Does the Bible teach a secondary way of salvation, a way of salvation that is experienced by the reprobate church member that is parallel but different in terms of duration than the way of salvation experienced by the decretally elect?
via It Comes Down to This « Green Baggins.
This way of putting the matter is slightly pejorative, but it is still worth thinking about.
In my opinion, this is simply a variation on the question as to whether there is any such thing as common grace. As John Murray wrote:
2. Unregenerate men are recipients of divine favour and goodness.
The witness of Scripture to this fact is copious and direct. Attention will be focussed on a few of the most notable examples.
In Genesis 39:5 we are told that “the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake”. Truly it was for Joseph’s sake and for Joseph as the instrument through whom the chosen people were to be preserved and God’s redemptive purpose with respect to the world fulfilled. But, just as we found already in the case of Abimelech, the reason for the blessing bestowed does not destroy the reality of the blessing itself.
Perhaps the most significant part of Scripture bearing upon this phase of our subject is the witness of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra in Iconium. “Who in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, doing good, and giving rains to you from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16, 17). The “generations gone by” of this passage are the same as “the times of ignorance” mentioned by Paul in his speech on Mars’ hill (Acts 17:30). Paul and Barnabas in this case are referring to the past of those who had served dumb idols. They expressly state that although God allowed them to walk in their own idolatrous ways yet God did not leave them without a witness to Himself. The particular witness mentioned here is that He did good and gave them rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. This is the most direct and indisputable assertion that men, left to their own ungodly ways, are nevertheless the subjects of divine benefaction. God showed them favour and did them good, and the satisfaction and enjoyment derived from the product of rains and fruitful seasons are not to be condemned but rather regarded as the witness, or at least as the proper effect of the witness, God was bearing to His own goodness. And it would be wanton violence that would /p. 14/ attempt to sever this “doing good” from a disposition of goodness in the heart and mind of God. Paul says that the “doing good” and “giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons” constituted the witness God gave of Himself. In other words, the goodness bestowed is surely goodness expressed.
The testimony of our Lord Himself, as recorded in Matthew 5:44, 45; Luke 6:35, 36, establishes the same truth as that discussed in the foregoing passage. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” “But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Here the disciples are called upon to emulate in their own sphere and relations the character of God, their Father, in His own sphere and relations. God is kind and merciful to the unthankful and to the evil; He makes His sun to rise upon evil and good, and sends rain upon just and unjust. Both on the ground of express statement and on the ground of what is obviously implied in the phrases, “sons of your Father” and “sons of the Most High”, there can be no escape from the conclusion that goodness and beneficence, kindness and mercy are here attributed to God in His relations even to the ungodly. And this simply means that the ungodly are the recipients of blessings that flow from the love, goodness, kindness and mercy of God. Again it would be desperate exegetical violence that would attempt to separate the good gifts bestowed from the disposition of kindness and mercy in the mind of God.
Finally, we may appeal to Luke 16:25, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now here he is comforted, and thou art tormented”. The rich man was reprobate; but the gifts enjoyed during this life are nevertheless called “good things”.
It is without question true that good gifts abused will mean greater condemnation for the finally impenitent. “To /p. 15/ whom much is given, of the same shall much be required” (Luke 12:48). But this consideration, awfully true though it be, does not make void the fact that they are good gifts and expressions of the lovingkindness of God. In fact, it is just because they are good gifts and manifestations of the kindness and mercy of God that the abuse of them brings greater condemnation and demonstrates the greater inexcusability of impenitence. Ultimate condemnation, so far from making void the reality of the grace bestowed in time, rather in this case rests upon the reality of the grace bestowed and enjoyed. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for Capernaum. But the reason is that Capernaum was privileged to witness the mighty works of Christ as supreme exhibitions of the love, goodness and power of God.
The decree of reprobation is of course undeniable. But denial of the reality of temporal goodness and kindness, goodness and kindness as expressions of the mind and will of God, is to put the decree of reprobation so much out of focus that it eclipses the straightforward testimony of Scripture to other truths.
So they have received good, but this good includes special good within God’s covenant people:
4. Unregenerate men receive operations and influences of the Spirit in connection with the administration of the gospel, influences that result in experience of the power and glory of the gospel, yet influences which do not issue in genuine and lasting conversion and are finally withdrawn.
There are a few passages in the New Testament which so plainly attest the reality of such influence and resultant experience that no detailed exegesis is necessary.
We have spoken of this experience on the part of unregenerate men as that of the power and glory of the gospel. In the parable of the sower those who are compared to the rocky ground are those who hear the word and immediately with joy receive it. This implies some experience of its beauty and power. Yet they have no root and endure but for a while. When tribulation and persecution arise they just as immediately stumble and bring forth no fruit to perfection. The passages in Hebrews 6:4–8; 10:26–29 refer to experience that apparently surpasses that spoken of in the parable of the /p. 19/ sower. At least, the portraiture is very much more elaborate in its details and the issue much more tragic in its consequences. The persons concerned are described as “those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:4, 5), as those who had received the knowledge of the truth and had been sanctified by the blood of the covenant (Heb. 10:26, 29). We shudder at the terms in which the experience delineated is defined.23 Yet we cannot avoid its import, nor can we evade the acceptance of the inspired testimony that from such enlightenment, from such participation of the Holy Spirit and from such experience of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come men may fall away, crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, put him to an open shame, tread the Son of God under foot, count the sanctifying blood of the covenant an unholy thing and do despite to the Spirit of grace. Here is apostasy from which there is no repentance and for which there is nought but “a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries”.
It is here that we find non-saving grace at its very apex. We cannot conceive of anything, that falls short of salvation, more exalted in its character. And we must not make void the reality of the blessing enjoyed and of the grace bestowed /p. 20/ out of consideration for the awful doom resultant upon renunciation and apostasy. As was pointed out already in other respects, it is precisely the grace bestowed in all its rich connotation as manifestation of the lovingkindness and goodness of God that gives ground for, and meaning to, the direful judgment that despite and rejection entail.
The teaching of such passages is corroborated by others that are to the same or similar effect. Peter in his second epistle devotes a considerable part to similar instruction and warning, and concludes with what is clearly reminiscent of the teaching of the epistle to the Hebrews. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet. 2:20–22). And Paul in his first chapter of the epistle to the Romans portrays for us the process of inexcusable abandonment of knowledge and of worship by which the heathen nations had lapsed into idolatry and superstition. But the knowledge they had relinquished is plainly represented as good, as that which should have been jealously cherished and as that for which they should have been thankful.
By these arguments, Murray justifies levels of common grace. Remember, “common” here does not mean indiscriminately universal, but rather in principle experienced by both a regenerate and unregenerate person:
The best classification with which the present writer has become acquainted is that offered by Dr. Herman Kuiper in the work aforementioned. In classifying the various manifestations of grace recognised by Calvin he gives three groups. The first category is that of the “grace which is common to all the creatures who make up this sin-cursed world…a grace which touches creatures as creatures”.13 This Dr. Kuiper calls universal common grace. There is, secondly, the grace recognised by Calvin as “common to all human beings in distinction from the rest of God’s creatures…a grace which pertains to men as men”.14 This Dr. Kuiper calls general common grace. Thirdly, there is the grace common not to all creatures and not to all men but to all “who live in the covenant sphere…to all elect and non-elect covenant members”.15 This Dr. Kuiper calls covenant common grace. There is, of course, within each classification the general and the particular. For the gifts bestowed upon each group of creatures are not indiscriminately dispensed. In each group there are differing degrees of the favour bestowed. This classification is inclusive and it also provides us with necessary and convenient distinctions. In the order stated we find the circle becomes more limited, but just as the limitation proceeds so does the nature of the grace bestowed become higher in the scale of value.16
So, what does the Bible say about “secondary” salvation?
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
So if God is the “savior” of people who are not counted as believers, how can one condemn the claim that they have some form of “salvation”? It seems they clearly have a general salvation but not a special salvation. This gives rise to the theological distinction between common and saving grace.
And how does the Bible refer to professing believers who turn out to not persevere in the faith and thus demonstrate, as we Calvinists would say, that they never were truly regenerate?
From Romans 11:
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
From John 15:
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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
From Luke 8:
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
From Hebrews 2:
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
From Hebrews 3:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
From Hebrews 10:
Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
From First Corinthians 12:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slavesor free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts,yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
So being grafted in the tree, vine, sanctified by the blood of the covenant, made a member of the body of Christ, is never in any sense to be considered “salvation” apart from some sort of revelation about whether a person in question is truly regenerate?
That makes no sense at all and it is not required by orthodox Calvinism. Quite the contrary.
By the way, is that excerpt from First Corinthians 12 referring to the Visible Church or the Invisible Church?