The Lawyer and the preacher discuss “Once a son always a son.”
Seated for their third discussion in Dr. Arminius’ comfortable study with their Bibles open for ready reference, we find Lawyer Sinceer and the pastor. Greetings have been said, the amenities of the day passed, and now they are ready for the lawyer’s first question.
“Shall we begin with that favorite expression of the eternal security folks, `Once a son always a son’?” smilingly inquired the doctor.
“Yes, if you will do so,” replied his legal friend. “That has always impressed me as being the strongest spot in their armor. Until I began these discussions with you, I confess that I was just about a full-fledged `eternal securityite.’ This eternal sonship of the believer had me. Indeed, I do not like to admit that I am entirely converted to your view of this matter, yet, though I will admit that you have shaken my defense some. I am keenly curious to know how you can get around this son-ship business, so please proceed.”
“Well, you must admit,” began the pastor, “that the Bible abounds in figures and symbols. Our human language is so restricted that it is only by borrowing heavily from earthly figures of speech that we can describe and delineate spiritual matters. As samples of this, note the designations that we ascribe to our Lord. He is a ‘Sun,’ a ‘Shield,’ a great ‘Rock,’ a ‘Commander,’ a `Fountain,’ an ‘Altar,’ a ‘Lamb,’ — indeed, the list is almost endless, and yet in strict literalness, we must admit He is none of these. We also speak of heaven as a `Home,’ to poor earth-stayed orphans; as a `Haven’ for storm-tossed human sailors on the voyage of life; as a `City that hath foundations,’ into which beleaguered souls may run for safety.
“When, therefore, He was seeking for the tenderest figure of speech in our human language that could make God attractive to poor mortals who hated Him and were afraid of Him, Jesus selected the title of ‘Father.’ What a revelation this was to wretched humanity of God’s attitude and love toward them. Pursuing the sequence of such a name for God, it naturally followed that men who were transformed into His likeness should be called the sons of God. Not that we are His sons in the same literal sense that we are the sons of our earthly parents. Not that He is literally our Father. But it means that through His grace and the transforming power of His Spirit we have been made as near like Him as it is possible for redeemed sinners to be, and He therefore, condescends to ‘adopt’ us, into the heavenly family, according to the Apostle Paul’s figure, and to `constitute’ us, according to 1 John 3:2, by means of a heart change that is so radical that it takes its designation from the earthly birth of a child, and is called the `New Birth,’ into a spiritual sonship. That spiritual sonship is brought about by fulfilling the conditions of repentance and faith in His atoning blood. Even the ability to repent, He has to bestow, for sin has so robbed us, crippled us, that we are helpless to help ourselves. But He tells us that if we will come to Him just as we are, and fling ourselves upon His mercy, He will not cast us out, but will enable us to repent and fulfill His sonship requirements.
“The ability to believe unto salvation must also be imparted by His Spirit. Indeed, we are so utterly unable to make our way to God unaided by His Spirit that the Holy Ghost in inspiring the writers of the New Testament borrowed another human figure, and declared that unregenerate men are ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’ We know that literally they are not dead, or they could not hear the gospel, or attend the services where it was preached, or do anything else. It merely means that we are as helpless to get ourselves saved from sin and hell and to make heaven as though we were literally dead.
“Now it is clear that the only real son that God has, is Jesus Christ who was begotten of the Father and born of the Virgin Mary. Our only right to spiritual sonship of any character is based upon our voluntary acceptance of the merits of our Lord’s death and resurrection, and then because of this, the Holy Spirit transforms us into His image; this is miraculous and revolutionary enough to be called a new birth. Not that we are literally born a second time; Nicodemus could see that such was not the case, and he was puzzled how to apply the figure in a spiritual way, as being a transformation from above.
“Our designation as ‘sons of God’ is an accommodated term, and not a literal one. The Master called the Pharisees children of the devil, ‘the deeds of your father you will do,’ He declared. Not that they were literally begotten of Satan, but were so like him, and so animated by his evil spirit as to merit the term. If ‘once a son always a son’ is correct, and these wicked men were literally ‘sons of Satan,’ then they could never change and become sons of God, and inasmuch as all men are at sometime sinners and thus ‘sons of Satan’ it would follow that no one could ever be saved, This is absurd.
“Likewise He terms His disciples ‘children of the Resurrection.’ Not that they were literally begotten of the Resurrection, such a meaning would be unthinkable, but He means that they were so imbued with the spirit of the resurrected, living Messiah, possessing such a thrilling, glorious victory over death, the grave and its bondage, as to merit the appellation ‘children of the Resurrection.’ So we, when saved and cleansed and filled with God, can be so radiantly like Him, love what He loves, and hate what He hates, as to merit the glorious name of ‘sons of God.’ We can look up into His face and call Him ‘Abba-Father.’
“But,” continued the pastor, “this new birth sonship is a gift from God. The repentance that enabled us to qualify for it was a gift. The faith by which we accepted and received Him and because of which He imparted to us eternal life, was a gift. The eternal life itself was also a gift. Read Romans 6:23, ‘The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
“All these salvation gifts including our sonship in Him, are conditioned. Note what it says in 1 John 3:24, ‘He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him;’ but suppose one ceases to keep His commandments, then what? Why, naturally, he forfeits the gift and backslides. Again, in John’s gospel 14:23: ‘If a man love me he will keep my words.’ And again in the verse following, He states the reverse. ‘He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.’ And again, ‘If we walk in the light,’ but suppose we cease to love Him, we refuse to walk in the light, then what? All this indicates that we do not have even in our relation to God as His sons, any experience, or relationship or position that we cannot forfeit by disobedience, and lose by failure to keep His commandments.”
“Even an earthly sonship can be forfeited. It can be lost by such estrangement between the son and his father as to result in his disinheritance. The disinherited son is driven from his father’s home, he is denied support that he usually would receive, he ceases to belong to the family, and is only finally mentioned in his father’s will to emphasize his disinherited condition.
“An earthly sonship can also be forfeited by death. When death takes a child in any family, his parents cease to shelter the dead one, or give him sustenance or support. He literally ceases to be. His name is not even mentioned in his father’s will. If his father is questioned as to the number of his children, he will say, ‘I once had two, now I have but one, the other died.’
“In both of these ways can a spiritual son of God, cease to be a son. Through disobedience and sin he is both disinherited, and he also lapses again into the state of death in trespasses and sins in which he was when God quickened him into spiritual life. He forfeited his spiritual sonship. He lost his salvation position in Christ through sin. He despised his birthright of eternal life and it was taken from him, He that was once alive spiritually, died.
“There is no greater fallacy in religious teaching than the idea proclaimed by the eternal security people of ‘once a son always a son.’ It is not, and cannot be a literal analogy — it claims, however, that we are literal sons of God which we are not, but are only His sons by the transforming gift of the Holy Spirit, resulting in adoption. If sonship were a strict and literal analogy, then we would have no choice in the matter. No man was ever able literally to choose to be his earthly father’s son. He was forced into this world. But God never forces anyone to become His spiritual son. Not being strict analogy, and only a figure of speech, one dare not press it beyond its spiritual sequence. This the eternal security people do, and force it far beyond what it was intended to convey and this course cannot be substantiated by Scripture. The degree of sonship that is accorded by the Holy Ghost is conditioned upon choice, obedience and submissive faith, and can be lost. It can be retained only by giving `diligence to make one’s calling and election sure.’
“To take the position that ‘once a son of God always a son of God,’ or ‘once in grace always in grace,’ is also to reflect on God’s ability to solve the sin question, that is, utterly to heal and cure the festering sore of sin; for it opens the door to poor tempted man to possess, as they claim, an eternal salvation position in Christ even though living in open sin, This is a teaching that is repugnant to every feature of the New Testament and a burlesque on the mighty salvation that is offered in Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Just as an earthly son can die, by ceasing to adjust himself to the demands of continued life, so can a spiritual son of God die, by ceasing to adjust himself to the demands of continued spiritual life, It is a travesty therefore on the suffering of Calvary, and the agonies of Gethsemane to offer poor sinful humanity a spurious salvation, a false hope, a man- made ‘positional’ salvation. In order to support this view the Scriptures must be wrested from their plain and unquestioned meaning, and the reader’s good human sense, warped out of its customary sane judgment, and hypnotized into a mythical hope that we can possess an effect without adequately fulfilling the requirements demanded by the cause. This is the essence of fanaticism. The whole eternal security teaching is unthinkable when it is lined up along side of plain Scripture teaching and good common sense. ”
The pastor ceased speaking and eyed his legal guest with lifted brows and an interrogation in his eyes. The lawyer drew a long breath. Both men sat for several seconds without a word, intently looking at one another.
“I must admit,” the attorney finally said, “that your reference to one’s judgment being warped by the eternal security arguments appeals to me, I have found myself repeatedly losing my ordinary common sense moorings, when seeking to follow their interpretations. To state that a man can have a `positional’ salvation in Christ that entitles him to a holy heaven and yet be able down here to disobey God’s commands, and flout His moral and spiritual requirements seems to me little short of theological insanity. It doesn’t fit the demands of the Bible and of a life in Christ free from sin. But our good Dr. Calvin in his radio broadcasts is such a keen man for theological argument that I admit I was just about wrapped around his finger; hypnotized is none to strong a word. You have certainly done me a favor to clarify the situation. Still, I would be glad to hear you discuss the matter of imputed righteousness. That, I believe, is also one of their very strong points. Have you time for that this afternoon?”
“I fear not,” answered the doctor, “I think that we need a bit more time to investigate it than is at our immediate disposal. However, have you a question with which you would like to have me start when we meet next week?”
“Yes,” replied Attorney Sinceer, “I think this question, perhaps, would give you scope enough for a comprehensive reply: ‘What is the difference between “imputed righteousness” and “imparted righteousness”?’ Also this one: ‘Is there such a thing as “imputed salvation” and who are its recipients?'”
“That will be fine,” commented the doctor. “This will give me opportunity to collect my thoughts on it. Shall we wait on our Lord in a few moments of prayer before we separate?”
Together they knelt and fervently prayed, then cordially clasped one another’s hands as they bade farewell.