In part 3, the final portion of our Once Saved Always Saved series, I have decided to quote excerpts from the afterword given by John MacArthur for a book entitled The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended and Documented. 2nd Edition: by authors David Steele, Curtis Thomas and Lance Quinn. Many of the points made below by pastor and teacher John MacArthur, whom we will quote shortly, are basically true and may even seem difficult to challenge (after all they are found in the Scripture). The error of his position, however, lies in the fact that he is either forced to reinterpret, deny or ignore the numerous Scriptures that I have provided in part 2 of this series, that emphatically contradicts his understanding and interpretation. This Calvinism cannot honestly deny, but they must, in order to further their TULIP narrative.
Although many of their religious leaders are highly educated, and very sincere Christians, they are unmistakably misrepresenting the biblical character of God. So, it is our fundamental duty to try to understand how some misinterpreted biblical passages leads people to accept and believe in Calvinism’s 5-points, better known as T.U.L.I.P. So, let’s see how Calvinism defines the acronym T.U.L.I.P. According to simplyputpodcast.com Five Points of Calvinism (December 3, 2019) Church History states:
T – Total Depravity: Means that a person has no power in themselves to put their trust in God. God must first change their hearts so that they willingly (and necessarily) believe in Christ.
U – Unconditional Election: Means that God predestines people to salvation based purely and unconditionally on His own sovereign choice. Nothing that people do and nothing in them makes God choose them.
L – Limited Atonement: Means that while Christ’s death is of limitless value. He actually atoned only for His elect people. He died only for specific individuals and only for their specific transgressions, not for everyone without exception. This death is effective for all those whom Christ intended to save by it. Consequently, all those for whom Christ died will certainly believe and inherit eternal life.
I – Irresistible Grace: Means that God’s saving grace precedes our yeas and is ultimately irresistible. It is God’s saving grace alone that enables and necessarily brings about a person’s faith, and the renewal of a person’s heart, in the first place…some of God’s chosen people may for a time resist the call to faith and repentance, God never fails to save those He wants to save.
P – Perseverance of the Saints: Means that no one who is truly born of God can ever be lost. As Paul says in Philippians, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
So, how is it possible to lose sight of the fact that Scripture is complimentary – whereas Calvinism – by definition forces the Bible to contradict itself? What is the point I am making here? Even though Calvinist will acknowledge that the Bible never contradicts itself, they contradict themselves. This is very important for us to understand when we interpret Scripture. By quoting passages that supports ones distinctives, while ignoring or reinterpreting passages that appear to be counterintuitive to our distinctive, is a very dangerous game to play. We then find ourselves pitting Scripture against Scripture, which can be a grave error (see II Peter 3:16). There are many instances in Scripture where two or more passages appear contradictory, but are rather complimentary and are always conditional (Example are: Faith or Works – Rom 4:1-5 or James 2:14-18; There’s None Righteous or Some Are Righteous – Rom 3:9-11 or Luke 1:5-6, James 5:16; Always Saved or Loss of Salvation – John 10:28-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39 or John 15:5-6; Hebrews 6:4-6; Matthew 25:30). Both positions are true, but only if conditionally applied, making them complimentary not contradictory.
I am not suggesting based on earlier statements, that this teaching will cause anyone to lose their salvation (it can, but not necessarily) – for God cannot be deceived by man and He knows the motives of our heart (see Hebrews 4:12-13). Although, I am convinced that pastor MacArthur is sincere when he states in his afterword and I quote, “Notwithstanding its success over the years the only question that ultimately matters about the “five points of Calvinism” is whether these doctrines are biblical. This book has demonstrated (conclusively, in my judgment) that the “five points” are nothing more or less than what the Bible teaches. The doctrines of grace and divine sovereignty are the very lifeblood of the full and free salvation promised in the gospel. Today Calvinism is being subjected to constant attack. Several recent, popular, published critiques have tried to discredit John Calvin the man, or they have unfairly blamed Calvinism for the dubious politics of the Reformation era. But the doctrines of Calvinistic soteriology must stand or fall by the test of Scripture, period.”
Pastor MacArthur continues, “Scripture speaks with absolute, unmistakable clarity on these vital issues: (1) Sinners are utterly helpless to redeem themselves or to contribute anything meritorious toward their own salvation (Rom 8:7-8). (2) God is sovereign in the exercise of His saving Will (Eph 1:4-5). (3) Christ died as a substitute who bore the full weight of God’s wrath on behalf of His people, and his atoning work is efficacious for their salvation (Isa. 53:5). (4) God’s saving purpose cannot be thwarted (John 6:37), meaning none of Christ’s true sheep will ever be lost (John 10:27-29). That is because (5) God assures the perseverance of His elect (Jude24; Phil 1:6; I Peter 1:5). Those are the five points of Calvinism. I believe them not because of their historical pedigree, but because that is what Scripture teaches.” https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/MacArthur_5pts.html
Although analogies aren’t always perfect, they can be used as tools to illustrate a particular point of view. So, I think this is a great place for an analogy, as it relates to interpreting Scripture, it fits perfectly. Biblical passages, similar to the two sides of a coin, “heads” and “tails,” you will find some appearing different, seemingly contradictory. If one focuses on certain biblical passages (or one side of the coin), the heads, while ignoring the biblical passages (or the other side of the coin), the tails – it will definitely cause one to misinterpret Scripture – such is the case with Calvinism. This most definitely applies to the understanding of Scripture by Calvinism, as it relates to God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill. Just as legal tender (money) can only be approved by an authorized authority (US Treasury) before it is officially recognized, so with Scripture. Scripture (where seemingly apparent contradictions appear), they are distinctly different (like the heads and tails of a coin), but is one and the same truth. The Bible (God, being its author) where distinctively different passages appear, is like monetary currency (paper bills or coins), in which both heads and tails are distinctly different, but is one and the same coin.
So, a seriously fundamental question that needs to be asked is, why would God elect some to eternal life, while preventing and denying others the opportunity to obtain eternal life? Calvinism calls it Unconditional Election! It’s a mystery. It is often stated by those who hold to Sovereign/Unconditional Election, that God is sovereign and it is impossible to fully understanding God’s reasoning (Isaiah 55:8-9). Although this is true, God has revealed many things about Himself to us, how else could we learn anything about Him (Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; Romans 1:20; Romans 2:14-15; Hebrews 1:1-2;)? Many things about God are reveal to humanity. God created us to have a relationship with Him, and to teach us His ways, if we are willing to heed His instructions. Yes, God is sovereign and can do as He pleases, as RC Sproul frequently states regarding Romans 9:10-13.
Technically, no one can truly identify themselves as a Calvinist accepting only 1, 2, 3 or 4 points of this doctrine. In order to be a true Calvinist, one must accept all 5-points of Calvinism, or suffer under its own weight. Calvinist by intentionally adding to, or ignoring proper Scripture interpretation, are introducing a new narrative that neither God, the Prophets, Jesus Christ, or any New Testament writer taught throughout the entire Bible. This is reckless, inevitably devaluing and producing a counterfeit doctrine, which would be considered criminal and dangerous, if applied to money or currency (subject to imprisonment). Calvinism I believe, is a dangerous teaching, because unbeknownst to them (they should know) produces a false sense of security. Although Calvinism cannot admit this, it is apparent to me, if the statement “there is nothing you can do to lose your salvation” is taken to its logical conclusion it often encourages many Christians to live unsavory and sinful lives. Due to the fact that, Once You Are Saved, You Are Always Saved, as they claim the Bible teaches it!
However, reading the various passages that either defend or challenge the belief “Once Saved Always Saved” or “You Can Loss Your Salvation,” both groups interpret and understand these verses in different ways (Calvinism vs Arminanism). If anyone takes words or include words that do not exist in the Bible, and make them literal when it doesn’t necessitate it – it creates a fallacious pretext. I think when interpreting and translating words in the Bible, such as Sovereign, Elect or Election, we must understand how each word is used in its individual context. Various words can be nuanced in the Bible on a variety of subject. The error comes when a person picks a number of passages that seem to support one’s view, while at the same time ignoring passages that appears to teach something opposite (examples, ‘ask anything in my name’ ‘let the dead bury the dead’ ‘you cannot sin’ ‘everlasting’ ‘elect’).
After reading the Bible cover-to-cover over twenty-one times, I am convinced that there must be at least one-thousand conditional statements “If you do this, then I will do that” totally demonstrating human freewill, creating a necessary mutual relationship between God and man. Which of these positions do you believe “Once Saved Always Saved” or someone “Can Lose their Salvation” must comport to the proper meaning of a scriptural text? It is either true, God’s sovereignty makes and prevents individuals from doing things He request (yet God, blames the person and still makes them accountable for their actions). If people have no choice in choosing God, this is a strong indicator that God denies humanity, their Free-will to accept or reject His requirements. Both cannot be true in the same way at the same time.
Throughout the Old and New Testament, there seems to be three methods in which God relates to mankind to bring about His purposes: A mutual reciprocity between both God and man. 1) God intervenes with man as a Theophany or Christophany; 2) God uses celestial beings, the devil or demons to test His people’s faithfulness and finally, 3) God gives us His commandments in writing, through the prophets, visions, dreams and the great commission which allows us, as free moral agents, the opportunity to accept or reject Him. You must take the time to look at the facts and come to your own conclusions. May God give you the wisdom on how to move forward.
Finally, in closing Christendom, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, would partially agree with John MacArthur and RC Sproul, that ‘there is not injustice on God’s part’ and ‘that God has compassion and mercy on whom He wills.’ However, those of us who oppose the Calvinist view interpret those passages in a different light. So, how does one reconcile the many verses in the Bible that suggest, Once Saved always Saved (see John 10:27-29; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29-30; 9:10-15; Ephesians 1:11-14; 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7; I John 2:19)along with the numerous passages that support the positiona Person Can Lose their Salvation (see Matthew 23:37-38; Matthew 25:1-10; John 6:66-71; John 15:1-6; Romans 11:15-24; Hebrews 6:4-6; James 2:17-18, 21; 2 Peter 2:20-22)?Each person must decide where they stand on this issue. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).