Regarding persecution, a very important parable (the Parable of the Sower) declares there are four different types of people who hear the word of God. The second type mentioned “believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away” (Lk. 8:13). In Mt. 13:21, the explanation of this type of person is given:
But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
This type of person does not continue to live spiritually because of persecution.
Please realize, therefore, that persecution does not come to build us up or promote growth, as some Once Saved Always Saved teachers wrongly proclaim. Neither does it come to weed out the mere professing believers from the real Christians, as others teach. The word of God is given to build us up (Acts 20:32) and for growth (1 Pet. 2:2). Persecution comes as a test (Lk. 8:13 cf. Mt. 13:21; Acts 20:19; Rev. 2:10) which will cause some genuine Christians to fall away or die spiritually!
Furthermore, the Scriptural meaning of fall away in context is die as evidenced by the withered plants. To fall away is equated here with ceasing to believe. The seed (or word of God) produced (spiritual) life, for there was a living plant that afterwards withered, or as Jesus taught, such “believe for a while, but in the time of testing, they fall away.”
Notice: after they initially believed through the word of God in such a way as to produce life, they ceased believing. Such occurred because of the persecution or trouble in their lives that came from the word of God. Clearly then, persecution for godly living can potentially be spiritually fatal to the real Christian!
Again, from the Parable of the Sower, we see that it is possible for a Christian to have a genuine, life-producing faith that doesn’t continue, as evident in Jesus’ words, believe for a while.
The Once Saved Always Saved teachers are wrong to say it was “a temporary faith,” meaning that such people never had a true faith, since it didn’t endure. One can only wonder, how could a temporary faith be equated with a false faith, since such did produce spiritual life?
Similar to that faulty interpretation is what we read in the notes for Lk. 8:13 of The NIV Study Bible. It wrongly states:
This kind of belief is superficial and does not save. It is similar to what James calls ‘dead’ (Jas 2:17,26) or ‘useless’ faith (Jas 2:20). (The NIV Study Bible, p. 1,554)
The point made by Jesus regarding this type of person, is that there was real spiritual life produced by the word of God and personal faith that didn’t endure. It wasn’t a dead faith, as James 2 mentions, for it produced genuine, spiritual life that lasted until the persecution came and the spiritual life, at that point, was terminated. In other words, it wasn’t a dead faith, but a living faith that became dead!
Unfortunately, besides The NIV Study Bible, other study Bibles (and reference Bibles) slip in Once Saved Always Saved from time to time. The Ryrie Study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible and the Scofield Reference Bible are some other examples.
Copyright, Dan Corner.