A candid young attorney-at-law has been listening to an “eternal security” broadcast. He comes to a pastor of the Church of the Nazarene with his frank inquiries. His first question is, “What scriptural ground is there for the teaching ‘once in grace always in grace’?”
“Good morning, Dr. Arminius, my name is Sinceer, James Sinceer. I understand that you are pastor of the Calvary Church of the Nazarene. Am I correct?” James Sinceer was an intelligent young lawyer of perhaps one score and a half years. He turned a keen, inquiring, intellectual face toward the older, bespectacled pastor.
“You are correct, my dear sir,” responded the older man. “What service can I render you? Are you in trouble?” The pastor’s kindly, interested attitude, as well as the fine cordiality of his voice, encouraged the younger man frankly to state his problem to him.
“It is a sort of religious, intellectual trouble that I am in. One of interpretation, perhaps, you’d call it. Having heard you preach a few times, I have felt emboldened to come to you with a sincere inquiry,” replied the visitor.
“Indeed, what might your problem be?” suggested the pastor, offering his young caller a comfortable chair in his cozy, homelike study.
“Well,” began the keen-minded young man, glancing frankly into the kindly, shrewd eyes of the pastor, “I have been listening pretty regularly to the Rev. Doctor John Calvin’s radio broadcast over WOOF. Having been converted to the Lord Jesus last summer at the Holiness Camp Meeting, I naturally have been keenly interested in everything religious. I tuned in on Dr. Calvin’s daily sermons, and have found myself frankly puzzled over many of the positions that he has taken. My lack of religious experience and information has induced me to come to you, in order to inquire into the meaning of some of the good Doctor’s statements. Have you time to talk with me about these matters, or am I intruding on your busy day?”
“You are not intruding at all, my dear brother,” cordially replied the pastor. “I am glad to give you all the time that you may desire. Let us discuss in a candid manner the religious problems that puzzle you. I remember the evening you were converted at the Camp Meeting, and I have been casting about to learn, if I could, your name and your whereabouts. It gives me very great pleasure to meet you, and to have this conversation with you. Tell me what are some of the Doctor’s declarations that have bothered you.”
Thus encouraged, the young lawyer responded:
“One of the expressions that the Doctor uses very constantly, is ‘eternal security.’ If I catch his meaning correctly, he teaches that if one is truly converted to Christ, that is, regenerated, or born again, he is eternally secure from ever losing that relationship, no matter what he may do thereafter that is offensive to God. This is the question I would like to ask: is such a teaching scriptural, and may it be relied upon?”
The pastor paused, and reached for a copy of the Bible before he made reply. “We realize,” said he, “that many good and noble men and women have held such a belief as you have heard over Dr. Calvin’s broadcast. Down through the Christian centuries there has been a considerable group of believers in Christ, who have taught this. However, we do not believe that it can be substantiated by Scripture. ‘Tis true, there are occasional passages which taken by themselves, and lifted out of their general scriptural setting, that can be made to sound as though they taught `eternal security,’ or `once in grace, always in grace,’ as it is so many times called. But when one carefully weighs these various portions of the New Testament, over against so many passages that oppose such a teaching, and finds none that supports it when interpreted in the light of its associated context, we unhesitatingly declare that it is not true.” Continuing, he thoughtfully turned the leaves of his Bible.
“This Book unquestionably teaches the free moral agency of man, that is, his free and unlimited power of choice. If he will accept the requirements of the gospel, he may be saved; if he rejects them, he will be lost. This power of choice is not destroyed, after he is regenerated. It remains with him. That is to say, he must exercise his power of choice every day, and decide whether he chooses to continue to fulfill the conditions whereby God conferred salvation upon him, or chooses to refuse to continue to qualify, and thus forfeits the grace he had received. Listen to this reading of Joshua 24:15, where this power of choice is clearly recognized:
“‘And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’
“Again in 1 Kings 18:21 we have the same thing recognized,” continued Dr. Arminius. “Listen to Elijah exhorting the people: `How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God follow him, but if Baal then follow him.’ This power of choice is recognized throughout the Word of God, whether it is speaking about saints or sinners. If a man after conversion, deliberately chooses to do evil, it nullifies all the power and grace of God for his salvation. He automatically perishes spiritually. His soul returns to the state of spiritual death from whence it came, when he was born again.
“Listen also to this passage in Ezekiel: `The soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ Chapter 18:20. Also listen to this: Ezekiel 33:13: ‘When I shall say to the righteous that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered, but for his iniquity that he has committed he shall die for it.’ And in 33:12: ‘The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression. . . . Neither shall he be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.’ ”
Young Brother Sinceer eagerly interrupted at this point, and a bit excitedly asked, “But, my dear pastor, is that not all found in the Old Testament? Is not its application limited to the dispensation in which it is found? Surely Christians today are not bound by Old Testament teachings, are they?”
“The moral and spiritual requirements, my precious brother,” replied the doctor, “of the Old and New Testaments are the same. The ancient Hebrew was saved through faith in the Messiah to come, and His future atonement was evidenced by the slain beasts and smoking altars of that day. The present day Christian is saved through faith in a Messiah who has already come, and shed His blood upon the cross for our salvation, It was only the old ceremonial law given to Moses that was done away, or fulfilled, in Christ. Read Hebrews 8:7-9.”
James Sinceer quickly thumbed the pages of his Bible, which he drew from his pocket. The very action indicated that he was familiar with its sacred pages. Speedily finding the place, he read:
“‘For if the first covenant — ‘”
“Which refers to the Old Testament,” interrupted Dr. Arminius. James continued: “‘had been faultless, then should no place be found for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold the days come saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.'”
“Here,” said Dr. Arminius, “it states that the portion of the old covenant that was given to Moses was to be done away, but the great fundamental standards of spirituality and salvation that antedated the Exodus under Moses were not done away, but are in effect today. Great items like the Ten Commandments, the sanctity of marriage, the need of a Sabbath rest, and the tithe, were in effect ages before Moses published them and are handed right over into the Christian system, not only amplified and adjusted by the Holy Spirit. None of the moral and spiritual requirements were made void, at the coming of Christ, but were filled full of spiritual significance, and are in effect today. Consequently, the passages from Ezekiel, emphasizing the power of choice and its consequence when we choose the wrong, are valid and in effect.”
“But have you none of similar import in the New Testament?” fairly shouted the young man.
“We have,” calmly replied the pastor. “You handle your Bible with such familiarity that I will ask you to find these passages for me. Turn to Hebrews 10:26.”
In a trice young James had the passage.
“Read it,” directed the doctor.
In a clear, well modulated voice, James Sinceer read:
“‘For, if we sin wilfully after we have received a knowledge of the truth –‘”
“Stop there,” urged the doctor. “The balance of the verse teaches some matters with which just now we are not interested. Our point of interest is to ascertain whether the New Testament teaches that a regenerated believer can sin his way out of grace, and back into spiritual death from whence he came. Does not that verse seem to teach it?”
“It surely does,” said James, studying the verse. “But, may I ask, does the expression ‘received the knowledge of the truth’ unquestionably imply that the party referred to was genuinely converted? Possibly this means that he had just heard of the privileges of the gospel.”
“If that is its meaning,” responded the doctor, “how could the 29th verse have any significance? Please read it.”
The young man at once complied. “‘Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace!”
“This seems clearly to indicate,” observed the doctor, “that the person mentioned had accepted Jesus as the Son of God, had sampled in his soul the Spirit of grace, had even been sanctified by Christ’s blood, and now had sinfully, willfully lapsed from his life in God and was fearfully looking for the fiery indignation that is destined to devour the adversaries.”
“But,” exclaimed the doctor, “enough of that one, turn to another. Try 2 Peter 2:20-21.”
With a quick thumbing of the leaves Brother James Sinceer soon located the passage.
“Let me read this one,” urged the pastor, and with a sonorous voice he read:
“‘For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning, . For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.'” The doctor paused, then he added, “The balance of the chapter is such a commentary on the loathsomeness of backsliding, that it is unnecessary to read it. But surely with this scripture staring one in the face, my precious young brother, and with the loathsome picturesqueness of the illustration, you can but admit that the New Testament teaches the possibility of apostasy from Christ, on the part of those who have been saved through His blood.”
James was silent as he critically examined the verses.
“Shall we read some more?” kindly inquired the man of God.
“If you will, please,” answered the young man. “I am bound to know all the Word of God teaches.”
“Very well,” answered the other. “Turn now to Colossians 1:21-23, I will be glad if you will read it.”
The young attorney quickly found the passage and eagerly read.
“‘And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight if ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.'”
“Look,” said the doctor, “at what they were saved from. They had formerly been `alienated’ from God; they were enemies to God till their wicked minds had become saturated with it; they were guilty of `wicked works.’ This clearly indicates that they were certainly deep down in sin. Now look to what they had been saved. Reconciled with God, which evidently means that they were forgiven, regenerated or born again, They had also been led into holiness, indeed, they were so beautifully saved and filled with grace that as God looked upon them, they were ‘unblameable’ and ‘unreproveable.’ And then look at that last statement: ‘If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.'”
“But suppose,” eagerly interrupted the young attorney, “that it was literally impossible for anything to separate them from Christ, for any one to “pluck them out of His hand,’ as Dr. Calvin alleges in his broadcast?”
“Then the Apostle Paul, who wrote the epistle to the Colossians was guilty of perpetrating a terrible and meaningless blunder, by adding that last warning verse, for the verse could have no warning, no meaning, no sense; indeed, the words would be the sorriest nonsense, if these believers literally could not be lost. Would, or rather we had better say, could a Holy Ghost inspired man write such an untruth? But this 23rd verse is so in harmony with what we have just studied in 2 Peter, and in Hebrews, that it would be a wild interpretation to say that this verse was not virtually a repetition of the ones in Peter’s letter, and the one in Hebrews. Couple these New Testament verses we have read with the statements in the Old Testament, and we have a case that only those who are willfully blind to everything but the support of their own pet doctrine can evade.”
Young James hastily looked at his watch, and then sprang to his feet.
“I surely thank you, Doctor, for this Bible study. May I ask a favor?”
“You may, what is it?”
“Let me come next week, and will you please explain to me the meaning, as you see it, of those quotations that I just gave you . . . ‘nothing can separate them from the love of Christ,’ and `no man shall pluck them out of my hand.’ Will you do that?”
“With all my heart, my dear brother. Come next week, and we will spend a few hours searching the glorious old Book of God. I will be glad frankly to discuss any question that Dr. Calvin is broadcasting. Don’t hesitate to come. However, before you go, can we not kneel down and entreat our divine Lord to keep us while absent from one another, and to guide our studies when next we meet?”
They knelt together in tender prayer, and the young lawyer ran down the steps toward his home.