“Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 5, Part 2 (What is faith?)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. Up to this point, I’ve tried to keep the arguments free of Greek and such like, trying to learn from Shank’s popular (and effective) style.

But sometimes, you just can’t escape a little Greek. After all, the Spirit inspired the apostles to write in Greek.

In Church of Christ circles, the idea of being saved by “faith only” is usually treated with a sneer, because it’s assumed that “faith only” means “without obedience of any kind or for any reason.”

You see, Church of Christ theology has been heavily shaped by its many debates with Baptists, and Baptists teach “perseverance of the saints.” A few extremists even teach that you could live a sinful, rebellious life and yet be saved because at some point in your life you uttered the Sinner’s Prayer. But this is not standard Baptist teaching. Rather, the Baptists generally teach that a Christian who has committed himself to Jesus through the Sinner’s Prayer will receive the Holy Spirit and, as a result, will not fall away and will, instead, continue to live as faithful Christians to the end. (If he doesn’t, he never really had faith.)

I disagree with this teaching and certainly believe that Christians can fall away and lose their salvation. When Paul says we’re saved “by grace” and “through faith,” I don’t think Paul’s teaching once saved, always saved or perseverance in the Baptist sense of the term.

In the Churches of Christ, we tend to hear “faith” as referring solely to believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Part of this is because we use “repentance” to refer to a change in how we live to be committed to living as God would have us live. And that’s not wrong.

But the use of “faith” as being solely what someone believes is a Reformation teaching, going back to Calvin especially (but not only Calvin). It’s not the biblical meaning of the word.

For example, in Romans 4 and Galatians 3, Paul builds his argument for salvation by faith on the fact that God credited Abraham with righteousness because of his faith. We Gentiles enjoy the benefit of the same covenant God made with Abraham because the Gentiles have been grafted into Israel (Rom 11).

Abraham’s faith was belief that God would keep his promises. His “faith” was trust in God to do what he said he would do. Thus, a second element of saving faith is to trust God to keep his promises.

Another meaning of “faith” in the Bible is “faithfulness.” For example, in Eph 5:22, Paul lists “faithfulness” as a fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word translated “faithfulness” there is exactly the same word often translated “faith.”

N. T. Wright explains in Christian Origins and the Question of God: Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 263, how “repent” and “faith” were used by First Century Jews. He refers to a story told by Josephus about a Jewish rebel named Jesus –

I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived against me … ; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would show repentance and prove his loyalty to me.

[quoted by Wright at p. 250.]

The Greek used by Josephus, metanoesein kai pistos (repent and believe = show repentance and prove loyalty) is identical to the Greek in Mark 1:15 –

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Wright notes that “believe in me” is translated “be loyal to me” in most translations. “Believe in” or “to have faith in” thus can  mean “be loyal to” or even “submit to as lord.”

Wright explains,

Josephus asked Jesus the Galilean brigand leader [not Jesus of Nazareth], ‘to repent and believe in me,’ in other words, to give up his agenda and follow Josephus instead. Jesus of Nazareth, I suggest, issued more or less exactly the same summons to his contemporaries.

To “repent” in this context is not to “no longer commit that sin” but to “change loyalties.” To “to have faith in” or “believe in” means “to follow” so that the many, many commands of Jesus to “follow” him in the Gospels overlaps with Paul’s instruction to have “faith” in Jesus.

In short, a third meaning of “faith” is “be faithful to” or “faithfulness” or even “to follow.” This side of “faith” is very nearly synonymous with “penitence” and “obedience.” And so there can be no faith/trust/faithfulness without obedience. Faith includes a heart that obeys.

Thus, the Greek word for “faith” has three meanings, and all three are found in our confession when we are saved —

* Belief that Jesus is Lord, the Messiah, and Son of God, crucified and resurrected by God (Rom 10:9; Matt 16:16) = faith at its simplest.

* Trust that God’s promises surrounding Jesus and those who commit themselves to him are true (Gen 15:16; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6) = hope.

* Faithfulness to Jesus, living as co-crucified people who carry their crosses daily and serve, submit, and sacrifice as Jesus did (Gal 2:20; Rom 13:23) = love.

Thus, when the scriptures say that everyone with “faith” will be saved, the promise is to those who fully honor their confession and who not only believe Jesus to be Messiah and Lord intellectually but submit to him as Lord and trust him to be their Savior.

Falling away

I can be faithful or obedient or penitent and yet be imperfect in so doing. If you ask me whether my four sons have been obedient children, the answer is absolutely, unquestionably “yes!” If you ask whether they’ve ever disobeyed, you’ll get the same answer.

But their hearts were faithful. Their hearts were filled with love for their parents and their brothers (even if they didn’t know it). They were obedient, although they often disobeyed, because obedience characterized their lives at home, at school, etc.

Hence, when we very correctly insist that a convert must be “obedient,” that is absolutely true, but it hardly means that the convert may make no mistakes — even doctrinal mistakes. You see, my obedient sons often misunderstood my instructions, and yet I never once disowned them. I sometimes punished them, but they remained my sons and heirs, a part of my household and family despite their occasional willful disobedience.

I’m an estate planner, and some of my clients have shared with me that they’d disowned a child. It’s always a deeply sad situation involving a child who rebelled and continued to rebel despite repeated pleas to return and obey. It’s rare — but it happens.

I can’t imagine a theology that makes God into a father less loving than ordinary people — people who aren’t even Christians.

Therefore, falling away can happen, but it requires rebellion.

(Heb 10:26-27 ESV)  26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

This passage concludes a theme that runs throughout Hebrews warning against rebellion. The teaching isn’t that we’re damned every time we sin or misunderstand this or that doctrine. Rather, it requires sinning deliberately against known laws of God. “Sinning” is present tense in the Greek, implying continuous action — rather than aorist, which implies a single action.

We can also fall away if we deny of faith in Jesus —

(1Jo 4:2-3 ESV)  2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,  3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

And we can fall away if we refuse to trust God’s promises to save those with faith in Jesus–

(Gal 5:5-6 ESV) 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Paul declares damned the Judaizing teachers who required circumcision in addition to faith in Jesus. Why? Because circumcision damns? No, because, as v. 6 says, it’s not “faith working through love.”

His logic is that only faith acting in love saves; therefore, circumcision does not. It’s a failure to trust God’s promises.


Thus, we fall away by going out the same gate through which we entered: Faith. We entered in belief, trust, and faithfulness; and if we leave, we leave by surrendering any one of those three.

This is a simple, understandable, easy-to-teach approach to understand faith and salvation and falling away — and it’s what the scriptures say. It’s entirely consistent with the dozens of verses that promise salvation to all with faith.

We just have to sort out baptism. And that’s next.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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46 Responses to “Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 5, Part 2 (What is faith?)

  1. A good post, Jay, although I would have liked to see you take the idea of “falling away” to the conclusion given us in Hebrews, that is, that such “falling away” is an irreversible state. Too many steer clear from OSAS for good reason, only to wind up believing in the doctrine of “intermittent salvation”, in which one loses his salvation for grievous sin (or rebellion, to use your term), only to recover it by repentance. Just as Jesus’ sacrifice was a once-and-for-all act, and our coming to faith is a once-and-for-all act, so leaving that faith is a check-valve sort of reality from which there is no repentance available.

    And an entirely off-topic nitpick: “God inspired the apostles to write in Greek.” Without a single original manuscript to our name, I wonder how we know this? Did Jesus speak in Greek to the Jews? Do we know? Did the Spirit dictate in Greek, or was this merely the lingua franca of the people to whom God spoke, or of the people the writers were communicating with? Your assumption, which I am sure was innocent enough, feeds our bias toward human understanding, as though the path to the revelation of God is through Thayer or Vine and only THEN to the Holy Spirit. Many a strong man has starved to death in the pits dug along that trail. With apologies to CandyLand, many of my loved ones are still stuck in the Psallo Swamp or trapped in the Eis Fortress or swallowed up in the Bottomless Baptizo. 😉

  2. Ralph says:

    Good post. Enjoyed the Josephus parallel. It adds to my understanding of the words.

  3. Skip says:

    Falling away is not a irreversible state nor is salvation irreversible. We all have an opportunity to repent and return to the lord.

    Lamentations 3:40
    Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.

    Hosea 6:1
    “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.

    Returning implies having left. The prodigal son left and returned. Not state before the Lord is irreversible.

  4. Monty says:

    The Israelites having tasted that God was good and having seen his displays of power(miracles) still had rather went back to Egypt(bondage) and faced the known there, than the unknown with God in the promised land. Christian Jews (nearing the time of the fall of Jerusalem) written to in Hebrews were evidently doing that same thing by returning to Judaism and abandoning their faith in Christ. They had tasted that God(Jesus) was good(superior to the shadows in the Old Covenant) and so on, and were rejecting the unknown(for fear) with Jesus leading them, for the known(trusting in what they can see-not faith) of Temple worship(Judaism) and family and friend acceptance back in the old way of life. There is no more sacrifice for sins if you abandon the only One who can save you and who died for you, for animal sacrifice.

  5. Grizz says:


    Why deny the copies of MSS which we have? Do you assume that any English translation is an inspired translation?

    It seems to me that any objection to the reality in which we operate (ALL English translations have been made from copies of Greek and sometimes Hebrew or Aramaic copies that are based on the oldest MSS available at the time of translation), is more than a bit fanciful and not a substantive objection at all. At best it is a separate topic for discussion NOT directly germane to the present topic.


    I will exercise a bit of self control and await your treatment of where baptism fits into this. I would have thought it could be treated briefly, but adequately, with just a line referencing Romans 6 … either along with or in lieu of your reference to Romans 13:23 regarding faithfulness. One hopes that some day we might get to the point where such a brief reference would suffice.


  6. The prodigal son never ceased to be the son of his father. “His FATHER saw him when he was yet a long way off.” (caps mine) There is a difference between a believer doing badly and that same person repudiating his faith in Christ. We often go astray in our thoughts and actions, only later to repent. Sometimes, we are years in that process. But we are not lost in the meantime. We remain “in Christ” even in the midst of our sinfulness. (This is why we needed a savior in the first place.) The believer does not go in and out of Christ based on his most-recent position in his chart of sin and repentance. This sort of “lather, rinse, repeat” salvation is foreign to scripture. But Hebrews teaches clearly that Jesus will not mount the cross again on behalf of the one who accepts and then later rejects his sacrifice. We have a Father whose grace is immeasurable and beyond our fathoming. But it is not entirely boundless. He will NOT see His Son, the now-crowned King, shamed again by those whom He had once saved.

    It is counter-intuitive to consider that this doctrinal position of falling away permanently is one of MORE grace than we find among those teaching intermittent salvation. As with the father of the prodigal, God, by his grace, does NOT cut off his sons because of our sins. That is the very purpose of his grace, of Christ’s blood, to keep us from being cut off, to restore us. Where some will say, “That brother has fallen away,” our Father most often says, “I wish my son would come home.” The “in and out of Christ” folks are much more ready to consign their brother to the abyss for this or that sin than is our Father. This view of our salvation and of God’s judgment are watered down in comparison to our Father’s position. Our anemic view of salvation is that the blood of Jesus is not strong enough to cover a believer’s sins if they far exceed our own. And our human-scale view of God’s holiness and righteous rule keeps Jesus off the throne and forever on the cross because we might need him there.

  7. Grizz, I was not denying the inspiration of the scriptures we have, whether ancient parchments or the NIV. I was simply addressing the line of thinking which is so common among my tribe which appears to make PhD’s in Koine Greek our modern apostles, because those who are expert in that language understand God best, by virtue of that linguistic expertise. “Hear ye them.” I am not convinced of the idea that the words from God which could be read by the first century believers in Berea were more inspired than the ones which can be read by the twenty-first century believers in Boston or Birmingham.

  8. Alabama John says:

    As we can forsake God, so can He forsake us. Jesus asked why himself.

    Interesting that Greeks understand the writtings best, but we never that I know of ask the Greeks why they believe different from us and try to see the bible writings as they do.

  9. Jay Guin says:


    🙂 Always glad to find another fan of NT Wright’s work on “faith.” Thanks.

  10. Jay Guin says:


    It’s the nature of CoC discussion that I must restate my positions repeatedly, because (a) new readers haven’t heard them and (b) longstanding readers want to argue against something other than what I teach. We do love a good strawman argument.

    Hence, I find myself defining “faith” every other day so that I’m not accused of teaching that the demons who believe and tremble are going to heaven and restating my views on baptism to avoid the accusation that I take a Zwinglian/Baptist perspective — even from people who’ve been reading my stuff for years.

    (And in this case, I erred by (1) writing when very tired (still recovering from mostly dead-ness) and (2) addressing a topic in the comments when I should have said “Wait for the posts.” I very much brought this on myself and am working on repenting of that stupidity.

  11. Jay Guin says:

    Charles wrote,

    A good post, Jay, although I would have liked to see you take the idea of “falling away” to the conclusion given us in Hebrews, that is, that such “falling away” is an irreversible state.

    I’ve written on this in the Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace in detail and have several posts on it. However, I find Gal 2:11 very difficult —

    (Gal 2:11-12 ESV) 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.

    Pretty clearly, if Peter “stood condemned” then he later got re-saved. I’ve researched the Greek on “condemned” and that sure seems to be what the word means.

    Hence, it appears that falling away in the Gal 5 sense, for adding circumcision or other things to faith in Jesus as a condition of salvation, is a reversible falling away — which is some really good news.

    But the rebellious/hard hearted falling away described in Heb is irreversible, not because God will not allow you to repent (God never refuses to forgive his penitent children) but because it’s human nature that you “seared your conscience as with a hot iron” and the SINNER will never repent — a circumstance that doesn’t seem to necessarily apply in the Gal 2 – 5 kind of falling away.

  12. hist0ryguy says:

    There is certainly division within Christendom regarding the finality of apostasy. Two concessions among non-Calvinist are normally granted though: God is always willing to forgive a repentant person, and the believer can harden his heart in such a way that he will not repent. I hold the view that there is (1) the road to apostasy (full of judgment in the sense of accountability and the call to repent), and (2) the state of apostasy in the sense that the heart his hard, unbelief reigns, and there is no return (it is final).

    On the one hand, we have the condemnation of Peter, Simon the magician, and the 7 churches of Asia, etc. and stories of restoration, but on the other hand, we have the equality (but not temporal consequence) of sin, the reality that everyone sins (1 Jn. 1:8-10), salvation by a grace system instead of law keeping, and the warning to the audience in the Book of Hebrews who is on the verge of apostasy (i.e. unbelief and leaving Christianity). I’ll keep reading and studying as you make more posts.

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Ala John wrote,

    Interesting that Greeks understand the writtings best

    Modern Greek is very different from koine Greek of NT. Just look at how much English has changed since the KJV — 400 years ago — or, better yet, the Canterbury Tales and Beowulf. We native English speakers can barely make out Middle English without footnotes — and the NT is more than a 1,000 older.

    So modern Greeks don’t have nearly as much language advantage as they sometimes claim.

    On the other hand, I think there’s a lot for us to learn from the Orthodox — although there’s a lot NOT to learn, too. They weren’t messed up by Augustine and Aquinas, and went another direction altogether, which gives us all kinds of fresh insights.

  14. Royce says:

    So then, Shall we assume Jesus didn’t get his prayer answered?

    20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:20-24)

    Well, I learned something tonight. In the case of those who have fallen away…there is “lost” and “really lost”? Two categories of being lost? I haven’t read that part in my Bible.

    The Scriptures use several word pictures to describe the person who once “lost” who is then “saved”. Adoption is one of those. Unadopted? Nope. Another is a state of being spiritually dead and then “made alive”. Killed? Nope. The Holy Spirit is given as a down payment or guarantee of the finished transaction. Is God’s guarantee not trustworthy?

    Paul said, quoting David, “7 Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
    8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:7-8) True or untrue?

    If a person’s new life in Christ (spiritual life) can be measured by time (months or years..) he didn’t have eternal life. “Eternal” is not measured by time.

    Many of Jesus’s promises were only so many words if what he said is not trustworthy. My only hope of salvation is him and him alone. If His words can’t be taken at face value I’m in a heap of trouble.

    John 10:28 is only one of dozens of passages that we must question if flawed men and women are in charge of salvation instead of God.

    “28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish” I sort of think that in the original manuscripts the words translated “eternal” and “never perish” mean “eternal” and “never perish”.

    I get a bit cautious when anyone’s theology strips Jesus’ precious promises so that they become meaningless words. And, I am annoyed that I and others who hold to these eternal truths get labeled as “Calvinists” or God forbid “Baptists”.

    Either God saves sinners from start to finish, or God needs a partnership with man to save man, or man saves himself using some concocted formula taken hodge-podge from the Bible. Jesus plain teaching in John 20 and John 17 makes it crystal clear which is true.

  15. Nick Gill says:

    God does need a partnership with man to save man, Royce – on at least three levels.

    1) Jesus is a man. So from that perspective, God partnered with man to save man.

    2) Man preaches the gospel by which God saves man. Thus he has given us the ministry of reconciliation – He has humbled himself to partner with us in his work. Of course, this is no surprise since man is made in his image and from the very beginning was created to manifest and spread God’s holy dominion throughout creation. So from a second perspective, God has partnered with man to save man.

    3) Most importantly for your assertion… Unless God pours faith and repentance into some receptacles and withholds them from others, people chooses whether or not to let God save them. What else but a partnership would that be? Granted, all of these describe partnerships between a major partner and a minor one, but that is exactly what a covenant is.

    Do you assert, Royce, that when someone becomes a Christian, God removes their ability to rebel against him?

  16. Jay, I am not at all convinced that Paul’s use of the word “condemned” regarding Peter is speaking of his eternal salvation. The context of the word here seems to be the ethnic conflict, rather than the idea that Peter had left Jesus Christ by backing away from the Gentiles. It seems more likely to me that Peter was being condemned by other Christians in Antioch for his behavior. (This battle was not new to them.) Peter’s sin was more against the Gentile brothers than it was against anyone else and I suspect this –not the Father– was the source of the condemnation of which Paul speaks. Paul would possibly have been the only person of sufficient reputation among the Gentiles to address the powerful offense Peter had committed against the Gentile believers.

  17. Jay observes, “But the rebellious/hard hearted falling away described in Heb is irreversible, not because God will not allow you to repent (God never refuses to forgive his penitent children).”

    Jay, this was a portion of my point. In this falling away, we repudiate our place as adopted children of God, and thus are no longer entitled to the paternal solicitude you describe. We are no longer His “children”, even if later we wished to reconsider. The permanence of the change described in Hebrews is not even about the reprobate, but it is rather about the Son. The irreversability of this “falling away” is because of the Father’s attitude toward the Son, and the Father’s refusal to again to humiliate Him on our behalf. It is not because of the fixed nature of OUR attitude toward him. I think we sometimes so focus on our relationship with the Father that we forget that the Son has a greater claim on that place than do we.

  18. hist0ryguy says:

    In my perspective one who is “on the road to apostasy” is still a child of God, saved, and called to repent (though going away from god instead of toward him), whereas an apostate (is off the road), has rejected his adoption, become lost, and is “worse off at the end than they were at the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20-22).

    I value the relation between the father, son, and Spirit, but I struggle to embrace the view that apostasy is more about the Father humiliating the Son (again) than about our hard heartedness and rejection of the Son (our only hope). Jesus is the propitiation for the world who will never forsake us and “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Those who trample under foot the blood of Christ do so with their unbelief because they reject Jesus’ atonement for them. Both the unbeliever and apostate reject Jesus’ eternal willingness to intercede/mediate. Jesus is willing, but the apostate is not.The Son always does the will of the Father because the Father and Son have complete unity in their will. The will of the Son is to reconcile the sinner, even to the point of death on a cross. Thus, if it is Jesus’ will to save then the Father is also always willing to save a repented heart as well. I do, however, agree that we should more often consider and value the role of the Son (and Spirit) in our relationship with the Father.

  19. Royce says:

    NIck, your response is clever but beyond that is not very helpful. You and other readers know I did not have in mind the humanity of Jesus when I posed the question about man’s part in salvation.

    If we believe that an unsaved man is “dead” spiritually as Paul taught, the only help for that person is life! And Jesus alone is that Life.

    After you give an answer to the statements of Jesus I pointed out maybe we will have something to talk about.

  20. Glenn Ziegler says:


    The pace of linguistic change, much like the pace of cultural change, varies greatly even within nations. Assuming that Greek linguistic changes parallel the changes from Middle English to Modern American English would be a hard postulate to prove, at best.

    For one thing, we would all have to know much more about both Ancient and modern Greek to even begin such a comparison … not to mention learning the differences between Middle English and Garlic and Welsh before we ever get to modern American English few people under 30 can even spell passably.

    Sounds good, though … doesn’t it?


  21. Glenn Ziegler says:


    Do you love your kids like you love ice cold tea? If not, can anybody trust the face value of anything you say?

    Just thinking things through …


  22. Glenn Ziegler says:


    When is an offense against a brother NOT an offense against God?

    Just saying …


  23. Jay Guin says:


    I have a good friend who lived in Greece and became fluent in modern Greek language. He and I have discussed the differences between koine and modern Greek and they seem to be comparable to modern and ancient English. And the following Internet articles give some further support.

    Not to mention how words change idiomatically. Just consider how “conversation” has changed since 1611 —

    KJV Psalm 37:14 The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.

    NASB Psalm 37:14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow To cast down the afflicted and the needy, To slay those who are upright in conduct.

    PS — I doubt either of us would have trouble distinguishing Garlic from Middle English, since I’m sure Garlic would sound like Italian to the uninformed. (Kidding … You must have had supper on your mind.)

  24. Shucks, Glenn, I have offended any number of brothers without offending God. Remember that poor fellow in John 9:34. And Jesus used to do it all the time. But I have also offended both at the same time, no doubt.

    But in Peter’s case, I was not trying to exclude God from Peter’s offense, but merely to point out that WE also condemn people for their actions at times. And that I think it was men who were condemning Peter’s actions, not God who was damning Peter. The actual term, in this case, can only be fully explained by usage, particularly by the unspecified actor by whom Peter is being condemned here. If we interpret this as divine condemnation, then God had cut Peter off from being in Christ because he wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. If that act is a criteria for losing one’s salvation, then most of the CoC is unsaved, because most of them reject fellowship with at least certain other groups of believers. To say that Peter was going to hell for hanging out only with his own kind of Christians is the sort of indictment that is ubiquitous in the church… if not almost universal.

  25. I am reminded that God did not allow a single adult Israelite into the Promised Land, after their unbelief, even though they immediately repented when they found out God was going to do this. These people had seen the deliverance of God from Egypt and had participated in it. When they THEN refused to believe God, judgment fell. Ask Adam why he could not get back into the Garden. For one who believes to later reject the sacrifice he previously accepted, to repudiate his faith, and then to presume that there will always be a door back to God’s grace, right up to the deathbed, is not an idea I find in scripture. In fact, every indicator in Hebrews points the other way. We did not get into the kingdom by apologizing and promising to do better next time, and we never will enter in by that method.

    I wonder if we have made salvation about ourselves for so long that we have come to believe that “for God so loved the world” is mainly about “the world”, and not about God. Such a perspective underlies numerous follies, from Universalism to the the agnostic’s query as to how a loving God could let people suffer. Many godly people are flummoxed and confused by such horrors as the destruction of the Amelekites because we have developed a belief system that is not based on “I AM” so much as it is “I AM really nice!”

  26. Jay Guin says:


    (Heb 6:4-6 ESV) 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

    (1Ti 4:2 NIV) Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

    Both passages seem to me to point to the inability of the apostate to repent. And that’s human nature as we observe it. Sadly, there are Christians who’ve rebelled and become so hard hearted that they cannot repent. To me, it’s about the Spirit. Once you lose the Spirit, who replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, repentance can become impossible. Our hearts return to stone.

    So long as we remain in grace, however, the “once for all” sacrifice of Jesus saves us “once for all” making us “perfect forever,” as Hebrews teaches. Hence, just one sacrifice is needed. It’s the fact of falling away that forces a theoretical second salvation and hence a second sacrifice — which can’t be had. Heb 10:26ff.

    Therefore, I don’t think God damns us for rebellion until our hearts have become hard beyond repentance — or else God would be turning his back on penitent men and women of faith — and yet he’s promised to save them all.

    I’ve had many readers write me and ask whether this means they cannot be restored after falling away. These are men and women who left the institutional church and even led lives of known sinfulness but later wanted to repent — and I’ve always said that if you are willing to repent, then obviously it is not impossible for you to repent — and therefore you are not in the state described in Heb 6:4-6. Rather, they’re more like the Prodigal Son who, despite his degradation, never stopped being his Father’s son.

    And by this line of thought, the result is that falling away for sinfulness is much harder to do than we often think. Then again, sin is a deceiver, and we can travel from beloved child of God to damned and unable to repent surprisingly easily once we start playing with sin — which sounds contradictory but human nature is a funny thing, filled with paradoxes.

    (Deu 29:18-20 ESV) 18 Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. 20 The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.

    Scary stuff.

  27. Jay Guin says:


    The Greek for “stood condemned” is found in the NT only there and at —

    (1Jo 3:19-21 ESV) 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

    And in the Septuagint we have —

    (Deu 25:1 ESV) “If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty,

    And I have trouble taking the verb to refer to the attitudes of the Antioch Christians — presumably, just the Gentiles as he appears to have been courting the favor of the Jews.

    On the other hand, it’s obviously not the word Paul normally uses for condemnation by God, and the 1 John passages could be read to mean “accused” rather than “condemned.”

    It’s a tough translation and even the pros disagree.

  28. Jay Guin says:


    The “lost” and “saved” language comes mainly from prophetic metaphors speaking of lost sheep.

    (Mat 10:5-6 ESV) 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

    Jesus borrows his metaphor from Jeremiah —

    (Jer 50:6-7 ESV) 6 “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. 7 All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the LORD, their habitation of righteousness, the LORD, the hope of their fathers.’

    Notice that as bad as “lost” is, being devoured is even worse. The problem with being a lost sheep is that a wolf might eat you, making restoration quite impossible.

    So, yes, lost is not the worst possible fate. Dead is even worse.

    (Luk 19:9-10 ESV) 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

    Again, Jesus is borrowing from the Prophets.

    (Eze 34:15-16 ESV) 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

    And here God, through Ezekiel, is speaking of Jews who are lost due to the idolatry of their leaders. “Lost” is again a sheepfold metaphor, not for dead, but in serious trouble and great jeopardy. God has not yet given up on them. “Lost” is parallel with injured and weak — not dead.

    I’ve been guilty of casual use of the word myself, as I’m sure Google will easily confirm, but I do try to be careful about such things when deciding on serious theological points.

    Therefore, I think our casual use of “lost” to mean “damned” is not right. As Charles has pointed out, those who’ve fallen away so as to be damned cannot be restored — in my opinion, because they cannot repent — and hence hardly fit the metaphor of a lost sheep for whom the shepherd seeks. Such a sheep is in grave danger but not yet dead — and dead is much, much worse than lost. If you cannot be restored because you cannot repent, you are dead and soon to be consumed.

    Rather, now speaking as an elder, the “lost” are those believers who’ve lost touch with the herd, who are in the world all alone and likely unaware of their great danger. It’s up to the shepherd to restore these lost sheep to the flock because sheep have no defense mechanism apart from the shepherd, the herd, and the sheepfold.

    I’ve addressed all the verses on both sides here many times. And this is not a series on POTS or OSAS. And so I’ll not be delving into it once again. (Didn’t I just say that?) You know me well enough to know that I struggle to resist the temptation to argue back — but I can’t deal with the issues raised by the errors of the conservative Churches of Christ while simultaneously being asked to deal with POTS and such like. It’s just more than I can do at once.

    Readers are welcome to discuss POTS in the comments to their heart’s delight, but I will not be participating.

  29. Jay Guin says:

    HG wrote,

    I struggle to embrace the view that apostasy is more about the Father humiliating the Son (again) than about our hard heartedness and rejection of the Son (our only hope).


  30. Glenn Ziegler says:


    My thinking was that ‘from whom much has been given, much is required.’ Also, ‘those who teach face a more intense judgment.’

    Deliberate sin is defiant even without intending to defy. It is the nature of the sin-beast. Peter’s sin defied God’s revelation in the vision Peter had received.

    Maybe I’ve got it wrong …


  31. Royce says:

    9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.
    10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10

    I’m on pretty safe ground by using “lost” in my view.

  32. Grace says:

    There are people who insist that we should be afraid to have confidence in such a God who is just hanging around in Heaven waiting to see how we will ‘turn out’ because such things are beyond His sphere of influence!

    The Scriptures say it is God who is in control, in an ultimate sense. Whether or not one is more inclined toward Arminius or Calvin, I think that one has to accept God as supremely sovereign.

    1 Samuel 2:1-10 And Hannah prayed and said: My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

    No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

    Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed.

    The bows of the mighty men are broken, And those who stumbled are girded with strength.

    Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, And the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, And she who has many children has become feeble.

    The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.

    The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory.

    For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, And He has set the world upon them. He will guard the feet of His saints, But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.

    For by strength no man shall prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth.

    He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.

    Proverbs 16:4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.

    Acts 17:24-31 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.

    Colossians 1:15-17 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

    Revelation 4:11You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power;
    For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.

    To say God looses His own children presents an impotent God who is incapable of keeping and protecting His own children!

    John 10:26-30 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.

    Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels NOR PRINCIPALITIES NOR POWERS, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Paul says God’s power in us is greater than any other power, there isn’t any evil power greater than Him that can turn those who are His away. Paul said he knew the Lord would deliver him from every evil work and preserve him.

    2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!

    If a person attended church for a month or even 5 or more years but then walks away they did not have salvation, going to church doesn’t make a person a Christian anymore than going to a garage makes a person a car. If you know the truth about salvation you don’t leave when you know deep in your heart and soul it’s the truth.

    It’s absurd to seriously suggest that God might only be interested in saving people for a few weeks or years. That is a God who is not sovereign and a God we could have no confidence in! People who continue to trust in anything except Christ alone, who is the light that scatters all shadows, it is said to be tantamount to “trampling under foot the Son of God” believing that His once of all sacrifice is insufficient in itself to save. If something in place of or in addition to Jesus is trusted in, it is no different than a denial of Him.

  33. Nick Gill says:

    It is not about strength, but about the nature of love.

    Is God the kind of Father who locks his children in the basement in order to make sure they never leave the house? Or is God strong enough to trust His own love and to give his children the freedom to *choose* to love Him and to dwell in His presence?

  34. R.J. says:

    It is impossible to restore to repentance Not because God is unwilling(if they should theoretically come back) but because of their knowingly stubborn and ultra rebellious hearts that spurn every inclination of the Spirit and thus Will Not come back to the fold. God will not interfere with human will!

  35. Royce says:

    If God never interfered with mans will no one would be saved. Do you think those God had nothing to do with the hearts (will) of those 3,000 on Acts 2? Of course He did. And what of Cornelius? God made a choice that those Gentiles should both hear the gospel and believe.

  36. Larry Cheek says:

    All of the interactions between God the Father and all those who lived prior to the Old Covenant which have been recorded for our learning, records that God never once left mankind but man refused to accept God as their Father and refused the relationship that God desired. Man does not have any rights to hold God responsible for the deterioration of the relationship. Grace, I believe that you are attempting to portray that God has the power to do that, and you are true he does, but God chose to not make robots of us, what value would that relationship be to him. Think about parents on earth would you have had a life if your parents had controlled you as a robot,and you then control your children as robots? Would a robot love its creators?

  37. Jim Wright says:

    What do you think of “positional salvation” as some are teaching today? (Joseph Prince, etc) Seems it might have application in this discussion. Positional salvation is taught as “once saved – always saved.” But the Bible teaches that we are translated into the Kingdom of Light at the point of salvation and that we become citizens of the Kingdom of God. As citizens we are joint heirs with Christ. Like being a citizen of the United States, I am a citizen wherever I go. And as long as I am a citizen of the United States, I receive all the rights and privileges offered to a citizen. I lose those rights and privileges when I denounce my citizenship (rebellion). Just as a citizen of the USA can be penalized for breaking the laws of the land, we suffer consequences from or sins (both to bring us into greater obedience) yet we do not lose our citizenship.
    Also, the Biblical concept of “In Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,…” Positionally when we are in Christ Jesus we receive many promises according to the Roman writer; eternal life, dead to sin, cannot be separated from the love of God, truth, and co-workers. If we remain in Christ, our salvation seems secure. If we denounce Jesus as Lord and turn to another God, we are no longer in Christ.
    I know this is a simple view and not a deep theological posting, but I would like your thoughts and input and that of others.

  38. R.J. says:

    The idea is Not they would need a second propitiation(the Hebrew writer later affirms that his death is once and for all time) but rather by openly sneering him, they put him to open shame again(having hard hearts).

  39. R.J. says:

    @Jim I like that idea better. Positional Salvation avoids both extremes of “Once Saved Always Saved” on the one hand and “Once Saved Barely Saved” on the other. It affirms “Blessed Assurance” while not denying the possibility of apostasy.

  40. Jay Guin says:


    I’m not familiar with “positional salvation.” It’s not totally wrong, but I wouldn’t agree that we can’t lose our citizenship.

    In the days of Rome, long before modern democracies, someone could be deported from the Empire as punishment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_Wars#1st_century_BCE) or stripped of his citizenship and banished (http://books.google.com/books?id=C5nnwjCi_I0C&pg=PA25&lpg=PA25&dq=roman+empire+loss+of+citizenship+as+punishment&source=bl&ots=Q1xDcoJ0uB&sig=Pi8YUHWCn2qBhWhJMJYGVSp3e2I&hl=en&sa=X&ei=C-MTU8P8CNL6kQfKs4HIDA&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=roman%20empire%20loss%20of%20citizenship%20as%20punishment&f=false)–which was much the same thing, I expect.

    Therefore, being a citizen of the Kingdom does not, by analogy to Roman law, promise OSAS or POTS. But you had to do something pretty awful to lose your citizenship and be banished, but the possibility was real.

    I have to agree that if we denounce Jesus as Lord, we are no longer “in Christ.” Hence, contrary to much teaching among the conservative Churches of Christ, there’s no such thing as a “lost Christian.” If you lose your salvation, you’re no longer a Christian at all.

    So I’m not quite sure whether or not I agree. I do, however, prefer to think of salvation more in family terms — adoption as God’s children — rather than Kingdom terms. The Kingdom is a legitimate way of looking at things, but I think you get deeper and a truer understanding looking at it relationally, that is, as what would it take for a father to disown his children?

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  42. Grace says:

    I never said God wants us to be robots. It’s not about our strength, it is about love, and it is about Him. Christians are to tell the gospel of Jesus to others, Christians don’t drag people kicking and screaming to the foot of the cross so He will save them. It is God who convicts their heart. We didn’t go to Him on our own. If He did not do what He does, we would never come to God.

    John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

    John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

    John 6:65 And He said, Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.

    John 16:8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

  43. Nick Gill says:

    Grace, if God did not act first, none of us would belong to Him.

    the question is whether or not God’s love allows us the freedom to make the satan’s choice – to know the fullness of God’s glory and love – to belong to and serve Him – and still rebel and set oneself against Him.

  44. Grace says:

    I never said there aren’t people who have rejected who Christ is and what He did. I did say that God knows who His children are and is capable of keeping and protecting His children. It’s not about our strength, it is about love, and it is about Him.

  45. R.J. says:

    I do not believe the Israelites repented right after God pronounced his degree to wander in the desert for 40 years. I think they were just as hard-hearted the very next morning when they fainly proclaimed “We have sinned against Yahweh”! Yet adamantly refused to hear and obey his voice to “Turn around” and instead went headlong into harms way. Had they been sincere and humbly asked God to reconsider(seeking him with all their heart), I believe he would’ve been merciful(or at least lighten the punishment before admitting them into the Promised Land).

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