ETERNAL SECURITY, AND THE BIBLE
BY JEFF PATON
I do not believe that anyone would deny the great talents that Charles Stanley has in the pulpit or the massive impact he has through radio, television, books and the Southern Baptist Convention.
I do not have the slightest doubts that he sincerely believes what he says about Eternal Security and its relationship to the Gospel. In fact, in all the years that I have listened to him on the radio, I have only heard two sermons in which he did not speak directly of the doctrine, implied the doctrine, or referred to it indirectly by appealing to his conclusions from the atonement, imputation, and the believers family relationship to God.
Charles Stanley has put out what has been the most definitive work on this doctrine in about 30 years. This book has met with resounding success in the marketplace, and the doctrine has permeated the minds of many people regardless of their church background. Because of this, any criticism of this beloved preacher and his doctrine will no doubt bring disapproval from almost every reader.
The subject of what follows is a critique of the book Eternal Security – Can You Be Sure? Which was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers in 1990. Allow me to point out the form and style in which this criticism will be met out.
First, I will follow the chapters in the order that they are in the book. Many chapters will be combined since they deal essentially with the same issue. An effort will be made to keep the arguments direct and to the point and complete enough to answer the statements and accusations. Secondly, the style will be aggressive. It is not intended to turn people off or offend, but I feel that it is necessary in order to make the point stick.
I hope that you will understand that the same passion that drives Charles Stanley to see eternal security in every chapter and verse, is equivalent to the passion that I have against what I believe to be a soul damning and dangerous doctrine that I must expose for the heresy that it is!
I come to the battle at a disadvantage. Not from a Scriptural or theological disadvantage, nor even an educational one. The difficulty I have is that those that have read his book have already made up their minds on the issue. They already have preconceptions solidified in their minds, so this means that I must find a way to get their attention long enough to challenge them. This is the purpose of the aggressive style that I am going to use. For truly -
“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”
Are you willing to open up your mind in an effort to see which position is the Biblical one? Or is your mind already made up on the issue so it is a waste of time? The decision is yours, I have only asked for a fair and impartial opportunity to show you the evidence so you can make up your own mind about the issue. Is this too much to ask?
Please read the argument in its entirety. Because of the efforts to be concise where I can, I will have to consolidate each issue in a way that may lead you to a wrong conclusion if you do not see the result of the whole.
May God bless you in your search for truth.
WHAT IS AT STAKE?
This chapter encompasses the introduction and the first chapter of Mr. Stanley’s book. Quotes by Mr. Stanley will be in red, and my commentary will be in black.
In the introduction we are given the story of Mr. Stanley’s journey from his childhood indoctrination into Pentecostal beliefs, then through his college years where peer pressure and theological indoctrination eventually changed his mind.
Referring to his conversion at age 12 he states, The pastor put his hand on my shoulder, looked at me square in the eye, and said, “Charles, grow up and be a good boy. And when you die, you will go to heaven.” I was continually confessing my sins, begging for forgiveness, and hoping I wouldn’t die before I had time to repent!
Here we see where the error of legalism leads. Stanley’s early conception of Christianity was based upon merit and not upon active faith. This error explains a lot about his shift in later life from legalism to outright antinomianism. Keep this in mind as you read on because it will help you to see where and why he chose to get off track.
There is no doubt that from what he says about his experience, that he had a constant and abiding fear about his salvation. He tells us of his college experience where he said that, often in our dorm the conversation would turn to religion. Over and over I would pull out my arsenal of verses and present my case. Frequently I found myself standing alone. But my view was strengthened by the carnal lifestyles of many with whom I debated…… Intellectually I was more persuaded than ever. (Emphasis mine.) Stanley once knew what the Bible taught, but his inability to live up to the standards that he imposed upon himself led him to a internal struggle for peace and acceptance.
He tells us of a Sunday morning in 1944 where he recalls, for the first time feeling that I was at peace with God. I knew that I had been born again. The possibility that I could lose all I had gained that Sunday morning seemed a little farfetched…..I was troubled with my internal struggles, I never felt alienated from God….somehow I knew He still loved me and accepted me….I never felt lost. (Emphasis mine.)
Notice the trend that is revealed, fear, alienation, feeling, felt, are all the emotions he was experiencing. He tells us that he stayed resolute in his doctrinal position until seminary where he reveals the struggle still within, “But as convincing as I was, I had no peace about the subject.”
( feeling, again! ) From that point he claims that he found that he was guilty of taking Scripture out of its context and that “they took on a different meaning.” From this point, Stanley reevaluates everything in context of what he feels, and reinterprets what he knows. This is tantamount to hammering a square peg into a round hole, and when it is forced to fit, declaring it to be correct! And if feeling is the measure of truth, what do we say to those live content without ever knowing the Lord?They feel content, so are we to say that their status with God is true?
The key to Stanley’s paradigm shift comes from his dealing with one singular issue. I discovered through my study that the concept of salvation through faith alonecannot be reconciled with the belief that one can forfeit his of her salvation. If I must do or not do something to keep from losing my salvation, salvation would be by faith and works. Mr. Stanley is correct in his assessment that works have nothing to do with the concept of faith alone. Too bad for Stanley that the Bible cannot be reconciled with the concept of faith alone! His entire belief is based upon feeling and philosophy! But wait a minute you say! Are you saying that we are not saved by faith alone? Yes I am! Faith alone is only found in one place in the entire Bible. In fact, the only faith that is alone in Scripture is a dead faith! James 2:17. We are saved by faith and not by any merit. What Charles Stanley defines as “faith alone,” is different than what the Bible means by being “saved by faith.” Keep this in mind as you read his statements as we progress through his book. If you keep this in mind you will see what he contends for is the error of antinomianism, or in modern terms, license to sin!
The Bible says that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10. Paul is not opposed to good works as the genuine fruit of faith. In fact, he demands that true faith results in good works. He is however, opposed to works as merit for salvation.
Jesus verifies this by saying, I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” John 15:5. Jesus declares without any doubt, that if we are truly in Him, we cannot but help bear good fruit. “Faith” that brings forth bad fruit, or no fruit, is not a saving faith. John Calvin said the following concerning this issue:
” It is faith alone that justifies, and still the faith which justifies is not alone.”
Many other passages could be added to the list, but these should be sufficient for now. The issue that I wanted to make you aware of is how this man arrives at “truth.” He does so primarily out of feelings and philosophy, and concepts that are foreign to the Bible! These feelings, philosophies and unbiblical concepts are what forms his presuppositions of what is true. The conclusions about these presuppositions that he has, leads inevitably to a doctrine of unconditional security. This whole book revolves around this presupposition. Stanley labors intensely to establish these presuppositions within your mind prior to showing any Scripture, so that when he finally shows you a “proof text,” you are predisposed to see it his way. When you see a text that obviously denies this doctrine, the presuppositions that he has planted within your mind will kick in and say, “this can’t be saying what it is saying! I’m eternally secure! I must read it in a way that I can explain away the fact of what it says!” Presuppositions can cause you to lie to yourself.
While it is a fact that none of us start with a blank slate, (some may argue this!) We all form presuppositions based upon what we believe to be a truth or fact. The question that we must all ask ourselves is, does the Bible determine my presuppositions, or do I predetermine what the Bible is going to say? Most of us will say immediately, “Of course the Bible is what determines my presuppositions! ” But how can we tell?
One way to tell if you are letting the Bible determine your beliefs is whether the whole of Scripture agrees with your beliefs. What I am asking you is not if you can explain away every difficulty the Scripture poses to your beliefs, but whether you are met with a difficulty to your position every other page of the Bible. You see, it does not matter one iota whether you can defend your belief in eternal security against difficult passages. The question that matters is whether the Bible posits and defends unconditional eternal security. When it comes to understanding the passages of the Bible, we must remember that the few do not void or determine the meaning of the majority.
We do not have a creed or specialized doctrinal stance that we are trying to sneak in under the guise of biblical preaching. People know that when they watch “In Touch,” they are going to receive a practical lesson right out of the Scriptures. ( Emphasis mine.) Yet I reject the notion that eternal security is just a Baptist doctrine. As you read, I believe it will become apparent that this doctrine is fist and foremost a biblical one.
Does the fact that Charles Stanley denies that he pushing a Baptist creed on his hearers prove that he isn’t? If you believe this, I have some prime real estate in the swamp lands of Florida to sell you! If what he says is true, then how do we explain the fact that the vast majority of Mr. Stanley’s messages center around a singular doctrine that is almost exclusively Baptist?
How do people know that what he teaches is right out of the Scriptures? Is it because he quotes Scripture from the Bible? Cults do this too! So does this mean that whatever they say based on Scripture is equally true? Charles Stanley is so sure that his hearers will blindly follow him that he throws out this statement with an air of infallibility about it! When Charles Stanley speaks, it must be Scriptural!
He says that “it will become apparent that this doctrine is first and foremost a biblical one.” Is that why he spends twenty more pages of his book brainwashing you with Baptist theology before he can even produce one so-called proof passage for eternal security? It becomes painfully apparent that the Bible student cannot draw the conclusions of Eternal Security from the Scriptures without the aid of being shown how to read Eternal Security into them!
Henry Schilling, in his book, The Gift of the Gods, made a statement fifty years ago that seems to have been custom made for a critique on Mr. Stanley’s book. He says,
” There never was or ever can be “a born Securitist.” You reader, or any other truly born again Christian, cannot read the Eternal Security verses and get Eternal Security “out of” them. The only way that Eternal security can be attached to these verses is to “read it into” them. This proves that Eternal Security is an extra-Biblical, external philosophy, seeking Biblical sanction. People are “educated into” eternal Security, just as truly as atheists are “educated into” atheism.”
Mr. Stanley proceeds through this chapter covering his concepts of the atonement and faith alone. Since he uses his understanding of the atonement of Christ in an effort to prop up his heresy throughout this book, I will address his statements from chapters 1, 3, and 18 later on in this paper.
It has already been shown that “faith alone” is not to be found in the Bible. The concept of faith alone is a valuable one if it is not used in the unbalanced and irresponsible way that Stanley propagates it. On this issue, Stanley presents us with a false dilemma. Salvation by faith is at stake. Once good works are introduced into the salvation process, salvation is no longer by faith alone; it is by faith and works. To imply that salvation is maintained by good works (or not sinning) is to take the daily burden of our salvation upon ourselves. He hopes to establish Eternal Security through the application of this statement. He is wants you to buy into his logic and definitions. If he can trouble the reader with the idea that a rejection of eternal security is a rejection of salvation by faith, then he has won the battle for your mind. Notice that he has not given a singular passage to prove unconditional security. For his theory to work, he must get you to buy in to the presupposition that works void out salvation by faith. That is why he subtly inserts the modifier “alone” to his concept of faith.
Scripture is clear that salvation is by faith. It is equally clear that we cannot merit salvation through works. The problem lies in Mr. Stanley’s misconception of saving faith. To him, faith can be nothing more than a brief moment in time, a passing thought upon the grace of God that blasts the individual into a irrevocable relationship with his Creator. But is this concept of saving faith the faith of the Bible? It is certainly not! As already stated, the Biblical definition of saving faith must include the fruit of faith, otherwise it is a sham faith that does not save. Works that are the fruit of faith are the result of the Son of God working in and through us. We are His workmanship, we cannot do any good apart from Him. The inevitable, natural result of faith is works. They merit nothing because we are not the cause of the work, He is! Because we are the instruments in which He chooses to use for His glory, he gives us rewards for that faith. Not that we deserve anything, but that He may show His grace.
But what about the Thief on the Cross, wasn’t he saved by faith alone? He had no works and he was saved! This is a favorite argument for those who want to deceive their hearers into believing faith alone and eternal security. Be honest, have you fallen for this one? This is a case and point that shows how blind trust and presuppositions work. Is the story of the Thief on the Cross proof of salvation with a “fruitless” faith? Let’s see.
The Thief on the Cross is a popular whipping stick of the Eternal Securist. They claim that it proves faith alone. All this only proves the shallowness in which they read and interpret the Scriptures. Look in your Bibles again at Luke 23: 35-44. What we know about the inward faith of this criminal is shown to us by his outward actions, i.e. works. First, he showed his faith by rebuking the other criminal on the cross for jeering at Jesus’ Divinity. And did he not repent openly that he was guilty and deserved this death? Did he not confess the purity of Christ? Did he not pray and request that Jesus would remember him in paradise? Were these not all works? Were they not the evidence and fruit of faith?
Many Eternal Security proponents use the illustration of “If you were to die tonight and find yourself standing before God, and He asked you, “why should I let you into My heaven,” what would your answer be? If the answer is anything that you did, or abstained from doing, then you are not saved. If you confess the only reason is that Jesus died for your sins, then you are saved.” This is a good illustration that holds a lot of truth. But God is not going to ask this question. It is a great tool for use in evangelism, but it is lacking any Biblical warrant.
The question in relation to this is, will God be judging us according to our faith? The Bible is clear on this issue without exception. Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28-29. Paul writes that God “Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality; eternal life.” Romans 2:6-7. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad.” 2 Cor. 5:9-10. Notice that we will receive according to what is done, and not according to what we believed. Peter asserts, that the Father, “without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man’s work.” 1 Peter 1:17. St. John concludes with these formidable words: “And the dead were judged out of the things written in the books, according to their works.” Rev. 22:12. Observe that it is not once said, “according to their faith.”
The works spoken of here are the fruit of faith. Once again, I want to emphasize the words of Jesus that “he who abides in Me will bear much fruit.” Works are not merit, but the fruit of genuine faith which Christ works through the believer. A fruitful faith is a saving faith.
Speaking of the love of God, Charles Stanley states in his defense, If abandoning the faith or falling into sin short-circuits salvation, I have the ability to demonstrate unconditional love to a greater extent than God. I will only leave you with a few short observations and comments on this statement. I will counter Stanley’s argument by stating, “if the wages of sin is death, and God accepts the one living in sin,” according to Stanley, then I am more holy than God! We have seen how Charles Stanley distorts the meaning of faith to fit his preconceptions, and we see it again in his usage of unconditional love! Does God wink at sin in the believer? Does His unconditional love enable Him to accept the one living in willful sin? This is all theological hogwash! The only thing that Charles Stanley proves by his statement is not that he can “demonstrate unconditional love to a greater extent than God,” but that he can tolerate sin, where God cannot!
God’s love is unconditional in that He is not willing that any should perish. But according to Stanley’s definition, God can overlook sin because His love is unconditional. The logical conclusion of Stanley’s definition is that all men will be saved! If these conclusions are not true, then we must conclude that God’s love must be conditional!
There are conditions to salvation. Mark 1:15, says, “repent and believe!” Rom. 1:13, “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” James 2:26 says, faith without works is dead. Jude21, “keep yourselves in the love of God.” John 1:9, ” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” All throughout Scripture we are exhorted that we must remain, abide, and continue in Christ.
People who are constantly examining their spiritual condition tend to fall into the trap of legalism. Legalism is almost always accompanied by two sidekicks: self-deception…. and pride. The Bible says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” It does not say, “look into your past and see if you said the ‘sinners prayer.” Stanley does not want you to follow the Biblical injunction since you will see yourself as you really are. This would bring guilt, which is the very thing that he sought to escape by believing a doctrine that would ease his conscience from his sin. This is evidenced by his statement on page 20 of his book which says, many people have drawn their conclusions concerning eternal security not from a scriptural standpoint but from a practical one. This is no doubt the truth, and is a sound explanation of how such an unbiblical doctrine could gain so much popularity and acceptance! Using Stanley’s doctrinal position, I would like to counter this statement with, “people who are carefree and complacent about their spiritual condition tend to make the grace of God a license to sin. License is almost always accompanied by two sidekicks: self-deception and arrogance.”
If you have learned anything from the preceding argument, it is that Charles Stanley has a Pre-suppositional Theology – Accept a doctrine as truth, build your theology around it, then make the Bible prove it.
SAVED AND SECURE
My experience has been that those who have problems with the doctrine of eternal security have a distorted understanding of what took place on the Cross. You may be wondering, “If our sin demanded a death – but this death involved eternal separation from God – how could Christ pay the penalty for our sin and still sit at the Fathers right hand? If He took our place, would He not have to be separated from God?
As Christ hung on the cross, God abandoned Him. The separation was so real that Christ even addressed God differently…..Jesus shouted not “My Father” but “My God!” The intimacy was gone. Christ was alone. The penalty of your sin was death, physically and spiritually. Sin demanded separation from life and God.
God’s plan is so simple:
We are guilty.
Our guilt earned us death.
Christ died in our place.
We admit that we are guilty.
We trust that Christ was punished in our place.
We are declared “not guilty”
That’s it! And yet that is what some argue we can lose. But how? How can I lose Christ’s payment for my sin? Can God declare me “guilty” after he has declared me “not guilty”?
When Christ died, which of your sins did he die for? Which sins were you forgiven of when you trusted Him as Savior? If the sins you commit after becoming a Christian can annul your relationship with the Savior, clearly those sins were not covered at Calvary.
“Was the blood of Christ adequate?” During my own struggles with eternal security, this question used to haunt me. I knew then as I do now that to accept His blood as the adequate payment for my sin settled the question once for all. ( Bold emphasis mine.)
The strongest argument for eternal security is not Scripture, but this theory of the atonement. By Stanley’s own admission, this seems to be the crux of what turned him from his former position on the issue.
I posted his statements at length to allow a fair critique of his position. The fact that he hits this issue directly in three chapters in his book, ( more times than any other issue! ) shows us how essential it is to his argument. In his eyes, the inevitable result of the atonement of Christ demands the desired result – eternal security. Once he accepted this concept of the atonement, it became essential to disbelieve the overwhelming mass of Scripture that he used to believe. Everything had to be reinterpreted to explain away the difficulties it posed to his conclusions. We will see examples of this as we cover later chapters.
Anyone who listens to the sermons of Charles Stanley knows that his references to this argument are frequent and are presented with the air of irrefutability. What he sees as sound Biblical interpretation, I see it as intellectual suicide.
First, to derive key doctrines by inference and not by direct Biblical proof is just outright dangerous! It is also the mark of a poor exegete of the Scriptures! This is not teaching the Bible, it is teaching theology! It is never a sound practice to use the support for a belief as the foundation for that belief; this is pure circular reasoning! I have found in my dealing with Eternal Securists’ that they routinely fall back on imputation and the payment of sins when they find that their few proof texts will not bear the weight of honest scrutiny. I find it shocking to watch a person who just found out that their belief was without Biblical support, fight so tenaciously for that failed doctrine! Knowing that it is not true, and is a lie, you would think that they would abandon it immediately! But this change of heart happens all too infrequently. The main reason is that they want a religion that is a blanket for their comfortable, sinning religion.
Pride also comes into play, “What will people say? How do I face people and admit that I have been wrong all these years”? No doubt this is a crushing change because is hits at the core of what we believe to be the gospel. I know that it is, I’ve been there.
By exposing some misconceptions, and making some observations about the atonement, I will be stepping on many toes, including many who do not believe in unconditional eternal security. This will be a touchy subject since, to most, I will be attacking what they have held as lifelong beliefs. I hesitate to embark on the issue since I cannot do justice to the doctrine within the scope of this discussion. But since it is the Key to the doctrine that Charles Stanley espouses and propagates, I am obligated to spend time on this subject in order to do justice to this article.
Let me start with the observation that there are many theories of the atonement. Throughout history, the idea of what was the “orthodox” doctrine has been determined by the widespread acceptance of its day. With the transition of time, teaching on this subject has moved from a very broad and basic understanding, to the very specific and detailed model we have today. Any expansion of the doctrine apart from the Scriptures is theory. All theories of the atonement delve into the area of speculation. The problem is, that we buy into the theoretical and accept it as if it were Scripture itself. Now, I am not saying that theory is bad, but that it is dangerous to accept the Biblically unsubstantiated parts as absolute truth.
The theory that Charles Stanley holds to is what is called the Penal Satisfaction View of the atonement. It is no doubt the most widely accepted theory today. Few have heard anything else, and that is why what I am about to write will seem so shocking and outright blasphemous to most. The problem is that most have blindly accepted almost every element of this theory as Gospel truth apart from any clear consensus from the Scriptures.
Nowhere does the Scripture say that Jesus paid for sin, or that he was punished! By this statement, I have probably shocked most of my readers! Stanley’stheory of eternal security demands that sins are “paid for.” This ensures the end result, the salvation of the one who’s sin debt has been paid. This theory is nothing more than a mere assumption. There is not a singular statement in all of Scripture that unambiguously states this, so why would anyone dogmatically claim it as Scripture fact unless their doctrinal idol were threatened? The belief that Christ was punished also has problems. These difficulties and more will be discussed in the next section.
Several questions must be answered. If these doctrines are carried to their logical end, then where do they lead us? The first issue will be whether Jesus paid for our sins. Stanley said, “How can I lose Christ’s payment for my sin? Can God declare me “guilty” after he has declared me “not guilty”?
When Christ died, which of your sins did he die for? Which sins were you forgiven of when you trusted Him as Savior? If the sins you commit after becoming a Christian can annul your relationship with the Savior, clearly those sins were not covered at Calvary.”
With careful questioning and logic, Stanley hopes to lead you down the primrose path. This is known as the sins paid for, past, present, and future approach. If your sins were paid for at Calvary, which sins? All of your sins! In fact all of your sins were future sins 2000 years ago! If all future sins were paid for, then there can never be a possibility of being judged guilty in the future. The result of this? Eternal security of course! This sounds surprisingly logical on the surface, but leads to some difficult questions.
If it was a payment, who was the payment made to? The Scripture does not tell us. So how can we build such seemingly conclusive doctrines based on this? In fact, I will state that the reason that the Bible does not tell us is because there was no such payment!
If it was a payment, who was paid for? The sins of the world! 1 Jn. 2:2, He gave Himself a ransom for all, 1 Timothy 2:6. Here is where the problem comes in. If this payment was real and absolute as Dr. Stanley argues, then we must ask some important questions. If the payment of sin is irrevocable, and the one who’s sin is paid for must infallibly make it to heaven, then we must accept Universalism. If Jesus paid for all, then all must be acquitted on Judgment Day. Since unbelief is sin, and all sin is paid for, then belief and faith are heretical additions to the Gospel! When were your sins paid for? Two thousand years ago! So, salvation is automatic, and the born-again experience is nothing more than waking up to the fact that you have been saved all this time! If you say that it does not come into effect until you have faith, then you have two problems. Show me where it is in Scripture that Jesus is an Indian giver and un-pays the sin in the unbeliever! If He can do this, then why can he not un-pay it for the one who falls away and ceases to believe? Secondly, if you are not saved before faith, then the payment cannot be real and absolute, it is figurative and cannot carry the guarantee eternal security.
Consistent Predestinarians’ ( Augustine, Calvin and Beza, who took the existing commercial and ransom theories and developed them further to what we see today,) hold that the atonement is limited for only those who God has determined to save. If you believe that God is not willing that any should perish, and that salvation is available to all, you show your inconsistency with your use and application of this theory of the atonement.
If Jesus paid for all sin, then salvation cannot be of grace. The cause of salvation is by the merit of payment. Everyone therefore deserves to go to heaven!
If Jesus paid for sin, then there is no such thing as pardon or forgiveness! If I stand before a Judge, guilty of an infraction of the law, he has two options before him. He can pardon, and forgive me, or, he can levy a punishment or a fine. He cannot do both, it is one or the other. If he accepts payment for my violation from an outside source, then the interest of justice is satisfied, and I must be released without any further obligation. If my fine is paid, there is nothing to forgive! The opposite is also true. If he offers a pardon, he must forgo punishment. What the Penal theory must accept is, if it was paid, then God has never forgiven anything! The payment theory of the atonement voids the possibility of forgiveness.
The mercy of God is also voided by this theory. Mercy is the withholding of that which is due. But Stanley says that punishment was not withheld, that Jesus was punished for the world’s sins. This makes the concept of mercy within God nothing but cheap rhetoric. He is not merciful but demands His pound of flesh! We must conclude that this payment shows that mercy is nonexistent in the nature of God since He demands that every sin must be punished.
The conclusion of all of this is that in order for Stanley’s unconditional security to work, there must be a real and absolute payment at Calvary. If the death of Christ brought a legal satisfaction, then those who’s debt has been transferred at the cross, must from that point remain free from all obligation and punishment. If you believe the Scripture that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for your only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” then you must accept that there will be no one in hell but the devil and his demons. If all our sins are paid for, then everybody must be saved since unbelief is a sin! This is where Stanley’s payment theory takes us! This conclusion can be ignored, but it cannot be escaped.
The idea that the atonement was a payment demands that Jesus was punished on the cross.
Charles Stanley boldly states that, “We trust that Christ was punished in our place.” He can only “trust” this, since he does not have one unambiguous statement from Scripture to prove it!
The Bible never states even one time that Jesus was punished on the cross! So we must ask, what did happen on the cross? The Bible unequivocally and without exception reveals that Jesus suffered on the cross. Mark 8:31, The Son of man must suffer. Luke 22:15; 24:46; 17:25, Before I suffer. Acts 3:18; 26:23, That Christ should suffer. Hebrews 13:12, his own blood, suffered without the gate. 1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 2:23; 3:18; 4:1; 5:1, because Jesus also suffered for us….suffered in the flesh. 2nd Corinthians 1:5, the sufferings of Christ.
Look them up for yourself, then try and find a statement of the “punishment” of Christ, that He was “punished” for our sins, or that the Son of man must be “punished.” You will not find it because it is not true!
You may be thinking that I am splitting hairs here. Suffering or punishment, its all the same, right? No, it is not the same! In order for a man to be punished, he must be guilty. To inflict what is due for punishment upon an innocent man is an injustice. But if a man voluntarily suffers in another’s place to whom punishment is due, it is self-sacrifice and heroism. If it is inflicted by an arbitrary authority, it is injustice on one side, and martyrdom on the other. If I go to jail on the charge of murder, but I am innocent, then I am not punished, because I am not guilty. All I suffer is an injustice. Punishment is a legal term that presupposes guilt. It is an impossibility to punish the innocent.
But, you say, ” Didn’t God transfer my sin to Jesus upon the cross?” Charles Stanley writes, God made a swap. Actually, the correct term is imputation. He imputed our sin to Christ and His righteousness to us. This doctrine may be popular, but it is pure theological fiction! Nowhere, I repeat NOWHERE! Is this hogwash found ANYWHERE in Scripture! Guilt and righteousness are personal and cannot be transferred. You can no more impute wisdom to a fool than you can impute courage to a coward. If you were a thief, I could not impute honesty to you anymore than you could impute or transfer your dishonesty to me. Impute means to “count” or “reckon.” It never means to transfer character! Faith is imputed (counted) for righteousness. It does not say righteousness is imputed (transferred) because of faith. To get the transfer that Charles Stanley believes in, one must read that belief into the passages to come up with this.
Theologian, Richard S. Taylor comments on this theory saying, “This is the belief that God not only imputes our sins to Christ but transfers in His accounting all Christ’s righteousness to us, so that God doesn’t really see our sins; rather He sees us as spotlessly holy in Christ.” (The Scandal of Pre-forgiveness) I have heard this theory propagated on more than one occasion that once we get saved, we are “covered” by the righteousness of Christ. So, when we sin, God looks at us but cannot see our sins because all He can see is the blood of Christ.
Charles Stanley and others who have adopted this fiction must ignore the fact that God is all knowing and cannot be fooled as to the true character of an individual. It ignores the fact that God is the God of all truth, He cannot lie. So how can it be said that God can be the all knowing God of truth and call that which is unholy something other than what it is? If we are to follow this logic, many try to extricate themselves from this difficulty by saying that God can see the sin but it only effects our fellowship and not our relationship. But the idea of broken fellowship cannot be reconciled with this doctrine of imputed righteousness. Taylor says, ” If God sees not my sin but my position in Christ, if He views me as clothed in Christ’s righteousness, then how could sin – which has been put to Christ’s account – “break fellowship?” This mysticism and unscriptural idea that character can be transferred from one individual to another is the glue that holds Mr. Stanley’s false assertions together.
The logical course of the Eternal Securist who cannot find a clear and decisive Scripture to defend their position is to fall back upon their twist on the atonement. If sins are “paid for” in the atonement, the logical end is inevitably the salvation of the one who is “paid for.” The conclusion of such an atonement holds regardless of what the Bible may say or not say. It is a creation outside of the Bible and does not need the Bible for endorsement.
This view of the atonement was developed to support and defend the conclusions of the Calvinistic system. The difficulty I have with this “theory” is that it was created to fill a “theological void” within the Calvinistic system. I could understand that if this view of the atonement was the clear and established understanding throughout all Christian history. If it was the only view, it may have more merit, but Church history validates the newness of this thought within Christianity.
This idea of “payment for sins” is so essential to the Eternal Securists’ argument that it is assumed to be the truth without any critical examination. What follows in this mode of arguing that they have is, if they cannot prove their point from Scripture, they move onto the next step in their theology which is payment for sins, and if they cannot prove that, the next step is punishment.
If Christ was punished, then we must explain why. We cannot imagine that this could occur without good reason. From this, they conclude that the punishment must be for the payment of sins, but this assumes too much. The idea of punishment does not prove in any way that sins were paid for. To have a payment however, we must assume that there was a punishment. This circular logic of theirs is dogmatically asserted without any critical examination.
When arguing this issue of unconditional security, we will find ourselves going down a predictable road. Scripture cannot prove Eternal Security, so they fall back on the idea of a payment for sins. If they are challenged to prove this assertion, which they cannot, then they fall back on the next best thing they believe that supports their notion, which is punishment.
Does it really matter if the Scriptures disprove the idea of Eternal Security and payment for sins? Does it really matter if that which we believe is nothing more than a baseless and unproven theory? I think it does!
By now you have probably started to flip through your Bible and started to catalog the verses that you believe disprove my statements. This is good, and I hope to address some of these issues.
Payment: Let me state that propitiation, reconciliation, justification, redemption, being brought near, putting away sin, suffering, dying for sin, and offering oneself up, is not payment. This I hope will narrow the field to the more important passages.
Doesn’t the Bible say that we were “bought” with a price? That we are a “purchased” possession? That were “redeemed” and there was a “ransom?” This is without a doubt true! But none of the above statements say, show, or prove in any way that Jesus was punished or that there was a “payment for sins.”
In what way were we bought with a price? This is in reference to the high “cost” that the Son of God took upon himself in order for us to be saved. The same terminology is mentioned every Veterans Day. Much talk occurs about the high “cost” of freedom, and how many “paid the price.” Ask yourself, if only one person died on our side in World War Two, could we not still say that the individual that died “paid the price”? It is not that 200,000 deaths “purchased” freedom in any way. If only199,999 died, would we have lost the war? You see, it is not a mathematical equation, one Christ does not equal the value of “X” number of sinners. There was a cost, but it was not the payment for sins.
We are His “purchase.” This also says nothing of a fictitious payment of sins. By the self-sacrifice of Jesus, that which was hopelessly lost on it’s own, became savable because of His death. Anyone that is ultimately saved is due to His atonement. His death on the cross gives Him the rights to whatever fruit it bears.
Some see the term of “redeem” as positing the necessity of a payment. The fact that the exchange of His life for those that believe explains this redemption. There was a cost, and it was not a payment for sins. Payment for sins can be assumed if it is read into this passage, but it cannot be drawn from it. Ransom can also be seen as an exchange without interjecting non-Biblical ideas of payment into it.
Punishment: This will take a little more detail. First, I want to cover a few arguments before we look at the Biblical passages.
If sin is personal, and as shown, cannot be transferred to another, then wouldn’t that make God the Father unjust by punishing the innocent? It certainly would!
Also, what would the punishment of the Son do to our concept of the Oneness of the Trinity? You see, if we go by Charles Stanley’s understanding, God the Father is seen as a Holy Being that must punish sin, and by necessity, desires that we would be the subject of His wrath. The Son on the other hand, is desirous of interceding and saving us. So by some strange imagination, God the Father is placated by “whooping up” on the Son. Can you see the absurdity of the Godhead punishing itself? It is tantamount to slapping yourself around and saying that makes forgiving others a possibility now.
According to Stanley, the Second person of the Godhead was separated from the First and Third while on the cross. Can you see the impossible contradiction here? The Trinity is One. If you can separate the Trinity, or take one Person from it, then you no longer have God. God is the Trinity at all times! The Oneness of the Trinity cannot exist if the other Two punished the Son. What we end up with are three Gods instead of One! How could Jesus be God if He were not part of the Trinity? This difficulty vanishes if we believe the Biblical data that Jesus voluntarily suffered for our sins instead of the absurdity of saying that He was punished.
How do we then reconcile the words of God who’s voice burst out from heaven saying, “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” and just before he went to the cross Jesus said, “not my will but thy will” and followed through with faithful obedience. How can we believe that the Son, who is the object of blessing could moments later become the subject of wrath while he was in full obedience?
I find it much more tenable to believe that the entire Trinity was at work providing our salvation upon the cross and that God the Father was always well pleased with the Son. The cross was not the scene of the Father hurling the thunderbolts of wrath down upon the Son, but Calvary was the scene of wondrous mercy and love.
Another problem for this theory of punishment is that it pretends to believe in the necessity of retributive justice. The belief is that God must punish sin, and that this punishment must be eternal separation from His presence is the basis in which they believe the punishment of Christ is a necessity. The difficulty arises when we consider that the rules are unbending, and that Jesus is not being tortured in hell as we speak! If He is bore the punishment that is due to the whole world for sin, then he must be forever separated from God. Absolute, unbending justice demands this! Keep in mind, if He “paid” for just one person, this would be the result!
Securists claim that the “quality” of Christ was sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world, and to release Him from the obligation of eternal separation. This is pure invention and nonsense! No Scripture explains this problem away, and the fact that they admit a compromise in the rules they imposed upon God, proves that He was not sufficiently punished in order to atone for our sin! This requirement would render Christ’s work as questionable at best.
Now to the question of the Biblical verses. Doesn’t Isaiah 53:4-5, state that while Jesus was on the cross, God was going to punish Him? “Surely our grief’s He himself bore, And our sorrows he carried: Yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, Smitten of God and afflicted, But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” This is without a doubt the clearest prophecy about the nature of the atonement the Messiah was to suffer. Most who see a penal theme to this have not ever read the prophecy without a preconceived bias. Notice that it says, we did esteemed him as stricken, smitten by God. Those who saw Christ suffer, instead of understanding that he was bearing the weight of the sins of others in a mediatorial capacity, imagined that he was suffering at God’s hands for his own sins. God knew that people would misconceive what was transpiring on the cross. The passage does not state implicitly or indirectly that God was to smite him in any way.
Many see the term of chastisement as carrying the idea of punishment. It can carry the idea of discipline and correction. Keep in mind that if someone bears the “chastisement” for you, does not mean that they were punished. Punishment requires guilt. To suffer the consequences of the penalty for another is not strictly punishment.
Verse 10 states that “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” In what way was God active in bruising the Son? Genesis 3:14, 15, says, “And the Lord God said to the serpent….I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heal.”It states clearly that the devil will do the bruising. But the crucifixion could not have occurred apart from God willing, and allowing it happen. In view of this, and that God foreknew the result that atonement would bring, it can be said that God was pleased to bruise him. It brought the desired result; reconciliation between God and man. The Trinity, working as One to reconcile the world to himself.
” God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” 2 Cor. 5:19
In Isaiah 53:4, God said that unbelievers would misinterpret the Son’s work on the cross, confusing it with the wrath of God falling upon Him. Today, false teachers misinterpret the work of Christ in the same way!
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Is used by Charles Stanley to vindicate the separation of the Godhead. There are two options that alleviate the difficulty of destroying the Trinity. First, the word “forsake’” does not always mean to separate. In this case it means to “leave in the lurch,” that is, to withhold the hand of protection in the hour of Christ’s greatest need. This is “forsaking” without separating. It means to refuse to rescue from this situation. For many reasons we must consider viable options that coincide with Scripture and bring honor to God without causing a division within the Godhead, thereby preserving the Oneness of The Triune God.
Another option is that the words of Christ were cries of humanity in which he “felt” abandoned, when in actuality he was not.
The words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” refer back to Psalm 22, which is a prophecy of the gruesome death that the Messiah was to suffer. The Psalm illuminates our first option by stating “why are thou so far from helping me?” The question resides in which way was God “far from helping Him,” and “forsaking” him. The text of Psalm 22 reveals this a little more clearly. The abandonment that was experienced was not a separation in the Trinity because of the Father’s displeasure, but an abandonment to suffering. In Psalm 22:1, it was the feeling of the righteous man that God is “far from helping him.” To say that this is depicting an actual separation from God is out of harmony with subsequent verses that express the righteous man’s confidence in God’s presence and help. (verses 4, 9, 19.)
In this Psalm which is doubtlessly a prophecy concerning the crucifixion, we are told the exact opposite of what Charles Stanley is teaching us. Concerning the cry of perceived abandonment that we read in Psalm 22:1, we must balance this in the light of what follows in its context in 22:24, “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.” Psalm 22:24
God the Father did not turn His back on Jesus, and there was no rift in the Trinity. God the Father and the Holy Spirit “forsook” the Son only in the sense that they did not rush in and rescue him during his immense agony and suffering. Also, take notice that nowhere in this detailed prophecy does it even imply that the atonement was a punishment or payment for sin.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us.” Many interpret this as sin-offering as most Bibles footnote this. This avoids the absurdity of saying that God is the cause of sin in Himself. The Father making the Son sinful in order to punish him. It is preferable to view Jesus as the sin-offering or sin-bearer for us. Whatever sense the becoming of sin is, it cannot be literally becoming sin, or sinful in any way.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Some equate being a “curse” for us substantiates that he was punished for us. This statement by Paul is from Deuteronomy 21:23, in which he purposely leaves off part of the verse, “accursed by God” in reference to Christ.
If that applied to Christ on the cross, Paul would have said so! So in what way was Jesus a curse? Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree. Anyone condemned and executed before men is the object of this curse whether they are guilty or not. If they are innocent, they are still the subject of ridicule and shame, and thereby accursed by men. If guilty or possessing sin, they are considered accursed of God. By this passage, Jesus was not.
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” This can be taken as a literal bearing of our sins, but because of the afore mentioned difficulties, it would be more prudent to interpret this as baring the responsibility of our sins. The Greek term can, and should be translated as “bare up” our sins. This is the preferable translation. This agrees with the prophecy of the atonement in Isaiah 53:12 where we are told that he Himself “bore up” the sins of many. We cannot support the literal idea of becoming “sin” when there is not any other passage that demands such a literal interpretation.
I have given you many reasons as to why this punishment and payment theory cannot work as Charles Stanley supposes. As I mentioned early on in this chapter, there are many theories as to how the atonement of Christ works, most of which do not make any reference to payment or punishment. Almost all have one thing in common, the death of Christ is the sole means by which we may be saved. So, to deny the Penal Substitutionary theory of the atonement is not a denial of the Gospel.
” God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” 2 Cor. 5:19
There was no separation of God on the cross, just a united purpose of saving mankind. The atonement is a provision, and not a payment. With this we can still say that the atonement is for all, based upon the conditions of faith and repentance. If there are conditions attached to receiving salvation, then those same conditions must exist to remain saved.
This will encompass chapters 4 and 5 of Mr. Stanley’s book. On this subject, he deals with adoption and son-ship. These are called anthropomorphisms. This ten dollar word describes stating spiritual truths using human images. The problem however, is that many people take these images and run with them to extremes where the purpose of the image never intended to go. God never intended for us to build extensive theologies based upon these images.
The idea of adoption shows a change of relationship of the believer to God. Before we are saved, God is a distant Being. Through the death of Christ a reconciliation has become possible in which we can be drawn into a close relationship with God. So close in fact that we become sons by adoption! This is no doubt a glorious privilege.
Stanley believes that Paul’s reliance on the concept of adoption is a strong argument for eternal security. To lose one’s salvation, one would have to be unadopted!As to Paul’s “reliance” on this concept, I find to be a difficult thing to prove. It is not a secret that he liked to use this image, but as for the idea that he built an entire concept of eternal security out of it is entirely in the imagination of Charles Stanley. Almost all of the hearers of Paul believed that God was a “Holy Other,” that is, a distant untouchable Being. To the Jews, the fact that Jesus claimed to be the “Son” of God was absolutely blasphemous! The revelation that God desires to draw near into a close personal relationship, even adoption, is what Paul was emphasizing. Paul did not go wild with the concept to where he thought that we should conclude anything more than this. There is no warrant to branch every direction with this by developing conclusions based upon human adoption. We are talking about a spiritual adoption, and unless we have direct statements relating to this adoption from Scripture, we are guilty of forcing ideas into the concept which were never intended to be there. By doing so, we have reduced ourselves from Scriptural revelation to mere human reasoning.
To lose one’s salvation, one would have to be unadopted! Stanley attempts to get you to reject the possibility of the loss of salvation by assuming that it sounds absurd. Unadopted? Who ever heard of such a thing! It is not a concept with a human example. But we are talking spiritual adoption, which he seems to forget. Human rules do not dictate the spiritual. God uses human terms so we can understand what He is saying. To go beyond the application that was intended is dangerous. This is what Stanley does with adoption.
In human terminology, we do not “unadopt” someone. We however, can disinherit them! He further states, ” There is no scriptural support for the notion that the adoption process can be reversed.” What he fails to acknowledge is that the opposite is equally true! “There is no scriptural support for the notion that the adoption process can’t be reversed.” Neither one of these statements prove anything!
To believe we can be unadopted is to believe that man is able to thwart the predestined will of God! This is nothing but circular reasoning. He assumes that if we can become children of the devil once again, then we must be going against the predestined will of God. This assumes that it what the will of God is. According to Scripture, the predestined will of God is to save those who continue to believe, and have a genuine fruitful faith. It is also His predestined will that those who do not abide in the Son will be burned. The will of God is that those who endure to the end will be saved.
Why would God choose before the foundation of the world to adopt someone he knew He would eventually have to unadopt? Why not? Answer that please! It is the same reason as to why we must live our lives upon the earth. Why did He create man knowing that he would be an offense to Himself, and knowing that he would be sending the majority to eternal damnation and punishment in hell? Why didn’t He just create a race that could not fall? Why then doesn’t God just go to the end of time, save all he knows will be saved, and damn the rest? This uses the same logic that Stanley uses. By giving man a choice, he becomes responsible for his own damnation. By living our lives out we will know that we deserve damnation if we are not saved. We will know it is all of grace if we do go to heaven. Stanley’s argument poses an interesting question, but it proves nothing.
One of the passages that he quotes from the book of Romans gives us some interesting insights if you actually read it in its context. Romans 8:14 says, ” For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” But what if we cease to follow the leading of the Spirit? Verses 12-13 answers that, ” Therefore,brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.”
The strange logic of Stanley comes through in his use of a false analogy. He writes, If the former is true, we better cross our fingers and hope Christ ultimately defeats the Antichrist in the end. To say that the possibility of being disinherited equates to the possibility of prophetic failure is incredible! One has nothing to do with the other. This is a scarecrow that he creates to make those who deny eternal security think that they are denying the surety of the Bible. Upon close examination we see that his lame argument is nothing but straw.
The very foundations of Christianity begin to crumble once we begin tampering with the eternal security of the believer. Once again, the grand assumption! He equates eternal security with the gospel! I believe that it is the very doctrine of eternal security that is tampering with the gospel! I cannot “tamper” with eternal security because eternal security does not exist! I can no more tamper with eternal security than I could with Santa Claus.
If our salvation can be lost, our adoption into the family of God is not permanent. We can be unadopted, so to speak. Such a process, however, is never described or even alluded to in the New Testament. Mr. Stanley is also mistaken in the fact that he talks as if the believers adoption is a finished transaction in actuality and in the mind of God. In Romans 8:23 we are told that our adoption is not finalized until we receive our glorification. ” Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (NIV). Stanley fails to notice that the Scriptures say that our adoption is not final until the redemption of our bodies. Then, and only then, is the permanency of our adoption stated. We are also told that only ” He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.“ Rev. 21:7. Notice that the status of final and complete son-ship and adoption is not finalized until the future. Also note the implications of this verse! The one who does not overcome does not receive all things, and are notadopted as sons!
As we move a few pages further into Stanley’s book he does something strange, he attempts to defuse this issue by explaining away the Prodigal Son.
The story starts with a father and a son. The son demands his portion of the inheritance immediately, and is granted that request. He squanders it all on loose living and ultimately finds himself slopping the hogs and desiring the hog slop for his own food. Thinking about it all, he realizes that even his fathers servants are better cared for and better fed, so he humbles himself, returns to his father. The father, overjoyed to see him, runs and embraces him. The son openly repents and begs to be a servant. The father quickly orders his slaves to bring out his best coat, some sandals and a ring and puts them on him. He also orders that a fatted calf be slaughtered and a party prepared.
His father, however, did not see things that way at all. In his mind, once a son always a son. Apparently, Charles Stanley does not believe that we must be born-again or regenerated to be saved. The Bible tells us that we are all the sons of the devil by nature. We all were born in sin and this condition. And as Dr. Charles Stanley teaches us, it cannot be changed. Once a son always a son! He has just proven that no one can ever get saved! Of course, Stanley does not believe this, but this one-sided saying comes in handy when he wants to save his idol.
He did not say, “this was my son, and now he is my son again.” On the contrary, there is not hint that the relationship was ever broken, only the fellowship. Let me pause here and give you that hint. Fellowship and salvation are inseparable. To lose one, you lose the other. This lie that they propagate is refuted by one of the passages they regularly use to prove it. It is 1 John 1:6-7. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. Fellowship and continued cleansing from sin are connected! If you do not walk in the light, you do not have fellowship, and if you do not have fellowship, you do not have cleansing of your sin and cannot have a relationship with a holy God! Without this cleansing you cannot be saved! If you are not cleansed of your sin, you will spend eternity in hell!
Many will try to explain this away with the fictional doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ. They claim, without any Biblical warrant whatsoever, that the blood of Christ covers their sin so God cannot see their filthiness. All God can see is the righteousness of Christ. We cannot lose relationship, but we can lose fellowship. They appeal to this from 1 John 1:6-7.
The difficulty with this theory, besides the fact that it cannot be found in the Bible, is that if God can see their sin to separate His fellowship with them, He must see their sin! If God, a holy God can see this sin, and it is no longer being cleansed as this passage asserts, there must be a separation in relationship! Either this “imputation” blocks God’s view enough that even fellowship cannot be effected or it is no mythical imputation at all!
Now, I do not know of any verses that say the exact words that by sin you “lose relationship,” but I do know that to be a son is to know the truth, and if you trample under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith you were sanctified, an unholy thing, it would have been better to have not known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to turn away from it. ( Heb.10:29; 2 Peter 2:21 ). You see, on Judgment Day, your status of “son” will not avail you any privilege any more than being a “son” did for the rich man in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment…..he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me…but Abraham said, Son, remember.
The Scripture says of the prodigal son, “for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again: he was lost, and has been found.” Stanley comments, by “dead” Jesus meant “separated.” That was clearly a figure of speech since the son did not physically die in the parable. I can understand why he must be creative and change definitions to meet his needs. It only makes me wonder what his definition of “is” is!
The Bible never uses dead as “separated.” Greek grammars never use “separated” as an option for dead. The fact that he refers to him as his “son” should not be carried too far. What else would he call him? This is like saying, Joe Frazier, the boxer was in town. Now, Joe has not boxed for years, and that does not make him a boxer now. But “boxer” defines him, just as “son” defines the one that departed from the father.
Stanley is correct in saying that this was not a physical death, but he evades that this was a spiritual death! As far as the father was concerned, this wayward son was dead to him. The Scripture tells us that the son came to life again. He was once alive spiritually, died, and came back to life again. He was lost spiritually and physically, and was found both physically and spiritually. The bottom line? No repentance, no forgiveness. That’s Bible!
Have you noticed that eternal security propagates the same lie that Satan deceived Eve with in the garden? God says, “The wages of sin is death!” Eternal security teaches that sin no longer brings death! In the garden God tells Adam and Eve that “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the daythat you eat from it you shall surely die.” Satan’s response to Eve is the same answer as Charles Stanley! “And the serpent said to the woman, “you surely shall not die!” Adam and Eve did not die physically that very day. But they surely died spiritually the moment they sinned! I can see Stanley parroting the very argument of Satan saying by “dead” Jesus meant “separated.” That was clearly a figure of speech since the son did not physically die in the parable. The wages of sin still remains the same regardless of what Stanley or Satan says. The fact that we do not die an immediate physical death is not proof that we do not suffer an immediate and definite spiritual death.
It is clear that he left as a son; otherwise he would have received no inheritance. It is equally clear that he returned as a son. Without a word between them, the father ran to him, embraced him, and restored him to the visible signs of son ship. He however, neglects to mention that this restoration would not have occurred if the son did not return in repentance to the father!
The prodigal’s father didn’t disown his rebellious son. That is true. It is true however, that the son disowned his father. The result is the same!
Acting like God’s child didn’t get you in. Not acting like one won’t get you tossed out. Fancy cliché’s and faulty logic. Assumes that you can get saved while you remain unrepentant. Repentance and genuine faith was necessary to get in, and repentance for failures, and a fruitful faith are required as the conditions of continuous salvation. If a dead faith can get you in, then a dead faith won’t get you tossed out. This makes for interesting logic, but a dead faith will not save.
SIGNED, SEALED, AND DELIVERED
The wall of assumption continues to be built using the term “seal.” It is no doubt a term that carries the idea of marking ownership and implying security. The word itself does not define permanency or unbreakableness because the word in itself does not imply the mode in which it takes place. Stanley quotes Ephesians 4:30“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Notice that he glosses over the warning of grieving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the seal, and it is implied that there is danger in offending Him. If there were no danger of disrupting this seal, then why does God bring this matter of grieving the Holy Spirit into the picture?
Secondly, Stanley interjects his theology into the later half of the verse saying, “We are sealed right up through the “day of redemption.” The passage says nothing of the sort. Paul writes that we were sealed “for” the day of redemption. We can say that it is “in view of” the day of redemption. The vast consensus of Greek scholarship confirms that the word “unto” which is used in the King James Version, cannot be translated as “until” the day of redemption. If you have any doubts, check several translations and lexicons for yourself. You will also find by careful research that there is not a singular instance where Scripture defines the sealing of the believer as unbreakable or permanent. With the absence of any Biblical proof to back the assertion that we cannot break this seal, we must admit that their argument is purely a product of their own imagination.
Stanley proceeds to bring in another proof-text of eternal security with 1 Peter 1:5, we “are protected (kept) by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Again, we find that our salvation will not be complete until the end of time. But until then, we are protected by ” the power of God.” but he conveniently leaves off the condition of this protection! Through Faith! If faith is abandoned, then the promise of protection is lost.
Too much is made of this issue of sealing when there is no evidence to establish the irrevocability of its application to us. The problem stems from people choosing to read things into it that are not there. Upon close examination we see that this “huge” argument for eternal security is really a non-issue. Wishful thinking may make this a proof text, but the facts are that nowhere does the Scripture define sealing in the manner that Charles Stanley and other proponents for this doctrine force upon it. To say that the intent of this seal is to bring security, safety, and preservation, cannot be denied. Honesty must bring us to the conclusion that there is no warrant to interject the ideas of irrevocable, permanent, and everlasting, where the Bible never does.
WHAT IS BELIEF?
Mr. Stanley spends the next three chapters on the subject of belief. This is truly a vital subject which deserves clarification. The enormous error of Charles Stanley is shocking. The immense lack of scholarly honesty is reprehensible. What he teaches the English student about the Greek text and its conclusions is inexcusable.
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18.
Look at that verse and answer this question: according to Jesus, what must a person do to keep from being judged for sin? Must he stop doing something? Must he promise to stop doing something? Must he have never done something? The answer is so simple that many stumble all over it without ever seeing it. All Jesus requires is that the individual “believe in” Him. I agree with the last sentence of this quotation. All that goes before that is a half truth. It all comes down to this matter of what is saving faith. What is involved in this idea of belief?
You will notice that eternal security proponents will use the Gospel of John almost exclusively over the other three. The reason is John’s ambiguity concerning faith and belief. One interesting characteristic of John’s Gospel and Epistles is that he never uses the term “repent.” With this in mind, we must ask the question as to why.
The Gospel of John was the last of the Gospels to be written. By that time, Christianity had a better foothold in the minds of the people than it did just a few short years before. Does this mean that John is opposed to Matthew, Mark, and Luke concerning the Gospel? They all require that you repent and believe the Gospel for salvation. Are we to take sides on who really preaches the Gospel? This I believe would be wrong. An easier answer to this is that John agrees with the synoptic Gospels, and that his concept of faith, and belief encompasses the idea of a quality of faith that the other three specify. True belief cannot trust and rebel against God at the same time. Rebellion and unrepentance is anti-faith, and cannot co-exist with saving faith. Sin is what put Jesus on the cross, so how can someone truly believe Christ and intend to continuously serve sin at the same time? It cannot be done! Repentance is included in John’s idea of saving faith and belief. To say otherwise is to make the Gospels four hopeless contradictions.
Must we stop doing something? The first Epistle of John dissolves the notion that he taught an antinomian faith. “And we know that He (Jesus) was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little Children, let no man deceive you.” John says the character of Christian faith is opposed to sin.
Stanley deviates briefly to take a shot at those who believe in conditional security saying, The debate is over whether or not a man can be on his way to heaven one minute and on his way to hell the next. This is supposed to lead the reader to the conclusion that this is an absurdity. However, in Stanley’s mind, someone could be on their way to hell one minute and on their way to heaven the next. For some reason, this is not perceived to be an absurdity. If one concept is foolish, then they both are.
Some have argued that the term believe, when referring to salvation, is always used in the present tense, as is the case in John 6:47. The implication is that the believer is one who isalways believing. Therefore, to stop believing is to disqualify oneself from the family of believers. As convincing as these arguments may sound, they are shot through with problems.
I suppose that it is so shot through that we must endure 10 pages of unrelated drivel before he actually tries to face the issue. The primary support for this view comes from the apostle John’s use of the present tense in connection with the term believe. (Remember what I said about the quality of belief in John.) Those who subscribe to this argument (those nasty Greek scholars) understand the present tense to denote continuous, uninterrupted action. In other words, they understand John 3:16 to read, “That whosoever keeps on believing in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” The implication is that “whosoever does not keep on believing will not have eternal life. This is clean, clear, and sound Greek scholarship. The only exception to his statements that I have is that the present tense is always used in Scripture when belief is connected to final salvation. How does Charles Stanley answer this? If someone were to ask me sometime this week, “Charles, what are you doing in your spare time these days,” I might respond, “Well, I’m writing a book and working in my darkroom.” In my response I used progressive forms of two present tense verbs, writing and working. But no one would ascertain from my answer that in my spare time I am writing and working in my darkroom at the same time….The normal use of the present tense does not denote continuous, uninterrupted action. Certainly it can, but it does not have to.
So far he has not given an answer as to why the Bible always, without exception, uses the present tense for believe when it concerns final salvation! All we hear is some ranting about how the present tense is used in English. This is the same as saying that “cutting the cheese” has the same meaning in France as it does in America! It proves nothing! I do not deny that you could probably find some Biblical exceptions of the use of the present tense, but you will not find them concerning belief when it concerns final salvation. Does God mean what he says? He certainly knew what He was doing when He ensured consistency in this matter. Why in the infinite wisdom of God didn’t he consistently use the aorist tense to indicate an action of a moment as Stanley contends? Simply because this would not be true! If that is what He meant he would have said it that way!
“Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again.” John 4:13
The term drinks is present tense, which confronts us with a curious situation. If the present tense always communicates continuous, uninterrupted action, Jesus is saying that those who are continuously drinking from Jacob’s well will thirst again! That doesn’t make any sense. First of all, no one who is continually drinking gets thirsty.
First of all, this is talking about drinking and not belief. Thus, it has little or no impact on the subject. Secondly, it does make sense that Jesus would tell her that continuous drinking would not satisfy her deepest inner desire! By the way, that is what the subject matter of the passage is. The only difficulty with the present tense here, is that Charles Stanley can’t make sense of it in relation to his infatuation with eternal security.
Therefore, to interpret John’s use of the present tense to mean continuous, uninterrupted believing is to make more out of the present tense than he intended. Stanley’s inability to directly prove from the Scriptural usage of the present tense leads us to the conclusion that John meant exactly what he said. Only dishonesty or ignorance could deny it!
” And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in him…..and many more believed because of His word.” John 4:39-41
Here believe is used in the aorist tense. Unlike the present tense, the aorist tense is more indefinite. Its focus is not so much on the time of an event or the continuation of an event as it is the fact of the event.
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, they did not tell him to begin believing and maintain a believing attitude. They said,
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved.” Acts 16:31
Once again believe is in the aorist tense…..why didn’t they just use the present tense to communicate the need for constant belief?
First of all, two exceptions do not void the weight of the vast majority. Secondly, this does not contradict what I said concerning the present tense usage when speaking of belief forfinal salvation; it proves it! These passages concern the act of belief as an event that depicts the passing from death to life, and is appropriately shown by the aorist tense here. Nothing of final salvation is spoken of here. We call this in modern times “getting saved.” It is an event, not a process.
How surprising is it that Charles Stanley would insist that we force the aorist tense upon all the verses that have a present tense in order to reconcile it to his theology! The audacity!
He has only strengthened the argument that we are not saved by a shotgun faith… One blast and it’s over!
Secondly, in view of the Scripture mandate that a saving faith is always a present tense faith. Many people believed in Santa Claus when they were children, but that does not mean they are believers NOW. Just because someone went down the aisle and made a profession of belief seven years ago, does not mean that they believe today.
At the end of this chapter Stanley uses a worn out cliché, Having done nothing to earn it, we can do nothing to lose it! Saying that if someone gives you a gift, it would be impossible to lose it, is poor logic. People have lost gifts, or have throw away gifts that have been given them everyday. In his efforts to avoid meriting salvation, Stanley goes a step further than God by denying the conditions of repentance and faith. They do not earn salvation, but always are the condition of receiving salvation. The logic of Charles Stanley only works if you deny that faith is necessary in any way for salvation.
Faithful to the Faithless?
The clearest statement on the subject is issued in Paul’s second letter to Timothy:
If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him;
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He will also deny us;
If we are faithless, he remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (Emphasis mine)
The term translated “faithless” simply means “unbelieving.” Interestingly enough, this verb is in the, you guessed it, present tense. It is amazing to see how accurate Greek scholarship becomes when the verse seems to favor his position!
This passage in no way posits eternal security. The context itself makes two statements against it. It is implied in, If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If is the condition. If we endure we shall reign with Him, if we do not endure we will not reign with Him.
A direct statement is contained in, If we deny Him, He will also deny us. He will say to those, “I never knew you, depart from Me.” The context determines that the following statement cannot mean that we are eternally secure. So what is it saying?
If we are faithless, he remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself. The first part does say that if we are unbelieving. The questions arises, in which way does God remain faithful? God is unchanging, and will hold faithfully to His promises. He will also hold faithful to His warnings. In all the Scripture he promises to punish the unbelieving, in this He cannot deny Himself. He cannot lie to Himself or go against His nature. God always remains faithful, and He will always punish the faithless. God does not leave or forsake us, but we can leave and forsake Him. God does not take salvation away from us, but we can reject it and throw it away through unbelief. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. Keep yourselves in the love of God. Hebrews 3:12; Jude 21. Why are there no other passages that back up Mr. Stanley’s teaching? If it were the truth, why does this “clearest statement on the subject” stand alone?
When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Ezekiel 18:26
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: Revelation 21:8
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Romans 1:18
Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded but fear; For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Romans 11:20-21
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
God is faithful. He will not allow the unrighteous into the kingdom but has destined them to wrath. This is a fact that we can bank on.
GOLD, SILVER, AND PRECIOUS STONES
You will notice that I have skipped several chapters in Mr. Stanley’s book. Chapters 11-13 do not contain any substantial arguments that deserve the time for extensive comment. I would however like to comment on one argument that I did not cover from chapter 10 of Stanley’s book. The examples of Peter and John the Baptist are used to sell the idea that a believer can cease to believe and remain saved. Stanley’s evidence is based upon the silence of Scripture in that they never state explicitly that they were spiritually lost at any point. This is a tool that Stanley uses in many places within the book. The problem with his approach is that he assumes that the Bible gives every detail about every event in the lives of these individuals. Do we really know what was going on in the hearts and minds, and in the spiritual realm of these people? We can assume much, but sound doctrine is not to be founded on assumptions and what the Bible does not say.
I can take this way of arguing to an extreme by saying that Jesus flew in a Boeing 747 when he traveled to Bethany. Why? Because the Bible never said that He didn’t! It never tells us explicitly what mode of transportation he took. We know that the most likely mode was walking, and not possibly flying. Why? Because the written history of the airplane proves that it was not available in Christ’s day.
The illustration Peter and his denial of Christ is close to this example. The record of his denial does not tell us directly of his spiritual state one way or another. We do know from Scripture that if we are ashamed of Christ or deny Him, He promises to deny us before the Father.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so asthrough fire.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
This statement is one of the strongest supporting eternal security to be found in the entire Bible. This passage is so powerful because we are presented with a Christian who at no point in his entire life bore any eternal fruit. And yet his salvation is never jeopardized.
If this is one of the strongest proofs of eternal security, then we must conclude that the majority of Biblical evidence on this subject is not as sure, which is what is implied in his statement. So, if it can be shown that this has nothing to do with eternal security, then this must be a subtle admission of a lack of Biblical sanction for such a doctrine.
Eternal Securists usually focus on verses10-15 as Stanley does. When in actuality the context of the argument starts at verse 4. ” For one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God; ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
This is what precedes the portion of Scripture that Stanley uses. He would like us to think that this verse is saying that a believer can be fruitless at the judgment, or that fruitlessness is reconcilable with saving faith, but in this he is fatally mistaken. Fruit must accompany genuine faith, which has been proved already. The fruit of faith is not what is directly addressed here in this passage. It is talking of rewards for labors. More specifically, the labors of pastors. This passage was written primarily to pastors who may have drifted from a pure motive.
Notice that they labored and worked. They were not idol and fruitless. There is nothing in this passage that indicates that the “wood, hay, and stubble “were sins, but there is every indication that although these Pastors built, they did not always build well, and were thus going to suffer loss. Jesus points out in Matthew 6:1-20 that if we do our good works to be seen of men, we will only get the praise of men, and not of God. These works are “good” but do not count before God because the motive was not the glory of God, but of men. These Pastors were competitive and were in danger of losing their rewards, but not their salvation. To apply this to sinful living and the average Christian is to wrench it from its context. The greater context may allow us to apply this to Christians today that labor and build and in doing so, continue in the faith. But to use this passage as an escape for fruitless or sinful living is absolutely dishonest and fatal!
Stanley confuses the lack of rewards with the lack of any fruit whatsoever. The context shows that Paul is talking about the rewards for those ministers who work and labor. This is over and above what is required of the believer.
Paul writes to Timothy, “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” (Emphasis mine.) Repentance and belief are the conditions of salvation as laid out by the Word of God. They are things that we do. They are the fruit of a genuine saving faith. The acts of repenting and believing is good fruit indeed, but no one would say that we are worthy of salvation. Abstaining from evil is not a work, it is the natural result of faith and the new birth. Anti-faith, known as unbelief, by any stretch, is not laboring and building. It cannot even possess the fruit essential to salvation. Fruit does not will itself into existence, but is the result of being in the vine. Works are the results of our willing cooperation with God. They take effort on our behalf, and therefore are considered “worthy” of reward. Saving faith produces fruit; the devil’s faith has no fruit. Which one does Stanley contend for?
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this chapter is Stanley’s explanation of what “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” and being “cast into the outer darkness” means. His approach can only be explained by an utter disrespect for the Word of God! He has twisted and contorted Scripture to the point that darkness means light, and light becomes darkness. This is not a case of simple misinterpretation, but a blatant and willful disregard for truth! In this, he elevates his idol of eternal security above God Himself!
The intent of Jesus while telling these parables was to convey spiritual realities through human images. Spiritually, we must ask, what is Jesus saying? We must stay consistent with the meaning that the Bible appends to darkness if it is has a consistent use of the term.
In Scripture, darkness is never used as a positive thing. It is never used in context of receiving eternal blessings. We are told that heaven is a place of eternal bliss. It is a place where we are told that there would be no sorrow or tears. Rev.21:8. Ask any first grader about darkness, and they will never equate it with something good, but with something unpleasant or evil. It must take a PH. D., to have the legal right to redefine the obvious meaning of words!
Dr. Stanley tells us, “It certainly does not mean hell in the parable. How could a master throw a slave into hell? This phrase appears in a similar parable in chapter 22. In that parable an unwanted guest is bound and thrown out of a banquet hall into the “outer darkness” (see Matt. 22:13); it clearly refers to being thrown outside a building into the dark.” So, in one fell swoop, Charles Stanley has stripped the spiritual relevance of all of our Lord’s teaching by reducing whatever he said to the physical world. We therefore have a moral responsibility to tie up all unwanted guests in our homes and our churches, and throw them out physically! Not to mention that if what he says is true, then we must question the superfluity of our Lord’s statement. If the man was bound and thrown out, why make the point of what time of day that it occurred? It would make absolutely no difference! Jesus tells us this for one reason, it is because there is a spiritual significance to His words!
Our Lord says in John 15, that He is the true vine, and that every branch in Him that does not bear fruit, it is taken away. He further clarifies this by telling us that ” If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” If this is not spiritually talking about hell, then Mr. Stanley has just given us Biblical sanction for an Inquisition! We can throw those we feel are apostates into the fire to execute them!
Darkness is a judgment; thick Darkness was one of the plagues of Egypt. Darkness usually carries the idea of affliction. It describes the unregenerate nature. Eph. 5:8, 11. If it is used of a location, it describes the grave or hell. Never, mind you, NEVER is it used in the manner that Stanley twists it to mean! Weeping and gnashing of teeth cannot be describing a mere loss of rewards. This would be as stupid as it is dishonest. It is clearly the agony outside of the blessing of God.
One curious question before we move on. If all, or any of these passages stated that these people were thrown into the light, or that they wept for loss of rewards but were basking in the light of eternal glory, do you think that Stanley would deny a spiritual connection? Of course not! He would demand that they were proof of his doctrine!
You can tell by my tone in this section that the deception that this doctrine drapes over the light of Scripture greatly troubles me. As for Charles Stanley, many people put their trust in this man’s ability to tell them what the Scripture says. It should be no surprise then, that these followers of Stanley can so easily slough off the overwhelming, clear, and decisive teaching of the Bible against this heresy. If they blindly accept what he says here, irrationality has surely taken over.
FALLING FROM GRACE
Chapter 15 deals with the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It is a short chapter that raises no significant details that we need to deal with here. In chapter 15, we finally start leaving off Stanley’s philosophical siege upon our minds, and start getting down to the real issue. What does the Scripture say?
Stanley’s exposition of the text can be verified by most commentaries, so I will not comment on that, but will take exception to his conclusions. At that point Paul stated, “You have fallen from grace.” To clarify his meaning, let’s ask a simple question: To what? If they have fallen from grace, to what had they fallen? Well, what has he been contrasting grace with all along? Works and law.
In this context the opposite of grace is not lost. That does not even make sense grammatically. The opposite of grace is the works of the law. To fall from grace, then, is to abandon the salvation by grace model for justification and to adopt the salvation by works model. The New International Version says, “You have fallen away from grace.” One commentator observes,
The issue here is not the possible loss of salvation for grace is referred to not as salvation itself but as a method of salvation….If the Galatians accepted circumcision as necessary for salvation, they would be leaving the grace system for the Mosaic system. Paul wasn’t threatening them with the loss of salvation, just a loss of freedom.
Once again I have put myself at a disadvantage by allowing the argument of Charles Stanley to have the privilege of access to the mind first. First, I would like to state the verse that he sees as key to his argument: Galatians 5:1.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
What is at stake? Freedom and liberty. What are we at risk of being entangled in? Bondage of the law. Stanley assumes that one can be in bondage and still have salvation in Christ. This is an unbiblical notion. Freedom and liberty are the fruit of grace, which is noted that we can fall from. Stanley says that we can lose grace but not salvation. But what relationship does the Bible say grace has to salvation? Ephesians 2:8 says, ” For by grace are ye saved through faith.” Grace and salvation are joined at the hip according to God. You cannot be saved without grace! So who are you going to believe? God? Or Charles Stanley?
Galatians 5:2 sheds more light on this issue.
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
If we attempt to be justified by the law, we are in essence claiming that grace, and the blood of Christ are insufficient to save. If these believers were to take the step of being circumcised, then by that very act, Paul says that Christ will profit them nothing. Grace is no longer in effect for them! They have rejected Christ and the Gospel for a salvation byworks!
If Christ is the Source of our salvation, then how can it be said that we possess the result without the Source? The last time I checked, salvation was what I profit from a relationship with Christ. How then, can Christ profit me nothing as Paul says, and still have salvation? Salvation is certainly something!
The same conclusions can be drawn from verse four. Paul repeats this twice! We have the double emphasis of this danger of falling from grace!
Christ has become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; Ye are fallen from grace.
It is clear from this passage that those that have fallen were once saved Christians. For it is a grammatical and logical impossibility to fall from something, or from some place, if you were not once there! Once again, how is possible for Christ to be of no effect, while at the same time they are being saved by Christ as Stanley’s book argues? It is plain to see what hoops, and theological gymnastics Stanley has to go through to save his failed doctrine!
We now come to a matter that I believe is of grave importance; the integrity of an individual. Stanley refers to a commentator in support of his position. I included the quote above. If you see Stanley’s footnotes, you will observe that he quotes the Greek scholar and theologian, F.F. Bruce, from The New International Greek Testament Commentary, Commentary on Galatians, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982), page 231. What is so disturbing is that he calls upon a man of such good reputation in support of his heresy. You may ask, “why shouldn’t he call upon sound scholarship in support of his position?” In this, I have not qualm at all! But what would you say if this “quote” was not found in Dr. Bruce’s commentary at all? I am not talking about a simple misquote, but an entirely invented quote! If you can access his commentary, look for yourself! Is this the kind of license that Stanley’s “sin and win” theology gives him? This is what F.F. Bruce does say,
“We have been released from the law”. Circumcision would be “the sacrament of their excision from Christ.”
But Stanley says we are separated from the freedom of grace! Bruce says that we are cut off from Christ. Don’t you think there is a difference? Bruce also says, “They could seek justification through faith in Christ (and obtain it) or they could seek it through legal works (and miss it; cf. Rom. 10:3). “ God had called the Galatians (1:6); to forsake his call for the way of law involved their self-expulsion from his grace, because they no longer relied on it (see comments on 2:21). This is a sign of desperation when you have to play fast and loose with definitions, quotations from others, and the Scriptures themselves!
Dear Christian, you may fall from grace, but you will never fall from salvation. That is for certain. How do I know? For one thing, the same man who warned one group against falling from grace assured another group of the inalterability of their salvation.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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. Romans 8:37-39
I don’t think Paul left anything out. If he did, it certainly wasn’t intentional. If you have put your faith in Christ as your Savior, NOTHING can separate you from the love of Christ. And you can’t get more secure than that!
First, I just want to comment on Stanley’s assumption that he makes at the end of his argument before we get to the exposition of the passage. I don’t think Paul left anything out. If he did, it certainly wasn’t intentional. Mr. Stanley, Paul did not add or take away from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit while he wrote this. He meant what he said, and he said what he meant. You need the reader to assume that Paul unintentionally left out sin to save your rotten doctrine! You may feel comfortable in assuming what you want to interject into this Scripture, but those of us who love truth will never accept this for their rule of interpretation.
Lets take a look at what these passages do say. The context should go back to verse 35 which will enhance our understanding of the issue at hand. First, these verses do not say, “Who shall separate us from the salvation of God?” Secondly, nowhere in these verses is Paul saying that sin cannot separate the one who rebels against the true and Holy God.
To read the doctrine of eternal security into these verses is not warranted, since the conditionality of God’s love is asserted throughout the Scriptures as a whole. God has an unconditional love for the lost as we can see in John 3:16. Other passages, such as the account in Mark 10:21,22 of the rich young ruler, who Jesus “beholding him loved him,” further show the unconditional love of God, yet the ruler went away lost and grieved.
Why does Jude 21 warn us to “keep yourselves in the love of God” if the possibility of separation from God’s love is impossible? In John 14:21 the conditionality of God’s love is expressed this way, “He that hath my commandments, and keeps them, is he that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself to him.” Notice the clear and unambiguous words of Jesus, “He that hath my commandments and keeps them . . . is loved of my Father, and I will love him.“ Only bias and prejudice could impel one to deny the obvious conclusion that sin and rebellion is not the keeping of Christ’s commandments, and that rebellious sinners are not in the love of God! In John 15:10, Jesus makes the same point again by inference, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
Clearly, there is a general love of God that goes out to all mankind regardless of their lost condition, and a specific and intimate love that God has only for those that are in fellowship with him through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. It is plain to see that this passage in Romans is this latter type of love.
Who shall separate us? Paul is addressing two elements here, one being “us.” It is only those who are “in Christ” that are concerned with here, and not humanity overall. Notice that the designation “who” is not the believer himself, but that influence or circumstance that is outside of the believer. The entire listing of Paul is consistent with this context! Death, life, angels, principalities, powers, et cetera, are all elements that do not include the moral choice of the individual who is now a believer. God’s love is present in those who are in Christ, regardless if their circumstances in this life seem to give the impression that his love and protection is being withheld from them.
“Doesn’t this passage say that ‘any other creature cannot separate us from the love of God?’ We are creatures and therefore we cannot separate ourselves!” Oh, what pathetic lengths will one go to save this heresy! The context demands that these “other creatures” are not us! Common usage of words denies this strange manner of interpretation. It makes no sense to say “who shall separate us . . . death, life . . . height, depth, nor we disobedient believers ourselves shall be able to separate us.” As much as Mr. Stanley reminds us of grammatical impossibilities, he seems to conveniently ignore this one!
Security is ours if we remain “in Christ,” and nowhere else. This is not a precarious “in and out” salvation as many have taken the opportunity to misrepresent and mock our position. Remaining, abiding, and continuing “in Christ” is not a difficulty for the one who is truly born-again. We have been given a new nature through regeneration. It is not the excruciating effort of trying to avoid hell that maintains us, but the love of God shed abroad in our hearts that constrains us.
It must be confusing to the believer of eternal security as they must deal with difficulties and contradictions at every turn and almost every page of their Bibles. What is astonishing to me is, how they can continue believe in eternal security when so much evidence to the contrary is available to them.
ONCE FOR ALL
Since Stanley is arguing against the book of Hebrews in chapters 17-21, I will consolidate these statements into one chapter.
Stanley sets his groundwork by establishing that the Hebrews situation is different than our situation. He says, The question with which the group was struggling was not whether to abandon God and live a life of sin……The warning passages, then, were intended primarily for those who were abandoning Christianity as a way of life. The intent of the warnings was to show the consequences of abandoning faith in Christ for anything else, whether it be Judaism, sin, or some other religion.
The first statement is a half-truth. The second I would say is an accurate observation. The second statement contradicts the conclusions of the first. By his own statement, Mr. Stanley contradicts himself when he says that the group was struggling was not whether to abandon God and live a life of sin, and …… The intent of the warnings was to show theconsequences of abandoning faith in Christ for anything else, whether it be Judaism, sin, or some other religion. (Bold emphasis mine.)
The distinction between abandoning God by a life of sin, and committing apostasy to go to another religion has little difference. I want to emphasize that what I agree that the Book of Hebrews is dealing primarily with this apostasy, but that does not limit the application of these warnings to those who reject Christ for a salvation through the law. The application must mean that anything that denies Christ is an apostasy to another religion. This included license, because salvation in sin is a false religion. It is humanistic mysticism and not the religion of Christ.
Stanley’s application of a Once for All sacrifice is tainted by his presuppositions of the penal theory of the atonement. He takes the Biblical idea of sacrifice, and contorts it to mean the same thing as a final payment. The idea of punishment and payment for sins is a foreign concept to the Bible and especially to the writer of Hebrews. The writer sees the atonement of Christ as a sacrifice, which is modeled after the Biblical foreshadowing of the Old Testament. This is a fact that Stanley conveniently ignores in his implementation of these ideas.
By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.
Once again the verb tense that denotes a one-time action with continuing results: “We have been sanctified.” Believers have been made holy; we have been set apart; we have been cleansed to the point of enabling us to enter into a relationship with holy God! In case his audience missed the application of his choice of verb tense, the author of Hebrews spells it out: “One sacrifice for sins for all time.”
It is almost comical to see how Stanley picks and chooses what he wants to see from the Greek text. One moment, the rules of grammar are unsure and inexact in his mind, then when something comes along that he can use in his favor, the rules are firm and could mean nothing else! Twice in this statement he makes reference to the perfect tense.
The perfect tense denotes an action that is completed at a point and time, and the results continue up to the time that these statements were made. In this case, no doubt, it has continued through to today, and will continue for all time. This is a correct observation by Mr. Stanley. His application however, is flawed.
His difficulty comes from the idea that the death of Christ was a once for all payment. This would demand that salvation is a “done deal” as of 2000 years ago! As discussed before, this would exclude faith and belief for salvation, since it comes down to the matter of whether or not your sins were paid for at Calvary. In fact, if your sins were paid for, and unbelief is a sin, then salvation would be nothing more than waking up to the fact that you have been saved all this time!
This theory of penal substitution renders the idea of evangelism as an utterly useless exercise. Either you were saved from eternity, or you were not. God either loves you or He hates you. If He did pay for all, then all who are paid for must ultimately be saved, which makes all our efforts of evangelism unnecessary foolishness. Stanley is entirely inconsistent with the Bible, and the logical end to his own theology!
To grasp the idea of the author of this book of the Bible, we must abandon any preconceived ideas about the atonement beyond the sacrificial idea he uses. The Bible tells us that the plan of salvation has always been the same, we are saved by grace through faith. Without faith, we cannot be pleasing to God. (Heb. 11:6).
In the Old Testament we can see the shadow of the truth of the atonement of Christ through the sacrificial offerings. There is without a doubt a connection here according to the author of Hebrews. As offerings were made on behalf of the people, they were considered ceremonially cleansed from the sins they had committed. The following year, another offering was made on behalf of the people for their sins for that year. The fact that these offerings were for the “people,” did not guarantee that they were forgiven. They must have had faith in order to be saved. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. There was no application of sacrifice on behalf of those who had no faith. Sacrifice never carries the idea of forgiveness for sins not yet committed. The Scriptures say that only the sins we have already committed were covered in the application of the atonement and not our future sins. (Rom. 3:25, 2 Peter 1:9.)
Christ, we are told, made a sacrifice of Himself, once for all. This means that no more sacrifices are required. There is no longer any need for continuous yearly sacrifice. This coincides with the idea that the atonement is a provision, and not a payment. It must be acquired by faith. If faith ceases, then the provision is of no effect. For without faith it is impossible to please Him. (Heb. 11:6.)
We have a permanent Sacrifice for our sins, and so do all who follow after, but just as the Old Testament sacrifices did not cover sins not yet committed, the True Sacrifice does not provide automatic forgiveness apart from repentance and confession. The idea of a pre-forgiveness is foreign to Judaism, Christianity, and the Bible. First John1:9 tells us that, it is only if we confess our sins that He will forgive and cleanse us from our sins. The Scripture’s never contradict this!
What are we to make of the perfect tense in this passage? Stanley is correct in observing that the conclusions that we draw from this passage determines the meaning of verses 12,14, and 22-23 of Hebrews. Unfortunately, besides the objections that I have raised already to his interpretation, there are important exegetical reasons to reject his theory.
As mentioned before, the perfect tense tells us of an action, usually in the past, that either continues to today, or the results continue to the present. Stanley sees this as a payment that continues from the cross to the end of time. But this is not the only way to apply the perfect tense in this instance.
The word “sanctify” means to make holy, to set apart. The perfect tense tells us that this event occurred in the past with results enduring to the present. What Stanley does not tell you is that the phrase “we are” is in this verse is in the present tense. This would be contradictory to say that we were made holy in the past, but we are presently made holy now. This either occurred on the cross, or it is occurring in the present. It cannot be both if it is a “done deal,” or a payment. The idea of sacrifice however, does reconcile our difficulty. As a provision,we are presently made holy through the sacrifice that was made once for all. This perfect tense “holiness” shows a provision in which believers in the past, and all the way up through today are made holy, but are sanctified in the present.
The idea of a “once for all” sacrifice does not mean that if a believer sins, that Christ has to die on the cross again and again. The provision has been made, and the believer has a source of forgiveness that is available through the conditions of genuine faith that produces repentance.
Two verses later he uses this same phrase again:
For by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Heb. 10:14
He has perfected (perfect tense,) for ever them that are sanctified (present tense.) This has been a difficult passage for both translators and commentators. The idea that we append to it carries the meaning that we give it in the previous verses. To apply this to what has already been said, I will translate this passage in this light.
He has perfected (in the past, with continuing results) for ever, them that are now (presently, this very moment) being made holy.
Once again, to have the perfect and the present tense together creates an absurdity if holiness was a past, finished event that results in perfect holiness from a reference point of 2000 years ago, but yet, at the same time, we are being made holy today. This is self-contradictory. It is either completed in the past or it is to be completed in the present, it cannot be both. This contradiction in grammar and logic is the result of Stanley’s payment theory.
It is completely reasonable to see the perfect tense as a provision in these verses. The New International version captures the essence of both the tenses without compromise.
Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those that are being made holy. (NIV) This removes all grammatical and theological difficulties in one step. The text flows nicely when we see the “once for all” sacrifice (provision) on the cross perfecting believers all throughout history, and those who believe now, who are presently being made holy.
From this passage, two things are unmistakably clear. First, Christians were sanctified or made holy through the death of Christ – a process that never needs to be repeated. Second, those who were sanctified have been perfected, or had their guilt removed for all time. That means forever! (Bold text mine)
There are several things which are unmistakably clear that Stanley refuses to acknowledge. If this process never needs to be repeated, then why does the passage say that we are being made holy now? There would be no purpose to this since Stanley said that this is an event of the past that cannot be repeated. If Christians were made holy through the death of Christ as he says, why did God use the perfect tense instead of the aorist tense, which would establish that the event did not repeat itself?
Stanley’s error is that he has to ignore the present tense to make his theory work. This is a problem for Stanley which becomes blatantly obvious as we move through this book. To correct him, what he should have said is, “Christians are sanctified or made holy through the death of Christ – a process that is continually repeated in believers today.
Stanley’s second point changes the perfect tense once again into an aorist tense in meaning. He does not acknowledge the continuous action of believers being sanctified that the perfect tense demands.
They “had their guilt removed for all time.” Observe that the verse in question never says that our guilt is removed for all time. This is theological interjection and pure hogwash! Just as Hebrews 10:12 connects the finality of the sacrifice of Christ for all time, meaning it is available to the end of time for those who believe, verse 14 says that this offering perfects believers for all time, that is, for those who believe throughout history. His sacrifice was a provision that perfects believers for all time. Not in the way Stanley reads into it, but that its effect perfects believers now, and all those believers that follow. The provision is completed in times past, while the effect continues through the end of time. This view compliments the perfect tense in both verses.
To say that Christians can lose salvation is to say that the blood of Christ was inadequate to perfect for all time those whom God has sanctified….”Was the blood of Christ adequate?” During my own struggles with eternal security, this question used to haunt me. I knew then as I do now that to accept His blood as the adequate payment for my sin settled the question once and for all. (Bold emphasis mine.)
Once again, Charles Stanley bares his soul by admitting that he believes in eternal security, not because the Scripture ever says it, but because philosophically, and theologically he came to this conclusion. He never stopped long enough to see whether his presuppositions about the atonement were valid or not. He never read the Bible to see if the Bible supported his presupposition that saving faith was alone. He has not, and will not, because to do so would destroy his idol of eternal security!
It is not a question of whether the blood of Christ is adequate, it is whether He paid for sin as Stanley dogmatically states! To say that the application of the blood of Christ is conditioned upon repentance and a continuous belief, is undeniably Biblical. He attempts to throw the reader into a false dilemma by implying that if we deny eternal security, we cannot possibly believe that what Christ accomplished upon the cross was complete. To say that salvation is a conditional provision is not a denial of the adequacy of the blood of Christ. This line of arguing is like saying that a doctor’s advice is not adequate, when it is we ourselves that refuse to take the prescribed medicine necessary for our cure. Our refusal to cooperate does not show any failure on the doctors behalf. The atonement is an adequate provision to those that believe.
If Stanley could produce one verse that unambiguously stated that one sin was paid for, he would have a point, but in his entire book he fails to prove even one time that the Bible states his assumptions.
In Chapters 19 – 21 we will take a look at how Charles Stanley strives to evade the obvious by attempting to “explain away” the difficulties that this Epistle poses to his “once saved always saved” doctrine.
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by thosewho heard. Hebrews 2:1-3
Stanley’s conclusions about this verse are patently absurd. He says, If his goal was to motivate a wandering body of believers- a group he knew personally and cared a great deal for – and he knew the penalty for drifting was loss of salvation, surely he would have spelled it out; it was certainly not a good time to leave them guessing….yet the author simply states, “How shall we escape,” without telling us exactly what we will not escape!
Stanley seems to be able to build an entire theology of assurance on what the Bible does not say! This is incredible! He clearly does not have any idea as to what they are drifting from, but ignorance in this situation is just fine as long as we do not say that it is a loss of salvation! Why can’t his followers see the danger in this “head in the sand” approach to Bible reading? This passage surely means something!
The verse tells us that “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Is this a loss of salvation, a loss of rewards, or something else? It is clear by the passage that it is talking about how every transgression will be visited by a just punishment. Think about it! A loss of rewards is not a punishment! God does not reward non-achievement. If you do not work, you cannot be disappointed that you did not receive rewards. If you do not work for your employer and he refuses to pay you, this is not a punishment but the reception of what is due.
Stanley’s comments: There is another reason this passage cannot be referring to the loss of one’s salvation. The author is comparing the penalty of breaking the Mosaic law with the penalty of “drifting away” from the message of Christ. The law had nothing to do with one’s eternal salvation…..punishments ranged from paying a fine to losing one’s life. It all depends on the severity of the crime. Nowhere, however, did the law bring into question a man’s eternal destiny. A man did not gain heaven by keeping the law. He did not miss it by breaking it.
Here Stanley confuses the mercy of God concerning violations of the law with the absence of eternal consequences. Just as the Bible assumes the existence of God, the Bible has always assumed that apostasy separates one from salvation. One must be “chosen” in some form in order to be saved. Whether born into Judaism by birthright, or through the spiritual new birth.
The Jews arrogantly assumed that since they were chosen that they surely must be in the favor of God. This was proven many times in Scripture.
In the story of the Rich man and Lazarus, the rich man, a Jew, was in eternal torment for his sin regardless of this so-called birthright. “Father Abraham” could not save him. Sin brought him to this place of torment. The Rich man’s assurance was as unfaltering as any Eternal Securists’. He was one of God’s chosen people! He thought by birthright, that salvation was sure.
While it is true that no one has ever been saved by works, it is equally true that no one is saved without faith. Doing the works of the law would not save them by merit, but in the violation of it, the Scripture is plain that they were not of faith while in the act of this sin. To persist in this state as an impenitent, was to have committed apostasy from the faith. To deny that they were lost for violating the law is to deny the Bible as a whole.
Sin is deadly; it cannot be neutralized. “In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.”(Gen.2:17.) Adam and Eve did not physically die the day they ate of the forbidden fruit. They died spiritually. To say this is not so is to say that God lied to them. Sin is the transgression of the law, (1 Jn. 3:5.) The wages of sin has always been death and always will be. (Rom. 6:23) He who says “I know Him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar. (1 Jn 2:4) He that commits sin is of the devil….and in this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness is not of God. (1 Jn. 3:8-10)
We saved apart from the works of the law, we cannot earn it. But willfully violating a known law of God brings spiritual death. This spiritual law has been established from the foundation of the world.
Stanley rebuts this conclusion with two cliché’s. A man did not gain heaven by keeping the law. He did not miss it by breaking it…….A man does not drift into salvation. Does it really make sense that he can drift out of it? This means nothing more than that Stanley believes that someone who comes in the front door cannot exit out of the back! This is intellectual suicide and stupidity; it is flawed logic at best. Falling away from salvation does not have to take the same path as coming to salvation. What Stanley misses however, is that faithbrings us into the experience, and sin, which is anti-faith, takes us away from it.
By this, I have demonstrated a straight line in and out of salvation for him using this analogy of faith, would he accept the conclusion?
In chapter 20, Mr. Stanley titles this as “Warning 2: Falling Away.” Before we move onto the verse and his comments, I just want to clarify that the Book of Hebrews has more than the three warnings that he lists. He evades Hebrews 3:12-14 for some reason unknown to me.
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;
Stanley’s evasion seems to have an obvious reason; the truth. The context of this verse talks about the wrath of God upon the rebellious Israelites. Wrath is explicitly stated, which brings in an interesting observation. Don’t eternal security proponents usually argue that a believer has “no condemnation”? And that they can never be the subject of wrath?
Here the writer states clearly that there is a direct connection between unbelief and departure from God. That this hardening comes through the “deceitfulness of sin.” it is also affirmed that it is only if we hold to the beginning of our confidence, to the end, that we are partakers of Christ.
This passage is so clear in what it says that even Dr. Stanley, with his vast abilities, could not dodge its obvious meaning.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. Hebrews 6:4-6
At a glance these verses do appear to support that view. But unfortunately for those who do not believe in eternal security, these verses seem to go a step beyond what they believe.
If the subject of these verses is salvation, believers who “fall away” can never be saved again! There is no second chance. In the authors words, “It is impossible to renew them again to repentance.”
Here Stanley attempts to weaken the force of the argument of those who oppose his false security by making this verse say something that they do not necessarily teach. In fact, it is hiswillful academic blindness about the importance of the present tense that leads him so wildly down the path of destruction.
Why is it impossible? Because they (present tense) are crucifying the Son of God afresh. It remains impossible only while they are presently crucifying Him. If they ceased to do so, there is nothing within this verse that would imply that they could not be reconciled.
“Fallen away” clearly implies apostasy; the writer was describing the plight of people who had gone so far as to abandon the faith entirely…..he does not say that the individuals cannot be forgiven or restored to salvation.
Stanley deviates in a surprising move away from the “canned” answers of most Eternal Securists by admitting that this was an apostasy of true believers from the faith. He however, denies that they have lost their salvation by doing so. He only denies them the ability to repent. This is without a doubt an impossible interpretation. This is to say that God is not willing to bring all to repentance. It says that God is content to have “saved” sinners abiding in the vine while they curse and re-crucify Jesus Christ as a fake and false Messiah, believing that He deserves to be tortured and crucified!
Being “brought back” to salvation is the issue! Repentance is required in order receive reconciliation with God. Jesus only saves those who obey Him. (Heb. 5:9) He will accept no other competitor as savior! Let us therefore labor to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Heb. 4:11)
All Stanley has presented here is a pathetic dodging of the truth. It would improve his scholarship and his theology if he only accepted the present tense that is found uniformly in the Greek text of these passages.
We now move on to “Warning 3: No More Offering”
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. Hebrews 10:26-31
Isolated from its context, this stern warning can be easily interpreted to teach the possibility of losing one’s salvation…..if we take the passage at face value- without qualifying it as many do- any intentional or willful sin we commit after we have received the truth eliminates our potential for being forgiven. After all, if forgiveness comes through a sacrifice for sin, and there is no more sacrifice for sin, there is no forgiveness.
Much ado is made by Stanley about the context here. He implies but never proves that the context says anything other than what is drawn from anything but a plain reading of the text. In fact, it is he that wrenches the meaning of these words out of their contextual setting. Also, he sets up a straw man, i.e., an argument that is easy to knock down, but is not in all actuality the position of most of those who see this as a warning of the possibility of forfeiting their salvation.
Stanley continues to strengthen this misconception by telling his readers, Those who use such passages to validate their disbelief in eternal security rarely take their interpretations to their logical ends.
Well, isn’t this the pot calling the kettle black! His entire theology is the standard by which we can gauge the folly of failing to follow doctrine to its logical end. His atonement demands universalism and his eternal security denies free-will. Somehow, we are free to accept salvation, but we are not free to reject it!
I also want to make the observation that we do not use such passages to “validate” our “disbelief” in eternal security. This passage is the Bible validating itself! It is not something that we invented or which we have made an effort to distort the plain meaning of words. We do not use the Bible to “disbelieve” Stanley’s doctrine, but we do “believe” the warnings when God says that it is possible for the careless to fall away. We believe the Scriptures; Stanley believes the doctrine of eternal security. It is Stanley and his followers that are in disbelief.
One may argue, “This passage applies only to those whose life-style is characterized by sin.” In other words, there remains a sacrifice for sin if there are only a few sins or if they are spread out over time. The problems here are twofold. First, nothing in the Greek text justifies a translation implying that the author has a life-style in mind here. The King James Version is the most accurate when it says, “If we sin willfully.”
Stanley makes the argument “nothing in the Greek text justifies a translation implying that the author has a life-style in mind here.” In this, Stanley has progressed from willful academic ignorance to outright distortion of the truth! Just because he found some obscure comment from someone who fuels his need concerning this verse, is no excuse for ignoring the impact of the Greek text. He is deceiving his English readers of the possibility of other options here. The word “sin” (here we go again!) is in the present tense. The idea is that they are sinning now. This is not an isolated case of an individual sin. The King James Versions interpretation does not exclude the present tense, but is ambiguous in that it can be misunderstood by English readers to mean something other than what the Greek text says. A minimal amount of scholarship would do wonders for Charles Stanley’s theology and integrity.
Second, the Bible never makes a distinction between which sins Christ’s death paid for. The reason why the Scripture is silent on this is for the same reason that we cannot find that Jesus smoked cigars and played poker! It is not there! Jesus’ death did not pay for sin!
Stanley takes great pains to put the idea into the minds of his readers that the “there remains no more sacrifice for sins” means that Jesus cannot be offered again. He implies that if we say that we can lose our salvation, we must be able to re-sacrifice Jesus in order to atone for those sins. This ignores that the sacrifice is a provision that was made once for all. It is aprovision that covers the one who repents and believes. As a provision, it can be accessed without the absurdity and unbiblical conclusions that Stanley wrongly interjects into his argument.
If there is a sacrifice for a few sins, why not a sacrifice for all the sins a Christian commits? Once again, he confuses sacrifice with payment. A sacrifice is only of value if it is accompanied by faith. This is the rule of the Bible, and shall always be. Continuous sinning is not belief, but a rejection of the Savior that died on their behalf because of sin. The atonement is on behalf of the entire world. It is sufficient for all the sins of mankind, but that does not mean that all will be saved. Nowhere does the Scripture assume this universalism.
The authors point is clear: There is no more sacrifice for sins of any kind for anybody. Stanley rips the passage out of its context. The passage is clear in its application. It says that there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins for those who keep on sinning willfully! Where is the inclusive “anybody” that Stanley inserts? It is not there!
Also, the passage unambiguously narrows the field by further clarifying that this applies to those who “trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, (a term never applied to one who was not saved,) an unholy thing, and hath done despite the Spirit of grace?” This is not anymore a description of “anybody” than it is the description of one who is presently a believer! This is a description of an apostate from the faith! Once the benefactor of God’s grace, and now the object of God’s vengeance!
Stanley further convolutes this passage saying, The statement, “There no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” is not meant to be negative. This is utter foolishness! This is stated as aresult of present, willful sin! It would be absolutely foreign to the flow and context of this verses to deviate from a warning to make an unrelated historical statement out of the blue as Stanley argues. If this is not negative, then can we believe anything we read in the Bible?
Verse 27 immediately brings into mind 1 Corinthians 3. Once again a biblical writer uses the coming judgment as motivation for godly living….Many penalties are worse than death…..To stand at the judgment seat of Christ and see our works burned to ashes would be “a much severer punishment” than death (Heb. 10:29). How anyone could believe such an impossible interpretation is beyond all comprehension! First, There is nothing within this verse that even implies rewards. The burning of our good works that do not meet the test isnot punishment! This “certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries, has nothing to do with the believers rewards in heaven. This is the vengeance of God reserved for the devil and other adversaries! Those who walk away from the truth are not “sinning saints,” or other cute phrases, but they are calledadversaries!
How can anyone believe that the absence of rewards is “a much severer punishment” than death !! (spiritual)? How can we say that the horrors of an eternal hell are not as severe as the believers loss of reward? This is preposterous!
DOES GOD HAVE AN ERASER?
This will encompass chapters 22 and 23 of Mr. Stanley’s book. In theses two chapters, Stanley sets up his argument by deciding which “book of life” supports eternal security, and rejects the passages about the book of life that do not fit into his scheme.
I will proceed to the meat of his argument which is contained in two verses.
And who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has Not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Revelation 13:8, italicized emphasis mine
And those who dwell on the earth will wonder, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. Revelation 17:8, italicized emphasis mine
From these two passages it becomes evident that he certainly did not believe names could be erased. Stanley posits that, if God entered names according to His foreknowledge, it follows that He could erase them according to foreknowledge, both His writing and His erasing would be complete before the world began. In that case, no one needs to live with the fear that his or her name will be erased from the book of life sometime in the future. But if that is the case, Revelation 3:5 is no longer a problem.
Stanley gives us a fine piece of logic here; this however, overlooks some very important details. First, we must look at the setting of these statements. They are in the most figurative and misunderstood book of the Bible. Secondly, who are we that we can claim to look into and understand the workings of God; and before the foundation of the world at that! If God chooses to write names in at the foundation of the world, then erase them later, puny man cannot dictate that He cannot! Thirdly, we must look at the conclusions of Revelation 3:5 and other verses. We must accept them as true also. Stanley is teaching us a dangerous method of interpretation; just because we cannot reconcile seemingly contrary verses in our finite minds, is no reason to follow him in excluding the ones we do not like!
Another thing to consider is that most Eternal Security proponents believe that the atonement covers the sins of children until an age of accountability. They base this partly upon the fact that Jesus Himself said that children will go to Heaven (Matt. 19:14); and if this is true, then must not their names be written in the Book of Life, from birth? And each name is only removed (blotted), when that child reaches the “age of accountability”, and consciously rejects God? Either God does not save children, or, if He does, their names must be written in the Book of Life in order for them to be in heaven! If they were in the Book at birth, then we must accept that they could have their names blotted out later.
You will notice the bold word “from” in the afore mentioned verses. By looking at the original Greek language we will see a possible option in reconciling these passages.
According to Greek lexicons (Perschbacher, Moulton, Bauer, Liddell and Scott), the word “from” in both of these passages which is the Greek word “apo,” does not carry the idea of “at” or “before.” Perschbacher states in agreement with the others, “apo, prep., forth, from; hence, it variously signifies departure; distance of time or place, avoidance; riddance; derivation from a quarter, source, or material…” Bauer states, 2. of time from–(on), since…” Liddell and Scott has “later of Time, from, after, since.” Notice that “at” or “before” are not even listed. The sense of “apo” is “away from,” never “before.” In spite of these facts, many translations use “before” as the meaning; (see the Living Bible, RSV, TEV, on both 13:8 and 17:8). One could easily see that this is driven by theological bias rather than lexical fact. Bias can be claimed against the Jerusalem Bible and the NEV, in which both translate “since the world was made,” but one cannot deny that this is more in alignment with the primary meaning of the word “apo” according to the lexicographers. Most translators take the softer term “from” that is more theologically neutral since one can read it either way (KJV, NIV, and Phillip’s). This brings up an important question; why the writer (John) did not use a more definite term to indicate “at” the beginning of the world, when he had one of many common Greek words he could have used that would have contained that idea without the least ambiguity, leaving no room for debate?
I do not believe that John or the Holy Spirit’s intent was to leave ambiguity, but to tell us something! I believe the best interpretation of the Greek word in these verses would be to translate it as “since” the foundation of the world, but not “at” or “before” the foundation of the world. If we are to translate the word “apo” as “since” in this passage, we could draw the idea that from the beginning till now, God is adding and taking away names from the book of life. This idea is clearly allowed by the usage of this word, and is nowhere denied in the Word of God as pagan fatalism is. This is well stated in the Jerusalem Bible as, “everybody whose name has not been written down since the foundation of the world in the book of life…”
The main objection to this is the occasional use of “apo” being translated as “at” in the KJV and NIV. The main passage that is appealed to is Matthew 19: 4, “and he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made … at (apo) the beginning made them male and female” While this points to a particular point and time, we must also note that it cannot be “before,” and we should also note that man and woman came into being after the “Beginning” in terms of several days. Phillips translates this as “the one who created themfrom (apo) the beginning made them male and female…” which is more accurate in terms of specificity. (See also the Jerusalem Bible, TEV, RSV). All other examples of “at” (apo), which is translated nine times out of the total 656 uses in the New Testament of the KJV, can easily be translated with “from” or “since” without any difficulty. This leaves little possibility that in the few connections of (apo) to “the Beginning,” the Holy Spirit suddenly makes a sharp deviation in meaning from the entirety of Scripture usage to mean something else. Either way, it is not sensible to erect a dogmatic tower built upon an ambiguity in Rev. 13:8 and 17:8 to arrive at any particular doctrine whatsoever; this does not seem to stop people from using these passages to bend and distort the meaning of every major doctrine concerning salvation because of a whim or assumption! To demand that (apo) here means “before” or “at,” and to use these passages to arrive at a logical conclusion or proof-text of Eternal Security, is mere theological presumption; it is not the result of honest exegesis.
We now come to the sticky verse that Stanley feels he must refute in order to salvage his doctrine.
He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life. Revelation 3:5
It is unfortunate that this passage in Revelation has become a focal point of controversy. The result has been a fixation on what the verse does not say rather than what it does say. This verse was never intended as a warning…….to assume from what is said here that God will possibly erase names from the book of life is to read into the text a concept clearly not present. His whole argument here is entirely hypocritical! His entire contention throughout this whole book is based upon the very method of argument that he disparages here. If you take away Stanley’s pattern of proving eternal security from what the Bible does not say, then he has no argument at all!
Can we ask then as to what this verse is saying? Stanley does not seem to be able to tell us that! Certainly, God meant to convey a truth to us in this verse. To evade this verse by a slight of hand by commenting on what it does not say, then moving on, is to imply that God engages in idol babble. If these words do not have any application whatsoever, God might as well have written that if we overcome, He will not dress up in a Bozo suite and jump up and down on us while wearing golf shoes! God has a purpose as to why He inserted these words into the Scriptures! They have meaning, and they have a purpose! ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16. Stanley’s evasion of dealing with this passage seems to imply that this passage cannot be used for the purposes of reproof, correction, and admonition for righteousness. Stanley does the opposite of what Scripture’s tell us to do! By focusing on what the Bible does not say, and drawing conclusions upon that, he is making what God does not say as “profitable for doctrine” instead of He does say!
The context of this passage should dispel the notion that the term “overcomer” is synonymous with the term “believer.” There is no doubt that the overcomer is a believer, but is a description of the type of believer that will not be blotted out.
” Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” Revelation 3:3
The context of the verse describes those that may have their names blotted out. The Spirit is writing to the church at Sardis. Some described here received and heard. The warning that Christ may come when He would not be expected, would only have meaning to those who believed that He would return. Once again, the warning is to the church!
“Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.” Revelation 3:4
This passage will have no reference unless the individuals described had clothes that were at one time not soiled. This passage implies that they were at one time cleansed and saved. Those who had soiled their clothes by their sin are asked to repent and obey what they had heard in order that they too may be dressed in white and not have their names blotted out of the Book of Life.
Stanley argues in the 23rd chapter that being erased from the book of life in several instances does not mean “God’s” book of life, but some physical book here on earth. In this he fails to make his case, but one thing of interest is the overt avoidance of Revelation 22:19, where God tells us “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part out of the book of life.” Here we have an example of what God does say.
David writes, “May they be blotted out of the book of life, And may they not be recorded with the righteous.” (Psalm 69:28) When David refers to the “book of life” in Psalm 69, he is talking about God’s record of the living. “Life” is a reference to physical life, not eternal life. If this were mere physical death, then why the comment about “not being recorded with the righteous?” This is clearly spiritual in nature, and not physical.
Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin- and if not, please blot me out from thy book which thou hast written! And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot him out of My book.” Exodus 32:31-33
Here again, the “book” refers to a register of the living. Stanley reduces what is said here to physical death. If this is true, then why did God say that He would “blot him out of my book” and fail to strike them dead right there? After this terrible warning, we see that they all went on to a timely death, so that would suggest that God does not mean business when He says that He does!
We also must consider the logic at hand here. Isn’t the register of the living a product of the foreknowledge of God? If this must be kept up to date, then why couldn’t a spiritual “book of life” operate the same way?
Nowhere is it even hinted that those men and women were sent to hell. It is interesting to see how Stanley gets muddled in self-contradiction. Facing a difficulty, he immediately falls into what he condemns others for, resulting in ”a fixation on what the verse does not say rather than what it does say.” (p. 178, 179)
The argument is a moot point. The Old Testament does not have a developed concept of heaven and hell. That is the reason that there is no reference to it! If silence in the Old Testament proves what Charles Stanley is saying, then we must conclude that Jesus was wrong about the existence of heaven and hell! Stanley may be comfortable with the logical end to his conclusions, but I am not!
In reference to what David requested of God in Psalm 69:28, Stanley sees to be a difficulty if David were requesting that individuals would be cast into hell. It would be rather disconcerting to think that a man after God’s own heart would pray for the removal of someone’s name from the Lamb’s book of life. What Stanley forgets that it is God’s heart to punish the wicked! To question David’s character here would be to question God’s.
Charles Stanley would feel more comfortable in saying that God would be the Divine Hit-man for David and “whack” his enemies by striking them dead, than to say that David would pray for their eternal damnation! For some reason, I find Stanley’s idea of a “man after God’s own heart” just as “disconcerting”!! And wouldn’t this result in the same thing that Stanley wishes to evade? Isn’t the result the same? Wouldn’t their destiny be sealed, and their place after their death be the abode of eternal torment? Their names not being in the Lamb’s book of life?
Lastly, I would like to address this issue of being blotted out of the book of life. How can we, in all honesty, deny that a name must be in the book before it could be blotted out? If they were not in the book of life, i.e. saved, they could not possibly be found to be blotted out.
Revelation 3:5 is certainly in the category of a promise for those that overcome. The later half therefore must apply to those who do not. This implies that they started the race, but gave up along the way. This is addressed to believers because in the Scriptures, unbelievers are never exhorted to overcome, but to repent and believe. When they do so, then, and only then, does the race begin.
If Stanley does not believe that it is God’s heart to punish the impenitent, then we must conclude that he is not a man after God’s own heart.
Charles Stanley says, I have never met a Christian who has lost salvation. But I have! Stanley’s line of argument proves nothing! When investigating an auto accident, the police do not interview witnesses who did not see the accident, but those who did see it. There is no evidential, or spiritual value in Mr. Stanley’s statement.
The very gospel itself comes under attack when the eternal security of the believer is questioned. The truth of the matter is, it is when the heresy of eternal security is debunked in the minds of believers, the Gospel is rescued. The Baptist doctrine of “eternal security” has been around for a few hundred years. To say it is the “gospel,” is to say that all who lived before that time did not have the Gospel. This idea that we can take a newly invented doctrine and claim it as the gospel of the ages, is absurd, and puts the doctrine of eternal security on par with the Book of Mormon…..just another fable to be discarded!
I wish to conclude with a summary of the main points that were touched upon in this critique of Dr. Stanley’s book.
Stanley came to believe eternal security because of insecurity and “feelings.” And not by the Scriptures. He feels justified in believing a doctrine for “practical” reasons apart from the Scriptures.
Stanley came to this belief partly due to an non-biblical concept of faith “alone.”
Stanley incessantly draws back to his unscriptural concepts of the atonement when he cannot come up with a way to wrench Scripture to justify his side.
Stanley builds this tower of error upon the presumption that the first three points are true. One must assume faulty concepts are true in order to prop up this unbiblical theory.
Stanley’s argument depends on quoting inaccurately, and using obscure and isolated comments from other sources that lack validation from others.
Stanley depends on the fact that you will discount the rules of grammar, and the accepted rules and usage of the Greek language along with him. To accept this truth of the present tense is to destroy unconditional eternal security.
Further Reading: Proof-texts of Eternal Security