This writer is all too aware of the many contemporary sub-arguments between an assured now and an undetermined future salvation. The secessionist account of Christian division in 1-3 John hinged upon the interpretation of the Gospel of John to determine when Jesus became Christ. The deity and the humanity of Christ Jesus was in question. And, accordingly, primary in evaluating the meaning and the value of His death.
Ironically - from today's Protestant perspective - the opposing sides did not dispute the assurance of salvation. Rather, the importance of Christian sin and the demonstration of love for other believers - who were in need - was the contention that created the separation between the two groups. Thus, historically, far from being an issue for unity and agreement, it can be proved that the meaning and value in the death of Christ has always been in dispute. That, at one time or another, a lesser value has had prominence within Christianity.
I for one, do not hold to the progressive revelation of biblical doctrine as an accomplishment of men. Progressive understanding, like spiritual maturity and growth, does indeed naturally proceed. In our post New Testament time, divine revelation - any true revelation that might be arrived at - is already contained in the Bible. The revelation never moves. However, I do know, because of the disciplines of political science, the popularity and prominence of certain ideas rise and fall as a result of the activities of men. For this reason, I propose the core argument in Christian salvation lies in the assertions made by the Governmental theory of atonement. A de-valuation of and an inferior meaning for the death of Christ is the foundation upon which this theory is built.
The error is to confuse human forgiveness with divine forgiveness; to confuse the human and divine actions of Christ with the acts of men. To move the deity of the incarnate Christ Jesus down is to move man up. To move Christ down is to move more of the man Jesus onto the horizontal field with man. This is to over-evaluate His humanity at the expense of His deity. Biblically, Christ suffered and was tempted like anyone. Nowhere does Scripture say Christ accomplished His sinlessness like anyone. The example of Christ applies to what He experienced in common with all humanity, not how He achieved sinlessness. His perfect innocence as a man qualified Him to be the uniquely sinless (unblemished) substitute for the spiritual death of all men. Because of His innocence - death could not hold Him. Christ rose, not because He earned it, but because resurrection into a new state of humanity was the magnificent proof that He, Jesus the Man, was God. Believers are given salvation and promised resurrection, not because they must proceed to earn it. Rather, because Who Christ is and what He achieved. Who you trust - not what you do - determines salvation. The object of saving faith - not a mistaken objective - guarantees salvation. An impossible example of achievement is the moral example of Christ. For these reasons, the basic assumptions behind the loss of salvation are in error.
To support the rational basis for the loss of salvation, the Governmental theory must allow man not only the responsibility to "obey the gospel"; but, in addition, she/he need maintain their salvation by self-determination and actions. Under the express threat of punishment derived as the example from the Cross, this theory teaches that by successfully following the example in the sinless accomplishments of "The Anointed One," a Christian may become sanctified. Sanctified by self to receive heaven's final reward of eternal salvation. Did the Apostles preach a gospel that required progressive moral achievement to earn a future salvation? This is the question to be answered.
Well beyond a majority of Protestant Christianity is practiced by denominations grounded in Arminian salvation theory. Reformed theology is not an aberration of free will as argued by Arminians who would defend their interpretation of the Bible. To claim that one is a biblicist who only believes in the Bible is a thin disguise. What authority do Reformed and Arminians use? To argue the extent of the atonement made by Christ, limited or unlimited; or, the hurly-burly of free will, is a dodge, a side-step from the real or primary issue of salvation. And, to put it simply, salvation is Christianity. Christ is at the center of soteriology or He is not. Salvation can be lost or it cannot. This is the question to be answered.
If you have ever wondered why salvation can be lost - it is because new seminarians are taught Arminian theology. And, the Arminian Governmental theory of atonement claims that one's future salvation can be lost because of personal sin or forfeited by choice. This discussion publishes a statement defending a necessary rectoral meaning (e.g., Lord Rector and Rector Magnificus, pertaining to someone who rules, and by extension one who has the power of government to defend and punish) in the atonement. In summary, this theory claims that salvation was accomplished by God, in that the crucifixion of Christ was a demonstration, an example of punishment for the benefit of sinners; but not a substitutionary penal death where the sin of all men was 'imputed' to a sinless Savior. The statement for this theory was written by the highly regarded Arminian theologian, Dr. John Miley. This discussion details why it is a flawed theory.
My desire, purpose, and hope is that you may gain a more clear understanding and a greater appreciation for the completed work of Christ in the 3 divisions that are explained below:
A link to the essay portion of this article is provided.
The link, adapted from Tim Keller, is a one page comparison of religion versus the gospel of God's grace. This example may be better understood after reading my 16 page discussion. This PDF page may be downloaded and printed.
The link is to, what I consider, the very best 'plain language' rendering of the gospel of God's saving grace. Surfoutsider.net is to be given much credit for their Power Point presentation.