by Jerry Shugart
"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (Jn.15:6).
Those who deny the eternal security of the believer living under the law quote this verse to bolster their ideas. They say that the Lord Jesus is saying that a believer living under the law could fall back into a state of death.
Sir Robert Anderson writes, "The language of the sixth verse, if carefully studied, will prevent our mistaking His meaning. 'If any one does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch, and is withered.' To bear fruit apart from Him is quite as impossible as to be saved apart from Him. The severed branch of another sort of tree might be used in some way. But as every Palestinian peasant knew, vine branches were useless ; men gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned. Indeed, these words of Christ about vine branches are, no doubt, a reference to Ezekiel xv. 8, 4, 'Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel.' They are not a doctrinal statement relating to the future destiny of men, but a parable to illustrate truth relating to the conduct and life of His people here and now" (Anderson, Misunderstood Texts of the New Testament, [Kregel Publications, 1991], pp.68-69).
"But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:35).
Proponents of the idea that "works" were required in past dispensations say that this verse is saying that works of righteousness must be evident to be accepted by the Lord.
Here Peter is "describing" those who are acceptable to the Lord. Those who "fear Him" believe that God exists. That, combined with the "conscience", leads the believer to obey his conscience and this obedience leads to works of righteousness. Peter does not say that the "requirement" for being acceptable to the Lord is to do works of righteousness.
Here we can see that it is believing that God exists which brings rewards:
"And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him" (Heb.11:6).
So any reward that is received by those "in every nation" is because of one's "faith" alone and not because of any good works which they do.
"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (Heb.3:14).
Those who say that those who received the epistle to the Hebrews did not enjoy eternal security quote this verse in order to attempt to prove their idea. They say that this verse teaches that these believers can fall back into a state of death.
The Greek word (metochoi) translated "partakers" might be more literally rendered "partners". One of the meanings of that Greek word is "a partner (in a work, office, dignity)" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).
The role of the "work" of "serving" the Lord, like the privilege of serving in the priestly house (v.6), is dependent on continued fidelity. This verse is not speaking of eternal salvation but instead about serving the Lord Jesus. We can see that the reference to "house" in the following verses are in regard to service":
"And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb.3:5-6).
Again, by the "context" we can see that the Son's own house refers to His Priestly "service" (Heb.2:17; 3:1).