Intro | Total Hereditary Depravity 1 | Total Hereditary Depravity 2 | Unconditional Election 1 | Unconditional Election 2 | Limited Atonement 1 | Limited Atonement 2 | Irresistible Grace 1 | Irresistible Grace 2 | Perseverance of the Saints 1 | Perseverance of the Saints 2
by William J. Stewart
Calvinism is a neat package that flows from one doctrine to the next. If we are born depraved (T), then it makes sense that we are powerless to come to God and must be selected by Him (U). And if He selects those who are saved, it makes sense that Jesus died for them and not those who God rejected (L). If God has chosen an individual, it makes sense that they would not be able to reject His choice (I). And, if God has chosen that one and showered His grace upon them, then surely there is nothing that can thwart God’s decision (P). Indeed, it is a solid argument, from start to finish. The only problem, not a shred of it is from the Bible.
We have looked at the first 4 tenets of Calvinism thus far, and none of them were biblical. Now we turn our attention to the final part of Calvin’s TULIP, the perseverance of the saints.
Perseverance is a Bible concept, but it is not the “once saved, always saved” idea of the Calvinists. And, there are a couple texts that use a similar phrase, but again, the concept is nothing like Calvin’s idea. Both Revelation 13:10 & 14:12 speak of the “patience of the saints,” but neither text carries with it the idea that a Christian cannot fall away from grace.
Let’s see what the Bible says, is salvation immutable, or is it possible to fall from grace? If there is a single verse in the Bible that speaks of the possibility of apostasy, Calvin’s doctrine of eternal security is untrue. There are several.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
This was written to Christians. A Christian can choose to live according to the flesh (to walk his own way and not God’s way), and if he does so, Paul is clear—you will die.
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Paul discusses two groups of people in this text. First, the Jews who rejected Christ, upon whom God’s severity was visited. Why? He plainly tells us that they “fell”. Fell from where? They were the people of God, but they rejected the plan of God.
The second group are the Gentiles who had received the gospel. Upon them, the goodness of God was showered. But the apostle reveals this is conditional. They will receive His “…goodness, if you continue in His goodness.” If it were impossible for them to cease from the goodness of God, it would be pointless to mention this. He mentioned it because it is possible for a recipient of the goodness of God to turn from it. He clearly tells them, if they turn from His goodness, “…you also will be cut off.”
1 CORINTHIANS 9:27
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Paul acknowledged the possibility that he could fail to walk according to the path that he preached about. He didn’t take an “Oh well, it doesn’t matter anyway” attitude. If he did not practice what he preached, he would be disqualified.
He used this same terminology in the second epistle to Corinth. Notice:
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. (2 Corinthians 13:5-6)
What would it mean to be disqualified? One who was disqualified was not in the faith, and did not have Jesus Christ in them. He didn’t write this to non-Christians; this was written to the church which was at Corinth, and keep in mind, Paul included himself in the warning through the first letter.
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
This was written to Christians. However, they were turning away from Christ and being drawn towards the law of Moses by Judaizing teachers. Paul was very blunt—though they had been united with Christ, their pursuit of the law separated them from Him. They were no longer recipients of God’s grace, but had fallen from grace. Their souls were in danger.
These are just a sample of the verses in the Bible which demonstrate that it is possible for an individual who has been saved by the grace of God to turn from it and be lost again. Here is a list of other texts for you to consider:
Ezekiel 18:24-26; Matthew 25:1-30; Luke 8:13; Luke 9:62; Luke 12:42-48; John 15:1-6; Acts 4:32; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 8:9-24; Acts 20:28-30; 1 Corinthians 1:1-12; Galatians 2:11-14; Galatians 6:1; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; Hebrews 2:1; Hebrews 3:12-4:1; Hebrews 4:11; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:25-31; Hebrews 10:38-39; Hebrews 12:7-8; James 5:19-20; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Peter 2:1; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 2 Peter 3:17; 2 John 8-11; Revelation 2:4-5; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:16-17
That’s a long list, but not a complete list. There are many texts in the Bible that reveal salvation is conditional. Look up the word “if” in the New Testament, and you will see many of the conditions that are necessary for us to be saved. Now, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have confidence in salvation, we can. Throughout 1 John, the writer says we can know that we are saved. We absolutely can have assurance—but that assurances comes from doing the will of God, not from a false doctrine that tells us we’re a-okay. God wants us to persevere, and if we do persevere (if we continue faithfully), then we have the hope of heaven as our home.