12 May 2004

Eternal security and rewards?

Submitted by theshovel
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  I have two semi-related questions; perhaps you might be willing to shed some light? The greatest argument in favor of eternal security (at least, in my opinion) is found in Romans 6, where (as you've discussed in some writings) we DIED with Christ. God's justice would be brought into question if He punished us twice for sin, so after we die, we can't be punished for future sins. Case closed, it seems. God would, from our perspective, be unjust to punish the same sins twice. I grew up in a Baptist church that believed strongly in both eternal security and rewards/loss of rewards at the Bema. I'm still quite confused over this issue of fellowship and rewards, but it seems that if there were a system of rewards, God didn't really make that clear when He saved me. In other words, this, too could be called unjust. I know God is never unfair, though from our human perspective, He may seem to be acting questionably. If this rewards view is true, it could be said that God was seemingly unjust in not making it clear what I would need to do to stay in fellowship with Him, when He saved me in the first place. This brings me back to the first point about eternal security/sins being judged twice. It seems unfair, but if God acts in ways that seem unfair to us in some cases (like revealing what we need to know when we're saved), can he not also act in ways that seem unfair in other situations? I'd love to just accept Romans 6 as proof for eternal security and move on, but this has been holding me up. Anonymous

Let me tell you that I truly understand where you're coming from with a few of your questions and speculations as I can vividly remember some very similar ones. For example, when the founder and president of my bible college had admitted to (or maybe confronted regarding) sexual sin and left (or maybe removed from) the college he started, I was devastated! One of my first thoughts centered on the whole matter of rewards where I found myself wondering why God hadn't just "taken him home" before the sin had happened so that he wouldn't have jeopardized his previous "rewards". I mean, I was certain he had a whole slew of them stored up in heaven before he fell into sin. Of course, with this swirling mess going on in my head I was relating it way beyond just the president but toward myself and others. That whole sense of unfairness really swelled up within me!

Not only do I see that in common with our experiences, but in the way you speak of being "judicially separated from our sinfulness" I can totally relate. But what if it's so much better than that? What if it is truly REAL, and not just "judicial"? I really encourage you to read through the Shoveletter series on the Judgment Seat, as well as the others on security .... and I hope you'll write me back.

Jim


  Hey Jim, I suppose I was wanting a "quick fix" sort of answer concerning eternal security. If you'll endulge me, I'll attempt to explain the real reason I wrote (the reason I've been concerned with security in the first place). I'll try to make it brief.
  A short while after I became a Christian (I was 13 or so...I'm now a soon-to-be college graduate tomorrow), I started thinking dreadful, blasphemous thoughts against God. I had heard of a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and, for whatever reason, I wanted to push God to His limit. I had these uncontrollable urges to think evil thoughts, and it got to the point where I actually started wondering weird stuff like, "What if Satan's really behind everything? The miracles, Jesus...it's all a big ploy to fool us all into believing a lie." I don't know if I really ever believed it, but I thought it, and saw how it might be true (I don't believe it now, for sure!).
  So, I thought I really had blasphemed the Spirit...I called God the ultimate insult: Satan.
Since then (and you can do the math on how many years it has been), I've been assailed with guilt. Not steady; I'll have good days and bad days. But I've been pretty consumed for some time.

I hear the anguish in your heart. Let me assure you of this much, I am honored that you took the chance in letting down your defenses in what you have shared with me. I hope you realize that I do not take this lightly, for I am even more drawn to continue our communication.

Your description of "quick fix" is exactly what I sense from many who look to validate a particular teaching, like eternal security. It's not at all that I don't believe that in Christ we are eternally secure, for I most certainly do. We are so secure in Christ that it's way beyond any comprehension. But a "quick fix" will never really touch that deeply embedded fear residing in you ... only Christ himself can do that.

Doesn't it seem rather coincidental that your "blasphemous" thoughts began shortly after your recognition of Christ? Do you wonder perhaps if something may have been dumped on you that would stir up such anti-Christ thoughts within you? Now before you begin imagining that I refer to some kind of spooky demonic stuff let me get right to the point and tell you that I am suspicious of something far more basic, something known to stimulate sin. I'm referring to the principle of law.

Consider, as a 13 year old kid you would have been at that incredibly obnoxious age where you were probably being consistently told to behave yourself. Right? I'm guessing you were involved in a youth group of sorts and were often presented with the "Christian" reasons why you should do so. I know I'm taking a stab at this, but it's not far-fetched, do you think? What if the seemingly well-intentioned rules dumped on you only worked themselves into an inward stimulation of anti-God thoughts? After all, why else would a new Christian want "to push God to His limit"?

Of course you would be plagued with guilt, which is why you would have so easily worried yourself sick over the sin-of-all-sins, the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit". But that Bible passage is not your problem, and that's why you have such difficulty with it, as well as with any so-called problem verses or problem doctrines. Do you see why? As long as your sense of guilt remains you will not find a satisfactory answer because the guilt won't buy it. That's why you project "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" into anything that might convince you otherwise.

This is nothing other than law at work in your members. It began its work of stirring the hatred of that old mind so that within you there was animosity toward the one who is your life. It also convinces you that sin was not done away in Christ ... not really. After all, if anything remained not dealt with then that one thing overpowers the one who supposedly took care of it.

Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!John 1:30

Jesus didn't come to "cover" sin, but to put it to death. And yes, as you suggest, your having died with Christ would mean that you really had ALL your sin done away. But it was not by his death that we are delivered, but his LIFE. We have been made NEW CREATURES in Christ. And where sin reigned - in the flesh - grace does much more reign!

And just remember that when Paul wrote those things it was to the believers who were even then finding themselves uncontrollably caught up in the very thing Jesus took out of the way. Why? Because they had given an ear to those who tried to tell them how to live according to fleshly principles.

Don't let the liar convince you that God judges according to the rightness or the fairness you keep bringing up as a validation against yourself. Christ himself is your validation.

Thoughts?

Jim


  I've had a bit of a revelation, after reading some of your thoughts (along with a great commentary on Romans by William Newell):
  "Law isn't just the Mosaic Law; "law" is anything humans can do--any human effort. So when Paul writes in Romans 6 that we aren't under law, but under grace, that means that we aren't under ANY sort of human works--even how much we believe, how faithful we are, or anything else. It's all about God giving, and us receiving."
  If I'm interpreting this correctly, then what Paul is saying is that there's nothing out there that can mess up our status, because it is ALL of God, and ALL about what Jesus did. Sounds a lot like stuff I've heard before, but it's never really hit me. Sound about right?

I can remember having read a few things I read from Newell numerous years ago that I really appreciated. As a matter of fact, I think it was in his commentary on Romans. And you have seen something quite excellent in that revelation regarding law as being any human effort. I am so excited that this has hit you like this!

Don't stop now!!

Jim

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Comments

I can't believe I just read that article. That was SO my story. My addiction really kicked into gear when I was 14--the same year I became a Christian and started going to the Church of Christ. I had always thought that my struggles intensified because it was Satan working against me. But even more simply than that, I was at the same time learning legalism, shame, and guilt through law keeping. Oh man!!! I so want to take you to lunch brother. I have so much to talk about. :)

theshovel's picture

Isn't it amazing how we learned to blame the stuff of our freedom for the bondage in our lives? I realize it makes a weird kind of sense to the natural mind, but it just sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb to me anymore. Who knows, maybe we will be able to sit down and share some lunch together sometime.

Jim :)

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