I suppose that Catholic polemics and those who claim to be righteous and are affiliated with the Church of Christ, Southern Baptist Convention, Presbyterian Church of America, Orthodox Church of America, Mormons, and even Jehovah's Witnesses must be right, for representatives of these and other religious bodies have judged me and declared that – I cannot be saved. Why do members of such disparate groups agree in this judgment when they cannot agree on issues involving foundational doctrines?
While I cannot know the answer to that question for, as all the above mentioned might agree, I have not yet obtained to perfect knowledge, I am able only to formulate a “best guess” opinion. Without exception, every polemic or apologist that I have dealt with for any length of time and who laid that charge against me directly or by implication cited isolated passages from Scripture to validate his position. So, it would appear appropriate to argue that each of these, who cannot agree among themselves what indeed is Christian perfection, have charged me according to some one or another proof text – often not the same proof text or point of law, as it were – with not walking in Christian perfection.
Guilty! I agree, for I must confess that I have not conformed, nor do I now conform, to all the guidance provided me in Scripture by Lord Jesus and those who wrote the inspired books of our Bible. Not a single day passes that I am not guilty of offending my Lord, of that I am certain. But am I right in believing this? More on that later.
Lord Jesus told the multitude, in His Sermon on the Mount, to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48, KJV). I confess that I have not been as perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect. Therefore, I cannot be saved, or so those who judge my faith might argue. Having been judged and found wanting in this failure to do as Jesus commanded, it appears logical for me to assume that those who judge me on this must themselves be perfect even as the Father is perfect, else their judgment would be hypocritical.
In his epistle, James the earthly brother of Jesus, admonished: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (Jas 1:27, KJV) I am found guilty again, for I do not visit widows nor fatherless children. In my favor, I might argue that I have devoted myself to looking after my grandchildren when their fathers were called away in service to our country. Maybe that might count as a partial “by.” Since those who judge my faith as imperfect must logically have perfect faith, then I wonder how often they look in on widows and fatherless children. Once a day? Once a Year?
In that my lack of faith must be manifested in such a great multitude of ways, let it suffice that I acknowledge my failure with but one more admission as representative of all the others that remain unmentioned. There was a rich young man who, impressed by Jesus words, approached the Master and asked; “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life??” (Matt. 19:16b, KJV) Jesus reminded him of the Ten Commandments and the young man replied; “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matt. 19:20b, KJV). The Christ responded to the youth's self-righteous arrogance in these words: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Matt. 19:21b, KJV). I haven't sold everything that I have so that I might give the proceeds to the poor, and surely that is proof of my failure and my unredeemed condition. No doubt all who judge me as unsaved must have no possessions, for if they judge me as imperfect, they must have sold off all their possessions and donated the proceeds to charity in order that they might be perfect.
In that I have acknowledged the correctness of the charges of those righteous souls who sit in judgment over me, I now implore them to help me obtain to a state of spiritual perfection so that I might be holy even as they are holy. I have been told, and I believed, that all the Scripture is given by God; that the Holy Spirit inspired holy men to put into words what God wants us to know of Him and His expectations and promises. That being the case, then certainly there must be no conflicts or contradictions among any of the passages laid down in what we hold to be the canonical Bible. This, of course, acknowledging insignificant errors attributable to scribes who overlooked slips of the quill and that have no impact on doctrine. To begin my spiritual purification, I ask that my righteous judges explain why passages that appear to conflict with the expectation of perfection as a condition for salvation do not. I confess that I have come to this faulty understanding through my own interpretation of Mark 12:26, 36; 13:11; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Acts1:16, 17:2-3; 18:28; 26:22-23; 28:23; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 2:13; 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21.
The first verse that I need help in understanding is: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.: (John 3:16, KJV) I don't understand why this cannot mean what it says. I believe in God and that He loves the world. I believe that God gave His only begotten Son and so, this verse says, have believed that I have everlasting life. Clearly, what I believed “everlasting” means is the same as “forever.” If that is so, then believing must involve more than simply hearing or reading these words and accepting what they say as, if you will permit, God's truth. My faulty understanding is supported by what I believed I understood in Luke 1:30-35; John 1:18; 3:16; Heb. 4:15.
I believe that, in infinite love for the lost, Jesus voluntarily accepted His Father's will and became the divinely provided sacrificial Lamb and took away the sin of the world, being the holy judgments against sin which the righteousness of God must impose. His death was therefore substitutionary in the most absolute sense - the just for the unjust - and by His death He became the Savior of the lost. That this must be a false belief is founded on my understanding of John 1:29; Rom 3:25-26; 2 Cor. 5:14; Heb. 10:5-14; 1 Pet. 3:18.
Please tell me what is lacking in my belief and, because my cognitive skills must be poor, explain why I should believe your explanation.
A bit down the page, I read that “every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:20, KJV) Okay, in that I have acknowledged my failures and imperfections, I suppose some would say that I am an evildoer if, for no other reason than that I am not living a perfect life. In my defense, it surely must be admitted that I am willing to come into the light, for I ask my judges what I must do in order to correct my imperfections and become perfect.
Then, there is my patently terribly flawed interpretation of Jesus words in John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” I have already testified that I have heard or read Jesus' words as recorded in Scripture, and that I believe in God the Father who sent Him. If this is so, and I believe that it is, why am I told that I cannot be saved or have everlasting life? Please tell me, in detail if you will, what is lacking and what I must do to become perfect.
I believe that when an unregenerated person exercises that faith in Christ which is illustrated and described as such in the New Testament, he passes immediately out of spiritual death into spiritual life, and from the old creation into the new; being justified from all things, accepted before the Father according as Christ His Son is accepted, loved as Christ is loved, having his place and portion as linked to Him and one with Him forever. Though the saved one may have occasion to grow in the realization of his blessings and to know a fuller measure of divine power through the yielding of his life more fully to God, he is, as soon as he is saved, in possession of every spiritual blessing and absolutely complete in Christ, and is therefore in no way required by God to seek a so-called "second blessing," or a "second work of grace." Of course, support cannot be found for this imperfect faith, as I had thought it could be in John 5:24; 17:23; Acts 13:39; Rom. 5:1; 1 Cor. 3:21-23; Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:10; 1 John 4:17; 5:11-12.
I plead with those righteous persons who sit in judgment over my imperfection help me to understand why I should not believe that because of the eternal purpose of God toward the objects of His love, because of His freedom to exercise grace toward the meritless on the ground of the propitiatory blood of Christ, because of the very nature of the divine gift of eternal life, because of the present and unending intercession and advocacy of Christ in heaven, because of the immutability of the unchangeable covenants of God, because of the regenerating, abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of all who are saved, I and all true believers everywhere, once saved shall be kept saved forever. I believe, however, that God is a holy and righteous Father and that, since He cannot overlook the sin of His children, He will, when they persistently sin, chasten them and correct them in infinite love; but having undertaken to save them and keep them forever, apart from all human merit, He, who cannot fail, will in the end present every one of them faultless before the presence of His glory and conformed to the image of His Son. I thought I might find support for this imperfect understanding in John 5:24; 10:28; 13:1; 14:16-17; 17:11; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 6:19; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2; 5:13; Jude 24.
Clearly, I am mistaken and I ask you to point out the misunderstandings that resulted in my imperfect faith and in my believing that I am assured of eternal life. I believe it is the privilege, not only of some, but of all who are born again by the Spirit through faith in Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, to be assured of their salvation from the very day they take Him to be their Savior and that this assurance is not founded upon any fancied discovery of their own worthiness or fitness, but wholly upon the testimony of God in His written Word, exciting within His children filial love, gratitude, and obedience. In my ingenious study, I came to believe that this assurance was promised in Luke 10:20; 22:32; 2 Cor. 5:1, 6-8; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 10:22; 1 John 5:13.
Thus I end my confession of failure to walk as God has commanded and clearly am sentenced to eternal condemnation as my righteous judges have determined. My only hope of acquittal is that these same judges exercise their righteous obligation, as Lord Jesus commanded and "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28:19,20, KJV)
In closing, I make bold to remind my righteous judges of another teaching of Lord Jesus near the closing of the Sermon on the Mount and to encourage them to make manifest to me and others whom they have judged as unsaved how they have been judged by the same standard and found perfect.
|Home | Doctrine | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum
(C) 1994-2009 Ron Loeffler