Thoughts on Eternal Security

Thoughts on Eternal Security

Iron sharpens iron

Recently during a Bible study with friends, the subject of “once saved, always saved” arose. I expressed that I believed that once you were saved you could not “lose” your salvation. One of the other members did not agree. She was fully convinced that you could, indeed, lose your salvation and pointed out several verses of scripture that were difficult passages to argue with.

My constant prayer is that the Holy Spirit will enlighten my understanding, give me the mind of Christ, and direct my thoughts, words, and actions. I told my friend that I would go do some soul-searching and Bible reading to see if I had simply believed what I had been taught, if my understanding of scripture was inaccurate, or if my belief was well-founded.

Define that, please

I did a lot of praying and reading. Why did I believe that I couldn’t lose my salvation? I decided I needed to understand the Biblical definitions of some key words.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

What does eternal mean? Taken from the Greek word aiōnios, it means in this context everlasting, without end, never to cease. The other two meanings don’t fit the context (click link G166 ).

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting G166 life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)

Both times, and in fact 17 times in the book of John alone, the word eternal means “without end.”

So then I needed to understand what it meant to believe. There are a lot of meanings for the Greek word pisteuō g4100, and unfortunately, many think that someone who adheres to “once saved, always saved” includes the meaning of the word which is translated “mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith.” Of course—and quite honestly—I do not believe that someone who says “magic words” is saved. Instead, and I think more biblically, this definition is more appropriate. “Used especially of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i.e. a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah — the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ.”

What does it mean to be conjoined? For this one, we need a regular dictionary, since the word is not in the Bible, though the concept is. The Dictionary.com defines conjoined as “joined together, united, or linked.” Not just acquaintances, but deeply associated like brothers.

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” (John 8:31)

Believers—true followers of Jesus—continue g3306 in His word. Jesus said His disciples indeed continued. They did not depart (except Judas). The Greek word menō is defined as “a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand.”

So now I have a better understanding of what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus that those who believed in Him would have eternal life. Those who joined themselves to Jesus in unity and continued in His word were His disciples.

So what about those hard passages?

My friend was fully convinced because there are passages that seem to say if you start down the path with Jesus and then fall away, you can’t be redeemed again. And she’s right—kind of.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

What does “to fall away” actually mean? Another word for it is apostasy. John MacArthur defines apostasy this way. “Apostasy can be defined as someone who, with full knowledge of the gospel, full knowledge of the message of Scripture, turns against it in a final act of rejection” (emphasis mine).

Two people in the New Testament who immediately come to mind are Judas and Demas. Judas spent three years in the company of followers of Christ, seeing all the evidence of His messiahship, with all His teaching and miracles. Yet Jesus called Judas a devil! Judas hadn’t yet betrayed Christ, but Jesus knew that he wasn’t a true believer, despite having been enlightened, having tasted of the heavenly gift, and having partaken of everything the other disciples had. He ministered with them, ate with them, fellowshipped with Jesus, yet was not of them.

Demas was ministering with Paul until he (Demas) quit. He didn’t continue, though he had followed Paul and heard his teaching and saw the miracles Paul performed. He heard, saw, tasted… but didn’t continue. He didn’t fall away, he simply walked away.

So the impossibility of being renewed again unto repentance is because all that can be said has been said and all that can be done has been done and yet it was all eventually rejected. There is nothing else left for that person. Jesus cannot be sacrificed again for them; His sacrifice was once for all.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19)

This scripture shows that continuing with them was what would confirm their discipleship. How long to continue? Until the end.

“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)

Perdition is the Greek word apōleia, meaning the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell. Judas’ very nature was perdition. He was never a true believer, as demonstrated when Mary poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.

“This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” (John 12:6)

Now let’s look at another hard scripture.

“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

If you take this scripture alone, it appears to say that once you start walking with Jesus, if you reconsider, you have fallen away. But does it?

Let’s look at the scriptures immediately before it.

“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.” (Luke 9:57-61)

Each one of these men called Jesus Lord. Each one of them said they would follow Him. Note that these men made “professions of faith” and yet did not follow Jesus, though they said it was their intention. Did they really fall away? From what? How can you “fall away from the faith” if you never truly even had it?

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the servants couldn’t tell the difference between them. The Master told them not to tear them out lest they also tear out the wheat. They grew up together until the harvest, and then the tares were burned. Only the Master knew which were tares and which were wheat. We, as servants, are not called to make that distinction.

One last thought

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

I believe there are many who call themselves Christians but do not “continue in His word.” They perform many good deeds and preach as though they are truly His followers. But they do not continue! At some point they deny the faith that they have earlier espoused, thinking that all the good deeds they’ve done will allow them to depart from His word. This final denial cuts a person off from salvation. That is the “falling away” of which the Bible speaks, in my opinion. Constantly being fearful of losing your salvation cannot be what Jesus had in mind. How many times did He say “fear not”?

Perhaps you still don’t believe in eternal security. But please, don’t live in eternal insecurity!

If you are saved, you will continue to the end, even if you have doubts. Your inheritance is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who has put His seal on you. Once He bestows on you eternal life, it is for eternity.

“And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: AND, LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD. Amen (Matthew 28:17-20
Two Pool Healings

Two Pool Healings

two pool healings
The city of Jerusalem in 1st century AD (Yeshua’s day) with the pool at Bethesda and the pool at Siloam indicated by red circles.

Yeshua healed at two pools. What is the difference?

John 5:2-9 TLV: Now in Jerusalem there is a pool by the sheep gate, called Bethzatha in Aramaic,[a] which has five porches. In these a crowd of invalids was lying around—blind, lame, disabled. ()[b] 5 Now a certain man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. Seeing him lying there and knowing he had been that way a long time, Yeshua said to him, “Do you want to get well?” The invalid answered Him, “Sir, I have nobody to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I’m trying to get in, somebody else steps down before me!” Yeshua tells him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” Immediately, the man was healed! He took up his mat and started walking around. Now that day was Shabbat,

Footnotes:

  1. John 5:2 Lit. in Hebrew. Bethesda (Heb.) means House of Mercy. Bethzatha (Aram.) means the place of poured out water.
  2. John 5:4 ASV adds: They waited for the water to be moved. Other mss. also add verse 4: because an angel of the Lord sometimes went to the pool and moved the water. Then, whoever went into the water first was healed from whatever disease he had.

Why this is relevant to me (and maybe you)

Recently, I received a healing from the Lord that delivered me from a life of being a cripple to walking totally unassisted after receiving a prognosis from my doctors that I would never again walk unassisted. (Read the story here.) I will not reiterate it here, but I want to show you something I have recently learned that will add a great deal of insight into what I believed happened.

First, we need to look at the location of two of Yeshua’s healings, both at pools in Jerusalem, and compare them. The first happened at the pool of Bethesda, as iterated above. I want you to look at the location of the pool of Bethesda in the map at the top of this post. As you can see, it is to the right of the Temple, just outside, and in front of the Roman Fortress of Antonia. Before we go on to the next healing, I want to tell you a little about the geography of the city.

In 37 BCE, Herod the Great conquered Jerusalem. He rebuilt the Second Temple and expanded the surrounding complex, adding new walls to the city that enclosed the area that was previously outside the walls of Jerusalem. (By the time of Yeshua’s ministry, Herod Antipas was in power. He was Herod the Great’s grandson.)

The beliefs of Rome involved many gods, including one called Asclepius, who was the son of Apollo and the deity credited with healing. His symbol was a staff with a serpent entwined about it. Maybe you recognize it as a modern-day symbol of medicine. (Many people mistakenly think it comes from the Old Covenant story of the bronze serpent in the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.)

The location of the pool of Bethesda was outside the actual confines of the Temple and the old city of Jerusalem. It was a pool where the people who worshipped Asclepius as the god of healing came to be healed. (The explanation of the angel stirring the water was added on and is not in the older manuscripts, so chances are the scribe who added it was trying to make sense of the story. In fact, if the pool did stir, it was more likely that the stirring was caused by the serpents that were allowed to swim in the water believing that they would hasten healing.)

In addition to being outside the city proper, the pool at Bethesda was right in front of the Roman Fortress of Antonia. This is important to know because it is likely that the fortress protected the pool and its pagan god.

What happened at the Pool of Bethesda

Would it make sense that Yeshua, a devout Jew, would be walking in a pagan site of healing, around the pool of Bethesda? Well, yes. In fact, Yeshua often went where the “proper Jews” would never set foot, because they were concerned about defilement. Yeshua never had that fear. In Luke 11:7-17, we have the story of Him raising a dead boy and giving him back to his mother. It specifically says that “He touched the bier.” In the understanding of the Pharisees, Yeshua would have therefore been ritually unclean. However, Yeshua doesn’t consider this at all.

So to see Him walking in a pagan site would be well within the realm of possibility. In fact, He came to call sinners to repentance, and what better place than where they were gathered? In fact, Yeshua testifies that the man at the pool at Bethesda is a sinner. He tells him in John 5:14: 14 Afterwards, Yeshua finds him in the Temple. He said to him, “Look, you’ve been healed! Stop sinning, so nothing worse happens to you.”

What happened at the Pool of Siloam?

John 9:1-7 . As Yeshua was passing by, He saw a man who had been blind since birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Yeshua answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This happened so that the works of God might be brought to light in him. We must do the work of the One who sent Me, so long as it is day! Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, He spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud on the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which is translated Sent). So he went away, washed, and came back seeing.

In this story later in the Book of John, Yeshua heals a man born blind. (Are the Master’s disciples remembering the man at the other pool whom Yeshua said was sick because of his sin?) This man was not guilty of a sin, and he was told to wash in the pool of Siloam. Why?

The pool of Siloam was the pool from which the priests got water for ritual purposes. If you look at the Temple in the map above, it is quite clear that the pool of Siloam was quite a distance further than the pool at Bethesda. Yet instead of just stepping through the Sheep Gate which was right beside the pool of Bethesda, the priests would make the trek through the city to the pool of Siloam. That makes sense when you realize that Bethesda was the site of a pagan pool and not a sacred one.

Why was one man a sinner and the other not?

We don’t actually know what sin the man at the pool of Bethesda committed, yet it certainly could have been unbelief. This man was a Jew because later on, we find him in the Temple. So why was he at a pagan place looking for healing? The man had been ill for thirty-eight years. He spent at least his recent time at the pool of Bethesda, where it was said that miraculous healing occurred. Yet he wasn’t healed. He couldn’t get into the water quickly enough “when it was stirred,” so when Yeshua asked him if he wanted to be healed, he answered in a way that meant he hoped Yeshua would get him into the pool. He did not know who Yeshua was.

So what does Yeshua do? He simply tells him to get up, take up his bed, and walk. The man walks away without the benefit of the pool’s miraculous healing without even knowing who it was who healed him. It wasn’t until later when Yeshua tells him to stop sinning lest something worse come upon him that he finds out Who his healer is.

By contrast, the man at the pool of Siloam wasn’t even waiting to get healed. He was simply beside the way. Yeshua informs His disciples that the man is not guilty of sin and neither are his parents. Then He touches the man and tells him to wash in the pool at Siloam, and the man returns, seeing.

What this says to me.

A week or so before God healed me, He brought the man at the pool of Bethesda to my mind. In response, I considered, did I want to be healed? While that may seem strange, I thought about how I had aligned my thoughts with those of my doctors who said I would not walk again. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t believe that God could heal me. I even told my doctors point blank, “You don’t know my God!” But while others were praying for my healing, I was actually praying for peace in case God could get more glory that way. (How that would happen I had no idea!)

In retrospect, I now wonder if I wasn’t accepting the words of the doctors and identifying myself as a cripple. Once I looked at the man at the pool of Bethesda, I came to an understanding: I wanted to be healed. So I quit thinking the thoughts of the doctors and asked God to heal me.

And you know what? He did!

Now I take to heart what Yeshua told the man: Go and sin no more lest something worse happen to you.

Disclaimer: please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that availing yourself of medical means of healing is wrong. I am not telling you to quit taking your medicine or think that you are in sin for going to the doctor. God answered me according to His plan for me; He will answer you according to His plan for you.

Hebrew WOW: נעלב

Hebrew WOW: נעלב

To be offended
To be Offended

Ne-elav means to be Offended

It happened again. I allowed a measuring spoon to fall into the garbage disposal and it got bent out of shape. When my husband said, “Sweetie, again?” I got bent out of shape. Not my intention, for sure, but as they say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

This time, though, I immediately went to God in prayer. In my spirit, I groaned, why am I so easily offended? I want to flow in Your love, and an easily offended spirit isn’t there.

“It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.” (1 Corinthians 13:5 AMP)

We know that “the love chapter” in 1st Corinthians tells us that love is not easily offended. The Greek word for “offended” is παροξύνω (pronounced paroxynō), and means easily provoked to anger, irritated, or offended.

So how does the Tanach (Old Testament) treat this idea?

Proverbs 17:9 is translated “He who covers an offense promotes love; But he who repeats a matter separates best friends.” However, the word used here is not “offense,” but “transgression.”

Proverbs 19:11 says this: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger. It is his glory to overlook an offense.” Again, the word translated “offense” is “transgression.”

Only twice in the Tanach does the word מִכְשׁוֹל appear, meaning “offense.” The most well-known passage is in Isaiah 8:14, where the Messiah is called a “rock of offense.”

The same idea, “rock of offense” (σκάνδαλον), in the New Covenant is pronounced “skandalon” and is where we get the English word “scandal.” And what is this scandal? It is that Jews and Gentiles have equality in that they must both approach the Messiah in faith. Works won’t work, so to speak.

To the Jews, who for thousands of years thought that they would be accepted by God based on their own righteousness via their righteous deeds, being put on a par with “unrighteous Gentiles” insofar as their acceptability to God was indeed an offense!

So, to conclude, we should recognize that giving offense or receiving offense is a matter of great seriousness as it is seen as transgression. We can only by God’s grace walk in the kind of love that does not give or receive offense.

And together, we are all on the same footing. Let us not stumble over the truth.

The Aaronic Blessing from an Hebraic Viewpoint

The Aaronic Blessing from an Hebraic Viewpoint

The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 RSV)

To understand this very special blessing, for which God Himself chose the wording, we must look at the language it was written in. We must take on the mindset of the Ancient Hebrew people and see the meaning of the words from their viewpoint. And when we do, you will see that English doesn’t come even close to the magnificence of this amazing grace.

The red letters are the root forms of the words in Hebrew.
Lines within the words divide them into syllables.

So from an Hebraic perspective, it would be better translated:

YHVH will kneel before you,* giving you gifts, and He will guard you, hedging you about with His protection. YHVH will illuminate you with the entirety of His being, bringing order where disorder was, and He will be your comfort and provide for all your needs. YHVH will lift up His wholeness of being upon you and He will set in place everything to make you whole and complete. * figuratively speaking

In our weekly Havdalah meeting, our Messianic congregation receives the Aaronic blessing as given by one of our pastors or our cantor/rabbi. This is allowed because Yeshua has made us a kingdom of priests and kings to His Father (Revelation 1:6). Therefore, not only can we receive the blessing, but as priests we can speak it over others as well.

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Bearing God’s Image and Likeness

Bearing God’s Image and Likeness

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעֹוף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל־הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶמֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵשׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26

zac durant
Photo courtesy of Zac Durant on Unsplash

In what way are we made in God’s image, after His likeness?

The word in Hebrew for image is צֶלֶם (tselem). It is from an unused root meaning “to shade.” Figuratively, it means a representative figure. We are to represent Him on this Earth. In the Ancient Near East in Moses’ time (remember he wrote the Torah which contains this verse), an image was believed to bear the essence of the thing it represented. We are to bear God’s essence! If you live in Texas, as I do, you are meant to carry His essence in Texas. If you live in Singapore, you are meant to carry it in Singapore.

God is not repeating Himself when He says “after our likeness.” That’s a different word: דְּמוּת (de-muth). It means—in some way—a similitude. Another word for similitude or likeness is equivalence.  Obviously, we are not equal to God in every respect, but if you look at the very next words, you can see how we are equivalent: we have dominion. By giving us dominion over the earth, we have become like God. He has total dominion, but we have limited dominion.

We resemble God in the way that the moon resembles the sun. The moon is a light in the sky because the sun is shining. We have dominion, but it is a reflected dominion, the way the moon is a reflected light. Without the sun, the moon would be just a dead rock whirling around in space. Without God, our dominion would have no foundation to draw upon.

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