One of the most prevalent and toxic counterfeit doctrines to plague the Christian Church in the modern era, is the impulse to use theurgy to apply the promises and prophetic names of God to manipulate and coerce him. The inclination and practice are so thoroughly ingrained into God’s people that they are difficult to distinguish from the normative practice and dogmas of the core, apostolic Gospel. Those who recognize the practice will generally note it in the Word Faith movement’s attempts to use the promises of the Old Covenant to grow rich and self satisfied. That is of course a serious breach and one that needs to be addressed. If for no other reason than to point out the fact that if you claim the blessings you are bound by the commandments and liable for the curses. Claim the Abrahamic blessing of wealth and you incur the responsibility for obedience and sacrifice, and the curse of rejection, blindness and separation for failure.
However that is not the focus of this letter and though it is related, it tends to eclipse an equally serious breach. The New Covenant contains many promises for intimacy with God, blessings in life and most of all assurance of God’s competency to save your soul and protect it from the attack and thievery of Satan. These promises are affirmative and reliable just as certain as death. The error comes when people, lacking the baptism of the Holy Spirit and bound by the carnality of the new-born, milk-fed Christian begin to teach.
No matter how thick and defensive we may be, it is impossible to teach the scriptures for any length of time before one notes that a teacher is to be held to a higher standard than the members of the congregation. When the teacher is confronted with this reality he is forced to seek the means to meet that standard or make excuse for why he is exempted. Inevitably this leads to misusing the passages regarding the blessed assurance to give license to live a life of rebellion and disobedience.
This heresy, variously called Eternal Security, Perseverance of the Saints and Once in Grace Always in Grace ultimately takes the form of tacitly using the promises of security to coerce God into modifying his New Covenant to allow sin to go unrepentant in the life of the Believer, or to suggest that the capacity TO sin is sign that one was never genuinely saved. The one is theurgically coercing God to change his mind, despite his clear assertion,
“I change not.” The other is judgmental to the point of condemning the walk and the accomplishments of one of God’s servants. What’s worse if someone falls away, and is told they never were saved in the first place, it will be nearly impossible for them to trust God. How can they trust if they find that the new relationship is not significantly different on God’s part from the one they had with him before they fell away.
Now the first thing a good Arminian brother will point out is the Book of Hebrews, where we are told that if one falls away they CAN’T come back:
For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.
Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.
Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation.
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. Heb 6:4- 10
The thing to note is that immediately after saying that it is impossible for the believer who falls away to be restored he mentions ground drinking water and thorns, a type of weed that looks like wheat but invades wheat fields and poisons the soil, killing the wheat grass. This immediately recalls the parable of the sower in Luke:
Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture.
Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Luke 8:6-8
Now Jesus parable can be obscure, although I maintain this one isn’t. So let’s look to the words of Jesus our Lord himself, for an interpretation:
The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.
As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.
But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. Luke 8:13-15
What we see is that the seed was good, we know from verse 13 that these are not those who “the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts.” Instead, these are three classes of people who take the word to heart and Believe. We know this because those who in verse 15 are seen as the good and fruitful soil are juxtaposed to the verse 13 faithless in EXACTLY the same way. But while that obviates their status as believers, equivalent to the faithful in every respect except for endurance, it doesn’t answer the Arminian objection to their opportunity to repent.
Let me say that I firmly agree with the Arminian position, if a believer is thorny or stony and the faith dies within them they are damned. They cannot be resaved because Christ came ONCE for all not one every communion or once every time you pray a prayer of sorrow and regret.
However, we also cannot discount the references to God’s perseverance in pursuing the black sheep, or the clear reference to his competence to retain the believer. We cannot be “snatched from the hand of God.” How do these passages reconcile short of disputing Jesus as saying the fallen were never saved?
James holds a clue that harmonizes with Jesus reference to the Good soil. Jesus says the good soil are those who hold the word tightly “in an honest and good heart.” It’s clear that Jesus is suggesting that the drought and the thorny tears have an effect even on the good soil. Even they have trouble. The sense in the passage is that the status of good soil versus, stony or thorny ground is assigned in the final analysis rather than initial planting. “Those who endure to the end” are the good soil, the saints, the redeemed and the predestined; not the other way round.
The Clue in James I referred to is found in the last nine verses of the Epistle.
Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation.
Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise.
Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
Eli’jah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.
My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back,
let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. Jam 5:-20
Repeatedly the scripture speaks of those who are happy as being those who have taken God as their lord and whom God has adopted as his chosen children. “Happy is the man whose God is the Lord.” But here the happy man is the one who is steadfast like Job. Job was made sick and suffered at the hands of his wife, God’s indulgence with Satan, and his so called friends. All four friends of Job spoken evil in the name of helping him and made his suffering greater by attempting to make him believe it was deserved.
Elijah on the other hand was a man prone to cowardice, a sin punishable by death in the old covenant, depression, shallow faith, rage and pride. Yet when Elijah spoke the rain stopped at his command and fire poured out of heaven. Job in his righteousness had torments in his life and Elijah who was inconstant was one of the greatest men of God and was assumed into heaven without death.
In context of reminding us of these great men of God, James tells us that someone may wander from the truth but a fellow believer may well “bring him back.” James ends with a bold statement, whoever “brings back a sinner” who is one of the brethren, “will save his soul from death.” The death of the soul is always a reference to eternal damnation. How can one be “brought back” if they have fallen away and are beyond repentance. The answer is they haven’t YET completely fallen away. Paul talks about Christian life as climbing and the “back-sliding” that can occur. Believers may slide back into a life of sin and doubt yet not have fallen to point that the word has perished from their hearts. People in this state are damned if they die in that condition. We know that because as James says, a fellow believer has not covered their “multitude of sins.”
So in the final analysis even if you have fallen into doubt and fear and are hiding in a cave waiting for the prophets of Ba’al to kill you yet repented when God brought conviction you have not fallen away. Rebuilding right relationship with God is harder the second or third or fifth time. But the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a spirit filled life will lead you to intimacy with the Spirit of the Living God.
Ultimately you will be judged in to be among the fruitful who have lived a holy life despite the ravages of Satan.
On the other hand if you rebel and run and deny Christ’s sovereignty, dying with sin left unrepentant and relationships unreconciled, you stand a very good chance of being among those who avow that they were filled with the spirit, healed, prophesied and lead people to Christ, yet are told by the Lord to depart into Eternal Separation. If you are currently living in a lifestyle that you know is sinful and unrepentant, even if you are among the celebrated of your Church congregation, you may well be damned. If you find you are in that state, I welcome you to reach out in genuine Godly sorrow, ask God to forgive you and to lead you in a direction that opposes the trend your life has taken. HE will be faithful and just to not only forgive you but give you the opportunity to repair relationships with believers and make restitution to those whom you have victimized. In this way you will be restored to the faith and once again begin working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.