Who Am I Talking About?

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

I have referred several times to a contemporary movement of evangelicalism that offers assurance of salvation to professing Christians who go on living in sin. Who am I talking about? Here is an example.

Zane Hodges, who teaches at Dallas Seminary, has written a book entitled The Gospel Under Siege (Redencion Viva, 1981).

His position is the very opposite of mine:

“An insistence on the necessity or inevitability of works fundamentally undermines assurance” (p.13). That is, “if good works are really . . . an essential fruit of salvation,” we cannot be sure of our eternal salvation (p. 9). Therefore, “works have nothing to do with determining a Christian's basic relationship to God.” “There is not even a single place in the Pauline letters where he expresses doubt that his audience is composed of true Christians.” (p. 95).

Apart from the fact that 2 Corinthians 13:5 contradicts his last statement, 1 John remains an insuperable obstacle. His interpretation will not stand. Consider for yourselves what he says concerning 1 John 3:14 (“We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers.”). Here assurance of passing out of death into life is the product of loving our fellow Christians. How will he escape it?

He tries to escape it by saying that the verse has “no reference to conversion as such.” He says that there is a sphere of light and a sphere of darkness within the Christian life. “If anyone does not love his brother he is out of touch with God. He is not living as a true disciple of his Master” (p. 63). But he is still a child of God because eternal security has nothing to do with whether you are a loving person or not.

This will not stand scrutiny. The one other place where John uses the same Greek phrase (“We have passed from death to life”) is John 5:24, where he says, “Truly, truly I say to you that the one who hears my word and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and does not come into judgment but has passed from death into life.” Therefore it is grasping at a straw to say that “passing from death to life” in 1 John 3:14 refers to two states within Christian life. It plainly means: passing from lostness to eternal life.

I appeal to you, judge for yourselves, does John's assurance in 1 John 3:14 come from loving the brothers or not?

Bowing before the Word with you,

Pastor John