Archive for the ‘Perseverance’ Category
Arminianism has historically taught that personal apostasy is a very real possibility in the life of the believer. A person can believe the gospel and then become sluggish, indulge the flesh into sin, and ultimately turn away from trusting in Christ alone for their salvation and commit personal apostasy (Hebrews 6:4-20; 10:19-39 along with many others).
Calvinism has historically taught that once God has chosen a person from eternity past (divine, unconditional election) then He will save that person (irresistible grace) and seal them unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13). Thus a true saint of God will always persevere. Those who fail to persevere prove they were never regenerated to begin with (1 John 2:19).
So instead of going over what Arminians and Calvinists disagree over, let us turn to what they agree with and that is the condition of the apostate. The Arminian views the apostate as once saved but now lost. The Calvinist views the apostate as never saved and still lost. However, both agree that the apostate is lost. Both affirm that the apostate should repent. Both should affirm that the apostate, unless they repent, will not inherit eternal life.
In essence, both Arminianism and Calvinism teaches that it is necessary for saints to persevere. While Calvinists will say that a true saint will persevere, nonetheless they also affirm that the true saint must persevere. Both agree that a saint is a saint through faith in Christ. Both affirm that salvation is focused completely upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Some Calvinists attempt to argue that Arminians are still lost because they deny that faith is the gift of God given only to the elect. I find this ridiculous. We both acknowledge that salvation is not by works (Titus 3:5-7) and that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14-17). We may disagree over the nature of election (whether it is conditioned upon faith or not) but we both agree that a sinner believes the gospel by their own free will (whether it be compatible with God’s sovereignty or with libertarian freedom is another issue). God does not believe for us. We must believe to be saved. Even those Calvinists who hold to regeneration before faith would still argue that faith is something the person does by the grace of God. Again, God does not believe for us nor does He force us to believe against our will but according to Calvinism, He makes us willing to believe. Arminianism teaches that God’s Spirit and His grace enable the sinner to believe out of their own free will and the sinner can reject the gospel if they harden their hearts to His call (Luke 7:30). A key text is Luke 7:50 where Jesus tells the sinful woman that her faith saved her. Jesus didn’t say someone else’s faith saved her but her own faith saved her.
Yet both agree that a truly saved person must continue in the faith. Only those who hold to a more radical view of “once saved, always saved” would argue that a person need not continue in the faith. Both Arminians and Calvinists would appeal to the same texts regarding the security of the saint such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 or Jude 24-25 and both would appeal to texts that teach we must continue until the end to be saved (Matthew 24:13; John 15:1-11; Acts 14:22; Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Galatians 5:1-4; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 John 2:28-29; 5:13 NKJV). If the person fails to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus, the Arminian would view them as having fallen from grace whereas the Calvinist would view the person as never saved to begin with. But both would acknowledge (or should at least) that the said person must repent or they will not be in heaven.
Lance was my friend. He and I use to go to eat together every Tuesday while we were in college. We both loved God, love His Word, love teenagers (we were both youth pastors at the time) and both had dreams of evangelizing the world for Christ. Lance and I had a good friendship until one night we debated eternal security. Unbeknown to me, Lance had begun reading some “radical” eternal security books that taught cheap grace, easy believeism, and antinomianism. We debated at his kitchen table for hours about grace, the love of God, salvation, faith, security, perseverance of the saints, hell, etc. Lance held that God’s love was so wonderful and His grace so great that He would keep us no matter what we did. He reasoned that since salvation is a total work of God, God keeps us and He promises us eternal life (which eternal life means that it is eternal) and thus: we are saved forever. No matter what sins a person may commit, God promises to keep the person forever.
This was our last meeting. We lived in different cities at this point and we both became busy with life. Time passed by.
Lance’s new embracing of this radical view of eternal security led to major changes in his life. His passion for prayer went away. His hunger for worship slowly evaporated. He once guarded his eyes from watching ungodly movies but no more. He confessed to me once that he struggled greatly with lust. No more. He simply begin to live out his passions. After all, he reasoned that night I met with him, God is the one who keeps us. Lance fell further and further into gross sins. Eventually, he had an adulterous relationship with the choir director of his church and left his wife and two children for his mistress. He completely turned away from Christ and today is a shell of the man he use to be. Pray for Lance.
There are three major views regarding Lance at this point. The first is the radical, “once saved, always saved” view that says that Lance is bound for glory. Lance probably would hold to this view. He perhaps would know that he is not “in fellowship” with Christ but he would still claim heaven. Many cheap grace advocates (or free grace as they call themselves) would agree. I heard Dr. Tony Evans say once, “Even if you deny Christ and become an atheist, when you die, if you have believed even just once, He will drag you to heaven with you kicking and screaming that you don’t want to go.” The only thing Lance is losing right now is his rewards at the final judgement (1 Corinthians 3:15).
The second view would be that A) Lance was never saved to begin with and his apostasy proves he was not saved. The problem with this view is that no person reading this can have the assurance of our salvation. It is possible that you or I are false converts. It is possible that you will fall from the faith this time next year (1 Corinthians 10:12). If we could go back to the days when Lance and I would eat lunch together and you could ask him if he would fall away, he would have denied it. None of us wants to believe that we would deny Christ. Like Peter, we want to believe we would stand for Him no matter what (Matthew 26:33 and notice all the disciples agreed in verse 35) yet Peter still denied Christ as did all the disciples (Matthew 26:56). The person holding this view has no assurance since they believe that God keeps them but if they turn away from Him, they are not saved to begin with. Would it not be better to teach that we are saved through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) and we are kept through faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:5)?
B) Lance is still a child of God who is in rebellion but under the conviction and discipline of the Lord, he will repent and be restored. This view holds that a child of God should live a holy life and if they don’t, God will discipline the person even to the point of death in order to save them (1 Corinthians 5:5). This view holds that true children of God do commit sins and even commit gross sins but this does not change the fact that they remain children of God. Since God has given us eternal life, we can never lose that life. It is eternal! Therefore, God will discipline His sinning children but He will never cast them away (John 6:37). He has promised us eternal life (Romans 8:38-39) and nothing can separate us from His love.
Let’s just take one example from Scripture in the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24. Read the text and then ask yourself these questions:
Was the son truly a son in Luke 15:11?
Did the father view him as alive to him or dead to him according to Luke 15:24?
In this case, the prodigal was a true son and rebelled against his father and begin to live a life of sin (Luke 15:13). The father considered him dead to him and lost (Luke 15:24). I have heard Luke 15:11-24 preached so many times toward sinners but Jesus is not using this parable that way (Luke 15:31-32). The prodigal son was not the lost sinner but the rebellious child who left the home and lived in sin. Until he repented (Luke 15:21), he was lost and dead. Life is only found in the father’s home and he knew this.
This leads me to the third view and that is the Lance must repent or he will not have eternal life. Eternal life is found in Christ alone. All of us will go into eternity some where. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus said in John 5:24-25,
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Notice that Jesus says that life is found in Him. The Greek in this text is in the present active tense so that Jesus is saying, “Whoever hears (and keeps on hearing) My word and believes (and keeps on believing) Him who sent Me has eternal life.” This passage is much like John 10:27-29 where Jesus says that if we hear His voice (and keep on hearing His voice) and follow Him (and keep on following Him), we have eternal life and no one is able to pluck us out of His hands. True security is not found in ourselves but in Christ alone.
Some, at this point, we say that all of salvation is a work of God and I would agree. Salvation is accomplished through Christ alone (John 19:30). Jesus alone is our salvation and our only hope (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Titus 1:1-2). Jesus alone is the one that we look to for salvation from beginning to end. He is our righteousness, our redemption, our mediator of this new covenant, our everything. We acknowledge that salvation is found only in Him and not in a church, an act of flesh (John 1:12-13) but completely in Him (Acts 15:11). Yet I would argue that God calls us to remain FAITHful to Christ (Romans 11:20-22). We are to remain in faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 11:2-4; 12:21-13:5). Jude 21 says to keep ourselves in the love of God. I have heard many “once saved, always saved” advocates dance around this verse but they ignore what Jude is saying. As we stay focused on Christ, Jude 24-25 promises us that He will keep us as well! 1 Timothy 1:19 says some can shipwreck their faith. How can they shipwreck faith if faith here is not true? True faith focuses on Jesus alone for salvation from beginning to end (Romans 2:6-7). Jesus taught us to “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (Luke 12:35).
Jesus said in John 8:51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Again, this is the present active tense of the Greek. If we keep and keep on keeping Jesus’ word, we will never see death. Eternal life is not a vague concept but eternal life is found in an eternal Jesus. Salvation, sanctification, glorification are all found in Christ Jesus alone. To argue that a person can be saved apart from Christ is not found in Scripture (John 14:6). Eternal life is found in Christ alone.
My view of Lance is that Lance must repent or he will go to hell. He is found, right now, in Revelation 21:8. Sin will keep people out of heaven because sin is against a holy God (1 John 3:4). Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 that sin leads to eternal death and not inheriting the kingdom of God. Galatians 6:7-9 teaches us that if we sow to our flesh we will reap from the flesh and that is death. We are called to be a people of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and to hate sin. We are called to confess our sins for forgiveness (1 John 1:9 which makes no sense if we completely forgiven of all sins at the moment we believe). Jesus is our salvation and He is the one that we cast ourselves upon to be saved in this life and the life to come.
King David sinned against God. He committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). 2 Samuel 11:27 ends with the saddest words perhaps in all of Scripture: “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD” (NASB).
Arminius wrote about David’s sin rather briefly but his words are interesting. He wrote,
The example of David proves nothing. For, even if it be granted that David after commission of adultery and murder had not lost the Holy Spirit, it does not thence follow that He cannot be lost. For a man may sin still more grievously, and on this account lose the Holy Spirit. But what if I shall say that David did lose the Holy Spirit, after he had committed adultery and murder? You will reply that it appears from Psalm li. that the matter stands otherwise. I respond that that Psalm was sung by David after that, having been admonished by Nathan, he had repented of those crimes; but that God, at that time, upon the preaching of Nathan, restored the Holy Spirit to David.
In another place Arminius wrote,
If David had died in the very moment in which he had sinned against Uriah by adultery and murder, he would have been condemned to death eternal.
Many Calvinist have taken exception with these statements saying that his theology here is poor and reflects his belief that a person can “lose their salvation” through sinning. They point to passages that seem to teach our unconditional security in places such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 and they praise God for His security in spite of their sins.
One Calvinist I have had some exchanges with on Twitter posted remarks about how Arminius was works-righteousness in his beliefs since he rejected eternal security (or “once saved, always saved”). In fact, I would argue that this Calvinist guy holds that if you reject eternal security, you are probably not saved. I wrote him and asked him, “If you went out and committed adultery and murder, where would you spend eternity?” He responded back, “HEAVEN (his emphasis) because my sins are forgiven.” He then responded, “but if I did go out and commit those acts, it would prove I did not believe.” So I wrote back, “So if you commit those sins, you were never saved to begin with?” How can he have it both ways? He says that he can commit adultery and murder and still go to heaven but if he did those sins, he was not saved to begin with?
Do you see where his road is leading? On the one hand he is arguing for an antinomian view that says that nothing we do affects us. We are under no obligation to be holy. We are under no obligation to obey God or submit totally to Him. We can do anything we like, live anyway we want but still be saved. Yet on the other hand, if we do go out and live like “hell” then we prove we were never saved to begin with. So which is it? Are we saved from sin or in our sins? Are we delivered from the penalty of sin but not the power of sin? Is there any sin that is more powerful than God that He cannot help us overcome?
I don’t doubt that we all struggle with the flesh. I recognize that we live in a fallen world full of the flesh and full of the devil. I don’t doubt that we all face temptations (James 3:2). 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches us two important points: we all are tempted yet we all have the power of God to overcome. Take the “hot” sin of our times: homosexuality. Is homosexuality natural? The obvious answer for the Christian is no. So is sin natural? Why then do we sin if sin is not natural? The answer is because we want to sin. We love sin. Our flesh desires to sin (Galatians 5:16-17). I don’t buy into my own excuses for sinning nor yours. I sin because I enjoy sinning. Yet the Bible calls me to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). The Bible calls me to forsake my sins and walk in repentance (Acts 26:20). The Bible calls me to be like Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-24). The Bible calls me to confess my sins to God (1 John 1:9). The Bible calls me to not sin (1 John 2:1-2). The Bible calls us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith or not (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).
The security of the believer is simply this: we are saved IN Christ Jesus. Why would you want to be away from Him? What sin is greater than the love of Christ? What does the world offer you that is greater than the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven in Christ? You see the issue is not about “losing your salvation” but loving Jesus supremely! The issue is not about what sins can I commit and still be saved but instead the issue is whether you love Christ more than your own sins. We have framed the questions wrong. We have made the debate over “eternal security” all about us and not about Christ. Christ is our salvation. I have eternal life because of Christ and not because of me (John 5:24-25). Christ is our all in all. He is worth more than anything this world can offer or the flesh can desire. In His presence we will be free from sin as we live in eternity with Him, free from the lies of Satan, the temptations of the flesh, and without the bondage of time (Hebrews 12:18-24). I pray that our focus would not be upon us or upon sin but upon the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).
I recently had a discussion with a Calvinist blogger and he stated that belief in personal apostasy is akin to heresy. I asked this man if he believed John Wesley was saved. He said he didn’t know enough about Wesley to make this judgment but I could tell from his reply that he does not believe Wesley was saved because John Wesley held to personal apostasy.
There are three major views when it comes to the issue of the security of the believer. The first is the radical, hard view of what I call “extreme eternal security” views such as those held by some Dispensationalists such as Charles Stanley, Charles Ryrie, Tony Evans, and even Chuck Swindoll who embrace the idea that a person needs only believe for a moment and they are sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Stanley, for example, wrote an entire book on the subject called, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?, in which he argued that a person is saved no matter what they do so long as they once believed. This is sometimes called, “Once Saved, Always Saved.” Most Calvinists I know reject such a view. John MacArthur, for example, teaches that if a person claims Christ but lives in constant rebellion and sin, they were never saved to begin with. He would cite 1 John 2:19 as proof.
The second view is the Calvinist teaching called “perseverance of the saints.” Some Calvinists use the terms “perseverance of the saints” and “eternal security” in sync. The idea of this teaching is that true believers will persevere for God upholds them (John 10:27-30). While believers may sin, they will be convicted and repent under the discipline of the Lord (Hebrews 12:5-11). No true believer will continue in a life of sin (1 John 3:6-10). True repentance will manifest itself in holy living (Matthew 3:8). I have much more in common with this view than the radical “once saved, always saved” view from above. Godly men such as Dr. MacArthur preach holiness and preach against sinning. I appreciate that emphasis.
The third view is the belief in personal apostasy. While Arminius was not clear on this issue, Arminianism has historically held to this view. This view takes the bulk of Scripture and sees both the promises of God to keep us (1 Corinthians 1:8-9) and the warnings from God to remain faithful to Him as Lord (Luke 6:46-49; John 15:1-11; Romans 6; 8:12-14; 11:30-32; 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:21; 15:1-2; Galatians 5:1-4; 6:7-9; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-4; etc.) and sees that God is faithful to convict us and He is faithful to discipline us but He calls us to have faith in Him and follow Him. Even my Calvinist brethren admit that God does not make us believe but rather they teach that He gives a special inward call to the elect that makes them want to follow Him. Either way, we both acknowledge that perseverance is necessary. The difference being that Calvinists would say that those who commit apostasy were never regenerated and Arminians would disagree. Both, I pray, would agree that such people need to repent whether they were never saved to begin with or not.
My biggest issue would be the large amount of “warning passages.” You have to do something with those texts. Are they not real? Are they given only for unbelievers? I once did a post on this blog about 85 passages just in the New Testament that are “warning passages.” We must do something with those. The tendency is to take passages that teach security such as Romans 8:38-39 and apply that to all the warning passages but that does not solve the problem. I would agree that the Bible is clear that we are secure, and here is the big issue for me, IN CHRIST. We are justified before God IN CHRIST (Romans 5:1). We have the assurance of our salvation IN CHRIST (Romans 8:12-17; Philippians 1:6). We are saved by grace through faith IN CHRIST (Ephesians 2:8-9) and are secure in Him by grace through faith (Romans 11:6). There are some who seem to teach justification by faith but then teach the assurance or even our security in Christ by works of obedience (Matthew 7:21-27). I would agree that obedience flows naturally from a redeemed saint of God (Ephesians 2:10) but I would deny that works keep us saved. Christ is our salvation and hope and He keeps us (1 Peter 1:5).
Let me get back to the point of this post. If a person holds to personal apostasy does that mean that they hold to works-salvation or works-righteousness? For instance, I believe we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. I believe works flow from our salvation and that is the point of James 2:14-26. I believe, with Paul the Apostle in Galatians 3:6, that Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith in God (Genesis 15:6). This reckoning took place systematically before Genesis 17:9-14 and the call to circumcision. It was Abraham’s faith that made him righteous and not his works. The same is true for the disciple of Christ. We are declared righteous before God because of our faith in Jesus Christ His Son (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:8). I am justified before God through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). This justification is not based on my actions but upon Christ.
Now if I fully cast myself upon Christ as my Savior and believe that His blood alone cleanses me from sin (1 John 1:7), am I saved? If I hold that Christ takes away the just wrath of God against my sins (Romans 3:21-27; 1 John 4:10) and He brings peace through His sacrifice upon the cross (Romans 5:8-9), am I saved? If I hold that Christ is our salvation from beginning to end (1 Corinthians 1:30-31), that Christ alone is my mediator before God (Hebrews 7:25), am I saved? If I look to Christ alone to forgive me, to wash me, to uphold me, to pray for me, to stand with me, to be my righteousness (John 3:14-15), am I saved? If I make Christ the One that we should adore, follow, worship, pray to, preach, and continue to obey as Lord (Acts 14:22), am I still saved?
So where is the issue? I have been an Arminian disciple of Christ for over 20 years. I have heard one sermon in over 20 years on apostasy. And that brother today would laugh if I brought up his sermon because it was too hard and without grace. I have never heard one Arminian say about a person who walked away from the faith that “they lost their salvation.” I will admit that I did hear a Pentecostal Holiness minister once say during a testimony service, “As an Arminian I believe you could fall away from Jesus but praise God that this year I didn’t.” It did make me laugh inside. My point is that the language of apostasy often accused toward those who believe in apostasy is not found. We don’t “lose our salvation” since we didn’t find our salvation. We lose coins. We lose our keys. You don’t lose Jesus. You didn’t find Him. He is not an object like your wallet that you can’t find.
I will end this post by simply affirming that salvation is in Christ alone. Salvation is not in Arminianism or Calvinism or in belief or rejection of eternal security. Salvation is in Christ alone. Arminians and Calvinists can disagree over this issue but we must agree that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This is the heart of the Reformation. This is the heart of what it means to be Protestants. Jesus doesn’t save Arminians or Calvinists but He saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). I think we all would agree, that means us (Romans 3:23).
Don’t give up! That is the simple message I want to convey to you who preach the gospel to the lost. It can become discouraging as people pass us by, as others who proclaim themselves Christians mock us for sharing the gospel, or as we have to deal with mockers of the gospel. We can spend hours passing out tracts, debating with those who question the gospel, preaching in the open air, and see little to no results. But always remember this: the purpose of our evangelism is to glorify God. We are not sharing the gospel with people because we want to count hands raised or people who have prayed some prayer but our purpose and our passion should be to faithfully reveal the truth of God. Our passion and delight is to exalt the One who saved us by His grace (Romans 11:6).
It is easy to give up. You are the only one it seems who is sharing your faith. You long to see people saved. And yet nothing is happening. But persevere my dear brother or sister. Remember the Lord Jesus who was betrayed by His own friend Judas and who was forsaken by His own chosen disciples the night He was arrested (Mark 15:50). When the Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), there were about 120 gathered in the upper room obeying the Lord Jesus’ command to wait (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5) for the Promise of the Father. Thousands had followed Him at one time but now 120 were awaiting His promise. He was by no means a failure for He obeyed the will of the Father perfectly (Hebrews 5:8-9). This was the work of Jesus: to obey the Father and to do His will (John 4:34; 6:38; 17:4; 19:30).
This should be our focus as well, to do the will of the Father. Jesus commanded us to go (Matthew 28:19). We are simply seeking to obey Jesus as our Lord. We are not sharing the gospel because we are seeking to earn God’s favor or trying to earn His salvation. We know we are justified before God because of Christ (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). We are preaching the gospel to the lost because we simply want to obey Jesus as our Lord (John 14:15). In light of the cross, we obey Him as Lord (1 John 2:3-6).
So don’t give up. Keep your faith and eyes on Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2). Learn from Him and learn how He obeyed the Father, went to the cross, for the glory of God (Philippians 2:5-11). Keep going!
I saw where Louis Giglio has now resigned after being asked by President Obama to pray at the inauguration. The reason for his resignation was because homosexual groups and the Left were in a firestorm with Obama after someone pulled a sermon Giglio preached in which he called homosexuality a sin and that people in sin (all sins) needed to repent. In his sermon, Giglio quotes from Scripture to back his points. He is not merely giving his opinions but is stating what the Bible says. This caused the uproar and so Giglio withdrew from the inauguration although I am sure the Obama administration politely asked him to not attend.
My advice to all true disciples of Jesus is to not back down from the truth. Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). We will be attacked and put down (Matthew 5:10-12) but stand firm for the truth. We will be viewed as bigots, as old-fashioned, as losing touch with reality, as not being with the times but preach the Word. Stand firm upon our convictions from Scripture that all sin must be repented of as Giglio rightly said (Acts 17:30-31). Truth matters. Don’t compromise. Don’t give into the spirit of this age for the sake of anything. Not for the sake of money. Not for the sake of fame. Not for the sake of sin. Stand firm for Jesus and His kingdom. The Lord will vindicate us (Psalm 73). Jesus will win this war. We are promised this.
Persecution is coming friends. Soon we disciples of Jesus will be hated and killed but the Lord will be glorified as we stand firm for the truth. No matter what may happen, Jesus will win this war. Jesus will be the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Our blood may be shed for the truth of Christ and His Word but stand firm. God will reward the righteous. He will judge the wicked (Revelation 20:11-15). No immoral person will be in heaven (Revelation 21:7-8) and Jesus will be exalted among His saints. Let us not give one inch to this world (James 4:4) but let us preach the truth to this world until they kill us.
”I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33