Soteriology 033John 6:66 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 2, 2016 • Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation
Soteriology 33, John 6:66
October 2, 2016
Let’s go ahead and pray. Father, we’re grateful for this morning and grateful for another chance to gather and learn of Your truth, and I pray that You’ll be with us during our Sunday School class today and also during the worship service. And I invite you, Lord, to change us today; change the way we think, change the way we live, change our point of view as we allow our minds to be conformed into the image of Your Son. We ask these things in Jesus name and God’s people said, Amen.
Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the Gospel of John, let’s not do that, let’s open to Hebrews 11:32. I want to welcome you back to our discussion, our teaching through the doctrine of salvation, spending quite a bit of time on eternal security because I know that’s an issue that plagues people; eternal security, of course, being the idea that once saved always saved. And I’ve given you, earlier in the series, the major arguments for eternal security and most studies on the issue end there but they never take you to the other side’s arguments. So what I’m trying to do in this second part of the series is respond to the passages that really bother people and seem to deny eternal security.
We’ve been through a series of Old Testament passages, we finished the passages in Matthew last time, but one of the things we did talk about was the unpardonable sin, and before I leave the unpardonable sin I just want to make a brief statement about suicide because many people, I’m not sure why this is in their minds but they feel that if they commit suicide then they’ve committed the unpardonable sin. In other words, suicide, as tragic as it is, if you’ve ever been around a family that’s gone through someone in their family committed suicide it just leaves this storm of emotional turmoil in the family members and people are always blaming themselves and what could I have done differently and it’s just a horrible, horrible thing.
But let’s say someone is a believer, born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and they just become despondent because of life’s circumstances and they take their own life. Is that the unpardonable sin? Does that somehow undo salvation as terrible an event as that is? But what you’ll discover in the Bible is there are seven people that committed suicide. I have the list there on the screen, Abimelech, Samson, Saul’s armor bearer, Saul himself, he fell on his own sword intentionally and committed suicide, Ahithiphel, Zimri, and of course the most famous suicide in the Bible is who? Judas. Now three of them we can really drill down and figure out that these are actual believers: Samson we think was a believer; Saul was a believer, and Ahithiphel we think was a believer.
Now there are direct comments given in the Bible concerning Samson and also concerning Saul. You know from your Bible, you know from Sunday School that Samson committed suicide, he pulled down, through his superhuman strength that God gave him, he pulled down the pillars of the temple which caused the whole thing to collapse; that’s a suicide. And what you’ll discover is Samson is mentioned in the hall of faith with all the other saved people. So in Hebrews 11:32 it says, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, [Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets]” and then you’ll see Samson in there, so the fact that Samson that committed suicide and yet is in the hall of faith with all the other saved people, everybody in the hall of faith is an obvious believer. That in and of itself leads me in the direction that suicide, as terrible as it is, is not the unpardonable sin.
And then you take another example, number 4, a guy named Saul. Saul, in 1 Samuel 31:3-6 intentionally fell on his own sword. [1 Samuel 31:3, “The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers.  Then Saul said to his armor bearer, ‘Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.’ But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it.  When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him.  Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together.”]
But there’s a very interesting statement that Samuel makes. You remember Saul consulted the witch at Endor; remember that story? And all of a sudden he’s in this vision consulting the witch and who pops up from the dead? Samuel! I think it was actually Samuel, that’s what the text says, not an demon impersonating Samuel. But when you look at 1 Samuel 28:19 Samuel, just prior to Saul’s suicide, which would happen relatively fast after these words were spoken, makes this statement, he says, “Moreover the LORD will” he’s pronouncing curses on Saul because of his disobedience, “Moreover the LORD will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with” who? “be with me” So that, to me, opens the door that after Saul committed suicide he actually went into the presence of heaven, in the Old Testament sense, where Samuel was.
So you look at Hebrews 11:32, related to Samson and then 1 Samuel 28:19 related to Saul, and as horrible as the circumstance suicide is I don’t think it’s the unpardonable sin because I have these two verses that give me the statements concerning the afterlife of two suicide victims, one in Hebrews 11, the other in 1 Samuel 28:19. [Hebrews 11:32, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,”]
I just wanted to cover that briefly because when you talk about the unpardonable sin people immediately want to know about suicide. The only sin that sends somebody into hell that God won’t forgive is dying having never trusted in Christ. If you want an unpardonable sin that would be it. I was trying to cover that last week but there was so much information I had to kind of bump that to this week.
Have you read Romans 8:38-39 lately, this is an interesting verse. Paul says, “For I am convinced” and then he starts mentioning all the things that cannot separate us from the love of God, angels, principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, height, depth, nor any other created thing will separate us from the love of God. As you look at the first part there, “For I am convinced that neither” what, “death nor life” can “separate us from the love of God.” Death, of course, would encompass what? Suicide. [Romans 8:38-39. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”]
So of course a suicide is a sinful act, I believe because I don’t think anybody has a right to take a life other than God, and all sin brings forth consequences, but we shouldn’t think that the sin of suicide is something that separates us from the love of God.
All right, now here’s where we wanted to go today, we’re going to look at, if time permits, three passages from John’s Gospel, having looked at the ones from Matthew’s Gospel, which seem to deny the security of the believer. So let’s go over to John 6:66. Here are the three we’re going to try to look at today; John 6:66, that’s a scary one, there’s three 6’s there aren’t there. And then we’ll look at John 16:6, and then we’ll look at John 20:30-31, that covers all of the ones in John, because people are saying are we ever going to finish this series, I mean, you spent so much time in Matthew. You’ll see that it’ll start moving a lot faster now that we’re out of Matthew and out of the Old Testament.
John 6:66 is Jesus’ bread of life discourse, and you’ll notice that in the church growth literature this is never quoted because Jesus shrunk the church here, because today everybody is talking about how to make the church big and Jesus, in John 6, starts giving the hard sayings about discipleship and everybody disappears except the twelve. And in the process it says this in John 6:66, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” So people see the word “disciples” and they see the word “withdrew” and they say very clearly there these are people that lost their salvation.
So let me try to answer that real quickly if I could. You’ll notice this word “disciple.” Meth-ah-tase is I think how you pronounce that in Greek. And the thing to understand about the word “disciple” is it’s not a technical term. What is a technical term? A technical term is a term that always means the same thing whenever it’s used. So every time in the Bible you see a word it always means the same thing, that would be a technical term. But most words, what you’ll discover, are not technical words. Words have multiple meanings. Take, for example, the word “apple.” Think how many meanings that word has; that could be something that you’re looking at, the apple of one’s eye, referring to the pupil. You could be referring to New York City, “The Big Apple.” You could be referring to a computer. You could be referring to a piece of fruit. So when you look at the word “apple” in a written statement how do you know which meaning to supply? What gives you the answer? Context. That’s why we say the three rules of Bible study are what? Context, context, context! Context defines the meaning of words.
It’s the same with this word “disciple.” Disciple can refer to both a saved and an unsaved student of Christ’s teachings. There are people that are students of Christ’s teachings, because they’re saved (I hope everybody in this room is in that category) but there are other people that are students of Christ, for example, they want to study the key philosophers of the day, and they throw Jesus into the mix and so they become a learner, which is really what a disciple is, they become a learner of Christ’s teachings, not because they’ve ever believed in Him for personal salvation but they’re just kind of a disciple of His teaching. What I’m trying to get at is disciple doesn’t always refer to a saved person; it refers to a learner who could be a saved or an unsaved person. Do you follow that?
And we have many examples of people in the Scripture that are students or disciples of spiritual things but aren’t saved. The famous passage we went over in this class, Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”
And we went through this passage and we said this is not a believer with weak faith, as this verse is often used to describe that; it’s basically talking about people in the end time who are unsaved and they want to get into heaven on the basis of self-righteousness. But even though these people are unregenerate and Jesus says “I never knew you” look how spiritual they are; they’re even calling Jesus Lord. They’re even saying that we prophesied in Your name and we actually did miracles in Your name, and we cast out demons in Your name. So I would say these people here, in the final judgment were disciples of some kind of spiritual truth but they were actually never believers. And I think that’s how the word “disciple” is being used in John 6:66.
And of course, we know that one of the twelve, as a matter of fact, let’s go back to Matthew 10 for a minute, although I’m not going into Matthew I just want to show you an example of someone who clearly was a disciple but was not regenerate (or saved). What does Matthew 10:1 say? “Jesus summoned His twelve” what? “disciples….” And then it mentions them, [2, “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;  Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus].
And then you go down to verse 4 and it mentions not just “Simon the Zealot” but who else, “Judas Iscariot” so you’ll notice here that Judas Iscariot is given the designation “disciple,” the same word, methatase there in Matthew 10:4 that’s used in John 6:66. [Matthew 10:4, “Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.” John 6:66, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”]
But quite clearly Judas was never saved. Why would I say that? Let’s go back to John 6 for a minute, and notice verse 64, just a few verse before the verses we were looking at, verse 66; it says, “‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’” Now if you don’t believe that means you’re not what? Saved. And then it identifies them, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would” what? “betray Him.” So the ones that betray Him… (wouldn’t that include Judas) never what? Believed. And then it’s very clear as you drop down to verse 71, it says, “Now He meant” who? At the very end of the chapter, verse 71, “Now He meant” who? “Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” So Jesus clearly identifies Judas here as an unbeliever because He says the one who betrays me is the one who didn’t believe and He mentions Judas by name when you connect verse 64 with verse 71.
So what I’m trying to get at is Judas is an example of the type of entity or person mentioned in John 6:66. He was what we would call a disciple, he’s called a disciple in the Scripture, but he was an unregenerate, unsaved disciple. And that’s a mistake people make with this passage is they assume that a disciple means a believer. That doesn’t hold up, as I’m trying to show you.
If you want more evidence that Judas was not saved, because I notice as I get on the internet, which is kind of a dangerous thing to do, there’s a lot of people out there arguing that Judas actually was saved and I reject that; I do not think the man was saved because Jesus says of him in Matthew 26:24 “it would be better for him if he had never been” what? “born.” That’s a very strange thing to say to a believer, isn’t it, who has the hope of heaven. [Matthew 26:24, “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”]
And Judas is given the designation, John 17:12, the son of perdition, which means the son of destruction. [John 17:12, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”] Now that title, “son of perdition” son of destruction, is only used of one other person in the whole Bible. Anybody know who it is? The antichrist. Paul calls the antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 “the son of perdition.” So just as the antichrist obviously won’t be saved neither was Judas. [2 Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” KJV]
Now when Judas committed suicide, and this is sort of… people kind of lump this and they think that’s why suicide is the unpardonable sin because Judas committed suicide, he wasn’t saved, and I tried to show you earlier that there are two people in the Bible that did commit suicide that we think were saved, based on the New Testament and Old Testament; that would be Samson and Saul. But it is interesting that when Judas committed suicide it says in Acts 1:25 that he went to his own place. [Acts 1:25, “to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”] That’s a very strange way to describe a believer’s death, isn’t it? Because the Scripture says “to be absent from the body is to be” what? “present with the Lord.” It doesn’t say that about Judas; it says he went “to his own place.”
So having said all that who are these people there in John 6:66, which is what we were looking at, “as a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not following Him anymore.” These are examples of what we would call false converts, people who were disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ but had never really exercised personal faith in Him, just like Judas. And it’s interesting that when you study John 6, John, does he ever say all these people that withdrew from Him lost their salvation? It never says that. All these people that withdrew from Him I would argue most of them, perhaps all of them, never were saved to begin with. But John 6:66 becomes a real issue in the whole debate about eternal security because of that word “disciple,” the disciples “withdrew” and I’m trying to show you that the term “disciple” has a much broader meaning than simply a believer. Not every disciple is a believer; that’s the point I’m trying to get at. That’s how to handle John 6:66 I light of eternal security.
All right… well, here comes the one that probably has caused more terror in the life of a Christian than maybe any other verse besides the unpardonable sin, and that’s in John 15:6. So let’s look at that one real quick. John 15:6, this is Christ in His Upper Room Discourse, the Upper Room Discourse was given where? In the Upper Room. And just prior to His crucifixion He began to unfold to His handpicked disciples truths of the coming church age, and He does that in John 13-17. And most of our doctrines that we find in the epistles, which govern our lives as church age saints, you’ll find those doctrines in seed form in what’s called the Upper Room Discourse, John 13-17.
And in the process Jesus begins to talk about the vine and the branches. And this is what He says in John 15:6, He says, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the” what? “fire” oh my goodness, “and they are burned.” So you can see how this becomes a key passage for somebody that denies eternal security because it talks about a branch in Christ, clearly a believer, who is dissected from the… the branch removed from the vine and then that very branch is thrown into a fire and it’s burned. So people say wow, that’s somebody who is a believer in Jesus Christ and then they all of a sudden lost their salvation and went to hell, because people always look at fire and burned and they always interpret that as hell. I think fire and burned typically means hell in the Bible but I’m going to show you in just a second that fire and burned doesn’t always mean hell because fire and burned are not what? Technical terms; they don’t always mean the same thing everywhere they are employed, kind of like the word disciple.
So let’s see if we can navigate our way through this. First of all, you’ll notice the context, verses 1-8, we don’t have time to read all eight verses but you can go home and read these, they are wonderful verses, and it’s Christ’s branch and vine discourse, where He talks about branches disconnected from Him and branches connected to Him. The branches disconnected from Him do not bear fruit, and in fact are burned, and the branches that are connected to Him do bear fruit.
[John 15:1-8, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”]
Now there isn’t any real doubt that this is a saved audience that he’s talking to because a lot of people say well, He’s really addressing here people that really aren’t regenerate. But that can’t be because of the expression “in Me.” Go back to verse 2, you see that little prepositional expression “in Me” “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit,” when you track that through John’s Gospel what you’ll discover is that prepositional expression is used to describe Christ’s relationship with the Father. John 14:11 says, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is” what? “in Me;” it’s the same prepositional expression. So would you say that the Father and the Son are in a secure relationship? So just as the Father and the Son are in a secure relationship when Jesus talks about branches “in Me” He’s basically saying just as the Father and I are in a secure relationship these branches are in a secure relationship with Me, the vine.
We also know He’s talking to a saved audience because of verse 3, He says “You are already” what? “clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Now “clean” He’s used earlier in this same discourse because back in John 13:10-11 Jesus says, “…He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; [and you are clean, but not all of you.”] Now in prior sermons when we were going through John we talked about the difference between being washed and being clean. Being washed is being restored to fellowship; being clean is being regenerate in the first place because of initial faith in Chris, because He goes on and He says, “but not all of you are clean.” Then verse 11 he says… this is another verse that proves that Judas couldn’t have been saved, he says in verse 11, “For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason” when “He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” So when He uses this expression “clean” a few chapters later, going back to John 15:3, He’s talking about (very clearly) saved people.
And beyond that what you have to understand is when Jesus got to the vine and the branches part of the discourse Judas, the only unbeliever in the group of twelve had left the Upper Room. You’ll find Judas’ exit from the Upper Room in John 13:29-31. [John 13:;29-31, “For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, ‘Buy the things we have need of for the feast’; or else, that he should give something to the poor.  So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.  Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him;’”]
So when Jesus starts to give the branch and the vine discourse, and this is another very important principle of Bible study, you have to identify the audience. Who is the audience that Christ is speaking to? So when Jesus gives this branch and vine discourse He’s talking to eleven saved people. That’s the context. So the expression “in Me,” the expression “clean” and the fact that He’s only talking to eleven saved people is very clear proof that He’s only talking about saved individuals here.
Now what is He going to say to saved people? Is He going to tell them how to get saved? No, that would be a bit redundant, wouldn’t it; they already are saved. So what is He getting at here? He’s not talking about salvation initially, He’s talking about “abiding” in Him. Saved people abiding in Him. And look at verse 4, “Abide in Me.” Verse 5, “I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me…” Verse 7, “If you abide in Me,” see the context here? What does it mean to abide in Christ? It means not just to believe in Him for initial salvation, it means to walk in moment by moment intimacy with Him.
Now one of the disciples that heard Jesus talking about these branches abiding is a guy named John, who recorded these words. And he’s going to unpack Christ’s teaching on the subject in which book of the Bible? 1 John, where he’s going to give an in depth teaching, it goes about five chapters, about the distinction between a believer abiding in Christ and a believer not abiding in Christ. And the reason I’m bringing up this context is people want to drag into this all this teaching about whether people are saved or can lose their salvation and things like that and that’s not what he’s dealing with at all when you actually do an audience analysis. What he is talking about is some saved people continue to abide in Him and bear fruit; other saved people have a tendency to wander out of fellowship with Christ consistently and they don’t bear fruit. That’s what He’s talking about.
The whole context here is abiding and fruit bearing. If you look at verse 2 he says, [John 15:2] “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit….” If you go down to verse 4 He says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine….” Verse 5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit,” see the context here. Verse 8, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” Going down to verse 16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear” what? “fruit.” So what He is saying is the disciples, their calling is not to produce fruit, it’s to bear fruit. And that’s such a revolution in how we think because I used to think as a young Christian I needed to get out there and get it done for Jesus (through human power), and there’s not a shred of biblical proof to support that. My calling as a saved person is to walk in fellowship with Him and as the branch stays connected by way of fellowship to the nurturing sap of the vine the fruit comes organically, spontaneously, naturally and it’s fruit that will last.
And you say well, I’m a Christian… you might be saying to yourself well, I’m a Christian how do I know if I’m in fellowship with Him or not in fellowship with Him. And I would recommend a very good book to you for that called what? 1 John; 1 John is going to answer that question. John, being there in the Upper Room absorbing these teachings is going to unpack them to a fuller extent a bit later in biblical history.
Now having said that, since we’ve laid the foundation here look at verse 6 again. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” Let me tell you what I thought this verse said for years and years and years and years and years, I thought it said this, I thought it said God takes the branches that aren’t bearing fruit and throws them into the fire. I mean, how many people think that’s what the verse says? Nobody; you guys know that lying is a sin, right? [Laughter] I mean, what I thought it said and I’m talking I thought it said this up until maybe a few years ago, that God comes and He takes these branches that don’t bear fruit and He throws them into the fire; isn’t that what that verse says? Who throws them into the fire? Not God but “they”, other men. Would God ever entrust the task of hurling people into hell to other people? Obviously He wouldn’t; that’s something only God does and in fact that’s something only Christ does because in John 5 Jesus says the Father has entrusted all judgment to who? To the Son.” [John 5:23, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,”] So God here, as you look at this, is not throwing people into the Lake of Fire or into hell, it’s “they” that would be other men, or other individuals and see, that’s a huge point to make that He is not talking about hell here when He mentions fire.
And beyond that, and this is sort of a revolution in how we think, fire in the Bible doesn’t always mean hell; it typically means hell but it doesn’t always mean hell. I can give you three other examples where very clearly fire doesn’t mean hell. One is the rewards being dissolved at the Bema Seat Judgment because Paul unfolds a judgment in the future for the believer, which is us, where we will be evaluated, not in terms of our salvation but rewards that we receive beyond salvation, and it has to do with the investment of our lives. We’re all building on the foundation of Christ but are we building with wood, hay and stubble. What do wood, hay and stubble have in common? They’re combustible. Or are we building with gold, silver and costly stones. What do those have in common? They’re noncombustible; the only thing a fire can do is refine them. So every day of my Christian life I have a choice, I can live in the flesh… every second I have a choice, I can live in the flesh or live for Christ under His power. And the things that I do that are fleshly are going to dissolve in this fire.
But when you look at 1 Corinthians 3:15, “If any man’s work is” what? “burned up,” well, that’s not talking about hell there because it says “he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved yet so as through fire.” So there’s an example where fire doesn’t mean hell.
Another example where fire (I’m convinced) is not talking about hell is over in Hebrews 6; now we’ll be getting to Hebrews at some point in this class, not today but down the road, because there’s some passages in Hebrews that are very troubling related to eternal security. Hebrews 6:8 says, “but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.” See the word “burned” there? He’s talking about a field, that’s the analogy that the author of Hebrews is using, He’s talking about a field set on fire. Now you can go back into Greco-Roman historians, like Pliny the elder, and he will tell you that the reason in this day, when Hebrews was written, the reason you set a field on fire was not to destroy the field but it was to do what? To make it more productive. And see, I think that’s the sort of meaning that’s being used here in John 15:6. As we are unfruitful God is going to allow all kinds of problems into our lives; that’s the other men that are described and they are analogized to a fire because what’s God trying to do with these unfruitful branches at the end of the day? He’s trying to make them what? More fruitful.
Let me give you another example of this, where fire doesn’t mean hell. Over in the book of 1 Peter, chapter 1, verses 6-7, see, Peter was there in that Upper Room when Jesus was giving this teaching and I think Peter unpacked some of the meaning of the fire as well in 1 Peter 1:6-7, it says this, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various” what? “trials,” anybody in that boat today? Anybody distressed by various trials? Well, that’s actually a good thing because verse 7 says, “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than” what? “gold which is perishable, even though tested by” what? “fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
So there fire is not hell, there it’s described as the refining fire which purifies. So when we go through trials it’s analogized to a fire which is not talking about eternal retribution, rather it’s talking about purification of our practical lives that God brings into our lives through human suffering. Isn’t it interesting, we have a tendency to draw closer to God during times of suffering, don’t we? I mean, when my life is cruising the way I want it to I always say to the Lord I’ve got this one Lord, you know, I don’t really need You today. But a few things go wrong and I’m like Lord, you know, HELP me! And I have a tendency to pray more, I have a tendency to be closer to Him by way of fellowship. So that’s the kind of thing Peter is talking about.
So going back to John 15 I think that’s the fire, the branches thrown into the fire that are unproductive is not the fires of hell; this has nothing to do with someone who is never saved. The “in Me” construction denies that. The reference to “clean” denies that. And the fact that Judas has left the room and Jesus is only talking to eleven saved people, that denies that as well. So it doesn’t have anything to do with maybe my faith isn’t the right kind of faith so I’m going to be thrown into hell. That’s not what it’s talking about. And I don’t think it’s talking about loss of salvation either because what is the context of John 15? It is abiding and fruit bearing. So what does God do with these branches that aren’t abiding and bearing fruit? He explains it back in verse 2; “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He” what? “prunes it so that it” does what? “may bear more fruit.”
I think what’s being described here is the pruning process and oftentimes what God does through the pruning process is He uses other people; people can be very difficult, amen? You guys agree with that? He uses all kinds of people to come into your life with all kinds of troubles and trials and they cause you a lot of adversity but behind it all God is not throwing the branch into hell, He’s going through the natural burning and pruning process to make it more productive.
So having said all this I think there’s a lot of proof that this is not talking about losing your salvation and going to hell. The meaning is more related to the pruning or maybe it’s speaking of a loss of rewards at the Bema Seat, something to that extent. Maybe it’s talking about divine discipline because “whom the Lord loves the Lord” what? “chastens.” Have you ever been under the disciplinary rod of God? It feels like you’re in hell, doesn’t it? But it’s not hell. It feels like a fire but it’s not, it’s not hell itself. So that’s my quick take on John 15:6.
Let me give you one more and with this we’ll finish. Notice John 20:30-31, you’re saying oh no, not again, we had this one drilled in our heads for three years, you’re not going back to that are you? And I am just briefly. You guys know this one, it’s the purpose statement of John’s Gospel. “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” now notice this, “and that by believing you may have life in his name.” And people make a huge deal out of this word “believing.” They argue (correctly) that it’s a present participle and so what they say are things like this: this is a quote from Dan Wallace who generally is a very good Greek grammarian, but I think here he let a little of his theology slip into his exegesis. There’s a big difference between theology and exegesis. Right? You’re supposed to get your theology from your exegesis; exegesis is what does the text say. So we come to the text not wanting to defend a theology. And a lot of people do that, they come to the Bible trying to make it fit their system. And we need to be humble because I may not have my system correct, right? So I need to come into the Bible and I need to figure out what it actually says and then let my theology develop naturally from the Bible.
And basically Dan Wallace is an advocate of that but here’s a case where I think he let his, what I would call his Calvinistic theology corrupt his exegesis. He talks about continual belief based on the present participle, believing is “a necessary condition of salvation.” And what he’s saying is this: if you believe in Jesus Christ but you have doubts later on, or maybe you go through a phase of your life where you don’t believe, then you never had the right kind of faith because faith, after all, in Calvinism is a gift, which I don’t think the Bible ever teaches faith is a gift; faith is the only thing we can do which is not a work which God will accept. So what Wallace is saying is look, if you have doubts, if you go through phases of your life, valleys where you just quit believing then you’re not saved, because he says, “continual belief is a necessary condition of salvation.”
Now it’s not just here in John 20:30-31, you’ll see the present tense “believing” and we don’t have time to look at all these but you’ll see it in John 3:18, at least it’s very clear in the Greek, I’m not sure if the English translations pick it up, John 3:18, John 5:24. So what I think is happening here is this is what I would call an abuse of the present tense. The present tense, and this is where they’re getting this argument from, the present tense does not always require continual behavior. Typically the present tense is describing continual behavior but it does not always describe continual behavior. Why would I say that?
Look at Mark 6:14, it’s a description of John the Baptist. Why do we call him “John the Baptist?” It’s not a trick question; he baptized a lot of folks, Amen. Okay. Now look at what it says in Mark 6:14, “And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.’” Now when he says “John the Baptist” he’s saying the baptizer, and when he says John the baptizer he is using the verb in participial form for baptize in the present tense. So does the present tense usage there indicate that John just kept on baptizing throughout eternity? It can’t mean that because when these words were spoken where is John the Baptist? He’s in heaven because he’s dead. It’s hard to baptize when you’re dead; do you guys agree with that? And yet the present tense participle is used to describe John the Baptist, John the baptizing one. So does the present tense mean continual unbroken action always? It does not mean that because here’s the present tense participle for baptism being used long after John the Baptist had passed from the scene. I mean, it’s hard to keep baptizing people after you’re already dead, and yet the present tense participle is used to describe John there.
So this is not describing John’s continual baptizing; it’s simply used as a description of John. That’s all it is. So when this expression, “John the baptizing one” is used it’s not trying to communicate that John kept right on baptizing up to the time Mark wrote those words or Herod spoke those words; that can’t be the meaning because John is already dead at this time. Rather, the present tense participle is used simply to describe John. So what I’m trying to get at is the present tense does not always require continual action. So when Dan Wallace says “continual belief is a necessary condition of salvation” I believe what he is doing here is he’s abusing the present tense. That is not always what the present tense communicates. Dan Wallace, one of the world’s greatest Greek grammarians, you would think would know that and understand that; to me this is sort of a simple idea. Dan Wallace has forgotten more about Greek than I’ll ever know but you have to watch people very carefully because a lot of times they’ll make statements and what happens is their theology slips into the mix. And I think this is a case, and I have a lot of respect for Dan Wallace but it’s a case where his Calvinism, that faith is a gift and therefore must be continual started to control his exegesis.
Let me ask you a question; how many times do you have to murder before you’re called a murderer? I mean, are the people on death row and they say well, I’ve only done it once, is that going to fly in a court of law? No, you are a murderer because you murdered what? One time! You don’t have to keep murdering people to get the designation “murderer.” And what I’m trying to say is that’s true of a believer. You, as a believer, can exercise initial faith in Christ and you can do that one time and be saved, on the authority of the Word of God. And yet you can go through your life, and go through valleys, you can go through doubts, you can go through times where you’re saying where is God and have I believed the right thing, where you faith can wane and sometimes it might even disappear, and yet you’re still a believer, just like a murderer is still a murderer just because he murdered once. Just like John the Baptist is still designated as a baptizer even though his baptizing ministry had ceased after his head got cut off.
Now Bob Wilkin, and I have the link at the bottom of the screen where you can access this article, [Bob Wilkin, “The One Who Believes: Is Continuous Faith Required to be Born Again?,” online: http://www.faithalone.org/magazine/y2006/06jf1.html, accessed 06 May 2015.] finds all of the places, particularly in John’s Gospel, and you’ll notice he mentions Mark 6:14, where the present tense participle does not always mean forever and so you can look those up on your own and you’ll start to see what I’m talking about. [Mark 6:14, “And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.’”]
So what am I trying to get at? Faith does not… saving faith, we can use that expression, does not preclude ongoing faith but it does not require it. Now what I’m trying to get at there and I didn’t word that the best way, what’s important is has there ever been a point in your life where you’ve exercised faith in Jesus Christ? That’s the initial issue; that determines heaven or hell. Now generally speaking those who have exhibited initial faith in Jesus Christ will continue to believe in Him. But that’s not a requirement; there can be room for valleys, there can be room for doubts.
And by the way, if the present tense was such a big deal in communicating what saving faith is why are other verb forms used to describe belief? For example, in John 8:30-31, describing saving faith it says this: “As He spoke these things, many came to” what? “ believe in Him.  So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly’” what? ‘“ disciples of Mine;” so there you see the word “believe” twice. You’ll notice that believe, the first time it’s used is not a present tense participle; it’s an aorist active indicative. You’ll notice the second time the word “believe” is used it’s a perfect active participle. Those are different than the present tense.
So if perpetual faith is what is required why does he use different verb forms? If perpetual continuous faith is what God demands then the same present tense participle would be used all the way through the whole Bible to depict what saving faith actually is. Is it possible for a Christian to struggle with faith? My answer is yes, and you can still be a Christian. How do I know that? I know that from 2 Timothy 2:13. Who’s the book of Timothy written to? Timothy! Written by Paul. Who is Timothy? He’s a pastor. Obviously Timothy is in faith or is a believer because he is called Paul’s son in the faith. And what does Paul say to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:13? “If we are faithless, He remains” what? “faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” And people look at that and they say well, really what that means is there could be times in your life where you’re not faithful to the Lord. That is not what that’s talking about there.
“Faithless” is what we call in the Greek an alpha privitive and you know what those mean because it’s an “a” in front of a word that negates the word, so if say “atheist” the “a” in front of “theist” is someone who’s denying God. That’s an alpha privitive. It’s the alpha (which we would understand as “a” in our English language) in front of the verb faith, and what it’s saying there is without faith. So what he’s saying to Timothy is look Timothy, you’re obviously a believer, I put you in charge at Ephesus as a pastor. But you know, you may go through your life and you may be saying where is God and you might have all kinds of doubts and your faith itself might waver. In fact, it might even disappear. And even if that happens you’re going to lose a reward in heaven but you’re not going to go to hell because “He remains” what? “faithful.”
See, my salvation is not based on… this is the key thing to understand; my salvation is not based on what I do and my mental state and emotional state from day to day. There are times when I feel great and there are times where I feel terrible about spiritual things, I’m wondering God, have you got the right guy. Ever felt that way? But even when you go through these valleys where faith deteriorates it’s not based on what you’ve done anyway, it’s based on His promises and the fact that you’ve exercised initial faith in Him and He’s going to keep His end of the bargain. It’s not about me keeping my end of the bargain to get into heaven; it’s about Him keeping His end of the bargain.
So what is a lack of faith? A lack of faith is doubt. Can a Christian have doubts and still be a Christian? Clearly because notice, and this will be the last verse we will look at, James 1:5-8, James, of course, being the half-brother of Christ. James 1:5-8, now you know he’s talking to believers here because he keeps saying “my brethren” and he talks about how the faith that’s in them is being tested, that’s in verses 2-4.
Look at what he says as he’s speaking to believers. [James 1:5] “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting,” oh my gosh, so a believer can have doubts and still be a believer? “for the one who” what? “doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” Have you ever felt that way? That can be our condition as Christians when we step out of fellowship with God and we stop trusting Him for certain things. And then he goes on in verse 7 and he says, “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,” so you can get to a point in your Christian life where you have such little faith in God you’re not expecting him to do anything. And then you become “double-minded and unstable in all his ways.”
Again original audience, this is written to believers, so a believer can find themselves in this position. I’m not saying it’s a good place to be, by the way. I’m saying it’s a possibility that we’re warned against. And if you doubt this all you have to do is watch the Apostle Peter; did Peter go through times of doubt and a lack of faith? Is this not the fellow that denied the Lord three times? Is this not the fellow who Jesus says come out here on the Sea of Galilee and walk out to Me on the water? And as long as his eyes were on Christ everything was great, and then he looked at the wind and the waves and he started to sink like a rock. There’s a guy who’s struggling with a lack of faith or doubts. So all of that to say I don’t think John 20:30-31 with a present tense participle is communicating a loss of salvation. And I’ve given you my take on John 15:6 and John 6:66. I’m finished talking. We’ll look at Acts next week, including Simon, the sorcerer. Ooooh man, we’re really just bringing out full ammunition here. Any thoughts or questions.