Salvation And the Sovereignty of God

J. Oliver Jones 

Purpose of This  Article                                                              

We have already addressed in previous mailings the subject of salvation as it relates to Jesus as the sinless Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. As the perfect sacrifice for our sin, He died on the cross of Calvary to pay the full debt demanded by a Holy God as a punishment for sin. The ground of our salvation is Christ’s payment for sin, and the condition of receiving salvation is our faith in Christ. As Paul so plainly taught in Ephesians 2:8-9, we are saved by grace through faith and not of works. This lesson will take you deeper into the understanding of our salvation as we examine how God has implemented His plan and how that plan works within the framework of God’s sovereignty and of man’s free will. This lesson will not be the easiest to comprehend, but as the author of this study, I believe it is essential for believers to understand the contrasting views of how we are initially saved and how we continue in that salvation. Since there may be words and phrases used whose exact meanings could not be clear in the reader’s mind, there will be a list of definitions for your reference as needed.

Beginning with the Bible:

There is an abundance of scripture that could be quoted here, far more than space will allow, therefore only a limited number of selections will be quoted representing the differing points of view on the issues of this lesson. Please note that the doctrinal positions of either side of this debate do not rest on these verses alone! (The following are from the NKJV unless noted)   

John 3:16-18  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

1 Timothy 2:3-4  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 John 2:2  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Titus 2:11  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…

Hebrews 6:4-6  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

John 10:27-29  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.

Romans 11:29  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Philippians 1:6  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

1 Peter 1:3-5  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Romans 8:29-30  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Romans 8:35-39  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Additional Scripture to increase your knowledge of the material in this lesson: 

Romans chpts 9-11 / Acts 2:23 / Acts 4:28 / 1 Corinthians 1:21 / John 5:21 / John 6:39-40

Galatians 2:16 / Romans 4:3-5 / Romans 4:24 / Luke 7:50 / 1 Corinthians 10:1-14

Colossians 1:21-23 / 1 Timothy 1:18-20 / 2 Timothy 2:16-18 / Galatians 5:1-4

Ephesians 2:8-10 / 2 Peter 2:18-22 / Hebrews 10:19-39 / Galatians 4:9-11

1 Thessalonians 3:5 / Philippians 2:16 /

Definitions to Help in Your Understanding of the Lesson

Apostasy:  To turn away from known truth; to fall away from the faith. It can be a revolt against the truth of God’s word by a believer, or it can describe a group or church organization that that has “fallen away” from the truths of Christianity as revealed in the Bible.

Atonement:   To cover – in the Bible it means the covering of man’s sins through the shedding of blood; in the OT the blood of sacrificed animals; in the NT the blood of Jesus, man’s redeemer. (Heb 9:11-15)

Depravity: The loss of original righteousness and love for God. The term is used in the sense of man’s total depravity after the Fall. (Ephesians 2:1)

Elect of God: A select group of people different than all others of the earth because of their new spiritual birth according to God’s grace.

Election:  The process by which the Elect of God are chosen by Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). The basis of His choice is debated as to whether it is conditional or unconditional, depending on one’s view of God’s sovereignty, God’s foreknowledge, and the doctrine of salvation. (Matthew 24:31; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:23)

Finished Work of Christ:  The complete and full payment for the sins of man by Jesus Christ as the perfect Lamb of God sacrificed on the cross. God’s holiness was satisfied, sin was punished, and nothing else must be accomplished for man to come to God apart from placing personal saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. (John 19:30; Hebrews 9:1-28)

Grace:  The unmerited favor of God shown without regard to the worthiness of the one receiving it. Grace is almost always associated with mercy, love, and compassion. (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 2:1-10)

Justification:  To make right or just – that act of God by which, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, righteousness is imputed to the sinner and is received through faith, resulting in the sinner being absolved of his sin, released from its penalty, and restored as one who is righteous. (Romans 5:15-21)

Lost: Spiritually doomed; an eternal state of separation from God due to sin in one’s life; condemned to eternal judgment and spiritual death. (Luke 13:23-28)

Perseverance:  The continuance in one’s salvation until death or the coming of Christ. As to whether this continuance is considered to be conditional or unconditional depends on one’s view of the doctrine of salvation. (2 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Peter 1:6; Revelation 2:2-3; 14:12)

Prevenient Grace:  The divine grace that precedes human decision and exists prior to and without reference to anything man may have done. As all are corrupted by the effects of sin, prevenient grace allows a person to engage their God-given free will to accept or to reject the divine offer of salvation by God in Jesus Christ (sometimes referred to as “preceding grace”). (Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9)

Regeneration:  “To be born again” – a spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by a divine act of God whereby we are made a “new creation” and by the indwelling Spirit have the ability to think, feel and act in a way pleasing to God. (Titus 3:5)

Repentance:  Literally, to change one’s direction. It involves turning “from” and “to” as in from sin to righteousness, from doubt to belief, or from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ. The “to” of repentance is identical with “faith.”  (Acts 20:21; 26:20)

Salvation:  The result of being saved; for our purposes, the result of recognizing oneself as a sinner lost and apart from God due to sin, acknowledging our own inability through good works to bring about a relationship with God, accepting the grace of God in supplying a substitute in the person of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for sin, and believing by faith in the finished work of Christ as a full and sufficient sacrifice, allowing one to enter into an everlasting relationship with God as His child. (1 Thess 5:9)

Sanctification:  To be made holy; to be set apart, as set apart from the world and consecrated to God. In an ethical sense it means the progressive conformation of the believer into the image of Christ (2 Peter 3:18), or the process whereby one’s life is made morally holy. It begins at our conversion – our regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17), and is completed when we see Christ – our glorification (1 John 3:2).

Saved:  To be set free from the consequences of sin; to be redeemed; to spend eternity in the presence and service of God. (Romans 5:1-21)

Saving Faith:  A personal attachment (relationship) to Christ, whereby one depends on the finished work of Christ on the cross for salvation (His sacrifice for our sin), apart from any work or effort by the one being saved. (Romans 10:8-10; Ephesians 2:8-10)

Sin:  The transgression of God’s will, either by omitting to do what God’s law requires or by doing what God’s law forbids. This transgression can occur in thought (1 John 3:15), word (Matthew 5:22), or deed (Romans 1:32).

Sinner:  One who commits sin, either in willful disobedience to God’s will or out of ignorance of God’s will; one who is in a state of sin by either committing sin or by being a part of the human race (original sin as a descendent of Adam). All of mankind is born into a state of sin and in life experiences personal sin. (Romans 3:23; 5:12)

Sovereignty:  (in reference to God) – His absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure. God is totally free to act as He pleases without being under obligation to anyone or anything other than Himself. (Romans 9:15-23; 1 Timothy 6:15)

Works:  (as viewed for earning salvation) Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of one’s salvation. The result of this effort is an attempt to earn one’s way to salvation or to be found worthy due to one’s own effort. (Galatians 2:16; Eph 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-5)

 

Investigating the Topic:

There has perhaps been no greater controversy in the evangelical church than that over the doctrine of Continuance in Salvation. This study will give an overview of what this writer believes are the three primary viewpoints concerning this doctrine. Please take note at the beginning of this lesson that all of these positions agree on the three essentials of salvation.

  • First, all agree that the ground of our salvation is the vicarious death of Christ on the cross taking our place and becoming our substitute, satisfying God’s penalty of death for sin.
  • Second, all agree that the condition of our salvation is faith in Christ as the sole means whereby we can be saved.
  • Third, the works of men, regardless of how good or how many, can play no part in salvation. Salvation cannot be purchased, earned, or merited by any work of man.

However, they differ as to how we are drawn to faith in Christ and as to how we continue in our salvation once we have been born again. The three positions we will review are Reformed Theology (often referred to as Five Point Calvinism), Arminian Theology (or Reformation Arminianism as stated by Dr. Picirilli – see below box), and Eternal Security (often referred to as One Point Calvinism or Once Saved Always Saved). Each of these has a differing view of how God, in His sovereignty, draws and/or keeps man in a continuing state of salvation. As these studies are written from the Wesleyan-Arminian position it will be obvious this is the viewpoint of the author. Regardless, the Calvinist viewpoint will be treated as honestly as is possible in this short format. This lesson is not an attempt to deal with all the differences in Scriptural interpretation existing between these two opposing views. It is designed to make you, the reader, aware of the debate and to familiarize you with the basic differences residing in these major views of our continuance in salvation. Finally, there will be a challenge for the person holding to the Calvinist interpretation of Scripture to reconsider that position in view of the many passages that speak in support of the opposing Arminian interpretation. Through this process the reader should gain an understanding of the importance of this issue. In dealing with the view of Eternal Security as it is usually presented by those not holding to all five points of Calvinism, the danger of a false security will be the primary focus.

 

The Calvinist and Arminian Debate 

The question that is often asked as it pertains to God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is this:

Can man have the free will to accept or reject God’s grace

without doing harm to the sovereignty of God? 

The way this question is answered will reveal one’s position on the sovereignty of God and how or if the free will of man can function within that sovereignty. In other words, this question will determine most likely whether the teacher is from the camp of Reformed Theology, often referred to as “Calvinism” (from John Calvin, 1509-1564) or if the teacher is from the camp of “Arminianism” (from Jacobus Arminius, 1559-1609). Obviously, the differences in the interpretation and understanding of the issues involved in these contrasting views existed prior to these two men. The fact that each spent much of their lives in writing and teaching their respective views explains why these views carry their names.

Our first task will be to define the position of both sides. Some will protest that this brief synopsis is an over simplification of the doctrinal differences. Perhaps so, but at least the reader will gain an understanding of the conflict. The differences will be presented in the acrostic ……

 

T U L I P

…….. taken from the traditional five points of Calvinism. The Calvinist position will be stated, followed by the Arminian response. The second task, to challenge the Calvinist to rethink the issues involved, will be presented immediately after the acrostic information. Please review carefully the chart shown on the following page for the major differences between these two understandings of the sovereignty of God. Take specific note of the following:

  • What does the term “total depravity” mean to each position?
  • How is “election” viewed – Is election conditional or unconditional?
  • Did Christ’s death pay for the sins of the whole world or just for the elect?
  • Notice the difference in explaining God’s sovereignty. Can God’s grace be resisted?
  • The perseverance of the saints is either guaranteed or required, but obviously both views   cannot be correct. The individual conclusion about Perseverance is logical for each position based on one’s view of election, atonement, and grace. Keep this in mind    when we look at the view of Eternal Security.

Do not rush through this chart. It is most important that you comprehend these issues if you are to truly understand the conflict between the three views of the perseverance of the saints. 

 

 

Sovereignty of God – TULIP

 

 

 

Issues

“Calvinism”

(from John Calvin 1509 – 1564)

Position

“Arminianism”

(from Jacob Arminius 1559 – 1609)

Response

 

T

 

Total

Depravity

 

Man is unable to respond to God in faith since he is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. God first regenerates the spiritually dead person He chooses to save, then places the gift of repentance and faith into those He so chooses. Man has no part in this except in receiving God’s work and gifts. God does not draw those not chosen.

 

While man is totally depraved, this refers to sin having affected every part of his being, not that he is unable to respond in faith to the drawing of God’s Spirit. Through the love of God all men are bestowed with prevenient grace (see definition), thereby, all men are drawn by God. The free will of man allows some to respond to God’s grace by saying yes, and others by saying no.

 

U

 

Unconditional Election

 

In eternity God has elected those whom He chooses for salvation.  Man plays no part in election, but if elected, cannot resist. While some teach that those not elected are damned by default (passive reprobation), others teach that God specifically elects others for damnation (active reprobation).

 

 

Election is conditional. The elect are those who respond to God in faith, the condition of salvation. Those who do not respond in faith are lost because of their unbelief. The foreknowledge of God that allows Him to know who will respond in faith in no way affects the free will choice of the individual.

 

L

 

Limited

Atonement

 

Christ’s death on the cross was for the elect only, as it would be unthinkable for His blood to be shed in vain. If Christ had died for all, then all would be saved. As all are not saved, atonement is limited.

 

 

Atonement is unlimited. Christ died for everyone, shedding His blood for the sins of the whole world. He paid the price for everyone, but it takes union with Him to receive the payment onto one’s account. When we become one with Christ, our sin becomes His sin, and His righteousness becomes our righteousness! The reason all are not saved is that all do not accept the “free gift.”

 

 

I

 

Irresistible

Grace

 

God as Sovereign cannot have man successfully oppose Him, as this would violate God’s Divine omnipotence (being all-powerful). When God elects a person and bestows His grace upon him/her, the person cannot successfully resist that grace. Therefore, God’s grace is irresistible and His sovereignty is unchallenged.

 

 

The Grace of God can be resisted without doing harm to God’s sovereignty since God as Sovereign gave man a free will to choose. This is part of God’s plan, a choice He made to allow man to accept or reject His grace. God, as Sovereign, is still able to accomplish His divine purpose for all things, even with man having free will to accept or reject grace.

 

 

P

 

Perseverance of the Saints

 

Those saved will continue to be faithful to the end. As they are elected and secured by God, under no choice or condition of their own, their continuance in salvation is guaranteed. They cannot turn away or in any way lose or forfeit their salvation. If someone does appear to totally and finally turn away, it is proof they were never chosen nor ever saved. Since election is unconditional and grace is irresistible, perseverance is guaranteed.

 

For the saints to persevere in faith is required but not guaranteed. Since faith is the condition of salvation, a loss of faith would cause one to forfeit salvation (apostasy). As apostasy is the “willful” turning away from known truth, one would never lose salvation accidentally, or by committing a single sin. To forfeit salvation one must willfully reject Christ (sin can lead to this). Once finalapostasy occurs there is no longer faith in Christ, no further drawing of the Spirit, and no hope for the apostate.

A Challenge to Rethink Sovereignty

(The following is written in the first person as it the personal view of this writer)

O

ne of the most well known arguments between the Calvinist and the Arminian will center on the last point, the perseverance of the saints, often referred to as “continuance in salvation.” I believe this issue, from a practical point, can be easily resolved. The original teaching of both Calvin and Arminius stated that one who was saved would be conformed to the image of Christ. Conforming to Christ was never an option for either side, as good works always follow faith in Christ (Ephesians 2: 8-10)!  As long as a person is “continuing in Christ,” which means “continuing in faith,” there is no fear of forfeiting one’s salvation; he/she will persevere to the end under both views. To the Calvinist this perseverance is guaranteed; to the Arminian it is required. Both soundly proclaim that the result of salvation will be the conforming to the image of Christ. From a practical point of view the problem is solved!  There are some who reject the first four points of Calvinist doctrine, but still hold to the belief that a person who is truly saved cannot lose or forfeit his salvation. (As this view, commonly known as “once saved, always saved,” is outside the scope of the Calvinist and Arminian debate, it will be dealt with in the Identifying False Teaching section.)

I believe the real issue that exists between the Calvinist and Arminian is not about eternal security but with the understanding of God’s nature and character. Both systems can “work” well with the truth that God is Sovereign. The important question is “Which system best displays the revealed nature and character of God while at the same time remaining true to the whole teaching of Scripture?”  First, let me explain why I say that God’s Sovereignty fits well with either system. God’s Sovereignty means that He is totally free to act as He pleases without being under obligation to anyone or anything other than Himself.  Calvinists teach that all are sinners, lost and apart from God and deserving of eternal death. From that mass of fallen humanity God freely chooses to save some and condemn the rest.  Indeed, we all are sinners and have no right to salvation and no ability to gain salvation by our own volition. If God should desire to save some and not others, as Sovereign God, He would have that right. If He should choose to elect some unconditionally, to send His Son to atone only for those He has chosen and to bestow irresistible grace upon them so that they cannot reject His salvation, He would certainly have that right. If this system is true, it would certainly uphold God’s Sovereignty.  He would have acted of His own free will in designing and administering His plan of salvation in this way, and no one could question His sovereign right to do so.

Careful Arminians also uphold God’s Sovereignty. According to them God sovereignly gave mankind freedom of will and choice.  By His grace, He sovereignly provided salvation for all through the unlimited atonement of His Son. Furthermore, He has sovereignly determined that this salvation would be applied conditionally and that the condition would be faith, not works or merit. Under this system, too, God has, Himself, freely determined how salvation would be provided and administered.  Nothing within man contributed anything to His decisions.  God’s sovereignty is not compromised in this system.  As an all powerful, Sovereign God, He is still perfectly able to accomplish His plan and purpose for mankind even with man having the free will to reject His grace. Both interpretations are complete systems of thought; both uphold God’s Sovereignty. But only one can be the way God has sovereignly chosen to save man.

Now, as to which system matches best the Biblical picture

of the nature and character of God, I ask you to consider the following:

What if God so loved the world that He would give His only Son; that whoever would believeon Him would not perish but would have eternal life? What if God was determined to be no respecter of persons, but would say, come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!  What if God revealed His heart and proclaimed that it is not His will for any to perish, but that all would come to repentance?  What if God really wanted all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth?  What if Jesus should reveal the ache in His heart that those He loved would resist His grace by crying, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone them that are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not? And what if John, the disciple Christ loved, in writing to the Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit declared victoriously that Jesus was the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world?  Is it not possible that an all powerful, Sovereign God is as able to accomplish His purpose through man’s free will as He is without it?

Here is my point. The Bible is so written that the average person reading it should be able to understand its basic truths. I suggest that the vast majority reading through the New Testament would get the “impression” that God loves all of mankind, that Christ died to pay for the sins of the whole world, and that salvation is offered to anyone who calls on the name of the Lord, without exception. If that is how God presents Himself to the average person, is it not deception to learn that He really does not operate that way at all?  If the truth is that God really does not love the whole world, that Christ really did not die for the sins of all men, that God really does want some to perish (since He created them to do so), that God is a respecter of persons, and that all who labor and are heavy laden cannot come to Him, but only those who are chosen, is this not an outright deception on the part of God? I understand that Calvinist scholars say they can explain away every verse alluded to in the above statements.  But the Bible was not written to scholars; it was written in the common language of the day to average men and women. It was not written to be explained away but to be believed as it is written! Yes, God could have sovereignly determined to save man in such a way as is taught by the Calvinists. But had that been the case, I believe the Bible would have been written is such a way that even the average person, reading it, would get that impression. Instead the Bible accurately communicates God’s love for all of mankind, that the death of His Son paid for the sins of the whole world, and that God offers salvation freely to anyone who will accept it by faith.

As the reader can see from this comparison, there are major differences in the two positions.  Fortunately, both positions agree that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation and that salvation is by grace through faith alone.  For this reason both Calvinists and Arminians can be saved, and if the believer will continue “in Christ” there is no fear of forfeiting salvation for either one.  Obviously, both systems of thought cannot be correct; one or the other has to be false. That is what makes this issue important and why it is essential for believers to know what and why they believe as they do. As stated above, the practical question of the whole issue is this, “Does God operate in a way consistent with the revelation of Himself to man?”

Author’s Note: For those wanting to follow up by reading the Scriptures alluded to in the above underlined section, they are in the order of their usage: John 3:16, Acts 10:34, Matthew 11:28, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, Matthew 23:37, 1 John 2:2, Romans 10:13. 

 

Once Saved – Always Saved

The Danger of False Assurance 

B

oth the Calvinist and the Arminian agree that a true believer will grow toward the image of Christ in this life, as it has been ordained by God that he must do so (Romans 8:29). As you look at the Sovereignty of God – TULIP chart, notice that under the last section, Perseverance, both positions clearly declare that a true born-again child of God will be faithful to the end. The Calvinist states that this is guaranteed. The Arminian states that faithfulness is required and one who is not faithful was either never saved or was saved but forfeited his salvation by the loss of faith in Christ. Neither position allows for one to be truly saved but not be faithful in the pursuit of Christ-likeness. A person cannot have Jesus as Savior and reject Him as Lord! (Go back and read the Laying a Deeper Foundation section of Lesson Six in the Laying the Foundation study dealing with Justification and Sanctification)  Jesus did not die for us just so we can escape hell and go to heaven. He died that we might be set free from sin and have the image of God within us restored. Paul states in Galatians 2:20 (NKJV), “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Here Paul is proclaiming his own death; death to self in his union with Christ. Paul describes in Romans 6:5-11 the process of our death in and with Christ. In this passage he states, “For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

The atonement of Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. This unmatched grace of God, this totally unmerited favor, was not provided so that I can continue to go my own way. Our redemption will create good works that God has already ordained we will do (Ephesians 2:8-10). Grace was not given so that I might continue to sin; grace was given to set me free from sin (Romans 6:1-23). Regardless of which theological position you hold, neither a true Calvinist nor a true Arminian can find any Scripture that even hints otherwise.

The Heresy of Cheap Easy Believism 

Rev. Leroy Forlines, my theology professor in Bible College, often referred to the belief of those professing to be born-again Christians, yet showing no evidence of a changed life or growth toward Christ-likeness, as having a “cheap, easy believism.” In other words, once they gave an acknowledgement of their belief in Jesus, they could live however they wanted to live and still go to heaven when they die. It might be preferred, and even recommended, that one change his or her lifestyle to be more like Christ, but it is not required to do so! This “Justification without Sanctification” is contrary to anything taught in the Bible, yet literally millions of professing Christians believe it today. This is an extremely dangerous false doctrine. I firmly believe this is a teaching that can cost a person his eternal soul!

 

What is the Basis of Such a Belief?

F

or a person to accept such an inaccurate and indefensible doctrine he or she must first reject the Arminian position concerning the many warnings in the Bible about the dangers of continuing in a sinful lifestyle after one has come to the knowledge of the truth. Arminians teach it is possible to make shipwreck of one’s faith by “being again entangled with the pollutions of the world” (2 Peter 2:20) and/or by accepting and following the doctrines of demons (heresies) to the point of willfully rejecting known truth. Once these warnings are discarded, the person must also reject the first four tenets (T, U, L, I) of the Calvinist’s belief system which forms the foundation for the final tenet, one’s guaranteed continuance in salvation (eternal security). If you recall, the “P” of Calvinism states that a truly born again believer will of necessity “be becoming like Christ.”  To do otherwise is to prove that he or she was never saved and therefore has no reason for assurance of salvation.  Therefore…

A person who accepts the false teaching of

justification without the necessity of sanctification

holds to a belief  in eternal security without any foundation

on which to place that belief.

 

Who Teaches This False Doctrine? 

T

he doctrine of eternal security (once saved always saved) for any person who makes a confession, regardless of whether they “persevere to the end,” is being taught in literally thousands of otherwise Biblically sound evangelical churches. I will illustrate this by naming one of the most prominent pastors and churches in America today and quoting from a printed Foundations study from that church. Before I do, let me preface it by saying that this is not an attack on the person or the church. I do not believe there is any deliberate attempt to teach heresy or to put the eternal soul of any person in jeopardy. This is a matter of teaching what one has been taught and having a complete bias against the truth of Scripture in this particular area. Nevertheless, while the intent may not be vicious, I strongly believe the result can be. It must be exposed for what it is, a very dangerous heretical teaching.

I doubt there is anyone not familiar on some level with the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. The church’s founder and pastor is Rick Warren, who is also the author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church. I will quote from a study titled FoundationsEleven Core Truths To Build Your Life On, written by Tom Holladay (a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church) and Kay Warren (teacher and wife of Rick Warren), published by Zondervan Press with a copyright of 2003. The Forward to the book is written by Rick Warren. There are thirteen recommendations quoted on the first page, many from very recognizable names. Two of the 22 chapters (chapters 11 and 12) deal with the subject of Salvation. I will make my point from only one page, #128, dealing with the passage of Scripture found in Hebrews 6:4-6 NASB.

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 

The next four paragraphs in the Foundations study explain this passage as well as any Arminian writer could. The authors state that this passage is referring to Hebrew Christians who “are becoming disillusioned with Christianity” and are “considering abandoning Christianity as a way of life.”  They further state that “there is no doubt that these are genuine Christians” who thought they “would be returning to the God of their fathers, but actually they would be abandoning the God of their fathers.”  In the fifth paragraph on this page, the authors correctly state that “by turning their backs on Christ, these Jews were in essence agreeing with the Jews who had Christ arrested and put to death. Their public denial would lead outsiders to conclude that there must not be much to Christianity if those who at one time said they believed changed their minds and went back to their former religion.”

First, please understand that I totally agree with every word they have stated to this point. It is a good and proper interpretation of this passage from the Arminian perspective. The Calvinist position is that these are not believing Jews, but those who are on the brink of salvation who decide to turn away. Dealing with that false interpretation is for another time. But the issue before us is that the authors (Warren and Holladay) of the Foundations study correctly believe these Jews of Hebrews 6 are true born-again Christians who are in danger of turning their backs on Jesus, denying Him publicly, bringing Him to an open shame, and in so doing abandoning the God of their fathers. It is the final paragraph, their conclusion, which causes me so much concern, and even righteous anger! Listen to their conclusion on this passage:

This warning, though, in no way threatens the security of the believer. Instead, it is evidence for the believer’s security. If a Jew, who was awaiting the coming of the Messiah, could find salvation through Christ and then walk away from him without the threat of losing his or her salvation, what do the rest of us have to fear?

There is no such evidence here! There is no mention that these “falling away” Jews are not in danger. Verse four begins with “it is impossible” with the thought finished in verse six, “to renew them to repentance.”  I cannot imagine a more dangerous teaching than one telling people that it really doesn’t matter what you do or how you live or even if you later reject Christ…as long as you at one point in your life made some decision about Jesus, you can be assured that you will never have anything to fear – you are saved and on your way to heaven!  I can hear Paul exclaim now as he did in Romans 6, “God Forbid!” There is absolutely no foundation for this conclusion. The Calvinist system of thought does not allow for it – at least the Calvinist declares that these Jews were never saved since they are not persevering. Neither does the Arminian system of thought allow for it. You cannot forfeit your faith and remain in Christ!

The Bible gives no indication of assurance of salvation apart from one’s continuing faith in Christ.

If my salvation is based on my faith in Christ, how can I expect to maintain my salvation if I abandon my faith in Christ? Giving people such false assurance takes away the incentive to walk worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12), to confess and repent of their sin that the advocate might intercede for them before the Father (1 John 2:1), and to press on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). The entire purpose for which Christ died is discarded and trampled underfoot.  And worst of all those who hold on to such false assurance may learn too late they will stand before God, not judged by the righteousness of Christ but by their own righteousness. The result of this judgment is that all are turned into the Lake of Fire…eternally (Revelation 20:12-15; 21:8)!

IN CONCLUSION…The doctrine of eternal security is best and properly understood by those of the Arminian persuasion. The salvation of every believer is indeed “eternally secure” in Christ. You are in Christ as long as your faith rests solely and completely in Him and His work of redemption on your behalf. The same faith in Christ that brings your justification is also guaranteed in Christ to bring your sanctification. God has ordained that all who are in Christwill be conformed to the image of His Son. Your union with Christ will produce good works and these good works in Christ are to bring people to glorify your Father in heaven. That is the ultimate purpose of our salvation – to bring glory to God.  If you are not in Christ, you cannot bring glory to the Father, and you are not eternally secure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *