Today I read Greg Couser’s article on the believer’s judgment. I do not know him. But I liked his article. It appeared in DTS’s journal BibSac in Oct-Dec of 2019.
I highly recommend reading the article. In it you can see an honest exegete struggling to make sense of certain texts that do not fit well with his theological convictions.
Here are some of Couser’s core convictions:
- Everlasting life cannot be lost.
- Temporary denials of Christ are something that born-again people are sometimes guilty of.
- No born-again person will persist in denial of Christ until death.
- Persistent denial of Christ is apostasy.
- Apostates will not enter Christ’s kingdom.
- All believers will be judged at “the final judgment.”
- Believers can and should have “confidence” that God will preserve them so that they gain final salvation at the final judgment.
- Believers should not be worried that they ultimately deny Christ and be denied access to Christ’s kingdom, even though they know that is theoretically possible.
So how does Couser understand 2 Tim 2:11-13? Here are the highlights of his interpretation:
- All believers “died with Christ” when they were born again.
- All who died with Christ are guaranteed that they will live with Him forever.
- The believer who endures in faithfulness will rule with Christ in the life to come.
- Ruling with Christ refers to maximizing one’s service for Him forever.
- If a believer temporarily denies Christ, then he will experience a loss of rewards now and in the life to come, but his eternal destiny remains secure.
- If a believer permanently denies Christ, then he shows he is not a true believer, and he will be eternally condemned.
- If we prove faithless in our Christian lives, which is something different from ultimate denial of Christ, then Jesus remains faithful to His promise to us of everlasting life that can never be lost.
- Jesus cannot and will not deny Himself and His promise of everlasting life to the believer.
I find Couser’s discussion to be fascinating. He is bound by his mildly Calvinistic convictions in such a way that persistent denial of Christ means one is not among those whose name are found in the Book of Life. Yet he believes that Timothy is born again and knows he is. So, he has come up with a way to interpret 2 Tim 2:11-13 in a way that somehow does not violate his theological convictions yet comes out fairly close to the Free Grace interpretation. For the Free Grace view of that passage, see this journal article by Brad McCoy and this magazine article by Zane Hodges.
I could certainly wish that Couser would say that there is no final judgment for the believer, that the salvation of the believer was final the moment he believed in Christ for it and that there is no future final salvation, and that the believer can and should be certain of his eternal destiny, not merely highly confident in it. However, it is very encouraging to see a man grapple with a text that does not fit his theological position and come away with a view that gets most of the salient points in the text right.
I commend BibSac for publishing this article. While it is not advocating a complete Free Grace interpretation, it comes quite close.