Aug 29, 2012

Debate Review I

In this series I will begin to address the recent debate I had with Bruce Reeves the last week of July in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.  Hopefully, this debate will be available on the web site of the church Bruce pastors in Conway, Arkansas, as promised by Bruce.  Our debate on election is already available on the site.  The debate we had recently concerned whether those who are born of God can so sin as to be lost in Hell.  The recent series on "He Cannot Sin" covered some of the argumentation I made in that debate from the epistle of First John. 

Arguments From I John

"And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."  (I John 3: 3)

I argued that John gives what is called a universal categorical proposition in these words.  John gave us several such propositions in his epistles.  A universal categorical proposition affirms something that is true about every member of a certain class.  The class in this verse is everyone who fits the description of "has this (Christian or Gospel) hope."  John also speaks of "everyone who is born of God" in other passages dealing with universal categorical propositions.  These are not two separate classes but the same class though described by different modifiers.  In other words, all who are "born of God" also "has this hope."  The Apostle is stating something about this class of persons that is true concerning each one in that class.  I argued that John could not have believed that true believers, or those born of God, could possibly sin so as to lose salvation and affirm, at the same time, such a universal proposition.  Had he believed that some who were born of God could and would lose salvation, then he could not have made such a universal proposition.  He would have to have said - "some of those who have this hope purify themselves." 

The purification is linear or continuous.  It is what characterizes those who have Christian hope.  Every truly born again soul is one who "purifies himself," that is, he practices self purification.  And, if so, then he certainly remains pure. 

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."  (I John 5: 4)

By the words "whatsoever is born of God" the Apostle again states a universal categorical proposition.  What is it that is universally, without exception, true of all that has been begotten of God?  It overcomes.  It does not fail.  It succeeds.  Whatever fails was not produced by God.  This is how we can discern what is begotten of God and what is not. 

People are begotten of God.  Those people who are begotten of God are overcomers.  However, if some of those who were born of God did not overcome, then John could not affirm such a universal proposition.  He would have to say that only some of those who are born of God overcome.  This shows that John believed that none of those who are born of God lose their salvation.  To lose salvation is to fail to overcome, but this is what John says is impossible for one who is truly born of God.  John uses the words "overcometh" with the word "victory."  All the born again overcome, or obtain the victory over sin and death.  This is so simple and straightforward and it is only by stubborn refusal to accept it that men teach that true believers may so sin as to be eternally lost. 

Not only are people born of God, but so is "faith."  God begotten faith overcomes and is victorious.  If some one's faith fails to overcome or to obtain the victory, then it is clear that it was not of the kind described by the Apostle.  The faith of hypocrites and pretenders may be overcome, but not the faith of those who have the kind described by the Apostle. 

It is interesting that the Apostle speaks of all true believers overcoming in light of what I have recently taught about the Apostle's affirmation that they "cannot sin."  To "sin" (hamartia) denotes tragic failure, the very opposite idea involved in "overcoming" and obtaining "victory."  Those who are born of God cannot fail to obtain final victory.

My opponent never even made an attempt to respond to these arguments as anyone who listens to the debate must acknowledge.  When a man does not even attempt a rebuttal, it is clear proof that he is not able to do so. 

"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not."  (I John 5: 18)

John gives us another universal categorical proposition.  Everyone who is "born of God" does not "sin," that is, he does not meet with final tragic downfall.  Everyone wins who is born of God.  John also says that everyone who is born of God "keeps (linear) himself" and this insures that "that wicked one touches him not."  Not only do all those who are born of God practice self purification, but also self preservation.  Those who are kept by God keep themselves.  If one does not keep himself, then it is evidence that he was not born of God. 

But, again, my opponent never even attempted a rebuttal to this argument.
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."  (I John 2: 19)

The ones referred to by the Apostle, in this passage, are those who denied that Christ was come in the flesh, among other things.  They denied the Gospel and embraced what was of antichrist.  John says that their apostasy from the Christian faith was proof that they "were not all of us."  He is not denying that they were once "of us" externally, that they were once members of the churches of Christ.  If they "went out from us" then they were once a part of us.  But, then John says that their apostasy demonstrated that they "were not of us."  Clearly the Apostle is speaking of what was merely external versus what was internal, what was only seemingly so versus what was actually so. 

John affirms a clear proposition, which is this:  "If they had been of us, they no doubt would have continued with us."  This, I argue, is what is denied by those who teach that Christian apostates lose actual salvation, rather than only what they "seemed to have."  (Luke 8: 18) 

My opponent did not rebut this.  He did make one statement about it, however.  He simply stated, as most of those who believe that true Christians can lose salvation do, that the text does not say that the apostates had never really been "of us," but is simply saying that they were not "of us" at the time of their departure from the Christian faith.  My response was first to say "duh."  John is not affirming what is obvious and needs no proof or testimonial.  He is rather stating that their apostasy proved that they were never truly saved, never truly born of God.  He has already affirmed that all who are born of God overcome and so this statement about perseverance is but an amplification of that fact. 

If one who professes Christ and faith in the Gospel does not continue in that faith, then John says it proves that they had not really been "of us," had not really been born of God or had God begotten faith. John is affirming that once one is truly in the faith, he will always remain in the faith. 

Throughout John's epistle John alludes to those professing Christians who are "liars."  (I John 2: 4; 2: 22; 4: 20)   The word "liar" denotes what is false, not genuine.  Those who apostatize from the faith show that they were only pretenders.  Failure to persevere proved that those who apostatize from the faith were not real Christians, were not internally what they appeared to be externally.

In conclusion, it is very clear that the writings of John in his first epistle prove that all the truly born again cannot sin so as to lose salvation.

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