Perseverance of the Saints Part 12: Examining Passages Commonly Appealed to by the Advocates of Unconditional Eternal Security

Having examined the primary passages that teach apostasy we now examine the passages that the advocates of unconditional eternal security believe clearly support their doctrine:

John 10:27-29

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

The first thing that needs to be noted is that there is nothing in this passage to suggest that the security being described by Christ is unconditional.  This is one of the greatest weaknesses of the Calvinist position.  One will look in vain for a passage of Scripture that explicitly makes salvation security unconditional.  The best that can be produced are passages which do not explicitly state a condition, but the absence of a stated condition does not necessitate the absence of a condition (e.g. Hebrews 13:5, cf. Deut. 31:6, 8, 16-18; 2 Chronicles 15:2; Joshua 24:19, 20). This is especially true since there are numerous passages which do state conditions and warn of defection from saving faith (as we have seen in parts 2-11 of this series).

In the case of John 10:27 we can even argue that a condition is stated, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  The verbs “listen” and “follow” are present active indicative in the Greek describing continual action.  The “sheep” are characterized by their “listening” to and “following” of Christ.  They are the listening and following ones, and only those who are listening and following can rightly be called Christ’s “sheep” and lay claim to the promises stated in John 10:28 and 29.  In other words, the sheep are believers who are presently believing.  It is to these believers alone that the promises are made.  Surely, those who are listening to and following Christ are secure in His arms and cannot be snatched out.  They also possess the eternal life that resides in Christ since they are in union with Him by faith (vs. 28).  There is nothing in the passage, however, to suggest that the sheep can never stop “listening” or “following” and no promise given for those who might indeed cease to do so.  The passage is only speaking of those who are presently listening and following.  It is a powerful promise to believers that as long as they are believing they are secure in Christ.  F. Leroy Forlines comments on this security in The Quest For Truth:

The teaching is simply this:  The believer’s relationship with God is a personal one between him and God.  Though all the powers of the universe were to combine against the believer, they could not take the believer away from God.  Some would add, ‘Neither can the believer take himself out of the body of Christ.’  Yes, that is true.  But, it is also true that he could not place himself into the body of Christ.  However, upon his faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit placed the believer into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).  If the believer renounces his faith, God will take him out (Jn. 15:2, 6).  There is no contradiction between the statements ‘No man can take us out of Christ’ and the statement ‘God the Father takes those people out of Christ who turn from Christ in unbelief.’ (pg. 275)

The passage does not state that faith cannot be renounced nor does it state that any such promise of security is given to unbelievers.  The promise of security in Christ described in John 10:27-29 is for believers who continue to believe and for them only.  The question then becomes, “Can believers cease to believe?”  The answer to that question cannot be resolved in John 10:27-29 and for that reason it fails as a proof text for inevitable perseverance.

Special Contextual Considerations for John 10:27-29

The Calvinist might object that verse 25 is not in harmony with the above interpretation due to the fact that Jesus tells the Jews that they do not believe because they are not His sheep.  It could be argued that verse 25 refers to a predetermined and unconditional election:  The sheep are those who were elected by God prior to creation and then given faith to believe in Christ.  The problem with this suggestion is that there is nothing in the text to indicate that Jesus is describing a pre-temporal election of certain individuals for salvation.  Such an eternal decree must be first assumed and then read into the text.

A more plausible interpretation is to understand Jesus’ words in John 10:27-29 in the context of the unique historical situation taking place at the time of His ministry with regards to the transition from the old dispensation to the new.  The passage has a secondary application to believers of all ages (as described above) but the primary application concerned only the Jews who were alive during Christ’s ministry and were specifically being addressed in this and other similar chapters in John (John 5:24-27; 6:37, 40-44, 65; 8:12-59).  The “sheep” in this context are the Jews who are currently living in right covenant relationship with the Father during the time of Jesus’ ministry.  The Jews that Jesus is addressing in this discourse and others like it throughout John’s gospel are not in right relationship with the Father during the time of Christ’s ministry.  Since they do not know the Father (are not “of God”) they cannot recognize the perfect revelation of the Father in the Son (Jn. 7:16, 17; 8:19, 42-47).  They reject the Son and refuse to trust in Him because they have rejected the Father.  Therefore, they are not Christ’s sheep and cannot be given to the Son (John 6:37).  If they had known the Father they would have recognized the Son as their Messiah and would have been given to Him.

So the primary application still addresses the issue of faith but not in the same way as we would tend to apply it today since our situation is different from that of the Jews and we are not living at a critical time in history where the faithful Jews were being given, by the Father, to their Shepherd and Messiah.  For them it primarily involved the transition from one sphere of believing (in the Father) to another (in the Son).  Those faithful Jews recognized the Father in the Son and as a result listened to Him and followed Him as their long awaited Messiah.  In either case the “sheep” are those who are “listening” and “following” and the passage gives no indication that one cannot cease to be one of Christ’s sheep by later refusing to listen and follow.

Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: ‘For you sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, the promise and security presented in this passage of Scripture is only for believers (“us” in verse 35).  None of these things are true of unbelievers and nothing in the passage suggests that faith cannot be abandoned or that love for God cannot grow cold (Matt. 24:12).  This passage gives assurance to believers who are suffering persecution that such sufferings should not be interpreted as indicating that God no longer favors them or loves them.  No amount of persecution or opposition can overwhelm the believer since the believer always has the victory in Christ.  Neither the turmoil of this life nor death itself can separate the believer from Christ’s love.  Through Him and because of Him we are more than conquerors despite any obstacle or battle that we may encounter.  However, just as in John 10:27-29 there is nothing in the passage to suggest that God’s saving love is unconditional or that believers cannot separate themselves from the love of Christ by abandoning Him during trials and persecutions.  The one who remains will certainly triumph but there is no such promise of victory for the one who shrinks back in unbelief (Hebrews 10:38; Matt 10:22, 28, 32, 33).  Indeed, the Scriptures admonish believers to remain in God’s love (Jude 21) and Christ’s love (Jn. 15:9).  If the promise of Romans 8:35 was unconditional then such passages as Jude 21 and John 15:9 would be rendered nonsensical. Forlines observes:

It is my opinion that this passage does not deal with the question of whether a saved person can ever be lost again.  Rather, it teaches that a person who is a child of God can never, at the same time, be separated from God’s love.  In other words, the believer is never to interpret hardships as meaning that God does not love him.  Instead, he should recognize that God’s love is still with him and should say with Paul, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us’ (Rom. 8:37)…Suppose the passage does deal with the matter of security.  It would be explained the same way as the statement of Jesus when He said, ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’ (John 10:28).  Paul would be saying as emphatically as human language can make it that our personal salvation is a matter between the individual and God.  He would be saying that neither tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, peril, sword (verse 35), death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come (verse 38), height, depth, nor any other creature viewed collectively or singularly can take a believer away from Christ.  I believe that. What Paul says in these verses in no way contradicts the viewpoint that if a believer turns away from God in defiant, arrogant, unbelief that God will take him out of Christ (Jn. 15:2, 6). (ibid.)

Some believe that verse 39 gives just such an unconditional promise, “…nor anything else in all creation [or "any other created thing"], will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  They reason that since the believer is a “created thing” then it follows that even the believer cannot remove himself from God’s love.  This appeal is problematic on many fronts.

First, it ignores the context of the passage which is dealing with persecutions and tribulations that are brought to bear on the believer (forces, circumstances, and influences outside of the believer).  Verse 39 is still speaking about these things and therefore cannot have reference to the believer himself.  Indeed, this seems like a very awkward and unnatural reading of the text and I am fairly confident that one would never think to read it that way if they weren’t driven by a prior commitment to unconditional security, and trying to find support for the doctrine in this passage.  Grant Osborne captures this truth well when he writes, “Outside pressures can’t separate us from Christ’s love, but inward apostasy can (Grace Unlimited, pg. 179).

Second, the suggestion that the believer cannot separate himself from the love of God stands in contradiction to passages like Jude 21 and John 15:9 as noted above. Third, while there is a sense in which the believer can separate himself from the love of God in Christ by abandoning the faith, it needs to be remembered that according to Scripture the believer does not ultimately separate Himself from Christ (the sphere of God’s special and saving love) as Forlines pointed out above.  When a believer abandons the faith and becomes an unbeliever God Himself separates that person (now an unbeliever) from His Son (Jn. 15:2, 6), and God is not a “created thing.”

1 John 2:18-19

Little children, it is the last hour and as you have heard that the Anti-Christ is coming, even now many anti-christs have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be manifest, that none of them were of us.

This passage has been held up by Calvinists as teaching a universal principal of what “apostasy” constitutes.  Remember, apostasy in Calvinism means only that one rejects the gospel.  It is not a falling away from true faith.  True faith endures since God infallibly preserves it and if one should seem to fall away it only proves that the person never possessed genuine faith and had never been regenerated.  It is impossible, according to Calvinism, to fall away from true faith.  One can only fall away from a false profession of true faith and prove that one was always just a hypocrite.  Calvinists believe that this single passage of Scripture proves their strange definition of apostasy to be the Biblical definition.

John speaks of false teachers (anti-christs) who went out “from us” (the true gospel teachers) and thus proved by their going that they were not “of us.”  Does John then teach the Calvinistic definition of apostasy?  Not at all.  The passage simply does not say what the Calvinist needs it to say for several reasons.

First, John is not laying down a universal principle concerning what it means to be an apostate.  John is specifically speaking of false teachers leaving the company of the true gospel teachers and proving by their leaving that they are not in harmony with the true gospel.  Had they continued in the truth they would have no reason to leave but since they had abandoned the truth they could no longer keep company with the true gospel teachers and went out from them to spread their heresies.  By doing so they proved that their authority is not from God, and their teachings should not be trusted. This is John’s primary point in this passage.

Second, the passage says nothing of the false teachers’ prior spiritual condition.  It only tells us that at the time of their going they were not “of” the true gospel teachers.  They were committed to false doctrine when they left and left for that reason, but we have no way of knowing whether or not they had at one time genuinely embraced the truth.  The passage does not address their spiritual condition prior to their leaving, and this is exactly what the Calvinist needs the passage to do in order to support their doctrine.  The Calvinist needs the passage to say, “They went out from us, but they were not [ever] of us; for if they had [ever] been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be manifest, that none of them were [ever at any time] of us.”  The “ever” must be read into the text.  It is simply not there and the Calvinist must beg the question to assume that this is what John meant to imply.  For this reason alone, this passage fails as a proof text for Calvinistic apostasy.

Third, the context of the epistle argues for the view that these false teachers were indeed saved prior to their defection and left only after embracing false teaching and thereby apostatizing from the truth they once embraced.  One of the main issues being addressed throughout 1 John is how one can determine whether or not one is truly saved (“born of God”). The Gnostics (i.e. anti-christs) were teaching that there was no connection between behavior and salvation. They believed that the human spirit was incorruptible and could in no way be affected by the sins of the flesh. John directly opposes such teaching numerous times in his epistle (1:5-10; 2:1, 3-6, 9-11, 15; 3:4-11, 15, 17, 18, 24; 4:7, 16, 20, 21; 5:1, 2).  John is primarily encouraging his readers to reject the false teachings of the “anti-christs” who are teaching that one can sin with spiritual immunity, and helping them to understand the true characteristics of God’s children.

Now for us to believe that the anti-christs who left the company of the true gospel teachers were never true believers would suggest that John and the true gospel teachers were not able to detect their hypocrisy while they kept their company.  This runs contrary to one of John’s main concerns in the epistle, that one can discern the difference between true followers of Christ and unbelievers by character and behavior.  To believe that John was incapable of detecting their hypocrisy prior to their actual defection is out of harmony with one of the most prominent themes of the entire letter.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Some emphasize the fact that eternal life is eternal.  It is claimed that if we could forfeit salvation, eternal life would then cease to be eternal.  This fails to recognize the important truth that there is no eternal life outside of Christ (John 1:4; 5:26; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6; 1 John 1:2; 5:11; Col. 3:3, 4; 2 Pet, 1:4), and we share in his life only as we remain in Him through saving faith (those “believing” in this passage).  Eternal life does not cease to be eternal if we fail to continue in saving faith, we will simply cease to participate in the eternal life which resides only in the Son of God.  Eternal life will continue on just fine without us, if we fail to meet the condition of faith.

Robert Picirilli comments:

Those passages, especially in the Gospel of John, which contain strong promises of (final) salvation to believers and are therefore thought to imply necessary perseverance can not be used for that purpose lest they ‘prove too much.’  In other words, to say that those promises require the impossibility of a changed situation places too great a burden on the syntax of the statements.  And this can quickly be seen by comparing similar promises, using the very same syntax, to unbelievers.  For example:

John 5:24

He that believes shall not come into condemnation.

[and]

John 3:36

He that believes not shall not see life.

Grammatically, if the first means the condition of the believer can not be changed, then the second means the condition of the unbeliever likewise can not be changed.  In fact, neither passage is even speaking to that issue.  The unbeliever can leave his unbelief, become a believer, and see life- thus escaping from the promise made to the unbeliever who continues in his unbelief.  Likewise, the believer can leave his belief, become an unbeliever, and come into condemnation- thus escaping from the promise made to believers who continue in faith.  Each promise applies with equal force to those who continue in the respective state described.  (Grace, Faith, Free Will, pp. 200-201)

Romans 6:23; 11:29

For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord….For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Many see here a strong assertion of unconditional eternal security based on the fact that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (NAS), and that eternal life is a gift (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8, 9), therefore, they reason, eternal life must be irrevocable.  God is always faithful to his promises (both pleasant and terrible, e.g. Joshua 23:15, 16), but his promises are not without conditions.  God’s gift of salvation is irrevocable so long as the condition is met.  Paul was speaking of Israel’s final restoration in Rom.11:29, but he was giving no assurance to those branches that had been broken off in unbelief (verse 20), and sternly warned that those who were now standing by faith, could yet be broken off through unbelief (verses 20, and 21).  God’s divine gift (of life) is always and only for believers!  God does not revoke his gift, for it cannot exist outside of Christ.  Only believers are “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).  If we fail to meet the condition for union with Christ, we can have no claim on the gift (see Jn. 3:16 and 10:27-29 discussed above).

Eph.1:13, 14; 4:30

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory….Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Much has been made of the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit by defenders of unconditional eternal security.  The “sealing” of the Holy Spirit is clearly conditional since we can “grieve”, and eventually “insult” the Sprit of Grace, which constitutes total apostasy without remedy (Eph. 4:30, and Heb. 10:29). The Holy Spirit is received by faith (Gal. 3:2, 14) and can only seal us as we remain in Christ through faith. We are, in fact, sealed in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, as a direct result of faith (Eph. 1:13). The sealing of the Holy Spirit presupposes the possession of the Holy Spirit, and only believers can possess the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9).  He is therefore the guarantee of an inheritance for believers and not unbelievers.

There may be a parallel with circumcision which was also a “seal” for those under the old covenant (Rom. 4:11). We know that that seal was broken and guaranteed nothing when those who were circumcised broke the covenant and were cut off from the people of God (Rom. 2:25). The seal was conditioned on continued faith and obedience (2:26-29). The Holy Spirit marks us as children of the new covenant through faith in Christ, but if we abandon the faith then the Spirit of God no longer remains in us and we are no longer sealed in Christ (partakers of the covenant blessings that are found in Him alone- Eph. 1:3, 7, 10,11).  Only those that continue in obedient faith remain sealed (Acts 5:32, Jn. 14:15-17; Rom. 8:5, 6, 9).

Notice that the sealing of the Holy Spirit is coupled with a warning not to “grieve” Him in Ephesians 4:30.  This would seem to indicate that there is danger in grieving the Spirit who seals us and the reference to sealing may be for the primary purpose of reminding the Ephesians that to grieve the Spirit is to grieve the one who unites us to Christ.  This makes the warning far more emphatic and cautions the believer to watch how he lives lest the sins which grieve Him lead to unbelief through which the seal is broken and the Spirit is finally “insulted.” The sealing of the Holy Spirit, therefore, applies only as long as we do not “grieve” (Eph. 4:30), and finally “insult” (Heb. 10:29) the “Spirit of Grace” through continued disobedience, culminating in outright apostasy.

There is no Biblical reason to see the sealing of the Holy Spirit as unconditional or irrevocable, while there are plenty of reasons to see it as conditioned on continued faith. Indeed, warnings against apostasy alone imply the conditionality of the seal.

Romans 8:28, 29

And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the first born among many brethren; and these whom He predestined He also called; and these whom He called He also justified, and these whom He justified He also glorified.

The claim is that this passage presents an unbreakable chain from predestination to glorification.  The problem is that the passage nowhere claims that such a journey is a guarantee from start to finish.  The passage is speaking of those who have already been glorified and describes the process by which they reached that goal.  Who are these whom God has glorified?  Verse 28 tells us that it is those who love God and have been called according to His purpose.  Those who love God (believers) are called and predestinated to become conformed to the image of Christ (the ultimate “purpose” of God for the believer).  The passage is not addressing unbelievers but believers.  It is not telling us that God has predestined certain unbelievers to become believers.  Rather, it is describing the final destiny of those who love God.

The Calvinist interpretation errs in two important areas.  First the Calvinist assumes that the “calling” of verse 29 is a “calling” unto salvation.  The way that “called” is used in verse 28 would suggest otherwise.  In verse 28 Paul seems to be using the word with regard to the purpose of God to be accomplished in believers (those who love Him).  Part of that calling is to endure hardships and persecution for the sake of the gospel.  Peter uses this same language, “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Pet. 2:20-21)  This is exactly Paul’s point.  Believers are called to follow in Christ’s steps (which includes suffering) whereby they will be conformed to His image.  The calling is of believers to endure suffering for the sake of Christ and be conformed to His image.  To this they were predestined, for God had determined from eternity that believers would fulfill this calling in Christ (Rom. 8:17-18).  This interpretation harmonizes perfectly with the contextual emphasis of verses 28-39 (see treatment of verses 38-39 above).

Second, the Calvinist interpretation assumes that predestination is the first step in this process but Paul makes sure to emphasize that those whom God predestined are those He “foreknew.”  Again, this supports the idea that believers alone are in view throughout this passage, for God can ‘previously and affectionately regard as His own’ no sinner unless He has foreknown him in Christ, and looked upon him as a believer in Christ” (James Arminius quoted by Robert Picirilli in Grace, Faith, Free Will, pg. 78).  Election and predestination are in Christ and only believers come to be in Christ (Eph. 1:4, 5, 11, 13).  Even if the calling of verse 29 was a calling to salvation it would not indicate that all who are called are also justified and glorified for Paul has only in mind believers who persevere (enduring hardships and persecution) to glorification (Rom. 8:17-18, cf. Philippians 1:29).  Nowhere does the passage suggest that all who believe will inevitably persevere to final salvation (glorification).  Just like so many Calvinist proof-texts for inevitable perseverance the absence of a stated condition does not necessitate the conclusion that the process being described here is unconditional.

John 6:37, 44, 65

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out…No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day…And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted by My Father.

We dealt briefly with the context of this passage above when discussing John 10:27-29.  Jesus is speaking to Jews whose hearts are not right with God.  They are not faithful Jews and do not know the Father.  Because they are not in right covenant relationship with the Father, they cannot recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son.  Since they are not willing to do the Father’s will they cannot properly discern the truth of Christ’s words (John 7:17).  Those who know the Father will recognize the truth of Christ’s words and be “drawn” to Him (6:44, 45).   They will be given to the Son and come to faith in Him as a result (6:37).  To them alone has the Father granted access to the Son (6:65).

The passage has to do with the Father giving the faithful Jews to their long awaited Messiah.  It has nothing to do with a pre-temporal unconditional election of certain sinners to come to faith in Christ.  This is a conclusion that many have read into this passage according to a prior commitment to a theological system without any contextual warrant.

Jesus assures anyone who would come to Christ in faith that they will not be rejected.  They will be accepted in the Beloved One of God (6:37).  The Father will not fail to give all the faithful Jews to Christ and Christ will not fail to receive them to Himself.  Christ will “raise them up at the last day.”  These Jews can be sure that their destiny is secure in Christ.  However, the promise is only for those who are presently and continually “eating”, “drinking”, “believing”, “coming”, “listening”, “following”, and “beholding.”   Only those who persevere in saving faith will be raised up at the last day (6:40).  There is no promise here for those who stop believing and no guarantee that those who begin to believe will inevitably endure in that faith.  The “all that” in verse 39 is the sum total of believers.  It is the corporate body of Christ and that body will certainly be “raised up at the last day” because that body is comprised of those who are presently and continually “believing” in the Son (vs. 40).

Romans 8:1

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This promise applies only to those that are presently “in Christ Jesus”, and are no longer “controlled…by the sinful nature but by the Spirit.” Rom. 8:9.  As long as we remain “in Christ” we cannot be condemned, but if we fail to remain “in Christ”, by giving the sinful nature control (Rom. 8:12-14), we will certainly perish (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:7, 8; Jn 15:5, 6; James 4:4).

Philippians 1:6

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it in the day of Christ Jesus.

Does this verse then teach that one who begins in saving faith will inevitably continue in that faith until the “day of Christ Jesus?”  The advocates of unconditional security are trying to squeeze far more from this verse than was intended by Paul.  Paul was confident in the work of God being completed in the Philippians to whom he writes because he had every reason to believe that they would endure in the faith.  Paul explains why he has such confidence in them:  They have participated in the ministry of the gospel from the “first day until now.” (1:5) They have shared in grace with Paul in supporting his ministry and supporting him while in prison (1:7; 4:18, 19).  Paul is also confident that God will complete his work in them because he is praying for them and trusting God on their behalf (1:3, 9-11).

Since Paul has every reason to believe that they will continue in the faith based on their track record he can express his confidence that God will continue to work in them since God cannot fail to work in believers.  All believers who continue in the faith will see God’s work completed in them on the “day of Christ Jesus.”  Paul is not guaranteeing that they will make it to glory but only expressing his personal confidence in them based on his own experience of their commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, Paul’s confidence is seen to be a cautious confidence in that he warns them to continue following his example of single minded commitment to the gospel of Christ lest they begin to focus instead on the things of this world and become enemies of the cross (3:17-19).  Paul still expresses concern that he may yet return to them and not find them standing firm in Christ, and for that reason encourages them to continually conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (1:27).  In verses 12-13 we see that Paul has grounds for confidence in them since they have “always” obeyed, and yet he admonishes them to continue to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (2:12) If their destination was guaranteed there should be nothing for them to fear (cf. Rom. 11:19-22).  Yet they must continue to “work out” their salvation by yielding to the working of God within them (2:13).

Philippians 2:12-13 gets to the heart of the matter and provides the primary context by which we should understand Paul’s comments in 1:6.  God will complete His work in them but only as they continue to yield to that “working” within them.  If they continue to yield to the work of God within them God will certainly bring that work to completion (perfect it) on “the day of Christ Jesus.”  We cannot do this work in ourselves, God must do it.  We cannot even yield to the work of God in us on our own, but we can do “all things through Him” who strengthens us.  We are still called on to fearfully submit to God’s work and there is nothing in Paul’s words that would suggest that we cannot resist that work and fail to see it brought to perfection in us.  In fact, Philippians 2:13 suggests just the opposite.

Conclusion

In this series we have examined the primary passages that teach the possibility of apostasy and found that the Arminian understanding of perseverance best harmonizes with the teachings of those passages.  There are many other passages which could be called into service in support of the Arminian position but we have limited this study to those passages which speak most clearly on the subject.  We have also examined the primary passages that are commonly appealed to in support of unconditional security and found that they do not contradict the Arminian view of conditional perseverance.  It seems safe (and necessary) then to conclude  that the Arminian view of perseverance is the view that best harmonizes with the Biblical data and is therefore the Biblical view.

In our next and final post in this series we will argue that the Arminian view gives the strongest grounds for Biblical assurance as well despite contrary claims by those who hold to inevitable perseverance.

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18 Responses

  1. Keep up the good work of defending the faith!

  2. Good stuff, definitely worth bookmarking (I’m Catholic by the way). OSAS is dangerous and unbiblical.

    Check out this link, with some good passages you could add (esp John 13:8):

    http://www.pugiofidei.com/eternal.htm

    To add to some of what you said above:

    (1) Regarding John and “believing”, when Jesus finished his public ministry in John 12, the chapter concludes with:

    “42Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. ”

    This should be seen as what took place during Jesus’ public ministry. Many DID believe in Him, but lost their salvation by “denying him” by (cf 2 Tim 2:12).

    I would aslo add John 5:14 among the anti-osas passage index as a helper.

    (2) Regarding grieving the Holy Spirit. Also add 1 Thes 5:19
    “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire”
    Which is basically the same thing but another verse.

    (3) Regarding John 3:16 and “eternal life” and such. One passage I like is 1 John 3:15
    “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”

    This means eternal life is a state you can be in (or have in your soul) which can be lost/removed by grave sin.

    (4) Eze 18:24-28 is another good passage, which you undoubtebly have probably referenced elsewhere.
    “”But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.”

    This is very problematic for Calvinists.

    God Bless,
    Nick

    feel free to email:
    nicholas42@gmail.com

  3. Nick, the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverence is completely different from OSAS.

  4. [...] Posted on February 16, 2010 by kangaroodort The quoted material below comes from my post, Perseverance of the Saints Part 12: Examining Passages Commonly Appealed to by the Advocates of Unco….  The bold sections in between these quotes are further reflections and exegetical notes on the [...]

  5. Hi, Thanks for this whole series of clarification of Eternal Security. Just a point to make for Part 12 on Rom. 8:35-39, you commented that “…there is nothing in the passage to suggest that God’s saving love is unconditional or that believers cannot separate themselves from the love of Christ by abandoning Him during trials and persecutions…”

    Just a note, we (human beings) are also created beings. So when the scripture says, “…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”” It also means that we cannot separate ourselves from the love of God.

    The New Living Translation Second Edition says “NOTHING IN ALL CREATION WILL EVER be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Therefore, the more correct view is that man cannot separate themselves from God’s love, but God can take them out of His love in Christ.

  6. Terence,

    Thanks for stopping by. Did you read the rest of what I wrote on Rom. 8:35-39, because I addressed that argument? Here is how I addressed it:

    Some believe that verse 39 gives just such an unconditional promise, “…nor anything else in all creation [or "any other created thing"], will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” They reason that since the believer is a “created thing” then it follows that even the believer cannot remove himself from God’s love. This appeal is problematic on many fronts.

    First, it ignores the context of the passage which is dealing with persecutions and tribulations that are brought to bear on the believer (forces, circumstances, and influences outside of the believer). Verse 39 is still speaking about these things and therefore cannot have reference to the believer himself. Indeed, this seems like a very awkward and unnatural reading of the text and I am fairly confident that one would never think to read it that way if they weren’t driven by a prior commitment to unconditional security, and trying to find support for the doctrine in this passage. Grant Osborne captures this truth well when he writes, “Outside pressures can’t separate us from Christ’s love, but inward apostasy can (Grace Unlimited, pg. 179).

    Second, the suggestion that the believer cannot separate himself from the love of God stands in contradiction to passages like Jude 21 and John 15:9 as noted above. Third, while there is a sense in which the believer can separate himself from the love of God in Christ by abandoning the faith, it needs to be remembered that according to Scripture the believer does not ultimately separate Himself from Christ (the sphere of God’s special and saving love) as Forlines pointed out above. When a believer abandons the faith and becomes an unbeliever God Himself separates that person (now an unbeliever) from His Son (Jn. 15:2, 6), and God is not a “created thing.”

  7. [...] link to original post and comments This entry was posted in Apostasy, Bible Passages, Faith, Perseverance. Bookmark the permalink. ← J. Dale Weaver, “The John 3:16 Conference — Southern Baptists and the Challenge of Calvinism: A Reformation Arminian Review” I John 4:18; A Devotional → [...]

  8. Kangaroodort, you have made a simple misunderstanding in all your discourse.

    Calvinism does not deny that perseverance is conditional. Calvinism simply denies the human ability to hold fast to the faith alone. Conditions and warnings are in the Bible, clearly. But what God demands of His elect, He gives to them. In that sense, we are eternally secure.

    “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” – Amen to that. Why? “For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Phi 2:12-13

    Would we dare say that we ensure our own perseverance? That we are the decisive factor? That is precisely the kind of boasting that God in sending Christ excludes.

    “I have not hope at all but in Thy great mercy. Grant what Thou commandest and command what Thou wilt.” ~St. Augustine

    God bless! :)

  9. Torsten,

    Thanks for stopping by. Did you read this post or just the title? I wonder because I address the inevtitable perseverance view you advocate throughout this post and the series. You can find your view expressed in the first post of this series under definition # 2. Here is the link: http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-1-definitions/

    Your wrote,

    Calvinism does not deny that perseverance is conditional. Calvinism simply denies the human ability to hold fast to the faith alone. Conditions and warnings are in the Bible, clearly. But what God demands of His elect, He gives to them. In that sense, we are eternally secure.

    If God fullfills the condition for the elect then for them it is unconditional. You really have to stretch the normal meaning of conditional in order to make your point.

    “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” – Amen to that. Why? “For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Phi 2:12-13

    Amen, but nowhere does Paul say that God works in us irresistibly. That is something that you need to read into the text.

    Would we dare say that we ensure our own perseverance? That we are the decisive factor?

    We would indeed if that is what Scripture teaches. However, no Arminian would claim that such a thing is done in our own strength. God must empower and enable us to both believe and continue to believe.

    That is precisely the kind of boasting that God in sending Christ excludes.

    Not at all. Faith excludes boasting because it receives a free and undeserved gift (see Rom 4). Nowhere does Scripture say that faith excludes boasting because faith is irresistibly caused in the elect or that God irresistibly fullfills the condition of faith for us.

    “I have not hope at all but in Thy great mercy. Grant what Thou commandest and command what Thou wilt.” ~St. Augustine

    I like this quote. That describes faith pretty well. It is looking away from self and looking to Christ. It admits that we cannot save ourselves and for that reason relies entirely on Christ. That is what faith is and that is why it excludes boasting.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  10. Thanks for your reply, Ben.

    What then, is your grounds for the assurance of salvation? What is the determining factor in preservation?

    Arminianism seems to suggest that God keeps you if you continue in faith, hence the conditionality.

    But has it ever occurred to you that the very way in which God keeps believers is by sustaining their faith (1 Pet 1:5)?

    If this seems to tread the ground of irresistibility, what would you say about this passage?

    “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
    Luke 22:31-32

    I’m not sure if Jesus consulted Peter’s ‘free will’ regarding this matter.

    God bless.

  11. Torsten,

    I don’t have much time right now so I will refer you to a post that I think will answer your questions and show that Calvinism has far greater trouble with salvation assurance than Arminianism:

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-13-salvation-assurance/

    I recommend you check out the whole series if you get the chance.

    I don’t see that Jesus’ prayer implies irresistibility. Maybe you can explain why you seem to see that and we can go from there.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  12. Let me add to what Ben has said.

    First, 1 Peter 1:5 actually supports the Arminian position. God protects us through faith, which means that he protects us in salvation in response to us believing, just as justification through faith means that he justifies us in response to us believing. There is no promnise that God will make sure that we don’t forsake our faith. Rather, God frequently warns us in Scripture not to forsake our faith lest we perish. If we stop believing, then God stops protecting us. Certainly he ensures that we can continue to believe and that nothing can irresistibly drive us to forsake our faith; nothing can steal our faith away.

    Now, the post Ben pointed you to is great. I would also encourage you to look at the comments on that post. There was some good discussion there, supporting Ben’s post and I think addressing some of your concern. Let me paste in some comments from that thread here:

    I commented:
    I would add that Arminians do have substantial assurance of future final salvation, simply not absolute or unconditional whereas Calvinists, as you point out, can have no present assurance and therefore no future assurance whatsoever and be consistent with their own doctrine. In everyday life, people have substantial assurance of future benefit which is nonetheless conditional on their continuing to meet the condition for that future benefit, for example continuing to consent to receive it. So Arminians can have solid assurance of present salvation, and substantial assurance of future final salvation, which is contingent on them continuing to meet the condition, which is faith. Put another way concerning future salvation, we have full assurance of future salvation on the condition of faith. And wonderfully, God promises true believers the ability to presevere in faith and that nothing can tear them away from him. So with present salvation we have the absolute assurance that God will enable us to persevere unto final salvation and that God is for us. He simply does not gaurantee that he will *make* us persevere. Arminian theology gives far more assurance than Calvinism: In Arminianism, full assurance of present salvation, and substantial assurance of future final salvation (i.le. full assurance on the condition of faith) vs. in Calvinism no assurance period.

    Now it is important to note that many Calvinists have assurance *despite* their theology. But the important point is that it is despite their theology, which puts their theology at odds with Scripture, which teaches that we can know that we are saved.

    Ben responded:

    I agree that the Arminian can have substantial assurance of future salvation as well as an ironclad assurance that God will enable them to keep the faith till the end (though not irresistibly). In a similar vein I know that I am presently faithful to my wife (and love her) but I also have great confidence that I will remain faithful to her (and continue to love her) for as long as I live. I cannot have absolute assurance of my future faithfulness to her (as I could possibly cease to be faithful in the future) but I can have significant confidence in that future state especially as I practice and thereby strengthen my love for her on a daily basis.

    I certainly don’t live in constant fear and “insecurity” because I cannot infallibly know that I will remain faithful to her till “death do us part”. I do, however, need to remain on guard against those things which might tempt me towards unfaithfulness and consider those temptations real and potentially harmful and even detrimental to our relationship. Likewise, the confident believer must take warnings and temptations very seriously. Robert Hamilton draws this comparison in one of his essays on assurance and I think it is very helpful for those who think that Arminians must remain in a constant state of fear and insecurity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is Hamilton’s post: [the original link Ben gave is broken, but here is one that works: http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/1055%5D

    I commented further:

    Spurred on by Ben’s marriage analogy, let me restate one of my points in stronger language: in everyday life, assurance of a future benefit is almost always conditional on at least the continuing free consent of the receiver of the benefit. Hardly anyone ever thinks of such assurance as minimal or meaningless. It is simply a given that receiving a future promised benefit remains contingent on cosenting to it. Here’s an illustration: if one is on a train that the company assures will get you to your destination (and it has never failed a customer), one can have assurance that one will arrive at the destination (and assurance is accordingly greater with the reliability of the one promising the result; in salvation it is God, so assurance is certain). But that does not mean that one cannot decide to jump off the train. The company’s assuracne to take you to the destination does not include forcing you to stay on the train. So saying Arminians don’t have absolute, unconditional assurance for final salvation verges on being a red herring or perhaps irrelevant instead. It is not the type of assurance people ever normally have with respect to future promised benefits. We have seen that Calvinists don’t have such assurance from their theology anyway. But it is good to underscore the very real and profound assurance of future salvation that Arminian theology gives in harmony with biblical teaching from which it is draw and that Calvinistic theology can never deliver.

  13. Hi Arminian,

    Thanks for your reply. But I’m not sure if you got my point. My apologies if I was unclear. Let me perhaps just re-state this point, and maybe you can respond again if you’d like. :)

    I refer to what you wrote:

    “If we stop believing, then God stops protecting us.”

    I think this is an illogical statement. Here’s why.

    If I understand you correctly, the condition here is our faith – “if we stop believing”, and the effect is God’s keeping us from falling “then God stops protecting us.”

    Well my question is – protecting us from what? Think carefully about this. What exactly is God protecting us from in 1 Pet 1:5? Death? No, that takes us to Heaven. Suffering? No, verses 6-7 say suffering refines our faith. The Devil? Yes, since the he’s a prowling lion waiting to devour us (1 Pet 5:8), but not ultimately.

    Why? What’s the bottom line? It is unbelief. God is protecting us from unbelief, which is caused by the factors as above-mentioned. It is our unbelief that wrests us from salvation.

    Therefore, to say that “if we stop believing, then God stops protecting us” does not make logical sense because it is precisely our unbelief that God is protecting us from, and He does so be sustaining our faith; it doesn’t make sense to say that God protects us from unbelief as long as we continue to believe. God inspires and nourishes and strengthens our faith so that we remain true to Him. That’s what it means when it says “we are now protected by the power of God through faith.”

    I hope my point is more conspicuous now.

    A final question I would leave for you is this:

    What makes you think that when you wake up tomorrow morning you’ll still be a Christian?

    In Christ,
    Torsten

  14. Torsten,

    In context (in the verse itself) we are protected unto salvation (i.e. protected in salvation). By God’s power we are saved “through faith”. Faith is what accesses God’s grace and power to save us. It is actually your view that amounts to saying that God protects us from unbelief through faith. That doesn’t make much sense and your suggestion about how that works seems to me to read quite a bit into the text.

    Later in the text Peter speaks about the testing of their faith, etc. (1 Peter 1:7). If God is causing them to believe and protecting them from unbelief then what sense does it make to talk about faith being tested? In 2 Peter the apostle explains what “we” need to do to persevere and not fall from our steadfastness (2 Peter 1:1-10, cf. 3:17). The Calvinist position really forces us to read Scripture in unnatural and bizarre ways. And of course, 2 Peter 2:20-22 is a major problem for your position. You can read more about that in Part 3 of my series.

    You really need to read the post we referred you to since you don’t seem to understand the major problem of assurance in your own position. If you did I don’t think you would have asked, “What makes you think that when you wake up tomorrow morning you’ll still be a Christian?” The same question could be asked of you. But the question has already been essentially answered (from our view) by Arminian in referring to my post on assurance and even citing important discussion from that post. I am really starting to wonder if you are reading carefully.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  15. “One will look in vain for a passage of Scripture that explicitly makes salvation security unconditional. The best that can be produced are passages which do not explicitly state a condition, but the absence of a stated condition does not necessitate the absence of a condition (e.g. Hebrews 13:5, cf. Deut. 31:6, 8, 16-18; 2 Chronicles 15:2; Joshua 24:19, 20). This is especially true since there are numerous passages which do state conditions and warn of defection from saving faith (as we have seen in parts 2-11 of this series).”

    That’s one of the best points I’ve heard in arguments for conditional eternal security…..That fact can’t simply be swept under the rug without serious consideration.

  16. Hello,

    I am in agreement with Arminianism up to the lack of eternal security.

    Fear of death however small (as in doubt of one’s salvation) robs one of the joy of his salvation. The joy of the Lord being our strength. This joy cannot be based on a feeling, or on an appearance or evidence of our works, but on God’s word alone.

    Hebrews 2:15 states ‘(He) ..might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives’. If a man is not freed from fear and uncertainty he is not free at all. So when Jesus stated in John 8:36 ‘So if the Son makes you free you will be free indeed’ he likewise meant free from the fear of uncertainty.

    It seems the contention is whether or not dying to trusting one’s own righteousness (repentance) and being reborn is reversible. I have a few questions regarding this.

    Q. If it is reversible, does that mean Jesus puts all the same once forgiven sin back onto the individual (since all past, present and future sins were forgiven)?

    Q. Since past, present and future sin is forgiven, wouldn’t He see that a person would fall back into unbelief and therefore refuse to forgive him to begin with? Which of course results in all those who do receive His forgiveness (salvation) being eternally secure.

    Q. Am I correct in reading the following verses which seem to describe dying to one’s self as a one time initiating event? It is obvious that we must constantly die to ourselves through trust and surrender (sanctification) yet it appears that Paul is referring to a ‘past’ event or a one time event in the life of the believer which caused (by the plan of God) the living in Christ.

    2 Corinthians 5:14-15
    ‘….having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all DIED;
    and He died for all, So that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

    Colossians 2:20
    If you have DIED with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as…’,

    Colossians 3:3
    ‘For you HAVE DIED and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

    2 Timothy 2:11
    It is a trustworthy statement: For if we DIED with Him, we will also live with Him;

    Q. If knowing God is eternal life (John 17:3), and therefore a believer comes to know God, what is apostate unbelief exactly? Is it deciding that one actually doesn’t know God or that there is no God to know? Since we are introduced to God through reconciliation by faith, how is it that it’s then later possible not to know Him – leading to apostacy? Can we unknow God?

    Forgive me if these questions have been answered elsewhere.

    Thanks

  17. Tom,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I do intend to respond, but may not get to it till this weekend or Monday.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  18. Tom,

    You wrote,

    I am in agreement with Arminianism up to the lack of eternal security.

    It might interest you to know that the belief in apostasy isn’t necessarily a feature of Arminianism. Arminius did not take a stand on the issue before his death, while his followers eventually did. Personally, I think that Arminius would have eventually defended the possibility of apostasy (and, at one point, he argues forcefully against inevitable perseverance as a devil’s advocate against an opponent, while not claiming the view for himself). Arminius was mainly concerned with contesting unconditional election, exhaustive determinism, and irresistible grace. Here is a link that may be of interest to you:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=Are_You_an_Arminian_and_Dont_Even_Know_It

    Fear of death however small (as in doubt of one’s salvation) robs one of the joy of his salvation.

    Not really. It is simply a recognition that we can fall away if we do not safeguard against it. Paul said to the Gentile Romans not to be arrogant over the broken off branches, but to “fear”, as they would likewise be “cut off” (from the elect body), if they did not “continue in His kindness” (Romans 11:17-22). Likewise, I know that it is a possibility that I might be unfaithful to my wife, and for that reason I am careful to safeguard my fidelity. However, it would be arrogant for me to assume that I could never possibly be unfaithful and such arrogance could actually work to bring about that unfaithfulness in that it could keep me from being careful in how I look at other women, etc. But to say I live in constant doubt and fear about our relationship is not at all accurate, nor does it rob me of the joy of my relationship to my wife. Indeed, it might even strengthen it.

    Jesus told His disciples that He wanted their joy to be complete based on their current union with Him, but this was in the context of a stern warning that if they did not “remain” in Him, they would be “cut off” (John 15:1-6, 11, cf. Romans 11:17-22).

    There are so many instances in life that we can think of where we guard against possible contingencies without that meaning that we need to live in fear or doubt in any debilitating way, or that we cannot find joy and comfort in our present situation despite such possibilities.

    The joy of the Lord being our strength. This joy cannot be based on a feeling, or on an appearance or evidence of our works, but on God’s word alone.

    I agree. It is based on trust in Christ. But apostasy is unbelief. That is why 1 John 5:11-13 ties assurance directly to present union with Christ through faith.

    Hebrews 2:15 states ‘(He) ..might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives’. If a man is not freed from fear and uncertainty he is not free at all.

    Really? So how free are you? Do you not have any uncertainty in your life? None at all? But still, we do have the certainty that if we continue to trust in Christ we are secure in Him, along with the certainty that God has given us all that we need to continue to believe and grow in Him (2 Peter 1:1-11). But that doesn’t mean that we can’t fall away, only that we do not have to.

    So when Jesus stated in John 8:36 ‘So if the Son makes you free you will be free indeed’ he likewise meant free from the fear of uncertainty.

    No, he meant free from the power of sin and the curse of the law. We do not have to sin, but clearly many Christians do sin. Do you have any uncertainty concerning whether or not you will sin today? Tomorrow? According to you, any such uncertainty would mean that you are not free (from sin).

    It seems the contention is whether or not dying to trusting one’s own righteousness (repentance) and being reborn is reversible. I have a few questions regarding this.

    Why? To say it is “reversible” is a strange way to word it. Rather, can what was gained by such things be lost?

    Q. If it is reversible, does that mean Jesus puts all the same once forgiven sin back onto the individual (since all past, present and future sins were forgiven)?

    First, to say our future sins are already forgiven is unbiblical in my opinion. Where does the Bible say such a thing? If our future sins are forgiven, it is only in a conditional and provisional sense in that only as long as we remain in Christ through faith and take part in the atonement that is Him alone, will our sins be forgiven (1 John 1:8-10).

    Second, we are admonished to ask God for forgiveness (Matt. 6:12; 1 John 1:9). Why would we do that if our sins are necessarily forgiven even before we commit them?

    Third, Jesus makes it clear that those who have been forgiven by the Father can have their entire sin debt credited back to their account (Matt. 18:23-35).

    Q. Since past, present and future sin is forgiven, wouldn’t He see that a person would fall back into unbelief and therefore refuse to forgive him to begin with? Which of course results in all those who do receive His forgiveness (salvation) being eternally secure.

    Not at all. That is a philosophical assumption. Please notice how these arguments of yours are primarily based on philosophical reasoning, rather than on exegesis. That is not to disregard the importance of philosophical reasoning, but a reminder that we should always allow our exegesis to inform our philosophy, and not the other way around.

    According to your reasoning, the “king” (God), likewise, should not have prepared the feast for those He foreknew would not partake. But that is not Biblical (Matt. 22:1-14; Luke 14:16-24).

    Q. Am I correct in reading the following verses which seem to describe dying to one’s self as a one time initiating event? It is obvious that we must constantly die to ourselves through trust and surrender (sanctification) yet it appears that Paul is referring to a ‘past’ event or a one time event in the life of the believer which caused (by the plan of God) the living in Christ.

    The verses you quote must be understood against the backdrop of our present union and identification with Christ through faith. Because we are joined to Him in faith, we partake in His identity. His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death, His election becomes our election, etc. So it is only through our present union and identification with Christ that we can say that we “died” with Him. But if we abandon the faith we will be cut off from Christ and no longer share in His identity.

    It is like an alien becoming a US citizen. Before becoming a citizen, the alien could not say “we won the revolutionary war.” But upon becoming a citizen, the history of the US becomes the history of the new citizen so that he can rightly say “we won the revolutionary war.” (even though he personally had no part in fighting the revolutionary war) But if this person were to later renounce his citizenship, he would be back in a position where he could make no such claims and he would no longer be able to rightly identify himself with the history of the US or partake of the benefits and blessings of being a US citizen (cf. Eph. 1:3-4).

    For example, you quote 2 Timothy 2:11, “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we DIED with Him, we will also live with Him;” and disregard the rest of the passage…If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us.” Some see the last verse (13) as a guarantee for eternal security, but that would flatly contradict verse 12. Rather, Paul is saying that God is faithful to keep His promises, even if we do not. Among those is God’s promise to deny us if we deny Him (verse 12).

    Q. If knowing God is eternal life (John 17:3), and therefore a believer comes to know God, what is apostate unbelief exactly?

    It is renouncing one’s faith and turning away from Christ.

    Is it deciding that one actually doesn’t know God or that there is no God to know?

    Could be both, but “knowing” is more relational. Therefore, it would be the severing of a relationship with Christ. You can’t have a relationship with Christ if you stop believing in Him.

    Since we are introduced to God through reconciliation by faith,

    how is it that it’s then later possible not to know Him– leading to apostacy? Can we unknow God?

    It is possible through unbelief. When we turn from God we no longer have a relationship with Him and therefore we no longer know Him savingly. So our relationship begins through faith and can end through unbelief. Not sure why that should be a difficult concept for you.

    We may just have to agree to disagree, but if you are interested in seeing why I personally believe the Bible clearly teaches that apostasy from genuine saving faith is possible, please look at the rest of my 13 part series on perseverance:

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/perseverance-series/

    If it wasn’t for what the Bible says, I would love to believe as you do, just as I would love to believe that nobody will ever go to hell. But on both counts, I need to submit to the reality of Scripture rather than on what I would prefer to be true.

    God Bless,

    Ben

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