justification

A Time of Transition

Times of transition cause one to contemplate the state of things. Having been with FGA since its inception, on the FGA council for 6 years, serving as president for the past 4 years, and now having recently stepped down to hand thing off to Dr. Roger Fankhauser, I thought I would reflect on where we are and what has changed. 
Although it is true that we are not in danger of the Lordship salvation debate abating soon, it does seem that there has been a subtle transition in the Lordship camp. It seems that we have seen the moving away, slight as it may it be, from the “frontloading” error evidenced by the early works of the Lordship persuasion demanding that faith be attendant with remorse and a repentant change of life evidenced by obedience, full commitment and total surrender as a condition for receiving the free gift of eternal life.
The subtle transition is seen in that the focus has now shifted to the “back-loading” of the gospel with the fixation on assurance being gained through obedience, submission, and a committed life of holiness to validate the faith on the front end. As to which is worse, I would suggest the former is a far more significant theological problem. It is not that the latter is not worthy of great debate; it is!  But removing the frontloaded elements allows the purity of the free gospel gift of eternal life not to be compromised when presented as “faith being the only condition” to the question being asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
I would suggest that the FGA is partially responsible for this transition within the Lordship camp. The force of “Causation” is hard to determine and there is often more than one change agent involved in the movement of ideas. However, I sense that the Lord has utilized many of the resources whether books, articles, papers and sermons as well as personal dialogue, produced by FGA members to influence and impact  those in the Lordship salvation camp. Of course the greatest asset has been the fervent and diligent prayer by many of our members asking the Lord to lead His Church into all truth.
Let us be thankful for “small victories”.
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay

What Does It Take To Lose Salvation?

By Dr. Roger Fankhauser
Some people have heard the sad words, "we're disowning you" or "we're writing you out of the will". Some think something comparable can happen to the believer; God can "disown us" under certain circumstances. Have you ever thought carefully about what must happen for us to lose our salvation? I started making a list in my mind. To lose my salvation for any reason, including for "losing faith", would require God to:
  • Unjustify us
  • Unadopt us
  • Unredeem us
  • Unreconcile us
  • Unregenerate us
  • Unforgive us
  • Unsanctify us (positional sanctification)
  • Remove eternal life from us
  • Uncircumcise our circumcised heart
  • Disinherit us (remove our birth inheritance)
  • Unbaptize us (Spirit baptism, 1 Cor. 12:13)
  • Unseal us (take away the Holy Spirit)
  • Make both Father and Son release their hold of us (John 10:28-29)
  • Make the New Creature old again
  • Transfer us out of the Kingdom of light and place us back in the kingdom of darkness
  • And most importantly, it would require the faithful, promise-keeping God to be unfaithful (2 Tim. 2:13)

You get the idea. And I suspect there is more we could list. So, "losing my salvation" isn't as "simple" as it sounds. It forces God to undo so much that he has done and so much that he has promised us. 

I'm grateful I'm held by His grace.

Habitual Sin

I have come to the conclusion I am not "truly" saved.
I hope that rattles you. Let me explain why I have come to this conclusion: Traffic.
Yep, traffic.
You see, I consistently get irritated when other drivers fail to use their turn signals. I get a snarky attitude, and I often make some obnoxious comment about said driver (which does not please my wife, by the way).
I am stuck in habitual sin. Sure, I confess.... but then it pops up again. And again. And again. Probably has for decades. Even after deciding to write this post, fully aware of my tendency, I still responded poorly to traffic. While driving through a little town outside Seattle, it took us 30 minutes to go two blocks through two lights. My attitude was stinky, my comments were not kind. My wife was, rightfully, not pleased with me. And then again today, I gave a snide "gee, thanks" to someone who failed to use their blinker.
So here's my problem. As one well-known writer puts it, "The apostle John ... wrote an entire epistle about the marks of a true believer (1 John 5:13)... Scores of ... passages throughout the epistle confirm the same truth, that the one who is truly saved cannot continue in a pattern of unbroken sin (1 John 3:6-10)." Others use the term "habitual sin" rather than "unbroken sin", but the idea is the same.
Habitual sin means I'm not 'truly' saved. And I am a habitual sinner (at least behind the wheel).
Maybe I can read your mind at this point. "That's not really unbroken sin, Roger. You may slip into it again and again, but the pattern is broken. You probably even confessed it" Or, you may think "Really? You think that sin is serious enough to prove you are not 'truly saved'?" And, at this point in your reading, some of you might have already called me or texted me to straighten me out. But keep reading before you react!
Here's the truth. I do not believe what I said above about the consequences of habitual sin. I have no doubt that I am "truly saved". I think what the above writer and others like him say about habitual sin is wrong.
Think about how subjective and troubling the "habitual sin" or "unbroken sin" trap is. It is easy to look at someone else's life; it is tougher to look at my own. It is easy to think of "big" sins (like addiction to pornography); it is tougher to think of "little" sins (like attitudes towards obnoxious drivers - oops, there I go again). It becomes very subjective! And of course, how does one define "habitual"? What sins? How often? 
Over how much time (days, months, years)? I hope you get my point.  If habitual or unbroken sin of any kind means I never "truly believed" I have a problem and so do most of you (probably all of you). Maybe the sin is as "minor" as anger while driving. Maybe it's our attitude towards certain politicians (I told you this is a problem for most of us). Maybe it is as serious as addiction to something (coffee doesn't count). And if only certain kinds of habitual or unbroken sins cause the problem (instead of any habitual sin), I'm still in trouble, because I don't have a biblical list to differentiate which-sins-are-which. I only have the opinions of people.

Here's the whole truth: When I react poorly to another driver, my actions, words, and attitude are not the result of "walking in the light". They are not a reflection of following Jesus. They are, well, sinful! And I need to let God work on my heart so that the next time that guy fails to signal..... well, you get the idea.

I am saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus alone. My security is based on the objective truth that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, was raised from the dead, and gives, as He promises, eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Thankfully, confirmation of my salvation is not based on how I respond to those drivers. Or on any other "habitual" or "unbroken" sin. Those sins are growth issues, not identity issues.  That's the beauty of grace. My confidence lies completely on what He has done for me, freely, as a gift. 

The Object of Our Faith

By Roger Fankhauser, DMin
I just recently read from a non-free-grace person that the Free Grace position only requires someone to believe in certain propositions about Jesus to receive eternal life. The writer is almost – but not quite – right. However, “not quite right” changes the argument from a valid criticism to a straw man argument. If the writer were correct, then the object of our faith would be limited to statements about Jesus or historical events about Jesus.
The object of our faith is Jesus. Jesus said it (“whosoever believes in me”, John 3:16); Paul said it (“that we might be justified by faith in Christ”, Gal. 2:16).
Almost all evangelicals say this. (I would say “all”, but as soon as I do, someone would point out an exception!) Free-Grace evangelicals; Reformed evangelicals consistently define the object of saving faith as Jesus. We might disagree about what one must know about this Jesus or about the impact that faith in Jesus “must” have on life, but, at the core, the object of our faith is Jesus.
So where does believing the veracity of certain propositions come in? Those propositions tell us about Jesus. They define who He is and what He has done. They point us to the person who is unknowable apart from “propositional truth”. I live two thousand years and half-a-world away from the historical Jesus. I cannot know with certainty who He is and what He has done apart from propositional truth. So it is true that I must believe certain proposition about Jesus, but ultimately justification comes by faith in the person of the one of whom the propositional truths speak.
Part of the FGA covenant says this:
·         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.
·         Faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, has delivered us from condemnation and guaranteed our eternal life.
We receive eternal life by faith IN the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of the statements are propositional truths about Jesus.
Don’t confuse the object of our faith – Jesus – with the truths about Jesus – propositional truth. Keep it clear in our teaching, preaching, and writing. It’s faith alone IN Christ alone!

P.S. – I did not, and will not, identify the non-Free Grace person. I will say that he is a well known theologian and he wrote the words in February of this year! Identifying him would distract from my main point.