Sep 15, 2012

Debate Review IX

"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."  (Rom. 8: 13)

My opponent brought this verse up but did not say much about it, other than to say that Paul was indicating that it was possible for Christians, who are spiritually alive, to nevertheless so sin as to die spiritually and go back to the condition they were in before they became born again Christians.  I mentioned how this was a favorite verse of Campbellite debater Larry Hafley who nearly always brought it up when affirming that truly born again people can lose salvation. 

It is argued that the death warned about cannot be physical death since that is going to happen to all anyway.  I agree with this argument.  It is argued that it must therefore be spiritual death.  And, it is a warning to those who are spiritually alive.  Thus, the warning about dying spiritually proves that such is not only a possibility but a reality for many who are saved. 

My response was to deny that spiritual death in this life was under consideration, but that eternal death in the Lake of Fire is what is warned against, what is called "the second death."  (Rev. 2: 11; 20: 6, 14; 21: 8)   I affirmed that it could not be a warning about reverting back to that state of spiritual death that sinners are in before being made alive in the new birth.  Here is why. 

If the "death" is spiritual death in this life, then the "life" is spiritual life that is possessed by those who are presently born of God.  "You shall die" is set in opposition to "you shall live."  And, if "you shall die" implies that the ones addressed are presently spiritually alive, then "you shall live" must prove that the same ones addressed are spiritually dead.  We must then read the second part of the verse in this manner - "if you who are presently alive do mortify the deeds of the body, then you shall live."  It does not say "you shall continue to live," but "you shall live." 

It seems clear then that the living and dying refers to that living and dying which will take place at the Great White Throne Judgment.    The verse then may be interpreted to read as follows:   "If you who are professing Christians live after the flesh then you shall die eternally the second death," and "if you who are professing Christians live after the Spirit then you shall live eternally with Christ."   Surely this is what needs to be said to all professing Christians, for they are not all what they seem to be.  No professing Christian who lives after the flesh is a real Christian and such will surely die the second death.  

These words of the Apostle show that he did not believe that all the Christians he addressed were really what they professed to be.  It also shows that the warnings of spiritual death are the means God has appointed for begetting and nourishing faith, and in the case of the elect, shall succeed in their purpose.   It is sometimes argued that warnings to those who are truly incapable of being lost or destroyed are meaningless if they do not imply that there is real possibility of being lost.  I have responded to this by referring to the case of Paul and those who were on board the ship with him in Acts chapter 27.  

"And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."  (vs. 22-25)

From these words it is clear that all on board the ship would be saved and that there would be "no loss of any man's life."  Paul said that he believed God and "that it shall be even as it was told me."  Nevertheless, such a certainty of the salvation of all did not keep Paul from this warning:

"Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved."  (vs. 31) 

Some would argue that Paul's warning and exhortation was deceptive because it implies a possibility of loss of life when in fact there was no such possibility.  But, Paul saw no such contradiction.  He believed that his exhortation and warning would be successful.  He was warning about a real danger.  If one did not abide in the ship, he would be lost.  But, the "if" would never become the case.  Clearly the warning of the Apostle was guaranteed success by the prior determination of God.

Perspective is important in answering questions.  For instance, does the planet spin clockwise or counter clockwise?  Well, that depends on whether you are looking down on the planet or up to it.  If you are above the planet, then it turns counter clockwise, but if you are looking up at it, then it is turning clockwise.  So also, from the perspective of God's preordination, there is no real danger that any of the elect will perish.  But, from the perspective of the dangerous situation itself, or of the means, there is real danger

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