Thursday, September 16, 2010

Overcoming and Chastisement

Recently in our discussion on the issue of lordship and its relationship to the gospel, someone asked if Ananias and Sapphira were an example of someone not overcoming, who was also saved. Something like, "they didn't overcome and they were saved." I understand what people's problem is, but I don't think it is a problem. It shouldn't be. The problem is solved by understanding what overcoming is and how it relates to the doctrine of salvation.

A person does not have to overcome in order to be justified. We are justified by faith (Rom 5:1, Gal 2:16). However, a believer will overcome. If he does not overcome, he indicates that he was never justified. That's how overcoming (what some call perseverance) relates to justification.

"Salvation" in Scripture is often eschatological. "Saved" is talking about ultimate salvation in many instances. So when Mark 16:16 says that he that believes and is baptized shall be saved, it is not talking about justification, salvation at the moment of the reception of Jesus Christ. It is talking about someone who believes and is baptized shall be saved in the end. He will be saved from the Great White Throne Judgment. So if I say that you must overcome in order to be saved, I can be talking about future salvation. That doesn't mean that salvation requires the work of overcoming and overcoming and overcoming, and then if you stop overcoming, then you lose your salvation. No, if you are saved, that is, justified, you will overcome, and then you will be saved. If you don't overcome, you will not be saved. Why? Because you were never justified. Justification will produce overcoming, just like it will produce conforming to the image of the Son (Rom 8:29-30).

"Overcoming" is dealing with apostasy. The overcomer does not apostatize. He does not turn from the faith. It is not saying that he will not sin any longer. He will keep believing. If he doesn't keep believing in the Lord alone for salvation, he never believed in the first place (1 John 2:19, 3:6). Jesus will say unto him, "Depart from me, I never knew you."

Ananias and Sapphira never stopped believing in the Lord. That is why they were chastised. Consider Hebrews 12, the chastisement chapter. Those whom God chastises are His sons. He chastises them because they are saved. He chastises them because they are overcomers. God's killing of Ananias and Sapphira was because they were justified. They didn't stop believing in Him. They sinned against Him and He did kill them for it. Chastisement is part of God's sanctification process for believers. God didn't kill Ananias and Sapphira because they had not overcome. He killed them because they had. Ultimate sanctification or glorification occurs when someone is killed by God. That person immediately becomes like Him (1 John 3:1-3), like we all will when we see Him face to face.

I'm concerned about what I see as an attack on a clear doctrine of Scripture that is salvation doctrine. Hopefully it's just a misunderstanding and not an attack. The following are the Lord Jesus speaking:

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Revelation 2:7.

He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Revelation 2:11.

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. Revelation 2:17.

And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. Revelation 2:26.

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Revelation 3:5.

Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. Revelation 3:12.

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. Revelation 3:21.

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Revelation 21:7.

Do these above verses tell us that we must overcome in order to be saved? I'll let you answer that question. We get our doctrine from the Bible. We understand what salvation is from the Bible. If the Bible speaks, God speaks. He has spoken. Let's believe what He says.

Overcoming is not a work, but a necessary consequence of someone's justification by faith. God produces overcoming. He works in us both to will to overcome and then to overcome. Believers will overcome. If they don't overcome, they weren't believers, and, therefore, they won't be saved. People who are chastised are saved. They have been justified. God does not chastise unbelievers. So if someone is chastised unto death, he is also necessarily, surely an overcomer.

Somebody who says that the doctrine of "overcoming" is "frontloading works" to the gospel is wrong. He is telling a lie either deceived or on purpose. He is also confusing salvation. That's a very bad thing to do. Someone not overcoming may think he's saved because he doesn't think overcoming is a necessary consequence of saving faith. He will be in for the worst rude awakening. Let's not be the cause of that.


Jerry Bouey said...

Interesting post - interesting also because I am preaching on James 5:14-20, on the removing the chastisement of a believer when he repents and turns back to the Lord (one of the passages I was planning on covering was Acts 5, so it was good to see your comments on it).

When I read your post, this passage also came to mind:

1 John 5:4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

You are right, a true believer will overcome this world, especially in regards to its deceptions - and will continue to cling to his faith in the Son of God for salvation.

d4v34x said...

Bro. B.,

This article very ably answers many objections that might be raised. Well done.

Terry McGovern said...

Bro Kent,

I would guess this article was produced as a result of my comments. In the article itself you define overcoming as, ”Overcoming is dealing with apostasy. The overcomer does not apostatize. He does not turn from the faith. It is not saying that he will not sin any longer. He will keep believing. If he doesn't keep believing in the Lord alone for salvation, he never believed in the first place (1 John 2:19, 3:6).”

To that I say Amen! That was my POINT in what I was saying. The problem lies in how the word overcoming is used. Many who believe Lordship salvation or perseverance of the saints in Calvinism take “overcoming” to an unscriptural level. In this article you did not, and I agree with you. My point was there are clearly those who did not “overcome” as defined by Lordship salvation/perseverance of the saints teaching, yet were saved, or truly did “overcome”. Ananias was not willing to forsake all and he did not “overcome” his sin of greed and pride, and yet he was saved and did overcome as the Bible defines it. I even made sure to mention he and his wife were still true to I John 2:19.

I have heard many Lordship salvation people and Calvinist say over and over things like “all Christians will overcome their sin and not remain in it. If they remain in it, they are not saved. Any Christian not forsaking all is not really a Christian”. Now, if a man remains in sin and there is NO chastisement, he is not saved (Heb 12). However, a Christian can be entangled in sin to a point where God kills him because he does not repent of it. This type of person does not overcome as defined by many Lordship salvation advocates and all Calvinist. (The quotes I give in the next post show how Ananias and his wife do not meet Calvinistic definition of overcoming.)

Terry McGovern said...

Follow up to my first reply

Since this article is focusing on overcoming, let me turn to this to perseverance of the saints so you can see where I am coming from. I will try and tie the two together. (I know you are aware I cannot stand Calvinism. I find the whole of the TULIP, not just the P very dangerous. You have helped me debate this in the past.) You might see this a rabbit trail, but I think it is important.

Calvinism teaches, if one would not persevere/overcome they could in fact “lose” their salvation. (Not just that they were never saved.) In Calvinism, it is not just that “overcoming” is a sign of salvation; it is MUCH more than that. It also goes on much further to teach it in regards to sin itself and not just the sin of apostasy. I agree a true believer will never deny sufficient of the work of Jesus Christ and turn from his faith. Perseverance in Calvinism teaches a true Christian will not remain in sin as well. That is not true! A true Christian who refuses to repent of sin will be chastised by God, and even killed for not repenting of sin, as you yourself pointed out. Every single Christian that God has killed as a result of sin did not overcome as CALVINISM defines it. Yes, these people still persevered/overcame as the Bible defines it. I was in no way denying how the Bible defines “overcoming”. I am denying what Calvinism teaches on overcoming. My point was Ananias and Sapphire did overcome even though God killed them as a result of sin. I was making the point you made with your article.
Calvinism even goes on to teach "overcoming" is why we are saved.

I can never lose my salvation and it has nothing to do with Calvinism’s perseverance of the saints. I will never lose my salvation, because sin will no longer be imparted to me, and I have already received Christ righteousness. In essence Calvinism teaches that if the Holy Spirit does not keep us from sin (a certain amount of sin that no Calvinist can properly define) that Christian would be lost. Not True! A true Christian cannot have sin imparted to him!

Here are some quotes from Calvinist on Perseverance to back up my statements:
"In and of myself I am capable of sinning even unto the loss of my salvation, but I'm persuaded that God in his grace will keep me from that. (“Can a Sinning Christian Lose His Salvation”?)" Sproul

"The doctrine declares that the regenerate are saved through persevering in faith and Christian living to the end (Heb. 3:6; 6:11; 10:35-39), and that it is God who keeps them persevering. Packer

“….hence there is an ongoing need to be dedicated to the Lord, and deny ourselves so that we might make it.” Piper referring to salvation at a conference in Orlando. He was talking how we can never know if we are truly saved. How sad!

“So, we see that sanctification is a necessary attribute of a saving faith. One cannot be a saint without being sanctified. This is one reason we must be striving to endure: our salvation.” Eric Shumacher

They fail to see we are eternally saved and secure solely because of Jesus Christ and our faith in Him, apart from works! Bible perseverance/overcoming is a result of salvation ONLY, not a reason we are saved. Calvinism teaches it is WHY we are saved in addition to Christ. That is where the lie is and this directly leads to a false gospel where one trust in what he is doing in order to be saved.

d4v34x said...

All those quotes assume a proper understanding of grace. These are not evangelistic presentations to unbelievers.

As far as the Piper quote, I John and other places state flatly that if certain things are not evident in our lives, we have no reason to be assured.

As far as the danger of TULIP, I thought even Arminians believed that all the elect would be saved. Even Calvinism cannot undo the foreknowledge of God.

Jerry Bouey said...

Good distinction made, Brother Terry.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks. The quotes you gave sound bad, and don't seem possible to be made to be sound good. Without the context, they would confuse someone on the gospel. I too am not a Calvinist and I will at some point write about that in more depth here or at Jackhammer.

To come down fully on the quotes, I would need to read them in their context. I know that people will use "saved" in an eschatological sense like I've mentioned in this post. For instance, consider this statement made by Paul in Colossians 1:22-23:

"In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: 23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;"

If someone had made that statement and we didn't know it was in the Bible, how would we deal with it? Would we say that Paul was teaching salvation by works? We know it doesn't say that we can lose our salvation, because we know we can't lose it.

That's why I think it is important to look at the context. I have no fondness for any of the guys you quoted, so I don't want to defend them, but we don't help the cause if we don't represent them properly. I've been quoted out of context myself before, and many times, so I understand how that feels. So again, I'm not saying you are quoting them out of context on the subject of perseverance, but I think I would need to hear or read what they said in context to come down on them. Besides that I agreed with what you said.