Tag Archives: Eternal Security

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:
Grace and peace,
Fred Lybrand
What is Home & School


The False Branch Theory and John 15


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


The Zero Point Calvinst

Sorry…the holidays and some travel have slowed me a bit!

Dr. Zuck just wrote a review in the next Bib Sac on Back to Faith…very encouraging!

Now, to the question.  I have had a number of friends tell me that they are O Point Calvinists.  I never quizzed them because I sort of thought I knew what they meant.  Yet, now as I think about it, I know all of them believe in Eternal Security.  How can one believe in “God’s preservation of the elect unto eternity…and still deny all the points of Calvinism?

The answer may be obvious, but I’d rather know for sure than guess!

Any of you brave enough to tell us your reasoning (or that of your friend-who-will-remain-unnamed)?

Thanks much,

Fred Lybrand

Can I be a Calvinist and be Free Grace?


Can I be a Calvinist

and be

Free Grace?

-Dr. Fred R. Lybrand

Honestly, I get this question a lot. Most Arminians aren’t in our conversations among Free Grace advocates because of their conviction that one can lose his eternal life. Calvinists do affirm the security of the believer, so we are in the same basic conversation. In my book Back to Faith I take Calvinism to task, but only a bit. The confusion around Perseverance (is it that we persevere in works, persevere in faith, or that God perseveres in keeping us safely His children forever?) is the big issue I think some forms of Calvinism fumble over. On the other hand, there is a great debt of gratitude owed to Calvin and the Reformers in my own understanding and tradition.   Am I Free Grace and a Calvinist?

What Makes one a Calvinist?

What really makes one a ‘Calvinist’? I don’t think we’ve done a fair job defining this among ourselves, and as a result we have some of our number at times condemning all things Calvin. Most of the time we say being a Calvinist is all about the ‘5 Points’. In particular the notion is almost ubiquitous that if you believe in one point, then you must believe in all five points because it is a ‘system’—so the argument goes. I don’t believe it is a system, nor do I believe that one must accept all five points (even logically)…I’ll prove it in a minute. Indeed, if I had to be labeled, I’d request that you consider me a 1.5 Arminian!

The following chart is from the Moody Handbook of Theology (p. 490). It involves a little more than the 5 Points, but gets the issue in focus.


Doctrine Arminianism Calvinism


As a result of the Fall, man has inherited a corrupted nature. Prevenient grace has removed the guilt and condemnation of Adam’s sin.

As a result of the Fall, man is totally depraved and dead in sin; he is unable to save himself. Because he is dead in sin, God must initiate salvation.

Imputation of Sin

God did not impute to the entire human race through Adam’s sin, but all people inherit a corrupt nature as a result of Adam’s fall.

Through Adam’s transgression, sin was imputed—passed to the entire race so that all people are born in sin.


God elected those whom He knew would believe of their own free will. Election is conditional, based on man’s response in faith.

God unconditionally, from eternity past, elected some to be saved. Election is not based on man’s future response.


of Christ

Christ died for the entire human race, making all mankind saveable. His death is effective only in those who believe.

God determined that Christ would die for all those whom God elected. Since Christ did not die for everyone but only for those who were elected to be saved, His death is completely successful.


Through prevenient or preparatory grace, which is given to all people, man is able to cooperate with God and respond to Him in salvation. Prevenient grace reverses the effects of Adam’s sin.

Common grace is extended to all mankind but is insufficient to save anyone. Through irresistible grace God drew to Himself those whom He had elected, making them willing to respond.

Will of Man

Prevenient grace is given to all people and is exercised on the entire person, giving man a free will.

Depravity extends to all of man, including his will. Without irresistible grace man’s will remains bound, unable to respond to God on its own ability.


Believers may turn from grace and lose their salvation.

Believers will persevere in the faith. Believers are secure in their salvation; none will be lost.


of God

God limits His control in accordance with man’s freedom and response. His decrees are related to His foreknowledge of what man’s response will be.

God’s sovereignty is absolute and unconditional. He has determined all things according to the good pleasure of His will. His foreknowledge originates in advanced planning, not in advanced information.

There is a good bit of discussion out there about the ‘perseverance point’—whether it is about persevering in good works, persevering in faith (as the Moody Handbook claims), or God persevering in keeping one saved (preservation of the saints). How many of us have read the Canons of Dort of late? I have read the Canons of Dort over and over recently, and I can tell you that:

      1. All three types of ‘perseverance’ are mentioned in the Canons of Dort
      2. The focus of the point concerning perseverance IS the eternal security of the believer (and his assurance).

I know this all sounds a little stuffy and theological, but George Bernard Shaw weighs in here for us:

No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.

The Bible is what matters not any particular theological system. Theological systems are great when they match the Word because they help us make sense, remember, and expand what we observe. But, why is Dort the definition of Calvinism? Personally, I think it just turns out to be a rhetorical stronghold.

Here are a few facts to consider:

      1. The Canons of Dort was a RESPONSE to the Five Articles of the Remonstrance
      2. It was a localized debate in Holland (hence TULIP ?)
      3. It was authored 55 years after Calvin’s death
      4. There are other statements like Heidelberg and Westminster, and many other variations of Calvinism (please read Spurgeon & Hyper-Calvinism by Iain H. Murray).

What is a Calvinist? In the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (ed. Walter Elwell), Calvinism is defined by the three tenants of

      • Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)
      • Soli Deo gloria (God’s glory alone)
      • Sola fidei (Faith alone)

The EDT article goes on to admit the variation and development of theological thought in Calvinism. It is clearly the Reformed faith, but Covenant-Reformed like Covenant-Calvinism, is a branch or variation of Calvinism. In our day, a few popular leaders have taken the rhetorical road of claiming that they alone are the true Calvinists…and…if you ain’t a 5 Pointer, you ain’t a real Calvinist (B.B. Warfield would call non-5 pointers ‘bad’ Calvinists; others would call them ‘inconsistent’ Calvinists).

So why all the fuss? The reason is pretty simple— Free Grace folks have gotten immersed in the frayed rhetoric. The concern is that we can inadvertently come across as ‘banishing’ those who belong with us. The fears we have are not based on the real nature of things. Yes, you can be a Calvinist and be a Free Grace advocate (I think I’m one)! As to being a semi-Arminian or 5-Point-Covenant-Reformed person and being Free Grace, well that’s a different article. If you are a Hyper-Calvinist or a Hyper-Arminian, then you won’t want to join with us.

It is the Covenant of the FGA that guides our membership. Quite frankly (as Dr. Zuck wrote me) it is a very well-crafted statement of our basic view. There is nothing in it that excludes a person who has Calvinistic convictions.

How to Kill the Argument

I’d like to finally kill the argument — ‘if you buy one point you must buy all 5’ — that seems to be accepted as a given in many circles. I could walk through the logic of it and display why the nature of the atonement and eternal security are not necessarily what follows from the other points; but I can do something better. I can show you how almost no Free Grace person really believes that the 5 Points of Calvinism lead to the misunderstanding of Lordship Salvation. That is actually the real issue. I’ll lay it out in a sequence:

      1. If the 5 points of Calvinism (Canons of Dort) are a system and must be believed together
      2. Then the 5 points of Arminianism (Remonstrance) are a system and must be believed together as well. This is particularly true because the Canons of Dort was developed as a REACTION TO the Remonstrance.
      3. So, if one believes one point of Arminiansim, then he must believe all 5 points.
      4. Many Free Grace advocates affirm Unlimited Atonement (Christ died for all and not just for the elect)
      5. Therefore, they (#4) must also believe in falling from grace (losing one’s salvation / eternal life) as one of the points of Arminianism.

Said differently, I know lots of Free Grace folks who believe in Unlimited Atonement AND who believe in eternal security. They are, in effect, 1 Point Arminians (at least). The claimed logical connection is bogus. All systems are ‘logical’—but there are additional aspects to logic, such as the issue of whether or not a premise is true or whether the chain of logic really follows.

Of course you can be a Calvinist and be Free Grace, but certain kinds of Calvinists are definitely not Free grace. Of course you can be basically Arminian and be Free Grace (but you must reject the idea of ‘losing your salvation’).

Our views and our systems are always struggling—we are trying to answer the most questions while raising the fewest problems. To be Free Grace, the issue isn’t about our theological systems as much as it is THE GOSPEL. Some systems make keeping the gospel clear an easy thing, while others make it quite a challenge.

Here is the basic FGA Covenant…which isn’t about Calvin or Arminius, but rather it is about the word of grace:

As members of the Evangelical Tradition, we affirm the Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the inspired Word of God and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. Furthermore, God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory. As members of this tradition, we are concerned about the clear understanding, presentation, and advancement of the Gospel of God’s Free Grace.

We affirm the following:

  1. The Grace of God in justification is an unconditional free gift.
  2. The sole means of receiving the free gift of eternal life is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose substitutionary death on the cross fully satisfied the requirement for our justification.
  3. Faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ has delivered us from condemnation and guaranteed our eternal life.
  4. Justification is the act of God to declare us righteous when we believe in Jesus Christ alone.
  5. Assurance of justification is the birthright of every believer from the moment of faith in Jesus Christ, and is founded upon the testimony of God in His written Word.
  6. Spiritual growth, which is distinct from justification, is God’s expectation for every believer; this growth, however, is not necessarily manifested uniformly in every believer.
  7. The Gospel of Grace should always be presented with such clarity and simplicity that no impression is left that justification requires any step, response, or action in addition to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

FGA Covenant:

In agreement with these affirmations, we covenant to work together graciously and enthusiastically to advance this Gospel of Grace, and to communicate with a positive and gracious tone toward all others, both inside and outside the Free Grace Alliance.

As an added point, John Nelson Darby, the ‘father’ of dispensational theology was a proponent of many Calvanistic beliefs…

Darby defended Calvinist doctrines when they came under attack from within the Church in which he once served. His biographer Goddard states, “Darby indicates his approval of the doctrine of the Anglican Church as expressed in Article XVII of the Thirty-Nine Articles” on the subject of election and predestination. Darby said:

“For my own part, I soberly think Article XVII to be as wise, perhaps I might say the wisest and best condensed human statement of the view it contains that I am acquainted with. I am fully content to take it in its literal and grammatical sense. I believe that predestination to life is the eternal purpose of God, by which, before the foundations of the world were laid, He firmly decreed, by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and destruction those whom He had chosen in Christ out of the human race, and to bring them, through Christ, as vessels made to honour, to eternal salvation.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nelson_Darby]

Millard J. Erickson in his Christian Theology (Volume II, p. 835), as he analyzes the extent of the Atonement, weighs in on the reality of Calvinism subject to modification (or moderation)—

The view that we are adopting here should not be construed as Arminianism. It is rather the most moderate form of Calvinism or; as some would term it, a modification of Calvinism.

Let’s keep perspective and united with all who affirm faith alone in Christ alone according to our FGA Covenant as a reflection of God’s Word. Can you be a Calvinist and be Free Grace? Of course, but labels often complicate the conversation. Yet, denying one’s clear Arminian or Calvinistic bent tends to confuse things all the more; no matter our wish, much of the conversation has been had for eons and we remain in the flow of it.

Pick your label or deny your label; but do you affirm faith alone in Christ alone—communicating this alone? Then join us in the good fight.

Grace and Truth,

Fred Lybrand

Former FGA President (2008/2009)




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