Sermons

Summary: If we live as God intends and Jesus taught, our security—conditional or unconditional—is in the hands of our Savior.

One of the things we were taught at Evangelical is that preachers must not avoid difficult subjects or passages: those sincere believers may disagree on. In the next two weeks we consider such a subject. We ask God’s guidance and grace as we seek to understand.

The doctrine of unconditional security (aka. once saved, always saved; eternal security; the security of the believer; however you may hear it referred to) is an issue the church has debated for hundreds of years. The doctrine holds, at its core, two fundamental questions:

1. Does man play any role in obtaining salvation, or is it entirely God’s doing?

2. Is it possible for one to lose his salvation?

These questions are not easy answered, but they are worth investigating, and investigate we shall. We will look to the Scriptures to discover [1] if man plays a role in his salvation and walk with Christ, and if [2] there is reason to believe that one can lose his/her salvation. Having then drawn some conclusions, we shall propose a solution to man’s dilemma.

A man whose wisdom I respect greatly, once said, “Brethren, great men of God have debated the issue of the security of the believer for over 1500 years, and have not come to agreement. We must not divide on this matter.” Good advice for us in this study.

I. INTRODUCTION

1. Revelation may bring a change of heart on a given issue, and so I must qualify my remarks this morning. I believe that scripture casts doubt on the concept of unconditional security. My belief is based on [1] knowledge gained through careful study, [2] my limited human understanding, and [3] the prayerful consideration of the text.

[That said, we begin. OYBT John 15. There is good news in this difficult passage. If we live as God intends and Jesus taught, our security—conditional or unconditional—is in the hands of our Savior.]

II. DOES MAN HAVE RESPONSIBILITY?

1. Jesus as vine, we the branches, God as the gardener

A. The picture is clear. A good gardener knows two things about healthy plants. [1] One must remove dead branches, and [2] prune healthy ones in order to produce more. A fruit-bearing branch, pruned properly, bears more fruit. Branches producing no fruit rob the vine of nutrients and producing nothing of value.

(i) Here is an allegory of the spiritually dead; [1] the unfruitful Christian, claiming the name of Jesus Christ while living in sin; OR [2] those who pretend to be religious, never receiving Christ as their savior.

B. God provides the fruit: but only through healthy branches. Is man responsible to bear fruit in order to maintain a healthy relationship between branch and vine? The text suggests that he does; there is a distinction in the two acts of the gardener.

2. “Already you are clean…abide in me and I will abide in you”

A. Jesus is not criticizing the disciples (1-2), but encouraging them. They are clean (a play on words: pruned/clean can be the same Gk. word) because He has made them clean.

B. Their task now is to abide in Him so they continue to bear fruit. They cannot bear fruit unless they abide in Him (4); You are clean; now, stay clean!

C. Jesus emphasis on abide is intentional, and it is not lost on the evangelist. This word abide (Gk. mei÷nate) occurs 102 times in the NT, and 33 times in John’s gospel!

D. There is a deliberate inflection of man’s responsibility in Jesus’ words. If man has no role to play in maintaining his relationship with Christ, there would be no reason to instruct the disciples this way.

III. THE CONSEQUENCE OF SEPARATION: CAN I LOSE MY SALVATION?

1. Verse six causes problems?BIG PROBLEMS?for those who support the idea of unconditional security. The problem is in the language Jesus uses. It is harsh; it prophesies judgement; it promises destruction by fire to those who do not abide in Him.

A. The fact is we do not like the hard sayings of the Bible. They make us uncomfortable. They cause us to wiggle in our seats and start looking out the window. Some twist and turn the text to suit their theology, instead of matching their theology to the text.

B. Robert Shank, in his extraordinary book Life in the Son, says, “those who advocate the doctrine of unconditional security have found themselves hard pressed to interpret John 15:1-6. Reading their comments on this brief passage one is continually reminded of the words on the sign over the old ironsmith’s shop: ‘All kinds of fancy twistings and turnings done here’.”

C. Alexander Maclaren, the famed British Baptist expositor put it this way; “Dear brethren! Be on your guard against the tendency of this generation to blot out the threatenings of the Bible, and from its consciousness, the grave issues that it holds forth. One of two things must befall the branch; either it is in the vine or it gets into the fire. If we would avoid the fire, let us see to it that we are in the Vine.”

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