Oct 29, 2008

Temporary Believers

In the parable of the Sower and Seed, the shallow ground hearer is one who is said to "believe for awhile and in time of temptation fall away," and who also initially "receive the word with joy." The Arminian who believes that this passage teaches that one can lose salvation attempts to prove the shallow ground hearer was truly born again by pointing out that this hearer "believed" and "received with joy the word." But, these things do not in themselves prove it.

These two descriptions must be considered within the context which identifies the shallow ground hearer with NOT having a "good and honest heart," thus not really saved. Yet, even though not really saved, but a false professor, the text says they "believe" and "rejoice" when they first hear the word. How are we to explain that? Is there a "belief" of the gospel that does not save? Can unbelievers and unsaved people rejoice in the gospel?

Unregenerate Believers

Recently I wrote against the Hyper Calvinist view of James White and the Hardshells on I John 5:1, wherein they tried to demonstrate that one could be born again apart from faith. I showed how the verse does not put the initial act of believing and receiving of Christ before the birth, but puts the life of faith, or persevering faith, after the divine begetting. Thus, what John contended for, in that passage, bears upon the question of the perseverence of genuine believers. He taught that anyone who was truly "begotten" of God would certainly persevere in faith and in conviction of the truth.

Who, according to John, "has been begotten"? It is the one who is a continual believer, one who "is believing" (present participle), regularly and continuously, that is, one who believes perseveringly. But, if this is true, then the opposite is also true - those who believe only 'for awhile' and who do not persevere in faith, have not been begotten.

There are temporary believers who believe without being begotten, but every begotten believer perseveres in believing.

There is not a Calvinist who denies that there are many who "believe" but who have not been "begotten," but are deceived hypocrites, or "false professors." The Arminian, who denies eternal security for real believers, contends that all the examples, in the New Testament, that has a "believer" lapsing and "falling away" is the case of a real believer losing real faith, and real life, and real birth and salvation.

Thus, the Jews who "believed" but did not "confess" Christ are judged, by Arminians, to have been genuine and begotten believers. (John 12: 42) Thus Simon Magus is judged to have been a real believer, one who had been genuinely "begotten" of God, and was a "good ground hearer," even though he became a Christian for the wrong motive, in order to "make merchandise" of the Christian community. To a Calvinist, however, these are examples of people who do not believe genuinely with a full heart, with sincerity and honesty, but "believe" superficially, or "shallowly."

The above examples are not examples of good ground hearers failing to persevere, nor of those who have been begotten and yet who fail to believe continuously, but examples of "shallow ground" and "thorny ground" hearers who entered into the visible Christian community by a hypocritical profession.

Rejoicing of the Hypocrite

"John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light." (John 5: 35 NIV)

"When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him." (Mark 6: 20 NIV)

Here are clear examples of "shallow ground" hearers of the word who have some faint belief, for they "rejoice" at hearing the good news. But, who but the rankest Arminian, will affirm that Herod and the wicked serpentine Jews were genuine believers who had been begotten of God?

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