Eternal security proponents face many difficult passages of Scripture, that is, difficult for them because they clearly contradict their treasured and beloved doctrine. The contradictions from Scripture concerning their teaching exist either by specific example or simple declaration pertaining to this subject.
Regarding examples that contradict eternal security, perhaps the Apostle Judas Iscariot is most difficult for them. It seems that the facts revolving around this apostle must be distorted, twisted, read into and/or overlooked to maintain their erroneous view of the believer's security. Even illogical statements and Scripturally unsubstantiated statements surface to reconcile events in his life to eternal security!
It is obvious that the Apostle Judas Iscariot went to Hell after betraying Jesus and committing suicide: "Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born" (Mark 14:21). Because of this fact, the eternal security proponents are left with no alternative but to dogmatically insist that Judas was never really saved to begin with or forfeit their belief in eternal security, something which few of them seem to be willing to do.
John MacArthur, Jr. is no exception to this! Though he has many fine teaching cassettes and books available, when it comes to the subject of eternal security, even when it is not directly the issue, he becomes Scripturally unsound and illogical, like Charles Stanley and other perpetuators of this teaching.
The following are excerpts from MacArthur's book, The Gospel According To Jesus (1989) regarding Judas from his eternal security perspective:
"Judas is a prime example of a professing believer who fell into absolute apostasy. For three years he followed the Lord with the other disciples. He appeared to be one of them. Presumably he thought of himself as a believer, at least at the outset. It is doubtful that he joined Christ's band with the intention of turning against him. Somewhere along the line he became greedy, but that could hardly have been his motive in the beginning; Jesus and the disciples never had anything of material value (Matthew 8:20). Apparently Judas initially shared the hope of Christ's kingdom, and he likely believed that Jesus was the Messiah. After all, he also had left everything to follow the Lord. In modern terminology, he had 'accepted' Jesus ...."
"Yet, while the others were growing into apostles, Judas was quietly becoming a vile, calculating tool of Satan. Whatever his character seemed to be at the beginning, his faith was not real (John 13:10-11). He was unregenerated, and his heart gradually hardened so that he became the treacherous man who sold the Savior for a fistful of coins. In the end, he was so prepared to do Satan's bidding that the devil himself possessed Judas (John 13:27)" (p.99, emphasis ours).
In his first aforementioned paragraph, MacArthur mentions twice that Judas "followed the Lord"! In the latter of these two, he elaborates by saying of Judas, "He had left everything to follow the Lord." Yet, later in this same article, he states, "Judas illustrates false discipleship" (p.104)! This is illogical! A false disciple cannot be one who has "left everything to follow the Lord"! According to Jesus, one must "give up everything he has" or he can't be His disciple (Lk. 14:33)! Certainly, Jesus wasn't speaking of false discipleship here.
Furthermore, as you can see, MacArthur has Judas "join[ing] Christ's band," as if it already existed before he came on the scene! In contrast, the Biblical account states the following:
"When morning came, he called HIS DISCIPLES to him and chose twelve of them whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor" (Lk. 6:13-16).
Please note: the first time we hear of Judas Iscariot, we are informed that he already was a "disciple." Furthermore, he was "called" and "chosen" by Christ Himself to be an "apostle" at the same time as the other twelve. See also Jn. 6:70. Judas did NOT just "join" Christ's band which already existed, as this eternal security teacher writes, for he was already part of that group!
MacArthur also erroneously has the Twelve, that is, minus Judas Iscariot, "growing into apostles" instead of instantly being made "apostles" by Christ Himself! Judas too was of this group "chosen" over the other disciples that were present to be the Lord's apostle! This fact about instant apostleship is also shown elsewhere in Scripture and confirmed by the origin of Paul's apostleship (Rom. 1:1). One NEVER "grow[s]" into an apostle, as MacArthur teaches!
Going back to the Scripture passage, please note that Judas "became" a traitor (Lk. 6:16). The word "became" for Judas suggests a change for the worse that occurred sometime after he was chosen as a disciple by Christ to be His apostle, or "special messenger," as that word means. In other words, Judas went from "disciple" to "apostle" to "traitor." Or we might say he was once a "disciple" of the Lord's elevated to apostle, who later "became a traitor," as Scripture words it. Either way, the spiritual condition of this apostle regressed to the place where he betrayed Christ, committed suicide (self-murder) and then went to Hell! What an awesome thing to contemplate!
Also, remember this about Judas: he was sent forth to preach, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those having leprosy and to drive out demons (Matt. 10:6-8)! Mk. 3:14,15 state that the Twelve, including Judas, were given spiritual authority by Jesus to drive out demons! For a person to indirectly say that Judas was never saved is to say that Jesus chose Judas, who was unholy, to be his holy representative! [Please see the article, "He was never really saved to begin with."]
Moreover, Jesus quotes from Ps. 41 and attributes it to Judas in Jn. 13:18b. That full verse from Ps. 41 is: "Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me," v.9. Please note that Judas was once Jesus' "close friend whom I [Jesus] trusted"! Since Jesus "knew what was in a man" (Jn. 2:25), that is, in his heart, how then could Jesus trust Judas in the early days of their companionship if Judas was never saved? Also, Ps. 41:9 states that Judas was Jesus' "close friend" at that same time. Could that be possible if he was never saved?
MacArthur also made the statement, "his faith was not real" in reference to Judas based on Jn. 13:10,11 where we read, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you. For he knew who was going to betray him and that was why he said not every one was clean." MacArthur "reads into" those verses as he wears his eternal security glasses and sees that Judas was not "clean" in contrast to the other disciples. But does this say that Judas was never "clean"? It merely says, at that point in time, Judas wasn't "clean" then! Remember, he was a disciple in the beginning, chosen to be an apostle, so he must have been "clean" at the beginning! Hence, MacArthur tries to make Jn. 13:10,11 say that Judas didn't have "real" faith -- without a solid Scriptural basis!
Other eternal security proponents say Judas was called a "devil" (Jn. 6:70), a "thief" (Jn. 12:6), and "Satan entered into him" (Jn. 13:27), how then could he have been saved? Such overlook the truth that one's spiritual condition can CHANGE from righteous to evil as exemplified with Demas, the Prodigal Son and Solomon.
Some have also confused the truth stated in Jn. 6:64 to mean Judas never believed even from the beginning. However, it doesn't say that at all! The verses read, "'Yet there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them (plural) did not believe and who (singular) would betray him." Notice there are TWO groups referred to here. This is evident in the Greek. One is plural in tense that didn't believe from the beginning and the other is singular in tense referring to Judas who would betray him! The Wuest translation renders Jn. 6:64 as follows: "But there are some of you who are not believing. For Jesus knew from the beginning who THEY WERE who were not believing, and who the ONE WAS who was betraying him." (For other eternal security arguments about Judas and their refutations, please consult pages 32-34 in my first book, The Believer's Security: Conditional or Unconditional?) or see information on the 801 page book entitled, The Believer's Conditional Security.
Eternal security proponents are obviously so accustomed to hearing illogical argumentation such as these to support their doctrine, they seem to be desensitized as to how absurd it is to be taught that one of the original Twelve apostles, "chosen" by Christ Himself, was never really saved, as must be asserted! If not, eternal security would be logically refuted! This apparent absurdity might be why the teachers of such almost never refer to Judas by his church title -- "Apostle," the highest office in the New Testament church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11)! Can you remember the last time you heard an eternal security teacher refer to the Lord's betrayer as "the Apostle Judas" or "the Apostle Judas Iscariot" who became a traitor?
Again, to maintain a belief in their doctrine, the eternal security proponents shockingly believe the Apostle Judas Iscariot was never saved! Wow!
How sobering it should be for all to ponder what happened to the Apostle Judas in the New Testament and Solomon, the builder of the Temple, in the Old Testament, that is, how their righteous and pure hearts became evil and corrupted over the course of time. This intense spiritual warfare, which we are now fighting, has destroyed many that were saved at one time, according to Scripture.
Reader, be on your guard against the devil's various efforts to plunge even YOU into ruin and destruction. Paul wrote:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the FLAMING ARROWS OF THE EVIL ONE. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" (Eph. 6:10-18).
To adopt the eternal security understanding that the Apostle Judas was never saved is to do away with his fall from such a high spiritual position, which is also a prime indicator of our intense, spiritual warfare and its casualties! Our spiritual war will never end for us, that is, until we die physically or get caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Considering this, Jesus both advises and at the same time declares the sad future for many who know Heaven is a reality, "Be endeavoring with a strenuous zeal to enter through the narrow door, because many, I am saying to you, will seek to enter and will NOT be able" (Lk. 13:24, Wuest).