Exegesis of Texts Cited in “Proposition One Response from Phil”, Part 1

by Jay Guin

Phil cites numerous texts to demonstrate his view of repentance and God’s patience in “Proposition One Response from Phil.” In this post, I’ll review those texts to see whether they truly support the points made.

I apologize for the length of this post, but we are now covering some of the central passages in the case for the conservative position. We need to study them closely.

To keep each post to a readable length, I’m posting this in three parts.

Galatians

Phil writes,

Galatians 1:6-9 and 5:4 are sufficient to show that doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation. Those who are in error are misled by a lie, a falsehood.

It is true that those passages show that certain doctrinal errors can damn, but they hardly show that all doctrinal errors damn.

(Gal 1:6-9)  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Obviously enough, not all Biblical teaching is “gospel.” The warning here is against teachings that pervert the good news. We sometimes err by trying to hang the label “gospel” or “faith” on any teaching that we believe is a scriptural truth — but “gospel” is about Jesus being Lord and Messiah (= Christ).

Paul defined “gospel” succinctly in Romans —

(Rom 1:1-4)  Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

The gospel is the gospel “regarding his Son” incarnate and resurrected. I’ll not attempt a comprehensive definition here, but surely if we are saved by accepting the gospel, it’s what we have to hear, believe, and confess to become Christians: “Jesus Christ our Lord.”

(Gal 5:4-6)  You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

The Galatian heresy was seeking justification by means other than faith in Jesus.

These passages are not about doctrinal error regarding the role of women or instrumental music. Such teachings are not “faith” nor are they “gospel.” You see, “faith” in the New Testament is faith in Jesus.

Liars

Phil writes,

God will punish all liars (Rev. 21:8).

This passage certainly pronounces damnation on liars, but Greg’s post “Talking Past Each Other” gives a powerful lesson from Carrol Ellis (a delightful, dearly missed man who married my wife and me at Otter Creek many years ago) about how God forgives liars. Of course, God doesn’t forgive all lies, but he does forgive some. Thus, the question becomes, not whether someone lies, but whether someone is forgiven.

Blindness

Phil writes,

What some are calling “mistaken,” the Bible calls blind (Matt. 15:14; 2 Cor. 4:4). Being blinded does not keep people from falling into the pit. …

Jesus spoke clearly to the Pharisees, who went beyond the Scriptures with their oral Torah, in Matthew 15:6-9, “So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

Jesus makes this observation about the Pharisees and man-made doctrines in Matthew 15:13-14: He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” False doctrine can indeed cost the souls of both the deceiver and the deceived.

In Matt 15:14, Jesus declares the Pharisees “blind guides” after they challenged him for allowing his disciples to eat food with unwashed hands (vv 1-2). What was the Pharisees’ sin? They added a command that God did not make.

The Pharisees were trying to win God’s approval by being safe. After all, a devout Jew would become unclean if he touched a Gentile, a corpse, a menstruating woman, or many other things. In a dry, dusty country, the dirt on a man’s hands could have come from any number of unclean sources. Eating with dirty hands might put unclean dirt inside the man! (And who could deny that washing before you eat is a commendable practice?) Surely, the Pharisees reasoned, this would be wrong. But Jesus condemned them for adding to God’s law.

It’s an important lesson in hermeneutics — on the danger of adding commands that God did not make himself — but it hardly teaches that all error damns. Rather, the condemnation is for arrogance in thinking you honor God by building fences around the law.

(2 Cor 4:4)  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Certainly this passage warns us of the penalty for being blind, but “blind” refers to someone who is blind to the gospel and so is an unbeliever. Of course, all unbelievers are lost. That hardly shows that a disagreement over any point of doctrine damns. He’s speaking of what one must believe to be saved.

“Truth”

Phil writes,

Paul’s discussion of the apostasy with the Thessalonians has some mysteries, but he notes that those who do not love the truth are vulnerable to a “deluding influence so that they might believe what is false” (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Belief in the false and lack of love for the truth are matters of salvation.

I’ve just posted a five-part series at www.OneInJesus.info called “What is Truth?” on the meaning of “truth” in the New Testament.

In these posts, I explore the meaning of “truth” in nearly every New Testament passage that uses the word. I undertook this study because many of the “truth” passages are classic conservative proof texts, by which many conservatives argue that error in, say, instrumental music denies the “truth” and so causes one to fall away. That’s not how the New Testament writers use “truth.”

The short answer is that “truth” means the truth about Jesus and is often used as a synonym for gospel. Understanding this radically changes our understanding of many verses.

(2 Th 2:9-14)  The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. 13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In context, “truth” is what you must love and believe to “be saved.” And those who have not “believed the truth” are condemned.

Paul is not addressing any and all true teachings found in scripture. He’s speaking of what we must believe to be saved. And so, yes, as Phil wrote, “Belief in the false and lack of love for the truth are matters of salvation,” but not just any truth or any falsehood. It’s just the Truth who is Jesus (John 14:6). Reject the gospel and, yes, you are lost.

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3 Comments on “Exegesis of Texts Cited in “Proposition One Response from Phil”, Part 1”

  1. Ed Boggess Says:

    “Truth”. In Jn 8 Jesus told those who believed him to stay in his word. That is what a genuine disciple does. He told them “you will know the truth”. They were believers but not for long. Their prejudices immediately kicked in and they allowed themselves to be deceived: “We are Abraham’s descendants . . .”, “Abraham is our father”, “we were not born . . .” They misunderstood and consequently rejected what Jesus was teaching them: truth. Consequently these believers became “of your father the devil”. V 47 “He who is of God hears God’s words: therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God”. The problem is not whether truth is just facts about Jesus/ The problem is what is going on in one’s heart regarding hearing God.
    True worshipers worship in spirit and truth. I believe it is Westcott who comments that in context this refers to the Samaritans, who worshiped in spirit but not in truth; and the Jews, who worshiped in truth but not in spirit. The woman had asked about Jerusalem and Mt Gerizim, a truth question. In context truth is not only Jesus teaching but worship that is authorized.
    Acts 8 – Simon believed and was baptized along with other Samarians. When the apostle’s came and laid hands on them, Simon wanted to buy what they had. He misunderstood. He believed error. Peter told him to repent or he would perish with his money. Clearly it was an error that would cost him his soul. Why? The answer is given in v 21 “your heart is not right”. The key is not which error can we believe and get away with it. Any error can condemn. The key is what is going on in one’s heart and only God know the answer to that. Does this demand doctrinal perfection? No. It demands the desire for doctrinal perfection or better put, the desire to please God in every way.


  2. It seems to me, that much of this debate centers on the ability of one person to know if another person is saved, or in a righteous relationship with God.

    The position Phil & Greg take more clearly allows them to make such a judgment based upon human observation. While the position Todd & Jay take leaves that judgment to God.

    Due, in part to the admonition that we will be judged using the same criteria with which we judge others, I choose to leave such judgment to God, desiring all the understanding, tolerance and forgiveness I can get.


  3. […] every verse and showed that not a single one stands for what he said it stands for. Not one. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Phil never […]


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