Tag Archives: faith and works

The Credo Review: MacArthur or Hodges?

Credo Magazine (not associated with Credo House) published a review of Back to Faith. Credo Magazine describes itself as “… self-consciously Evangelical, Reformational, and Baptistic,” so it stands to reason that they would seek to uphold the tradition found in the cliche [We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone].

Honestly, I am grateful for the interaction on such an important issue as the role of faith and works in the life of the Christian.

Now I want to address some of the points:

 

On 12.06.11 | In Gospel, Reformation | by

Back to Faith: Reclaiming Gospel Clarity in an Age of Incongruence. By Fred R. Lybrand.

Reviewed by Lucas Bradburn

LUCAS SAID [Thirty or so years after the “Lordship salvation” controversy overtook the evangelical world, the debate still continues. While the issue no longer is at the center of theological conversation, the two sides in the debate—typically identified as “Lordship salvation” and “free grace theology”—continue to produce books. Representing the free grace camp, Fred R. Lybrand has recently contributed to the discussion with his book entitled Back to Faith: Reclaiming Gospel Clarity in an Age of Incongruence. Right off the bat Lyband’s readers are prepared for the book’s thesis through his provocative dedication to both John MacArthur and Zane Hodges, veteran players in the lordship debate. It quickly becomes apparent which person had the greater influence upon Lybrand.]

While I know Lucas means to say that Zane Hodges influenced me more on this topic than MacArthur did, it isn’t really a clear understanding of the influence these men have had on me.  MacArthur’s influence was pre-1983 when I entered Dallas Theological Seminary.  Oddly enough, this corresponds with the noted change in MacArthur’s theology surrounding the ‘lordship’ issue. One clearly does not hear much ‘lordship teaching’ in JMc’s pre-1984 sermons.  And, as I describe in Back to Faith, he especially was used to give me a heart for honoring the Bible as the Word of God.  MacArthur also deepened in me a desire to stay faithful to the text and its context.

Hodges certainly influenced me in an understanding of grace, but Ryrie, Chafer, Spurgeon, Stanford, Radmacher, Elliot Johnson and many others can’t be dismissed from the conversation.  And too, I’ve read my my Bible as well 🙂  What I feel Lucas also fails to realize is that I took a major stand against Zane’s aberrant discussion of the gospel (in association with the Grace Evangelical Society – GES – Bob Wilkin).  The article I wrote is available here:  GES GOSPEL OPEN LETTER (Lybrand) .  Frankly, I lost a number of dear friends over the stand I took.  Nonetheless, to date no one has challenged my analysis in any printed form…and…the issue involved (the errant idea that the cross is unnecessary to know/believe in order to receive eternal life by faith).  In fact, God seems to have used the “Open Letter” (along with other’s like Tom Stegall’s The Gospel of Christ) to essentially end the issue.

What I am committed to is the meaning in the text itself.  There are times when we are tempted to run ahead of the Bible and force-fit passages to our theology.  Honestly, I think both John MacArthur and Zane Hodges have done such from time to time.  I hardly believe I’m immune either.  Nonetheless, both men are dear to me in individual ways…and oddly, I don’t see them as enemies of the gospel—just imperfect men who overstated their case from time to time.

In Back to Faith, I basically argue that Zane flirted too much with Easy Believism (bordering on Universalism at times), while John flirted too much with Works-as-Proof (bordering on sounding like works are necessary for eternal life).  Sola Fide is only maintained when these ditch-like extremes are carefully avoided in the safe part of the road that honors the profound distinction between Justification and Sanctification (birth and growth).

God bless,

Fred Lybrand

 Back to Faith is on Kindle Now

Perseverance of the Saints is Not About Good Works

PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS IS NOT ABOUT GOOD WORKS…not really.


So, as I re-frame the blog to focus on ALL THINGS FAITH AND WORKS, I keep running into a misunderstanding about The Perseverance of the Saints. There is a basic misunderstanding being perpetuated by a number of Free Grace advocates. Here’s a response I recently posted on this question:


The Quote:
So, we have not touched the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints and it’s compatibility with the doctrine of eternal security. These are not the same thing, though some would say that they are. Any thoughts?

…very important question. And, I guess I may have to push back here…Perseverance of the Saints IS the Doctrine of Eternal Security.

There has been a move among some Free Grace thinkers to buy into what I think is some Hyper-Calvinists’ rhetoric that perseverance is about perseverance in doing good works.

This is clearly not the heart of this point in TULIP. If one reads DORT he will see that works are mentioned to prove eternal security (but eternal security is point) If one looks at the articles and history of the discussion he will see the prominent issue is always about “falling from grace.”

The Wikipedia article opens with this (for good reason): …as well as the corollary—though distinct—doctrine known as “Once Saved, Always Saved”, is a Calvinist teaching that once persons are truly saved they can never lose their salvation.

Websters gets to it too– Perseverance: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter-influences, opposition, or discouragement

In other words, perseverance is about persisting in the ‘saved’ state until one’s safe arrival in heaven. Works are mentioned as a ‘proof’ of this eternal security the believer has.

Yet, there is an easier way!

All we have to do is look at the Remonstrance (DORT responded to this) or at any rendition of Arminianism’s Points. The issue with the Arminian view is that one can lose his salvation…that one is not eternal secure. If that is the counter-point, then we know the point is that one cannot lose his salvation, is eternally secure.

Now, since it IS the Doctrine of Eternal Security–why the confusion? Well, DORT (and others) surely have ‘persevering in good works” AND/OR ‘persevering in faith (believing)’ as parts of the point. Yes, true. The reason is that these are seen as PROOFS of ones Eternally Secure Standing.

The way I would say it is… perseverance in works and perseverance in faith are both mechanisms Reform thinkers use to prove an individual’s standing as and Eternally Secure, Elect, Child of God.

Fred Lybrand
www.backtofaith.com

P.S. To be fair…the writers of the Remonstrance stated they weren’t sure if one could lose his salvation (and hence the affirmation of God’s Perseverance in keeping the elect, elect).

P.P.S. Here is a listing of quotes that show the drift from Perseverance of the Saints meaning essentially Eternal Security…to including the ‘proof’ of works as part of the definition (a truly historically recent emphasis).


MERRILL UNGER

Thus the Westminster Confession says, “This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will but upon the immutability of the decree of election flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father….” In other words, those who are real Christians cannot fall away or be eternally lost. Merrill Frederick Unger, R. K. Harrison, Howard Frederic Vos et al., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Rev. and updated ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).

 

CHARLES SPURGEON

Sustained by such a doctrine we can enjoy security even on earth; not that high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip, but that holy security which arises from the sure promise of Jesus that none who believe in him shall ever perish, but shall be with him where he is. Believer, let us often reflect with joy on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and honour the faithfulness of our God by a holy confidence in him. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

 

GEORGE WHITEFIELD

Those whom God has justified, he has in effect glorified: for as a man’s worthiness was not the cause of God’s giving him Christ’s righteousness; so neither shall his unworthiness be a cause of his taking it away; God’s gifts and callings are without repentance: and I cannot think they are clear in the notion of Christ’s righteousness, who deny the final perseverance of the saints; George Whitefield, Selected Sermons of George Whitefield (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).

 

RALPH MARTIN

In theological debate the terms “perseverance (of the saints),” “falling away” and “apostasy” are used in discussing the question of whether it is certain a Christian will remain in faith and salvation. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 40 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).

 

LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER

THIS ASPECT of Soteriology, commonly styled by earlier theologians the perseverance of the saints, contends that no individual once the recipient of the saving grace of God will ever fall totally and finally from that estate, but that he shall be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet. 1:5). The doctrine of security is one of the five points of the Calvinistic system, but it is more distinguished by the fact that it is set forth in the New Testament in the most absolute terms and is there seen to be an indivisible feature of that which God undertakes when a soul is saved. This major doctrine is well stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which declares: “They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (17.1). Lewis Sperry Chafer, vol. 3, Systematic Theology, 267 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993).

WAYNE GRUDEM

Eternal security: Another term for “perseverance of the saints.” However, this term can be misunderstood to mean that all who have once made a profession of faith are “eternally secure” in their salvation when they may not have been genuinely converted at all. (40D.3) Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 1241 (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994).

 

F.F. BRUCE / R.K. HARRISON

PERSEVERANCE — the steadfast effort to follow God’s commands and to do His work. The New Testament makes it clear that faith alone can save. But it makes it equally clear that perseverance in doing good works is the greatest indication that an individual’s faith is genuine (James 2:14–26). Indeed, perseverance springs from a faithful trust that God has been steadfast toward His people. Through persevering in God’s work, Christians prove their deep appreciation for God’s saving grace (1 Cor. 15:57–58).
As a result of perseverance, the Christian can expect not only to enhance the strength of the church, but also to build up strength of character (Rom. 5:3–4). In short, Christians can expect to become closer to God. They learn that they can persevere primarily because God is intimately related to them (Rom. 8:25–27) and especially because they have the assurance of a final reward in heaven (1 John 5:13). Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).

 

CONSTABLE

There is much misunderstanding about the Bible’s teaching concerning the perseverance of the saints.30 It does not teach that Christians will inevitably continue to persevere in the faith, that is continue believing the truth, walking with the Lord, and doing good works. It does teach that God will persevere in His commitment to bring all who have trusted in Him to heaven. If someone asks me if I believe in the perseverance of the saints, I ask them what they mean by the perseverance of the saints. If they mean that a believer is eternally secure, I say that I believe that. If they mean that a believer will inevitably follow God faithfully to the end of his or her life, even with occasional lapses, I say I do not believe that.” Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, has the most helpful and biblically consistent discussion of perseverance that I have found. See his Subject Index for his many references to it. Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, 1 Pe 1:5 (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003).

 

If you liked this blog…you might also like the discussion in this post: http://www.backtofaith.com/biblically-speaking/the-zero-point-calvinst/

CAN WE SIN?

OK…this goes to the question of God’s expectations of humans (especially in the Age of Grace). They ask, “How can we have the Spirit indwelling and not increase in righteousness?” I ask, “How can we have a sin nature indwelling and not increase sin?”

Seems we are caught with two causal dynamics, with our Faith/Faithfulness being the hinge. Perseverance in good works? Seems to be a legitimate option. A stumbling-staggering grope toward the light (perhaps)? Seems God left that in play as well!

“But the Spirit is stronger,” they say.

“Yes, but then why do we sin at all?”

The only answer is FREEDOM (Galatians 5:1 & 13).

Fred Lybrand
www.backtofaith.com

A Change of Mind about Repentance: Do you Dare?

Hi Gang,
I am getting incredibly close to settling in on what I’m doing with my life.  In particular, I want to focus on FAITH & WORKS for a while…I think it is a subject I understand and that crosses many strategic parts of theology [and on-the-pavement Christianity].
In the meantime, I just posted a blog offering some fresh thoughts on Repentance as it relates to sharing the gospel.
Check it out NOW:
http://thefreegracealliance.blogspot.com/2011/04/change-of-mind-about-repentance-do-you.html
Grace and peace,
Fred Lybrand
What is Home & School
Coaching?

 

The False Branch Theory and John 15

Okay,

So I’m in the shower (weird how we think there) and I’m going over John MacArthur’s view of John 15 about abiding (in my mind).  I listened to MacArthur at a pace of 6 tapes a week for two years in my early days after coming to faith.

He described the branches that were ‘thrown in the fire’ as false branches (Judas Branches).  Lest you think I’m making this up, I tracked it down:

There were the true branches and there were the false branches in the analogy. The true branches are represented by the eleven and the false branches are represented by Judas Iscariot. That whole thing flows out of the context of Judas’ betrayal. And at that point, the “In Me” simply means “identification.” I don’t think you can push too much theology into that “in Me” and say that it means absolute conversion. It’s attachment at that point, that’s all. And I think you have a Judas branch, and I think what it’s saying is that there will be people who will attach themselves superficially to Christ but in evidence bearing no fruit at all, will ultimately be cut off and cast into the fire because they show they have no life, because if they are had any life at all, they would have fruit. So I think it’s a graphic illustration of the whole context of what the disciples have just been through with them as compared to Judas.

(from: http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/1301-N-8.htm )

So, I did a little more digging and found that my old pastor and teacher Ken Gangel said something similar in the Holman NT Commentary on John 15:

15:6. Verse 6 narrows other possible interpretations of verse 2. We struggle a bit with the words, “he cuts off.” But thrown away and withers takes it further than we want to go in any reference to people who may have been true believers at one time. Certainly the words thrown into the fire and burned could never refer to those who were at one time true believers.
Blum treats this carefully and wisely:

These words have been interpreted in at least three ways: (1) the “burned” branches are Christians who have lost their salvation. (But this contradicts many passages, e.g., 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28–29; Rom. 8:1.) (2) the ‘burned’ branches represent Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). (But Jesus spoke here of dead branches; such a branch “is thrown away and withers.”) (3) the “burned” branches refer to professing Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ is spiritually dead and therefore will be punished in eternal fire (cf. Matt. 25:46) (Blum, p. 325).
Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 4, John, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference, 283-84 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).

Yes, of course it is strange that fire means literal hell in an analogy…and…yes, of course, it is strange that ‘in Me’ doesn’t mean ‘in Me’ (within their own view) consistently throughout the passage.

But what really struck me under the 98 degree stream of water was the whole idea of a FALSE BRANCH.

The reason this struck me (all these years later) is that there is NO SUCH THING in reality as a FALSE BRANCH.  There are parasites (mistletoe) that look like they belong to the tree, yet Christ clearly (and easily could have said that) said the were vine branches.  Back then there were no such things as ARTIFICIAL BRANCHES either.  Artificial came along with wax and plastics and science (‘contrived by art’ around 1300AD).  Christ is using a real, live thing as an illustration.

When the Lord uses sheep, He says some of the sheep are “not His.”  He does not say that they are false sheep (you know…look like the real thing…but really aren’t sheep).  False prophets are still real people and false teeth are still used for teeth….and, we know where these things come from.

But, where would a false branch come from?  In nature (certainly in the NT era) no one had a notion or word for ‘false’ branch (any more than they would have for a false rock, stream, or fish).  The branches are real, and they are In Christ.  Obviously you must understand Him to be speaking of losing salvation or losing reward (see 1 Cor 3).

From Whence Cometh this Interpretation?

Necessity…and…it turns out to be a wonderful example of eisegesis, or imposing meaning on a text.  Since Blum/Gangel exclude any alternate meanings of the word ‘dead’ in the context, they miss the obvious nature of the warning for believers.  Therefore, with that as impossible and losing one’s justification as impossible (I agree)—all that is left for MacArthur, et al, is to make up the notion that there could exist in Christ’s mind (and on the earth) the idea that some branches (in Him) are actually fake or artificial branches.

I love these guys and I have no bones to pick, but all of us must learn to be very, very careful when we handle the Word of God.  Saying, “It must mean A because B is false elsewhere, can easily tempt us not to read the actual words of the text.”

My practice is to try to settle on a meaning from the immediate passage BEFORE I compare it to other places in the Word.  The comparison is valuable, but it is a dangerous way to interpret a passage by imposing meaning from elsewhere right off the bat!  The Analogy of Scripture is great, but you must inductively begin with the parts rather than than the whole.

So, what do you think?

Fred Lybrand

www.backtofaith.com