In this article, we're going to end our study by looking at the Calvinistic idea that those whom God has predetermined to receive salvation never sin so as to be eternally lost. This idea is especially popular among Baptist churches, who teach that "once you're saved, you're always saved," and "you can't fall from the grace of God." One Baptist preacher declared that a Christian could commit any sin from idolatry to murder, and it wouldn't put his soul in danger in any form or fashion. The Presbyterian Westminster Confession Of Faith sums it up by stating, "Those whom God hath justified and sanctified, He will also glorify; consequently, the regenerated soul will never totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved...They effectively called and sanctified by His spirit can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace." The Westminster Confession goes on to call this doctrine by its more popular name, "the perseverance of the saints," and says that a saint's perseverance "depends not upon...free will but upon the immutability of the decree of election flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the spirit and the seed of God, and the nature of the covenant of grace, from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof." In other words, Calvinists believe that those predestined by the Almighty for salvation are called and sanctified miraculously by the Holy Spirit. They have no free will in the matter and cannot resist God's grace. Due to mankind being totally deprived, they cannot contribute to their salvation in any way; therefore, Jesus intercedes for them. With all three members of the Godhead working in such a fashion on their behalf, Calvinists reason it is ridiculous to think that one could still sin as to be lost. Doing so would be an affront to the very idea of God's power to save mankind!
I can see why this idea is so popular. Back when I was in college, the end of each semester would always be a hard time for me. There would be lots of papers due and final exams to study for. But once I had turned in my final paper and taken my last exam, a tremendous feeling of satisfaction came over me, a feeling that said, "Now I don't have to do anything else. I have no more responsibilities. I can relax, take it easy, and be lazy." It's attractive to have that same mindset when it comes to Christianity. If I was told after conversion that salvation was mine and would always be mine, that would make it quite easy for me, wouldn't it? Why worry if I have bad, sinful habits in my life? No matter what, salvation will always be mine, so why inconvenience myself by trying to repent?
But what does God's Word have to say about this idea?
First, let's consider the good news which the Bible calls the gospel, "the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1:16). God says it is the gospel that saves, but how does it save? In talking about the gospel to the Corinthian Christians, the Almighty inspired Paul to write, "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain" (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Notice that "if" word in verse two. That one word alone shakes up the entire Calvinistic theology! Because of that one word, it looks like Paul is telling the saints at Corinth that the gospel will save them, but on the condition that they held fast to God's Word. Otherwise, their faith would be in vain. It doesn't sound like Paul was inspired to tell them that salvation would always be theirs, no matter what. It looks like Paul told them that even after the gospel saved them at their conversion, they still had a responsibility to uphold if they wanted to keep that salvation.
The apostle John was also inspired to use the Greek equivalent of "if" when he wrote, "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin...If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7, 9). The Calvinist teaches that God gives the cleansing blood of Jesus unconditionally to those whom He has chosen, and we can see in this passage that we have God's promise of forgiveness and cleansing from sin and unrighteousness. However, that little word "if" changes the entire message from a promise with no conditions to a promise which hinges upon the condition that we walk in the light and confess our sins.
The apostle Peter was inspired to open his second letter by urging his readers to obtain and increase in the Christian qualities of faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (2 Pet. 1:5-9). He then says, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall" (2 Pet. 1:10). Even though the Calvinist says that it is impossible for a saint to "fall," God inspired Peter to suggest otherwise. It looks like Peter is telling us that if we want to be sure that God has called and elected us, we need to have these Christian attributes in our lives. Once again, we see that keeping our salvation is based upon certain conditions which we, not God, have a responsibility to meet. If those conditions are not met, "falling" is definitely possible and definite.
Consider what the writer of Hebrews was inspired to tell us. In talking about those "impossible to restore again to repentance...who have shared in the Holy Spirit and have tasted the goodness of the word of God" (Heb. 6:4-5), he then goes on to say, "if they then fall away...crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt" (Heb. 6:6). If "falling away" is impossible like Calvinism upholds, why does God's Word so plainly say it is a possibility in this passage? If salvation is always kept by the one saved by God's Holy Spirit as Calvinism teaches, why does God's Word suggest it is impossible to restore people who have shared in the Holy Spirit but have since fallen away by crucifying Jesus again by their contempt of Him? Calvinism cannot answer these questions without contradicting itself.
If it is impossible for one to "fall from grace," why does Paul, in rebuking Galatian Christians who want to be justified by Old Testament law, so plainly say, "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal. 5:4)? These Judaizing Christians he was talking to must have been in Christ; otherwise, why would he have told them they were severed from Christ? Since they were in Christ, they must have received the grace of God...but now, Paul says, they have fallen away from grace. They were once saved, but no longer.
When one studies the New Testament, it becomes clear that God uses a huge portion of it to warn His people about the dangers of sin. However, if Calvinism is true, then His people would never be in any danger from sin simply because they are His people. So why have any warnings in the New Testament? Why would Paul take the time to write to saints, "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him" (1 Cor. 3:17)? Saints, once saved, would always be saved, so God would never destroy them. So why even write that warning to them? Why would Paul again warn them by writing, "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12)? If the Calvinistic teaching of the impossibility of falling is true, then Paul was a liar and a fool when he wrote this. And since Paul was inspired by God to write what he wrote (1 Cor. 14:37), what does that say about God? Either Calvinism is false or God's Word is false. God's Word is truth (John 17:17), and I urge us all to place our faith in it instead of men.
In closing out this series of articles on Calvinism, let me say that's been written here is just the tip of the iceberg. Calvinism is one of the basic foundational tenets of a lot of false denominational teaching out there, and is directly responsible for deceiving untold millions. As Christians, each one of us is commanded by our God to "be ready in season and out of season" to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" (2 Tim. 4:2). Each one of us is commanded by our Savior to "always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15). Please use these articles as guides in studying God's Word everyday so that you can be ready and prepared to gently and respectfully show the saving truth to those in your lives who are in "the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:24-26).