|PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINTS|
1. Total Depravity
(Read Romans, the Third Chapter)
We must start here. He who is right on this doctrine has a good start on knowing other doctrines. He who is wrong here is bound to be wrong on every other doctrine.
The Definition of the Doctrine
The word depraved comes to us from the Latin language by medium of the French (Desk Standard Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls). De means thoroughly; pravus, crooked.
We mean by this doctrine, therefore, that man is thoroughly crooked, wicked, and sinful by nature in himself, and by position before God. This corrupt nature he received in Adam's fall into sin, and from Adam, and is evidenced in every man's choice and practice of sin, in which he is like Adam.
What Total Depravity is Not
Lest we be misunderstood or misrepresented, it is important that we state, first of all, what we do not mean by total depravity.
First, we do not mean that man does not have a conscience.
After Adam sinned he hid himself from Jehovah God (Gen. 3:8). Adam would not have done this had he not had a guilty conscience. Likewise, though totally depraved, the accusers of the adulterous woman were "convicted by their own conscience" as Christ wrote on the ground and challenged the sinless one to cast the first stone (John 8:9).
Secondly, we do not mean that the unregenerate may not perform outward works of charity and moral goodness.
However, the unsaved cannot and will not do these works for the glory of God, but for selfish reasons.
"He bringeth forth fruit unto himself" (Hos. 10:1).
"A ruined temple may have beautiful fragments of fluted columns, but it is no proper habitation for the god for whose worship it was built" (A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 638).
Thirdly, we do not mean that the sinner performs all the wickedness he is capable of doing.
This is often misconstrued by those who disagree with us. It is most important that we be understood here. Get this: It is not strictly what the sinner does, but what he is. The Pharisees did not omit tithing mint, anise, and cummin (Matt. 23:23), and of all that they possessed (Luke 18:12), though they omitted the weightier matters of the law as judgment, mercy and faith.
What Total Depravity Is
Let us now note what we do mean by total depravity.
First, that the sinner lacks love to God.
Christ said to unbelievers: "But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you" (John 5:42). The Christless may have a "form of godliness" (outward religion), but they are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" 2 Timothy 3:4 (A.S.V.). Instead of love to God, the unsaved are enmity to God! "Because the mind of the flesh" (and every unregenerate person "is flesh" John 3:6) "is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be" (Rom. 8:7, American Standard Version). The mind of the flesh is "enmity to God It is not only an enemy, but enmity itself An enemy may be reconciled, but enmity cannot." (Matthew Henry, Commentary, Vol. VI, p. 416.)
"God is Light" (1 John 1:5). The natural man loves "darkness rather than light" (John 3:19).
Secondly, that though the sinner possesses all moral faculties yet he is disordered and defiled in every faculty.
"Even their mind and conscience is defiled" (Titus 1:15).
"The inability has its ground, not in the want of any faculty, but in the corrupt moral state of the faculties" (A. A. Hodge, Outline of Theology, p. 342).
"The depravity which sin has produced in human nature extends to the whole of it. There is no part of man's nature which is unaffected by it. Man's nature is all of a piece and what affects it at all affects it altogether. When the conscience is violated by disobedience to the will of God, the moral understanding is darkened, and the will is enfeebled. We are not constituted in water-tight compartments, one of which might be ruined while the others remained intact" (Denney's Studies in Theology, p. 83).
A drop of ink in a glass of water discolors the whole. Therefore even an apostle must say: "I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing " (Rom. 7:18). The whole of the old nature is affected.
The Declaration of Scripture
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." This gives us man's position before God.
"There is none that understandeth." Here is the natural man's perception. He has none.
"There is none that seeketh after God." Here is his pursuit after God. In himself it does not exist.
"They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one." Here is the natural man's practice laid before us as God sees it (Rom. 3:10-12).
By position and practice, man is rotten to the core, in God's sight. "Cloth is first dyed in the wool, and then dyed again after the weaving. Man is a 'double-dyed villain.' He is corrupted by nature and afterwards by practise" (A. H. Strong, Ibid., p. 579).
The sinner is beyond the reach of cultivation: "there is none righteous, no, not one." You cannot cultivate a rotten apple into a good one.
He is beyond the reach of education: "there is none that understandeth."
He is beyond the reach of inspiration: "there is none that seeketh after God." Inspiring music and preaching, apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, means nothing.
He is beyond the reach of occupation: "there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Inviting him to sing in the choir, inducting him into an office in the church will not make him a lover of God.
Every man "by nature" is a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), a child of the Devil (Matt. 13:38; John 8:44), drinks iniquity like water (Job 15:16), is depraved in mind (Eph. 4:17), blinded in heart (Eph. 4:18), cannot hear the words of Christ (John 8:43-44), cannot know the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14), cannot please God (Rom. 8:8), a slave to Satan (2 Tim. 2:26). The very center of man is obnoxious to a Holy God, who says of man: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9). Be assured from sacred Writ that every single person is totally depraved. "There is no difference" (Rom. 3:22-23).
The Damage Resultant
Since man is totally depraved he is totally deprived of all ability to please God. This is seen in that the sinner is:
Spiritually dead. He is "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). A dead person cannot do anything in the realm in which he is dead, and the sinner is spiritually dead to God. Thus he cannot repent of his sin, believe the Gospel, come to Jesus Christ, nor live for Him. We agree with C. H. Little, when he writes "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him" (Lutheran Confessional Theology, p. 12).
Secondly, the sinner is defiled. He is defiled in heart and mind. In the days of Noah "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). Have sinners improved since then? The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul says of the unbelievers in this age, that they have "the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them" (Eph. 4:18).
"No man knoweth the Son, but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matt. 11:27).
Thirdly, the sinner is disabled. He cannot save himself, and will not turn to Christ for salvation until he is born again by the Spirit of God. (John 1:13, 6:63).
"But, what of man's free will? Can he not will to come to Christ?"
Christ answers: "Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life" (John 5:40). Man's will is motivated and controlled by his nature (Eph. 2:3). He is free to turn to Christ, but not able. I am free to make a million dollars, but so far it seems that I am not able. Turning to Christ is a spiritual act, and the sinner is spiritually dead.
"There is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11).
"Whosoever will" may come! (Rev. 22:17). But none will, "except the Father draw" them (John 6:44). "Ye would not" (Matt. 23:37).
Do we not read, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve?" We do, in Joshua 24:15, but please read the whole verse! Notice, first, that it is addressed to those to whom it seemed evil, or worthless to "serve the Lord." Will you continue to apply this to yourself? Then, secondly, the choice is not between choosing the Lord and the Devil, or the world, or something else. The choice is now between the gods on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites! It seems evil to serve the Lord. Now choose which god ye will serve. You had better hear Christ in John 15:16.
It may be protested that man is not responsible for his sin.
Let us try such reasoning with the laws of our land. Why should a man be sentenced to prison for drunkenness when he is an addicted drinker, and cannot help it? Here is another man who cannot stop stealing. Here is another who has such a temper that he has murdered several people. He cannot help it. Are these men no longer responsible to obey the civil laws because of their inability? No, in no wise. Shall we ask God to do that which our own sense of justice refuses? To despise the laws of the land does not excuse us from the responsibility to obey them. Inability does not do away with responsibility. I am responsible to pay my debts, whether I am able or not. The sinner is responsible to keep the moral law of God, though he is unable. (1 Tim. 1:8-11). The Christian is responsible to live without sin (1 John 2:1), though unable (Rom. 7:15-25). The plea, "I am not able, therefore, not responsible," depends "on how the inability arose. If it is a created inability (the fault lies with the Creator), then there can be no obligation (on man's part). But if acquired, the obligation remains" (David S. Clark), A Syllabus of Systematic Theology, p. 213).
It was acquired from father Adam, and is embraced by all his race (Rom. 5:12-21). But the doctrine of imputation is another doctrine in itself, and deserves separate treatment.
"God did enough inn making man upright, and if he hath lost his uprightness, he must thank himself, and not blame God, who is not bound to restore it. Grace is God's own. He giveth it to whom He will" (Christopher Ness, An Antidote Against Arminianism, p. 84).
It follows then that the salvation of the sinner is wholly and solely of grace, Dei Gratia!
"God is free in consistency with the intimate perfection of His nature to save none, few, many or all, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will" (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 71).
God chose a certain number (though innumerable to man Rev. 7:9) to be saved, and the choice is an eternal one, made before the foundation of the world (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:4-5).
The Son of God came and took their sins upon Himself (1 Peter 2:24) and died for their sins (1 Cor. 15:3), and for them (Rom. 5:8).
In God's time (Gal. 1:15-16) the Holy Spirit comes and gives the new birth (John 1:13, 6:63) and eternal life to these dead sinners (John 3:1-16), by the sovereign will of Christ (John 5:21), God working in them "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
Thus Christ comes to live in their hearts (Eph. 3:17) and they are born of God: not by their own will, but by the will of God (John 1:12-13).
The assurance that this has happened to you, dear reader, is that you once found yourself sincerely troubled and burdened with your sins and your lost condition, thus seeing your great need of Jesus Christ as your own personal Saviour; you then were graciously led to believe in the Lord Jesus alone for eternal salvation, and you now know that you "have passed out of death into life" (John 5:24, American Standard Version).
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God " (1 John 5:1).
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2. Unconditional Election
(Read Ephesians, the First Chapter)
"It has been well said that in the doctrine of election a theologian takes his final examination" (Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 503).
Man is totally depraved, and therefore deprived of any good toward God. That we have seen in the previous chapter. If any man is to be saved, then God Himself must choose to save that man. That very thing God has done, as we shall show in this chapter. How He has done it we shall show in the next three chapters.
"If the doctrine of Total Inability (Depravity) or Original Sin be admitted, the doctrine of Unconditional Election follows by the most inescapable logic. If, as the Scriptures and experience tell us, all men are by nature in a state of guilt and depravity from which they are wholly unable to deliver themselves and have no claim whatever on God for deliverance, it follows that if any are saved God must choose out those who shall be the objects of His grace" (Loraine Boettner, p. 95, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination).
The Examination of Unconditional Election
What Unconditional Election Is
The word elect comes from the Latin electus, from eligo (e, out, with lego, choose to choose out). Literally it signifies to pick out, choose, to gather out (Desk Standard Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls; W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. II, p. 21).
Unconditional means: Not to be limited to any conditions, or prerequisites whatsoever.
We mean, therefore, by this doctrine, that God, in eternity, chose or picked out of mankind whom He would save (by means of Christ's death and the work of the Holy Spirit), for no other reason that His own wise, just, and gracious purpose.
What Unconditional Election Is Not
(1) By unconditional election we do not mean that man elects God, or elects to be saved (to illustrate, here is a much quoted blunder: God casts His vote, the Devil casts his, the score is tied now, one to one; whichever way you cast your vote is the deciding factor). But God alone does the electing.
"According as He (God) hath chosen us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world." (Eph. 1:4).
"Ye have not chosen Me, but I," says the Savior, "have chosen you." (John 15:16).
The word elect (eklektos) comes from this word (eklegomai) translated chosen here. God chooses, or elects, not man.
(2) Nor do we mean that God elects the sinner in time or at the time when the sinner receives Christ as his Savior.
God chose a number in Christ "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4), before the elect ever existed. God has always chosen His elect in Christ, for God is perfect and immutable (Mal. 3:6), and need not add to His knowledge or think new thoughts or make sudden changes or choices.
(3) Neither do we mean that God elected all men without exception to salvation.
If this notion be so, many whom God elected were and are not saved, despite the election. God, then, is a failure and defeated and frustrated. Then Noel Smith of Springfield, Missouri, is correct when he says: "What is hell? I tell you, and I say it with profound reverence, hell is a ghastly monument to the failure of the Triune God to save the multitudes who are there. I say it reverently, I say it with every nerve in my body tense: sinners go to hell because God Almighty Himself could not save them! He did all He could. He failed" (Defender Magazine).
But this is not true. It is blasphemy. "He shall not fail" (Isa. 42:4). God does as He pleases (Ps. 115:3). He calls whom He purposed to save; and whom He purposed to save, and whom He calls, He foreknew; and whom He foreknew, He predestinated; whom He predestinated, He calls; whom He calls, He justifies; whom He justifies, He glorifies (Rom. 8:20-39). Note the word whom in this reference. If God elected all men without exception to be saved, all would have the experience of the effectual call be justified, and glorified! For all (and no others) whom God purposes to save and predestinates, will ultimately be glorified. Every one of them!
(4) We do not mean, either, that God only elects some to Christian service, and not to salvation! (as taught, for instance, by Edward Drew, in his published Studies in the Gospel According to John, Sunday, April 8, 1945).
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation"! (2 Thess. 2:13).
(5) We do not mean merely that God elected to save all who would believe in His Son.
This is the notion that God elected a plan and not persons. God appointed persons to believe. "God hath chosen you to salvation through belief of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13). See Acts 13:48.
(6) We do not infer that God does not use means, as we shall seek to prove in the next three chapters (but see for now, 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1:21; 4:15).
(7) We do not mean that God elects men because of His foresight or prescience of their repentance, faith or good works on their part.
"Whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate" (Rom. 8:29), and "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God" (1 Pet. 1:2), mean not a foreknowledge about people (which is what this view amounts to), but a foreknowledge of people! Christ will say to the wicked: "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:23), though He certainly knew about them.
Rom 8:29 doesn't make the faith of the elect, but the elect themselves objects of the foreknowledge of God. To change this to suit a theory is to tamper with sacred truth and dangerous in the light of Rev. 22:18-19. (Fred Kramer The Abiding Word, Vol. I, p. 528).
(8) Nor do we mean that God merely elects nations or races, and not individuals to salvation.
To Jeremiah, Jehovah said: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. 1:5). Personal election.
Again, "When it pleased God" says Paul, "to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. 1:15-16). Personal election.
Are not all of the elect made up of individuals, "even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles" (Rom. 9:24)?
The Evidence of Unconditional Election
(1) In the Word of God.
That the sacred Scriptures teach election is plain to all who read them. Here are but a few references:
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Rom. 8:33).
"Shall not God avenge His own elect?" (Luke 18:7).
"The faith of God's elect" (Titus 1:1)
"Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God (1 Thess. 1:4).
As Charles H. Spurgeon wrote: "If the people are called elect, there must be election" (Election, Vol. II, Mem. Library).
(2) in the Ways of God.
In the Old Testament, Jehovah called Abel, the younger, while Cain, the elder, was passed by (Gen. 4:1-5).
Ham and Japheth are ignored, while Shem, the youngest, is selected for the line from which Messiah was to come. (Gen. 9:24-27).
To Abram, the junior, not to Nahor, the senior brother, is given the inheritance of Canaan (Gen. 11:22-12:9).
Ishmael, the firstborn, is cast out unblessed, while Isaac, the child of his parents' old age, is blessed (Gen. 21:1-21).
Esau, the generous-hearted and forgiving-spirited, is denied the blessing, though he sought it carefully with tears (Heb. 12:16-17), while Jacob, the treacherous, underhand schemer, is fashioned into a vessel of honor (Gen. 27).
Though the eleventh son, Joseph is the one who receives the double portion (Gen. 48:22; 49:22-26).
When Jacob, guided by God, is blessing Joseph's sons, Ephraim, the younger, is preferred before Manasseh, the elder (Gen. 48). And these examples are taken only from the first book of the Bible! (A. W. Pink, The Doctrine of Election, p. 9).
In the Old Testament, Jehovah had His elect nation, Israel (Isa. 45:4), which was chosen, not because they were a large nation (they were the fewest in number), or because they were moral or spiritual above their fellows (read Moses' testimony of them, Deut. 9:24), but because the Lord loved them (Deut. 7:6-8). The many Gentile nations were passed by, except for a remnant (as Ruth the Moabitess, Ruth 2:12, and Naaman, the Syrian, 2 Kings 5:1-19).
That God elects cannot be denied from history. Read Acts 16:6-12, and tell me why the Gospel came to Europe and not to Asia? Why was one nation passed by and not another? Why were some angels permitted to fall (Jude 6) while other angels were elect? (1 Tim. 5:21).
In our own day, and every day, why are some born rich, others poor, some sickly, others vigorous with health, some with brown skin, others with white, some handsome or beautiful, others ugly or common? The answer is only one of two: either God, or Blind Fate.
The Effect of Unconditional Election
While this will be covered more fully in the last two chapters in this booklet under the subject of irresistible grace (in which by sovereign grace Jesus Christ promises "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me." (John 6:37) and under the perseverance, or preservation of the saints (of which Christ promises that His "sheep" shall "never perish" John 10:27-30), suffice it to add the following thoughts:
(1) It magnifies the sovereignty of God. It gives glory to God.
(2) It sets forth God as God.
The Arminian's God is too small. He can be kicked around like a dog, as men please. Calvinism presents God, not as a dog, but as the Despot! A despot is an absolute monarch; autocrat, a "hard master" (so He appears to the unregenerate Matt. 25:24); "tyrant". The word is from the Greek language: despotes (Desk Standard Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls). This word occurs in the New Testament. "Lord, Thou art God!" the early Church prayed (Acts 4:24). The word for Lord here is Despotes, or Despot. It occurs again in Luke 2:29, 2 Pet. 2:1 and Rev. 6:10. It magnifies God's greatness.
(3) It also magnifies God's grace.
After telling us how we are elected and predestinated, the Holy Spirit says it is "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:4-6). Christ loves His own (John 13:1), though they are or were by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), of the Devil (John 8:44), being enmity itself to God (John 3:6 and Rom. 8:7-8) desperately wicked in heart (Jer. 17:9), enemies to God (Rom. 5:10) yet Christ loves them and dies for them (Rom. 5:8), and makes them new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17-18), washing all of their filth, in God's sight, away forever (1 John 1:7)! Is that not grace?
Unconditional election manifests the salvation of sinners. It shows grace to the guilty.
It says that God brings salvation. M. R. DeHaan (Election and Predestination and the Free Will of Man, p. 5) confuses matters when he writes: "Why did He (God) purpose to save us after all? Now I know that there are some who would say, to save us from hell, which of course is wrong. Others would say, to take us to heaven when we die, but this again is wrong" This is not wrong! True, that He elected us for more than this, as DeHaan goes on to state, but He also elected us to save us from hell and for heaven. "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation!" (2 Thess. 2:13). Is that not a goodly part of your salvation? Salvation includes glorification in Heaven as well as calling, justification and sanctification in this life.
Therefore, "the election" in Israel have and will obtain the salvation of God (Rom. 11:5-7); to this saved Israel of God are being added the elect Gentiles (Rom. 11:17-27). Being predestinated, they are called (Rom. 8:29-30) and quickened (made alive) from spiritual death by the will of Christ (John 5:21). God works in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13) causing them to repent (2 Tim. 2:25, giving them repentance, and to believe (giving them faith 1 Cor. 3:5, Eph. 2:8) of which He is Author and Finisher, (Heb. 12:2). Their ordination to life brings saving belief with it (Acts 13:48). How different DeHaan (Ibid., p. 14): "The election is the part which God has already done, believing is the part which man must do himself"! "As though the Scripture taught that we are only given an ability to believe, and not faith itself (John Calvin, Institutes, Vol II, p. 220).
(5) Election makes salvation sure.
No charge can be brought against the elect to condemnation; for, seeing that they are the elect, Christ died for them, rose from death, and prays for them (Rom. 8:33-34). They are holy because they are chosen to holiness (Eph. 1:4). They are full of good works because they have been ordained tosuch works (Eph. 2:8-10). They are obedient because they have been elected and appointed to obedience (1 Pet. 1:2). It is not that they possessed any holiness, good works, or obedience which was foreseen by God and hence brought their election. The very opposite: it was their eternal election which brought these virtues (God-given 1 Cor. 15:10) to them. To teach otherwise is to mangle the Word of God. Let us not be guilty of putting effects before causes.
(6) Unconditional election no less teaches that God works sanctification in His elect.
If we are elect we should wear the proper uniform. "Put on therefore, as elect of God, holy and beloved " bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, wear the fine cloth of forbearance and forgiveness to others, and over all, the warm coat of love (1 Cor. 13); live in peace from God, while Christ's Word lives in you filling you with heavenly hymns, doing only that which you can do in Christ's name with thanksgiving (Col. 3:12-17).
God's elect cry day and night to God (Luke 18:7). There is no fatalism here, no "I can live as I please, if I am elect I am elect, etc." We are to give diligence to make our calling and election sure (to ourselves and others) by expressing the Christian graces enumerated in verses 4 to 8 of this same chapter. In this there will be a separation from worldliness (in the sense of 1 John 2:15-17). "I have chosen you," Christ declares to His disciples, "out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).
The Extent of Unconditional Election
In salvation, it extends only to those who believe in Christ.
(But believing doesn't cause election, it only manifests that one is elect 1 Thess. 1:4, 5; Acts 13:48).
They are all chose of God (Mark 13:20), and shall be gathered to Christ at His second coming (ver. 27). They shall all come to Christ (John 6:37).
Why does not God elect all without exception to salvation? Why should He? He owes us nothing. "The marvel of marvels is, not that God, in His infinite love and justice, has not elected all of this guilty race to be saved, but that He has elected any" (Loraine Boettner, Ibid., p. 96). The only answer is, "even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight" (Matt. 11:25-27). Who are we to dare argue against it? (Rom. 9:18-20). "Is it not lawful," the Creator asks, "for Me to do what I will with Mine own?" (Matt. 20:15).
Where there is election of some, there is, by logic, a rejection of others. By choosing some of Adam's race to salvation, God does not choose others. "Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid" (Rom. 9:14).
"All can see that a governor, by pardoning some men, does not harm others who are not pardoned. Those who are not pardoned are not in prison because the governor refused them a pardon, but because they were guilty of crime against the state" (C. D. Cole, pp. 13-14, The Bible Doctrine of Election).
"Election is not the cause of anybody going to hell, for election is unto salvation" (Ibid., p. 4).
"But does this not make God a respecter of persons?" one may ask (in opposition to Rom. 2:11). "When the Scriptures tell us that God is not a respecter of persons they mean that His dealings with men are not determined by the outward differences of race, wealth, social position, or any such thing. This the Scripture distinctly intimates. See 2 Sam. 14:14; Acts 10:34; 1 Pet. 1:17. To have respect of persons is to make a difference between the equally deserving. But it involves no respect of persons to make a difference between the wholly ill-deserving" (Thomas Paul Simmons, The Bible Doctrine of Election, p. 59).
That God is no respecter of persons in choosing some to eternal life can be readily observed by reading 1 Cor. 1:26-31.
There is this great difference in the election of the saved and the rejection of the rest of men. In electing the saved God encounters them and regenerates them according to His own sovereign will (John 1:13; Jas. 1:18), apart from their will (Rom. 9:16-18). A Divine interference! He imparts all the needed provisions of their salvation (Eph. 1:13) in Christ. In the rejection of the rest of mankind we have no such encounter.
Yet there is a deeper mystery about it. If God does not will the existence (and therefore the deserved punishment) of the reprobate, or the non-elect, why does He permit it? Such Scriptures as Prov. 16:4; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; 2 Pet. 2:12; Rev. 17:17 should be studied and believed. "Let us not hesitate to say with Augustine," remarks John Calvin, "God could convert to good the will of the wicked, because He is omnipotent. It is evident that He could. Why, then does He not? Because He would not. Why He would not remains with Himself" (Institutes, Vol. II, p. 233).
" 'Well, but,' some say, 'does this leave the creatures nothing to do?' I reply: 'Pray, what can you do? Suppose I were to tell you, it is only to weep over your sins that is left to you; can you create a tear? You can neither create nor restrain one. Suppose I say, it is only to pray: can you create the spirit of prayer?" (Joseph Irons, The Standard of Orthodoxy, pp. 16-17). Can you repent? believe? suddenly love Christ? It is not in you. (1 Cor. 4:7).
"But there are some who say, 'It is hard for God to choose some and leave others.' Now I will ask you one question. Is there any one of you who wishes to be holy, who wishes to be regenerate, to leave off sin and walk in holiness? 'Yes, there is,' says some one, 'I do.' Then God has elected you. But another says, 'No; I don't want to be holy; I don't want to give up my lusts and my vices.' Why should you grumble, then, that God has not elected you to it? For if you were elected you would not like it, according to your own confession" (Charles H. Spurgeon, Election, New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. I, p. 316).
Beloved reader, remember this if you remember or understand nothing else written within these pages: God never refuses mercy to those who sincerely desire it! Christ not only says: "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me," but He adds, "and him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). If the first part of this verse is a mystery to you, the last part need not be. It is certain that you do not know if the Father gave you to Christ in eternity or not, but you can know that He did if you come to Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:4-10). He will surely receive you! You have His gracious promise for that. Will you come to Him now? The Holy Spirit grant it! Amen.
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3. Limited Atonement
(Read Romans the Fifth Chapter)
Do you, my reader, believe that Jesus Christ died for the sins of all men without exception? Perhaps many who read this will answer, Yes. I then ask you, Why are not all men without exception saved? You will probably reply, Because they do not believe in Jesus Christ.
But, I say to you, if Christ died for the sins of all men He died for their unbelief, for that is part of their sins, and they will be saved nevertheless! If Christ truly died for their sins, they will not need to die for them.
There are only three answers that can be given to this problem.
First, believing that Christ died for the sins of all men without exception, you must believe that all men will be saved. This is the Universalist view, or at least this was the view with which the Universalist Church began under John Murray (about 1770, Vergilius Ferm, A Protestant Dictionary, pp. 266-267). This is consistent and logical with this view of the atonement, or death of Christ. However, it is not true. The Son of God tells us that "many" march the broad way that leads to "destruction" (Matt. 7:21-23); that "many" will hear Christ say in the day of judgment: "I never knew you, depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire" (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:41). Christ could not have died for the sins of those who die in their sins (John 8:24).
Secondly, those who hold the view that Christ died for the sins of all men and reject the Universalist view, claim that He died for all the sins of men except unbelief! This was held by the late Lewis Sperry Chafer, President of Dallas Theological Seminary (in his book, True Evangelism, pp. 34, 64). Then Christ did not die for all of our sins after all. Only for some of them! He never died for our unbelief. Of course the implication is that if we repent of our unbelief and believe on Christ we are no longer guilty of unbelief! Our unbelief has vanished. But "God requireth that which is past" (Ecc. 3:15), and the fact that we now believe, does not overlook the fact that we were for many years guilty of unbelief, and that sin has never been dealt with by Christ's death. Then we are all lost, from the least to the greatest, for we are still guilty of our old unbelief in Christ. Christ never died for that sin. It has never been atoned for. How better the view of 1 Corinthians 15:3, "Christ died for our sins" (all of them!); also 1 John 1:7, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." This second view cannot be right.
Thirdly, that Christ died for all the sins of all the elect. He laid down His life for the "sheep" (John 10:15); for His friends (John 15:13-14); He gave Himself for the "church" (Eph. 5:25); as a ransom for the "many" (Mark 10:45). These distinctions are not necessary if Christ died for all men without exception, and are meaningless. They make sense only when a limited atonement of Christ is upheld. This view we embrace and now set before you.
The Position of a Limited Atonement
"It will be seen at once that this doctrine necessarily follows from the doctrine of election. 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. These two doctrines must stand or fall together" (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 151).
We do not deny that many blessings have come into the world of the unbelievers because of Christ's passionate death on the cross. "The atonement of Christ secures for all men a delay in the execution of the sentence against sin together with a continuance of the common blessings of life which have been forfeited by transgression. If strict justice had been executed, the race would have been cut off at the first sin. That man lives after sinning, is due wholly to the Cross" (Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 772). In this aspect, God is the Saviour (Preserver) of all men (1 Tim. 4:10). In this manner, Christ's death brings benefit to all men.
By the limited atonement of Christ we must refuse the theory of Emery H. Bancroft (Elemental Theology, p. 123) that Christ as the Lamb of God in taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29), merely took away the "guilt which attaches itself to the world or human race through the sin of Adam ," and that "no member of the human race is lost because of the guilt of Adam's sin, for that guilt was completely and perfectly removed by the death of Christ."
But if that means "Adamic sin" and it was taken away by the Lamb of God so that no member of the human race is guilty of it, how is it dying Stephen prayed for his murderers, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60, same Greek word, hamartia); that the Gentiles (or nations) are all under sin (Rom. 3:9, same word); that the believer is bidden not to continue in sin (Rom. 6:1, same word), nor to let sin (Rom. 6:12, same word) reign in his body; and that the "wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23, same word).
It does not appear as if this sin has been removed, either in its guilt among the Gentiles who know not God, or even in its influence among Christians! Again, if Christ took away the guilt of the Adamic sin what about our other sins? They are but the fruits of Adam's first sin. The guilt and depravity of that first sin extends from root to branch to fruit. If the Adamic sin is removed, then so are all the consequences brought about by that sin. But if Christ only took away the Adamic sin, then how are our other sins atoned for?
The Proof of a Limited Atonement
From the Record of Sacred Scripture
"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). Who "us" refers to is seen in verse 11: "many He shall bear their iniquities." Also verse 12, "He bare the sin of many."
"The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28).
The blood of the new covenant was "shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28).
"So Christ was once offered to bear the sin of many" (Heb. 9:28).
"Who gave himself for us." Whom? The redeemed (Titus 2:14).
"The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
"Jesus himself limited the purpose of his death when he said: 'I lay down my life for the sheep.' If, therefore, He laid down His life for the sheep, the atoning character of His work was not universal. On another occasion He said to the Pharisees, 'Ye are not my sheep' (John 10:26) Will anyone maintain that He laid down His life for these, seeing that He so pointedly excludes them?" (L. Boettner, Ibid., p. 156).
He purchased the "church of God with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
"Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8); God delivered up His Son "for us all" (Rom. 8:32). These references in Romans are addressed to the "called of Jesus Christ" (1:6), who are "saints" (1:7), who are "elect" (8:33).
"Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7). Again the reference is to the church of God and its sanctified members (1:2).
"Our Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins" (Gal. 1:4). (Written to the "churches" (1:2)).
In Christ "we have redemption through his blood" (Eph. 1:7). Written to the "chosen" and "predestinated" (verses 4 and 5).
Christ "His own self bare our sins" (1 Pet. 2:24). Written to the "elect" (1:2).
Christ "loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Rev. 1:5). Written to the "churches" (verse 4).
Be sure you do not read somebody else's mail! These promises are directed to the elect believers on Christ.
It is not wrong to reason in the light of God's Word! "Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord" (Isa. 1:18). Be no followers of Peter Damian or Tertullian when they say: "Since God has spoken to us it is no longer necessary for us to think!" (Anne Fremantle, The Age of Belief, p. 87).
"If Christ died for His sheep, His friends, and His church only, then He did not die for all (without exception) (John 10:11-15; John 15:13-14; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25) Seeing those for whom Christ died are such as 'hear His voice and follow Him,' to whom He gives 'eternal life' (John 10:27-28); such as He sanctifies and cleanses and presents to Himself 'without spot or wrinkle' (Eph. 5:27); and such as He hath 'redeemed from all iniquity, to purify them to Himself a peculiar people' (Titus 2:14) it cannot be intended for all unless we say that Pharaoh, Judas, etc., were of the sheep, friends, and church of Christ!" (Christopher Ness, An Antidote Against Arminianism, p. 57).
"Every assertion, therefore, that Christ died for a people, is a denial of the doctrine that He died equally for all men" (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, p. 549).
"Those for whom Christ's death was intended, to them it must be applied; but it is not applied to all, therefore it was not intended for all" (Christopher Ness, Ibid., p. 58).
We reason that the death of Jesus Christ was an actual substitution. A real transaction took place. "The sin of Adam did not make the condemnation of all men merely possible; it was the ground of their actual condemnation. So the righteousness of Christ did not make the salvation of men merely possible, it secured the actual salvation of those for whom He wrought" (Charles Hodge, Ibid., pp. 551-552).
Adam brings death to his own, Christ brings life to His own (1 Cor. 15:22).
Christ's work is not a hodge-podge, or a patch-quilt to cover anything, so that what one patch misses the other will cover. "Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints" (Rev. 15:3).
(1) Christ "loved" a certain people (and always loves them, Jer. 31:3, for that which God does once He does always, Ecc. 3:14, Heb. 13:8). "Having loved His own which were in the world " (John 13:1). He loves only them. His wrath is upon unbelievers! (John 3:36).
(2) Christ "called" this people to Himself. "My sheep hear My voice," said He (John 10:27). He calls no others.
(3) Christ "died" in the place of this chosen people. He laid down His life for the "sheep" (John 10:11). He died for no other. Christ paid a ransom for the elect. He gave His life a "ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
"The nature of a ransom is such that when paid and accepted it automatically frees the persons for whom it was intended" (L. Boettner, Ibid., p. 155).
That not all are free, but that many are in sin and Satan's bondage (John 8:32-36; 2 Tim. 2:26; 3:6) is evidence that Christ gave no ransom for them! Had he done so, they would be delivered. "God's justice demanded that Christ pay the exact penalty of the sins of those who are saved. His justice also demands that He save all whose penalty Christ paid" (Thomas Paul Simmons, A Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine, pp. 238-239).
That God does not save all, proves that Christ did not die for all. There is no disunity in the Godhead. "Whom the Father elects the Son redeems, and the Holy Ghost sanctifies That is evident from Scriptures (such as) John 5:23, which declares the Son must be honoured as equal with the Father; but, to say that the Son redeemed all, and the Father elected but few, is to give greater honour to the One than to the Other, and to make an inequality in Their operations" (Christopher Ness, Ibid., p. 53).
(4) Christ "arose" for the benefit of the elect. He "was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). Surely at least, my reader will not argue that Christ's resurrection is of equal blessing to the Christless, when Christ arose to be their Judge! (Acts 17:30-31).
(5) Christ ascended to intercede as "Mediator" (1 Tim. 2:5), "Priest" (Heb. 7:23-25), and "Advocate" (1 John 2:1-2) "for us" (Heb. 9:24, that is, the "many" of verse 28).
Now "who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:33-34).
"The close connection between the atonement and the intercessory work of Christ furnishes us another argument for a limited atonement. The atonement and the intercession are simply two integral parts of His priestly work, of which the latter is based on the former in such a way that the two are, from the nature of the case, equally restricted as far as their objects are concerned " (Louis Berkof, Vicarious Atonement Through Christ, p. 160).
"The benefit of Christ's death and intercession are of equal extent in their objects; but Christ intercedeth not for all" (Christopher Ness, Ibid., p. 55).
Christ says: "I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou has given Me" (John 17:9).
"Christ neither prays for it (the world outside of Christ), nor dies for it" (Matthew Henry, Comm., Vol. V, p. 1154). Of course both go together! But did not Christ pray for the wicked on the cross? "Father, forgive them!" (Luke 23:24). But here the prayer is either (1) "simply a prayer that the Father shall not place the sin of the crucifixion to the special account of those who were actually engaged in it, since they were doing it in ignorance. It forms no part of His official intercessory work" (Louis Berkhof, Ibid., pp. 159-160); or (2) Christ prays for the elect amongst them who would in time repent and turn to Christ.
"The services of a priest are solely for the redeemed people of God. There was no tabernacle, no priesthood, no sacrifice, no worship, in Egypt. These were ordained solely for a people redeemed by the blood of the paschal lamb" (Philip Mauro, God's Apostle and High Priest, pp. 80-81).
(6) Christ "comes again" to receive His own (John 14:3). The rest He will cast away in flame and fury (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
Beloved, not only is Christ's atonement limited in salvation to the elect, but all of His ministry.
The Power of a Limited Atonement
We are bold to say that the view of Christ dying only for the elect in a saving sense is the only sense that gives effectual power to His death. We insist that the death of Christ really saves all for whom it was intended. Otherwise the death of Christ was but a great gamble, a venture, but not necessarily a victory; making salvation "possible" for all men, but not really positive for any man. For all men might have (indeed would have, 1 Cor. 2:14) rejected the Redeemer and Christ would have saved no one by His death! We repeat, the Son died in the stead of all those whom the Father elected to salvation, and the Holy Spirit regenerates all those whom the Father elected, and for whom the Son died. The Father chose no other. The Son died for no other. The Holy Spirit regenerates no other. There is no division, no confusion, no lopsidedness in the Trinity.
If Christ's death is in reality a substitutionary, vicarious death it saves all for whom it was exercised and no other. "If Christ really died in the place of those who are saved, it follows that He died in the place only of those who are saved. Christ could not bear the sins of men without actually saving them" (Floyd E. Hamilton, The Reformed Faith in the Modern World, p. 22).
Christ actually bore the sins of those for whom He died in His own body on the tree, and by those stripes they were "healed" (1 Pet. 2:24), and they return unto the Shepherd and Biship of their souls (v. 25).
Christ "justified" them for whom He died (Rom. 5:9). "He shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:11). "This tells how Christ justifies men, that is, by bearing their iniquities. And note that this justification is not made to depend on anything else. If Christ had to bear men's iniquities to justify them, then it follows that those whose iniquities He bore must receive justification" (T. P. Simmons, Ibid., p. 240).
If He bore the sins of all men without exception, then all men shall be justified, which is not so in the experience of all; therefore, Christ did not bear the sins of all men, but only the elect. "The design of Christ in dying was to effect what He actually does effect in the result" (A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, p. 417).
Christ redeemed all those for whom He died (Eph. 1:7).
He "washed" them from their sins in His own blood (Rev. 1:5).
He reconciled them to God (Rom. 5:10), not imputing, or charging their sins to them but to Christ their Substitute (2 Cor. 5:19). To reconcile means to "restore to friendship," to "change from enmity to friendship." All for whom Christ died have been (or shall be) changed from enemies to friends of God. I need not tell you that this far from true with many. Therefore Christ died not for them.
The Problem of a Limited Atonement
(1) What about 2 Peter 2:1? False teachers shall be destroyed, who deny the Lord who "bought" them. Does this not teach universal redemption? Answer: "The 'false teachers' are described according to their own profession, not as they are in the eye of God. They claim to have been bought by the blood of Christ." They are so treated. By their heresies they deny the very Lord whom they say bought them (Wm. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. II, p. 481).
"The word in this passage for Lord is not 'kurios,' which is used either of God or of Christ; but it is 'despotes,' which is never used of Christ. Hence the reference here is to God. Peter wrote especially to Jews. Doubtless the false teachers were Jews also. And Deut. 32:6 explains how the Lord had bought them. God is here said to have bought the whole Jewish nation because He delivered them from Egypt" (T. P. Simmons, Ibid., p. 245).
(2) What about 1 Corinthians 8:11? "Shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" Answer: The perishing here refers to physical death. The believer cannot perish spiritually (John 3:16; 10:27-30). True the Greek word is used of spiritual death, but is is also used again and again of physical death. For the reason stated above it is physical death. In the following references the same word occurs and speaks of physical or material death: Matt. 5:29-30, members of the body perishing; Matt. 8:25, "Lord, save us, we perish" in the sea; Matt. 9:17, wine runs out and the bottles perish; Matt. 26:52, he who takes the sword shall perish with the sword; Luke 13:33, a prophet cannot perish outside Jerusalem; Luke 15:17, the prodigal son was perishing with hunger; Luke 21:18, the hair of the head perishing; John 11:50, the nation of Jerusalem perishing; Acts 8:20, "Thy money perish;" 2 Cor. 4:6, "Though our outward man perish"; Heb. 1:10-11, the heavens and the earth shall perish.
(3) What about the Scriptures declaring that Christ died for the world? Answer: The world of the elect, or believers is meant: Christ taketh away the sin of this world (John 1:29), the sin of the rest of the outer world "remaineth" (John 9:41); God loves this world (John 3:16), His wrath is upon the rest of the world (John 3:36); Christ saves this world (John 3:17); is the Saviour of this world (John 4:42), the rest of the world (here called "the whole world") lieth in wickedness (1 John 5:19); it is this world that will believe and know that God sent the Son (John 17:21, 23); it is this world that is reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:19); it is this world for which Christ is the propitiation (1 John 2:2); or Christopher Ness' argument may be better: "John wrote to the Jews, and ministered unto the circumcision (see Gal. 2:9), and he says unto them, 'Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,' that is, not for the Jews only, but for the Gentiles also" (Ibid., p. 65). Wm. G. T. Shedd thinks the Gentile world of believers is also meant in contrast to the Jews in John 3:16 (Ibid., p. 480). Notice that Christ is not merely offered as Saviour and propitiation, He is such (1 John 2:2; 4:14). He giveth life to this world (John 6:33). This is the world of the godly in contrast to the "world of the ungodly" (2 Peter 2:5).
(4) What about the Scriptures saying that Christ died for all men? Answer: 1 Tim. 2:6, Christ gave Himself a "ransom for all," cannot mean all men without exception, for all men would then be ransomed! Rather it means, all men without distinction, all classes of men (as in verses 1-2). If "all" must mean every man on the earth, how could Timothy offer prayers for every individual man ("for all men," v. 1)? The word must be limited.
(5) Hebrews 2:9 is also used against a limited atonement. Christ tasted death for "every man." The word "man" is not in the Greek, but just read the context: In verses 10 to 17 you will see that the writer is describing every man of God's "sons" (v. 10); Christ's "brethren" (v. 11); God's "children" (v. 13); "the seed of Abraham" (v. 16). If Christ tasted death for anyone else they would be saved and be in this number.
What good news all this is to the true believer, lover, and follower of Jesus Christ! Christ did take our sins away on the cross, He did save us by His death! God grant that you may be able to say: "The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
If God has caused an unsaved person to read this article, how sad and tragic that you have no Saviour who died on the cross for your many sins. It is the same as if Christ never came and never hung on the cross for sinners. This is true of you, unless you prove yourself not to belong to the unbelievers, and by God's grace turn to Christ crucified and risen for you. Oh, that this might be the means of the salvation of some soul for whom Christ bled and died. Amen.
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4. Irresistible Grace
(Read John 10:1-30.)
"Now of the things which we have spoken (thus far) this is the sum" (Heb. 8:1):
First, all mankind is totally depraved and therefore deprived of all good in God's sight (Rom. 3:10-12). Helpless and hopeless (Psa. 49:7). Men have no desire for the true God (Job 21:14).
Secondly, had God left them in this terrible state to go to "everlasting punishment" (Matt. 25:46) it would have been altogether just and right. This, however, God did not do. Out of His great grace He has elected some of the fallen race of men to "everlasting salvation" (Isa. 45:17), "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:4-6). The rest He leaves in their sins to the praise of the glory of His justice.
Thirdly, for these elect ones Jesus Christ came into the world and died (Rom. 5:8), for their sins (1 Cor. 15:3), as their Substitute (1 Pet. 2:24). Christ took all of their sins and gives them His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).
Thus everything up to this point is ordained in orderly fashion by an all-wise, all-powerful God, who does as He pleases (Psa. 115:3). Now shall we stop here and say from here on everything is left to the will and whims of fickle man? The remainder, then, is uncertain. Accordingly, if sinful man will have this salvation so determinately and delicately wrought by God, he may; if not, God is denied and defeated! God's hands are tied. He has failed. We will not say such blasphemy!
God has not begun to build a tower, so that after He has carefully laid the foundation He "is not able to finish it" (Luke 14:28-29). God has not gone charging against the proud citadel of rebellious man with election and foreknowledge and predestination and the blood-soaked cross of Calvary with its bruises and blood and pains and perdition, only to discover that man refuses to be regenerated and will not be converted (Luke 14:31-33). God has not built a bridge half way across to salvation and has now done His part, and the rest is up to sinners "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1) to do their part. The God who decreed salvation to His elect ones, and died in their place, will also "save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). "He will save" (Zeph. 3:17). The fact that He will save, we here call irresistible grace.
The Meaning of Irresistible Grace
The word resist comes from the Latin language through the French, resisto, re meaning back, and sisto meaning set; to set back. The prefix ir means not. Thus we have, not to set back. Irresistible, then, would mean not to oppose, strive against, or obstruct (either an act or its agent) whether by inertness or active force, physically or mentally (Desk Standard Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls).
The word grace is from the Latin meaning favor (Ibid.). In theology it means the love and favor of God in Christ which is irresistible in the elect when it pleases God to reveal His Son in them (Gal. 1:15-16). "It will of course be admitted that, if efficacious grace is the exercise of almighty power it is irresistible" (Chas. Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, p. 687). "The power of grace is the power of God. This makes it fitting to speak of irresistible grace. Surely we can speak of an irresistible God!" (C. D. Cole, Definitions of Doctrines, p. 84). "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy and whom he will he hardeneth" (Rom. 9:18).
The Ministry of Irresistible Grace
We are living in a day of superficial evangelism when the "glorious gospel of the blessed God" (1 Tim. 1:11) is simmered down and "simplified" to be only (in its primary or initial use) a Divine anticipation of salvation and not the powerful salvation that it is (Rom. 1:16), the power of God unto Salvation; note it is the Gospel, not the faith of the believer, that brings salvation to the elect believer (Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). I repeat, the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation! Nothing can stop it. If a man preach any other Gospel let him be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9). If God's grace can be successfully resisted then God can be overcome, and your god is no greater than the fictitious, failing, faltering, fainting, feeble god of Prof. Vergilius Ferm, when he writes: "It is even possible for God to experience Hell. God is in Hell each time His frustrations stand over against His purposes God can no more save a man from evil than He can save Himself from it" (Ernest Gordon, An Ecclesiastical Octopus, pp. 152-153, quoting from the Crozier Quarterly, Jan. 1946).
To the opposite, our risen Redeemer declares: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). Evil men, demons, and the Devil himself have no power except as God in His sovereign purpose gives it to them, which they misuse to their own evil end. "Thou couldest have no power at all against me," our Savior said to Pilate, "except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11). I once heard Arvis Fields say that the Devil could not blink his eye unless God gave him the power to do so.
Since the Son of God has all power, see how His saving grace to all of His chosen ones is triumphant. Christ will bring His sheep into His fold (John 10:16). Not try to bring them, but bring them! He suffered for sins that "He might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3:18). He said: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). Christ will do it! Not attempt to do it, but accomplish it. Since not all men without exception are drawn to the Savior, the inference is to all men without distinction of race, class, condition or color; or to all of the elect (the word men is not in the Greek). The sheep shall hear Christ's voice (John 10:16, 27). All that the Father giveth to Christ shall come to Him (John 6:37). Every one of them. No one, nothing, can stop them. "The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those that knock, but also to cause them to knock and ask" (Augustine).
"Blessed is the man whom thou choosest (election) and causest to approach unto thee" (irresistible grace, Psalm 65:4).
As many as were ordained to eternal life believe (or shall believe, Acts 13:48); "this ordination is an act of God. The Greek has the passive voice and not the middle. It cannot, therefore, refer to an act of those who believed. And the act is an effectual one, since all that were ordained believe Thayer says the passage refers to as many as were appointed to obtain eternal life, or to whom God had decreed eternal life" (Thomas Paul Simmons, The Bible Doctrine of Election, p. 18).
God calls everyone whom He has predestinated, and every one of them He justifies (Rom. 8:29-30), which also means that Christ shed His blood for them, for they are "justified by his blood" (Rom. 5:9), and that they (every one without fail) will believe in Christ, for otherwise they would not be justified (Rom. 5:1).
This irresistible grace of God is illustrated even in Christ calling His disciples to apostleship. "He calleth whom he would (election) and they came unto him" (irresistible grace, Mark 3:13). Whom God calls He empowers.
But, does not the sinner receive Christ by his own will? In his own natural will? No. Not "of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man" (John 1:12-13). That is all the sinner is flesh! (Rom. 8:7-8). Until he is born again by the will of the Holy Spirit (John 3:6-8), he has only one nature. Until that time he is but flesh, willing this or that. According to John 1:13 he cannot will his birth of God or will to receive Christ as his Savior, seeing he is nothing but flesh until born of God. When Christ called Zacchaeus down from the tree, "he made haste and came down and received him joyfully" (Luke 19:5-6). Christ gives eternal life to as many as the Father gave Him (John 17:2). He does not merely "offer" it to dead sinners (Eph. 2:1), for that would be senseless and useless. Rather, the Redeemer quickens them, or makes them alive, according to His will (John 5:21). Christ does not stand outside their sinful hearts, baffled, beaten, begging. The Lord opens their hearts (as with Lydia, Acts 16:14). Revelation 3:20 is addressed, not to sinners, but to churches (verse 22). Christ does it and does it all! Soli Deo Gloria! To God alone be the glory (1 Cor. 10:31).
The Misunderstanding or Misrepresentation of Irresistible Grace
The correct view. "Irresistible grace takes not away that natural liberty which the will hath by creation, but the depravity of it only, knocking off its fetters, but not destroying its nature" (Christopher Ness, An Antidote Against Arminianism, p. 85). No fatalism here. "According to the Augustinian scheme, the non-elect have all the advantages and opportunities of securing their salvation, which, according to any other scheme, are granted to mankind indiscriminately" (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, p. 643).
It is objected that the grace of God can be resisted. This we admit, for Scripture itself teaches it. We have never said otherwise. Stephen was not mistaken when he said to the Christ-rejecting Jews: "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did " (Acts 7:51). But we maintain that the Holy Ghost cannot be resisted successfully. "God's saving grace and effectual calling are irresistible, not in the sense that they are never resisted, but in the sense that they are never successfully resisted" (A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 793).
The contrary view. That "saving grace is universal grace" (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. II, p. 21). Then it is not saving grace, for it does not save all, and if it is not saving grace it is no grace. Then call it offered grace, or potential grace, but not saving grace! This Pieper admits (Ibid., p. 32): "Scripture, however, teaches that grace not only makes it possible for man to believe, giving him the power to believe, but that it creates the very act of faith (Phil. 1:29: 'Unto you it is given to believe on him')." If grace does this, and it is universal (and not only to the elect) then why does it not create saving faith in all men?
But, it is argued, "When God works through means, He can be resisted When God deals with men through His Word and says to them: 'Come unto me' (Matt. 11:28), resistance is possible; so Christ reports: 'Ye would not' (Matt. 23:37). But when Christ will appear on Judgment Day in His uncovered majesty ('in His glory'), all resistance is excluded, for 'before him shall be gathered all nations,' etc. (Matt. 25:31-32)." (Pieper, Ibid, p. 30). See where this lands you? When Christ calls, "Come unto me," in salvation, He can be resisted, for He is using the means of His Word; but when Christ calls, "Stand before me and be judged," in the last day, He cannot be resisted, for He is using the means of His Word! Suppose it can be said of the wicked then, "Ye would not"? Is Christ's call to judgment any greater and intense than His call to salvation? Shall we exalt the power of His justice over and above His power to save? If Christ's call to salvation can be resisted, why not His call to judgment?
As you can see, this theology of universal saving grace is a theology of contradictions. It is regrettable that such a good and godly man as Martin Luther did not see it, when he wrote a letter in 1528 to an unknown person saying that God Almighty "knows all things and that all actions and thoughts in all creatures must come to pass according to His will." But then he adds: "It is, nevertheless His earnest will and purpose, indeed, His command, decreed from eternity, to save all men ... (Ezek. 18:23)." (F. Pieper, Ibid., p. 43). Here is a glaring contradiction. If it is God's earnest will and purpose and command and decree from eternity to save all men, then all men shall be saved, for "all actions and thoughts in all creatures must come to pass according to His will." Yet this is not done. The fault lies in the universal grace theory of resistible grace. In order to obliterate this, Luther demands that we believe this contradiction to be only a seeming one! (Dorner, Geshichte der protestantischen Theologie, p. 206).
As you must be aware by now, the Lutheran Church embraces this universal resistible grace idea. How does the church explain it? The Lutheran Church does not explain it. "Why, then, are not all men converted and saved? The Lutheran Church refuses to answer the question." Indeed it casts reflection on anyone else who can or would answer the question, saying, "No mature theologian will indulge in such speculation!" (Pieper, Ibid., pp. 32-33).
The calamity of this view. It makes God say: "I will that every last sinner be saved, but not as I will, but as they will" (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 171). "I would in truth gladly help them, says God; therefore I send them my Son; but their hardened heart is opposed to my will and their salvation" (Luther, St. Luke, VII:195). This is to turn the Scripture upside down, making it declare: "So then it is not of God that sheweth mercy, for His mercy stands powerless and resistible and means very little; but it is of him that willeth and runneth" (Rom. 9:16). And since all men "oppose God's will and salvation" by nature, none of them will come to Christ and live (John 5:40). If God's grace is not irresistible, and all men by nature resist God's overtures of mercy, how are the elect saved? This view would answer (or should) by allowing the saved person to pray: "God, I thank Thee that Thou gaveth me power to will (yet Thou gavest that the Judas as well as to me), but I thank myself for the act of willingness, seeing I receive from Thee no more than Judas did" (Christopher Ness, Ibid., p. 82). We would say to all who hold to the view of universal, resistible grace, no longer pray to God: "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things of thy law" (Psalm 119:18); open your own eyes!
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter."
Jack and Joe are alike sinners. Jack believes and Joe remains an unbeliever. The popular view of the fundamentalism of our day is, Jack willed to believe and Joe willed to reject; or, Jack commenced to strive and was helped, and Joe made no effort; or, Jack cooperated with God's grace, and Joe did not; or (as the Lutherans) both were utterly unable to cooperate, but Joe persistently resisted grace, and Jack ultimately yielded. The Calvinist says, it is because Jack was regenerated by the saving grace of God in God's sovereign will, and Joe was not (A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, pp. 447-448).
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5. Perseverance (Preservation) Of The Saints
(Read Romans the Eighth Chapter.)
The question one hears about this doctrine may be stated thus: If a soul is once saved by Jesus Christ, is that soul safe?
A man awakes at night to find his apartment on fire. He crawls to the window and climbs out to hang by his fingertips. Far below is the sidewalk. The man is saved. Is he safe? If he holds on to the end he is safe.
What saith the Scriptures? "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous man runneth into it, and is safe" (Prov. 18:10).
"Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe" (Prov. 29:25). The Hebrew word (sagab) means inaccessible (Strong's Heb. Lexicon). He is safe because he is "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3), and is inaccessible to the Devil and every other foe seeking to pull him out and down to destruction. The true believer is not only saved, but safe.
This doctrine of the preservation of the saved is not always an easy one to accept by some theologians. Charles G. Finney wrote of it: "I would remark that I have felt greater hesitancy in forming and expressing my views upon this, than upon almost any other question in theology" (Systematic Theology, page 552). However, Finney added: "I could never find myself able to give a satisfactory reason for the rejection of the doctrine and the more I examine the more unable I find myself to see how a denial of it can be reconciled with the Scriptures" (Ibid.).
As to the preservation of the saved: "They whom God hath accepted in His beloved, effectively 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" (Con. Faith, Chap. xvii.; L. Cat., Question 79; A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, page 542).
This implies the perseverance of the saved: "Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, page 546).
This is upheld by the Baptist New Hampshire Confession of Faith (also in the larger Philadelphia Confession): "Such only are real believers who endure to the end Their persevering attachment to Jesus Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors. That a special providence watches over their welfare, and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (Article 11).
This is denied by the Roman Catholic Church: "If any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified let him be anathema" (Conc. Trident, Sess. 6, Canon 23; A. A. Hodge, Ibid., page 546).
Arguments against: Matthew 12:43-45 is used (may I say misused, as with the other Scriptures we shall consider under this heading) to teach that a saved soul may be lost again. "But notice that the unclean spirit is not driven out of the man but goes out himself. He says, 'I will return into my house.' The house still belongs to him; the man is unsaved. Notice, too, that he found the house empty, that is, Christ was not in it. This is a picture of a man who reforms without salvation. Notice in the last sentence of this Scripture that Jesus applies it to the ungodly Pharisees about whom He is talking (verse 38)" (Rice, Twelve Tremendous Themes, page 96).
Matthew 24:13 is used: "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." True, and all of the elect shall endure unto the end, for we (with Paul) are "confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in (them) will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6; see also Psalm 89:29).
Romans 14:15 and 20 are used. "Destroy not him (or the work of God) for whom Christ died." Since the Greek word for verse 15 (apolumi) is oftimes used for the destruction of the physical body (as in Matt. 2:13; 12:14; 21:41; 27:20; Mark 9:22; Luke 6:9; 9:56; John 18:14, where the word is translated die; in 1 Corinthians 8:11, where the word is translated perish, and which we showed in the chapter on The Limited Atonement often refers to physical death), we conclude the destruction here to be physical death to the blood bought one. It is not a saved soul being destroyed in Hell.
1 Corinthians 9:27 is used. Paul fears lest he become a castaway, or rejected (Heb. 6:8) or a reprobate (as the word, adokimos, is translated, Rom. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:8; Tit. 1:16; Christ does not dwell in such; 2 Cor. 13:5. But Christ promises His own: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5) which is equal to saying they will never become reprobates (2 Cor. 13:6). There are some who think Paul to mean a castaway in the sense of his service being rejected (in the light of the context, vss. 24-26).
Galatians 5:4 is used. Read the entire verse. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace." Actually a man cannot be justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16), therefore a person cannot fall from grace. But the Galatians had falllen away from the teaching of salvation by grace to the teaching of salvation by the law. In this they had "fallen from grace." (See 1:6). Did this mean they were lost again? Then why did Paul call them "brethren" (1:11); why does he call them sons of God and possessors of the Holy Spirit? (4:6), and call them "spiritual"? (6:1).
1 Timothy 1:19 is used. Hymenaeus and Alexander (and others) had shipwrecked faith and conscience. However, this does not prove that they were ever saved. One can believe in Christ's name without Christ (see John 2:23-25) and can "believe in vain" (1 Cor. 15:2). "The devils also believe and tremble" (Jas. 2:19). One can believe "to the saving of the soul" (Heb. 10:39), which thus implies that there can be a superficial faith. Can an unsaved professor of religion have a "good conscience"? Was it a good conscience that caused the unsaved to drop their rocks of accusation in John 8:9? Surely it was not an evil conscience. Others have answered that to make shipwreck of faith is not necessarily to lose it outright. And their being delivered to Satan implies (serious as it is) no more than the fornicator in 1 Corinthians 5:5; destruction of the flesh that the spirit might be saved.
Hebrews 6:4-6 is used. From the outset, may it be realized that if this Scripture teaches that saved people can fall away and be lost again it also teaches that they can never be saved again! "It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance" (vss. 4 and 6). Impossible! Is the Holy Ghost speaking about saved people, or just professors of religion in this Scripture? Consider:
They were enlightened, or illuminated (same word, 10:32). They received light from Christ, who lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9). The rays of the Gospel shone upon them. Yet the Savior says that that very light (the root of the word enliightening in Hebrews, phos) can be darkness in the heart of the unsaved (Luke 11:35). Of no avail.
They tasted of the heavenly gift, and tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come. They experienced all this (so the word means, geuomai) but only yin the sense of tasting. They did not eat. Compare John 6:48-58 where Christ says: You must eat My flesh, and drink My blood to have eternal life. "O taste and see that the Lord is good," but do not stop there. "Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him" (Psa. 34:8). Tasting has to do with the tongue and head, trusting with the heart! They were salvation samplers. Tasters, not trusters. They had tongue and head salvation, but not true heart salvation. That we are justified in making this difference see Matt. 27:34, where Christ tasted (same Greek word) the drink mixed with gall, but would not drink. Whatever the heavenly gift is, Christ or the Holy Spirit; whatever portion of the Word of God they tasted (contrast with Jeremiah 15:16); whatever the powers of the world to come, mean: this much is certain, these people merely experienced them by tasting.
They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. In what sense? The word metochos is translated "partners" (Luke 5:7). The fishermen called to their partners to help them. Surely this does not mean that they were partakers of their very being, but were workers and companions with them, who could later forsake them. It is possible for an unsaved person to be admonished and refuted and be rebuked by the Holy Spirit, and yet be an unbeliever (John 16:7,11). In that sense the unsaved one partakes of the Holy Spirit. More than that, to be an apparent partner of the Holy Spirit in working mighty miracles in Christ's name, yet never be known of the Savior in salvation (Matthew 7:21-23).
If they shall fall away from enlightenment, from tasting the heavenly gift, the Word of God, and the powers of the age to come; and the partaking of the Holy Ghost; it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Repentance (metanoia) according to Strong and Young and others, means to have a new mind, or change of mind, to reverse a former decision, reformation. One can do all this and not be saved. Repentance is no good without faith in Christ. (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21).
The Holy Spirit is writing to professing Christians; is He saying the words of our present text primarily to Christians or about some other people? Read the text again and see how the words: those, they and they are used. And see the change in verse 9, "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you"; if the above attributes were salvation itself, what could be any better? "We are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation"! Therefore the former experiences are not necessarily akin to salvation. It is interesting that Alford, who argues with great dexterity that the regenerated (but not the elect) are meant in Hebrews 6:4-6, passes by verse 9 with little comment. To this Scripture should be added 10:38-39 " If any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." He who believes to salvation, then, shall never fall away! The elect are in the new and everlasting covenant, have God's fear placed in their hearts, and "they shall not depart from Me," saith Jehovah (Jeremiah 32:40).
Hebrews 10:26-29 is used. The unsaved Hebrews had a "knowledge" of Christ as the only sacrifice, and turning away from Christ there was nothing left but certain judgment. There was no other sacrifice to which they could turn. "But were they not sanctified by the blood of Christ?" someone asks. "Surely they were saved if they were also sanctified. Yet though sanctified they turned from Christ to much sorer punishment than the law of Moses could mete out." I answer that one can be sanctified and not be not be saved! Take the example of the unbelieving husband sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife sanctified by the husband (1 Corinthians 7:14), but not saved! (v. 16). The Hebrew people were sanctified by the peculiar position they had, as expressed in Romans 9:4-5. Sanctified, but not saved, for they had trampled Christ underfoot and counted His blood worthless.
James 5:19-20 is used. Conversion, of course, is not necessarily the same as regeneration. We are regenerated once, converted many times. Conversion (epistrepho) means to turn about, revert. Let me illustrate the text from the life of Peter. To him Christ said: "Satan hath desired to have you but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted (turned back) strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). Had Peter gone right on (as Judas) would he have been an unsaved sinner in spiritual death? But the Lord turned him back and kept his soul from death. Christ kept Peter saved (John 17:12). The same is true when a Christian is turned back to the truth, his soul is being kept from death. Not that he was lost, but he would have been lost had not Christ's prayers prevailed for him as well as Peter, as indeed they do forever! (Hebrews 7:25).
2 Peter 2:1 is used. We have already examined this in the chapter on The Limited Atonement.
2 Peter 2:20-22 is used. The knowledge of the Lord and Savior here is a knowledge about Christ, not a personal, saving knowledge of Christ, for then they would be Christ's sheep (John 10:14); instead they are described as dogs and sows!
Revelation 3:5 is used. The overcomer will not have his name blotted out of the book of life. All true Christians are overcomers (Rom. 8:37; 2 Cor. 2:14-15), therefore shall not have their names removed from the said book.
Many of these warnings against falling away are fences to keep the sheep of Christ within the pasture. The fences do not mean that the sheep will be lost, rather the opposite. They are there to keep them from going astray. "A good illustration of this is found in Paul's experience in the storm on his way to Rome as a prisoner (Acts 27:14). In the midst of the storm Paul told the company on the ship that God had assured him that they would all, without the loss of a man, be saved (vss. 22-25). Yet later on when the sailors were about to escape in the boat, Paul told the soldiers that, if the sailors got out in the boat, they could not be saved (vss. 30-32). (W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine, page 245).
Others, from the strong language of the Greek in many of the references we have been examining, would go further than we have and say that these Scriptures do imply that saved people "might, or are able to apostasize and be lost, yet as a matter of fact, they never will" (Chas. G. Finney, Ibid., page 570). John W. Haley (Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, page 170) says John 10:28-30; Romans 8:28-30; 38-39, "does not teach the impossibility of falling from grace, but merely the certainty that this will not occur."
One of the strong adversaries of eternal security of the saved was John William Fletcher (1729-1785). Of his arguments Charles G. Finney wrote: "I have read over attentively several times the views of Mr. Fletcher, in his Scripture Scales, and the passages quoted by him to disprove this doctrine. His chief reliance is manifestly upon the numerous passages that imply the possibility and danger of falling, rather than on any passages that unequivocally teach that any have fallen, or will utterly fall" (Ibid., page 618). "The subjunctive can never annul the indicative mode. For example, God says in Psalm 125, 'They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth forever.' In Psalm 11:3, we read, 'If the foundations be removed, what can the righteous do?' In one place it says the foundations cannot be removed, in another place 'if'. Now will any man be so absurd as to say that the 'if' in the second place shakes the foundations?
"An 'if' is nothing but an 'if' a mere supposition employed as a caution or for some other wise purpose; but a mere supposition can never affect a certain and positive fact.
The Scripture says: 'If any man destroy the temple of God.' 'Lest I should be a castaway.' 'If they fall it is impossible,' etc. What are these but wise and reasonable barriers set along the way beacons against presumption helps, by the alarm they sound, to a proper avoidance of those things which if persisted in would ruin, but which by the very caution, are avoided, and the fact predicted thus secured" (George Sayles Bishop, The Doctrines of Grace, page 314).
Arguments for: Will my reader kindly take time to read John 10:27-30? In this portion note the people to whom this is addressed, their practice, their provision, the promise made to them and their protection.
I. The People
Jesus Christ calls them: "My sheep." They can say: "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1); "We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 100:3).
What about Judas Iscariot? In John 13:18 Judas is separated in the speech of the Savior from the other disciples (see also vs. 10). They were chosen by Christ. Judas was not, except outwardly as an "apostle" (John 6:67-71). In the latter reference see that Judas is called "a devil" (diabolos), as in 17:12 he is named "the son of perdition." In Acts 1:25 he is described as fallen from the "ministry and apostleship." Not from salvation.
Some may ask, "But does not the language of John 17:12 seem to say that Judas was also given by the Father to the Son?"
"Westcott remarks, that 'the excepting phrase does not, necessarily, imply that Judas is reckoned among those whom the Lord guarded. The exception may refer simply to the statement, not one perished. Compare Matthew 12:4; Luke 4:26-27; Galatians 1:19; 2:16; Revelation 21:27. Contrast 18:9.' Winer also says (Sect. 67, 1. E.): 'Of two parallel members of a sentence, the first is sometimes expressed in such terms as to appear to comprehend the second, though, from the nature of the case, that is impossible'; and he cites under this remark, Acts 27:22; Galatians 1:19; Revelation 21:27. If the words kept and guarded, describe what was done effectually by Jesus, and this seems to be the only natural interpretation of them, then, 'from the nature of the case it is impossible' that Judas was meant to be included, and this expression is, therefore in a grammatical respect, parallel to Luke 4:26-27, and Galatians 1:19" (Alvah Hovey, An American Commentary on the New Testament, John, p. 343).
We might paraphrase the verse (or this part of it) in this manner without damaging the meaning of it: "Those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of the apostles are lost, but the son of perdition."
It is always dangerous and useless to try to prove the point one way or the other by the lives of men in the Bible and in our own day, such as Demas (2 Timothy 4:10). Was he saved in the first place? If so, there is no evidence that he was lost, or did not later repent and return to Christ (as Peter). Who would have ever thought backslidden Lot was a saved man? Yet the Holy Spirit calls him "just Lot," and "that righteous man" vexing his "righteous soul" (2 Peter 2:7-8). Thus you see how impossible it is to prove anything by the lives of men.
II. Their Practice
Two things are said about the sheep. They "hear my voice," says the Son of God, "and they follow me" (vs. 27). Now look at this, and look at it well; here is perseverance! They will endure to the end (Matthew 24:13), they will not fall away, or draw back unto perdition (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:38-39), they will not go back fully and willfully into sin (2 Peter 2:20-22); for they hear the voice of Christ and follow Him! "The real believer is like the stream that flows from a living fountain. The spurious believer is like the flow of water from an overturned cup" (O. C. S. Wallace, What Baptists Believe, p. 75).
That answers the argument: "If I believed that I'd live in sin, for I'd be saved anyway; once saved always saved."
"A preacher had been preaching that when we are saved we are always saved. One of his hearers said to him: 'If I believed like you preacher, I'd just go out and sin all I please.' The preacher replied, 'Brother Jones, don't you already sin all you want to?' After a moment of reflection, the brother replied, 'Yes sir, more than I want to'" (Buell H. Kazee, Faith is the Victory).
Ask the Christian who believes in eternal security if he lives as he pleases. "If you ask him if, after believing, he may live as he pleases, he will reply, 'Would God I could live as I please, for I desire to live altogether without sin. I would be perfect, even as my Father in Heaven is perfect'" (Charles H. Spurgeon, Expository Encyclopedia, Vol. 12, p. 315).
The Christian so perseveres because it is "God which worketh in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13), and "whatsoever God doeth it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it" (Ecclesiastes 3:14). Christ lives in the believer (Galatians 2:20), and Christ is greater than all enemies of the soul (1 John 4:4). "He that perseveres in faith does so only through God's gracious preservation; the believer's perseverance is a work of divine grace and omnipotence" (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 89).
III. Their Provision
"And I give unto them eternal life."
It is a gift: "I give." "The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). It is a free gift (ASV). That makes it by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). "And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work" (Romans 11:6). We are not kept saved by living a good life, by keeping the law, by doing the best we can, any more than we were saved by such works in the start! It is by grace all the way through!
It is a present gift. "I give (am giving) unto them eternal life." The word is translated giveth in John 3:34; 6:32, "My Father giveth you the true bread;" and many other references in the present tense.
Christ gives eternal life this very moment to His sheep because He is their life (Colossians 3:4). Thus, "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36).
It is an eternal gift: "Eternal life". Christ our life is eternal, therefore our life in Him is eternal. He lives for ever (Revelation 1:18), and because He lives, we who believe shall also live for ever! (John 14:19). He lives for ever (Hebrews 7:25), therefore we who believe are saved forever by His life (Romans 5:10), for we possess that life of Christ (1 John 5:12). "Can that end which had no beginning?" (W. H. Jellie, The Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, on Jeremiah 31:3). The Christian is a "partaker of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and that nature can never perish. But cannot God withdraw that nature from a saved person? Never. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Romans 11:29). That is, God will never repent of giving salvation to His own.
IV. The Promise
"They shall never perish." The Roman Catholic Douay Version renders it: "they shall not perish for ever!" And Berry's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament translates it: "and in no wise shall they perish for ever." The only way you can lose life is by death. How then can the saved one lose everlasting life when they shall never perish? Whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ shall not perish, because he has everlasting life (John 3:16). The same word for eternal (vs. 28) is used for the eternal blessedness of the saved in eternity, and the everlasting punishment (same word) of the lost in everlasting fire (Matthew 25:46); and of the everlasting God (Romans 16:26). Therefore you see the endless duration of this life in Christ.
"They shall never perish." "But suppose they sin?" someone asks. They do (Ecclesiastes 7:20). If we say that we (Christians) have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). Must I get saved again, when I sin? No. While there is no excuse for a Christian to sin, yet "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). The word advocate (parakletos) means intercessor or consoler (Strong). Christ pleads on our behalf, as the propitiation for our sins (vs. 2). Propitiation carries the thought of the Old Testament mercy-seat (and is so translated, Hebrews 9:5), where the blood was shed and God and man met in reconciliation. That is how Christ effectually advocates for His own. For this reason we are "saved to the uttermost," or entirely, seeing Christ ever liveth to "make intercession" for us (Hebrews 7:25). No one can lay any charge to God's elect, God declares them righteous, Christ died instead of them, rose from death, and at God's right hand "maketh intercession" for them (Romans 8:33-34).
"But our sins committed after we are saved, do they not condemn us?" Nay, "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3), and "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). All of our sins! Past, present, future. God has forgotten about them (Hebrews 10:17).
Suppose I lose my faith? It is only he that believeth on the Son that hath everlasting life; I have it only as long as I keep believing." You will never lose your faith in Christ, if it be true faith. Christ prays for you no less than He prayed for Peter, that your faith fail not (Luke 22:31-32). He is ot only the Author but also the Finisher or Completer or Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
"But suppose I do not let him?" You cannot stop Him (Daniel 4:35)! He prays that thy faith fail not, and it will not fail! He is the Finisher of that faith!
Besides this Christ prays that all believers be kept (John 17:11), kept from the evil, or evil one (ASV, verse 15), and that they might all be brought home to glory to behold Christ's richness (vs. 24). Will those prayers fail? Banish the thought. The Father always hears the Son and answers His prayers (John 11:41-42; 1 John 5:14-15).
By Christ's passion on the cross, prayers and power, every saved person is kept; "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Peter 1:5). To all such it is written, "The Lord is thy keeper" (Psalm 121:5). He is "able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). Confess with Paul the Apostle: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). I have committed to Him my soul and body and spirit. He will keep it. "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:18).
"But suppose I should stray or wander away from Christ? What then?" Christ the Shepherd will go after the lost sheep "until He find it" (Luke 15:4). Indeed you cannot forsake Him for He will not forsake you. "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). Never!
"Will He not grow weary of my waywardness?" He answers, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). It is the same Greek word, translated never in John 10:28. Christ will never cast you out. Never! The poorest believer in Jesus Christ "hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death into (ASV) life" (John 5:24). If he is ever cast out, if he ever is condemned and lost after he believed and was saved, God has failed to keep His Word and lied! Blasphemy!
Think you that Jesus Christ is more concerned about rolls and fish than He is about precious souls? He who after feeding the five thousand men, besides women and children, with loaves and fishes, said: "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost" (John 6:12). The same Savior said: "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39). It is the Father's will to lose none of them. The Holy Spirit attests that every one of the foreknown, predestinated, called, and justified are glorified (Romans 8:29-30), for it is as good as accomplished! Christ suffered for sin on the cross to "bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). "He shall not fail" (Isaiah 42:4). Christ shall confirm us "unto the end blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:8).
"Saints are compared to Mount Zion that cannot be moved" (Psalm 125:1; and to a house built on a rock (Matthew 7:24). Though they fall, God raises them up (Psalm 37:24; Proverbs 24:16), (Christopher Ness, An Antidote Against Arminianism, p. 96).
"No wise man, who has an end in view, but will devise and make use of proper means; and will, if in his power, make those means effectual to attain the end, or he will not act a wise part. The end which God has in view, and has fixed, with respect to His people, is the salvation of them; and it can never be consistent with His wisdom to appoint insufficient menas, or not to make those means effectual, which it is in His power to do; which must be the case, if any of those He has appointed to salvation should perish Where would be His wisdom to appoint men to salvation, and not save them at last? to send His Son to redeem them, and they be never the better for it? And to send His Spirit unto them, to begin a good work of grace, and not finish it?" (John Gill, Body of Divinity, pp. 564-565).
V. Their Protection
"Neither shall any ("man" is not in the Greek) pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and no (man) is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (vss. 28-29). The word for man means "not even one (man, woman or thing), i.e. none, nobody, nothing" (J. Strong's Concordance and Dictionary). Not only no man, but nobody (including Satan), nothing (circumstances, sin) can pull us out of the Omnipotent hand holding us! That includes you. You cannot will out or jump out.
Yet we read: "The good Shepherd loves His sheep; if the sheep deliberately squirms out of the arms of the Shepherd, jumps off the precipice and breaks its neck, the Shepherd's love is vain; but He loves the sheep nevertheless" (Theodore Hoyer, The Abiding Word, Vol. II, p. 227). The divine Shepherd is neither so ignorant of the moods and movements of the sheep (Psalm 103:14), so weak, that He cannot hold them firmly (Isaiah 40:11), nor so careless as to allow them to jump to destruction (Psalm 91:11). "Jesus paid too great a price for His jewels to be missing on that Day. If He came from Heaven to die for us when we hated Him, can He leave us to perish now that we love Him? (Romans 5:8-10). Luther boldly exclaimed, 'Let Him that died for my soul see to the salvation of it.' He does love us to the end (John 13:1). He sees to it that the first justification of the believing sinner becomes the continuing justification of the sinning believer. What He does is beyond recall (Romans 11:29). As He holds us in His hands, He says, 'They will never be lost, and no one will tear them out of my hand' (John 10:28). 'What would you think if, after all, you were to slip out of the hand of Christ?' someone asked. 'Oh I cannot,' the woman answered, 'I am His hand.' That is true: 'Don't you know that your bodies are members of Christ?' (1 Corinthians 6:15)." (W. F. Beck, Concordia Theological Monthly, p. 506, July 1952).
The tribal names of God's people were engraved upon the stones of the ephod (Exodus 28:6-14) and engraved upon the stones of the breastplate of the Old Testament High Priest (Exodus 28:15-29), and to be worn "before the Lord continually" (vss. 12 and 29). Later, Jehovah said to Israel: "I will not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:16). They are not just written on, easy to be rubbed off, but engraved!
Surely you have read enough to know that God's power and wisdom and love keeps the elect saved and brings every one safely into the haven of Heaven. If it now were possible for a saved person to become lost again, "why does God not take them out of the world while they are in the saved state? Surely no one will say that it is because He cannot, or that it is because He does not foresee their future apostasy. Why, then, does He leave these objects of His affection here to fall back into sin and perish? His gift of continued life to these Christians amounts to an infinite curse placed upon them. But who can really believe that the heavenly Father takes no better care of His children than that?" (L. Boettner, Ibid., p. 183).
With what great security has God guarded His redeemed, in that He has sealed them with the Holy Ghost "unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). It is the divine "time-lock" preserving the saved unto, or into the day of eternity. Banks have massive vault doors of solid cast steel weighing 20 tons. Once they are locked for the night none can open from the outside until the time clock releases the mechanism the next morning. Yet, if you know how, the door can be opened from the inside with a screwdriver. God seals His people with the Holy Ghost and there is no screwdriver to open the lock! And the lock has been sealed unto the end.
Does this not do away with the Christian's freedom? "No one denies that the redeemed in Heaven will be preserved in holiness. Yet if God is able to preserve His saints in Heaven without violating their free agency, may He not also preserve His saints on earth without violating their free agency?" (L. Boettner, Ibid., p. 184).
To those who still think they must do their part to keep saved "You will be damned within another second, unless grace keep you out of Hell" (Chas. H. Spurgeon, Expository Encyclopedia, Vol. 12, p. 312). "If Satan and Adam both fell away from perfect holiness, it is a million to one that, in a world full of temptations and with all appetites and habits against me, I shall fall away from imperfect holiness, unless God by His almighty power keep me" (S. R. Mason, quoted in A. H. Strong's Systematic Theology, p. 883).
If a saved soul can be lost then God's character can be lost! And God would lose more than any once saved soul could possibly lose. "If they should fall away and perish, every office, and work, and attribute of Christ would be stained in the mire. If any one child of God should perish, where were Christ's covenant engagements? What is He worth as a mediator of the covenant and the surety of it, if He hath not made the promises sure to all the seed? My brethren, Christ is made a leader and commander of the people, to bring many souls into glory; but if He doth not bring them into glory, where is the captain's honour? Where is the efficacy of the precious blood, if it does not effectually redeem? If it only redeemeth for a time and then suffereth us to perish, where is its value? If it only blots out sin for a few weeks, and then permits that sin to return and to remain upon us, where, I say, is the glory of Calvary, and where is the lustre of the wounds of Jesus? He lives, He lives to intercede, but how can I honour His intercession, if it be fruitless? Does He not pray, 'Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given me, be with me where I am;' and if they be not finally brought to be with Him where He is, where is the honour of His intercession? Hath not the Pleader failed, and the great Mediator been dismissed without success? Is He not at this day in union with His people? But what is the value of union to Christ, if that union does not insure salvation? Is He not today at the right hand of God, preparing a place for His saints; and will He prepare a place for them, and then lose them on the road? Oh! Can it be that He procures the harp and the crown and will not save souls to use them? My brethren, the perishing of one true child of God, would be such dishonour to Jesus, that I cannot think of it without considering it as blasphemy. One true believer in Hell!
Oh! What laughter in the pit what defiance, what unholy mirth! 'Ah! Prince of life and glory,' saith the prince of the pit, 'I have defeated Thee; I have snatched the prey from the mighty, and the lawful captive I have delivered; I have torn a jewel from Thy crown. See, here it is! Thou didst redeem this soul with blood, and yet it is in Hell.' Hear what Satan cries 'Christ suffered for this soul, and yet God makes it suffer for itself. Where is the justice of God? Christ came from Heaven to earth to save this soul, and failed in the attempt, and I have Him here;' and as he plunges that soul into deeper waves of woe, the shout of triumph goes up more and more blasphemously 'We have conquered Heaven! We have rent the eternal covenant; we have foiled the purposes of God; we have defeated His decree; we have triumphed over the power of the Mediator, and cast His blood to the ground!' Shall it ever be? Atrocious question! It can never be." (Chas. H. Spurgeon, Ibid., pp. 298-299).
The question may be asked: "What about infants? Are not all infants saved? If they should die would they not all go to Heaven? Then they are saved in infancy. When they come to the age of accountability and reject Christ they become lost, and lost until they turn to Christ. Thus we have many who have been saved at one time, then lost afterward."
The question may be answered in several ways. 1. Only the elect infants are saved, and only the elect infants die and go to Heaven. Those who grow up and live all their lives rejecting Christ were never saved. 2. If non-elect infants die, they are lost. There would be no injustice whatsoever. If the infant had lived and grown into manhood it would have still refused Christ and only heaped more sin and punishment upon it! God sees the whole man in the child. We do not. In the end what is the difference if the Christ rejecting soul go to Hell as an infant or an adult?
Can a saved soul ever be lost? Hear the Word of God, in closing: The Christian has a life that can never be forfeited (Rom. 8:31-39; Col. 3:3; Phil. 1:6); a relationship that can never be abrogated (Gal. 3:26; 1 John 3:1-2; Rom. 8:18); a righteousness that can never be tarnished (Rom. 3:25-26; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21); an acceptance that can never be questioned (Eph. 1:6; Rom. 8:3-34); a judgment that can never be repeated (Rom. 8:1, RV.; Gal. 3:13; John 5:24, RV); a title that can never be clouded (2 Tim. 1:12; Eph. 1:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:3-5); a standing that can never be disputed (Rom. 8:29-34; 1 John 4:17; Rom. 5:12); a justification that can never be reversed (Rom. 8:30-34; Eph. 1:4-13; Phil. 3:10); a seal that can never be broken (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Tim. 2:19); an inheritance that can never fade away (1 Pet. 1:3-5; Eph. 1:11, 14, 18, 19; Col. 1:12); a resource that can never be diminished (2 Cor. 9:8; Col. 3:3; Eph. 3:20-21); a bank that can never be closed (Rom. 11:33; Phil. 4:19; Eph. 1:7); a peace that can never be disturbed (Rom. 5:1; Phil. 4:6-7; Isa. 26:3); a joy that can never be surpassed (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 5:1-3; Phil. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:8); a power that can never be exhausted (Eph. 1:18-19; Phil. 4:13; Col 1:11); a salvation that can never be annulled (Rom. 8:1; Isa. 45:17; Heb. 5:9); a Bible that can never be destroyed (1 Pet. 1:23-25; Heb. 4:12; Matt. 24:35); an Intercessor who can never be disqualified (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:26); a glory that can never be dimmed (Col. 3:4; 2 Cor. 4:16-17; Rom. 8:18); a destiny that can never be changed (Rom 8:28-31; John 10:27-30; Jude 24). (I have copied this from a mimeographed sheet by Bert Atchison, Orlando, Fla.)
"One of the best proofs that God's love shall have no end is that it has no beginning" (L. Boettner, Ibid., pp. 198-199). See Jer. 31:3.
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. 8:38-39. Amen!
1483 - 1546
Martin Luther dealt the symbolic blow that began the Reformation when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. That document contained an attack on papal abuses and the sale of indulgences by church officials.
But Luther himself saw the Reformation as something far more important than a revolt against ecclesiastical abuses. He believed it was a fight for the gospel. Luther even stated that he would have happily yielded every point of dispute to the Pope, if only the Pope had affirmed the gospel.
And at the heart of the gospel, in Luther's estimation, was the doctrine of justification by faith--the teaching that Christ's own righteousness is imputed to those who believe, and on that ground alone, they are accepted by God.
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