Archive for the ‘Apostasy’ category

Falling from Grace: Why Legalism Can Damn

August 20, 2009

While we have to accept Paul’s teaching of justification by faith on the strength of the inspiration and authority of scripture, we should pause to consider why the rule would be that adding works — any works — to faith/faithfulness as justifying the Christian creates a different gospel and causes the Christian to fall away. It’s a truly terrifying prospect that we need to reflect on in a bit more depth.


When we speak of “legalism,” we don’t mean someone who insists on obedience to God’s commands. We insist on obedience to God’s commands. Rather, by “legalist” we mean someone guilty of the Galatian heresy — that is, insisting that we should add certain works to faith in Jesus as conditions for a Christian to remain saved.

Insisting on baptism is not legalism. Insisting on repentance is not legalism. Damning someone because they disagree with you over instrumental music or whether an elder may have only one child is the Galatian heresy and therefore is legalism. (more…)

Falling from Grace: Seeking to be Justified Other Than by Faith

August 20, 2009

We’ve gone halfway around the world to make a point.

You see, being penitent and being led by the Spirit all lead to the same place — a devout life of love and fruits of the Spirit. It all ties together in a perfect, beautiful unity.

But there is a very real concern here. Paul says that if you add any law to the gospel as a condition to salvation, then you’ve made yourself accountable for every law as a condition to salvation, and thereby you’ve fallen from grace. Thus, there’s no apostasy in insisting on worshipping a cappella or insisting that instrumental music is acceptable. But declaring that all who worship with an instrument are outside the church and therefore damned may well cause one to fall away. That’s not to say that there is no error possible on the instrumental music issue; only that the error does not cause one to lose his soul — provided he continues in his faith and faithfulness/penitence.

Understand that being wrong and being lost are two very different things, and we sometimes get them confused. If being wrong damns, then there is no grace and Christ died for nothing. (more…)

Falling from Grace: Understanding Faith, Love, and the Spirit

August 19, 2009

Chapter 5 is a critical passage in understanding Paul’s doctrine of faith vs. works. You see, Paul believes that those who’ve been saved receive the Spirit, and that the Spirit leads to a changed life.

Thus, his logic is: faith (which include faithfulness/penitence) => salvation (at the point of baptism) => receipt of Spirit => fruit of the Spirit/good works/love/service

In short, faith expresses itself through love because the Spirit changes our nature so that this is the kind of people we become. We become people with loving natures. But we have to cooperate with the Spirit in its work in our hearts. (more…)

Falling from Grace: Exegesis of Gal 5

August 19, 2009

Paul returns to the question of why grace doesn’t lead to license in chapter 5. To follow his argument, we’ll need to work through most of the chapter —

(Gal 5:1) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Note the contrast. It’s —

  • freedom vs. slavery
  • grace vs. justification by law (more…)

Falling from Grace: The Galatian Heresy

August 18, 2009

Now, with Paul’s use of “law” properly defined, let’s take a fresh look at the passage previously quoted —

(Gal 5:2-4) Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole [moral and positive] law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by [moral and positive] law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

We see Paul’s point more clearly. If you insist that salvation comes from perfect obedience to, for example, the command to be circumcised, then you must insist on perfect obedience to all commands, moral and positive. And because no one can meet such a standard, you fall from grace.

You see, it’s either all grace or all law. There’s no grace + law or even grace + some law, that is, you must choose between salvation by faith or else salvation that requires perfect obedience to all commands. The option of requiring perfect obedience to some commands but not others is not available. (Of course, “faith,” as discussed earlier, includes faithfulness, that is, submission to Jesus as Lord.)

Why doesn’t grace lead to license?

The obvious objection, of course, is that if justification is by faith, not law, then why obey even the moral law? Why not rely on grace? And Paul anticipates that objection and addresses it. (more…)

Falling from Grace: Why the Different Result in Galatians?

August 18, 2009

This brings us to Galatians, where Paul wrote,

(Gal 4:9-11) But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Even though Paul certainly didn’t consider honoring holy days to be a salvation issue in Romans 14,  it becomes a salvation issue in Galatians 4. So, why are holy days enslaving in Galatia but “don’t judge” matters in Rome?

Mac Deaver has argued in his debate with David Padfield that the difference is in the kind of days being honored.

The days of Romans fourteen have to do with doing things that are optional, not prohibited. The ones in Galatians four and Colossians two were prohibited!

I just don’t see it. (more…)

Falling from Grace: The Paradox of Romans 14 and Galatians

August 17, 2009

Of course, I don’t really think that Romans and Galatians contradict each other. But we in the Churches of Christ often argue and act as though they do. You see, we’ve never really wrestled with the paradox of Romans 14 and Galatians. Let me explain.

In Romans 14, Paul deals with Christians who insist that Christians must celebrate certain holy days.

(Rom 14:5) One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

Paul declines to take sides in the controversy, concluding that neither side should judge nor look down on the other. (more…)

Falling from Grace: The Meaning of “Faith”

August 17, 2009

Although Phil and Mac have left this conversation, we feel it’s important to present and explain the third of the three ways that we believe a Christian can fall from grace —

  • A Christian falls away when he seeks to be justified other than by faith in Jesus.

This is a vitally important topic to the Churches of Christ, and yet it’s one where we’ve seen very little writing or discussion. Therefore, we’re going to approach the question by considering some background material, and from there, build the case.

The Meaning of “Faith”

N. T. Wright explains in Christian Origins and the Question of God: Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 263, how “faith” was used by First Century Jews. He refers to a story told by Josephus regarding a Jewish rebel named Jesus –

I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived against me … ; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would show repentance and prove his loyalty to me.

[quoted by Wright at p. 250.) (more…)

A Parable on Faith, Works, and Adoption

August 15, 2009

by Jay Guin

Newbert never let anyone call him “Newbert,” for obvious reasons. He just went by “Newbie.” And Newbie had been an orphan all his life. He was born in the usual way, of course, but his parents — if you could call them that — were much more in love with the drugs than their baby boy. His mom prostituted herself for drugs. His dad was a thief.  So he’d never had parents — in the usual way.

He lived with his “parents,” but they never paid him any mind. After several years of neglect, abuse, and squalor, the state took him away, and he lived with a series of foster parents. Some of them abused him (in every way abuse can happen), but others tried to love him.  Because Newbie had a foul temper, a filthy mouth, and an utter disregard for authority, until he was six, there wasn’t a foster parent who could handle him. (more…)

The Mortal Sin Problem, Part 2

August 13, 2009

Argument 3: No, it’s not better to be ignorant of God’s will

The natural and obvious rejoinder at this point is to argue that, if ignorance of God’s will “excuses” sin, it would be better to leave a new convert in ignorance. But that’s legalistic thinking.

Years ago, my girlfriend (and future wife) invited me to a banquet hosted by her social club. I was flattered and gladly accepted. But I didn’t know that I was supposed to buy her a corsage for this event. And she didn’t tell me, because she didn’t want me to buy the corsage out of a sense of obligation.

A friend of mine pulled me aside a couple of days before the event and told me I’d better buy the corsage, because all the girls would have one. I had no idea. None. And although my ignorance would have been an excuse, I was thrilled and relieved to have been told — because excused or not, I didn’t want my girlfriend to be embarrassed. You see, it wasn’t about me. It was about the girl I love — and her embarrassment would have hurt me far, far more than my own. (In fact, I had a perfectly good excuse and wouldn’t have felt embarrassed at all.) (more…)