The doctrine of eternal security and pre-destination are two Biblical doctrines that divide the church more than any other thing. In an attempt to present the truth about eternal security Christians are divided along Calvinism and Arminianism.
The discord arises for two reasons. One, the conservative adherents not ready to accept the opposing view different from theirs. They concluded this without given the other party fair hearing. Two, those who exploit the weakness of these teaching to support their lackadaisical and sinful way of life to the detriment of the unsuspecting believers and new converts.
Mind you, both Calvin and Arminius are the contemporary of Martin Luther. They all emerge during the great reformation. Both had a good intention of what today had become a dividing factor among Christians.
What do these two great minds teach? Calvinism is named after John Calvin, a French theologian (1509-1564). Arminianism is based on the Biblical interpretation taught by Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived between (1560-1609).
If you do enough research and study, you’ll discover that on both sides we have liberal minds who do not believe totally what their camps hold. For instance, some Arminius does not come to term with all their five-point agenda such as conditional salvation. This is in tandem with Calvinism theory of eternal security.
This same goes with “four-point Calvinism” otherwise known as moderate Calvinism. At times it is called Amyraldism named after Moses Amyraut. This faction of Calvinist believes only a four-point of Calvinism five-point teachings. They rejected the limited atonement of Calvinism for the unlimited atonement of sinners as taught by the Arminist. So, to be fair to both party, I see a little of this in that.
For us to know the truth about eternal salvation, let us see what each group teaches:
Calvinism explains the theory of salvation by the acronym “TULIP”.
U- Unconditional Election: only those who are chosen by God are saved. This is the prerogative of God before the creation and before each one is born Ephesians 1:4, Romans. 9:16, Galatians. 1:15.
L- Limited Atonement: Jesus died only for those God had chosen for salvation and not every sinner. 1Samuel 3:14, Matthew 6:12, Luke 11:4.
I- Irresistible grace: It is God who makes those who yielded to salvation by his power, not the sinner’s choice or desire. He cannot prevent his salvation Prov. 21:1, Rom. 9:18.
P- Perseverance of the saints: It teaches that saved souls are secured in Christ so that they cannot lose their salvation no matter what they do thereafter.
In putting the teaching on salvation in proper biblical theory Jacob Arminius who lived between 1560 -1609 created an acronym he called FACTS which becomes the foundation of the Arminism.
F – Freed by grace to believe: this implies grace for salvation is for everyone. You can use accept the offer of salvation or reject it.
A – Atonement for all. The death of Jesus atoned for all mankind and not a selective atonement.
C – Conditional election: Those who are served the one that keyed into salvation plan of God, through their belief in Jesus.
T – Total depravity: all human being is generally a loss of their sin since the fall in Eden.
S – Security in Christ: Our salvation is secured in Christ.
The following are my discovery summation on the five-point agenda of both Calvinism and Arminianism looking from the Bible lens. (i) Depravity (ii) Election (iii) Redemption or atonement (iv) Grace (v) Eternal security.
Depravity: According to the Calvinism human is totally depraved as stated in Gen6:5. With this fact in the place that is not enough to deny that man do not have a portion in him that admit his shortcomings and crave for God. As expected the flesh and the devil contend with this desire.
Don’t also forget the difference between animal and man is the spirit of God in man. We can see this in the reaction of the Adam when he sinned. He was afraid to meet God because of his sin tainted life. Calvinism insisted that sinful man in this state cannot seek God on his own without God drawing him. That, therefore, means he is programmed to do God’s bidding whether or not he likes it.
But, when you look at Zacchaeus and Cornelius Luke 9:1-10 Acts 10:31. Both men though depraved yet, they sought God. Interestingly, both men had the world going for them as far as a physical achievement on this side of life. There is this vacuum seeking to be filled with something outside of them. They knew they needed something outside. So, every human being carries the capacity to seek God. Read God’s statement about Cornelius. Acts10:31. All it takes is man harnessing his power of choice. Jesus never preached to the thief by his right-hand side yet, he seeks for salvation.
On this, Dr. Curtis Hutson opined that sinners are even called through their conscience before a preacher speaks to them according to Romans 2:11-16. According to him, it is not a matter of whether you can come to Christ; it is a matter of whether you will come to Christ.
Election: Calvinism held that God does the election or selection for salvation. This is not based on whatever man has done or could do. It implies that God chooses some for salvation while others for destruction. That would not be scripturally correct as this negates God’s global appeal and offer in the following scriptures John 3:16-18, John 1:12.
The stance of Arminist is a conditional election. This does not mean man salvation is the reward of his good work. Yet, he is supposed to show his salvation through good works. James 2:14-26 in the election for salvation. God’s part is contained in Ezekiel 18:23-33:11 2Peter 3:9. Arminius’s principle of election does not say man contributed to the work of salvation. Of course, that will infer salvation is based on work and not on grace. Paul L. Freeman believed John Calvin err on the limited election. He reasoned If God commanded us to love and pray for everybody including our enemies then, He wouldn’t have created some people for destruction.
Redemption or Atonement: Calvinism teaches the redemption work of Jesus can only atone for the sins of the elected of God. But, the Bible teaches Jesus died for all including those who ever will live. Despite, not everybody will enjoy this providence. But, only those who through repentance come to Jesus.
For instance, Jesus wept over Jerusalem for their unbelief. Calvin’s belief is inconsistent with John 3: 15, 16,18,21,33,36 especially the word “whosoever” or “anyone” which place salvation on man’s choice. Other scriptures that God wants all to be saved. Not only is that Jesus’ atonement for all. These scriptures attest to this in Ezekiel 18:32. 3:17-19. One truth about eternal security is the statement and commandment of Jesus on the great commission. If God had decided whom he would save then, evangelism is a share wasted effort. Will the effort of the early Apostles and Christian martyr not be in vain?
Grace: It is God who makes those he chose to yield to salvation, not the sinner’s choice or desire. He cannot prevent his salvation Prov. 21:1, Rom. 9:18.
Calvinism teaches God will save some people whether or not they like it. It implies then that even if nobody preaches to sinners, those predetermined by God will save them anyway. If sinners will be saved without their consent then the human is not different from animals or robot
Eternal security: Another name for this is perseverance of the saints: Calvin teaches that a saved soul is so secured in Christ that they cannot lose their salvation no matter what they do thereafter.
As we look at the doctrine of eternal security I think we will do well to first look at salvation and who is truly saved. What is Salvation? Salvation is the deliverance from sin and its eternal result. Salvation is eternal, it is not about now. The essence of salvation is to deliver us from the penalty of sin committed in the Garden of Eden and those other ones we committed on our own.
Remember, another truth about eternal salvation is that we are saved does not shield us from the penalty of sin while on earth. God forgave David yet, the child from the illicit affair died. Despite the personal good credential of Eli and Samuel, their children will not continue in the priesthood office. This is because of their failure on parental responsibility.
Who is saved? Mathew 24:13, Ezekiel 18:24. The mentioned bible passages succinctly established it that only those who stayed in God at death are the saved soul. An example is Judas Iscariot and the thief by the right hand of Jesus. What do you think would have happened if Judas had repented after betraying Jesus? I believe he would have been forgiven. Did he lose his salvation?
Let us look at the evidence. Judas committed a crime against God and the state by committing suicide.
What comes to your mind anytime you read the following statement? Strive to enter Luke 13:24. Do not allow anyone to takes your Crown Revelation 3:3. Contend for the faith once delivered Jude 3. Since the time of John the Baptist Matthew 11:12. Hold fast Hebrew 3:14. These Bible passages point to the truth about the part which believers have to play for the sustenance of his salvation through the grace of God. All the letters of Jesus apart from that of the Philadelphia are warnings that one could lose his salvation.
What do you make of Samson’s story? An angel predicted his birth. If we go by Calvin’s teaching, we could ask the following questions. Did God ordain Samson’s fall before creation? Couldn’t God prevented him from falling into sin and died with the enemies? Did God withdraw his hand of security from Samson to warrant his fall? Samson’s statement reveals a man who believes in charisma without character. He believed so much in eternal security irrespective of how you live thereafter. Perhaps, Samson was also a Calvinist.
We have no part in the work of our salvation, yet; we are not without responsibility to defend it. Why couldn’t God, stop Eve from eating the forbidden fruit? It is because God created them a free moral agent and not a robot. If you are in doubt about the possibility of a Christian losing his salvation, then read this.
Now, if we go by eternal security stance of Calvinism. Are their people or nation elected or appointed by God, who through their willpower denounce or wasted such an opportunity? Yes, we have them. The following examples should suffice.
- Lots wife: I don’t know how many of us have had a personal encounter with angels. Mind you, it was an angel sent from God for her family’s salvation that held her hand. That is a literal and physical salvation from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God decided to save her, but she declined the offer. Lot’s wife broke off from the angel. If God had not appointed her for salvation would he have sent an angel in the first place? Note the angel never insisted against her will.
- People in the days of Noah: God never intended the ark to harbor only eight people. God made a way of escape, but the people refused that salvation.
- Saul the first King: It was God who chose Saul himself. But he could not sustain that selection. The people or Samuel has no say about it.
- Eli and his lineage: If you compare the two passages of the scripture you’ll see God’ appointment and how Eli blew up the future of his generation by his choice.
Once saved is not forever saved. In other words, the truth about eternal salvation is that it is for those who endured to the end.
These examples prove even if God appointed a person for salvation he/she could jettison that offer. Therefore, to say once saved is forever saved will not only be wrong but against the principle of choice embedded in the human being.
The doctrine of the eternal security sells because of those Christian who seek a convenient way of serving the Lord with no pain attached. Often, such beleivers ask the question where is God when I hurt? Their reason is they were never told Christian journey is filled with thorns at times.
Unfortunately, for such fellows Matt Slick who is an ardent believer in the principle of eternal explained otherwise. He presented the truth about eternal security. As expected of a true translator of the bible the truth about eternal security is that it is not a cover for sinfulness. Though, this may sound like a shock to some conservative or hard-line Calvinist. Matt Slick submitted that those who claim to be eternally secured who went on to commit sin on purpose are not saved in the first place. His reason is that such beliefs would negate the word of God as contained in 1 John 2:4. Yes, the truth of the bible is that God is capable of securing our salvation it is not a license for us to continue in sin deliberately.
When refuting the teaching of eternal security John Davis asked if it were not possible for one to lose his salvation why did Paul pray that he should not be a castaway 1 Cor. 9:24-27? This he supported with other scriptures. Hebrews. 2:1, 4:11,12:15,10:28, 2 Peter 3:17, Galatians. 1:6. Therefore, the truth about eternal security is that a beleiver can lose his salvation if he is not careful.
This is my submission. If even you believe in eternal security your striving daily to live for God will not only preserve you here but also, ultimately secure you in the hereafter.
What is your take on the truth about eternal security?
Do you think believers can have a middle course where we could both agree?
Add your voice to this discussion in the comment box below. Don’t also forget to share this on your favorite social media as you like my page.
Author: Joseph Akinrinola
Joseph Akinrinola is a Pastor, Sunday school management coach, author, blogger, and a motivational speaker.
Joseph created this blog to help young Christians establish their
feet in Christ, and to provide Biblical time-tested answers to life’s
questions about relationship, christian living and personal development.