Dear Dr. Philip Brown,
I am working at Chick-fil-A now, and I have made some friends there. One of whom I have been debating the issue of unconditional eternal security. Anyways, he has been asking me some questions that are basically beyond my knowledge and insight. I have been doing a lot of research in the Bible, and I have gotten some books from my pastor, but I need some help. My friend is arguing for unconditional eternal security from Rom. 8:15 on the basis of Roman law. Here’s an email he sent me:
“Here are some things that I thought you may want to know about Roman law.
First of all, there was a law that Paul apparently made reference to when he said, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15). In Paul’s day, if someone adopted a child, then he could not “un-adopt” that child for any reason. The Roman law said so because if someone went through so much trouble to adopt the child, then they should keep the child no matter what. I think this is a great example of the Lord’s love for us. He went through “so much trouble” (He lived on earth, and died in our place) in order to adopt us (John 1:12; Rom. 8:15, etc.). Now today He could not (Heb. 6:18) and would not “un-adopt” us. . . .”
Could you give me some ideas for a response? I really don’t have the first inkling of what to say. This guy is 19 and reads a Greek Bible! So for me to argue w/ him is kind of… dumb, or at least I feel dumb.
I would encourage you not to be intimidated by the fact your friend says he reads Greek. If you’re reading the New King James or the New American Standard Bible, 80-90% of everything the Greek says is right there in the English translation.
- Regarding the argument for unconditional eternal security from Roman laws about adoption: I would ignore this argument. While that may be the way Romans handled adoption, God is not bound by Roman rules; Romans made them, not God.
- Your friend is using the Roman culture to understand Paul’s message to the Romans. This is good—as long as he doesn’t use Roman culture to draw conclusions that contradict other parts of Scripture—such as what the Bible says about the possibility of forfeiting salvation through unbelief or disobedience (e.g., John 15:2, 6; Rom. 11:19-23; Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31). These passages make it clear that anyone who fails to abide in Christ and bear fruit (John 15), who does not continue in faith and obedience (Romans 11), or who persists in willful sin (Heb. 6 & 10) is cut off from Christ. That is, those who continue in willful sin will not enter Heaven.
- I would encourage you not to spend time arguing about whether a person can forfeit their salvation. It will be much more edifying to both of you to talk about what the Bible says regarding Christians and sin.
Here’s my suggestion: Tomorrow, read through the whole book of 1 John five times. Write down every reference that describes what a Christian is supposed to live like. Then write down every reference that talks about sin (not just the word ‘sin’, but phrases that mean the same thing like “walk in darkness”) When you’re through, you should see very clearly that anybody who claims to be a Christian but lives like a sinner, cannot be a Christian. In fact, John gets downright blunt and calls them a liar!
I’ll try to get to the part of your friend’s letter where he used Roman culture to interpret Romans 7 next time.
Dr. Philip Brown