08 – Security is for believers
The zealots who forced Dale Moody into early retirement did have some cause for complaint against him. Like his critics, he was guilty of an “either/or” mentality that kept him from seeing the whole truth: Believers are secure in salvation yet can choose to divorce Christ and be lost in eternity.
Both sides thought the doctrine of the believer’s eternal security was incompatible with the doctrine of apostasy – but for different reasons. Both sides were wrong – for the same reason.
Moody’s critics were convinced that no genuine believer can or will turn his back on Christ and be lost in eternity. For them, salvation was a matter of being justified and reborn in Christ and did not depend on obeying God and enduring in faith. They would have been hard pressed to explain why the authors of The Five Points of Calvinism say:
“Too many people have been led to think that if they have ever made a profession of faith, or ever prayed a ‘sinner’s prayer,’ or were baptized and joined a church, they can rely on their having been ‘once saved and always saved.’ Insufficient emphasis is given to God’s requirement that we must persevere to the end in a life that seeks after holiness.”
Such perseverance, in some minds, is merely evidence that salvation has occurred, not an integral part of a process of salvation as well.
Moody, for his part, was equally hardheaded and did not recognize the difference between the unbiblical teaching of “once saved, always saved” and the biblical teaching of eternal security – that if I am trusting Christ with my life, I have no reason to worry about his ability “to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” (2 Timothy 1:12 NLT) In The Word of Truth, Moody in one breath dismissed the “exegetical hop-scotch” that denies the possibility of apostasy and condemned the doctrine of eternal security as a “dogmatic theory.”
Half right is also half wrong.
Both sides of the argument misunderstood the eternal security of the believer because they were preoccupied with the “eternal security” part and didn’t stop to think carefully enough about the “believer” part.
Rather than dismissing eternal security as merely a “dogmatic theory,” Moody would have done well to remember that being a believer is a journey on a narrow road that leads to a small gate. (Matthew 7:14) He taught that such a journey has a beginning, a middle, and an end – salvation is an event in my past, the experience of my present, and the reward in my future. But perhaps he was so caught up with proving the Bible says a person can leave the narrow road for the wide one that he was distracted from what it is like for the person who chooses to stay on the narrow road. For that believer, eternal security is a fact because Almighty God himself has made the promise of salvation.
The zealots gave Moody the martyrdom he demanded, but they were just as blind to the “believer” part of eternal security. Salvation is not just what happened to me when I walked the aisle at age 6. That was my rebirth in Christ, the first step of my journey on the narrow road. But the rest of the journey also is part of my salvation, as is my arrival at the destination. I was saved, but I also am being saved, and I will be saved.
If I choose to leave the narrow road that leads to salvation and get on the wide road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13), won’t I arrive at the same destination as the ones who were never on the narrow road to begin with?
And if I keep choosing, day by day, to stay on the narrow road, don’t I have God’s promise that I will arrive at my destination?
Jesus’ promise to those believers who face persecution in the last days is good for the rest as well: “The one who endures to the end … will be saved.” (Mark 13:13b NLT) You won’t find Jesus saying that believers who don’t endure to the end will be saved anyway.
That’s because a believer who quits enduring isn’t a believer any more.
A 17th-century kind of belief
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