Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes on Matt1618
Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes
Critique of Chapter 8, Forensic Justification
Versus Meritorious Justification - Part 2
by Matt1618

On this examination I will look at Ron Rhodes book, Reasoning From the Scriptures with Catholics, Chapter 8, entitled Forensic Justification Versus Meritorious Justification - Part 2, pages 133-144. In green will be Ron Rhodes comments, and my response will follow. I will also put in red Scriptural passages, generally the Revised Standard version, (unless I am quoting Rhodes directly, who generally uses the New International Version). In Chapter 7, which is the first chapter dealing with justification, there are some mistakes in his analysis of the Catholic view, but he does not per se attack the Catholic view with Scripture, but gives us his only own overview. Thus, that chapter I will leave alone, and I will address the arguments he makes when he actually begins to attack the Catholic view in chapter 8. There are subsections within this chapter which I give the same name as Rhodes and I center it and give it a red title. I will address comments made in each of these sub-sections in the chapter.

The Protestant View of Justification

Rhodes begins by giving what he believes to be the Protestant view of justification. Although there are many variances within that view, (baptismal regeneration, eternal security), he claims that what he is presenting is the ‘Protestant’ view. Calvinists have many a differences with those of the Assembly of God, who differ with Methodists, who differ with Church of Christ, etc. But there is a strand that has its roots in the ‘Reformation’ with Luther, Calvin, and branches present in Presbyterian Baptist, Lutheran Churches, and modern day Fundamentalists, they would assent to much of what Rhodes presents. Even though there are many differences within the varying approaches, there is a strand of both Lutheranism, Calvinism and even Fundamentalism, that would agree to the concepts that Rhodes gives as ‘the Protestant’ view of justification, at least in the manner that he attacks the Catholic view. Whether in Justification works are meritorious, or justification is only a Forensic , legal exchange, the Protestant view is agreed upon by those factions. However, since in Protestantism via Sola Scriptura (where the Bible is the sole infallible authority) there are many Protestants who would not accept this view as ‘The Protestant view of Justification’. But since I am addressing Rhodes arguments, I will deal only with his argument, which is not The Protestant view of justification, but is a view of justification that is held by a significant portion of Protestantism (though there are significant portions of Protestantism who likewise do not hold to this view of justification). But since he is stating that this is the ‘Protestant’ view, in my response I will sometimes use the term ‘Protestant’ view, even though I acknowledge that not all Protestants would agree with this depiction of their view on justification. He starts chapter 8 off by stating the following:

In contrast to the Roman Catholic view, Protestants view justification as a singular and instantaneous event in which God declares the believing sinner to be righteous. Justification views in this way is a judicial term in which God makes a legal declaration. It is not based on performance or good works. It involves God’s pardoning of sinners and declaring them absolutely righteous at the moment they trust in Christ for salvation (Romans 3:25, 28, 30; 8:33,34; Galatians 4:21-5:12; 1 John 1:7-2:2) p. 133.
There are several problems made in this opening:

First he argues that justification is only a singular and instantaneous act. Nowhere does Scripture say that it is only a one-time act. None of the passages he puts forth even pretends to argue that justification is only a singular and one time act. On the contrary, Scripture shows that justification although a past term event (Rom. 5:1, Eph. 2:8), is also both a present event, as well as a future event, dependent upon the faithfulness of the believer. For example, Paul writes:

1 Cor. 1:18
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Pet. 3:21
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Tim. 4:15-16
15 Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Tim. 6:18-19: 18
They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, 19 thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed.

Mt. 10:22
and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Thus, justification, which is how one is put right with God, and is the means to achieve salvation, is shown to be a process. Paul writes that we are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18). Thus, it is an ongoing process and it is something that we must do. The salvific effects of baptism now, according to Peter (1 Pet. 3:21), saves us. The regenerative power of baptism still has the effect of saving us presently. He uses the present tense. Also, according to Paul himself, works are involved. According to Paul, we are even involved in saving ourselves, by holding to the teaching of the gospel (1 Tim. 4:16)(Including in the previous chapter 1 Tim. 3:15, where he says that the Church, not the Bible, is the pillar and foundation of truth) is how we save ourselves. If a Catholic says that, we would be castigated as teaching a ‘works’ salvation. But since Paul says it, Rhodes ignores that passage to fit Paul within the forensic scheme of justification. He says that one must be rich in good deeds in order to take hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:18-19). In other words, if they do not, they will not get life indeed (which is eternal life). Here he uses the future tense. Also, Jesus tells us that one must persevere, in order to be saved (Mt. 10:22). The tense on that passage is future. Also, note that the authors of the gospels and the epistles do not say that perseverance or baptism or good deeds, are merely after effects of being saved, but are efficacious causes of salvation. Of course this can only be accomplished within the realm of grace. But these verses show not only that justification is an ongoing process, but the things that we do are not merely byproducts of, but are a cause of one’s salvation.

The second problem with Rhodes view is that it sees God as one who judges merely in a judicial manner. God in Scripture is a Judge, no doubt. But he does not merely operate as a Judge, who operates in mere forensic, legal language that Rhodes assumes, but he judges as a Father. In no judgment scene in the Bible, for example, does he operate as a judge who operates on merely a forensic manner. For example, in a judgment scene where Jesus is a judge, and a separator of those going from heaven from those going to hell, sheeps and goats in Mt. 25:31-46, he does not say, ‘I judge you guilty, because you did not get my righteousness imputed to you, and I got your sins’, or ‘I judge you innocent, because of a forensic exchange where you got my righteousness and I got your sins’. Instead, Jesus says (This is the part that deals with the cause of entering heaven, according to Jesus):

Mt. 25:31-40
31 "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
He actually judges as a Father, and says that those who are righteous, in and of themselves inherit the kingdom (Fatherly language), where he rewards those who have done good deeds with eternal life (Mt. 25:33-40). He uses the language of inheritance, thus speaking of being a Father who rewards his sons with Eternal life. Those who did not do good works, and neglected those who needed help, get sent to eternal fire (Mt. 25:41-46). Thus, despite Rhodes arguments that works are not a cause of salvation, Jesus says that they are directly involved, whereas he himself is a judge.

Third, the passages that he cites do not say that works are not meritorious or that works have nothing to do with salvation. Rhodes points us to Romans 3. Now it is true that via faith we are put in his grace (Rom. 3:24-25). He does justify those who have faith in him. And it is true that one is justified apart from works of the Law (Rom. 3:28). However works of charity, of faith, are not works of the Law. In Romans, Paul is condemning those who think that by law one gets saved (Rom. 3:20, 28, 7:6), whether by ceremonial law such as circumcision, or by the law that is available to all, Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 3:19-20). One is not justified by law, per se, as Paul says we are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). In the passage he refers us to, he is only saying that works outside grace do not save, but as we saw both now and earlier, works done within grace, are salvific.

None of the passages that he appropriated for his proof of the Protestant view back up his paragraph. He is trying to say that works are not a cause of salvation, justification is merely a forensic, legal exchange, and that it is a onetime thing. Well, one of the passages he quotes not only do not prove what he asserts, but actually proves all three of his assumption wrong. For example, Rhodes quoted 1 Jn 1:7-2:2 as proof for the assertion of his paragraph. I will quote the passage he refers us to and give a few more verses to give a fuller context:

1 Jn 1:7-2:2:5
but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 Jn 2: 1 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He who says "I know him" but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him:
This passage says first that we must walk in the light (v. 7), as Jesus does. Then, when we do this, then and only then will Jesus’ blood cleanse us from sin. Thus, this very passage shows that we must walk in Jesus light, and only then will our sins be cleansed. Walking in the light is an ongoing process. Now, we must admit that we sin, and all Catholics admit that we sin (v. 8). That is why we have confession, which is the next point brought up by John. According to John, only if we confess our sins, will Jesus forgive us our sins, and so cleanse us. He speaks of it as an ongoing process. Now I believe this alludes to confession, a sacrament that Jesus established (Jn 20:22-23). However, even if one does not believe that this passage in any way alludes to sacramental confession, it specifically implies that if those who are in Christ do not confess their sins, they will not get their sins forgiven, nor will they get cleansed. Thus, another condition is given. Next, John tells us Christians to not sin. However, if we do, Jesus is the one who intercedes for us. He propitiates, and is a representative of mankind interceding for us before God the Father. He is a sacrificial offering. This offering at the same time will cleanse those of us in God’s grace. Then, Rhodes leaves out verses 3 through 5. Those verses are important however, as they show that the only way we can know God, in justification, is if we keep his commandments. The Father knows that we will sin, but we still can and must keep the commandments. And this propitiation, or expiation for us is on an ongoing basis. (He later shows us the difference between mortal and lesser sins, 1 Jn. 5:16-17). This justification before God is thus dependent upon us keeping our commandments, and thus the propitiation, or expiation for us also is dependent upon us keeping our commandments, even if not absolutely perfectly. Because we are within the realm of grace, small sins do not cut us off from him. Nonetheless, In fact those in Christ can keep his word, and his commandments (2:3-5, cf., See also John 14:15, 15:10, 14). Thus, Rhodes had given us three premises that he spelled out:

1) Justification is only a one-time event;
2) Justification is a legal exchange of our sins for Christ's righteousness;
3) Works are not a cause of one’s justification.

These are proven false by a larger look at one of the very passage he quotes in support of the Protestant position!

On the next page he gives us the reason why he thinks it is forensic, page 134:

The Protestant view is often referred to as “forensic justification.” Forensic comes from a Latin word meaning “forum.” This word has its roots in the fact that in the ancient Roman forum, a court could meet and make judicial or legal declarations. Forensic justification, then, involves God’s judicial declaration of the believer’s righteousness before Him. The believer is legally acquitted of all guilt, and the very righteousness of Christ is imputed to his account. Henceforth, when God sees the believer, He sees him in all the righteousness of Christ...
First off, the term forensic is nowhere found in either the New or Old Testament. The presumption here is that Paul is operating via legal language of Roman courts in explaining Justification to believers, who were steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, the background for his explication of justification is often the Hebrew Scriptures, as Rhodes later attests. There is no background of Roman court proceedings and precedence, or any quotations from Roman court proceedings that serve as the basis for a merely forensic judgment. This assumption is in fact foreign to Paul, who uses Old Testament figures and Jewish, Hebrew covenantal assumptions as a backdrop for his take on justification. There are no scriptural passages that Paul will provide that actually shows that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to our account. Nor is it anywhere implied. In fact, that assumption of Rhodes is the basis for his whole religious system on justification, but as we examine his passages we will see that absolutely none of these passages actually teach that we get Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. We in fact will see that the judgment that God makes will not have anything to do with imputation, but whether the person so judged is ontologically righteous or not.
This view of justification has support from the Old Testament. For example, in Deuteronomy 25:1 we read of judges who “justify the righteous and condemn the wicked”. The word justify here clearly means “declare to be righteous” just as condemn means “declare to be guilty.” The word is used in a forensic sense here and elsewhere in the Old Testament (see, for example, Job 27:5 and Proverbs 17:15). And when the apostle Paul (an Old Testament scholar par excellence) used the word justify in the Book of Romans, he did so against this Old Testament backdrop (pp. 134-5).
Again, there are no Roman Court scenes that serve as a basis for Paul’s view of justification. Thus, with that in the background Rhodes must try to come up with something to back up this forensic view. He finds Moses saying that judgment of the guilty must be true and the judgment of the innocent must be true. Let us look at Deuteronomy 25:1-3, Rhodes own example:
1 If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2 then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. 3 He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not (5) degraded in your eyes.
The person who is wicked will be condemned. The one who is righteous must be found innocent. In fact, this is the reverse of what Rhodes presumes. He presumes that the wicked are the believers, who have Christ’s righteousness imputed to their account, who can not be transformed sufficiently to please God, and are actually found innocent, because Christ has been punished instead of them. Although Rhodes would acknowledge that sanctification would obviously follow when one is justified, they are still in fact guilty sinners, and are ontologically wicked before God, but they supposedly get Christ’s appropriated righteousness. Instead, the very passage that Rhodes gives us shows that only the one who is ontologically righteous, shall be declared innocent. He truly is innocent. The one who is unrighteous shall in fact be punished. The number of stripes is given according to his guilt, we see in Dt. 25:2. In fact, Rhodes had just previously said that the believer is legally acquitted of all guilt. In fact, Deuteronomy does exactly the opposite. The one who is guilty is not acquitted, that the wicked is “beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt.” That is exactly the opposite of Rhodes presumption that God ignores our sins in justification and looks instead at a foreign, alien righteousness imputed to the believer.

The next passage he gives us only further indicates that the forensic view is incorrect

Proverbs 17:15
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.
Rhodes’ view is that the wicked are justified, and are only covered over with Christ’s righteousness. Our own righteousness thus, even though it will improve because one will try to pursue holiness, is still not righteous enough before God, according to Rhodes. However, Proverbs specifically shows that if one justifies the wicked that is an abomination to God. In fact, this shows that the whole basis for justification in the Protestant view is an abomination to God. If one is to be justified correctly in God’s sight, the person must not merely be declared righteous, but actually righteous, which is the Catholic view.

I will look at another Old Testament passage which indicates that the alien righteous view is alien to God’s mindset.

Exodus 23:7
Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.
God does not acquit the person who is ontologically guilty. The Rhodes view is that in fact, the believer is ontologically and actually guilty who is acquitted by God, because he is looking at Christ’s righteousness instead of the believer. Contrary to that, Exodus shows that God will not acquit the guilty. He thus can only acquit those who are truly innocent. Thus, one must be sufficiently, ontologically righteous to stand the judgment.

God did not subjectively decide to overlook man’s sin or wink at his unrighteousness. Jesus died on the cross for us. He died in our stead. He paid for our sins. Jesus ransomed us from death by His own death on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21).

There has been a great exchange. As the great Reformer Martin Luther said, “Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, I am Your sin. You have taken upon Yourself what is mine and given me what is Your. You have become what You were not so that I might become what I was not.” (p. 135)

Here is the Protestant view in full. What is supposed to happen is that our sins get imputed to Jesus. God punishes Jesus because our sins get imputed to Jesus and he gets what we deserve. That is why he says, ‘in our stead’. We then get Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account, and we have a perfect righteousness. Thus, no matter what sins we commit, we will never lose that righteousness. Of course, Rhodes and other Protestants would argue that if one is truly saved, one would pursue holiness and not want to sin. Nonetheless, whatever sins we commit are totally irrelevant to our justification because it is only a one-time event. Let us look at a passage that Rhodes uses to prove this. He quotes 2 Corinthians 5:21. I want to give a fuller context to the passage to see if his analysis fits the context:
2 Cor. 5:17-6:2
17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 6 1 Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, "At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation." Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Now, the part that Rhodes highlights is the underlined part, verse 21. Supposedly Jesus gets our sins and we get Christ’s righteousness. Remember, in Rhodes’ view, one’s righteousness is not any of the grounds of our justification as it is only a one-time event. However, a look at the context shows that his reading of verse 21 is absolutely impossible. First, we see in v. 17, when he speaks of justification, he says one is a new creation. He is not an old creation covered over with Christ’s righteousness. Thus, we have a hint that the basis for justification is transformative, not a forensic exchange. Second, in v. 18-19 he speaks of Paul being a means of reconciliation. That indicates that he has a ministry to reconcile Christians with the Father (implying confession). In v. 20, writing to Christians, he begs, urges them to be reconciled to God. As he is writing to Christians, if justification was only a onetime event, this would make no sense at all. That is because if one’s justification was only a past event, and he is writing to those who are already justified, there would be no reason to urge them to continue to be reconciled to God, because that would be guaranteed. Since he is begging them to be reconciled to God, it shows that reconciliation with God is an ongoing process. In the verses following v. 21, it says that in the grace we must work together with him, in order for us not to accept the grace of God in vain. Thus, it is possible to receive God’s grace in vain, and thus, it is possible to lose one’s salvation. If a Christian was guaranteed salvation because of an imputed righteousness, it would be impossible to receive God's grace in vein, because at least he would have salvation. Thus, the surrounding context makes absolutely no sense if here he was speaking about a guarantee of a trade of imputation of sin for righteousness. Finally, Paul writes that the day of salvation is now, it is an ongoing process. Thus, works are necessary, intrinsic righteousness, not imputed righteousness is foundational to their justification, one can lose salvation, and it is ongoing. Each of those facts are totally at odds with Rhodes’ theology.

With that context in hand, we can see that Rhodes use of that verse is absolutely impossible to be correct. Verse 21 can not mean we are guaranteed salvation because we get Christ’s righteousness in exchange for us giving Christ his sin. In fact it says in v. 21 is that we might become the righteousness of God, not that one is guaranteed it. And since the context shows that it is conditional upon this obedience, justification is dependent upon our obedience to Christ. There is absolutely no hint of the forensic, faith alone theology here that Rhodes asserts. In fact, the word translated as sin in v. 21, can be credibly interpreted as ‘sin offering’. Jesus offered himself as a sin offering to God the Father so that we can be made righteous. It is not that he became imputed with sin, but he offered himself to God the Father voluntarily on our behalf. As the Jerome Biblical Commentary notes, “hamartia (the phrase used of Jesus), most likely means “sin sacrifice.” (John O’Rourke, Jerome Biblical Commentary, New Testament, page 281).

In fact, the idea of Rhodes that justification is speaking only of a declared righteousness and not an actual righteousness, is belied by Paul’s words elsewhere:

Romans 5:16-19
16 And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.
Thus, justification is a free gift, but in justification, one is made righteous, not merely declared righteous. Thus, sanctification not a byproduct of justification, but a cause of justification. Thus, the Rhodes theory does not work. That free gift that God gives us is him making us righteous. It is not a mere aftereffect. If that free gift is him making us righteous, it also means that that free gift is him giving us the ability to cooperate with him in maintaining that righteousness. It is not something we do on our own, because it is him empowering us to cooperate with that gift.
Evangelical Protestants believe in justification by faith in Christ alone (Romans 4; Galatians 3:6-14). God justifies “the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Indeed “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law”(Romans 3:28). “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” Romans 4:3), Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1) (p. 136).
None of those passages teach faith alone. In Romans 4, Paul refers us to Abraham, who as a Father of Faith, was justified by having a tremendous faith that God would provide a Son for him (Rom. 4:3). He believed in God and he was credited righteous. Paul refers us back to Genesis 15. He had already been justified as Hebrews attests to us (Heb. 11:8, Gen. 12:1-9) when he left his whole kin to go to where God would send him. In fact in Genesis 14:18, God is termed ‘Abram’s God. Thus, the example that Paul uses of Abraham shows that justification is an ongoing process. Abraham did not have faith that Jesus ‘paid’ for sins, nor is there a hint of a forensic exchange where Jesus gets imputed with our sins, while he get Christ’s righteousness imputed to his account. True, we are justified apart from ‘works of the law’. Paul speaks of ‘works of law’ as that which does not justify (Rom. 3:20, 28, Gal. 2:16, 3:10). But those are works outside the realm of grace (whether dependence on circumcision, Rom. 3:28, Gal. 2:16), or even attempting to keep the law on ones’ own power (Rom. 3:19-20, Gal. 3:10). Paul only excludes in Rom. 3:28, ‘works of the law’ from justification. He does not exclude works of love from justification. In fact, Paul writes that if we have all the faith in the world but have not love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). Thus, we know he can not mean justification by faith alone.
Good works, however are a by-product of salvation (Matthew 7:15-23; 1 Timothy 5:10, 25). Good works result from the changed purpose for living that salvation brings (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). We are not saved by our works, but in order to do good works. We do works not to get salvation, but because we have already gotten it. Works are a consequence of justification, not a condition for it. (p. 136)
Let us look at Rhodes’ example that supposedly shows that works are only a byproduct, and not a cause of justification. We have already seen in Matthew 25, in the judgment scene, that works done in grace was a cause of salvation, and the lack of works was a cause of condemnation. That was not merely a by-product. But let us look at Rhodes’ example, which I guess is supposed to prove faith alone.
Matthew 7:16-27
16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. 18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits. 21 "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' 24 "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."
Here Jesus gives us separation of those going to heaven, from those going to hell, similar to Matthew 25. I would expect if Rhodes’ theology was correct, the words, ‘works are only a byproduct’, or ‘here you get extra crowns because of your work,’ or something to that effect. Or, ”You get in because you believed in me, and you didn’t get in because you didn’t believe in me..” However, that is not found in this passage. Yes, in verses 16 and 17 he lays the foundation for the judgment scene that follow in verses 21 as he speaks of works being the fruit of being in Christ. Those in Christ will have good fruit, (good works) those not will bear bad fruit (bad works). Then, Jesus directly ties those fruits to their eternal destiny. He says only those who do the will of the Father in heaven, will get to heaven. Those who do not do so, will be cast from the Lord’s presence. Thus, what one did or did not do directly resulted in their condemnation/salvation. Those who did works in God’ grace got saved, those who did not, go to hell. So much for this somehow ‘proving’ faith alone. It proves exactly the opposite.

The Wonders of God’s Grace

In this section Rhodes highlights what he feels that because grace is a free gift, merit, and works have no direct cause of our salvation. He argues that the Catholic view teaches ‘earning’ salvation:

Eternal life, according to Scripture, cannot be earned. Verse after verse in Scripture indicates that eternal life is a free gift that comes as a result of believing in the Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (Jn. 6:47, emphasis added), “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, emphasis added), “I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of he water of life without cost“ Rev. 21:6, emphasis added, pp. 137-8
One statement in there is correct and Catholicism would agree with Rhodes, despite him saying that we disagree with him. First, Rhodes is correct, eternal life cannot be earned. He somehow assumes that we teach that we earn salvation. We don’t. So although he is correct in stating that salvation is not earned, he is wrong in stating that Catholicism teaches that we earn salvation. In fact, God can never be regarded as a debtor. We don’t just work to force God to pay us salvation. The Church does not teach that God owes us salvation, but as he is a Loving Father, he rewards faithful sons for the work that they do. For example, we saw in Mt. 25:31-46, that those who did good works were rewarded eternal life. He did not say, ‘I pay you because I owe you', but he said in verses 34-35:
Mt. 25:34-35
34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
He says that they inherit, which is the Father bequeathing heaven to faithful sons. It is not earning per se, but the Father rewarding sons who are faithful. And though it was through the eyes of grace, those works were the grounds for them going to heaven. Apparently Rhodes believes because he gives us a free gift, that means that the free gift is separated from what the free gift does. Our justification is indeed a free gift, but what does that free gift do? We see in Rom. 5:15, what the free gift is:
Rom. 5:15-19
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.
Now, true, the free gift brings justification. But what does the free gift do in justification? According to Paul, that free gift of justification is done when we are made righteous. The free gift makes us rule in righteousness (v. 17). The free gift is the transformation of our lives from being unrighteous in Adam, to being made righteous in Christ (v. 19). If we are made righteous, then justification is not being declared righteous, and sanctification is not merely a nice after effect of being justified. Paul says that justification = being made righteous, and that is the free gift!!! Thus, Rhodes is totally misappropriating the meaning of what the free gift is. He even says that our righteousness is filthy rags (we will see this later). How can we be filthy rags if through Jesus Christ we will reign in righteousness!!! Now, as we are human beings, there are always threats to us being made righteous, through temptations, etc. We always have the possibility, through sin, of being made unrighteous. In fact Paul writes that if we make ourselves unrighteous, even after being justified, we will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:3-5). But we must pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Being made righteous, sanctification, is a process. Justification can not be separated from sanctification. Thus, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to attain salvation. It is God’s gift to us to enable us to cooperate with his grace to attain salvation. That is God’s gift to us. Paul writes:
Rom. 8:13
for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.
Maintaining righteousness through God’s grace, is the only way one will continue in God’s grace. Thus, obedience is necessary in justification. If we live according to the flesh, we lose our Spiritual state, as Paul writes, you will die.

The quotation of John 6:47 about the necessity of believing does not exclude other things in the salvation process. Jesus a few verses later speaks of the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood to have eternal life (Jn. 6:51-58). Thus, partaking of Christ is also of salvific necessity for believers in Christ. If one has life with Christ presently, there is no guarantee that one will not depart from him. In fact, right after Jesus said in Jn. 5:24 that one must believe in order to have eternal life, he also declares that those who have done good are those that attain the resurrection of life:

John 5:28-29
28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.
Jesus specifically says that only those who do good (right after saying that those who believe have eternal life) will get eternal life. Thus, in judgment again, belief is not the only criteria for salvation, works are. Thus, belief alone is not taught by Jesus.

In reference to Rom. 6:23 which Rhodes attempted to use, the immediate context shows that faith alone is not implied. Remember, the free gift of God is him making us righteous, as seen in Romans 5. We must maintain that righteousness to maintain justification. We see that in the immediate preceding verses. Below is the verse he tried to use against the Catholic faith, Rom. 6:23, with the immediate context:

Rom. 6:16
Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Rom. 6:22-23
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rom. 6:16 teaches that if one obeys, that leads to righteousness, and thus, our justification. Obedience is thus a cause of our justification. That free gift that God gives us, thus is linked with our obedience. In the verse immediately preceding v. 23, v. 22, sanctification's end is eternal life. Thus, that free gift again can not be separated from our own sanctification, nor eternal life. That is the free gift. This obedience is not merely a by-product of salvation. If we obey sin, we cut ourselves off from God and throw away that gift that God provided. Also, Paul drives this point further when he writes that the end of sanctification is eternal life, v. 22. Thus, this free gift is only used when we produce sanctification. The end result of sanctification is eternal life. If we throw away that gift by sinning and living according to the flesh, (Rom. 6:16, 8:13) its end result is being cut off from God. Thus, just because Paul writes that grace is a free gift does not mean that we can not throw away that gift that God gave us.
Gifts cannot be worked for-only wages can be worked for. As Romans 4:4,5 (NIV) tells us, “When a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Since salvation is a free gift, it cannot be earned (p. 139).
Again, Rhodes is partly right, but again draws wrong a conclusion because he misses Paul’s point in Romans 4. Works that are done where one attempts to make God a debtor are not salvific. This is a work of the law where we attempt to make God a debtor (Rom. 3:20, 28). If we approach God thinking that God owes us wages, we will be condemned. That is what Paul when he uses the word, obligation, v. 4. We do not oblige God with our works. We approach God as a Son approaches the Father. We have a spirit of sonship (Rom. 8:13-17, Gal. 4:4-7). Here in Romans 4, he is showing us the kind of works that do not justify. Abraham approached God through faith, and as a Son who obeys the Father. Those were not works where Abraham attempted to obligate God to ‘owe’ him salvation, as in an employee-employer relationship. We notice that here Paul shows Abraham approaching God through trust, that God will provide a Son. He had a faith that God will reward. It is that faith that is credited righteousness. No hint of a forensic exchange that Rhodes assumes onto the text. Now, we know elsewhere in Romans and Galatians that works done within grace are salvific (Rom. 2:6-13, 8:2-4, 17, Gal. 5:6, 6:8-9, 1 Tim. 6:18-19). Works done under the auspices of grace is salvific, but only those works done under grace, under a Father-Son relationship, not an employee-employer relationship. When we approach God realizing it is only God’s mercy that saves us, then it is only works done there that are salvific. Paul writes this here:
Rom. 2:4-13
4 Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will render to every man according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. 12 All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
Here Paul emphasizes time and time again that works are salvific. He renders judgment to us according to our works (v.6). Not according to faith alone. Those who are patient in well-doing he will give eternal life (v. 7). Not according to faith alone. Glory and honor are given to those who do good (v. 10). Not according to faith alone. The doers of the law (within grace)(v.13) will be justified. Not according to faith alone. Thus, Rhodes not only misreads what Romans 4 is speaking about, but he must ignore this very book of Romans teaching on the necessity of works within grace as a cause of salvation.

Another important point is that as long as we understand that works done in grace are seen in the context of a Father-Son relationship, and God gives rewards based on a Father giving to a Son a reward, one can even see works in the context of wages. But not employee-employer wages. Father-son wages. As a Father who rewards his son. For example, Jesus says:

John 4:36-37
36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
Paul also writes, in the context of being within the law of Christ:
Gal. 6:2, 8-9
2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ... 8 For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.
Not only Jesus himself, but Paul also teaches that if one works within grace, the result will not merely be extra rewards in heaven, but heaven itself. These works are indeed salvific. One will only reap if one does well-doing (This is similar to Rom. 2:7). Otherwise he will not reap eternal life. Thus, Rhodes statement that works are not a condition for salvation is shown to be absolutely false by the very writer in the same letters he is appealing to prove faith alone!!

Does “Merit” Have Any Merit?

After saying that there is no distinction between works of law (which we saw are not salvific), and works in God’s grace, Rhodes says neither are necessary, for salvation. He actually says Any way you look at it, the apostle Paul argues against any kind of works (See Romans 2:14; 3:21-24; Ephesians 2:8,9). (p. 140). It is amazing that he would quote Romans 2:14. Rom. 2:14 actually is right after the passage in Romans 2 where I just quoted. Right after saying that within grace, he renders to all according to their works (v. 6), that he gives eternal life to those who are patient in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, (v.7) and he will give glory and honor and peace to every one who does good (v. 10), somehow Rhodes then quotes v. 14 to say something totally opposite of what the prior verses say. Verse 14 only says that those who have not heard the law can know the law from their heart, even if imperfectly , and whoever responds with their conscience on what they have heard, and are a law to themselves will either be excused or accused (thus, they will go to heaven or hell based on how they lived their life). It doesn’t say all are condemned. In fact it implies that even some who haven’t heard the gospel can be saved, when they respond to the law within their hearts. This only further shows that obedience is necessary.

Rhodes also quotes Eph. 2:8-9 which teaches the necessity of grace, but leaves out v. 10 which says that:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Works that are done in grace are salvific, while those works done by those who boast of themselves before God, outside of God’s grace, will not be salvific (v. 8, 9). However, what Rhodes does is common, quote Eph. 2:8, 9 & ignore v. 10, which actually shows the necessity of works.

Rhodes mocks the position of the Church when he writes:

When the jailer asked the apostle Paul how to be saved, Paul did not say: “Well, you better write all this down: You need to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church, get baptized, never commit a mortal sin, participate in seven sacraments throughout life, recite the rosary, perform lots of meritorious works, and when you die, spend some time in the flames of purgatory - and then you’ll be saved.” Rather Paul answered simply: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31)...The Roman Catholic position seems to assume that human beings can actually do things that make them acceptable to God, but such an idea goes against the entire grain of Scripture. (p. 140)
First of all that question was asked of several people in the Bible, and Rhodes seems to conveniently leave those verses out of his equation. I can also say well he didn’t say, ‘Well, you are supposed to believe not only in Jesus, but that when you believe in him, it is that you believe that your sins get imputed to Jesus, God punishes Jesus in my place, and once you trust in that idea, you get Christ’s righteousness imputed to your account, and you are automatically guaranteed salvation. You say a sinner’s prayer to get that.” In fact, all of these assumptions of Rhodes are poured into his reading of Paul in Acts 16. In Acts 16, there is not a hint of any of these assumptions. So, thus quoting Paul here gets us nowhere since no one denies that belief is an important thing. However, the Catholic Church puts our faith in the person of Jesus, not in the concept of double imputation that Rhodes assumes onto the text.

Besides that, Rhodes distorts Catholic teaching. He says the Roman Catholic would have Paul say that you have to recite the rosary. The idea that reciting the rosary is necessary for salvation is absolutely bogus. It is a devotional aid, that gives great graces, but nowhere has the Church even implied that reciting the rosary is necessary for salvation. The Church also does not teach that a Catholic can never commit a mortal sin. Of course one of the benefits of the Catholic faith is that one who commits a mortal sin has access to the sacrament of confession that Jesus himself established (Jn. 20;22-23) just for the purpose of forgiving sins through the means of a minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19), a priest. It is true that one who has a mortal sin on his soul must confess his sins to the priest to get absolved, but that is not what Rhodes said.

The question, how one can be saved is asked of others in the New Testament. For example, Peter is asked that question, in Acts 2:37-38:

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Notice that he doesn’t say even that one must believe. Peter says in response to the question of how one is saved to repent and be baptized in order to get forgiveness of sins. Rhodes argues from Acts 16 that all one needs to do is believe. Since he doesn’t mention anything else, he then argues that works, baptism or anything else is not necessary. I guess that since repentance isn’t mentioned, repentance isn’t necessary either? However, a look at that very question is Peter’s response which specifically mentions repentance and baptism which shows that both are necessary for the forgiveness of sins. That means that baptism is necessary for salvation. So is repentance. This is the gospel. Repentance and baptism. Since Paul said belief, and Peter, says both baptism and repentance are necessary, the Rhodes logic of saying neither are necessary is absolutely false as all of Scripture is inspired. Acts 2 is just as inspired as Acts 16. Thus, baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. So is belief and repentance.

Jesus was also asked this very question::

Mt. 19:16-17
16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" 17 And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
Jesus is asked the question himself. He answers that in order to enter life, one must keep the commandments. This is an unambiguous answer that Jesus never retracts. Especially we know it is possible because Jesus says that if we love him we will keep the commandments (Jn. 14:15, also see Jn. 15:10, 14). Using Rhodes logic on Acts 16, which says that since he said only belief was necessary, that excludes all other answers, would Jesus’ answer mean that nothing else is necessary besides keeping the commandments? According to Rhodes’ logic on Acts 16, Matthew 19 would show that only keeping the commandments are necessary.

We know elsewhere that Jesus stresses the necessity of belief and baptism (Mk. 16:16). Peter also says that baptism saves (1 Pet. 3:21). We know that elsewhere Jesus teaches that he gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins (thus establishing the sacrament of confession, (Jn 20:22-23). That is God’s ordinary means of forgiving sins, thus establishing that sacrament as a means of salvation. Jesus also says that to have eternal life one must eat the flesh and drink the blood (Jn. 6:51-56). Jesus also teaches that eating his body and blood forgives sins (Mt. 26:28). The Rhodes view apparently is to pick one verse that his theology likes to stress (Acts 16:31) and mock the Catholic view at the same time. However, what about these other passages that teach of the necessity of keeping the commandments, baptism, confession, the Eucharist, etc.? Well, Rhodes just ignores them (or elsewhere uses his time to explain that those verses don’t really mean what they say) but Acts 16:31 does supposedly. Yes, Rhodes does alot of dancing elsewhere in his book to say that when Peter writes ‘baptism saves you’, (1 Pet. 3:21) it really means 'baptism doesn't save you.' The same with other verses. However, the Catholic view takes account into all the answers given by Jesus and the apostles. It is the Catholic view that teaches that the rest of the verses mean what they say, and that not only belief, but repentance, baptism, confession, the Eucharist, keeping the commandments, etc. are all of importance for salvation.

With all that said, let us look at the fuller context of Acts 16:30-35, the specific text that Rhodes argues proves faith alone:

30 and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?" 31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God.
Notice that the Jailer asked him how to be saved. He says one must believe in Jesus. The jailer’s belief would save the entire household. Households normally include children, so thus implied is infant baptism. Now, the Rhodes view is that baptism is only a testimony to the outside that one has already been saved. However, notice the very thing that Paul takes the jailer to do right at the point of salvation. At once not only was he baptized, but all his household. If baptism was only secondary and of no effect for salvation, why at the specific moment of salvation, is he baptized? Paul doesn’t say, ‘well, you get saved by believing in Jesus, then afterward, when the rest of the Church sees you, you get baptized to demonstrate that you are saved.” At the moment of salvation, he gets baptized. Thus, this is the fulfillment of Jesus commission. Mk. 16:16 says He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Thus, even though Rhodes is using this verse to teach faith alone, the larger context shows that baptism was administered at the point of salvation.. Thus, baptism is integral to salvation. This is also congruent with Peter’s message that to be saved one must repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). This also teaches that on the basis of only the jailer’s faith (v. 34), the whole household was baptized. The larger passage thus also implies child baptism. Thus, even a larger look at the passage does not give us the conclusion that Rhodes gave us.


Rhodes next has two pages where he says that baptism is not necessary for salvation, pages 141-3. I will focus on one paragraph where he says baptism is not part of the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 1:17 the apostle Paul said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” Here a distinction is made between the gospel and being baptized. We are told elsewhere that it is the gospel that brings salvation (1 Corinthians 15:2). And baptism is not part of that gospel. So baptism is not necessary for salvation. Nevertheless, we should still get baptized (following our conversion) because God has instructed us to. (p. 142)
Before I approach this passage of 1 Corinthians 1, I would point out that to say that the baptism is not part of the gospel makes Jesus a liar, and Paul would contradict the gospel: When Jesus commissioned the apostles to spread the gospel, in two of his commissions reported, we see baptism as central to it:
Mark 16:15,16
15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Matthew 28:19-20
18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

How can this not be part of the gospel, when he gives the commission in Mark to the apostles to preach the gospel, he tells them that in order them to be saved, they must believe and be baptized. In Matthew 28, the passage says that when Jesus commissions the apostles to preach the gospel, that in order for people to disciples, they must be baptized. There is no commission to write Scripture. So the idea of baptism being a central part of the gospel is portrayed as more of a part of the gospel, than even writing Scripture, which Jesus does not mandate in any of the four gospels. To say that baptism is not a part of the gospel is to totally ignore and contradict Jesus.

Going back to the passage of 1 Corinthians, amazingly, Rhodes has Paul saying that this 1 Cor. 1:17 means that baptism is not part of the gospel!!! How in the world can that be when in his introduction to Christianity, Paul saw that it was baptism that washed away his sins!:

Acts 22:16
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'
Paul himself knows that his own sins were washed away by baptism. He notes in his own writings that it is baptism that baptizes us into Christ death (Rom. 6:3-4). It is in baptism that we are buried with him. Paul writes that in baptism we put on Christ
Gal. 3:27
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Thus, part of the gospel is baptism as the means of putting on Christ, and getting our sins washed away, in Paul’s own experience and writing (In concert with Jesus’ teaching on the necessity of baptism). So what does Paul mean when he says in 1 Cor. 1:17 that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel? Is he pitting baptism against the gospel, to say that baptism is not part of the gospel, as Rhodes argues? No, in fact all he is saying is if we look at the words of the text is that his main purpose is not to be the one who baptizes! It says nothing about baptism not being part of the gospel, but that his mission on earth is not to he himself baptize others. In fact, he realizes that baptism is part of the gospel, but he knows that others can do the baptizing. In a similar manner, Peter replied what the gospel was to 3000 people who accepted his message of salvation. What was that gospel message:?. “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).” 3000 were baptized on that very day. Peter spoke the message of the gospel, which included baptism. Even though 3000 were baptized, Peter probably did little if any personal baptizing of these people who he brought to the gospel. Thus, even though it is part of the gospel, it was not necessary that Peter himself did the baptizing. Peter could have very well said the same thing, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel”, while he still taught that baptism is part of the gospel. That is the same as with Paul. Paul did the teaching of the gospel, which included baptism. However, he did not have to personally baptize the people. Others did that for him. Although we did see him baptize the jailer’s household in Acts 16, normally he left that for others to do. Paul would teach the necessity of baptism as washing away sins (Acts. 22:16), of putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27), of being baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6) via baptism.

Rhodes referred to 1 Corinthians 15:2 as also saying that baptism was not part of the gospel. Let us look at the larger context.

1 Corinthians 15:1-6
1 Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, 2 by which you are saved, if you hold it fast--unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
The first thing we notice that Paul is speaking here is of what Jesus did as the gospel. That he was buried, rose, and appeared to others. The whole focus is what Jesus did for us. That he died, was buried, and rose from the dead is an essential part of the gospel. However he is not giving us a detailed response on how we are saved, just the main parts of what Jesus did for us. However, we do see a hint of it, in v. 2, which shows that salvation is not done by faith alone. Paul tells the Corinthian believers, that we are saved only by holding fast to the gospel. He also writes that it is possible to believe in vain. This teaching agrees with Jesus who said:, Luke 8:13: 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 temptation fall away. Obviously, this shows that perseverance in the truth is a necessity. This perseverance is not merely an aftereffect, or even an inevitable consequence of being a believer in the gospel, but Paul here and Jesus in Luke 8 show us that perseverance in belief is a cause of salvation. Thus, the once saved always saved idea of Rhodes is false. Of course Rhodes thinks that that is impossible, with his eternal security theology. If one is justified at a one time point of salvation where one believes, how can one believe in vain? Besides that hint of justification in 1 Cor. 15:2, there is absolutely no direct mention of believing, justification, repentance, or appropriating of righteousness, either infused or imputed as part of the gospel. He is only focusing on the aspect of what Jesus did for us in that section. Then he will go on to stress the necessity of the resurrection. Paul here only passingly refers to belief. He does not speak of the necessity of repentance or baptism because that is not his focus here.

We know in this very letter that Paul knows of the necessity of baptism. He writes how one is justified earlier. How does Paul write that one is justified? After warning the Corinthians of staying away from mortal sins because if they go to death with their sins on their soul they will not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul writes how they were justified:

1 Cor. 6:11
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Here Paul speaks of the time of when they were first justified. At the time of justification they were washed. What significance does the term washing mean? Well, we just saw that Paul realized that his sins were washed away by baptism in Acts 22:16. Thus, washing refers back to the time of his initial justification, baptism. Significantly at the same time as one was justified by the washing of baptism, one was also sanctified. This shows us that this is the time when one was made righteous (see Rom. 5:19). Looking back, Paul says how baptism took them out of the slavery of sin, to the baptism into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3-7). This is a clear reference to baptism. Thus, at the washing, the sins were washed away, just as at the same time when Paul himself was justified, baptism washed away his sins (Acts 22:16). Thus, the 1 Cor. 6 reference to washing clearly refers to baptism

In addition, in this very letter to the Corinthians, Paul also speaks of the effects of baptism::

1 Cor. 12:13
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Here Paul teaches that through the One Spirit, one is baptized into the body of Christ. This reminds us of the fact that Jesus says that one must be born of water and Spirit (Jn. 3:5). The attempts of some to say, ‘well, he is speaking here of Spirit baptism, not water baptism’ is making a distinction without a basis for making that distinction. As Peter taught that one will get the Holy Spirit only when one gets baptized with water. As Jesus says that one must be born of water and Spirit, (Jn. 3:5), surrounded by a context of baptism (Jn. 3:22). As Paul himself teaches that at justification one gets the ‘washing’ of renewal and the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5), and baptism washes away sins (Acts 22:16) and puts on Christ (Gal. 3:27), Paul here specifically sees water baptism as the means in which the Holy Spirit is received, not some magic time when someone says a salvation prayer where one gets a spirit baptism, and only later does a water baptism happen. Thus, Rhodes assumptions are wrong.

Rhodes continues:

We must keep in mind the purpose of baptism. It is not a “cause “ of justification. Rather, in the New Testament, baptism is portrayed as a symbol of our death and resurrection with Jesus Christ. As we go down into the water, that motion symbolized our death with Christ. As we are raised up out of the water, that motion symbolizes our resurrection and new life with Christ (p. 142).
Rhodes uses Romans 6 to say it symbolizes our death and resurrection. Let us see whether the passage speaks of baptism symbolizing or actualizing what it is signifying:
Rom. 6:2-8:
How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For he who has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
Paul says that those who have been baptized with Christ were baptized into his death (vv. 3-4). This baptism made it so that one can walk in the newness of life. The old self was crucified with baptism. Baptism freed one from the dominion of sin (v. 7). Baptism crucified the old self that was enslaved to sin. There is absolutely not one hint or reference to baptism symbolizing the newness of life. It is in fact the cause of that newness of life, and thus justification. That passage that Rhodes refers us to, plays out in reality what Peter himself wrote, (1 Pet. 3:21) that baptism doth now save us.

Eternal Security

Rhodes then goes on to say that the Catholic Church is also wrong in that it teaches one can lose salvation. He argues that there is no such thing as mortal sin, and he says that Roman Catholicism teaches eternal insecurity (p. 143). One thing to note, is that this is really an accusation that has not much stock to it. The view put forward by Rhodes, when confronted with many passages that show that one can lose salvation (such as Heb. 2:3, Jn 15:5-6, Lk. 8:13, Heb. 10:26-29, Eph. 5:3-5, Gal. 5:18-21, Gal. 6:7-9, , Rom. 11:22, 2 Pet. 2:20-21 etc.), is that in all of those passages he is not speaking of believers. So the warnings that the different authors make, do not really apply to believers, because true believers would never do such sins, and the warnings would not apply to them. So Paul and Jesus are not really addressing or speaking about believers in these situations. Even if they seem to give indications that these people were true believers, if they end up in depravity or unbelief, that means that they were never saved in the first place. Of course in these passages there is no hint that these are warnings are not addressed to actual believers. Since these are letters either addressed to believers, or sayings from Jesus addressed to believers, they are addressed to believers, and there is a real possibility of losing salvation. Nonetheless, the Protestant view that these are only addressing unbelievers, show that their version of the matter does not give them true security at all. As a matter of fact, how do they have assurance that they may not go off and commit sins that will show that they were never saved in the first place? All will admit that they can commit sins such as found in 1 Cor. 6:9-10, or Eph. 5:3-5, which if they commit, their theology would have to say, "well, I was never saved in the first place." As they know that they are in a world of temptation, there are few so proud, that would admit that they can not fall into such sins. Having listened to Focus on the Family and other Protestant ministries, at various times, many which deal with issues that are hurting society and the Church, one can hear how many men and even some women, who are Christians get hooked up on pornography, be it magazines, or with the Internet. Pornography produces lust in the heart. Jesus warns against this by saying that if you lust in your heart at a woman, you are committing adultery (Mt. 5:27-28). If they commit that, one will see that they fall into the category of 1 Cor. 6:9, which says:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Paul is quite clear that those who commit adultery will not inherit the kingdom of God. He warns Christians that if they think that if one commits adultery that won't impact their salvation, they are plainly deceived. It is plain that if one commits adultery and that person dies with that sin on his soul, he will not go to heaven. It is obvious that Rhodes' theology and the Protestant theology he presents, is absolutely false and deceptive on this point, according to Paul.

There is evidence that many Christians can get addicted to pornography. The Catholic view would say that Paul is writing to true Christians, and warning them that if they fall into those types of sins, they cut themselves off from God. A Protestant Christian would have to say, well, Paul isn’t really addressing this point to Christians, but if one lives that type of lifestyle, that would indicate that they are not true Christians. Well, then it comes down to ‘Am I really saved in the first place?’ not being answered so easily by the Protestant. Thus, the Protestant view really does not give a believer any indication of one being more secure in their own salvation, than the Catholic, who sees these warnings as really for Christians. The Catholic acknowledges that one can actually fall into these type of sins, and that is why we need God’s grace to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13).

The sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist are great graces available to the Catholic which is not of avail in combating these temptations for Protestants. So, this idea of true assurance, even if one takes the proposition that their theology is true, actually gives no such assurance, because how can one truly be sure that they are truly saved in the first place, as they themselves realize that they can be tempted to sins that they can really fall into, which would show that they really never were saved? The Catholic view actually causes the Christian to look at those passages and take them at their word, that these passages are really addressed to Christians, and by God’s grace we need to persevere so we don’t fall into those sins, because our disobedience can really cause our disinheritance.

Rhodes goes on to argue again that since justification is a past event, one is truly assured of salvation. After lamenting that some Protestants such as Arminians don’t believe in eternal security, Rhodes writes:

But I believe the consistent testimony of Scripture is that once a person becomes a part of the family of God, he or she is absolutely secure in that salvation. Scripture affirms: “Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Rom. 5:9). (p. 143)
Rhodes assumes that because Paul is speaking of being justified in past tense, it then says one shall be saved, from God’s wrath, that it shows that he is guaranteed salvation. Of course, just because justification is put in the past tense, does not mean that one will guaranteed salvation. In fact, in the first part of Rom. 5, Paul teaches:
Rom. 5:1-5
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
Here Paul shows that in justification, it’s basis is transformative. Now, we see faith, hope, perseverance, suffering, and love are entailed at justification. We also see that God’s love has been, past tense, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Rhodes argues that since justification is portrayed in the past tense, it means it is a one-time event, and one's salvation is assured. No one denies that justification is a past event, but as we saw that it is also ongoing, and it is future as well. He says in Rom. 5:9, that we shall be saved. Thus, Paul points to the future. Now, if justification is a one time thing and only a past event, he obviously would have written that when he had been justified, he was saved, past tense. Salvation would be a past event and assured. However, it is not here in Rom. 5:9. It is not a one time thing. We see in the background to Rom. 5:5, that God’s love was in the past tense poured out in our heart, but using Rhodes theology do we say that that event of God's love being poured out into our heart is merely a past event? Do we say that we do not on an ongoing basis need God’s love to pour into our heart, and that we must cooperate with that love and have love in our heart on an ongoing basis? Of course we do. Also, we saw earlier that at the time of justification, one was sanctified (1 Cor. 6:9), past tense. Just because it was a past event in 1 Cor. 6:9, does not meant that sanctification is not a process. In fact, Rhodes agrees that sanctification is a process. Thus, Rom. 5, does show that at one point we are justified, but we must persevere in sanctification, to ultimately be saved from the wrath of God. In fact, a few verses later, Paul writes that in justification one is made righteous, as we saw earlier (Rom. 5:16-19). Obviously our own actions can undo that being made righteous through our old sins. If we do not put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will not live (Rom. 8:13). Paul in this very letter teaches that if we commit serious sins of disobedience, we will lose our justification (Rom. 2:8-9, 6:16, 8:12-13, 14-17, 11:20-22, 13:11-14, etc.).
Scripture asserts: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life (1 Jn 5:11-13, Rhodes emphasis highlighted)
Yes, John does write that if one has the Son of God one will know that one has eternal life. Now, the question is, how do we know that we are in communion with the Son of God? How do we know that we have the Son of God? Is merely believing in him all we need? Since John specifically writes in 1 Jn 5:13 that the things are written so we may know this it is best to look at the things that he actually wrote in this epistle:
1 Jn:2:2-5
2 and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He who says "I know him" but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him

1 Jn. 2:28-29
28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him.

1 Jn. 3:2-7
2 Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous.

1 Jn. 3:15
Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

1 Jn. 3:24
All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.

1 Jn. 5:1-3
1 Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

We see in the very letter that John wrote several indications that indicate both, salvation is not by faith alone, and that when John wrote that one can know that one is in Christ, he must do several things, and if you don’t do those things you can lose your salvation. First, (1 Jn. 2:2-5) we see that the only way that we know him is if we keep our commandments. If we disobey those commandments we are a liar, and the truth is not in us. We must keep his word. Thus, if we disobey those commandments we are no longer in Him. Then we see that the condition for being in him is that we do right. If we do not do right, we are not in him (1 Jn. 2:28-29). The only way that we are with him is if we do not continually sin, and it is a deception to think we are in him, if we are not practicing righteousness (1 Jn. 3:2-7). We know that if we hate a brother in Christ, we no longer have eternal life abiding in us (1 Jn. 3:15). We only know that Jesus abides in us if we keep his commandments. It is as simple as in 1 Jn. 2:2-5: if we don’t keep the commandments, if we break them, we do not abide with him any more (1 Jn. 3:24). He reiterates the necessity of keeping the commandments to stay in his grace (1 Jn. 5:1-3). We can know that we are a child of God, only when we love God and obey his commandments. Rhodes had written that we are like filthy rags (misapplying Isaiah 64:6) and that it is impossible to sufficiently keep the commandments. As we saw in Rom. 5:19, and Rom. 6:3-7, in justification he makes us righteous. God is not in the habit of making filthy rags. However, the apostle John says that we can keep the commandments, and they are not burdensome. Rhodes idea is that it is too burdensome (p. 140). So, with this background as to what we know we can approach an understanding of the passage in 1 Jn 5:13 in how we can know Christ is by reading what he wrote. That is the case since in the very same verse he tells us These things are written, so that... These passages say that we can know that we are with him, only if we do right, keep his commandments, and not hate one's brother. It is obviously possible to fall short in those areas so our salvation is not guaranteed, unless we persevere. That is what we know. It is an obvious fallacy to argue that John teaches faith alone, and to use it to teach an absolute assurance of salvation, because it is always possible that we can break those commandments. Attainment of salvation is only possible if we keep those commandments according to the apostle John. This same apostle also recorded Jesus saying that if we love him we will keep the commandments (Jn. 14:15, 15:10, 14, cf., Mt. 19:16-17). That is what John tells us what we know. John also writes that there is a distinction between mortal and venial sins (1 Jn. 5:16-17) which gives us a further indication that God makes distinctions on the types of sins we may commit. So to teach Faith Alone and absolute assurance of salvation from 1 Jn. 5:11-13, is reading this passage in total disregard of the rest of the letter that he tells us to read in order to understand what he means in 1 Jn. 5:13.

Finally, the final paragraph in this chapter has Rhodes appealing to a human family as the basis for understanding that God could never cast out someone who disobeys him, even seriously. After quoting Hebrews 12:4-11 and 1 Cor. 11:30 to supposedly show that even though God will discipline us, we can not be cut off from him, he writes:

It is much like a human family. If my son or daughter does something wrong and refuses to repent, I take disciplinary measures, but I do not kick him or her out of my family. God does not kick us out of His family when we fail to repent, but He does discipline us until we do repent. He loves us far too much to allow us to remain in sin (p. 144).
I agree that God is a Father, and that we are adopted sons. In fact, those who are justified are in covenant with the Father. That is in fact central to our justification. He is more than a judge, which ultimately is the Protestant view of justification. In fact it is as a Father, and Rhodes' allusion to discipline, is correct in the sense that for small, or venial sins, since he approaches us as a Father does a Son, he does not cast us out of his kingdom. These are sins where we do not turn our back on the Father. It is in fact because he is our Father, that he tolerates sins in the sense that small sins do not cause our disinheritance. Rhodes is correct in that part of Hebrews 12:
Hebrews 12:5-11
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? --"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
In fact, Rhodes allusion to him being a Father is correct in the part that small sins that we commit we do not cause us to be cast out. However, note v. 11. It also says that the purpose of the this is the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Rhodes has the idea that one has already achieved a forensic righteousness that is perfect. There is no hint in this passage that the Father will overlook sins in this life, or the next life. V. 11 thus, does imply the need for those who die in his grace, the need for purgatory, since the Father’s discipline and molding us into his Father’s image will need to continue after one’s death. There is no mention of a forensic exchange which mandates the Father to overlook all ones’ sins.

Nonetheless what is central to our justification, is that he is more than a judge who is bound by a forensic exchange. He is not bound by a legal decree, but the basis in justification is in fact sonship. One thing that the Father is, however, is that he is a Holy Father. He is 100% in holiness, (which is why we believe in purgatory). His holiness would not be bound by a decree which means that even if his adopted son turns his back on his Father, that he is bound by a legal decree to ignore his own holiness, and grant his adopted son salvation in spite of his adopted son’s sins against the Father. The continuance of this passage which Rhodes conveniently leaves out shows that Rhodes totally misunderstands what salvation is inside of the Father-Son context:

Hebrews 12:12-17
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; 16 that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Within the context of the Father-Son relationship, Paul (who I believe to be the author of Hebrews) specifically says that even as sons, if we do not continue to strive for holiness, we will not see the Lord. This Father’s holiness, though he will merely discipline us over the small sins for the purpose of us striving of holiness, as noted in the previous verses, is not legally bound, to overlook the sins of those who do not reach for holiness. After all, Paul had written that if we do not put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will not live (Rom. 8:13, Gal. 5:16). We see that we are even compared to Esau (v. 16), who disinherited himself by his actions (Gen. 27:1-40). He sold his birthright only for a meal. He turned his back on his inheritance by his action. His action was a mortal sin. He was a son of Isaac, but threw his inheritance away for the fleeting pleasure of a good meal. Paul specifically warns us that we could become like Esau and become defiled. Thus, our salvation could be lost through an action of turning our back on the Father, just as Esau’s total disregard for the inheritance that he could have had. We are told by Paul, not to be immoral like Esau (v. 16), and thus lose our salvation. We can become defiled by such an action, and we are warned against defiling ourselves, then we would not get the blessing, which for us would be salvation. In other words if we die in such a state, we will not see the Lord, because we can cast away our inheritance.

In this passage Paul specifically uses the term that we may not achieve the grace of God, if a “root of bitterness” defiles us. Here he is borrowing language from Deuteronomy which speaks to the reality of us being in covenant, and the consequences of us breaking the covenant:

Deut. 29:16-21
You know how we dwelt in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; 17: and you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them. 18: Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19: one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, `I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.' This would lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. 20: The LORD would not pardon him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy would smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book would settle upon him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven.
Thus, we see the language that Paul uses in Hebrews 12, being borrowed from Deuteronomy, which shows that we can fall into this defilement by our actions and cause our disinheritance. There were many Israelis during the time of Moses and the leaving of Egypt, who were in covenant with the Father, and were in his grace. However, they turned away from the Lord. They say, well, I am safe in salvation. The Lord tells the Israelis that if they feel that their own salvation is guaranteed, because they have been in covenant with him, because they can rely on once saved always saved, and turn their back on the Father, the Lord will not pardon them. And thus, Paul specifically in Hebrews 12 takes us back to a passage which further drives home the point that if one is in covenant with the Father, it is possible to throw away this inheritance. Now the words in Hebrews 12 fully show this, but where he is drawing this from in Deuteronomy, even further drives home the point. We can become immoral like Esau. That is why within the Father-Son relationship, such immoral actions can cause us to lose our status as Sons.

Of course this is shown elsewhere as well. In Romans 8, in the context of our divine sonship, Paul warns us that we can throw away our inheritance by our actions.

Rom. 8:12-17
12 So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- 13 for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Right after telling us that if we live according to the flesh we will die, and we must put to death the deeds of the flesh, he tells us that we can inherit, as Sons, only if we suffer with him. Thus, the Rhodes idea that we can never lose our inheritance is not only shown in the context of the passage he refers us to in Hebrews 12, but is contingent upon us obeying the Father, as Romans 8 shows, and if we do not suffer with him, we can lose our inheritance. This is also reflected in the many passages in which we are warned that we can not inherit the kingdom of God if we commit mortal sins, as stated in 1 Cor. 6:9, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5. The achievement of heaven is seen as an inheritance. Actions on our part can cause our disinheritance. The specific phrase, inherit, or disinherit, is linked with obedience or disobedience to the Father. In fact, we saw earlier, in Mt. 25:31-46, when Jesus said to those who did good works, it was based on those works that one was granted the (v. 34) inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, Mt. 25:31-37. Paul specifically warns in these passages (1 Cor. 6:9, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5) that we are deceived, if we think that there are no such sins that can cause our disinheritance. Thus, the Rhodes idea is shown to be absolutely false. He is operating on the wrong assumptions when he assumes that because God is a Father, that we can never lose our inheritance. We can end up like Esau. It is only through God’s grace, and our response to that grace, where we can achieve that final inheritance into the kingdom of heaven. It is a false assumption however which says that we can not disinherit ourselves from that kingdom.

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