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|What About the Warning Passages?|
| The argument often takes this form: "Why did Paul and the other apostles write warnings against apostasy if believers are eternally secure? If believers can't fall, why warn?"
First, the apostles sent their letters to organized churches that encompassed both believers and unbelievers. In fact, Paul warns of unbelieving teachers who would rise up from within the church and attempt spiritual coups (Acts 20:30). So keep in mind that the warnings against apostasy are given to believers and unbelievers alike.
Second, in the Old Testament God commanded Ezekiel to tell Israel to repent and return even though God knew that Israel would not repent (Eze. 3:4-7). What is often assumed in discussions of the warning passages is that God would never tell someone to do something or refrain from doing something unless that person had the ability to obey or disobey. Why, then, did Ezekiel tell Israel to repent if he and God already knew that they would not?
Also consider Moses' warnings to Israel in Deuteronomy 28-30. He sums up by giving Israel a choice in Deuteronomy 30:15-20: "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity...the blessing and the curse. So choose life that you may live...by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him..." Here is (1) a command to obey, and (2) a warning against falling away--much like the warnings of the epistles. Yet Moses later says, "I know that after my death you will act corruptly...and evil will befall you in the latter days.." (Deut. 31:29). Again, why warn Israel if Moses and God already knew that Israel was going to fall?
Third, Moses wrote all the warnings in a book as a testimony against Israel (Deut. 31:26). This book, this preservation of all the commands to obedience and warnings against falling away, would serve as a witness of Israel's guilt. They could not claim they didn't know God's command; they had it in a book.
Fourth, different Israelites had different responses. Josiah read the book of the Law and repented, leading to God's blessing on him (2 Chron. 34:14-28). Zedekiah cut up and burned the prophecy of Jeremiah, and God's curse fell on him and on Israel (Jer. 36:20-31; 39:1-7).
IF God's warnings to Israel were to believers and unbelievers (Point 4),
AND IF God knew that Israel would reject and disobey Him (Point 2),
AND IF God warned Israel anyway so that they would become guilty (Point 3),
AND IF some Israelites did repent at the warnings of the Law (Point 4),
THEN the warnings condemned guilty unbelievers and led obedient believers to repentance.
This is, I believe, a biblical understanding of the warning passages. The purpose is not to warn Christians against losing salvation, but to harden unbelievers to condemnation and to spur believers to righteousness.