Later today, we will begin our final example of Emphatic Negation as included in the Gospel of John Chapter 10. This passage of Scripture will deal with the issue of “Eternal Security.” Based upon the meta comments on other posts, I can envision a lively discussion regarding this matter.
However, what I would like to forestall is to see any discussion becoming an issue of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, which is so often what occurs. The reason is that the doctrine of Eternal Security (by it’s various names, e.g., Perseverance of the Saints) is not exclusive to Calvinism by any means. And thus to sink into this type of back and forth arguing will be non-productive.
To show that this is not a doctrine exclusively of Calvinism I wanted to give some historical perspective. The doctrine of Eternal Security is held by the following groups.
The Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) includes congregations and ministers from across a spectrum including those who would describe themselves as Calvinistic, Armininian or independent. However, following is an excerpt from the “2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” the confession of the SBC, which can be accessed at http://blb.sc/0000Ei.
V. God’s Purpose of Grace
…All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”
Similar wording is included in the “1925 Baptist Faith and Message,” and the “1963 Baptist Faith and Message” which can be accessed at http://blb.sc/0000Ei.
In 2012, a group of persons within the SBC who were concerned with the growth of the Calvinist influence in the SBC, issued a statement entitled, “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Soteriology.” What is important about this document is that its self-described purpose is to counteract the Calvinistic beliefs that are being promulgated in the SBC. Yet, as it relates to the doctrine of “Eternal Security,” these self-identified non-Calvinists state their avowed belief in the doctrine of Eternal Security,
Article Nine: The Security of the Believer
We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.
We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.
The complete statement, “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Soteriology,” can be accessed at http://blb.sc/0000Ej
The Formula of Concord is a Lutheran confession of faith that is held by many Lutheran bodies of faith, including the “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” and the “Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.” Following is an excerpt (with emphasis added) from the The Formula of Concord. You can read the document at http://blb.sc/0000El.
The Pure and True Doctrine concerning This Article.
8. Therefore we should judge concerning this our election to eternal life neither from reason nor from the Law of God, which lead us either into a reckless, dissolute, Epicurean life or into despair, and excite pernicious thoughts in the hearts of men, for they cannot, as long as they follow their reason, successfully refrain from thinking: If God has elected me to salvation, I cannot be condemned, no matter what I do; and again: If I am not elected to eternal life, it is of no avail what good I do; it is all [all my efforts are] in vain anyway.
While Lutheran doctrine does allow that there are “temporary believers” that can fall away from grace, these “temporary believers” were not the elect. Also, it is important to note that Luther and the authors of the Formula of Concord did not believe that election is based upon the foreseen faith of the believer (synergism), but solely upon God’s decision (monergism). They also sought to associate election more to Christ, in the sense that the elect are for Christ and by the work of Christ for Christ’s inheritance (Ephesians 1:1-7), rather than an arbitrary decision in eternity past. After Luther’s death, some Lutherans started to follow a more synergistic view of salvation, led by Philipp Melanchthon, Luther’s friend.
The following excerpt is from the pamphlet, Calvinism, Arminianism & the Word of God: A Calvary Chapel Perspective, by Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement.
Maintaining a Bible-centered balance in these difficult issues is of great importance. We do believe in the perseverance of the saints (true believers), but are deeply concerned about sinful lifestyles and rebellious hearts among those who call themselves “Christians.”
We don’t have all the answers to these matters, but we desire to be faithful to the Lord and His word.
(Smith Chuck, Calvinism, Arminianism & the Word of God: A Calvary Chapel Perspective, (Costa Mesa: The Word for Today, 2011), 14.)
The included citation is for the latest printed version as of this writing. An online pdf version is available at http://blb.sc/0000Em (see the last paragraph of page 6).
Independent Churches / Fellowships
Many independent churches, fellowships and ministries hold to the doctrine of eternal security. Following are some notable examples, selected for their breadth of doctrinal views.
Ariel Ministries is a Messianic Jewish ministry whose mission is to evangelize and disciple our Jewish brethren. The following excerpt is from their doctrinal statement accessible at http://blb.sc/0000En.
Salvation, Section Three – Eternal Security
We believe that all true believers once saved are eternally secure forever because of the nature and work of Christ and the very nature of the divine gift of eternal life; that it is the privilege of all who are saved to be assured of their salvation from the very moment that they accept Him as Saviour; that this assurance is not based on their own merit, but by the testimony of the Scriptures and the witness of the Holy Spirit.
The Berean Call, the Ministry of Dave Hunt
Dave Hunt is well known for his books, messages, articles and debates against Calvinism. Yet, Dave Hunt holds to the doctrine of Eternal Security of the believer. Here’s an excerpt (with added emphasis) from The Berean Call ministry resources at http://blb.sc/0000Eo.
He [Christ] obtained your salvation, he paid the price. Infinite cost you couldn’t pay it and then he turns it over to you to keep it. Well it’s like turning a fortune over to a two year old. I couldn’t save myself, I couldn’t live a good enough life to get saved, I certainly can’t live a good enough life to keep saved. But then he goes on and he talks about the earth that bringeth forth thorns, briars and so forth and rejected and to burned and then he says this: “But beloved we are persuaded better things of you and things that accompany salvation though we thus speak.” So it seems that this falling away is a hypothetical case. He doesn’t say “when,” he says” if.” But this is not what accompanies salvation and I want you to know the writer says you can’t get saved if you can fall away, but falling away is not what happens to a true Christian.
The Arminian Remonstrance
As we can see from the above examples, the doctrine of Eternal Security, while held by Calvinists, is not solely a doctrine of Calvinism. Calvinists believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, but Trinitarian theology is not uniquely Calvinistic. In fact, it gets even more interesting when you actually read the articles of the Arminian Remonstrance from 1610 that are dealing with this issue.
The “Five Articles of the Remonstrance” refer to the document created by the followers of Jacob Arminius, protesting the Calvinistic teaching about predestination. The Synod of Dordt was called to respond to the Remonstrance. Here is Article V of the Remonstrance that deals with the perseverance of the saints (emphasis added).
Article V–That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds.
Note the sentence highlighted above. Reading it very carefully, it is saying that they (the Arminians) could NOT teach that a believer could lose their saving grace, without further study and conviction of Scripture.
As was stated earlier, the purpose of this article was to show that the doctrine of Eternal Security was not a doctrine limited to those of the Calvinistic persuasion. I am not even indicating that all these groups place the same amount of emphasis on the doctrine, or view it exactly in the same way. But it has been shown herein that there are Lutherans, non-Calvinistic Baptists, and numerous independent churches and fellowships of the Christian faith, as well as Calvinists, who do believe that the Scriptures teach the doctrine of Eternal Security.
I am not asking you to hold to this or any doctrine because of someone else’s belief in it. I am asking that each of us search the SCRIPTURES to determine what we believe. In addition, that we not relegate our future discussions on this matter to “name calling.”
Since Justin’s last example of emphatic negation will deal with this subject, we also felt this would be a good segue for a new series by Justin on the topic of Eternal Security in the original languages. Justin will look at other Scriptures, in the original languages, that are both supportive and problematic for the doctrine of Eternal Security.
Hopefully, these future studies will bring us to a fuller appreciation of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ for believers, and cause us to worship Him more fully than ever before