Calvinism: From God or Man? Examining "Perseverance of the Saints"
As we are almost to the end of our series examining Calvinism, we look at the last tenant, or petal if you will. of the Calvinistic Tulip. And that is Perseverance of the Saints.
The Philadelphia confession of faith states it like this:
"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 saved. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof."(The Philadelphia Confession of Faith of 1742 Chap. 17, secs. 1, 2.)
This doctrine is a necessary outgrowth of the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation. If God has unchangeably fixed the destiny of every man before time began, then it follows that such destiny cannot be changed by any act of the creature -- no, not even by the Creator; for that which is
unchangeable cannot be changed even by God himself.
Therefore, none of the eternally elect can fall from grace if that doctrine is True; but if we can show that a Christian may apostatize, and be lost, the whole theory of unconditional election and reprobation and the idea of the perseverance of the saints is done away.
Wayne Jackson a preacher in Stockton California wrote about this very thing in a pen-points article and he said.
“I am reminded of the debate that occurred years ago between a Calvinist and a Gospel preacher on the theme or whether or not it is possible for a child of God to be lost. The Calvinist argued that the Christian can never so sin to be lost in hell. The Christian preacher asked his opponent: “Since God says that the drunkard shall not enter heaven, what will be the fate of the Christian man who yields to temptation, gets drunk, and dies in that condition? If the Christian man who dies drunk cannot enter heaven, and yet will not go to hell, what must be his destiny?” At a loss as to how to respond, the Calvinist impulsively replied: “God will not let the brother die in a drunken state.” The Gospel minister promptly responded—with devastating logic: “Well, then, would it not be the case that if a Christian gets drunk, and stays drunk, he can live forever?” (Christiancourier.com)
It’s an interesting dilemma, isn’t it?
The question we will discuss today is simply this: Can a person gain faith, then, once he is a child of God, can he lose his faith, deny the gospel and be lost in eternity in Hell.
We should like it clearly understood that we are not discussing what a child of God may do; but rather, what he CAN do? The question is one of possibility, not of probability.
So we will proceed today and we will say, that students of God’s Word who have taken the time to study the word thoroughly have discovered that there is scarcely a page in either the Old or New Testaments that does not sound a warning and raise the possibility of apostasy.
In my King James Bible, that I use to study with, there are roughly 1200 pages total, Old and New Testament, and yet in that same bible, there are over 2500 warnings on those pages.
Now, of course, we don’t have time to go through every single one of them, but we’ll look at just a few. In 1 Corinthians 10:12 Paul writes: Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall".
Fall? Fall from what? Why does it matter if a person takes heed lest he falls if there is no way for him to fall?
Paul also said, even about himself "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:27).
What do you mean Paul? Castaway? What are you implying? You continue to bring your body into subjection of Christ, lest you are cast away? Friend, the point is clear, he is claiming, that he has to watch himself daily unless he preaches to others, but that he himself loses his own salvation.
The Hebrews writer writes in Hebrews 3: 12, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called
Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
In departing from the living God. First, in order to depart, he had to first be together with God. So he is clearly talking to Christians. So, what is the remedy? Exhort one another daily. Keep on encouraging and exhorting each other, in case sin comes in and deceives you.
Now this is just a few, and we will discuss a bit later, but the overwhelming abundance of evidence in the word of God, is that a person can fall from grace.
Why would God give all of these warnings, if there was nothing a person could do to lose his salvation?
Man has the right to CHOOSE to be saved or not to be saved, as we have talked about in other shows, but also after his conversion, man has this same free will, Notice what the Lord said to a church in the book of Revelation who was warned to get back on the right track. Remember, he is talking to a CHURCH, people who were already in a saved position.
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from when thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Rev. 2:4, 5).
He says he will remove that candlestick out of its place unless they repent. Now, if they repent, all will be okay. But if they do not repent they will be removed.
Folks, scripture could not be any plainer than that. When he says:
"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen," that proves the possibility of falling; then the command, "Repent and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place," shows clearly the result that follows such a fall.
What about the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1 beginning in verse 5. The apostle shows us the graces that should come with the character of the Christian:
And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore, the rather, brethren, give diligence to make you calling and election sure: For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Look at that conditional statement,"IF ye do these things ye shall never fall." The obvious implication is that if do NOT do these things you shall fall!
Folks, many times God's promises are conditional. Many, times in scripture, when God promises to protect, or cling on to people, those promises are conditioned upon man’s faithfulness to him. For instance, In Jeremiah 18:7 we read:
At what instance I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy it; if that nation against which I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil I thought to do unto them. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it: if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then will I repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them.
This is as clear as it gets. Notice: IF I promise to do evil to a wicked nation, and it repents, I'll change my mind and not do what threatened. But, IF I say I'll do good to a nation and it does evil in my sight and obeys not my voice, "then will I repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them."
This clearly establishes the conditionality of God's promises. In 2 Chron. 15:2, we have the same principle set forth in these words, "The Lord is with you while ye be with him; and if ye seek him he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you."
Is that not as plain as it gets?
Remember Solomon? God records for us, a statement to Solomon, in 1 Chronicles. 28:9:
"And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee, but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever."
This passage clearly asserts the fact that if one forsakes God the Lord will cast him off forever. Note the conditionality of the promise: "If thou seek him," the result is, "he will be found of thee."
But the opposite is also true he says “If you forsake him, he will cast you off, forever.”
And so we see that a child of God, a follower of God, can so act as finally to be lost in hell! Our salvation is therefore conditioned on our faithfulness to the Lord, and all of God's promises touching our final salvation depends upon our faithfulness to him.
Let’s talk about Nineveh again. We already mentioned them previously, but let’s discuss them again.
God told Jonah to cry out against them, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Jonah 3:4). That is, absolutely an unconditional statement. It mentions no conditions. But in verse 10 of this same chapter, it is said, "And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not."
Here, God threatened evil; but when the people repented he altered his course regarding them.
In like manner, when God promised good and the people do evil he repents, that is, he changes his mind regarding the good that he had promised.
That is characteristic of God's promises throughout the whole Bible.
Look at Ezekiel 18:19 -
“Yet say ye? Why? doth not the Son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that s:inneth. it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will tum from all his sins that he hath commited, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Now, notice verse 24: "But when the righteous tumeth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, shall he die."
Is it not plain, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity ... and he dies in his trespass that he hath trespassed and in the sin that he hath sinned, shall he die!
For now, we are not considering what happens to the good man. The faithful child of God. We all agree that he will go to heaven. We are discussing the person who turns away from God, forsakes him and dies in this forsaken condition.
What does Ezekiel say of him? For the iniquity that he hath done and for the trespasses that he hath trespassed, shall he die!
Now, this “death” is not physical death either. One will die physically, whether he is righteous or wicked. The death under consideration here is spiritual death. The soul that sinneth – that is, the righteous man who turns away from his former righteousness and starts living in sin- he shall die spiritually!
So what are we saying? Simply this; yes a person must believe and obey God in order to be saved, but also, man has the ability to “forget” God and do his own will.
For instance, John 17:3 says: to know God is eternal life: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
It is true, a person must know God in order to receive eternal life.
However, it is possible to forget God. Israel did. God’s chosen people left God out of their lives for a long time. Notice what Jeremiah says:
"Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number'' (Jer. 2:32).
But the question must then be asked; what happens to those who forget Him?
Those who forget or lose their faith in God. Notice the words of the Psalmist.
"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Psa. 9: 17).
I might or might not like that, but whether or not I like it, it is God’s Word, not mine.
Yes, we must know God to be saved. It is possible to forget Him. Those who forget Him shall be, according to scripture, turned into hell. It follows, therefore, that some of God's people will spend eternity in hell. Why? Because God doesn’t love them? No. Because they didn’t love God enough to obey throughout their lives.
Also, today let us make another statement about salvation. Only those who are born again are in the kingdom. Jesus said, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3: 5).
It follows then, that all those who are born again are in the kingdom. And so, to be in the kingdom is to be born again. But there are those in the kingdom who will be lost: I know that because that is what Jesus said. Notice Matthew 13:41 he says: "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Mt. 13:41, 42).
And so it is then, that some who have been born again will be lost.
Also, as we continue to teach the truth about this thing called “perseverance of the saints,” and we hold it up to the light of God’s Word, let us notice something else.
It is the Lord's people who have their names written in the book of life. Paul writes in Philippians 4:3:
"And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life" (Phil. 4:3).
Yet it is just as clear from scripture that some people will have their names blotted out: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Ex. 32:33).
Unfortunately for those who are not in the book, they will be cast into the Lake of Fire: "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20: 15).
Now let's notice a few things here:
First, God's people are in the book. Second, Sin will cause them to be blotted out. Then third, if they are not found in the book they shall be cast into the fire. Now that is absolutely clear.
Well, someone says, does Jesus have anything to say about this idea? I’m glad you asked. Turn over to the book of Luke 12:41
Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom the Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink and to be drunken; the Lord of that servant will come in a day when be looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
Now let us notice some things about my master's words: he says:
First, The individual here is called a servant.
Second, assuming that his Lord delayed his coming, he began to conduct himself in a fashion unbecoming of a faithful servant; to engage in fights and become drunk.
Third, the Lord's coming was at a time when he didn’t expect it.
Fourth, seeing the improper conduct of the servant he cuts him asunder. And then, He appoints him his portion with the unbelievers.
Now, What is the portion of unbelievers? Unbelievers will, go to hell, according to 2 Thes.1: 7-10. And so, to have one's portion with the unbelievers is to share in their destiny. That destiny is eternal condemnation.
Remember at the beginning of the lesson when we mentioned how that a Calvinist preacher said, that God would not let a person who was “chosen” to die in a drunken state. Well, friend, Jesus said that he would.
And so I ask, who will you believe?
Folks, this scripture establishes the fact that some will, through improper conduct, be "cut asunder" and have "their portion with unbelievers." It is, therefore, possible for a child of God to so act as finally to be lost in hell.
That is not my word, that is the word of God.
The Bible plainly shows the possibility of apostasy:
Again, listen to the words of Paul, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of ye are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4)
Now I will gladly admit to you that you cannot fall from a place where you've never been. For instance, I cannot possibly fall from the wall of China. Why? Because I am not currently on that wall and I NEVER have been on that wall. It would be impossible for me to fall from that wall.
But a Christian, a child of God, is walking with God, he is in the grace covenant with God. But, he can, according to the Bible fall from that state of grace by disobeying and thereby dying in his sin.
Let us consider another statement by inspired Peter. He is in the middle of a discourse on false teachers who at one time were faithful followers of God. Notice what he says in 2 Peter 2:20
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
Here is Peter and he says, these false teachers at one time were living and teaching truth. They had escaped the pollutions of the world. They did so through the knowledge ( this is an intimate aquantance with) of Jesus Christ.
Notice again: after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
Now some of these Calvinists will say, “well—the truth is they never got out of the world to begin with.” But, that’s not what Peter said, - he said, “they are again entangled…”
Folks you can’t get into something again unless you first get out of it.
They were Christians- free from the world. If there were never another word said in scripture about the possibility of someone falling away, this scripture would be enough.
Those who say once you are saved you are always saved have to deny this passage.
Now I want to know if a person escapes the pollutions of the world, what is that person? He is a Christian, set free by Jesus’ blood.
And now he says, they are entangled with the world again, and overcome. He is still talking about Christians. People who were at one time saved.
Then he says, It is worse for them than when they started.
Now some Calvinist says – “well, he is saying if—but, it’s too bad it is just not possible.”
That is not what the verse says, the “if” here means what it means in other places in scripture, “Inasmuch as.”
In as much as they had escaped—
He wasn’t saying if they had – no --- he is saying in as much as they already had escaped the world, and now they are overcome.
Now see the word “worse” – look at Heb 10:26-29
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:26)
The same word in 2 Pet 2:20 is Worse, is here used as sorer. It is sorer. It is more severely bad.
Folks, could someone tell me how, if it is impossible for a child of God to sin to lose his soul in hell, you tell me how it is that it can be worse with the child of God, than it is with the one who never has become the child of God.
If he is a child of God and you say he can’t be lost, that means he is saved and will spend eternity in heaven. If he has never been saved, he is lost and never being saved will spend eternity in hell,
If that is your logic, please tell me how is it possible that it is worse to be saved than to be lost.
But you and I know the Truth and that is that people can after they become Christians lose their souls.
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. (2Pet. 2:21)
Now he makes his argument even stronger.
Folks , those who are completely ignorant of the gospel, are better off, than the child of God, who knows it and turns his back on it. Now someone says you mean there is going to be degrees of reward and punishment?
I believe there will be degrees of punishment. I don’t think I believe in degrees of reward.
There are other passages that teach the same.
But, here is the point. Yes all will be lost who do not obey. But, if you know what to do to be saved and you don’t do it can you imagine sitting in torment for eternity knowing you could have done that which is right and you refused,and now this is your lot, forever.
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2:22)
Now one of these proverbs can be found in Prov 26:11- the other may have been a saying that had been handed down, orally.
But the point is clear; here is the child of God,he has cleansed himself, he is free and he is living right.
Now, these false teachers, who once were free, once were clean, once were in the grace of God now have returned to their old ways. The picture is disgusting like a sow washed clean, he turns right back and goes to the mud. The dog eats a big mealand then pukes it up. He looks around and then starts licking it up again.
That is the child of God who obeys and then turns his back on following God.
And the text is clear Peter says:
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. (2Pe 2:21)