Sep 10, 2012

Debate Review VI

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."  (Gal. 5: 1-4)

This was the second argument my opponent brought forward to prove that genuine believers, or those who are born of God, may so sin as to be finally and eternally lost.  He also mentioned verse 7 where Paul said - "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?" 

His major argument was that those who had embraced a belief in salvation by circumcision and law keeping were genuninely saved people and had lost their salvation in so doing.  I responded by saying that there is nothing in the epistle that affirms such explicitly.  It may be that some who were genuinely born again did temporarily get caught up in the Judaizer's heresy, a heresy dealt with by the Apostles in the Jerusalem council of Acts 15.  But, those who were truly converted, I argued, would not have remained in such a state of error, the teaching of the Apostle Paul being successful in restoring them to a proper understanding of the Gospel and salvation by Christ.  Others, who had never been truly converted, may have never come to a true saving knowledge of the grace of God. 

My next response was to affirm that the text does not say "you are fallen from salvation."  My opponent had to interpret "fallen away from grace" to mean all the same as "fallen away from salvation."  I again argued that my opponent is forced into this kind of proof because he could find no express statement of Scripture where it is said that people lost or fell away from actual salvation. 

I argued that it could not mean that those who were born of God could, or did, actually fall away from salvation for this would contradict the verses I brought forth that positively affirmed that those who are born of God cannot sin, that they could not be overcome, but would positively overcome. 

It is not denied that there have been many professing Christians who have initially believed in salvation by grace but who later went astray and embraced a belief in salvation by law keeping.  However, nothing in the text tells us that such who went astray lost salvation or did not later repent and were not finally saved. 

I argued that the falling away from "grace" was the same thing as falling away from the "gospel."  (See chapter one verses 6-8)  It is also to fall away from Christ as the way of salvation. 

The fact that some of the Galatian Christians were being led astray into a belief in salvation by works and by law keeping caused the Apostle to question whether they had ever really been converted or born again. 

"I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain."  (4: 11) 

"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you."  (4: 19-20)

It is not denied that those who trust in their own righteousness have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  (Rom. 10: 3-4)  It is not denied that those who seek righteousness by keeping the law and by their good works will not be finally saved.  Paul said that Christ will profit one nothing who seeks to be made righteous before God by law keeping. 

I did not argue in depth about this passage because my opponent never responded to the initial arguments I had made and so there was no need to rebut further.  It was his responsibility to prove that falling from grace meant falling from salvation and this he never proved.

I did argue that Paul said, in this very epistle, that being a new creature, and having the faith that God begets guarantees success. 

"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love."  (Gal. 5: 6)

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."  (Gal. 6: 5)

Paul's argument would be meaningless if some who had genuine saving faith and were new creatures failed to obtain final salvation and glorification.  Paul is not saying that true saving faith and the work of regeneration only avails sometimes, but that it always avails. 

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