Salvation 2.0: Part 8.1: False teachers

The NT often condemns people called “false teachers.” Who are these people? I mean, does the condemnation of false teachers mean that every teacher who makes a mistake is damned? If not, then what errors damn and which do not?

Sadly, the term is thrown around very easily — and often just because we disagree. What do the scriptures say? Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 7.7: The strange case of Hymenaeus and Philetus

grace5Commentators have long puzzled over these odd passages —

(1Ti 1:18-20 ESV)  This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,  19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith,  20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

(2Ti 2:16-18 ESV) 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,  17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,  18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

That’s all we know, except that these false teachers had left the true faith, been disciplined in some sense by Paul, and appear to be lost for having taught that the resurrection has already happened. Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 7.6: Peter’s Condemnation in Galatians


Little noted in our preaching is this

(Gal 2:11 ESV) But when Cephas [the apostle Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

The translation “stood condemned” is controversial, but it carries the weight of scholarly consensus. Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 7.5: Paul and Perseverance

grace5We need to test our theory about falling away against other passages that deal with the question.


While Hebrews seems to very plainly teach that Christians might fall away, what about Paul? Those who teach perseverance of the saints (POTS) often rely on his teachings.

However, James D. G. Dunn points out that there are passages in Paul that seem to contradict POTS, such as —

(Phi 3:12-14 ESV)  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

It does seem clear that Paul considers final salvation as not yet attained. Rather, he must “press on” while “straining forward.” (And like Dunn, I part company with NT Wright at this point.) Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 7.4: How to fall away

grace5So if that’s how we’re saved — by faith — then how might we fall away? Well, let’s not make this unnecessarily complicated. If faith is the path in, then losing one’s faith is the path out. We leave by going back on how we came in.

Now, “faith” as we’ve covered has these three elements:

1. Belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus is Lord. God resurrected Jesus.

2. Faithfulness to Jesus.

3. Trust in Jesus to keep his promises.

So reversing any of these three will damn.  Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 7.3: “Walking in the light”

grace5So let’s go back to 1 John 1:7, a crucially important passage — but in context —

(1Jo 1:5-6 ESV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 

John writes in a very black-and-white fashion. Either you practice the truth (the gospel) or not. Either you are in fellowship with God or not. And you walk either in darkness or in light. There is no gray. After all, in God there “is no darkness at all.” That is, if I’m in God, then I’m entirely in the light, because there is only one light source, and if I’m in it, there’s no darkness at all. Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 7.2: “The teaching of Christ”

grace5For some reason, 2 John 9 has become a favorite proof text among Church of Christ traditionalists. So let’s start with understanding what John is saying here.

(2Jo 1:9 ESV) Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

A couple of points to begin:

First, John is not contradicting what he taught in his Gospel or in 1 John. Everyone with faith in/faithfulness to/trust in Jesus is saved. Clearly, “the teaching of Christ” must be the gospel, that is, what one must believe to have faith. Any other interpretation would cause John to contradict himself in countless ways. Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 6.8A: Baptism and the Temple

grace5I’ve been reading Andrew McGowan’s Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective, a fascinating account of early Christian worship. I just got to the chapter on baptism.

Early on, McGowan says,

Ritual baths, or miqva’ot, [mikvehs or mikvehim] have been excavated at the entrance to the Jerusalem temple as it was rebuilt by Herod the Great. Devotees could readily wash in a miqveh as part of a journey to the temple, often undertaken from some considerable distance as pilgrimage. The placement of these pools at a liminal (cf. Latin limen, a threshold) point suggests that they enabled a symbolic transition for those coming to present offerings or to pray; the path to God’s presence and promise, as often before, lay through the water.

The internal architecture of such a miqveh also indicates a sense of movement from impurity to worship. Some had internal dividers or walls that marked a path for the bather to follow, inviting movement into the water in one direction and out the other. Those coming to pray or offer sacrifice were not merely removing symbolic impurity by washing but were walking from everyday life into the different world of the temple. The waters functioned, as in the exodus, both as a boundary between two states of being and as a path from one to the other.

(Kindle Locations 2878-2891).  Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 7.1: Falling away

grace5If it’s possible to become saved, is it possible to become unsaved? Can we fall away?

The Calvinist/Baptist position

The Calvinist position is that the saints will necessarily persevere, so that falling away is impossible in the NT. The Holy Spirit will so powerfully transform the Christian’s heart that he’ll ultimately choose to live as a Christian should and so be saved in the end.

There are certainly subsets among the Calvinists who teach that a Christian will continue to be saved regardless of his sinfulness and commitment, but most Calvinists argue that Christians will never so sin as to deserve to fall away.  Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 6.8: The Impact and Symbolism of Baptism


I think the original design of baptism is not only God’s design, but the best possible design. God’s wisdom in providing for a confession followed by baptism of a believer is how churches ought to handle conversions.

Words are necessary, but words can be cheap. Asking for an action as evidence of faith helps confirm in the heart of the convert that faith requires certain behaviors. It’s not just words.

And baptism powerfully illustrates what God is doing. It’s a death, burial, and resurrection, and it’s a cleansing from sin. The symbolism is powerful. Continue reading

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