"Not Willing That Any Should Perish"
A critical examination of the doctrine of Determinism as taught by Augustine, Calvin, Luther et al., but particularly as set forth by Calvinism's Five Points: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.
Man's Free Will
The Foreknowledge Of God
The Five Points Of Calvinism Examined
The Five Points Of Calvinism Examined
by: Allan Turner
There are five main pillars upon which the superstructure of Calvinism rests. These are technically known as "The Five Points of Calvinism."1 In this section, we will make a critical examination of each of these, holding them up to the light of Scripture. It should be understood that the Five Points are not random, isolated, nor independent doctrines. Rather, they are "so inter-related that they form a simple, harmonious, self-consistent system."2 Calvinism, although terribly flawed, is amazingly logical in its parts. If one were to concede that the first point of Calvinism (viz., "Total Depravity") were true, then all four of the following points would necessarily follow. Of course, the opposite is also true. Prove any one of the Five Points of Calvinism wrong and the entire system must be surrendered.
Although the doctrine of Total Depravity is crucial to all forms of determinism, whether Augustinian, Lutheran, or Calvinistic, it is not really as important to the general system of Calvinism as it is to the Five Points. As we observed previously, if the doctrine of Total Depravity is defeated, all of the other Points are defeated. Nevertheless, the more important concept to Calvinism is the Sovereign's "Eternal Decree." In other words, contrary to what Calvinists want us to believe, Calvinism does not have as its "starting point the fact that all mankind sinned in Adam."6 Calvinism starts with the Eternal Decree, which the Westminster Confession explains thus: "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass."7 In other words, the essence of Calvinism is its doctrine of Predestination. About this, Calvin said: "Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say is predestined either to life or to death."8 Therefore, the supposed bondage of man's will is the direct result of an alleged Eternal Decree, and only secondarily the result of an argument for Total Depravity. This point was made earlier in the sections on sovereignty and free will, and I do not intend to rehash it here. I mention it only because the problem of Total Depravity causes some real sticky problems for determinists, particularly when the salvation/damnation of infants is raised. The Augustinians handle it one way, and the Calvinists handle it another. The way the Calvinists deal with the problem proves that Calvinism does not begin with the doctrine of Original Sin.
The Thorny Issue Of Infant Salvation
On the other hand, Calvinists "solved" this problem by appealing to the doctrine of Predestination. Yes, they said, infants inherit Adam's sin all right, but if God has predestined or eternally decreed that an infant would be saved, and this apart from anything the infant would or would not do, then the infant would be saved by the same unmerited grace that saves an adult. Remember, unlike all determinists, Calvinists believe that all men, apart from anything they will or will not do, are predestined or foreordained to be eternally saved or eternally lost. Speaking to this, Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield said: "Their destiny is determined irrespective of their choice, by an unconditional decree of God, suspended for its execution on no act of their own; and their salvation is wrought by an unconditional application of the grace of Christ to their souls, through the immediate and irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit prior to and apart from any action of their own proper wills...This is but to say that they are unconditionally predestinated to salvation from the foundation of the world."10
The Westminster Confession says, "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ."11 This left the impression with some that there are non-elect infants, who, dying in infancy, are lost, and that the Presbyterian Church teaches this as their doctrine. In denying this, some have said: "The history of the phrase 'Elect infants dying in infancy' makes clear that the contrast implied was not between 'elect infants dying in infancy' and 'non-elect infants dying in infancy,' but rather between 'elect infants dying in infancy' and 'elect infants living to grow up.'"12 In order to correct any misunderstanding, in 1903, the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. adopted a Declaratory Statement which reads as follows: "With reference to Chapter X, Section 3, of the Confession of Faith, that it is not to be regarded as teaching that any who die in infancy are lost. We believe that all dying in infancy are included in the election of grace, and are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how He pleases." Calvin's view of this is explained by Dr. R. A. Webb in the following paragraph:
Calvin teaches that all the reprobate 'procure'that is his own wordtheir own personal and conscious acts of 'impiety,' 'wickedness,' and 'rebellion.' Now reprobate infants, though guilty of original sin and under condemnation, cannot, while they are infants, thus 'procure' their own destruction by their personal acts of impiety, wickedness, and rebellion. They must, therefore, live to the years of moral responsibility in order to perpetrate the acts of impurity, wickedness, and rebellion, which Calvin defines as the mode through which they procure their destruction...Consequently, [Calvin's] own reasoning compels him to hold (to be consistent with himself), that no reprobate child can die in infancy; but all must live to the age of moral accountability, and translate original sin into actual sin.13
So, there you have it, any child who dies in infancy is saved! With this, Calvinists avoid the heart-rending idea of little babies dying in sin and going to hell. Therefore, Total Depravity is really not the starting point for Calvinism. However, it is now time to turn our attention to a critical examination of the doctrine of Total Depravity.
The Doctrine Stated And Refuted
The doctrine stated: Calvin, as had Augustine and Luther before him, argued that all mankind sinned in Adam. In one of their catechisms it is stated like this: "All mankind...sinned in him [Adam], and fell with him in that first transgression... The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam's first sin."14
The doctrine refuted: But, the Bible teaches that everyone bears the guilt of his own sins, not the sin of Adam: "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."15 The Bible makes it clear that one obeys the gospel in order to have his own sins blotted out, not the sin of Adam: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."16 Furthermore, when we all "appear before the judgment seat of Christ," we will give an answer for what we have done in the flesh, not what Adam did.17 Finally, it is our own sins, not Adam's, which separate us from God.18
The doctrine stated: "Fallen man...lacks the power of spiritual discernment. His reason or understanding is blinded, and the taste and feelings are perverted."19 Denying that man has free will, and affirming that he cannot, without having been predestined by God, choose to do good or evil, Loraine Boettner went on to say: "Hence we deny the existence in man of a power which may act either way, on the logical ground that both virtue and vice cannot come out of a moral condition of the agent... He is incapable of understanding, and much less of doing, the things of God."20 The argument is that unregenerate man is "dead in sin," and like anyone who is physically dead is unable to perform anything physical, the spiritually dead man is completely unable to perform anything spiritually.
The doctrine refuted: Yes, the Bible teaches that before we are regenerated, born again, raised, or made alive, we are "dead in trespasses and sins."21 But the Bible just as clearly teaches that the unregenerate man can indeed "obey from the heart" the form of doctrine that he has been taught, that is, the gospel.22 In Colossians 2:12-13, the apostle Paul said it this way: "Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses." Faith, of course, comes by hearing the gospel.23 Then having heard the gospel, one must believe it,24 repent of his sins,25 and confess with his mouth that he believes Jesus is Christ.26 But in doing all this, one has done that which the Calvinists teach an unregenerate man cannot do. That baptism is clearly under discussion in Colossians 2:12-13 cannot be denied. That this passage teaches that one is not "raised" (verse 12) or "made alive" (verse 13) until he has submitted to baptism also cannot be denied. That the expressions "raised" and "made alive" refer to being regenerated should be just as clear. In fact, there seems little doubt that the "washing of regeneration" mentioned in Titus 3:5 is referring to baptism. The fact that one could be doing something "through faith," as Colossians 2:12 clearly teaches, before being regenerated flies in the face of Calvinist claims. This, no doubt, is why Calvinists deny that water baptism has anything to do with being regenerated or born again.
The doctrine stated: Speaking of the "depth of man's corruption," Boettner argues: "It is wholly beyond [man's] own power to cleanse himself. His only hope of an amendment of life lies accordingly in a change of heart, which change is brought about by the sovereign re-creative power of the Holy Spirit who works when and where and how He pleases."27 Without this direct operation of the Holy Spirit, man "cannot be convinced of the truth of the Gospel by any amount of external testimony."28
The doctrine refuted: The "gift" or "renewing" of the Holy Spirit comes after water baptism,29 which, again, goes against the theological grain of Calvinism. Furthermore, the Bible says the Holy Spirit is given to all those who "obey" the Lord,30 something the Calvinists say cannot occur without a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it should be clear that what Calvinists teach about Total Depravity is totally false.
The Doctrine Stated And Refuted
The doctrine stated: If man is born totally depraved and does not have free will, which is what Calvinists clearly teach, then he does not have the ability to do those things God has commanded him to do. Therefore, if a man is going to be saved, God, totally independent of any foreknown choices man will make, chooses (elects) him to salvation. This means, "A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved."31 In other words, "The elect of God are chosen by Him to be His children, in order that they might be made to believe, not because He foresaw that they would believe."32 Incidentally, this also was the view espoused by Augustine and Luther. Accordingly: "Foreordination in general cannot rest on foreknowledge; for only that which is certain can be foreknown, and only that which is predetermined can be certain... God foreknows only because He has pre-determined. His foreknowledge is but a transcript of His will as for what shall come to pass in the future... His foreknowledge of what is yet to be, whether it be in regard to the world as a whole or in regard to the detailed life of every individual, rests upon His pre-arranged plan."33
The doctrine refuted: First of all, the doctrine of Unconditional Election was defeated when Total Depravity was demonstrated to be false. Second, it is clear that Calvinists do not believe God actually has foreknowledge (viz., prescience). According to them, God "foreknows" what is going to happen because He has determined it will happen. We would be fools to deny the reality of this statement. This kind of statement is what the logicians call a tautology, that is, a needless repetition that cannot be anything other than logically true. For example, to say that God has predestined whatever is going to happen, therefore, He foreknows whatever is going to happen is similar to saying, "God knows He is going to do something, therefore, He knows He is going to do something." Such would be needless and foolish repetition. Nevertheless, this is how Calvinists interpret all references to God's foreknowledge.
Although it is true that there are passages that declare God can speak of future events as definite because of His decretive will,34 this is not the way foreknowledge is usually used in the Scriptures. Furthermore, it is ironic that one of the most favorite passages of the Calvinists states unequivocally that God's predestination of certain future events was dependent upon His foreknowledge, and not the other way around, as they claim. In Romans 8:29-30, the apostle Paul says: "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." Now, there may be legitimate disagreement with reference to all the ramifications of this passage, but there seems to be no legitimate reason to reject the idea conveyed here that God's predestination was dependent upon actual foreknowledge. It is not insignificant that the apostle Peter, under the same inspiration that guided the apostle Paul, makes precisely the same point when he mentioned those who were "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."35 We can find no hint in the Scriptures, or among the so-called "Church Fathers" before Augustine, that foreknowledge (Greek proginsko) was used in any way other than to mean "knowledge in advance." In other words, the Bible teaches that God's "knowing in advance" allowed Him to choose, predestinate or elect those who would be saved in connection with His Son Jesus, that is, those who would, of their own free wills, be "conformed to the image of His Son."36
God indeed has foreknowledge, even of the future, contingent, free will choices of men and women. This allows Him to choose, foreordain, predestine, or elect individuals without violating their free wills. This view of foreknowledge agrees perfectly with Acts 2:23, which says, "Him [Jesus Christ], being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God [the Father], you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death." This means that the Father designed His plan to deliver up His Son with a view as to what the Jews and Romans would do—that is, if given the opportunity, they would crucify Him. If this is not what this passage is teaching, then it is reduced to a needless tautology that says, "God determined to offer up His Son, therefore, He knew He would offer up His Son."
The doctrine stated: Calvinists teach that God's plan not only deals with mankind in toto, but that He also has a plan for particular individuals whom He unconditionally elects to salvation and eternal life. As proof, they cite passages like 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says, "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth," and Acts 13:48, which says: "Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."
The doctrine refuted: Calvinists teach the unconditional election of particular individuals to eternal salvation. As a result, some have thought that in rejecting Calvinism they must deny the election of particular individuals. I believe this to be a serious mistake in that it makes Calvinism more difficult to refute, and, even more important, it appears to be a denial of what the Scriptures teach on this subject. The problem with Unconditional Election is not that it deals with particular individuals, but that is alleges these individuals are elected unconditionally. This last point, the Bible clearly denies. Individuals are elected, predestinated, or foreordained, and these are all scriptural terms, to eternal salvation based upon God's foreknowledge of their free will choices to "obey the gospel," thus being "conformed to the image of His Son."37 This does not, as Calvinists claim, make man's will sovereign. It was God, of His own free will, who decided to extend His plan of salvation to man. Therefore, even though His foreknowledge informed Him there would be those who would be conformed to the image of His Son and, therefore, be saved, it was entirely up to Him whether He tendered the plan. Without God's plan, man could have done nothing to effect his own salvation. Therefore, in one sense, we are saved by God's grace and not our works. This is precisely what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 2:4-10, where he says:
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Salvation, then, is an undeserved, unmerited gift from God, for this is the meaning of the word "grace."
But in another sense, and this because man has free will, salvation is something man must work out for himself. About this, the apostle Paul said, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."38 Elsewhere, the apostle Peter said, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."39 In these passages, the Bible teaches that a man, of his own free will, must, in order to be saved, respond, and continue to respond, to the demands of God's preceptive will. As such, faith and works work together to produce salvation.40 Man working out his own salvation and thereby saving himself does not mean, as Calvinists erroneously think, that God is forced to give up His sovereignty. God forbid! In the verse immediately following the command for Christians to work out their own salvation, Paul said, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."41 In other words, just because God grants man free will does not mean He has relinquished control of the scheme of redemption. This is further illustrated by Paul's prayer for the Christians at Ephesus, in which he asked God to grant them, "according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man."42 The "gift" of the Holy Spirit to obedient believers43 functions as God's "guarantee" that He is still in control of man's redemption,44 which, in turn, causes us to be confident that He is able to finish the work He has started in us right up to the day of Jesus Christ.45 Consequently, "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."46
The Scheme of Redemption was "predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."47 Therefore, it was not a plan that would or could fail. Even so, the plan would be no small undertaking. It would ultimately take the sacrifice of the heavenly Father's only begotten Son,48 the divine Logos,49 who would sooner or later have to leave heaven, take upon Himself the mantle of flesh,50 and finally shed His blood on the cruel cross of Calvary for the remission of our sins.51 As such, this was not simply a plan, it was, instead, the plan! It was the plan that would work because God's foreknowledge would allow Him to not just design a plan that could, under certain circumstances, work, but it would also allow Him to carry out this plan with absolutely impeccable precision.52 As the result of this perfect plan, God would be able to "bring many sons unto glory."53 These "many sons" were foreknown by the Father,54 and this allowed him to design and put in motion a plan that would ultimately end in their glorification with Jesus in heaven.55 Hence, in the mind of God, and this is a mind that knows the future, contingent, free will choices of men and women, the Scheme of Redemption is a "done deal."
According to Strong's Greek and Hebrew Lexicon, the Greek word proorizo, translated in the KJV as "predestinate," means to "predetermine," "decide beforehand," or "foreordain." As already noted, this does not mean that God in eternity made a choice of those He would save independent of anything they would do of their own free wills. Rather, God ordained or decreed in eternity (i.e., He predestined) that those who were going to be saved would have to be "conformed to the image of His Son."56 This means that God did not choose individuals to be saved unconditionally, as Calvinists teach. On the contrary, based upon His foreknowledge of the future, contingent, free will choices of His creatures, God predestined (i.e., determined beforehand) those who would be saved conditionally.57 This is what the apostle Paul was referring to when he wrote: "...just as He [the Father] chose us in Him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will."58
In the context of 2 Timothy 2:19, the apostle Paul says that although the faith of some had been overthrown by false teachers, "Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and, 'Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.'" This is not just true now, but we are assured that even in eternity the Lord knew those who were His.59 Further, He knows now, just as He did in eternity, who will eventually be glorified in heaven.60 Is God sovereign? Yes. Is the Scheme of Redemption His plan? Yes. Is He continuing to work this plan? Yes. Does man have free will? Yes. Does God know the future, contingent, free will choices of men and women? Yes. The plan and its result (i.e., the bringing of many sons to glory) is certain not because God has predestined these many sons to salvation "without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance ...or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto,"61 but by God's "determined counsel and foreknowledge."62 Even so, as free will creatures, we must be "even more diligent to make [our] call and election sure, for if [we] do these things [we] will never stumble."63 Once again, Calvinism has shown itself to be seriously flawed theology.
The Doctrine Stated And Refuted
The doctrine stated: The Westminster Confession says: "...Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted sanctified, and saved, but the elect only."64 About this, Boettner says, "If from eternity God has planned to save one portion of the human race and not another, it seems to be a contradiction to say that His work has equal reference to both portions, or that He sent His Son to die for those whom He had predetermined not to save, as truly as, and in the same sense that He was sent to die for those whom He had chosen for salvation."65
The doctrine refuted: "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."66 Again, "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (emphasis mine, AT).67 Now, as if these two passages were not enough to refute the idea of a Limited Atonement, the Bible teaches unequivocally that it is God's will that all men come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved.68 In 2 Peter 3:9, He is described as being "longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." These passages ought to be sufficient to demonstrate the error of Calvinism.
The Doctrine Stated And Refuted
The doctrine stated: In pontificating this doctrine, the Westminster Confession says, "This effectual call [to salvation] is of God's free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed by it."69 In his book The Sovereignty of Grace, Arthur C. Custance elaborates: "The only defense against Synergism [i.e., the idea that man works with God to some degree in coming to salvation] is an unqualified Calvinism ascribing all the glory to God by insisting upon the total spiritual impotence of man, an election based solely upon the good pleasure of God, an Atonement intended only for the elect though sufficient for all men, a grace that can neither be resisted nor earned, and a security for the believer that is as permanent as God Himself."70 Therefore, it is clear Calvinists believe that God's saving grace cannot be resisted and is, therefore, irresistible. It is clear they believe that if grace can be resisted, then this "places God in the unworthy position of being dependent upon His creatures."71 If grace can be resisted, then Calvinists believe this would mean God is no longer Sovereign.
The doctrine refuted: "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" (italics mine, AT).72 "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him'" (italics mine, AT).73 Would the God identified in these scriptures choose some to be saved apart from anything they would do of their own free wills, and then irresistibly bestow (force) His grace upon them so that they will be saved even when they might not want to be? Not hardly! Furthermore, the necessary inference of 1 Thessalonians 5:19 is that the Spirit of God can be quenched. This cannot mean that the Holy Spirit Himself can be extinguished. Rather, it means that the influence the Holy Spirit exerts and urges upon us can be suppressed or stifled. Therefore, contrary to Calvinist doctrine, the Bible teaches that the God who wills (wants or desires) that all men come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved,74 sends His Spirit into the world to convict men of their sins,75 but that they can still, of their own free wills, reject His plan for them.76 In other words, the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit can be resisted: "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you."77
As far as anyone knows, the first theologian to teach that God's will is always done and is never impeded by the will of any creature was Augustine (A.D. 354-430). Much later, the Reformers (viz., Luther, Calvin et al.) continued to tinker with Augustine's idea, rejecting some things here, modifying other things there, but generally refining it into a grand theological scheme. Calvin, of course, was the popular systematizer of that which now wears his name. Today, millions upon millions of religious people are held captive by the dogma of this false system. Even New Testament Christians have not been immune. Over the years, many have gotten caught up in the tentacles of Calvin's insidious system. Others, rightfully rejecting the Calvinism, have, nevertheless, espoused equally false ideas in their efforts to counter it. The Christian must always be very careful.78 Those of us who think we are standing on the truth of God's word must be careful "lest we fall" also.79 This warning is never more important than when we are standing against the "wiles of the devil." If we fail to put on the "whole armor of God," we can be destroyed.80 We must always fortify our defenses with book, chapter, and verse.81
Calvinists argue that in order for God to be Sovereign, He cannot be limited in what He would do by the pitiably insignificant wills of His finite creatures. In a sense, God is limited. The Bible says God "cannot lie."82 In other words, "it is impossible for God to lie."83 Nevertheless, this in no way affects His sovereignty. Even Calvinists would have to agree with this. Why? Because, they know that God's sovereignty, power, might, rule, etc. is not affected by self-limitations. God cannot lie because it is inconsistent with His nature, a nature that includes holiness, justice, righteousness, to name but a few. Therefore, things that are impossible with God because of who He is, do not mitigate either His Almightiness or Sovereignty. As we stated in the section on the Sovereignty of God, the key to Sovereignty is not causation, as the Calvinists believe, but control. God's permissive will allows Him the right to intervene in the decision-making process if His purposes demand it. Although He does not do this very often, allowing man, in most cases, to go his own way, nevertheless, He can and does intervene if necessary. This prerogative allows Him to exercise ultimate control over the life of every man and woman. By deciding of His own free will to make a creature who would himself possess free will, God agreed to limit Himself. This self-limitation does not destroy nor degrade His Sovereignty, regardless of what Calvinists think. Even so, it is just here that we must be very careful. The concept of self-limitation does not apply to the being of God, but only His actions. When it comes to who, what, and that God is, God cannot be anything other than who he is, that is, when God said to Moses, "I Am Who I Am am,"84 He was saying He was, is, and always will be who he is! Jesus, in addition to being a man, was also the "I Am."85 Therefore, in taking upon Himself flesh, He did not quit being who He is! It was only in this sense that it could be said about Him that He "is the same yesterday, today, and forever."86 Therefore, by His own definition of who, what, and that He is, God, as Deity, can never be anything other than who, what, and that He is. Therefore, He cannot limit or change His being, nor can He limit Himself by refusing to do something His nature requires. For example, God, although He is all-powerful, could not have saved man any number of ways. If He simply overlooked sin and forgave man, He would not be just, for justice demands that every sin receive a just recompense.87 Therefore, in order for God to extend His mercy to man without violating His own just nature, He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins on the cruel cross of Calvary.88 Without Christ paying the full price of our sins, reaping what He had not sown, God could not have saved us, for in doing so, He would have violated His own nature, which, when it comes to God, is impossible.
God can only limit Himself by choosing not to do those thing which are not required by His nature. And since His nature does not require Him to be the direct cause of everything, whether natural events or human actions, He is free to limit Himself with respect to these. Without this ability, you and I would not exist as we do, and even if we did, we could not be saved from our own sinfulness. Thank God we serve a Sovereign Ruler who can and has limited Himself.
The Perseverance Of The Saints
The Doctrine Stated And Refuted
The doctrine stated: "They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved."89 As Boettner says, "If God has chosen men absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, and if the Spirit effectively applies to them the benefits of redemption, the inescapable conclusion is that these persons shall be saved."90 He elaborates further: "Though floods of error deluge the land, though Satan raise all the powers of earth and all the iniquities of their own hearts against them, they shall never fail; but, persevering to the end, they shall inherit those mansions which have been prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The saints in heaven are happier but no more secure than are true believers here in this world."91
The doctrine refuted: Becoming a Christian is the most important decision one can make. When we obeyed the gospel, Jesus Christ became the absolute Lord of our lives. As a result, our past sins were graciously washed away by our Lord's precious blood, and we have been spiritually born again. There is, therefore, a crown of "glory" or "righteousness" now awaiting us in heaven.92 Nothing nor no one can take away from us the salvation we now possess in connection with Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul, in Roman 8:35-39, drives this point home:
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.
In other words, because we are now "in Christ Jesus," there is no longer any condemnation.93 God, who is all-powerful, cannot fail to provide the heavenly home He has promised to all those who exercise trust and faith in His Son Jesus Christ.94
Although God's omnipotence effectively assures our salvation, the fact remains that we can live our lives here on this earth in such a way as to lose that which God's faithfulness guarantees. For example, in Revelation 2:10, the Lord assures a "crown of life" only to those who remain "faithful unto death." In 1 Corinthians 4:2, the apostle Paul makes it clear that "faithfulness" is the true test of our stewardship to Christ. In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul addresses the "saints which are at Ephesus" and the "faithful in Christ Jesus."95 These are not two different groups. The saints are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. The same is true at Colosse.96 This is why Paul exhorted Christians everywhere to "continue in the faith."97 The word of God makes it clear that eternal salvation in heaven is dependent upon our continued faithfulness to Christ.98 "If you continue in the faith" implies that turning from the faith is certainly possible. In fact, in Galatians 5:4, the apostle Paul makes it clear that a child of God can fall from grace, something Calvinist teachers, who tout the doctrine of "once saved, always saved," flatly deny. As disciples of Christ, we are more than willing to let God be true, but every man a liar.99 When it comes to religious truth, only God, who cannot lie,100 is to be trusted.
In Philippians 2:12, the apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." The apostle is not saying that every man is left to his own devices with regard to salvation, as if salvation were totally dependent upon man. On the contrary, salvation is, first and foremost, dependent upon the grace of God. Man, in spite of anything he might do, cannot, without God's unmerited favor, save himself. The provision of salvation is totally of God. Nevertheless, man, in order to be saved, is under obligation to do something. Consequently, when man does whatever it is he is required to do, he is said to be saving himself.101 What, then, is man required to do? Quite simply, he is required to obey God! On the first Pentecost after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, those who had heard and believed the gospel were required to repent and be baptized by the authority of Christ in order to have their sins remitted.102 In other words, Christ is the author of eternal salvation unto all those who obey Him.103 If we acknowledge Jesus as Lord and obey Him, He will save us from our past sins. In addition, in order to stay saved, we must continue to serve Him faithfully. As we do this, we are said to be working out our own salvation "with fear and trembling."104 "For," as the next verse says, "it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." The Christian works out his own salvation by reverently and carefully following the Lord's preceptive will. In doing so, he "proves what is that good and perfect will of God."105
The idea that one cannot be cast off forever is not taught in the Scriptures. In his wise counsel to his son Solomon, David warned: "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever."106 Then, in Ezekiel 18:24 it is said: "But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die." Then, in Matthew 10:22, Jesus said, "But he who endures to the end will be saved." Why did He say this? Is not the clear implication that if we do not endure we will be lost? Do Jesus' words not imply that it is possible not to endure to the end? The answer to these questions appears to be obvious: One who has been saved can fail to endure to the end and, if he does, he will be lost! This is exactly the same message Jesus taught in Matthew 24:13. For sure, Jesus was no Calvinist! In John 15:2, He said, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." In verse 6, He continues, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." Now, does this sound like the saved cannot be lost? Again, the answer is obvious. Of course, this is exactly what the apostle Paul taught: "For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off."107 The apostle Paul was not a Calvinist either! In fact, the apostle Paul was very much aware that if he did not discipline his own body and keep it under subjection that he himself could be a "castaway," and this after having preached the gospel to others.108 And listen to what Paul said to the church at Corinth: "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain."109 Paul said they heard the gospel, believed it, stood in it, and were saved by it, but that they needed to continue to hold fast, unless they had believed in vain, in which case they would, by implication, become unsaved or lost.
It is clear that the Bible does not teach Calvin's system. I could continue to cite passage after passage refuting the idea of "once saved, always saved" or "the Perseverance of the Saints," but the ones cited above are sufficient to prove Calvinism wrong.