THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL SECURITY
Can Someone Who Was Once Saved Ever Be Lost?
By J.R. Ensey
Many sincere Christians have been mistakenly led to believe that it is utterly impossible for a saved child of God to ever do anything that could cause him to be lost. The Swiss reformer, John Calvin, popularized this notion as part of his Reformed Theology. This view of salvation, or some version of it, has found its way into several theological creeds of Christianity.
Eternal security of the believer is merely a theory. It is nowhere set aside as a doctrine taught by either Jesus or the Apostles. A handful of scriptures are twisted to conform to the theory, but when these passages are harmonized through the principles of hermeneutics, it is easy to see that human reason and tradition are mixed with a measure of truth to teach this doctrine. Verses quoted must be kept in context—who was speaking or writing, who was being spoken or written to, and other aspects of the context. Those elements would have a bearing on the meaning.
It is a simple matter to twist the scriptures to try to make them say what we want them to. For example, Paul was writing to the church in Galatia when he said, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). Believers were “set free” by God’s love and grace, but could, if they chose, be bound again by sin and unbelief. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are also found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid” (Galatians 2:17).
To the former pagans in the church at Colosse the apostle wrote: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel” (Colossians 1:21-23 NIV). In other words, one could not continue in the faith and once again become alienated from God.
One of the primary reasons the Book of James was written was to combat doctrines such as eternal security—“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Faith is negated by the absence of obedience.
Jesus said, “And I will give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Does that mean that a born-again Christian can never be lost? Of course not. No “man” has the power to remove him from the Lord’s hand, but one can remove himself from God’s hand. He can throw the grace of God away, abandon the faith, deny it, and return to sin, “as a dog to its vomit and a sow to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22). Living in blatant sin is “denying” the Lord: “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
We must not base our understanding and interpretation of the Scriptures upon vague passages and over-generalized references, but upon those which are clear and easily understood in context. Some would dismiss the correct interpretation of clear passages to allow for their erroneous views of the more vague verses of the Bible.
Let’s first consider some Old Testament scriptures
Both Old and New Testaments speak of the potential and actual apostasy among the people of God. Apostasy is defined in the dictionary as “a total desertion of or departure from one's religion, principles, party, cause, etc.” There were numerous times when the Israelites collectively abandoned the commandments of the Lord and committed idolatry, ritual and personal immorality, and forsook the Law altogether. The guilty parties were judged individually but at times the judgment of God spilled over into a judgment of the entire nation. Even though the nation is intact today, none of the individuals who contributed to their spiritual failures escaped judgment.
To the northern kingdom of Israel, Hosea, on behalf of Jehovah, exclaimed: “And my people are bent on backsliding from me: though they call them to him that is on high, none at all will exalt him” (Hosea 11:7). Moses had warned Israel of the possibility of their forgetting the Lord and the powerful signs He had performed in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:11-14; 4:9).
The prophet Ezekiel declared: “But if a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and practices wrongdoing according to all the abominable practices the wicked carry out, will he live? All his righteous acts will not be remembered; because of the unfaithful acts he has done and the sin he has committed, he will die. Yet you say, ‘The Lord’s conduct is unjust!’ Hear, O house of Israel: Is my conduct unjust? Is it not your conduct that is unjust? When a righteous person turns back from his righteousness and practices wrongdoing, he will die for it; because of the wrongdoing he has done, he will die” (Ezekiel 18:24-26 NET).
The author of the Book of Jude used Old Testament examples to make his point of the necessity of continuing in the faith. “So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful. 6 And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. 7 And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment” (Jude 5-7 NLT). He said these things in the context of reminding Christians to remain faithful lest they suffer a similar fate. He had noted that “some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4 NLT). His point was that sin will bring condemnation and eternal judgment upon believers if they fail to remain in the faith.
These passages and others make it clear that individuals have a definite role and responsibility in the process of eternal salvation.
The New Testament view
The New Testament also contains an abundance of evidence on the possibility of apostasy by the church. Bible writers made it plain that it was possible for believers to fall from grace and put themselves in danger of eternal fire. Jesus taught that some, in time of temptation, would fall away (Luke 8:13). He announced that some branches [disciples] would be pruned from Him and burned (John 15:1-6).
Judas certainly did fall from the number of Jesus’ chosen apostles (Acts 1:25) and he was lost (John 17:12). Many other disciples abandoned the Lord as well (John 6:66). Hymenaeus and Philetus erred concerning the truth, and by their error, overthrew the faith of others (2 Timothy 2:16-18). Some forsook Christianity, reverted to Judaism, and in so doing “fell away” (Hebrews 6:4-6) from the faith and made “shipwreck” (I Timothy 1:19).
The church in Ephesus, which had been saved by grace through their faith and obedience (Ephesians 2:8-9; cf. Acts 19:1-7), left its first love, and so fell, and was thus in danger of being wholly disowned by Christ (Revelation 2:4-5; 2:20-23). It was prophesied, in fact, that before the return of Christ to judge the world, a great apostasy from the faith would occur (II Thessalonians 2:1-12; I Tim. 4:1; II Tim. 4:2-4).
We must be aware that we can fall (i.e.: “take heed” that we do not do so—I Corinthians 10:12; Hebrews 3:12; Colossians 2:8), and we must apply the divine prescriptions to keep ourselves in the most holy faith and from apostasy. Note Peter’s admonition regarding the adding of the Christian graces and his conclusions: “Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11 Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:5-11 NLT). In other words, “if you [speaking to Christian believers] continue to do these things, you will be saved.” Jude’s warning in Jude 20-21 said basically the same thing. We must understand that spiritual security is conditional. .
Let’s pause for a thought about being “saved.” At our Christian conversion, the new birth, we are delivered from our sins, “saved” at that point from any judgment for them, and placed in a “saved” position should the Lord come then. As we walk with the Lord “in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), we are in the process of “being saved” in the sense of finally entering into eternal life in the literal sense. If we have the Holy Spirit, we have life, everlasting life, within us (John 10:28). It is the “earnest of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14), a “down payment,” but not outright ownership itself. It is clear that if we later deny Christ and turn our backs on Him to live in the lusts of the flesh, we will not enter into eternal life when we die or when Christ comes again.
Here is how Paul explained it to the Roman Christians: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:11-17). The apostle gave them a great hope and a great warning at the same time.
The apostle stated in I Corinthians 15:1,2: “Moreover, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” How can one have “believed in vain”? This can only mean he can void his former belief by turning again to unbelief, which he can express in word or in his lifestyle.
There is no stronger warning to believing Christians than that which Paul gave to the Ephesian church: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:1-5 ESV).
Fortunately, one can be restored from apostasy. Note in Acts 8:13 that Simon the sorcerer in Samaria became a believer and was baptized. But later he committed the sin of attempting to buy the gift of God with money, and was in danger of perishing, Peter urged him to repent and pray for forgiveness (Acts 8:20-22). If the doctrine of eternal security was in force, there should be no danger of his “perishing.” This was more than a physical perishing, but a spiritual demise as well. James speaks to this point: “My brethren, if any among you err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converts a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Nothing could be clearer than that.
Every serious reader of the Bible knows, therefore, that a Christian can apostatize. He knows it because of what the Scriptures teach, and he knows it because he has seen children of God fall. Jesus Himself told us that the saved would be those that “endure to the end” (Matthew 10:22). He will have to endure trials of his faith, persecution, temptations, and the challenges of false teachers.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we simply cannot escape the wrath of God if we neglect the great salvation that has been so richly provided for us (Hebrews 2:3). Some apparently enter the church under the delusion that they have a ticket to heaven which can never be canceled. They do not realize that they are but babes in Christ and thus in need of much growth and maturity (I Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).
The Judgment of the Saints
Paul shares an interesting bit of prophecy in I Corinthians 3:11-15: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Some try to use this passage to teach the doctrine of eternal security. Those who have been influenced by the doctrines of John Calvin misuse this text in their attempt to prove the “impossibility of apostasy” dogma. They seek to establish the idea that the Christian’s salvation is eternally secure—regardless of how one lives or whether he maintains his faith after he is converted.
The scene Paul describes to the Corinthians is not one that is to be applied to just any point in time. It is the setting for the future judgment seat of Christ. This event will take place in the heavenlies following the Rapture of the church described in I Thessalonians 4:15-17. There are no lost persons here at this judgment. All were “saved” from earth as part of the resurrected and translated church of God who were removed from earth into the heavenlies. Their judgment is to determine their roles and positions in the coming 1,000-year millennial reign of Christ on the earth. No gross sinners go in the Rapture. There will be those who had wrong motives in dealing with someone, or indulged in gluttony, or crossed a line inadvertently in some way that was wrong. This judgment is to determine the true value of one’s works for Christ, not whether he is saved eternally. That was determined at the Rapture. Our works will be tried by fire. Some will be “burned up,” or not serve as a “recommendation” for us in the millennial kingdom. The argument that “no one is perfect and everyone sins in some way each day,” may be true in concept, but that is what this judgment is for—to evaluate the “works” of the saved Christian for placement in the future millennial kingdom. To trust that we know exactly where the line will be drawn between “gold, silver, and precious stones,” works and those defined as “wood, hay, stubble,” is unwise. That judgment is left to Christ alone.
This judgment scene is described once again II Corinthians 5:10: “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” The Rapture will deliver us to this judgment bar, after which we shall go to the Marriage Supper (Revelation 19:9), occurring just before returning with Jesus to the earth at the time of the battle of Armageddon.
It is folly to suggest that this context teaches explicitly, or even implies, that a child of God can never be lost. All who are at this judgment seat are saved. The lost were not a part of the first resurrection or Rapture. Paul is careful to add this information: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God [by wicked behavior], him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16,17). Temple defilers, in whom had dwelt the Spirit of God, will be destroyed. Nothing could be plainer.
This is not the “White Throne” judgment of Revelation 20:11. At that judgment only the lost appear before God for final sentencing. Neither the judgment seat of Christ or the white throne judgment is set to determine whether individuals are eternally saved or lost.
Some Scriptural Principles
To assist believers, the following principles must be faithfully embraced:
1. Church services must be faithfully attended in order that warm encouragement and competent instruction be regularly received (Hebrews 10:24-25).
2. Harmful entanglements with the world must be severed (I Corinthians 15:33; Ephesians 5:11; II Timothy 2:4).
3. Personal habits of study, meditation, and worship must be cultivated (II Timothy 2:15; Psalm 1:2; I Thessalonians 5:17).
4. Abiding in Christ—a dedicated life, prayer, faithfulness, and sincere worship—is imperative (John 15:1-9).
5. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is commanded (Galatians 5:
22-25; Romans 7:4; John 15:16).
Should these demands be ignored and not cultivated in the Christian’s life, it is sure that he or she will be enticed away from the Lord and back into the filth of a degrading existence—as a dog to its vomit and a sow to her mire (II Peter 2:20-22). Demas is a classic example of one who abandoned the Christian life in exchange for the pleasures of the world (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10).
All children of God will make mistakes. We will need, therefore, to hear preaching and teaching that motivates us away from the corrupting things of the world and directs us to repentance (Revelation 2:5,16,21,22; 3:3,19; Luke 13:3; Romans 2:4-7; I Corinthians 11:32). Each believer needs loving correction along the way from the Word and counsel of a spiritual authority. Solomon noted that “a single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool” (Proverbs 17:10 NLT). Correction is a natural expression of love (Proverbs 3:11-12), and when it is well received, it produces peaceable fruit (Hebrews 12:11), i.e., repentance and obedience. Then John said, “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth” (I John 1:6 NLT). In other words, if after we are “saved” we keep on in our sins, we do not have the benefit mentioned in the next verse: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7).
Some will claim that when a Christian sins, it is as a child who disobeys and discipline is called for from the parent. “The child is not disowned and kicked out, but disciplined.” The analogy seems logical, but the writer of Hebrews 12 is talking about eternal matters, not home life, per se. Wayward believers who accept discipline are considered to be true sons, but those who do not are called “bastards” (verses 7,8 KJV). Illegitimate children are not “partakers of his holiness” (verse 10), without which “no man shall see the Lord” (verse 14). Therefore, the writer said, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (verses 15-17).
The Esaus of the world will not inherit with the Jacobs. Jesus told certain Jews, who were the Old Testament children of God, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). Murderers and liars, whoever they may be, will have their part in the lake of fire: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
Romans in 8:35-39 is often used as a proof-text for eternal security: “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 thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that 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 creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is absolutely true. Neither man nor negative circumstance that can come against us can remove us from the love of Christ. But it does not say that we ourselves cannot disconnect and remove ourselves from it. This is why Jude tells us to “keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21), and why Paul tells us to “not quench [extinguish-NET) the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:19).
Another scripture sometimes called upon to indicate eternal security is Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” God truly is able to keep His promise of delivering us into the reality of eternal life through Christ, whose blood and personal sacrifice intercedes for us when we repent and seek forgiveness. Intercession is done because without it, there would be no salvation (Hebrews 9:22).
Other scriptures that Christian believers must keep in mind:
• “Ye are saved, IF ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:2). Assurance of our salvation IS taught in Scripture, but only on the basis of obedience, for we can give place to the devil (Ephesians 5:27) and “sell” or abandon the truth (Proverb 23:23).
• “Let him that standeth take heed, lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). “Thou art fallen...repent...or else” (Revelation 2:5).
• “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-10).
• “Now the works of the flesh are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness...and such like...they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19).
• “He that overcometh...I will not blot his name out of the book of life...” (Revelation 3:5. By implication, conversely he that does NOT overcome WILL have his name blotted out of the Book of Life.)
• “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
• “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Peter 2:20,21).
• “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). There are no exceptions for excuses like: “But I didn’t think…I wasn’t told…No one explained to me…God didn’t seem to be the type to make such demands,” etc. The guilty will be lost.
• “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:11-13).
Paul was especially blunt with Timothy, his son in the gospel, about those who might turn from the faith into a former lifestyle. “From which [faith] some having strayed have turned aside” (I Timothy 1:6), and “have suffered shipwreck…whom I have delivered unto Satan” (I Timothy 1:19-20). He clearly prophesied: “Some shall depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1), and others will have “denied the faith” (I Timothy 5:8), and “have strayed from the faith” (I Timothy 6:10 NKJV).
To the Galatians, Paul said, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ” (Galatians 1:6). He was disappointed in them because they had frustrated the grace of God” (Galatians 2:21), and had “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).
These passages do not suggest that we live in constant doubt of our salvation and standing with the Lord. God forbid. This much of the basic, fundamental premise of eternal security teaching is true: When God saves us, it is His intention to take us all the way to Heaven! And He is merciful and faithful to us when we are sometimes not quite as faithful in return. Nonetheless, there IS a part we play in laying hold on eternal life: fighting the good fight of faith (I Timothy 6:12) by availing ourselves through prayer of the means of grace that He has made available. We must not yield to temptations, allowing the thorns, riches, and cares of this world to choke or catch away the Word from our hearts (Luke 8:5-15). Seducing spirits delight in enticing souls to indulge in sin and then giving them a false sense of security. Satan wants to cultivate in us an evil heart of unbelief (Hebrews 3:13), and clog the channel by which God’s grace flows to us.
The Christian life is a spiritual warfare in which we must continually resist the forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil as we yield to the greater power of the Holy Spirit of God. Believers are encouraged to reject this unscriptural, erroneous teaching, and commit themselves to grow in faithfulness and dedication to the Lord. Paul told his protégé Timothy: “Take heed...thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (I Timothy 4:16). The writer of Hebrews said, “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end” (Hebrews 3:14 NIV). What is clearer than that?
Grace is not irresistible, as Calvin erroneously taught. Grace “hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11,12). Paul said, “as my beloved sons I warn you” (I Corinthians 4:14). Why the warning? “Lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled, lest there be any fornicator, or profane person...lest Satan should get an advantage of us...lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain...lest any man should beguile you with enticing words...lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief...lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (Hebrews 12:15,16; II Corinthians 2:11; Galatians 2:2; Colossians 2:4; Hebrews 4:11; 2 Peter 3:17). None of those statements would have been written as they were if the doctrine of unconditional eternal security had been believed by Paul or the other apostles.
Jude added these words of exhortation: “Beloved, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3,4).
It is a bizarre argument that propagates the idea that once a person becomes a Christian believer, he can never change his mind, or go back, or fall out of the grace of God, or be eternally lost. The preponderance of Scripture does not come down on the side of Calvinism. In other words, the Bible does not teach this doctrine. Just because we are allowed to taste of “the heavenly gift and the powers of the world to come” (Hebrews 6:5) does not mean we cannot abandon the free-flowing waters of life: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13).
The promises of God to assure our salvation are dependent on our “continuing” in the faith (John 8:31; Acts 14:22; Romans 11:22; Colossians 1:23; I Timothy 2:15; II Timothy 3:14; Hebrews 8:9). That does not mean that we are attempting to “earn” our salvation by works. We were not saved in our conversion by works but by faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). Faith is generated by hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:17), then it evokes “godly sorrow [which] worketh repentance”
(II Corinthians 7:10), which is then followed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), given because of one’s “obedience” (Acts 5:32). It is not “faith without works,” or “works without faith,” but the combination of faith and works that will ultimately deliver us into safe hands at death or at the Rapture.
We should keep in mind that the believing Christian can:
1. Fall from grace (Gal. 5:1-4,13)
2. Be led away with error (II Pet. 3:17)
3. Err from the truth (James 5:19-20)
4. Perish (I Cor. 8:11)
5. Fall into condemnation (James 5:12)
6. Be moved away from the hope (Col. 1:21-23)
7. Deny the Lord who bought them (II Pet. 2:1)
8. Depart from the living God (Heb. 3:12)
9. Become a castaway (I Cor. 9:27)
10. Become accursed children (II Pet. 2:14)
11. Crucify the Son of God afresh (Heb. 6:6).
It is hoped that the reader of these words will seriously consider the words of Scripture rather than listening to their own hearts, which cannot be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9), or teachers who are prone to making their hearers feel good about themselves, regardless of their lifestyles. God has the power to keep us from falling if we want to stand (Jude 24) but if we insist on continuing in sin, we will fall. That is why Jude urged us to “keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21). While the love of God is not conditional, the salvation of God assuredly is, as the Scriptures clearly reveal. Yet God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
I urge you to exercise your free will, as Joshua pleaded: “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity, and in truth…and if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose ye this day whom ye will serve…As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14,15).
John Calvin’s erroneous theories were forced upon the citizens of Geneva. He demanded communal conformity on pain of torture or even death. He was involved directly or indirectly in at least 36 executions (some say as many as 58) for failing to conform to his strict standards of belief. His doctrines have lulled many into a false sense of security. His theories are outlined in the acronym of T.U.L.I.P.:
T: Total depravity. Man is incapable of responding to God in repentance unless and until he is “regenerated” by God.
U: Unconditional election. God has predetermined who will be saved and who will be lost. Man has no free will in the matter of salvation.
L: Limited atonement. Christ’s atonement on the cross was not for everyone, but only for an unknown few who were predetermined by God.
I: Irresistible grace. God bestows grace without man’s faith, belief or response to the call of Christ.
P: Preservation of the saints. This is the part of his theology that produces the doctrine of eternal security. Those who become a part of the “elect” can never fall from grace or be lost eternally.
These theories are supported in part by an extreme view of the sovereignty of God. While all Christians believe in the sovereignty of God—that He can take any course of action He desires without remorse of conscience—it is obvious that He cannot lie. It would be against His righteous character. He “cannot deny himself” (I Timothy 2:13). In other words, He cannot retract what He has declared in His Word. He is faithful to what He has said. He will follow through with His plan as it is presented in the Scriptures. Sovereignty does not give God the right to deceive. God in His sovereignty has the absolute right to do all things according to His good pleasure, BUT He has established laws for mankind. Should He circumvent those laws, He would be deceptive. For example, He said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). He cannot circumvent that declaration.
Calvin, Beza, and subsequent adherents like A. W. Pink, have changed the meaning of words to fit their doctrine. For instance, “sovereignty” is distorted to embrace his theory that God will save whoever He wills regardless of whether they act in faith or not. Pink says the “world” in John 3:16 does not mean the world at large but only the “world of God’s people.” How would that definition fit with John 15:18-19? The Calvinist “solution” (as Pink says) would make those words say “If the elect hate you…the elect hated me…etc.” The word “world,” used 240 times in the Bible is never employed to mean “the few elect,” as Pink would suggest. Pink also twists Acts 17:30, which says that “God commands all men everywhere to repent,” limiting its meaning to express how moral and righteous God is. He wants “all” in Romans 5:12 to mean everyone, but he limits “all” in Acts 17:30 to certain pre-selected persons.
First John 2:2 says, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Calvinism says that is not true, that propitiation is for the pre-selected ones only. How can one trust a God when he has no assurance that he is even among those that He wants to save? So Calvinism says trusting, a virtue commanded in the Scriptures, is beyond our human capacity to excercise. Yet we are told to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5). David tells us to “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you will be fed. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3,4). If it were not possible to trust or desire, God would not have put those promises in the Word. He cannot lie (Numbers 23:19) or be deceptive (I Timothy 2:13).
David said, “I have trusted in your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5). We should feel comfortable in taking God at His Word, as David did, rather than the “solution” of Pink and Calvin. We should detest the transposing of definitions by Calvinists. “Depravity” of the natural man is a common belief. Men are by nature “morally corrupt.” But they stretch “total” to mean and include “inability.” The dictionary defines “inability” as “not having the quality or state of being able to do something.” So Calvinism holds that because all men are naturally dead in sin and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-4), they cannot respond in any way to receive God’s gift of salvation. Pink says, “The sinner is utterly incapable of willing anything.” Every thinking person knows that to be untrue. He further declares, “We have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth. …The sinner, of himself, cannot repent and believe.” Thus, in Calvinism all humans are but pawns in an eternal game of chess between God and Satan.
Calvin said, “Some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death. “ That is pure monergism, which he appropriated from Augustine’s philosophy—the primary source of Calvin’s doctrines. How can we believe that God created children to burn in Hell? That is a damnable doctrine! That our wives and daughters and sons have been created only to be kindling for the fires of eternal judgment is a heresy that should itself be placed in the fires of judgment. That there is no need to pray, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” borders on apostasy. Dozens of times in the Bible we are told that if we cry out to God for mercy He will hear us. To deny this is to hold God as guilty for lying and gross deception.
If a Calvinist had been in the Philippian jail instead of Paul, when the jailer cried, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), he would have responded, “Nothing!” Yet Paul required he take the initial step before leaving the jail, and later that evening he was baptized. It should be noted that the jailer did not ask, “What must I do to be elected?”
Predestination and eternal security are unscriptural doctrines. They are theories hatched by Augustine and polished by a young John Calvin who had a different perspective on the world and on the Scriptures than did the God of the Old Testament, and his thoughts were certainly at odds with Christ and His apostles. They are heartless ideas that feed confusion and doubt. They must be rejected.