by Antonio da Rosa
Jesus Christ has an intended guaranteed gift to the believer in Him: the immediate and present posession of eternal life. To believe on Jesus for anything else will not necessarily bring to the believer that which he has believed on Jesus for. For instance, many people believe in Jesus for many things: for temporal deliverance, for positive answered prayer, just to name a few. Yet, to the unregenerate, Jesus only guarantees one gift when a person has believed in Him for it, and that gift is the present possesion of eternal security; eternal life.
Faith alone in Jesus alone will not save unless it is purposeful.
People could have faith alone in Jesus alone for a donkey. This would neither bring eternal life nor a donkey. Jesus does not guarantee a donkey when you believe in Him alone for a donkey, and He does not guarantee eternal life when you believe in Him for a donkey. Jesus says, "If you knew the gift of God and who says to you...". We are believing in Jesus FOR the immediate posseion of eternal life.
Do you see the enormity of the matter here? Many people have been fed the wrong gospel message! They have believed or are believing in Christ for something that He does not have nor dispenses! Their lack of understanding of the simple gospel message has subtly (yet fatally) turned the message of the absolutely free gift of the immediate and present possesion of eternal life by faith alone in Christ alone into a salvation that is contingent on perseverance in faith and obedience. The message they believe is neither the saving message of Christ nor is what they are believing in Christ for the intended guaranteed gift that He offers. Christ's gift is by GRACE through faith and is NOT contingent on perseverance.
Believing in Jesus does not start some kind of contract between God and the sinner that at the end of our lives, if we persevered, we will get eternal life. The believer in Jesus must know what He is believing in Jesus for. Each time that Jesus illicited faith in Himself, He gave the reason. The purpose for the faith is to receive, immediately, eternal life (which is eternal; can't be lost).
In the gospel of John, which is the only explicitly and expressly written book in the Bible written for the purpose of evangelism (John 20:31), the message of Jesus to the potential convert was that to believe in Him for eternal life was to guarantee their eternal destiny. To believe that you have eternal life, to believe in Jesus for eternal life, is to believe that you are eternally secure. If you do not believe that you have "eternal" life, "everlasting" life, if you do not believe you are saved at the moment of faith in Christ, then this reveals that you did not believe the saving message of Christ.
It is philosophically and logically impossible to believe the message of Christ and also believe that it is possible to lose your "salvation", for the guarantee of such is explicit in the gospel message, the saving message of Christ. Jesus in His message guarantees eternal life to the believer in Him for it. If you believe the message of Jesus you will by virtue of that faith, at that time, have absolute assurance of your eternal well-being. This is called assurance being of the essence of saving faith.
To believe one is "saved" is to believe just that, that they have been saved! If they believe that they can end up in hell, if they believe that they can perish, if they doubt that Jesus will raise them up, then how can they say that they have been truly saved? They can't. If they can't say that they have been saved, and have never truly been able to say that, then they haven't believed the message of Christ that saves. Faith in Christ for eternal life precludes the notion (at the moment of faith in Christ) that one thinks that they can potentially still end up perishing; still end up in hell.
Of course doubts may and most often do come later. That is why we grow in the faith. That is why we hide the Word in our hearts. That is why we progress in our disicpleship. I to this day haven't doubted my salvation is quite some time. Reason? I have grown and my faith in this aspect is strong. (I have many other issues I deal with, believe me, that I have weak faith, that I need growth in). People can and do get saved then fall under the false teachings of NOSAS (not once saved always saved).
If a person has never understood at one point in time (the point of punctilliar faith in Christ for eternal life) that they were saved (not saved after all you do, but presently saved), then they have not believed the message of Christ, for assurance is of the essence of saving faith. And this assurance is absolute, certain assurance that you WILL BE resurrected, that you ARE saved, that you HAVE eternal life, that you CAN NEVER perish, that you WILL NOT come into condemnation, and that NOONE can snatch you out of Christ's hands.
If the message is not about eternal security then it is a message about a "salvation" that is in some degree dependant upon the hearer, based upon some perseverance in faith, obedience, and good works; based upon some form of contract between the sinner and God.
It is faith in Christ and His promise of said guaranteed intended gift that brings eternal life and assurance of it. My contention is that when Jesus is trusted for anything else but the intended gift of eternal security, that person does not appropriate eternal life. If they are trusting in Jesus for a gift that will take their perseverance to finally attain, they are not trusting in Jesus for the intended guaranteed gift of the gospel message. Therefore they lack eternal life.
Christ is trusted for the gift. The gift must be known, because faith in Christ must be purposeful for the intended results. Jesus has an intended gift that He guarantees. This gift is the immediate possesion of eternal security.
None of us would admit that faith alone in Jesus alone for the gift of, lets say, a donkey, would bring that particular gift, would we? Why would it not? Because that is not the gift that Jesus gives. There is only one gift that Jesus Christ guarantees to the believer in Him for it: eternal security. If someone is believing in Him for anything else but eternal security, they might as well be believing in Him for a donkey. Our faith in Jesus must be for the purpose that He has prescribed.
Reiteration: Many people believe in Jesus for many things: positive answered prayer or deliverance from temporal difficulties, etc. Jesus does not guarantee those things based upon faith alone in Him alone.
When we talk to potential converts concerning the ability, readiness, willingness and authority of Jesus to guarantee eternal life, we tell them that it is faith alone in Jesus for the purpose of receiving eternal life that they appropriate eternal life. It is the purposeful faith for the intended guaranteed gift of Christ's saving message (which is the present and immediate possesion of eternal security). Jesus does not guarantee anything to the unregenerate received by faith alone in Him other than the gift of the immediate possesion of eternal life.
If we are believing in Jesus for anything else BUT eternal security, then we aren't believing in Jesus for the gift that He offers, for that gift is nothing else but the immediate possesion of eternal security. Faith in Jesus for a donkey, faith in Jesus for an "eternal" life that may be taken away, faith in Jesus for a partially merited "eternal" life that we contribute to, or faith in Jesus for eternal life that will come in the future based contingently upon our perseverance will not bring those things NOR Christ's intended gift of the immediate possesoin of eternal security. Going to Jesus (by faith alone in Him alone) for anything else but His intended guaranteed gift of eternal security is like going to an Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water vending machine for hemlock. It is manifestly evident that you will not receive hemlock out of a water vending machine. The only thing that the machine dispenses is water.
My assertion is that at the moment that faith in Christ is exercised (either for eternal life or throughout the Christian life for assurance) absolute assurance is gained. It is impossible to believe the promise of Christ, that He guarantees eternal life to the believer in Him for it, and at the same time doubt present possesion of eternal life and eternal security.
My point is, what are people trusting in Christ for? Is it the immediate and present possesion of eternal life/eternal security? Is it the future acquisition of eternal life based upon faith in Christ and perseverance in obedience? Is it the present possesion of "eternal" life that can be taken away based upon one's lack of perseverance in faithful obedience?
If Christ is not trusted for eternal security, then final salvation necessarily is contingent upon faithful obedience (works-contingent salvation).
Whenever Christ preached the message of eternal life, His message was one of eternal security. This is what He offered. This is the gift of God. Any other type of "salvation" other than the free gift of one's guaranteed destiny with Christ is one that is not fully based upon Christ, but becomes in one degree or another contingent on the performance of the individual in question.
Here is where Arminianism and Calvinism are exactly the same. If you do not bear fruit you go to hell.
Arminianism: do not bear fruit that perseveres till the end you go to hell (you lose your salvation)
Calvinism: do not bear fruit that perseveres to the end you go to hell (you never were saved to begin with, you had merely a superficial conversion)
Both are bear or burn theologies. Both condition ultimate salvation on perseverance in faith and obedience until the end. Have you seen my quote from John Piper? He says that our salvation is contingent on the works that come from faith.
Often times in the Christians life (especially those who are immature in the faith, who are either newer Christians or ones who haven't progressed far in their faith for one reason or another) faith is easily broken due to circumstances.
Sin is a circumstance that can break one's faith in Christ's promise/guarantee of eternal life to the believer. The darts of doubt from the devil can do the same. Many circumstances can break one's faith in the guarantee of Christ which is His saving message.
In 1 John 5, John is talking to Christians and giving them encouragement to continue to exercise the faith in the Savior which they had already exercised for the appropriation of the immediate and present possesion of eternal security. To those who have lost track of "the testimony of God" which He has given about His Son, John is addressing.
My contention is not that saved people will always have assurance. My contention is much narrower than that when it comes to assurance. It is that noone who believes in Christ for eternal life (at the moment of the reception of the immediate and present possesion of eternal life) can doubt at the same moment that he indeed has eternal life.
Furthermore, those Christians who look to Christ's guarantee concerning eternal security (which is His saving message) in faith will not retain doubts at that moment as well.
The difference between strong and weak faith is this: weak faith can be easily broken and can be like a perforated line, transitioning between faith and doubt; strong faith is not easily broken, because it has been exercised sufficiently to guard against the doubts that arise from circumstances.
My point in this last post of mine is not dealing directly with the issue of assurance, but the topic of it does deal directly with assurance. My aim in this last post was to show that eternal security is a necessary element in the saving message of Christ for 2 reasons:
1) The immediate and present possesion of eternal security is the guaranteed intended gift of Christ in His message. This alone He disepenses/guarantees to the believer in Him for it. He does not offer any other type of salvation to the unregenerate. Eternal security IS the gift of God. The gift must be known, or else why is one purposefully believing in Christ? Is it for a donkey? or some unspecified salvation? Those things are not guaranteed by Christ to the believer in Him for it.
2)If the "salvation" that one is believing in Christ for is not the immediate and present possesion of eternal security then functionally, logically, and necessarily, this salvation becomes contingent upon one's perseverance in linnear faith and obedience until the end.
Either eternal life is divinely bestowed as an immediate and present possesion through the agency of faith alone in Christ alone, or it becomes a future acquisition based upon one's faithful endurance in obedience, which makes it works-contingent; a salvation by works.