The Calvinistic Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints
The evils of Calvinism saturate the minds and hearts of religious people throughout the world. Perhaps without realizing, most who consider themselves Christians have swallowed at least one of the petals of the T- U-L-I-P.
However, Calvinism is not an "a la carte" religion; as one faithful elder stated, "the whole ball of wax must stick together or melt together." In other words holding any one point implies the rest and without any one point the system fails. The reason for sobriety in this matter is not merely academic. Faith in Calvinism fails for therein is NO HOPE!
The sweetest sounding selling point of the Calvinistic brand of "Christianity" is the doctrine of "Perseverance of the Saints." Even to those who cling to this "perseverance," the name may seem foreign. It is canned and labeled in various ways. Some say, "Once saved always saved," "Once in grace always in grace," "One cannot fall from grace," "Impossibility of apostasy," or "Eternal security." No matter what label it bears, the doctrine contains only a false comfort. One writer said, "Old Calvinism is so popular because it extends hope without responsibility." The Bible, from cover to cover, denies the notion that a child of God cannot so sin as to be eternally lost.
Various men through the years have counted in the Bible warnings against falling and apostasy. These students find around 5,000 separate warnings against spiritual departure. Yet many believe it is not possible. Whether in the candid way one sins and "trusts in God's grace" or simply never gives diligence to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10), they deny the true nature of grace. Putting it formally, the Westminster Confession of Faith plainly states,
They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
This is said to depend not on their freewill, but because God said so and therefore makes it so despite any sin they commit. Some partial Calvinists "totin' half the wax" do not openly proclaim this idea, but it is demanded by their doctrines. The God of Calvinism is not the God of the Bible. If one objects to this fact, they ought to show the nobility of the Bereans (Acts 17:11), follow the advice of Isaiah, "reasoning" (Isaiah 1:18), and prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
The Calvinist's conundrum goes like this: if God is sovereign (as the Calvinist defines "sovereign") saving man apart from man's intentions, desires, or actions, but God loses one of His saved; then God cannot be sovereign. Therefore none will be lost. In other words, if you believe God saves you apart from anything you want or are even capable of wanting or doing, then you become lost; the failure is with God; not you, not the world. Therefore you cannot be lost.
The reality is that one may so sin as to fall from grace. Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia who were believing the Judaizing teachers who taught that gentiles must be circumcised and keep some portion of The Law of Moses for salvation. He said in plain language, "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4; emphasis GL).
Later in the New Testament, the author of Hebrews warned those on the cliffs of apostasy. As an example he pointed out those who had once believed, but subsequently rejected Christ:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:4-5).
These had in fact fallen away though they had been in fellowship with the Holy Ghost and at one time repented. The end of these souls was to be burned (6:8).
Finally, Paul drew from clear typology to warn the Christians in Corinth of the consequences looming before them in their present course. First Corinthians 10:1-12 declares that some in the past had fallen, and admonishes the Corinthians not to do likewise. Notice, both Israel of old, and Christians believed (Exodus 14:1; Psalms 106:12; compare with 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 11:6). Both they in the wilderness and the Corinthians were baptized (I Corinthians 10:2; Romans. 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27). God declared both saved and sanctified (Exodus 14:30; Mark 16:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2). The Holy Spirit pronounced both the "children of God" (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:1; 1 John 3:1-2; Galatians 3:26). Both parties ate of the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink (1 Corinthians 10:3-4; John 6:51; 1 Corinthians 3:2; John 7:37; Revelation 22:17). The children of God in "aforetime" lusted in the wilderness and committed the sin of fornication among many other sins. The verses in view powerfully teach that they did, the Corinthians were doing the same, and Christians living today might fall in the same transgression (1 Corinthians 10:8-10; compare with 5:1; 6:9-11). The final admonition of this section is as clear an admonition on the possibility of apostasy as one could find:
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:1-12; emphasis GL)
It is evident from these examples in addition to numerous others that one may indeed "fall from grace". The fact that one may fall does not imply that he must (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Peter 1:10). However, when one sins so as to be lost they are not only dead (James 5:19-20), but their latter end is worse than their beginning (2 Peter. 2:20).
Calvinism is a sad doctrine bearing frustration for all who place their hopes therein. Succinctly stated, "If you seek it you can't find it; if you find it you can't get it; if you get it you can't lose it and if you lose it you never had it!"
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1 Wayne Coats, "The Perseverance of the Saints" in Calvinism, ed. David P. Brown (Spring, TX: Bible
Resource Publications, 1997), p. 296
2 The Westminster Confession of Faith (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), Ch. XVII:1.
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