Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 1, No. 9 Page 16 September 1999

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

   By Louis Rushmore

Perseverance of the Saints

I read your story and was quite puzzled about your references to Christians going to hell. It seems as though you beleive that our Eternal Salvation has something to do with what we do instead of what we believe. Christ was clear in saying that if you believe on me (Christ) you shall be saved. . . . Please read the parable of the 10 virgins in Mathew and ask yourself why is the the Kingdom of heaven likened to 10 virgins even the foolish ones. and why is outer darkness in Heaven and why would an unbeleiver be on their way to the wedding feast. Could outer darkness be a place where Christians go (5 foolish ones) for a time to receive there punishment for not gaining the oil (yes maybe). Do you REALLY see loss of salvation in this verse or were these people not saved to begin with, if not why are they in heaven already. Non-beleivers are never judged with believers. . . . I just think it is time for Christians to follow the one new commandment that Jesus said, To Love One Another. It is not up to us to stand and judge this Christain or that Christian to HELL. . . . ~ Steve Hazen (emphasis added, ler)
John Calvin (1509-1564) popularized some religious tenets so well that together they are commonly referred to as “Calvinism.”  The five cardinal doctrines of Calvinism are easily remembered by the acrostic, TULIP:  Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints.  Several religious groups adopted Calvin’s theological system.  The querist, a portion of whose question appears above, evidently subscribes to Calvin’s theology, too.  Doubtless the querist is sincere in his religious conviction, though with all due respect, I submit that he is mistaken in that belief.  The Bible does not substantiate the doctrine of Calvinism, and in particular for our purposes, the tenet of “Perseverance of the Saints.”

First, “Is it possible for a Christian to sin so as to be eternally lost?”  The querist argues, “No!”  What does the Bible teach?  The following biblical illustration very graphically argues that the child of God can be lost, though he once was saved.

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Further, in Acts Chapter Eight, Simon became a Christian, after which he sinned and was in danger of being lost.
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:18-23).
The Calvinist usually retorts that Simon was never really a Christian.  Likewise, in the interest of defending the theological posture of “Perseverance of the Saints,” when a religious person who subscribes to Calvinism commits sins that cannot be overlooked, one of two explanations are offered.  (1) The offender was never really a Christian; the offender may have thought he was a Christian, and his peers may have mistakenly believed he was a Christian, but he really was not.  (2) Despite the aggravated sin of which a Christian may actually be guilty (e.g., adultery, theft, murder, etc.), there is nothing that a child of God can do that will imperil his immortal soul.  Both of these excuses are pitiful apologies for confidence in the Calvinistic tenet of “Perseverance of the Saints.”  In truth, Simon did exactly what the Samaritans did when they became Christians.  Therefore, whatever spiritual attainment those Samaritans enjoyed was also realized by Simon.  Simon, however, sinned after becoming a Christian, which if sin were not repented by Simon and forgiven by God, Simon would be eternally lost.
“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:12-13).
Every warning to a child of God implies that there is a consequence for failure to repent.  “For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Romans 6:23).  There are said to be well over a thousand such warnings to the children of God in the New Testament.  One such warning reads:  “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.  Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).  The preceding verse was penned to Christians.

Second, there is a common misconception that “belief” does not involve “obedience.”  Therefore, the querist writes:  “It seems as though you beleive that our Eternal Salvation has something to do with what we do instead of what we believe.”  Contrary to erroneous notions about “belief” or “faith,” these words are synonyms.  Sometimes a translation of the Bible can contribute to such a misunderstanding:  “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36, KJV).  Compare the same verse in the American Standard Version:  “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  Two different Greek words are used in the verse, though the KJV English translation does not reflect that.  The American Standard Version, though, does correctly reflect this.  The Greek word for “believeth not” in the KJV and “obeyeth not” in the ASV is apeithon.  It is the word for “disobedience.”

Even without Greek resources, the Bible student can easily see the essential nature of obedience to be pleasing to God.  Consider the following passages, just a few that could be cited.  “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).  “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Third, the Parable of the Ten Virgins really is a passage, when handled correctly, that teaches the possibility of the children of God being lost.  The thrust of the parable is to teach the necessity for adequate preparation to enter heaven.  If, however, as the querist supposes, the child of God cannot fail to enter heaven, then what would it really matter how well a Christian prepared or practiced Christianity?

The illustration Jesus used in Matthew 25:1-13 drew from common scenes in Jewish life relative to a wedding celebration.  The groom would arrive at his bride’s home and receive her from his father-in-law.  From that point and along a course from there to the groom’s house, friends of the bride and groom would join the procession.  The procession would conclude upon arrival at the groom’s home, at which time a celebration would begin.  In the parable, some of the friends of either the bride or the groom waited outside the groom’s home for the unknown arrival of the groom, his bride and the procession of friends who joined them along the way.  Five of the virgins failed to anticipate the delayed arrival of the procession and had to leave to acquire more oil for their lamps.  While they were gone, the groom and bride arrived.  All who were prepared entered the home and the celebration began.  The five virgins who came late were not admitted.

In the parable, all the ten virgins were, as Jews, in a covenant relationship with God.  They were all the children of God.  The period of waiting is comparable to life on earth awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  The celebration occurring inside the groom’s home is comparable to eternal heaven.  The five unprepared virgins, though children of God, were not admitted.  In order for the querist’s formula for delayed, but eventual eternal redemption to work with this parable, the groom would have to had, after awhile, relented and let the five unprepared virgins enter the celebration, too.

Fourth, I am not sure what to make of the statement:  “Non-beleivers are never judged with believers.”  There will be a universal resurrection followed by a universal judgment.

“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29).
The same biblical standard of righteousness is applied by God to all accountable souls.  Otherwise, Christians could commit the same sins with impunity which when committed by non-Christians would condemn their souls.  The apostle Paul wrote:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2).
It is a horrible doctrine that permits Christians to commit sin with a false sense of safety.  Romans 6:23 still says that “the wages of sin is death,” without distinction either in the type of sin or the persons committing the sin.

Fifth, the following statement is grossly misleading and biblically untrue.  “I just think it is time for Christians to follow the one new commandment that Jesus said, To Love One Another. It is not up to us to stand and judge this Christain or that Christian to HELL.”  According to Jesus, love necessitates a predictable activity, namely obedience.

“If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me” (John 14:15, 21, 23-24).
The American Standard Version renders John 14:15, “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.”  So, love obeys!  Disobedience is evidence of the lack of love.

It is true, of course, that Christians do not have the right to consign any soul to hell.  The sentencing at the judgment bar of God belongs to the Godhead.  However, Christians are obligated to judge in the sense of discernment, comparison of their lives and the lives of others to the Word of God.  Following that type of judgment, each soul needs to amend his life where deficient and warn his fellows.  Contrary to popular thought, for instance, Matthew 7:1-5 only condemns unrighteous judgment.  Most people stop with Matthew 7:1 and fail to read and apply the following four verses.  Notice some of the verses that enjoin righteous judgment on the children of God.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).
Not only are we to be “fruit inspectors,” false teachers are to be publicly marked and avoided (Romans 16:17-18) and immoral persons are to be shunned or disfellowshipped (1 Corinthians 5:1-13).  According to the 1 Corinthians 5 passage, Christians are obligated to “judge.”  Second Thessalonians 3:6 and 14 require Christians to discern the spiritual misbehavior of other Christians and spiritually punish them.  It is not true love that leads one to ignore and otherwise overlook sin in the lives of either non-Christians or Christians.  True love compels one to warn his fellows of their sins, lest they fail the final, no-make-up-test before the judgment bar of God.

In summary, even Christians can be lost.  Therefore, it behooves each soul, including Christians, to practice faithfulness.  God will not save any soul in open rebellion to his revealed will.  “. . . Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

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Gospel Gazette Online
Louis Rushmore, Editor
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