Proof Text Without Context
Vol: 85 Issue: 24 Friday, October 24, 2008
I received an email from a member regarding yesterday’s OL, “God’s Grace” that asked: “Jack, what makes you so completely sure of your eternity in light of so many confusing scriptures that “seem” to link eternal life with obedience (Galatians 6:8)?”
(“For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. “)
I replied to the email but was led to expand my answer and post it as an OL, so I suspect that there must be others among our membership also struggling with the same question(s).
The arguments presented by the opponents of eternal security, derided as “Once Saved, Always Saved” (or OSAS) are indeed Scriptural. Just look at all the Scripture that they come up with to prove their point.
For example, Matthew 6:14-15. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
In context, Jesus is teaching His Disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Having just presented it to them, He was explaining what to pray and why. Matthew 6:12 – “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
That is commonly rendered, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive the trespasses of others”, but in either case, what the Lord is explaining is WHAT the prayer asks. “Forgive us the same way we forgive others.”
The opponents of OSAS claim this means if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us, and therefore, by not forgiving trespasses committed against you, you can lose your salvation, ipso facto, OSAS is a false doctrine.
First, Jesus is not addressing the redeemed Church, but His Jewish disciples. Doctrinally, the Lord’s Prayer is not a Christian prayer, but a Jewish one.
The Kingdom of God is a Judaic concept that refers to the return of the time of the Judges when Israel had no King but God, Who ruled directly through His prophets.
The Jews await the Kingdom of God; the Church awaits the Kingdom of Heaven. The Old Covenant with Israel is that Israel will be the center of the world, the seat of the Lord’s government during the Millennial Kingdom.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. . . . And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. ” (Isaiah 2:2,4)
The promise to the Church is different.
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. ” (Romans 8:17)
‘Joint-heirs’ is a term to describe children being given equal inheritances.
God’s relationship to Israel is likened to that of a spouse; Christ’s to the Church likened to that of a bridegroom and bride as heirs to the Father’s inheritance.
Everything Jesus said in His public ministry is of use to the Church, but not everything He said was addressed to the Church. Much of what He said was addressed, for example, specifically to the Pharisees of Israel.
We can therefore draw lessons from the parallels, but we must do so in context.
Another verse that is often cited as evidence that one can lose one’s salvation is Romans 8:1, which, oddly enough, is also one of the most powerful proof texts for proving eternal security.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
This argument concludes that the saved Christian who later falls back into his old habits, the ‘carnal’ Christian, is walking after the flesh and not after the Spirit and so this verse teaches conditional salvation.
If you are walking after the Spirit, there is no condemnation. If you are walking after the flesh, then there is.
In context, Paul has just exhaustively argued in Romans 7 in favor of eternal security, explaining the dual nature of man, how often we fall short, how we do what we hate while knowing it is wrong, all the time hating ourselves for sinning.
Paul says, “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. . . . For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
Having explained the exact nature of the conflict with the old man experienced by every Christian, Paul cries out in despair, “O wretched man that I am, Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” before answering his own question and confirming that sin is a continuing part of a saved Christian’s earthly existence:
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
In context, Romans 7 teaches that the struggle with sin is evidence one IS walking after the Spirit. Romans 8:1 is the promise that there is no condemnation for such a one who struggles with sin.
What does it mean when one DOESN’T struggle with sin? Think it through. There are but two answers.
Either one isn’t saved and remains dead on one’s sins. Or one has died and gone on to his eternal destiny.
In context, Romans 8:1 can have but one logical meaning, then. But using it out of context to prove one’s grip on salvation is tenuous is still Scriptural since Romans 8:1 is Scripture.
A proof text devoid of context is a pretext. But it’s Scriptural.
I am certain of my eternal destiny irrespective of my current state of sinlessness or vice-versa. Jesus didn’t save me on one day, for one day — and then leave the rest up to me. That flies in the face of both logic and experience, even before one turns to Scripture for confirmation.
I already knew before I read Romans 7 that I am in the same place Paul described. If I have to maintain my own salvation, I’m already lost. Logic and experience confirm that, as well. If eternal security is a false doctrine, then salvation is beyond my reach.
Yet, as we said at the outset, there are many strong Scriptural arguments to the contrary. But there can be only one truth. If salvation is conditional upon works, then God cannot be just, if ‘just’ means the same thing as ‘fair’.
Skeptics claim God isn’t fair because He would send somebody to hell, but that’s nonsense. People choose heaven or hell — God simply honors their choice. But when it comes to salvation by works, it really isn’t fair or just.
What we’re actually discussing are two different issues. One is salvation. Salvation is a free gift. The Scriptures are uncompromising on that point.
The other issue is that of living a Christian life. The two are NOT the same.
A person can come to Christ on his deathbed and go to the same heaven the Apostles went to. I think we all agree that is true.
So this guy, having never done a single thing for Christ in his lifetime, having never sacrificed a thing for his faith, having never led a person to Christ, or done an act of charity, and more importantly, he was not tempted to sin after salvation because he died.
But he goes to heaven.
Meanwhile, Joe Christian is saved at seven. He lives a sacrificial life for Christ, leads many people to the Lord, and does everything you wish you did when you take stock of what you’ve done for Christ.
But then, some personal catastrophe hits Joe, like it does you and me, and for some reason, this time, Satan gets a hold of ol’ Joe for a time, and Joe goes off on a three-week bender.
Before Joe has a chance to come back to his senses, he gets killed in a car accident.
Both trusted in Christ — Joe at the beginning of his life — the other guy at the end. But Joe’s many good works are of no consequence — he goes to hell. The guy on his deathbed’s many bad works are of no consequence, he goes to heaven.
In both cases, they trusted Christ. Joe had the Christian life part down pat, until he hit a rough patch. So if OSAS is a false doctrine, then Jesus let Joe down just when Joe needed Him most.
The real answer to the question, “How do I know that I am truly saved” is found in another question. “Who do you trust for your salvation?”
If you trust in the Cross AND in your own abilities to subsequently live a sinless life, the Scriptures say that is the standard against which you will be judged.
Despite great swelling words of protest to the contrary, you aren’t trusting Christ. You’re trusting you.
The Apostle Paul knew he couldn’t be trusted with his salvation. Romans 7 is a litany of spiritual failures. Without some sense of eternal security, the Christian life would be a fearful, nervous existence, where one was never sure where he stood with the Lord.
If one can sin one’s way out of salvation, which sin is it? Having a TV? Smoking? Cheating on taxes? Having a lustful thought? Road rage? Divorce?
Instead, the Lord says, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
That sounds like a promise I can trust.