, the rock was always there. Now you seem to think that I am taking that too far, but that is what the sacred text clearly says. Unlike you I do not believe that any of the first 3 soils are saved.

    I was glad to see that you do not believe that there are other kinds of responses that one has to the “seed”, but surely you would grant that “false converts” made a profession of faith and that to them at the time it seemed real & genuine. For your view to be correct the soil would have to change because if the 2nd soil did persevere then it would need to get roots and in order for that to happen the rock underneath would have to be removed. Now you seem to think this was true saving faith that “might” be shallow, but what exactly is “false faith”? You wrote that claiming to believe in Jesus but not obeying him is at least one significant way that false faith looks Great! I agree and when we look at the first three soils they never truly obeyed Jesus. If they did they would have continued in his word and truly would have been his disciples.

    As for the questions to me, I did answer them to the best of my ability. What our Lord told us in this parable was how different people will respond to the gospel and why. We are also blessed to see what type of person will “understand the gospel, which type of person will receive the gospel and which person will keep gospel” and why they understand-receive-keep the gospel.

    Praise God for giving us His word and may He give us the grace and faith to persevere

  46. Mitch said: “The point of the parable to me is Jesus telling his disciples that when they “sow” the “seed” these are the types of reactions that they will get.”

    ***That is definitely a big part of it. But I think it is also to encourage the disciples and non-disciples to respond rightly the word–to believe and keep believing and bear fruit. This is why Jesus goes on to warn his hearers to be careful how they listen.

    Mitch said: “When you say that the 2nd soil could have lasted and be called “deep faith” I think you are clearly wrong. Why? Because as you so aptly pointed out our Lord said they have no root. Now why do they not have root? I would say because underneath the shallow topsoil was still rock. The ground was never broken up, the rock was always there. Now you seem to think that I am taking that too far, but that is what the sacred text clearly says. Unlike you I do not believe that any of the first 3 soils are saved.”

    ***Yes, you have stated this position a number of times. But here is where you are pushing the imagery too far in an overly allegorical method of interpretation. As I said, you draw attention to the *physical picture* from which Jesus draws his spirutal parallel. But all the physical details cannot be read into the spiritual meaning as you have been trying to do, as I keep pointing out to you. That yields silly results (like thinking the third soil does change from soil to seed). The thing to focus on for understanding the parable is Christ’s own explanation of the meaning of the picture. Here is what he says: “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13)

    Now you draw attention to Jesus’ mention that they have no root. We could try to draw the meaning of that from the physical picture that Jesus uses as you do, or we could pay attention to how Jeus himself interpets the figure! I addressed this in a previous post: As for the lack of root, you must remember that this is symbolism. So what does that symbolize? Thankfully, Jesus gives us the interpretation of the parable. He interprets the figure of having no root as meaning their faith (remember, faith was said to bring salvation in the previous verse) is temporary: “But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13; ESV) You say it is only a superficial surface belief, but where does it say this? It says they believe for a while, and again, has indicated that belief brings salvation. And it encourages persevering in faith later in the parable. As I have said before, there is no hint that they should forsake their false faith, but that they should continue in the faith they have; they should not fall away from their faith. In your view, it should not be a bad thing that they fall away, since they would only be falling away from false faith.

    Again, Jesus interprets them having no root as meaning “they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away”, or as Matthew and Mark add, they are “temporary*. That is what the figure of the root symbolizes

    You ask why they had no root, but Jesus does not address that. You want to try and get that from the physical picture, but that it overreaching, a classic example of uncontrolled interpretation of symoblism, and clearly not Jesus’ point. It is as if you think the picture he uses must address every aspect of the salvation process. Even approaching it that way is contrary to your position, because then one would have to ask if the good soil changed, as would be required by your interpretive scheme. But no, the last three soils all produced a living plant in response to the word. But the soils did not have any change in them that differed. The plants did. They all grew, but only the last produced mature fruit, that is, persevered with fruit till the end.

    Now intersetingly, you say “that is what the sacred text clearly says” concerning the rock keeping there from being root. But that is not actually the case. The text does not actually say this. I agree that it is part of the *background* of the physical picture Jesus gives, that his heareres would understand that the rock would be what kept the soil shallow. But Jesus does not even mention this. Why? It is not really important. He interprets the figure and tells us what point he is making from it. You continue to read the text as saying certain things explicitly that it does not say (at other times you seem to say it does not say things it actually does say), more evidence that you are reading your presuppositions into the text.

    Mitch said, “I was glad to see that you do not believe that there are other kinds of responses that one has to the “seed”, but surely you would grant that “false converts” made a profession of faith and that to them at the time it seemed real & genuine.”

    ***False converts do not all necessarily make a profession of faith in the gospel. Many liberal Christians may make a claim of believing in Jesus, but that is not what the Bible calls believing in him. And they do not confess faith in the gospel as the Bible describes it. Others may make a claim of believing in the gospel, but do not submit their lives to Jesus. It is like a man who tells his wife he is sorry for cheating on her, but that he can’t be home tonight because he has a date with his mistress. You can say whatever you want, but the truth of it is displayed in one’s actions. Now if the man truly repented to his wife, and breaks it off with the mistress, etc., then it does not make his true repentance to have not been true if he later becomes tempted and repudiates his marriage. Earlier he had sincere repentance, but later he fell away from that. I would say that if someone understands the gospel and believes himself to trust in it, and shows the signs of genuine saving faith such as obedience, then such a person can know he is saved. That is something that can be tested and seen by the person; he can measure his profession of faith by that. But someone who professes faith in Christ based on a false gospel is not someone who has believed in Jesus. That is someone who did not accept the gospel. So they belong in the first seed that doesn’t receive the gospel.

    Mitch said: “For your view to be correct the soil would have to change because if the 2nd soil did persevere then it would need to get roots and in order for that to happen the rock underneath would have to be removed.”

    ***You again appeal illegitimately to the physical picture as applying in every physical aspect. I have addressed this above. It is much wiser to allow Jesus to interpret the picture than to assign allegorical meanings to everything in the parable.

    Mitch said: “I agree and when we look at the first three soils they never truly obeyed Jesus. If they did they would have continued in his word and truly would have been his disciples.”

    ***Do you not see how circular your reasoning is here and how you beg the question? It reveals how your interpetation is controlled by your presuppositions. As for me, it seems clear that the second soil did obey Jesus, since Luke tells us they receive the word with joy and they believe for a while.

    Mitch said: “As for the questions to me, I did answer them to the best of my ability. What our Lord told us in this parable was how different people will respond to the gospel and why. We are also blessed to see what type of person will “understand the gospel, which type of person will receive the gospel and which person will keep gospel” and why they understand-receive-keep the gospel.”

    ***But this is not an answer to the questions posed by Ben ,which I was calling you to address.

    The parable does tell us how different people respond to the gospel, but it does not really address why. You keep trying to read that in. But is is not what Jesus tells us the parable means. You focus the passage on what types of people will respond in which way. But that is not the focus of the passage at all, except that it tells us various external reasons that affect people’s decisions in these matters. But it does not tell us why one person responds to these things for Jesus and another against. One thing it does reveal though is that a person can accept the gospel with joy and believe, yet turn from that faith and perish. That’s what Ben has been showing Hebrews reveals as well.

    God bless.

  47. Dear brother,

    Thank you for being so kind and patient with me as I try to see your point of view.

    When you say that the parable does not address “why” I would beg to differ; we are told that he rocky soil quickly departs at the first sign of trouble or persecution (that would be the why here), the soil among thorns seem to last longer than the rocky soil but they never let go of the cares of this world (that would be the why here) and we are told in other places that one cannot serve two masters, the good soil are the ones that “understands, accepts and holds fast” (that would be the why here).

    When you write that the soils did not have any change in them that differed I again fail to understand what you mean. After all we are told upfront that the difference is the soil, the seed is the same in all 4 soils. In fact our Lord is emphasizing the difference in the soil in this parable.

    When you claim that “no root” symbolizes “temporary faith” then are we to assume that soil 3 & 4 had lasting faith? I like what one commentator wrote about the “no root”- Yet hath he not root in himself – No deep work of grace: no change in the ground of his heart. Nay, he has no deep conviction; and without this, good desires soon wither away. John Wesley. I could not agree more with the great Wesley on this. Without that “deep work of grace” then it is not “true faith”. I am happy to stand with Wesley here that the difference is “no change in the ground of his heart”.

    When you write a classic example of uncontrolled interpretation of symbolism I again do not agree. We are told that the “seed” is the word and the “soil” is the “heart or nature of person”, we are given 4 different “soils- heart/natures of people” and we are told how they will respond to the “seed- word” and as I stated above why they respond that way.

    Praise God for His mercy and grace

  48. Mitch,

    Mitch said: “When you say that the parable does not address “why” I would beg to differ; we are told that he rocky soil quickly departs at the first sign of trouble or persecution (that would be the why here), the soil among thorns seem to last longer than the rocky soil but they never let go of the cares of this world (that would be the why here) and we are told in other places that one cannot serve two masters, the good soil are the ones that “understands, accepts and holds fast” (that would be the why here).”

    ***You did not deal fully with what I said and so miss my position. Let me repeat what I said. Note the added emphasis:

    The parable does tell us how different people respond to the gospel, but it does not really address why. You keep trying to read that in. But is is not what Jesus tells us the parable means. You focus the passage on what types of people will respond in which way. But that is not the focus of the passage at all, **except that it tells us various external reasons that affect people’s decisions in these matters. But it does not tell us why one person responds to these things for Jesus and another against.**

    I acknowledged the very type of reasons you cite as being addressed by the parable. I mentioned “various external reasons”. I specifically had in mind the various reasons mentioned such as persecution, worries and riches and pleasures of life (I suppose worries could be considered internal, but I was not be exhaustive; the point is that various temptations press upon us, demanding some sort of response, whether for Christ or against him). But you have been arguing for something different, that the text concerns the reason why one person believes the gospel and another doesn’t, and so why one responds to such temptations with faith in Christ and another with unbelief. That is what it does not address. And that is the critical thing you are trying to argue for.

    Mitch said: “When you write that the soils did not have any change in them that differed I again fail to understand what you mean. After all we are told upfront that the difference is the soil, the seed is the same in all 4 soils. In fact our Lord is emphasizing the difference in the soil in this parable.

    ***But the soils represent the people and how they respond to the gospel. They do not represent the reason why one responds in this way or that.

    Mitch said: “When you claim that “no root” symbolizes “temporary faith” then are we to assume that soil 3 & 4 had lasting faith?”

    ***No, because there is no mention of root in those instances. You continue to try and squeeze unstated details of symbolism out when it is not there, and then give that as evidence for your view. Jesus gives the symbolism of “no root” to be temporary faith. But he doesn’t mention root in the other instances. There is no reason to think we should add the symolism of root to those other instances. It is clearly not Jesus’ concern. You have to be careful with interpreting symbolism, especially not to read too much into it and to make it serve your own presupposition, as the history of interpretation would advise us with many instances of abuse and fanciful interpretation.

    If we wanted to take up your overly allegorical method of interpretation, then we could say that the root represents true faith. Is that not your interpretation of it? Then by your own method would that not mean that the 3rd soil had true faith? Or if you want to represent the root as anything of a true believer (a regenerate spirit or whatever), then would you not have to say the same thing of the 3rd soil by your own interpretation? The way out of that is to recognize that the symbolism cannot be pushed so far as you want to push it.

    Nice Wesley quote BTW. I disagree with him here though, despite my high regard for him.. But look how you did what I did with Matthew Henry and Calvin. You are using a position of his that supports your view even if he would disagree with your view on whether a true Christian can fall away. wesley of course would affirm that a true Christian can fall away from the faith and perish. And rightly so as the word of God teaches it.

    Mitch said: “When you write a classic example of uncontrolled interpretation of symbolism I again do not agree. We are told that the “seed” is the word and the “soil” is the “heart or nature of person”, we are given 4 different “soils- heart/natures of people” and we are told how they will respond to the “seed- word” and as I stated above why they respond that way.

    ***There you go again saying that the text says things it does not actually say, continuing to demonstrate the reading of your presuppositions into the text, so much so that you say it says things it does not say. Where does it say that the soil represents the “heart or nature of person”? The symbolism is general and variable. The soil is represented as the person on whom the seed is sown and wqho reacts in a certain way. It is also said to be sown in the heart of the person (which is probably where you get the heart = soil claim). As I pointed out in a previous post, the person, who is represented as soil, is also equated with the seed at at least one point, at least in the 3rd soil, one that ends up perishing. Are we to equate such a person’s heart with the word of God? Or do these silly results finally help you to see that your method of interpreting the parable is overly allegorical and that you should pay closer attention to how Jesus actually interprets the parable? If you do, then you might change to the Arminian view.

    God bless.

  49. Dear brother,

    I thought you might disagree with the Wesley quote, but he stays true to the word here and I commend him for it. You are right to say that Wesley thought some could fall away, but that was not always the case. Wesley could not understand how someone could profess to be a Christian while still living in sin, so he changed his views on perseverance. Wesley also thought that you could live a consciously sin free life, he never attained that state. If you read his journals you will see that he sometimes questioned his own faith because he had members of his congregation telling him that they are sin free. Even late in life he anguished over the belief that his faith was not true. Of course his faith was true, he was wrong to think that you could live sin free and while he knew that he never attained such a state he believed others that said they had achieved it.

    You wrote – As I pointed out in a previous post, the person, who is represented as soil, is also equated with the seed at at least one point, at least in the 3rd soil, one that ends up perishing. Are we to equate such a person’s heart with the word of God? – I cannot see what you see here perhaps one day the Spirit will open my eyes. We are told that the Sower sows the seed in the soil and then our Lord tells us the “seed” is the word and that the “seed” is sown “in his heart”. Now I have no problem saying that the soil represents the heart/nature of man. In fact, most commentators would say the same thing. I am still having a hard time seeing what you think the “soils” represent? You wrote The symbolism is general and variable. The soil is represented as the person on whom the seed is sown and wqho reacts in a certain way. I admit that I am at times ignorant & stupid and ask you to forgive me and look over it, but it appears that we are saying the same thing. When I say that the “soil” represents the “heart/overall nature of the person” you see it as “represented the person on whom the seed is sown”. This seems very similar to my view, but as I just stated I am at times not able to comprehend even simple things so perhaps I just do not see the difference. When Wesley wrote that there was “no change in the ground of his heart” I do not think that he is using a “classic example of uncontrolled interpretation of symbolism”, rather he is seeing what is clearly in the text.

    Oh well, I pray that if I am wrong that the Spirit convict me and that I repent of my error. Since I am more convinced than ever that I am seeing it correctly I must hold to my belief. Thank you again for your interaction on this matter and may our gracious Lord bless you in all things.

    Praise be to God

  50. Mitch said: “You wrote – As I pointed out in a previous post, the person, who is represented as soil, is also equated with the seed at at least one point, at least in the 3rd soil, one that ends up perishing. Are we to equate such a person’s heart with the word of God? – I cannot see what you see here perhaps one day the Spirit will open my eyes. We are told that the Sower sows the seed in the soil and then our Lord tells us the “seed” is the word and that the “seed” is sown “in his heart”. Now I have no problem saying that the soil represents the heart/nature of man. In fact, most commentators would say the same thing. I am still having a hard time seeing what you think the “soils” represent?”

    ***I have stated what I think the soil represents more than once. And I have indicated that the figure is actually variable in the parable/explanation. But the most basic signification of the soil is the person and his response to the seed/word. I don’t have a problem with saying that the soil represents a person’s heart either. The parable gives that picture too, and the heart of a person and the person are obviously closely tied. But it is not simply the person or his heart in its fullest meaning in the parable, but as I said, the person *and his response to the word*. But even acknowleding that the soil is also roughly equivalent to the person’s heart, the direction you try to take that is untenable and an example of allegorical excess. You take that figure and try to press it beyond into an extended allegory beyond what Jesus indicates. So you take the soil as the heart and say the person’s heart is seen as rock, and that rock never is said to change, and therefore the person never changed in any way and so was never a true believer. That’s allegorical excess. I have show you how problematic this is in various ways. In just the last post I turned your own excessively allegorical method back on you with reference to my point that Jesus himself interprets the lack of root to symbolize temporary faith. You challenged this by assuming that soils 3 and 4, which are not said to lack root, must have root, and that this would bring my interpretation to have to concede that soils 3 and 4 therefore had lasting faith. Of course my point has been that your whole overly allegorical approach is inappropriate and not to be followed. But if it were to be applied to your own argument, then we would have the root, apparently representing true faith (or something like it) in your view, to be there in the case of the 3rd soil, affirming them as true believers and saved. And this would contradict your whole view and argument. But the real point here is that your whole method of grabbing onto small physically pictured details and allegorizing them and trying to make a point out of them in favor of your theological viewpoint is invalid, which also invalidates your main point about the parable. It simply does not indicate that soil 2 and 3 were never true believers. Rather, Luke tells us that soil 2 believed for a while after just saying that believing brings salvation. And Luke implies us that soil 3 bore fruit of a kind, though it did not mature, i.e., make it to the end; i.e., they did not persevere in producing fruit.

    Mitch said: “You wrote The symbolism is general and variable. The soil is represented as the person on whom the seed is sown and wqho reacts in a certain way. I admit that I am at times ignorant & stupid and ask you to forgive me and look over it, but it appears that we are saying the same thing. When I say that the “soil” represents the “heart/overall nature of the person” you see it as “represented the person on whom the seed is sown”. This seems very similar to my view, but as I just stated I am at times not able to comprehend even simple things so perhaps I just do not see the difference.

    ***I think we are close in what we are saying about the specific symbolism of the soil, but miles apart. As I said above, it represents the person and how that person responds to the word. Inasmcuch as the heart of a person is part of the person, and can be thought of as representative of a person, it can be roughly equated with the heart. And the parable does speak of the word being sown in the person’s heart. As I have pointed out, the symbolism is variable. Also, heart does not however represent the person’s overall nature in the sense of being a preset nature that determines their actions; that is to read way too much into it. Heart would represent the essence of the person, the person as a thinking, feeling, willing agent. But there is no sense of a pre-set and fixed nature to the term. The parable also pictures the person as the seed. Again, the symbolism is variable in the parable. This prevents your overly allegorical approach from really being able to tightly draw out such a detailed scheme as you want to concoct to try and say the 2nd and 3rd people never truly changed at all. You seem to want to say that Jesus would have to indicate the soil changing. But that is forcing Jesus’ parable into your own agenda and to use the imagery as you think it should be used. But it is part of that overly allegorical method of yours I have been drawing attention to.

    Maybe I can cut through much of this by pointing out something I said early on, perhaps in my first post, and elaborating on it a bit. Your main point has been that soils 2 and 3 did not bear fruit, and this shows they were never saved. I have disputed that the text indicates that they never bore any type of fruit as the Bible often uses that term, i.e., good works and character arising from faith. I think I have shown this. But early on I mentioned that you were confusing the principle of bearing fruit as the result of faith elsewhere in Scripture with the figures used in this parable. What I meant by that is that the parable generally seems to look at fruit from the perspective of the harvest, from the perspective of the end. That is, the only fruit that counts is fruit that makes it to the end, fruit that perseveres from faith that perseveres. Luke then gives indication of the fact that there might be fruit of a sort produced by the faith of those who do not ultimately persevere, but again, it does not count. I have quoted Matthew Henry on this, and believe he has captured the siutation exactly when it comes to this feature of the text, which collapses your argument. So I will end with quoting him again in his comments on Luke’s version of the parable: “It is not enough that the fruit be brought forth, but it must be brought to perfection, it must be fully ripened. If it be not, it is as if there was no fruit at all brought forth; for that which in Matthew and Mark is said to be unfruitful is the same that here is said to bring forth none to perfection.”

    God bless!

  51. Dear brother,

    You agree that these are the 4 types of responses that people will give upon hearing the Gospel. Now we know for certain that the “SEED” or “GOSPEL” is the same in all 4 soils and that the only thing different is the “responses” to the seed. We are also told that the soils are different in some way. Now to my simple mind the soil that the seed gets sown would have some effect on how they will respond. You seem to be implying that the response comes independent of the soil and I of course do not agree with that view at all. I think that ones response to the seed is directly related to the soil in which it is sown.

    You wrote – So you take the soil as the heart and say the person’s heart is seen as rock, and that rock never is said to change, and therefore the person never changed in any way and so was never a true believer. That’s allegorical excess.

    I pointed out that I am not alone in that and quoted Yet hath he not root in himself – No deep work of grace: no change in the ground of his heart. Nay, he has no deep conviction; and without this, good desires soon wither away. John Wesley. Of course there are other commentators that view it the same way, but it would be fruitless to trot out all of them.

    That all being said I feel that we have reached the end. You will keep seeing it your way and I will keep seeing it my way. I thank you for the cordial and polite discussion and wish you nothing but the best.

    May our gracious Lord give us the strength and faith to persevere to the end.

  52. Mitch said: “You agree that these are the 4 types of responses that people will give upon hearing the Gospel. Now we know for certain that the “SEED” or “GOSPEL” is the same in all 4 soils and that the only thing different is the “responses” to the seed. We are also told that the soils are different in some way. Now to my simple mind the soil that the seed gets sown would have some effect on how they will respond. You seem to be implying that the response comes independent of the soil and I of course do not agree with that view at all. I think that ones response to the seed is directly related to the soil in which it is sown.”

    ***I am not implying that the response comes independent of the soil. But what I have said is that the soil represents the people and their response. It represents people who respond in a certain way. The thing you assume and have little evidence for from the text is that the person’s response is pre-set and pre-fixed by a pre-set heart/nature. The parable has nothing to do with that, and is even given partly to exhort people to pay attention to how they listen, to make sure that they respond rightly to the word. It is characterizing people by their response to the word, not charcaterizing people’s response to the word by their heart. That is a huge difference and probably succinctly captures a major part of our difference.

    Another major difference has been hermeneutical method, specifically the issue of how much of the detail of the physical picture Jesus uses we are to assign allegorical meaning to, with you repeatedly pressing various minor details not meant to be specifically allegorized into points in an excessive and inconsistent way IMO, and me insisting that we pay attention to how Jesus interprets his own figures.

    Finally, the other major difference seems to have been what I said at the end of my last post. So let me repeat that in closing:

    Maybe I can cut through much of this by pointing out something I said early on, perhaps in my first post, and elaborating on it a bit. Your main point has been that soils 2 and 3 did not bear fruit, and this shows they were never saved. I have disputed that the text indicates that they never bore any type of fruit as the Bible often uses that term, i.e., good works and character arising from faith. I think I have shown this. But early on I mentioned that you were confusing the principle of bearing fruit as the result of faith elsewhere in Scripture with the figures used in this parable. What I meant by that is that the parable generally seems to look at fruit from the perspective of the harvest, from the perspective of the end. That is, the only fruit that counts is fruit that makes it to the end, fruit that perseveres from faith that perseveres. Luke then gives indication of the fact that there might be fruit of a sort produced by the faith of those who do not ultimately persevere, but again, it does not count. I have quoted Matthew Henry on this, and believe he has captured the siutation exactly when it comes to this feature of the text, which collapses your argument. So I will end with quoting him again in his comments on Luke’s version of the parable: “It is not enough that the fruit be brought forth, but it must be brought to perfection, it must be fully ripened. If it be not, it is as if there was no fruit at all brought forth; for that which in Matthew and Mark is said to be unfruitful is the same that here is said to bring forth none to perfection.”

    Thanks for the discussion.

    May the Lord bless you and grow you in him and his truth with perseverance.

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