|Vol. 15 No. 3 March 2013||
D. Gene West
At this particular time of year we hear a great deal said about “peace.” It seems that during the holiday season we bemoan a lack of peace in the world more than do we at any other time of the year. During the spring season when the religious world celebrates the holiday they call Easter, one rarely hears or reads sermons on this subject; however, during the season that is rapidly becoming known as the season of epiphany, we hear and read homily after homily on the subject of peace. Please do not misunderstand; we are not opposed to preaching on the subject of peace. We are not opposed to preachers telling the world that it should learn to live in peace and harmony on this earth. That is certainly true, and it is an ideal toward which all will strive so long as men live on the earth, but that will never be attained because men have been killing one another since Cain slew his brother Abel thousands of years ago. Political peace forced upon people will last only so long as the force is strong enough to cause it to last, and when that force weakens, war will return once again. We cite the middle east as an example of this.
However, there is another kind of peace that can, when truly and sufficiently spread to all the world, bring the world peace because there will be no desire for vengeance, war or domination of others through political or military might. This is the peace that we read about in the pages of the New Testament of our Lord. So far as this writer is able to tell, this kind of peace always comes from the same Greek word in the New Testament and has reference to the inner peace that comes to a person who knows that he is a true child of God, or a Christian. It is a peace that is born of love and faith that causes one to love even his enemies, if such he has. This kind of peace is that of which the apostle Paul spoke as being that which “passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). It is the peace that was brought into the world by the Prince of Peace of whom the great prophet spoke (Isaiah 9:6). It is a peace that only God could conceive and only Christ could bring to men. It is an active goodwill toward all that is the natural outgrowth of agape love.
When heart by heart, we surrender to the will of Christ and come to truly accept him as our Messiah and Lord, we will know this peace, though we may not be able to put it into words. It is more than an absence of hatred, ill-will and contempt; it is a positive goodwill toward all. The world does not have this peace for at least two reasons: (1) It does not understand it because the world does not know what it means to live with an inward peace and tranquility that fears nothing, including death. The world is afraid of death and the Judgment. Christians, on the other hand, welcome both because they are borne up by an unfaltering trust in the Lord who is the Master of death. (2) Satan has taught the world that being angry and hate-filled regarding something is the way to live. For example, there are those who are so opposed to abortion (a form of murder) that they will murder the medical personnel who perform such. They never see the incongruity of what they are doing, and thus they claim to be martyrs on behalf of unborn children. It is the old theory that two wrongs can make a right, and the end does justify the means! However, the attitude, like that of racism, etc., is born from a total lack of peace in the inward man.
Christians should not buy into the world’s way of thinking. We should follow the way of our Savior, who while on the cross, prayed for his enemies. We should demonstrate that we have and love the peace that passes all understanding, and because we have it, it is unnecessary for us to be the enemies of any man. Incidentally, Christians can take part in punishing evil without ever hating a person or considering him our personal enemy. God gave us that right in Romans 13:1-7.
You do not hear the name John Calvin as much in today’s religious culture as in days past. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is not as popular as it once was. However, you do still hear some preachers proclaiming the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, also called “Once saved; always saved.” John Calvin was the great promoter of this doctrine.
There are several verses used by Calvinists to defend this doctrine. In John 10:28-29, Jesus said that no one could snatch them (those the Father had given Him) out of His Father’s hand. These verses teach that no one else can snatch (grab or swipe) a soul from God. Yet, it does not say or imply that an individual cannot choose to leave God’s saving grace. It is a false interpretation to say that this verse teaches otherwise.
Another verse used to teach this doctrine is found in Ephesians 1:13. “In Him you also trusted…, in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” In Ephesians 4:30, it says that Christians are sealed “for the day of redemption.” In 2 Corinthians 1:22, this seal is called a “guarantee.” From these verses it is taught that once a person is “sealed with the Holy Spirit,” then that person cannot become “unsealed.” However, the word “sealed” (sphragizo) is commonly used to mean a stamp such as a letter sealed by wax and a signet or some other type of seal meant to show authenticity and to keep secret until the time of opening. We see this in Esther 3:12; 8:8-10 and in Daniel 6:17. To be sealed with the Holy Spirit is a sign, a stamp of authenticity. It is not an unbreakable chain.
When a person obeys the Gospel, being baptized into Jesus Christ, that person is added to the church (Acts 2:38, 41, 47) and his or her name is written in the Book of Life. Philippians 4:3 says, “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” Having one’s name written in the Book of Life and being sealed with the Holy Spirit both have the same significance – salvation.
In the Book of Revelation we read, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5). Here Jesus was speaking to the church – to the saved, but it requires overcoming the snares of the devil. In Revelation 22:19, God has said, “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” It is abundantly clear that once a person has his or her name written in the Book of Life that this person’s name may be blotted out and his part (salvation) be taken away from the Book of Life.
Another phrase sometimes used by Calvinists is, “You can’t fall from grace.” It is said that a person is saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8) and once God’s grace saves that person, then it is impossible to fall from that saving grace. Well, God’s grace does not fail; people do. In the Book of Galatians there were Christians who were turning away from the Gospel of Christ to another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). In chapter 5:4 Paul wrote, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” This verse clearly says that those Christians who attempted to be justified by law had fallen from grace. A person must be in grace before that person can fall from grace.
Perseverance of the saints is dependent upon remaining faithful to God and His Word. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).