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Free Will and Losing Salvation

Handout #6  10/19/14
I. Introduction
A. Before moving on to other big issues which distinguish RC/EO theology from Reformed theology, like Scripture and tradition and like apostolic succession, we’re going to spend a week talking about two issues related to salvation: free will and losing your salvation.
B. The majority of those who have called themselves Christians down through the ages have not shared the Reformed view of predestination, free will and the preservation of the saints. But every group has things it believes which are rejected by the other groups. That’s why we’re not unified.
C. It is not surprising that there’s been such a reluctance to accept some of the disturbing things the NT tells us.
1. We’ve already talked about man’s depravity and guilt, we’ve talked about God pouring out His wrath on His own Son in our place.
2. Today we’re going to talk about free will and predestination. And then, related to this, about losing your salvation.
II. Free will
A. Introduction
1. EO/RC/Arminianism: God, by His grace, has prepared you to choose Him, but the last step belongs to you. He allows you to choose Him but He doesn’t cause you to choose Him.
2. Free will is very important to these systems.
3. Father Palachovsky: “We have been made in His image through creation, but we must become like Him by ourselves, through our own free will. To be in the image of God belongs to us by our primordial destination, but to become like God depends upon our will...” (with Vogel in Sin in the Orthodox Church and in the Protestant Churches)
4. Cooperating with His grace
B. I understand the reluctance to believe that God chooses who will be saved, and especially that He chooses who will not be saved (which is not only is it implied by election, but there are verses which teach that some are destined for destruction).
1. Jude 4 “Certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation...”
2. 1Peter 2:8 “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
3. And especially Romans 9:21–22 “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”
C. The definition of free will which is believed by RC/EO/Arminians is free will outside of God’s control, that God actually restricts His sovereignty in order for man to have freedom.
1. The Bible never says this or anything like it.
2. There have been two ways Reformed people have addressed this:
a. Luther accepted this definition of free will & therefore denies free will in his classic book: The Bondage of the Will.
b. Calvin, Edwards and others said man does have free will, but defined it very differently.
3. Not only that, but Reformed people would argue that it is impossible for God to restrict His sovereignty just like it would be impossible for God to restrict His omniscience. I mean, could God choose to not know something? to allow us to have a secret He doesn’t know? Part of being God is being absolutely sovereign. Part of being God is having total rule of the universe.
4. And one more thing. If a person believes in omniscience he already believes in absolute sovereignty.
a. All the possibilities open to God of how things could be made
b. Which one does He choose? The one that brings about the result He wants, of course.
c. In other words, knowing exactly how everything would unfold, He chose a plan which cannot be changed, because He knew exactly what was going to happen from the very beginning. So there’s a set plan which He chose that will unfold exactly as it was when He chose it and nothing can change it.
D. The Bible doesn’t actually teach about free will because the only time it uses the expression is re: the OT free will offerings, and there it just means not obligatory.
1. The Bible, of course, does talk about human choice, and, in spite of John 15:16 (“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.”) both sides agree that we have choice.
2. The disagreement is whether our choices are ultimately ordained by God or are somehow outside of His control.
E. Now, of course, the Bible says a lot about man disobeying God’s law and even grieving the Holy Spirit. But this isn’t what we’re talking about.
1. There are two wills of God: His preceptive will (His law) and His decretive will (His plan).
2. Man resists God’s law all the time, but never resists His plan.“His dominion is an everlasting dominion...all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” Dan.4:34–35
F. The Bible does repeatedly tell us that God is the One who rules the human heart.
1. Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever He will.”
2. Philippians 2:12–13 Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
3. Ezekiel 36:27 I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
G. And there are many specific examples in the Bible where this can be seen:
1. Deuteronomy 2:30 Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.
2. Joshua 11:20 For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.
3. 1Chronicles 5:25–26 But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. 26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.
4. 2Chronicles 36:22 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’ ”
5. Ezra 6:22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
6. Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia... The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
7. Revelation 17:17 God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
8. And of course there’s the well-known example of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart in the days of Moses.
a. Exodus 7:3 I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt,
b. Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.
c. Romans 9:17–18 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
d. Exodus 9:12 But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.
e. Exodus 10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them,
f. Exodus 10:20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.
g. Exodus 11:10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.
h. Exodus 14:4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.
i. Exodus 14:8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly.
j. Exodus 14:17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen.
9. Salvation is not a matter of human will but of God’s will.
a. John 1:12-13 To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
b. Romans 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
H. Biblical Investigators available
I. If free will is so essential to our humanity, why doesn’t this threat of falling away continue after death? Do people in heaven have free will? If so, what prevents them from choosing against Christ while they’re in heaven?
1. How about hell? If people have free will in hell, why can’t they still choose to believe in Jesus?
III. Falling away from salvation
A. But their view of free will means that salvation is not a matter of choosing Christ once, but of choosing Him over and over again for one’s whole life.
1. And if you’re faithful to choose correctly to the end, you’ll make it.
2. But free will also means that even after receiving Him, you are free to choose to reject Him.
3. You never know whether you’ll keep choosing Him or forsake Him right at the end and lose everything you’ve gained. So they’re nervous in His service.
4. We believe in the divine preservation of the saved, not just to preserve their salvation, but to preserve their faith.
B. We agree that it is he who endures to the end who is saved. (Matt.10:22; 24:13)
1. We just believe that Lord is not only the originator of our faith but the finisher of our faith (Heb.12:2).
C. We also agree that there are a number of verses which talk about falling away from salvation.
1. Here’s what we think is going on:
a. We believe that there are two levels of our relationship with Christ:
(1) the level of personal faith, and
(2) the level of legal covenant
b. Think about Israel in the OT: there was the people as a whole: God’s chosen people, but then among them there was a remnant of true believers.
(1) They were all in covenant with God, but not all of them had personal faith.
c. We believe those who fall away are those who are in covenant with God and yet never true heart-believers in the first place: like Judas.
2. There are verses which seem to indicate just this: that those who fall away were never truly saved in the first place.
a. 1John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
b. Matthew 7:22–23 “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ”