Assured Salvation?

The following dialogue took place between John Pacheco and Leonard, a "Bible Believing" Christian. Leonard's comments are in red. John Pacheco's comments are in blue.

Letter #1

To John :  [Re: John 10:27-29]

V.27: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. V.28: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. V.29: My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." - JOHN 10:27-29. I believe that the above verses clearly propound the eternal security of the believer. Charles mentioned to me that you take verse 27 as a qualifier for verses 28 & 29. In other words, verses 28 & 29 apply only to the TRUE sheep : those who get saved but then fall away and lose their salvation were never really God's sheep. My question to you then is 'what are they then?' You will find yourself having to invent a term or classification for such outside of what Scripture says. Scripture only speaks of God's children as being sheep (dependance on Him, as a sheep is to the Shepherd)


P.S. I thought that this would be a convenient means for a few of us to exchange views.

Letter #2

Nice to meet you, Leonard. Peace of Christ be with you. I believe your response is not entirely logical. I agree with you that Jesus calls his followers 'sheep', and therefore I do not need to invent a term or classification outside of Scripture. In these verses, Jesus says that his sheep hear his voice, and it is to his sheep that he gives eternal life. The question of losing one's salvation comes when one asks the inevitable question: What if I do not listen to His voice? Does Jesus' teaching here secure eternal life for me now? The answer of course is no - you are not one of His sheep since you did not, by definition, listen to His voice.



Letter #3

My Brother John,

I think I have to clarify something...the issue here is that by saying the person is SAVED implies he became a SHEEP. And if he is a sheep, it is impossible for him to be ejected from the Father's hand. So you'll say If he loses his salvation, he couldn't have been a sheep. So then, if he was not a sheep when he was saved, then what was he? You can't say that he was a sheep but then turned into a goat because the moment at which he was a sheep, our verses indicate he's eternally secure. Your response doesn't make sense, and I quote you "What if I do not listen to His voice?". Can you say that you listen to the Shepherd at every point in every day? If not, then by your own reasoning you could get lost some afternoon when you have a bad day at work and an angry thought enters your head! The 'listening' here is a general characterization of the Christian - we live by God's Word.

- Leonard

Letter #4

Leonard, I think we need to set some parameters for our discussion since I don't think we will be able to clear up our difference without some kind of structure for debate. (Our predecessors have taken nearly 5 centuries and still haven't been able to do it!!!). Before I suggest some parameters for our discussion, however, I would like to address some of your comments you made in your last e-mail. You stated that it is not possible for a sheep to become a goat, because once you have become a sheep of the Lord, your salvation is eternally secured. I do not believe that the passage in question is suggesting that you cannot fall away from being a follower of Jesus. Many former Christians, for instance, are now the greatest enemies of Christianity - they once accepted Christ, but now they reject Him. Jesus is granting eternal salvation to His sheep. His sheep are those who listen to His voice. Jesus does not say 'those who have listened', but those who listen. Jesus is speaking in the present and future tense: If you stop listening to His voice, then you cease to be one of His sheep. No where in the passage does Jesus say or even imply that 'once you have accepted me at one point in your life, your salvation is assured'. Far from it - in fact, He is very clear in many Gospel parables that salvation is secured only in persevering in His teachings. (Please read Matthew 7:15-27). People dressed in 'sheep's clothing', that is, people who profess something but don't act on their beliefs are hypocrites. As you know, Jesus did not have much respect for hypocrites.

Your second argument suggests that it would be ridiculous to believe that our salvation could be lost if we had 'a bad day at work'. St. John can help us clear up this question: "If any one sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this." (1 John 5:16). Here, holy scripture is saying that there are sins leading to death (what Catholics call 'mortal sins') which are serious i.e. murder, sexual sins, etc. There are also sins, called 'venial sins', which are less serious and do not condemn you to hell i.e. being rude to someone. Hence, the fact that you are rude to someone at work will not cause your eternal loss, but if you were to kill someone at work - and not repent of it - your salvation is certainly in grave doubt. Let us back up, though. Let us define exactly what are positions are.

The Catholic position is that your salvation is assured only if you persevere in doing God's will. God judges how you have obeyed His commandments through your whole life once you have become a child of God. Hence, salvation is granted by Faith in Christ and the works you perform (as evidence of your love and fidelity to Him). In other words, simply agreeing to a number of religious propositions such as 'accepting Jesus as you personal Lord and Saviour' is not enough. One must do what Jesus said to do in order to truly 'believe' in Him.

The Protestant position, at least as it was espoused by Luther, is that your salvation is by 'faith alone' (sola fide). Salvation is assured at a point in time once you 'accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour.' Nothing you do afterwards can have any effect on your salvation. (Please correct my understanding if it is incorrect.)

Also, in order to accurately debate a particular topic, I think we would both agree that we need the entirety of scripture and not just one passage. One may be able to take one bible passage out of context and come to an entirely opposite conclusion from the truth. (Please note that I will restrict my scriptural references to what Luther believed was the bible. The Catholic bible has seven more Old Testament books.)

In the discussions that follow, I will be putting forward Scriptural passages which will defend my position. I look forward to debating these issues with you.



Letter #5


Charles told me you believed you could be saved and then lost. This is evidently not the case. Now that that has been cleared up, we can start afresh. He tells me that you believe a man is saved through a process of good living, and can't know he is saved until he dies. Regarding your reply : 1) I'm glad you'll be restricting yourself to "what Luther believed was the Bible" (read the inspired Word) since the Catholic "Apochrypha" (which means "of doubtful origin") or any add-ons by a Pope, are refuse. (As an aside, Luther spoke disrespectfully of Hebrews, James, Jude, and = Revelation, and set them apart at the end of his version. He lost the blessing those Scriptures would have provided to him. Similarily, accepting man's teachings as Scirpture - effectively adding to Scripture is a curse) 2) Yes, I agree with Luther's view of salvation : "saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone". 3) Your point that Jesus never says "once you have accepted me at one point in your life, your salvation is assured" also applies to you : where does He ever say " you have to earn your salvation through a process of good living". 4) I agree - God hates hypocracy. 5) Regarding your quotation of 1 John 5:16...The operative word here is 'brother'. This is someone in the family of God. Its not spiritual death referred to here, but physical. 6) The definition of 'venial' and 'mortal' sins,and their consequences, should be discarded from our discussion as they're of Roman Catholic origin and not found in Scripture. Scripture clearly states ALL Sin is rebellion against God. "sin is lawlessness" -1 John 3:4 7) Regarding someone who says they were a Christian but went on to deny his Lord : they may not have been saved at all : "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud" 2 Peter2:22. The significance of "being washed" is the outward appearance of being regenerate (i.e = Christian lifestyle from new birth), yet not being real, goes back to = the lifestyle it once led. In nature, it was always a pig. 8) Salvation by faith is not "simply agreeing to a number of religious propositions such as 'accepting Jesus as you personal Lord and Saviour'" as you claim I believe. It is "believe ON the Lord Jesus Christ". In other words, the only hope I could have ever had to be saved from my sins and their due penalty is Jesus's blood - I cling to Him as my hope. This will affect my lifestyle.

9) I think what is clear John, is that you don't possess any knowledge of what the Scriptures teach concerning regeneration : being born again, having the NEW nature, losing the OLD nature only when entering eternity, being sealed with the Holy Spirit.

10) How do you expain why the Lord referred to His disciples as follows... "Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." (Luke12:32). He was telling them not to fear : since they knew they were sheep, and were a part of the Shepherd-King's kingdom, they were to enjoy the fact they were saved.

11) Lets both try to be concise - avoiding long running paragraphs in which the key points are lost.

- Leonard

Letter #6

Dear Leonard,

I think we need to clear up some misunderstandings before we can proceed. Firstly, I do not believe, nor did I ever relate to Charles, that Catholics believe that they are saved by good works or, as you put it, "good living". The Catholic Church has never held that belief - ever. The Church has been faithful to Scripture by teaching that Faith is absolutely necessary for salvation. Both Protestants and Catholics believe this. So the question is not the necessity of Faith, but rather the necessity of works. In the course of our future discussions, I will show conclusively that works (along with faith) are necessary for salvation. I will also conclusively show that a person can lose his salvation if he does not obey our Lord's commands. I propose to begin with the Gospels and then proceed from there. If this is unacceptable to you, please let me know. (I will commence to do so later in this letter).

Regarding your counter-reply (referring to your numbered points):

1) With regard to the bible, you choose to use the word 'Apocrypha' in order to disregard these books as inspired. Of course, I reject the title that Protestants have imputed to these deuterocanonical books, and therefore I do accept them as inspired. You mentioned that the Pope 'added them on'. This is false. It was Luther who rejected these books because it did not mesh with his rejection of Purgatory and praying for the dead, which these books support. These books were already considered inspired by the Church even before Luther. The Council of Trent merely re-affirmed the canonicity of these books. We will return to this question later on, but I suggest you ponder a few fundamental questions: Where do you think we got the bible in the first place? Did it fall from heaven? How do you know that all of the books of Scripture are inspired and how do you know that there are none missing? Who has the authority to say what is inspired and what is not? Finally, since Luther accepted all of the New Testament books, he was obviously accepting books that were already considered inspired. Question: on whose authority was he relying on to say they were inspired? (You mentioned that adding to Scripture would cause a curse. Well, so does subtracting from Scripture (Cf. Revelation 22:19)) Again, we will discuss in more depth after addressing the question of salvation.

2) I am having a difficult time understanding your position. You say that you believe in 'sola fide' (faith alone), yet you seem to qualify this by saying 'not by faith that is alone'. Does this mean that something must accompany faith for salvation i.e. works?

5) This passage is clearly to be understood as spiritual death, not physical death as you maintain.

"If any one sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this." (1 John 5:16)

Note that St. John says 'God will give him life'. Obviously, this statement does not mean physical life since the person is already physically alive. Since the price of all sin is indeed physical death, the fact that St. John says there is a sin 'not leading to death' suggests that his words are not to be understood in the physical sense (otherwise, he would be contradicting Scripture itself). His words are, therefore, clearly to be understood in the spiritual realm.

6) The Church calls serious sins 'mortal' and non-serious sins 'venial' since it wishes to distinguish the nature of sins. The fact that the words 'mortal' and 'venial' are not in the bible is irrelevant, since neither is the word 'Trinity'. The important thing to realize is that there is a difference between sins which lead to death and sins which do not. You would be very hard-pressed, for instance, to argue that being rude to someone held the same moral weight as murder. If you do, then I would suggest that you are betraying your own sense of justice. If it bothers you so much, I will refrain from using these words, but I will not admit that God sees all sin in the same light.

7) I don't know if you realize this, but you have just admitted the weakness of your position. You are effectively saying that if a believer backslides into sin or denial, then he really wasn't a believer to begin with. Are you suggesting that a person, who in Year 1 'accepts Jesus as His personal Lord and Saviour' but then in year 10 abandons his faith, really didn't have faith to begin with? The logical inference here is that when the person made his profession of faith in year 1, he must not have been sincere since, by your own admission, his salvation is eternally secure. I, however, believe that someone can be sincere in his belief at the beginning, but then simply fall into apostasy. If you, yourself, were to fall into apostasy, you would be admitting that your Faith in Christ was not sincere to begin with. Are you prepared to accept this? Are you prepared to say that your Faith in Christ now is not sincere?

3) You have asked me to show you where Jesus teaches "you have to earn your salvation through a process of good living". I intend to do just that - please note the following passages from Matthew (I have only read the first 14 chapters of Matthew, and I have already found a multitude of passages which support the Catholic view of 'faith and works'):

- Matthew 3:8-10 - note the necessity of bringing forth 'fruit' which is good works.

- Matthew 5:11-12 - your reward is great in heaven only if you persevere.

- Matthew 5:30 - note that Our Lord is speaking to believers, and He still warns of the consequences of sin.

- Matthew 6:20-21 - what is the point to 'storing up treasures' (i.e. good works) if it did not impact on your salvation?

- Matthew 7:19 - the consequences of not bearing good fruit (i.e. good works) are clear.

- Matthew 7:21-27 - only the one who does the will of God enters heaven. Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord...' will enter the kingdom. You must prove you are a disciple of Jesus before you can enter heaven. Notice too that in v.24 Our Lord makes it clear that his followers must ACT on his words in order to enjoy eternal life. This is contrasted with v.26 where the 'follower' who did NOT ACT on His words is not fit for heaven.

- Matthew 10:22 - Again, Our Lord insists that it is the one who 'endures to the end' who will be saved.

- Matthew 10:38-39 - Jesus says that you must carry your cross in order to be worthy of Him. If you do not carry your cross (i.e. accept the sufferings that come your way, do good works), then you are not going to enter heaven. - Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 - Please pay close attention to v.20 and v.21 which suggest that the one who initially 'accepts Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour' but does not continue, has lost his eternal salvation.

P.S. You mentioned in your first letter that "Scripture only speaks of God's children as being sheep." That is not entirely true - see Matthew 9:36 and Matthew 10:6



Leonard, this the remainder of my response to points 8-11, which were lost in the last e-mail.

8) Since you say your belief in Jesus 'will affect your lifestyle', are you suggesting that your lifestyle choices will affect your salvation? If you are, then you cannot say that your salvation is secure. Yet, if you are not, then you are saying that your future behaviour has no bearing on your salvation. Please clarify.

10) First of all, any passage must be taken in its context with all of scripture considered. From the passage you have cited, you presume to believe that Jesus has given you eternal life UNCONDITIONALLY because of your confessional faith. Jesus does indeed say that the Father is pleased to give us the kingdom, yet, as the REMAINDER of His teachings in the chapter quickly remind us, He does not say that we have it if we mock our 'faith' by serious sin. Nevertheless, He gives us hope IF we abide in His love and keep His commandments (Cf. John 15:10).

Therefore, to appreciate what Our Lord means, it is necessary to read the rest of the Chapter, in particular Luke 12:33-46. Notice in v.33-35, Jesus links good works with eternal glory. Regarding v.36-40, Our Lord tells His disciples to 'be ready'(v. 40). The inevitable question that arises is: Why does Our Lord want us to 'be ready', if as you suggest, we are already eternally secure of salvation? (This begs the question: What if we are not ready?) In v.39, He admits that salvation would be too easy if people knew when He would come again since many 'believers' would be on their best behaviour around that time. This necessarily implies that time and perseverance do in fact matter in salvation (v.38). In v.42-44, Jesus says that the 'faithful and sensible servant' is the one who DOES His will, and rewards Him by 'putting Him in charge of all His possessions' - an allusion to the Kingdom. Finally, in v.45-46, the heavy consequences of sinning grievously are stated. Please also pay close attention to the last part of v. 46 "and a assign him a place with the UNBELIEVERS". Our Lord was therefore speaking to BELIEVERS (v.41) when He warned of the grave consequences earlier in the verse. Therefore, they COULD lose their salvation.

(As an aside, recall that you said that there is no distinction between a serious sin and less serious sin in God's eyes. ("Scripture clearly states ALL Sin is rebellion against God."). Compare the punishment Jesus gives to the servant who beat his servants and got drunk (v.45) to the servant who 'coasted'(v.47). Jesus condemns the first with the unbelievers i.e. hell, while only giving lashes to the second (and those who did not know His will) i.e. purgatory...But this is another question which we may later explore.)

Therefore, in conclusion, Luke 12:32 gives eternal salvation only to the one who is 'ready.'

11) I think you will agree that such a topic cannot really be restricted to a few lines if we want to have a meaningful discussion. I will, however, try to limit my responses in the future.



Letter #7

Dear John,

I've read a document that Charles had photocopied for me entitled "What Catholics really believe" (chapter 36) to gain an unequivocal statement as to what you believe. Before I reply to your latest E-mail, I would like to state my thoughts regarding some statements in this document : The document states that we are saved "Only by God's grace, completely unmerited by works, is one saved." I agree with this. It also states that "Authentic, saving faith is always manifested in good works." I agree with this with the following qualification in the understanding of the word 'faith'. When the Bible talks about 'faith', it isn't merely that one makes the assertion that Christ existed and that He died for us. There is sufficient evidence historically for this. No, its the turning to and "clinging" to Christ for one's eternal destiny that is referred to. When THIS faith is exhibited, fruit for God is now possible in one's life. Now the problem: this document states that one's saving faith must be preserved by good works - they "keep us in a state of grace, and in that way they contribute to our salvation". And that we can lose our salvation : "We lose our salvation when we fall into serious sin." I do not agree with this. I will discuss this later in this E-mail. In your last E-mail you listed a number of verses which you were using to show "you have to earn your salvation through a process of good living". This is not what these verses are saying at all. The verses you listed from Matthew's Gospel are various statements as to how God views man's responsibility, as His creature, to do good. However, you have inferred that we must therefore earn our salvation by being good. The truth is that we were never able to live up to God's standard - see Rom 3:20. It's all by grace - see Rom 1:17. Now I know that the Catholic belief would seem to agree with this. But the truth is it doesn't : being under Grace means I am done with any effort of my own - period. I will go over your verses now and then come back to this. I will give what I believe to be the correct understanding of these verses...

1) Matthew 3:8-10 - note the necessity of bringing forth 'fruit' which is good works. ----> speaking to Jews : they believed that they were accepted by God because of their birth, and their repentance was therefore not real.

2) Matthew 5:11-12 - your reward is great in heaven only if you persevere. ----> this passage declares that our reward will be great for such faithfulness. - Matthew 5:30 - note that Our Lord is speaking to believers, and He still warns of the consequences of sin. ---->Showing how much we should hate sin. Nothing to do how we get saved.

3) Matthew 6:20-21 - what is the point to 'storing up treasures' (i.e. good works) if it did not impact on your salvation? ----> This is directing our hearts toward heaven. Being heavenly minded means we will desire to live for God down here, knowing that we will be rewarded for faithful service. Nothing to do how we get saved.

4) Matthew 7:19 - the consequences of not bearing good fruit (i.e. good works) are clear. ----> Read vs. 15 and realize this is related to false prophets : they do not produce good works. Nothing to do how we get saved.

5) Matthew 7:21-27 - only the one who does the will of God enters heaven. Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord...' will enter the kingdom. You must prove you are a disciple of Jesus before you can enter heaven. Notice too that in v.24 Our Lord makes it clear that his followers must ACT on his words in order to enjoy eternal life. This is contrasted with v.26 where the 'follower' who did NOT ACT on His words is not fit for heaven. ----> The point here is there will be many who will appear to be believers - even casting out demons in the name of Christ! - but never really trusted in His blood. Regarding your statement above that we must prove you are a disciple of Jesus, read the verse 2 Tim 2:19 : "The Lord knows those that are His". The contrast between the two houses illustrate the difference between one who trusts in the Lord (he has believed the Lords words) and the one who didn't listen.

6) Matthew 10:22 - Again, Our Lord insists that it is the one who 'endures to the end' who will be saved. ----> You cannot understand this verse if you remove it from the context. See verse 23. It must be understood that the Lord is speaking to His disciples as Jews. This passage is speaking to the Jews in the end times - after Christians are taken home to be with the Lord as in 1 Thes 4:16-17. Verses 17 & 18 of Matthew 10 refer to synagogues and Gentiles - clearly Jewish references.

7) Matthew 10:38-39 - Jesus says that you must carry your cross in order to be worthy of Him. If you do not carry your cross (i.e. accept the sufferings that come your way, do good works), then you are not going to enter heaven. ----> Once again, this passage is speaking to the Jew in the end times. In principle, the cross separates us from this world -see Gal 6:14. I believe that we should live as separate from this world - see 1 John 2:15 " Do not love the world".

8) Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 - Please pay close attention to v.20 and v.21 which suggest that the one who initially 'accepts Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour' but does not continue, has lost his eternal salvation. ----> The fact that "he had no root" shows that his profession of faith wasn't real : it only appeared that it was. It is says of him "it sprang up quickly" indicating it was merely outward appearance without any real exercise of soul.

Now for a few thoughts I have regarding salvation... I sense that the position Roman Catholics hold concerning salvation does not take into consideration the doctrine of the Old and New natures. The idea behind a "nature" is in describing the source of a behaviour. For instance, a dog behaves as a dog and not a cat because it has a dog's nature. And vice-versa. The Old nature in man, also referred to as the sinful nature and the flesh, is what we are born with as members of Adam's race. The New nature, however, is conferred to a man when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and thus becomes born again. Man without the New nature bares absolutely no fruit for God. But man with the New nature can bare fruit for God, but he does not lose the Old nature until he gets to heaven. This is why we need someone "...who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ..." -1John2:1. Even though we are born of God, we still sin because of our failing. But God doesn't write us off when we sin - His Son acts as an Advocate for us. Since "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins" - 1John2:2, all of our sins have been paid for. So then, being born again, and all our sins paid for, how can we lose our salvation? Christ paid for ALL our sins because we are absolutely helpless before an infinitely holy God.

I would like to continue, but its better to keep our replies as brief as possible or else we'll be losing each other with the multitude of points. So I'll close by adding that I regret that the tone of our previous correspondence was at some times abrasive. Although I hate what I believe to be departure from the truth in the Catholic teachings, I should be sensitive to your personal beliefs and convictions. It was frustrating having Charles questioning much of his Christian Evangelical beliefs because of his lack of education in the Word. I pray that our continued discussions will be used by God for blessing on Charles and the both of us, as we study His Word and discern His will by the Holy Spirit.

- Leonard

Letter #8

Good day, Leonard

Thank you for responding to my last e-mail. I agree that we should try our best to continue our dialogue in Christian charity and understanding. I apologize for any offense I may have taken against you. Perhaps, Charles can act as a 'check' so we don't fall into that trap again.

1) You do not agree that we lose our salvation when we fall into serious sin. Serious sin, is by definition, a rejection of God. When we reject God, we reject Christ's promise of eternal salvation. Just as the Holy Spirit will not enter a person uninvited so too he will not remain in Him if rejected. The alternative, and what your belief implicitly holds, is that God 'forces' himself on us even if we don't want His Love. This belief therefore leads to the denial of free will.

2) I agree with you that we are unable to obtain salvation by our own merits. That IS the Catholic position. The question, therefore, is not if we need God's help, but rather HOW we allow God to save us. I think you have brought up a good point when you speak of 'grace'. You say that grace saves you without any effort on you own - 'period'. The word 'grace' for Roman Catholics is defined "as any divine assistance given to persons in order to advance them toward their supernatural destiny of fellowship with God. In its proper sense, grace transforms a person's nature so that it can function at an entirely new interpersonal level, where the object of knowledge and love is none other than God Himself and where other persons are known and loved in God. This new level of existence and activity is properly supernatural: it involves the transformation and elevation of the natural states and capacities of the creaturely person." (Catholic Encyclopedia). Thus, for Catholics, 'grace' means assistance not assurance. Incidentally, you may be interested to know that the doctrine of the necessity of grace for salvation was formulated by St. Augustine against Pelagianism, a fourth century heresy which held that human beings can take the initial steps toward salvation and perform good actions by their own efforts.

My responses to your comments on some passages:

1) Matthew 3:8-10: St. John the Baptist is not speaking just to the Pharisees. He is speaking to all people who presume to profess the truth, and do not produce the fruits of that profession. He does not deny the Pharisees their birthright, but rather chastises them for their hypocrisy. Thus, the Baptist uses the Pharisees as an example of what not to be. His message of repentance goes out to all those are like the Pharisees. What is the alternative? That John the Baptist required repentance of the Pharisees, and not people who are like the Pharisees? Does this make sense?

2) Matthew 5:30: Our Lord is speaking to all those who wish to follow Him. When He says that it is better take drastic action to avoid sin rather than be thrown into hell, is He not warning of the consequences of serious sin? Does this not impact your salvation? Is he saying 'Don't worry about sin because you are already saved?' No, Jesus is not saying that at all. In fact, He gives the very sobering reality of the deadly consequences of sin by commanding us to take every available means (symbolized by cutting off our hands) to avoid it. He wanted us to avoid it BECAUSE of eternal loss.

4) Matthew 7:19: Are you suggesting that Jesus was speaking only to a restricted view of 'prophet' (i.e. Prophets with a capital 'P')? Are you saying that Jesus is condemning only false prophets because of their lack of works while everyone else is exempt from good works? This is not very logical nor very just. Jesus' commandments apply to everyone equally. A false prophet is necessarily anyone who professes one thing on the outside, but is really something else inside. He tells us that we 'will know them by their fruits'; that is, their works, and He gives the warning to those who think they can go through life coasting: "EVERY tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." This does indeed impact our salvation.

5) Matthew 7:21-27: You are correct is saying that the difference between the two houses is that one trusted in the Lord and the other did not. However, you did not follow that observation to its logical conclusion. Read and compare closely v.24 and v.26. Note that both men 'heard' the word, but ONLY the one who ACTED on it did not fall.

6) Matthew 10:22: Jesus' words are for His disciples for all time. Your interpretation of this verse is biased toward you theory of a 'rapture'. There is no reason to believe that Jesus is speaking to only those Jews in the end times. You have assigned a restriction that is not evident in the passage. Rather, it is clear and consistent with other biblical passages that we must endure, carry our cross and proclaim the Gospel. This is not an suggestion but a commandment for salvation. Read Matthew 9:62.

7) Matthew 10:38-39: Again, you are restricting this passage to apply to the Jews in the end times. You are not admitting what is clear from scripture: to follow Jesus is to accept the crosses He gives us. Remember a disciple is not greater than his master. (Cf. Matthew 10:24)

8) Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23:

Leonard, read v. 21 carefully: "But he has root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or perseverance comes because of the word, he immediately falls away." Our Lord is using the word "root" to express the idea of stability through tough times. The person in this passage has no 'root' and therefore 'fell away'. In other words, he had no root; that is, no real faith BECAUSE he failed to endure the persecutions that came as a result of being a follower of Jesus. It is quite apparent to me, especially in light of v.23, that the one who endures and produces fruit (through faith, always) is indeed the one who gains eternal life (Cf. Matthew 7:19). On the other hand, the one who 'falls away' is not promised eternal life.

But let us back up. You said "the fact that he had 'no root' shows that his profession of faith wasn't real." You further described the individual as lacking "any real exercise of the soul." You will no doubt return to your original position which questioned whether the person had faith to begin with. Are you still holding to this position?

On the remainder of your comments...

I agree with your discussion of the 'new nature'. However, I disagree with you characterization of 'God writing us off'. First of all, God does not 'write us off.' WE 'write ourselves off'. Secondly, the atoning sacrifice of Christ does not apply to the believer if he keeps 'crucifying Christ' (Cf. Hebrews 6:6), otherwise what would be the need for repentance? Works is the fruit of a sincere repentance (Cf. Luke 6:44). Repentance is an absolute requirement for forgiveness. (Cf. Luke 17:3). Forgiveness is required for salvation (Cf. Matthew 18:34-35). Therefore, works is required for salvation (Cf. Luke 10:26-36). Indeed, Leonard, all of our sins have been paid for (Cf. Romans 6:10), but first we need to repent in order to be forgiven (Cf. Acts 2:38 - a confessional faith was not enough; there had to be repentance).

By the way, I would like your comments on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. I would especially like you to explain how v.27 reconciles with your view of guaranteed salvation.

Hope to hear from you soon...


Letter #9

In our bible study last night, we took up Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians. Chuck told us that verses 24-27 was a passage which the two of you were discussing, and that you wanted to know what we thought it meant. I'll start by saying that this passage is a difficult one which can be misunderstood - as Peter says in 2 Peter 3 regarding Paul's letters "His letters contain some things that are hard to understand..." The passage presents a prize - eternal life. We should run in a way which gains us the prize. This is similar to Philippians "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling". Now we both will agree that we are saved by Grace through Faith and not Works - as Eph 2:8,9 states. So the meaning behind what Paul says isn't that we must earn our salvation, but that the character of our Christian life should be fruitful. The danger in vs 27 is a man who goes through all the motions yet is himself reprobate. This is the summary :

The prize = eternal life (the eternal crown verses the temporal crown).

Competing in the games (running in the race) = professing to be a Believer

Running the race = living the Christian life

In order to run the race, it is necessary to train.

Training = Growing in the knowledge of Christ.

The danger of vs.27 : if someone isn't training (beating the body) = he may not be a true Believer.

Thus, this false Believer could have even preached Christ to others but he himself was without Him. This is reminiscent of Balaam of the Old Testament, and of Charles Templeton in more recent times.

- Leonard

Letter #10

Leonard, thank you for responding to my query regarding 1 Corinthians 9:27. I would like, however, to clarify a few points you brought up before discussing this passage.

You stated that 'we both agree that we are saved by Grace through Faith and not Works'. I cannot agree with your assertion as you understand it. The Catholic and, I believe, biblical view is that justification is based on a fiduciary faith (as you understand faith to mean) AND 'works of faith'. As I have indicated to you, I am preparing a thesis on the question of justification, comparing the Protestant and the Catholic view on this subject. One of the central questions in this debate is what St. Paul means by 'Faith'. I maintain that St. Paul means Faith to be a working faith (Cf. Galatians 5:6; Hebrews 11:7-29) and an obedient faith (Cf. Romans 1:5, 16:26), not a faith that is dead without works (Cf. James 2:17). Thus, Ephesians 2:8-9 could be very well understood in this light IF you don't stop at verse 9, but continue reading to the next verse.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

There is a very good possibility that St. Paul meant 'works' to mean 'ceremonial works' such as circumcision, animal sacrifice, food observances, which the Jews thought could justify them before God. A legitimate case could be made for this interpretation, especially considering St. Paul's reference to circumcision later in verse 11. But let us say that St. Paul did mean 'good works'. It is still very conceivable that St. Paul meant that you could not be saved by works ALONE, since he says that you are not saved 'of yourselves,' which allows for, I respectfully submit, the possibility of 'works of faith' still being nonetheless necessary. Furthermore, it is the opinion of the Church that this great privilege of salvation issues from a twofold gift: grace on the part of God, faith on the part of man - faith being the instrument for grace (v. 8-9) to ACT (v.10). The gift is wholly from God, and the Council of Orange (529 A.D.) used this text to prove that the beginnings of faith are a gift of God. The reason why all this issues from God and not from ourselves is that we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus - a new creation just as surely as our entry into natural life was a creation.

Now for 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. For this teaching St. Paul borrows from the Greek athletic contests which were extremely popular throughout the eastern provinces. The moral of the story is that a man may be a 'Christian' (i.e. professes to be a Christian) and yet not be saved, just as a man may run a race and not win it. In your analysis, you have effectively come to the same conclusion although you state it differently, saying that such a man is a 'false believer'. Although similar, the manner in which our conclusions are stated demonstrates the difference between the Protestant belief in 'faith alone' and the Catholic belief in 'faith and works' for justification.

St. Paul was, arguably, the greatest of the Apostles and certainly the most learned and educated. Yet, he had 'fear that he himself might be disqualified.' When St. Paul says he is afraid of being 'disqualified', that begs the question: disqualified from what? Now, you quite correctly acknowledged that the 'prize' which St. Paul speaks about is eternal life, and 'running the race' is living the Christian life. Therefore, it logically follows that St. Paul admits the possibility of being disqualified from the race and not obtaining the prize, or in other words, losing his salvation.

Your solution to this inescapable conclusion is to claim that such a 'Christian' was not a true believer in the first place. Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to convince me (and many others no doubt) that St. Paul could be a 'false believer' when he wrote this letter to the Corinthians. Yet, the Apostle himself admits that he COULD forfeit his inheritance. What are we to conclude? That St. Paul was a 'false believer' HIS WHOLE LIFE if he were to later fall into apostasy? In order to further highlight the difference between our two views, consider the following example.

At 21 years of age, Henry comes to know the Lord and accepts Him as his 'personal Lord and Saviour'. He goes to bible study, he prays intently, and comes to know the Lord in a very special way. Ten years later, Henry abandons Christianity, and decides to pursue his monetary interests in this world. Besides, he has lost his faith in God altogether and become an atheist. He even goes so far as to attack Christianity when the opportunity arises in social occasions. In effect, Henry has not only become an apostate, but also an enemy of God. Henry holds to his atheistic and anti-Christian biases for the rest of his whole life, and then dies. Question: Is he saved?

The Catholic position is this. Henry lost his faith and denied Christ, and did not repent of this sin before He died. Therefore, he will not be saved since he did not persevere in his initial profession of faith. Fundamentalism holds, however, that salvation is awarded at a point in time, and therefore there is nothing that can 'unsave' someone. This belief, however, necessarily causes a number of difficulties. For Fundamentalism, the alternatives are these:

i) Henry is not saved because he did not persevere in his faith. He denied Jesus. He lost his faith. Therefore, he lost his salvation.

ii) Henry is still saved since he did, at one point in his life, 'accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour'.

iii) Henry is not saved since he did not really have a 'sincere' faith at all. He really did not believe to begin with, so he could not have been eternally saved. He was a 'false believer'.


The Protestant position will reject the first alternative since it is the Catholic position. If it did accept the first alternative, it would be rejecting the idea of 'assured salvation'.

The second alternative offends common reason. No rational person would accept this alternative since the most odious unrepentant sinner could enter heaven by just professing Jesus as his 'personal Lord and Saviour'. (For instance, if Hitler had made this profession in his youth, he could be still saved! The reason this is such an abhorrent idea is only because Hitler did such evil things.)

The third alternative is the only one that can be held, at least at the outset, by the Protestant apologist. However, this option is also fraught with difficulties and contradictions. This alternative falls apart when one seeks out the meaning of a 'sincere faith'. The New Webster's dictionary defines 'sincere' as 'utterly honest and genuine'. If the proponent of Protestantism holds to this definition of sincerity while also holding to 'solo fide', he will have to say that the person who loses his faith was not honest when he first accepted Christ into his life. To hold to this position, however, is really straining credibility. Common reason and respect dictate that people who accept a principle (i.e. any principle or belief - not just a religious belief) are indeed sincere at the beginning of their profession. To suggest otherwise is, frankly, ridiculously cynical and skeptical. Thus, when Henry professed his Faith in Christ at the start, he was likely sincere and honest with himself and God - he really did accept Christ and believe in Him. Therefore, if Henry's sincerity is conceded, then the third alternative is not possible and the Protestant position consequently falls.

But let us say, for the sake of argument, that the Protestant still holds to this point in his defence that - in fact - Henry could not have been really sincere in his initial profession of faith if he later rejected Christ. The Protestant position holds that Henry must have a sincere faith to be saved. Notice, however, that the Protestant has added the dimension of TIME to his definition of sincerity. Since the Protestant uses Henry's later rejection of Christ as a measure of Henry's sincerity of his first profession, the Protestant is effectively saying 'you are only truly sincere if you endure to the end.' Consequently, the Protestant has admitted to the Catholic position of perseverance in faith for salvation, as well as the logical ancillary to this, which is a salvation which can be lost.

In order to reconcile the constant biblical theme of a persevering faith, the Protestant might forgo the belief in 'instant-time' salvation to adopt a more scriptural belief of the necessity of a 'constant faith' instead. To abandon this original Protestant belief, however, implicitly admits that salvation is not certain on one single profession of faith. If salvation is dependent on an enduring faith, then it must be more than just a confessional faith. Indeed, it would suggest a confessional faith, although necessary, is like a mustard seed (Cf. Luke 13:19) which must grow into its full maturity by entering into the Christian life more completely. In seeking to obtain this maturity and fullness, it produces fruit (Cf. Luke 8:15), and thereby evolves from a 'confessional faith' into a 'living faith' - a faith which does what Jesus commands us to do. To stunt this growing process and prevent the seed from developing into a 'living faith', reduces the confessional faith to a dead faith. And a dead faith does not bring eternal life (Cf. James 2:14).

Hope to hear from you soon, Leonard...

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
June 12, 1997