As the story goes, after the majority denied Christ and left the gathering, the true Christians with machine guns who denounced Christianity announced their identity and stated they wanted to worship Christ with fellow believers. Your conclusions regarding this are: appearances can be deceptive and those who "renounce the Savior in order to save their skin" had only a "said" faith, but not a saving faith!
Dear Hank Hanegraaff:
I read your "Safe and Secure" article found on page 5 of the Christian Research Newsletter, Vol. 9, Issue 2, Summer 1996. Please allow me the liberty of sharing several observations regarding your article:
You started your article with a story which might not be historical fact, according to your footnote. The story alleges two Christians masquerading as communist soldiers with machine guns who interrupted a Christian gathering."With vile oaths, they [the true Christians] denounced Christianity and announced that this very day these Christians would die. Only those who were willing to deny Christ by moving to the back of the sanctuary would be spared."
It amazes me how a story like this that is possibly fictitious could be cited for support for the perseverance of the saints (or eternal security) teaching of our day, especially in view of all of the original Apostles of Christ disowning Jesus on the same night, with Peter doing so thrice (Mt. 26:31-34)! To be consistent with the story in your article, you would have to say the Apostles only had a "said" faith but not a real saving faith, because they disowned Christ! This, however, is easily refuted with Mt. 10:1,2 where we see they were all the Lord's disciples. Clearly, to be the Lord's disciple, as they all were at that point, is to be saved (Mt. 12:49,50; Lk. 14:33). Please notice: Judas was also the Lord's disciple at this point! It wasn't until afterwards that he "became a traitor" (Lk. 6:16) and was called "a devil" (Jn. 6:70)! In the beginning, Judas was Jesus' disciple, called and chosen by the Lord Himself to be His Apostle (Lk. 6:12-16), which is the highest office in the church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). To say the Apostle Judas was never saved is to say the Lord Himself hand picked someone to hold the highest office in the church who was a child of the devil! So as Judas changed from disciple to betrayer and "devil," a truly saved person can become an "enemy of God" by choosing to be a friend of this world (Jam. 4:4) with raging fire cited as his destiny (Heb. 10:27). Furthermore, a saved person can become spiritually dead and lost through sinful behavior (Lk. 15:24,32 cf. Rom. 8:13; Jam. 1:14,15). Moreover, it's possible for a believer to become a non-believer, according to Jesus (Lk. 8:13)! Hence, a true saving faith can wither and die like a plant, according to the greatest authority that ever walked the face of the earth. To deny this is to deny the plain teaching of the Lord's.
To use Mt. 7:22,23 as an all-encompassing, blanket passage for all religious-but-unsaved people is to do violence to the Scriptures as a whole! While Jesus never knew those people, He apparently did know the five foolish virgins at one time, but knew them no longer at His return (Mt. 25:1-13). He said to them, "I don't know you" (v. 12) not "I never knew you"! Please note: the same ones once had a lamp burning, as the five wise virgins did that endured! However, the lamps of the foolish virgins went out with time. What would you think of one's conclusion that those lamps were never really lit to begin with, since they went out!
Similarly, to use 1 Jn. 2:19 in a comparable way, is to overlook all the clear examples of people truly saved, who later died spiritually and became lost as already cited! Collectively, with the whole Bible in mind, we can only deduce that 1 Jn. 2:19 is not a spiritual principle but a specific example.
Certainly, Jn. 6:66 is a clear refutation to your understanding of this passage, as well as to your conclusion to the make-believe story with deceitful Christians carrying machine guns who verbally denounce Christianity, breathe out murderous threats and at the same time desire to worship God! [Your doctrine allows for this type of "true" Christian! It's strange to me that you don't question their salvation, but only declare those who denied the Savior, as the original Apostles of Christ did, as never being saved!] Jn. 6:66 shows true disciples and followers of Christ can turn away from Jesus and never return! Elsewhere in Scripture, we learn that it's possible for a true Christian to fall from grace to the point where Christ is no longer of any value at all (Gal. 5:2,4), that one can be disowned by Christ for disowning Him (Mt. 10:33) and the possibility of having one's faith shipwrecked is a reality (1 Tim. 1:19,20). How can you overlook these multiple passages and write "the real thing [a true Christian] can never lapse into being a counterfeit"? By the way, I also find it strange that "The Bible Answer Man" would answer apart from the Bible as you did with your opening story! To reason from "the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ [the word of God]" is to use hollow and deceptive philosophy, according to Paul. See Col. 2:8. We are to reason from the Scriptures alone (Acts 17:2 cf. 2 Tim. 3:16, 17).
To refer to the Heb. 6:4-6 passage and try to say they were never truly saved is to overlook the context of that book! Consider the following facts: The people addressed in the book of Hebrews were holy brothers (3:1) and sons (12:5,6), who were still infant and who were consequently rebuked for not growing (5:11-14). They also had "feeble arms and weak knees" (12:12) and forgot certain encouraging truths (12:5). In the beginning of their spiritual walk, the gospel was preached to them (4:2), they received the spiritual light from it (10:32), were sanctified by the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:29), and joyfully stood their ground even after they were subjected to various painful forms of persecution, which included public insults and the confiscation of their property (10:32,34). Implied was their giving up assembling together (10:25) and neglecting in a general way their great salvation (2:3). Now it was necessary to exhort them (13:22), which indeed is done over and over in this book. Note the warnings that were issued to these feeble and infant Christians who were not growing spiritually. (Please see 2:1-3; 3:6; 4:14b; 6:11,12; 10:25-31; 10:35-39; 12:3; 12:16,17,25-27.) Especially note 3:12-14 which read:
"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first."
Your Jn. 10:28 proof text for eternal security is no real proof text at all! This often-quoted passage can only be properly understood with verse 27 in mind, which is almost never quoted. Together, these two verses read:
"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."
Clearly, the Lord's promise only extends to those who "follow" [continuous tense in the Greek] Him. Therefore, if one starts to follow the Lord, but does not continue, which is a possibility (Jn. 6:66), such a promise as given in v. 28 cannot hold true for him! Hence, the believer's security is conditional, not unconditional, as your doctrine teaches! Like many others, you have twisted Jn. 10:28 out of context by not considering v. 27.
Some quick answers to the rest of your arguments are as follows:
You also wrote: "the Lord's trees are evergreen." [Unfortunately, evergreen trees can die, the same as with a true Christian.]
1 Pet. 1:4 refers to one's inheritance, not one's salvation!
Phil. 1:6 must be considered with verse 7, which shows the basis of Paul's confidence, namely his prayers for them! It was not because they were unconditionally secure as believers.
John 6:47 is a continuous tense believe, as found in many other passages in the NT. Hence, we must continue to believe, which is not a guarantee (Lk. 8:13).
1 Cor. 1:8 doesn't mention any condition, but this doesn't mean a condition is not understood, especially as we read 6:9,10 and 15:2 in the same book. This last reference is clearly conditional.
Jude 24 simply states that God is "able" to keep us from falling, but should we understand this to mean that an absolute guarantee exists for all Christians that they won't fall, or that they can't possibly fall? Not according to other passages that eternal security proponents almost never quote such as 2 Pet. 3:17: "Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position." Also, as cited before, Jesus taught one can fall away (Lk. 8:13). Again we must use the entire Scriptures or we'll have a distorted view of what God's truth is!
Eph. 1:13,14 mentions the seal of the Holy Spirit, but should we understand this to mean "once saved, always saved"? If it should be understood this way, how did the prodigal become "dead" and "lost" through sexual immorality? The seal didn't prevent this from occurring to him! This collaborates with Rev. 21:8: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars -- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
How so many could miss the clarity of Mt. 10:22 is astounding to me: "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." This was spoken to the Lord's disciples, not Israel.
The truth regarding the believer's security is that a truly saved person can negate his salvation by after-conversion sinful behavior, accepting a wrong plan of salvation and/or by disowning Christ during persecution.
This last point is very clearly stated in Rev. 14:9-12. If we are the last generation, we will not escape an encounter with the Antichrist via a pre-trib Rapture, as many think! If we are that generation, a true Christian must not accept the mark of the beast or he will be tormented with burning sulfur forever, which would not be possible if eternal security was true!
In our ministry file, we have on record where you recommend Charles Stanley's book on eternal security. Since his book states a believer can become an unbeliever but still remain saved, how can you say such can't occur in your article and yet endorse his book? We have refuted his book in our booklet, The Gospel According to Charles Stanley. I wrote to you before we printed this booklet to have you remove your endorsement of his heretical book, but you never replied.
No one should be misled by your position on the perseverance of the saints. On the surface, you and others who hold to this teaching are seemingly contending for holy living to the end as proof for salvation, but in reality you're not! This becomes evident as you and others say a person can be an unrepentant murderer and still go to Heaven. This is really what is being taught when you teach a Christian who commits suicide will go to Heaven or when you say David never lost his salvation through adultery and murder! In the end, you and others teach like Charles Stanley, Robert Thieme, Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges and others. A license for immorality by any other name is still a license for immorality!
Since you are willing to debate the issue of the believer's security, I ACCEPT YOUR CHALLENGE TO DEBATE, that is, if it really exists. [Robert Morey, and others, have refused to debate me.] I affirm the believer's security to be conditional, and not unconditional, as you embrace! I've found nothing in your article on "Safe and Secure" that was convincing enough to even come close to swaying me over to your position! In fact, to be blunt, there can be nothing from Scripture that can prove an unconditional security, since the Bible teaches a conditional security for the believer! As Paul said,
"By this gospel you are saved, IF you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain" (1 Cor. 15:2).
Keep yourself from idols (1 Jn. 5:21).
- Following The Lord Jesus,
- Dan Corner
- [The preceeding letter was written in June of 1996 and mailed to Hank Hanegraaff.]
The True Plan of Salvation
The true plan of salvation is repentance towards God and faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 20:21). We prove our repentance by our deeds (Acts 26:20). The Lord Jesus taught the road to life is "hard" and only a "few" will find it (Mt. 7:13,14, NKJV). Many get saved, but afterwards fall away (Lk. 8:13; Jn. 6:66; 1 Tim. 1:19; etc.). In other words, after initial salvation we must endure to the "end" to enter the kingdom of God and escape the lake of fire (Mt. 10:22; Heb. 3:14; Rev. 2:10,11). Eternal life comes to the repentant the moment such believe on Jesus for salvation (Jn. 3:16; 6:47; 1 Jn. 5:12,13), but there is another important aspect of eternal life that many are totally unware of in our day because of the false teaching of eternal security. According to true grace teaching, eternal life is also a HOPE (Titus 3:7), yet to be REAPED (Gal. 6:8,9) in the AGE TO COME (Mk. 10:30) for only the ones who PERSIST IN DOING GOOD (Rom. 2:7) and DO NOT GROW WEARY AND GIVE UP (Gal. 6:9).
If a saved person sows to please his sinful nature he'll die spiritually (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:8,9). The prodigal is a clear example of this (Lk. 15:24,32). The end result of sin is spiritual death, so DO NOT BE DECEIVED (James 1:14-16). For more information regarding the believer's security, see our 801 page book, The Believer's Conditional Security, which is the most exhaustive and comprehensive refutation to eternal security ever written. It will not be refuted!
Because of the teaching of once saved always saved, grace has been taught as a license for immorality for so long, and without challenge, that when Scripture is quoted, such as 1 Cor. 6:9,10 or Rev. 21:8, it is disregarded, and the giver of God's Word is falsely accused of teaching legalism, bondage, works, etc. This reflects how truly dark are the days in which we live! Please read the ACID TEST question to know if a ministry or local congregation is teaching a license for immorality as condemned by Jude 3,4.
The Neglected Possibility When Someone Backslides
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