My latest blog LINK ] is a response to a request to read an article by John MacArthur titled “The Vine and the Branches”. The link provides it in a single shot, and here I provide it broken into 2 parts:
I recently read an article by Mr. John MacArthur about salvation (“The Vine and the Branches”) at the request of a friend. I’ve read several Christians’ explanations of salvation (Catholics as well as non-Catholics) that quote the Scriptures and conclude the opposite of MacArthur. A big question that comes to my mind is, “who is right and how do we know?” But before we get to that question, let’s explore Mr. MacArthur’s view. His article should be easy enough to find by the title I provided. He preaches a doctrine of “once saved always saved” and his article is primarily in regards to John 15:1-8.
Among a couple good points he makes, I think there are places where he makes assumptions that aren’t supported by Scripture and he makes a couple contradictions. I like what he says about Christians being pruned to bear more fruit, and the fact that it can be a painful process, yet worthwhile. But, I don’t see how he concludes that fruitless branches were never “truly attached” branches. How can a branch be a branch if it’s not truly attached in the first place? MacArthur’s reasoning is not convincing for me.
For example, he suggests that branches on Christ the Vine might not really be Christians. But if a person is not truly a Christian, how can that person be attached to the Vine which is Christ? Scripture says they are “cut off”. You can’t be cut off from something that you weren’t “truly” attached to, can you? It makes no sense.
He says “the fruitless branches represent Judas and all those who never were true disciples”. But Scripture doesn’t make any claim that they were never “true disciples”. There is no indication in Scripture that Judas wasn’t a “true disciple” of Christ prior to the betrayal. We only know that he betrayed Christ. But don’t we ALL betray Christ when we choose to sin? Or is sinning something we can do as Christians? In other words, does Scripture ANYWHERE say it’s okay to sin, or that in sinning we retain our life with Christ?
MacArthur also says that once we are forgiven by God, we are clean and do not need “the bathing of forgiveness again”. Where is that in the Bible? If we don’t need that forgiveness again, then why does Paul rebuke Christian believers in every one of his Epistles about sin and the need to avoid it? If they are “once saved always saved”, then why all the preaching about avoiding sin?
Why does James tell us to confess our sins to each other and that the prayers of the presbyters forgives sin in James 5:13-16? If we don’t need that forgiveness after being initially forgiven, then didn’t the Holy Spirit inspire James to make a moot point and a false teaching? Where in Scripture does it say “…once a person is forgiven by God…he does not need…forgiveness again”?
Scripture DOES tell us that one of Christ’s children cannot be snatched out of His Hand. But it NEVER says that we can’t CHOOSE to walk from His Hand by our own choice to sin. There is nothing in Scripture that says we can’t throw away God’s Gift of salvation. And in fact, we are warned not to take it for granted, lest we fall away. Read Hb 6:4-6. Paul writes of “partakers of the Holy Spirit” who have tasted of God’s Power, only to “have fallen away”. He doesn’t make any indication here that they weren’t “true” believers, rather they were believers who “tasted the heavenly gift” [they were saved] and now are not saved. Paul shows us again in Galations 5:4 that in seeking to be justified by the law, the Christians he is writing to can be “severed from Christ” and those Galations have “fallen from grace”. These were Christians who received the Word and the Spirit (Gal 3:1; 4:4-9)) and were “running well the race” (Gal 5:7) and THEN were tempted away from truth and toward going back to circumcision. They were Christians on the Vine of Christ, and then “severed” themselves from the Vine that they were truly attached to. MacArthur’s explanation contradicts Paul’s message here, so who is right?