God's Magnificent Salvation Plan
by Harold Camping
An Indepth Biblical Study of
God's Salvation Plan for Mankind
L = LIMITED ATONEMENT
In this chapter we shall examine the question of limited or particular atomement very carefully to see if it is a valid principle set forth in the Bible. First, let's look at Matthew 1:21. There God in very beautiful language is declaring particular atonement. He declared to Joseph through the angel, "And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save HIS people from their sins." Notice the phrase, "HIS people." Now who are His people? We saw earlier in John 6:37 that HIS people are the ones who were given to Christ by the Father. Thus we know that Christ is the Savior only of those who were given to Him by the Father. And, of course, to save them it was necessary that He pay for their sins, even as He did by going to the cross. There is no suggestion here that He laid down His life for every last individual in the whole world.
In John 10 Christ speaks about the sheep that He came to seek and to save. In verse 15 He declares, "I lay down My life for the sheep." Who are these sheep? In verse 14 He had declared, "I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep and am known of Mine." Now you see, these sheep are the ones that belong to Him. They are His. These are the ones for whom He lays down His life. He doesn't lay down His life for all people according to this passage, but He lays down His life for His sheep, and they will know Him..."I am known of Mine." They will come to Him. Paralleling again what we read in John 6:37.
CHRIST PRAYS ONLY FOR THOSE WHO ARE TO BELIEVE ON HIM
Secondly, we read in John 17, as Christ is praying to His Father in verses 9 and 10, "I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given Me, for they are Thine, and all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them." While in verse 9 Christ is speaking particularly of the disciples whom He chose, in verses 20 and 21 of John 17 Christ has ultimately in view far more than His disciples. In these verses Christ adds, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me."
That's a significant prayer, isn't it? If Christ had laid down His life for every last individual in the whole world, we would certainly expect that He would be praying for them. You would think, if their sins had been paid for, Christ would also make arrangements with the Father that they would come to Him. But here God opens the veil concerning the relationship within the Godhead, and Christ very clearly indicates He does not pray for the world. He prays for those who belong to Him and those "which shall believe on Me through their word." These would be His sheep. He is interceding only for those who had been given to Him by the Father. We read in Hebrews 7:25-26, where Christ is presented to us as our eternal High Priest:Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.
Here the Bible specifically declares that Christ makes intercession for those that come to God by Christ; that is, Christ makes intercession for those whom He is saving. This is precisely what Christ is doing in His prayer recorded in John 17.
Furthermore, in John 17:2 Christ prays, "Father...as Thou hast given Him (Jesus is referring to Himself here) power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." Again in this immediate context He is speaking of the disciples. But He is enunciating a fundamental principle of God's salvation program. In this statement our Lord Jesus is singling out those who were given to Him by the Father (John 6:37). As Jesus discusses these who were given to Him, He emphasizes that He has provided eternal life for them. Eternal life is a gift to the believer provided by the atonement. (Must we believe there are some who have experienced the atonement without receiving eternal life? This would be the unbiblical conclusion we must come to if we believe that Christ paid for the sins of every human.)
ONLY THOSE WHO ARE TO BE SAVED ARE JUSTIFIED
Further still, when we look at the nature of salvation under the Biblical word justification, we find also that the idea of particular or limited atonement must be held as a Biblical principle. In Romans 5:18 we read, "By the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." In Romans 5:25 we read, "who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification."
Notice in these passages God is very clearly teaching that those whom He saved, He justified. We read, for example, in Romans 5:9, "Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." Thus God has established the principle that those for whom He died are justified by His blood, as the foreging verses clearly teach. Thus if Christ had paid for the sins of every single human, we must conclude that all mankind stands justified before God. This is the inescapable conclusion we must come to if Christ had gone to the cross on behalf of every single human.
Continuing this line of argument we must recognize that to be justified means that one has been made just. His sins have been paid for, and therefore there can be no condemnation. Thus, to believe that Christ paid for the sins of every human being brings us to the conclusion that every human being has been made just by Christ's shed blood.
But this conclusion runs counter to the plain teaching of the Bible. In Acts 24:15 we read, "That there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." Also in II Peter 2:9 we read, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished."
These passages very clearly indicate that not only those who are justified will be resurrected, but there are also the unjust who will remain so right up until Judgment Day. According to Romans 5:18 and Romans 4:25 we discovered that when we are saved, we are justified by Christ's blood. His blood was shed so that we might become righteous before God. Therefore, if Christ shed His blood (which brings justification) for every human, how can there still be those who are unjust insofar as God's holiness is concerned? This problem disappears when we recognize that Christ paid only for the sins of those who become saved.
MANKIND WHOSE SINS HAVE NOT BEEN PAID FOR MUST BE JUDGED FOR THOSE SINS
If Christ has paid for the sins of every last individual in the world (or as some would say, "Yes, for all their sins except the sin of not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ"), then we have to ask the fair question, "How can people be judged whose sins have been paid for?" Now we read very specifically in Revelation 20:13 that those who stand before the Judgment throne will be judged according to their works, every man according to his works. Man's works are to be judged to discover if they were done sinlessly; that is, perfectly in obedience to God's Word. And of course, since every work of man is at best tainted by sin, those who stand for judgment will be found guilty of multitudes of sins.
We read in Matthew 12:36, "that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment, for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Of course unsaved men have no good thing within them. There is none righteous, and therefore everything they will give an account of will bring condemnation upon them.
In Romans 2 we read, beginning in verse 5, "After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds."
There it is, you see. God is insisting that mankind at the Judgment Throne has to answer for every sin, and every sin will be dealt with by banishment into Hell. There is no implication in the Bible that the only sin they will answer for at Judgment Day is the sin of rejecting Christ. They have to answer for every sin. Now if Christ has already paid for those sins by going to the cross (if we hold the view that He paid for the sins of every last individual in the whole human race), then it would be double jeopardy if these same individuals whose sins had been paid for now have to go into Hell to pay for these same sins. That just does not follow at all, does it?
In Colossians 3:25 God lays this principle down, "But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong that he hath done, and there is no respect of persons." Only because Christ has become the substitute for those who are to be saved is this requirement of God met. The Bible says very clearly in John 5:24 of the believers that we do not come into judgment.
In Ephesians 5:25 we read, "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it." He gave Himself for the church, not for the whole world, not for every last individual. He gave himself for the church. Later in this study we will see that only the true believers in the church have had their sins covered by Christ's blood, even though the cross bears some relationship to the church as a corporate body.
We see, therefore, that the Bible does not endorse the doctrine that Christ went to the cross to pay for every sin of the whole human race, with the only sin that sends us to Hell being the sin of not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. The sin of not believing in Jesus as Savior is included amongst all the other sins and simply adds to our punishment. Our every action is sinful, and any one of these sins is going to send us into Hell. And of course it is all these sins that will really bring God's wrath upon us. How important it thus is that we trust in Christ as our sin-bearer. Only through Him can we escape Hell.
BUT DOESN'T THE BIBLE TEACH THAT GOD WOULD HAVE ALL MEN SAVED?
But aren't there verses in the Bible that say something different? Don't we read in II Peter 3:9 that God declares, "I would not wish that any should perish, but that all should come to Christ"? Doesn't that imply that Christ has paid for everybody's sins? And what about I Timothy 2:4, where we read that Christ would have all men be saved? How can He desire this if He has not already paid for their sins? Again in I Timothy 2:6, doesn't the Lord declare that He gave His life a ransom for all? Or in I Timothy 4:10 doesn't God declare He is the Savior of all?
These verses certainly seem to indicate that indeed Christ paid for the sins of every last individual. But if that is so, then we are in trouble with the verses that we have already covered, which very clearly teach particular atonement. How can we reconcile these passages?
As we look at these verses we see a consistent use of the word "all"; "...all should come to Christ..." "...a ransom for all..." "...the Savior of all..." We must understand the Biblical use of this word, letting the Bible be its own dictionary. He wished that all should be saved. He gave His life a ransom for all. He is the Savior of all. Normally when we use that word all, we think of it as an all-inclusive kind of word. If there were ten people in the room, and we said, "they all have hats on," then we immediately get the picture that these ten people without exception had hats on. But in the Bible, when God uses the word all it is conditioned by the context.
For example, in Luke 2 God declares, "A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. We could conclude that "all the world" would include the North American Indians and Africa, etc. But the context shows us that the "all the world" to be taxed was that part of the world that was subject to taxation, namely, the Roman Empire. In other words, the word all was conditioned by the context in which it was found.
Likewise we read in Acts 2 , as the Holy Spirit is being poured out, "In the last days I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh." We know from the Bible itself that God did not pour out the Holy Spirit on every last individual in the whole world that they would become prophets, or that they would prophesy; but He poured out His own Spirit on those who would believe. The "all" there is conditioned by the rest of the Bible, which declares that only those who are elect will believe. So the word "all" is much less than all-inclusive.
We read, for example, in I Corinthians 15:22, "As in Adam all die..." From the rest of the Bible we know that "all" is an all inclusive all. It includes every last individual in the whole human race. "There is none righteous, no, not one."
But then the next phrase says, "...so in Christ shall all be made alive." If that "all" included every last individual, then that verse would be teaching universal atonement, and we know that is not so. Hell is going to be heavily populated by people who have not been made alive. They are spiritually dead. Therefore we must read that second phrase, "...so in Christ shall all (who are to be made alive) be made alive." That is, God is teaching that all the individuals He plans to save are saved by Christ's work. Other passages of the Bible show us that the ones He plans
Likewise, when God uses the language, "He gave His life a ransom for all," or "He is the Savior of all," or that "He wishes that all should come to a knowledge of the truth," we know that the "all" in these verses is conditioned by God's elective program. Only those whom He has predestinated, those whom He has elected, are the ones whom He has ransomed, of whom He has become the Savior. These are the ones that God has in view when He uses this word "all." He gave His life a ransom for all His elect. He wishes that all His elect will come to Him.
BUT DOESN'T THE BIBLE TEACH THAT CHRIST PAID FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD?
But then there is a second kind of passage in the Bible that is frequently offered as proof that Christ indeed paid for the sins of every last individual in the whole world. We read in I John 4:14 that Christ is the Savior of the world. Likewise in John 4:42 we see the same phrase, that He is the Savior of the whole world.
In I John 2:2 the statement even appears stronger as we read, "And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." My, doesn't that really underscore the fact that He has paid for the sins of the whole world, every last individual in the whole world? In John 3:16 and 17 we apparently see the same kind of an idea, where we read, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." This too seems to indicate that He paid for the sins of every last individual.
In that regard, we must also consider the dramatic words of John the Baptist, as he greeted Jesus, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world." By isolating these verses from the rest of the Bible, we could conclude that Christ did come and pay for the sins of the whole world. These verses, as they stand, certainly give that impression.
However, when we read these verses in the light of everything else in the Bible, we know that conclusion is not possible. If Christ had paid for the sins of the whole world, that is, of every last individual in the whole world, then as we have already seen, there could not be Judgment Day and Hell. Everyone's sins would have been paid for, and therefore there could be no such thing as an unjust person who must be sent to Hell. Since Christ would have died for every person, He therefore would have justified them by His blood.
Therefore we must look at these verses more carefully. Let us look at I John 2:2 more closely. As we do, we must remember that there is only one sin-bearer in this world, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is only one way that forgiveness of sins can be obtained, and that is through the shed blood of Christ. In I John 2:2 God declares, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
If we assume that He had indeed paid for the sins of the whole world, we run afoul of passages like Revelation 20:13, Matthew 12:36, Romans 2:5-6 and Colossians 3:25, which clearly indicate the unsaved must give an account of and pay for all their sins. None of these passages would make sense anymore if Christ had indeed paid for every single sin of the whole world; so we know that this cannot be the kind of payment God has in view in this passage?
IN ALL THE WORLD CHRIST IS THE ONLY WAY TO SALVATION
Then how are we to understand this passage? We can understand these phrases if we note that in the first part of verse two God is simply declaring that Christ is the one who has provided for the salvation of those who believe. He is the propitiation for our sins. There is no one else who could provide the way back to the Father, who has provided Himself as a substitute. Only Christ is the WAY.
In the second phrase, "and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world," we see that God is simply expanding that fact by declaring that in the whole world there is no other method of salvation except through Christ. In the whole world there is no Savior except the Lord Jesus Christ. All the sins in the whole world which are to be forgiven are forgiven by the blood of Christ. This passage is not detailing the extent of God's salvation program in the world. It is simply indicating that for those who are to be saved Christ is the only propitiation.
Other passages declare to us who will be saved out of the whole world. They will be the elect. But in I John 2:2 God is simply declaring how they would be saved, and that is through Christ as the propitiation for their sins. Because we know that the unsaved of the world who remain unjust must stand for judgment and answer for every one of their sins and pay for their sins, we know that this verse cannot be teaching that their sins have already been paid for. God is simply declaring that those who will be saved out of the world, wherever they are found, can be saved only through Christ as the propitiation for their sins.
When John the Baptist declared, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world," he was simply declaring, this is the Lamb whereby salvation is possible. John the Baptist isn't going into the whole detail of that salvation. He is not indicating that there are God's elect, that there has to be belief on Him, and so on. He is simply making the declaration that Christ is the Savior who has come into the world. He is the only means whereby the sins of the world which are to be covered will be covered.
We see this truth very beautifully in John 3:16, where we read, "For God so loved the world..." He loved the world, His creation, and therefore He gave His only begotten Son, that out of this world whosoever believeth on Him should not perish. The declaration "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish" automatically excludes the rest, does it not? That is the condition that God lays down. There must be belief on Him! And unless there is belief on Him they still will perish.
Why do they perish? They perish because of their sins. God had declared, "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). And so when God speaks of Christ as the Savior of the world, if we conclude that every last person's sins have been paid for, that will not be in agreement with all the other doctrines that point to the fact that there will be a vast company of people in Hell, paying for their sins.
DID CHRIST PAY FOR ALL OUR SINS EXCEPT THAT OF REJECTING CHRIST?
Earlier in this study I indicated that there are those who believe that Christ paid for all our sins except the sin of not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. This doctrine is suggested by John 3:18, which declares, "He that believeth on Him is not condemned, But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." This verse seems to indicate that the reason people are condemned is that they don't believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But even this passage will not withstand that kind of conclusion, because verse 19, which immediately follows, declares, "and this is the condemnation...the light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Their sin, you see, is the love of darkness; and the love of darkness involves them in every kind of sin that is involved in the kingdom of darkness.
Verse 19 agrees altogether with those other statements of the Bible that indicate that men go to Hell not because they are sinners. Because they stand guilty before God, their failure to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ simply indicates that they have no covering for their sins. In Psalm 85:2 the Bible declares that "thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people, Thou hast covered all their sin." Christ's blood provides the covering whereby our guilt has been removed.
Moreover, when we conclude that Christ paid for the sins of the whole world, with the exception of not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we have developed a gospel of grace that is again bordering on grace plus works. We're really saying that when Christ went to the cross, there by His grace He covered all our sins except one...the sin of rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ.
That implies, then, that if the sin of rejecting Christ has not been covered by the blood of Christ, then the fact that I do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a good work of mine that is meritorious in saving me. We thus are declaring that God's grace covered all the rest of my sins. But because I have done the good work of believing on Christ, therefore I merit this salvation and all the grace that God applies to my life. We thus have placed ourselves in that terrible condition of developing a gospel of grace plus works, and that will send us to Hell for sure!
We must keep in mind, whenever we study any verses in the Bible that relate to salvation, that it is all of grace! Even the faith with which we believe is a gift of God. Actually it is not our faith that saved us, but the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only because He was faithful in going to the cross for our sins can we be saved. And the faith that we experience in our lives is really a reflection of the faith that Christ first demonstrated in paying for our sins. Both the faith which we see in our lives when we are saved, as well as the works that we do in our lives, are gifts of God. They are not meritorious in any way whatsoever!
BUT DOESN'T THE BIBLE SPEAK OF THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED AND YET REMAIN IN UNBELIEF?
But there is one last group of verses that we ought to look at. They appear to indicate or at least can be misconstrued to teach that someone who is definitely unsaved still appears to be in a condition in which his sins have been paid for. The first of these is found in I Corinthians 7:15, where God declares, "The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband." Similarly, in Hebrews 10:29 God is discussing a man who knew the way of salvation and never did become a child of God. Then he deliberately turned away from the Gospel. And yet, in speaking of him God says, "Of how much more punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing."
These two passages are speaking definitely of unsaved people who are sanctified. It is this word "sanctified" which suggests that somehow a work of grace has been done on behalf of the unsaved who remain unsaved.
Let us examine this question more closely. The word sanctification means to be set apart for the service of God. Certainly born again believers are set apart for the service of God. But what about those who are in the congregation, and thus are corporately of the Body of Christ, yet who are not true children of God? What about those unsaved members of a family in which there are saved individuals, which would identify that family corporately with the Kingdom of God? Did Christ pay for their sins?
A third verse that is similar to this is II Peter 2:1. There God is talking about false prophets who are among the people. That is, they are members of the congregation. And they are bringing in damnable heresies, "even denying the Lord that bought them and bring upon themselves swift destruction." The phrase "that bought them " certainly would seem to indicate that Christ had gone to the cross to pay for their sins.
We must look at these verses in the light of the discussion that we had earlier in this study, in which we saw that those who face Judgment Day must give an account of every sin. Because they must give an account of every sin, we know that they are not eternally Christ's people. They are not His sheep.
Certainly if we isolate these verses from the rest of the Bible, we might conclude that Christ had paid for their sins, as He did for the believers. Thus they would not go to Hell. And yet the very context of Hebrews 10:29 indicates that Hell and damnation must still be endured by this person...in spite of the fact that these verses speak of him as having been sanctified. Likewise, the language of II Peter 2 is very clear that the false prophets mentioned in this context are subject to eternal damnation.
Thus we see that while God speaks of certain individuals as being sanctified or having been "bought" of the Lord, they are still subject to eternal damnation. How can this be? How does the Bible reconcile these apparent contradictions? Let us continue to investigate this problem.
We must remember, as we look at these verses, that God is concerned about the church, in its corporate sense, as in its eternal sense. Those who have become born again believers are eternally members of the body of Christ. They belong to Him, and their sins have been paid for by Christ's blood. They are eternal members of the church Christ came to build. The organization in which these born from above believers are found is the congregation which is part of one denomination or another. And these congregations are the corporate expression of the Kingdom of God. The congregation is an organized, visible body of those who profess Christ.
Even though all those within the congregation profess Christ, they are not all necessarily believers. This is shown to us by the very verses we are studing. the false prophets of II Peter 2 were members of a congregation of believers. But they themselves were not saved.
An outstanding example of a congregation that had many unbelievers within it is that of national Israel. While there was a remnant chosen by grace within that congregation, the major part remained in unbelief. Thus they were still under damnation, even though as a whole body they were the corporate representation of the Kingdom of God here on this earth throughout the 2,000 years which preceded the coming of Christ.
Likewise in the New Testament God began to represent Himself organizationally or corporately in this world by the churches and the denominations that began to spring up after Pentecost. Each of these officially is identified whith Christ, and yet each of these is composed of both believers and unbelievers.
We see this clearly as we read the first three chapters of Revelation, where God talks about the seven churches of Asia Minor. Each is represented in Heaven by a candlestick because they are Christ's church. Yet we see that God warns that in one church there is a Jezebel. And in another one they are following the Nicolaitans, who are heretics of some kind. This mixture of believers and unbelievers can be expected in every congregation even though, corporately speaking, those same congregations identify with Christ.
Since each congregation was established, was set apart to serve Christ, every member of that church is looked upon as sanctified; that is, he is set apart for the service of God. Even a false prophet who is a member of the church is spoken of as having been bought by Christ. By this language God is indicating He went to the cross not only to save and pay for the sins of the born again believers, those who are His elect, but also in order to establish His corporate body, His churches, His congregations. In that sense, those who are members of the congregation have been bought.
But individually their sins have been paid for only if they personally have become believers. We saw this very clearly when we examined the Bible's teaching concerning the nature of Judgment Day. But corporately they are part of that body which has been bought as an organization by God (using the language of II Peter 2:1). Therefore, God can say that He has bought these false prophets.
In the same manner, the unsaved husband who is married to the saved wife is spoken of as being sanctified (I Corinthians 7:14). Because of one parent having become an eternal member of the Kingdom of God, the whole family has become corporately a part of the Kingdom of God even though the other family members may still be unsaved.
Thus, these verses that speak of unsaved persons being sanctified or having been bought are not teaching in any way that Christ has paid for their sins by His shed blood. They have been bought or have been sanctified only in the sense that they are members of the corporate body (that is, the organized church). And that organized church was established and exists because Christ shed His blood for the believers within those congregations.
I am convinced that when we examine everything that the Bible offers, we must conclude that limited atonement or particular atonement is the only answer that will correspond with all of scripture. You see, God has a very well-detailed and defined plan of salvation. He named those who were to be saved before the foundation of the earth and put their names in the Book of Life. He came to seek and to save those who were His sheep. It is all one complete design. It is true that the Gospel goes out to the whole world; and as we saw in the early part of this study, if anyone at all responds to Gospel, he WILL be saved. But we saw very clearly that nobody will respond except the Father draw him. And God will draw those whom He has elected in order that God's salvation program will maintain total integrity.
Having completed our consideration of the first three letters of our five letter acronym TULIP, let's go on to the fourth letter which is "I" and stands for "Irresistible Grace."
I = IRRESISTIBLE GRACE
What does the Bible tell us about Irresistible Grace? Is it a fact that man can NOT resist the will of God; or on the other hand, is it a fact that man CAN resist the will of God? If God really wants somebody to be saved, is there anyone powerful enough to resist His will?
Now of course we know that we can never pit man against God, since God is infinite and omnipotent, all powerful; e.g., He speaks and the universe comes into existence...while man is a finite creature. There is no man who could frustrate the will of God. Everything that we know about God tells us that He is absolutely in control of every situation. BUT; Is it possible, as some would teach, that God is the type of "gentleman" that wouldn't force anyone to be saved against his will?
If we hold the position that we can resist the will of absolutely nobody would be saved. Why is this so? Remember, we learned earlier in our study that "there is none that seeketh after God." We have already looked at the principle of TOTAL DEPRAVITY and discovered that man is dead in his sins and would never come to God. Even if the Gospel were preached for a thousand years or longer, nobody would come to salvation by his own choice. And so the idea that God is a gentleman and would not impose His will upon man's will is contrary to the Bible.
It is a fact, however, that thousands, and even millions, of people thoughout history ARE saved. God speaks of the saved as being as numerous as the stars in heaven, and as the sand on the seashore in number. This indicates that God has indeed imposed His will upon mankind in some way! And that is what we want to look at now, under the topic Irresistible Grace.
THOSE GOD PLANS TO SAVE MUST BE DRAWN TO HIM
In John 6:37-39 we read the significant truth that the Father has given to the Lord Jesus Christ certain ones who are to be saved. Verse 37 reads, "all that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." In this verse the Bible teaches us first that there are certain ones whom the Father has given to the Lord Jesus. The second truth is that they "shall come to Him." That is, it is God's plan that nothing can frustrate His will. Those whom God plans to save are given by the Father to Christ and they shall come to Him. There is no suggestion that these who were given to Christ can avoid being saved.
The fact is, John 6:39 states very implicitly, "This is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." In this verse Christ is declaring with absolute certainty that there will not be any defects in Christ's salvation program. Every individual God planned to save will be saved. God is giving us a solemn promise and declaration that His salvation program, in which He has decided whom He would in His sovereign will save from before the foundations of the world, would be accomplished. Nothing would or could frustrate the will of God! And so He irresistibly would have to draw us to Himself.
Philippians 1:6 states, "Being confident....He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Again God promises, God commits Himself to complete what He has begun. Can you see that the work that Christ began to do started even before Christ became SIN for us! Our names were identified with Him at the cross. Therefore, even before we were born, He had already begun His work of grace! As we are presented with the Gospel, and as God opens our spiritual ears and hearts to respond to the Gospel, God is continuing His plan of salvation for us. Philippians 1:6 declares that which He has begun will be completed. He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. God's plan will not be frustrated. It is an irresistible plan that is under the irresistible will of God.
Remember, in Matthew 16:16 Christ declared, "I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." What is the condition of the unsaved person before he is saved? He is a slave of Satan. He is under the dominion of darkness. He is a bond slave of his own sin. But Christ said, "I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail..." `Hell cannot hold these that I plan to save. No one can stop Me from what I intend to do.' And that is the reason that men and women are being saved. God is irresistibly drawing them.
Remember that Jesus said in John 6:44, "No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him." Again, we see that it is required that God draw us to Himself. This is so because spiritually we are dead. As dead people we have nothing to offer for or against our salvation. Christ has set up His plan, and the Father draws us (yes, irresistibly) so that plan cannot be frustrated.
It is true that many, when they are first brought face to face with the Gospel, are offended by the Gospel. But every once in a while one of these will finally give in and admit he is a sinner: "Yes, I know that I am a sinner, and I know that I need salvation." -- What has happened? Who can resist God's will? When God wants to save a person, God begins to do His work of salvation within that person so that his heart is inclined to be obedient to the Gospel command...to believe on Him.
You see, we have as much to say about our new birth in Christ as we did about our first birth from our mother's womb. (Think about that for a moment.) Remember when you were born the first time? What did you have to do with it? Could you select your parents? Could you decide when you were going to be born? Could you decide if you wanted to be born? The answers to these questions are obviously and absolutely NO! You had nothing at all to do with it! You simply came into this world completely apart from your will.
Now, do you recall what Jesus said in John 3:6, as He talked to Nicodemus? He said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." He is talking here about the NEW BIRTH and indicating that it is just as real a birth as the first birth. We had nothing to do with our first birth. God is the one who inclines our hearts. If left of ourselves we would never seek after Him, as we have so frequently seen in this study. We would go our own way, right up until the moment we die.
We don't want to turn to God. Our whole life is in rebellion against Him. But God decided to save us, in His own timetable. It may be when we are at middle-age, or it may be as an elderly person, close to our death bed. But if it's God's plan to save us, you can rest assured, He will draw us at the appropriate time. He will give us a will to believe, and a desire to turn away from our sins. Nobody can frustrate the will of God. Christ declared, "I will build My church..."
Remember what we read in Romans 9, where God said in verse 16, "Then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that shall have mercy." Our will, ultimately, has nothing to do with it. What we think is an action of our will as we do respond to the Gospel is simply the fact that God has already imposed His will upon us and is irresistibly drawing us to Himself.
May I quote again from John 1:13, where God is speaking of those who have become sons of God? There He declares, "Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Could God be any plainer? If God waited for us and for our will to respond to the Gospel, we would never be saved! We would try everything possible to frustrate the Gospel because we, of ourselves, don't want to be saved. But when God says He is going to save us, you can rest assured He will save us! He will draw us irresistibly to Himself.
THE RAISING OF LAZARUS SHOWS HOW OUR WILL IS INVOLVED IN OUR SALVATION
Let's look again for just a moment at Lazarus in the tomb. He is dead. And Christ decides to resurrect him. And so Christ stands outside of that tomb and says, "Lazarus, come forth!" Now let's entertain an unreasonable notion for a moment. Picture Jesus hoping that Lazarus would really will to come forth, the idea being that if Lazarus didn't so will, he wouldn't come forth.
NO! That isn't what happened at all! Jesus stood outside of that tomb and said, "Lazarus, come forth!" And Lazarus did come forth! He came forth because Christ also gave him a will and inclined it with a desire to respond to that command. It was Christ's intention to raise Lazarus, and neither Lazarus nor anyone else was going to be able to frustrate Christ's plan to raise him.
And there we see dramatically a picture of our salvation. When Christ comes with the Gospel, as He comes to seek and to save that which was lost, you can depend upon it that everyone that He comes to save will be saved! There is no way that we can frustrate the will of God! Isn't that a marvelous doctrine?
Think about this...Suppose you had an unsaved loved one who was particularly rebellious against God, very wicked, and very hardened in sin...oh, so sinful! And you were hoping and hoping for this person's salvation, because you loved him dearly! You tried to witness to him, but he loved his sin so much that he didn't want to hear any of the Gospel.
And yet you know that God will not be frustrated by the wicked will of man. If God should decide to save this loved one, He would impose His will on the will of the loved one so that in due time this person would come to the Lord Jesus Christ. He would have a desire to come!
Isn't that a wonderful, wonderful blessing to know? Otherwise, you look at your friends and loved ones who are hardened in their sins, and you say, "Why pray for them? They'll never respond! They're far too wicked! Their consciences have been seared! How can it be that they would ever come to the Gospel?"
But praise God! God has given this avenue of prayer! And God has promised that the "effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).
God expects us to pray for the unsaved. And we are to pray without ceasing. And God works through our prayers! We don't know if this loved one is elect or not; that is God's business. But we know that if he is God's elect, God will work through our prayers and God will impose His will upon the wicked, hardened, rebellious will of our loved one, so that his spiritual eyes will be opened, and there will begin to be a response to the Gospel. Oh, it is so marvelous! It is so heartening to know that God is in complete charge of the salvation program, and ultimately there is nothing that man can do that might frustrate Him in any way whatsoever!
And so this beautiful, beautiful principle that is laid down in the fourth part of the acronym, TULIP, Irresistible Grace, is so comforting to us! It gives us such great assurance when we know that Satan can never, never hold anyone in such terrible bondage that he would never be able to come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Nobody can resist the will of God when He wants to save someone. God gives the faith, the repentance. Satan is absolutely helpless when he is up against the powerful intentions of a gracious Sovereign Almighty God! What blessed assurance we have! Praise God!
Once again a warning must be voiced. If we believe that man can resist God's will to save those whom He plans to save, effectively we have arrived at a gospel of grace plus works. For we are declaring that God has done what He must do and now it is up to us to take action, to do a work, that will complete this salvation plan for us. That work is to believe or accept what God has offered to us. This is our work, for presumably God will not impose His will upon us. We can receive credit for this action of ours. Thus God has done His part and we have done ours. Together we have accomplished our salvation. Christ indeed has done the major work because He has paid for all our sins. But only because we of our own free will have accepted Christ does God's salvation program become effective for us. The very fact that we can frustrate God's plan to save us indicates the importance of the work we have done in accepting christ.
But this whole line of reasoning will lead us to Hell. Our work has no bearing on our salvation. We are saved by grace alone. As we have seen repeatedly in this study, any salvation plan that includes even the smallest work on our part is not the salvation plan of the Bible. The only reason we turn to Christ is that the Father is drawing us. God is giving us the spiritual ears to hear and the regenerated heart to believe. It is of eternal importance that we understand that it is God who has irresistibly drawn us to Himself.
Well, this brings us to the last letter of the acronym TULIP, which is P and which stands for Perseverance of the Saints. Sometimes we refer to this concept as Once Saved; Always saved. Is this doctrine Biblical? In our next section we are going to focus our attention on this whole matter of what we could also call Eternal Security.
P = PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
Can one lose his salvation? This is a nagging question in the lives of many. Let us see if we can discover the Biblical teaching concerning the subject of eternal security, which is somethimes called the perseverance of the saints. In answering the question of the security of our salvation, we should begin by an understanding of the nature of the salvation God has provided for us. The Biblical picture of unsaved man is that he is a sinner. He is a slave of Satan both in body and soul. He is altogether rebellious against God. In his whole being he is perverted and spiritually destitute (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:11-20, Ephesians 2:1-3). As a result of his sin, he is under sentence of death. The Bible declares "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). The nature of that death is not only physical death, but also being eternally under God's wrath. There is no way to come into God's holy Heaven unless the penalty of sin, eternal damnation, first has been paid.
FROM WHAT HAS GOD SAVED US?
This brings us to the nature of the salvation God has provided for those who are saved. Christ has come as the Mediator, as the Redeemer, as our substitute to pay for our sins. In order for Him to do this it was necessary that He be a man like we are because it was man who sinned, and therefore it is man whom must pay the penalty for his sins. It was necessary for Him to be God because the wrath of God is so overwhelming and so terrible that, had He been any less than God, He would have been utterly consumed as He sought to pay for our sins.
As our Mediator, He became sin for us (II Corinthians 5:19). That is, He took upon Himself all the sins, the whole sinful nature, of those who have placed their trust in Him. As our substitute, burdened with our sins, He stood before the judgment throne of God and was found guilty.
Because He had become quilty for our sins, God poured out upon Him the wrath that we should have suffered by spending an eternity in Hell. Only because He was the God-man could He suffer so intensely that in the three days and three nights of the atonement He was able to completely pay for all our sins. What a wonderful Savior He is!
We, therefore, who have experienced this salvation, now stand before God as if we had just spent an eternity in Hell paying for all the sins we had ever committed.
The criminal who has just come out of jail after paying in full the sentence demanded by the law for his crime now stands without any further guilt before the law for his crime.
Likewise the law never again can make any demands upon us for our sins. Never again is there any way that we could stand guilty before God, for every sin that we had ever committed or would ever commit has been atoned for by our Savior. He ransomed us from Hell by paying the price of Hell in our place. Therefore the Bible declares that there is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). We are in Him because He was our substitute. When our Lord Jesus went to the cross it was as if we were hanging there experiencing the wrath of God for our sins.
Since Christ has paid for all our sins, there is no way that we could commit a sin that would cause us to lose our salvation. Any sin we would do was already anticipated by Christ when He paid for our sins. As John 5:24 teaches, we do not come into judgment. Therfore we are eternally secure in Christ. Once we are truly saved, we can never lose that salvation because each and every sin we would ever commit has been covered by Christ's blood.
WE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE
Moreover, the Bible teaches that as a result of our salvation some changes have occurred in us that have everlasting consquences and which further emphasize that we could never lose this salvation. John 5:24 teaches that we "have eternal life." If Christ had gone to the cross just to give us life, conceivably we could commit a sin and lose that life; but because He has given us eternal life, by the very nature of something that is eternal, it must be forever and ever. Thus there can be no sin that we could commit that could cause us to lose eternal life. This very statement, eternal life, implies that we can never lose this life that God has given us. We can never lose our salvation.
The phrase eternal life is not a philosophical term of some kind, thus having no real substance. Rather it is speaking of something that has become very substantive and real in our lives. It is related to the fact that in a very important part of our personalities we who are saved have become new creatures. We have been resurrected from being spiritually dead into eternal life. Let us see how this is.
The Bible teaches that in our essential beings we are body and soul. The Bible sometimes uses the word "spirit" in speaking of the soul or spirit essence of man. When man has conscious existence, as we all do on this side of the grave, we cannot see the soul of man. We are a completely integrated personality.
However, it is upon the death of an individual that a separation of soul and body does occur. At one moment there is a whole perosnality consisting of both body and soul. At the next moment there is only the body, which has no life in it whatsoever. Something has left that body. It is the soul, as real a part of that individual as his body, that has separated from the body and has left the body.
An example of the separation of soul and body is seen in the death of the thief on the cross. Jesus told the thief next to Him, "Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." A bit later Jesus declared, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." Shortly thereafter the body of Jesus was placed in a tomb. The body of the thief was also buried. But both Jesus and the thief were present with the Father in Heaven. They went there in their soul existence.
The apostle Paul speaks of this separation as he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, emphasizes "willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:8). Again, in Philippians 1:23,24 he confidently asserts "having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." Furthermore we read in Revelation 20:4 of the "souls of them that were beheaded...; they lived and reigned with Christ..."
The reason the believer can and does go immediately into Heaven upon death is that at the moment of salvation he receives the resurrection of his soul. Before salvation both in body and soul he is spiritually dead. We saw this so clearly in the chapter on Total Depravity. This is why I Peter 4:6 declares, "for this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead." Obviously the Gospel is not preached in a cemetery where bodies lie. Rather it is preached throughout the world to those who are spiritually dead. But when he becomes saved, he experiences a resurrection. This glorious fact is taught so incisively in the Bible. In Colossians 3:1 God declares, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." Our Savior experienced the resurrection when He arose from the grave. Since we are risen with Christ, we too must have experienced the resurrection.
In Ephesians 2:4-6 God insists, "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace are ye saved; and hath raised us up together..." How beautifully God is teaching that we have been raised with Christ . Since He arose, that is, He experienced the resurrection, and since we arose with Him, therefore we too have experienced the resurrection.
But in which part of our persons have we experienced the resurrection? It was not in our bodies. That can be seen so readily. Our bodies go into the tomb at death to await the resurrection of the last day. The whole Chapter 15 of I Corinthians discusses the wonderful event of the resurrection of our bodies.
Rather, it was in our soul or spirit essence that we experienced the resurrection. This is why at death the believer can go immediately into God's presence. While he cannot go into Heaven or be with God in his body until his body is resurrected a perfect spiritual body (cf. I Corinthians 15:42-44), in his soul or spirit he can go immediately into Heaven at death. His soul was already resurrected from the moment of salvation.
This resurrection is called the first resurrection in Revelation 20:5, as God is explaining why the souls of the martyrs can live and reign with Christ. These martyrs have already experienced the resurrection of their souls, the first resurrection, and therefore can go into God's holy presence immediately upon death. In this connection, in Revelation 20:6 God emphasizes five characteristics of those who have experienced the first resurrection. They are (a) "blessed", (b) they are "holy", (c) on such the second death has no power (cf. Revelation 20:14, where God teaches that the second death is Hell), (d) they are priests of God: and (e) they reign with Him.
All five of these characteristics apply to those who have been saved. We are the blessed. Think for example of the Beatitudes of Matthew Chapter Five, where our Lord speaks of the various ways believers are blessed. We are holy (I Peter 2:9, "Ye are a holy nation"). We are those who will not come into the second death, He.. (Romans 8:1 reads, "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.") We are priests of God. (I Peter 2:9 reads, "Ye are a royal preisthood; cf. Revelation 5:10.) We reign with Him. (Ephesians 1:20-22 shows us that Christ is seated at the right hand of God reigning over everything in this age as well as that to come. And Ephesians 2:6 declares that we are seated with Him.)
Therefore, we too are reigning as we serve as His ambassadors on this earth (cf. Revelation 5:10). Thus we can know that the first resurrection applies to the one who has experienced salvation.
This explains, also, why the believer has within himself a great love for God and an earnest desire to do God's will. We read in I John 3:9, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." You see, it is in our soul that we have experienced the new birth, that we have been born from above, that we have experienced the resurrection, that we have become a new creation. Therefore, in our soul existence we will never wish to sin again.
Only because our bodies have not experienced the resurrection are we still troubled by sin. In our bodies, which are as real a part of us as our souls, we still lust after sin, and therefore we are commanded to crucify the flesh and its desires. In our soul, wherein we have already experienced the resurrection, and which is as real a part of us as our body, we never wish to sin again. God speaks about this struggle in the life of the child of God through the apostle Paul, as we read in Romans 7:21-24:I find then a law that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man (in his soul, where he has become born from above); but I see another law in my members (in his body, where he has not yet experienced the resurrection) warning against the law of my mind ("mind" in this context is a synonym for soul) and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
When we realize that the child of God had experienced the resurrection, not only can we understand the conflict that continues in the life of the one who has been saved, but we can also understand why the Bible declares in I Peter 4:6 that those who were preached to when they were spiritually dead might "live according to God in the spirit." In our "spirit" or "soul" we experienced the resurrection, and therefore we can live to God.
Now we can understand, too, why God declares in I Thessalonians 3:13 that when Christ comes He will come with all His saints. In I Thessalonians 4:14 this truth is further underscored as God promises at the coming of Christ that "them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Those who have been saved eventually die; that is, they fall asleep (to use the Biblical language). But while their bodies are placed in the graves to await the resurrection of the last day, in their souls they continue to everlasting life. Death is simply the time when they change residence. At death they leave their bodies and continue to live and reign with christ in Heaven.
All these marvelous truths and promises are certain and sure because at salvation we receive eternal life. How wonderful is the grace of God that He has provided such a magnificent salvation. Surely we should be able to see that one who is truly saved is eternally secure.
Before I leave the subject of eternal life I should comment on the future of the unsaved who remain dead in their sins. When they die there is likewise a separation of soul and body. But they in their soul existence cannot go into the presence of God. They cannot go there because they have not experienced the resurrection of their souls. The Bible tells us they go to a place of silence (Psalm 115:17). They will not have conscious existence again until they are raised at the end of time to stand for judgment. God speaks of this in Revelation 20:5, "the rest of the dead" (the unsaved) "lived not" (did not have conscious existence) "until the thousand years were finished."
In other words, when unsaved persons die, the next thing they will be aware of is the resurrection of the last day when they are raised to stand for judgment. How awful that judgment will be! How eternally important it is that we become saved while it is still the day of grace. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3)
Returning to the matter of the eternal security believers enjoy, we find many other passages which teach this grand truth. In John 10:27-31 God declares that we shall never perish, and no one shall snatch us out of God's hand. In Ephesians 1:12 we have the promise that God has given the Holy Spirit to the believer as the guarantee of his inheritance. In Phillppians 1:6 the Bible faithfully promises that God will complete His work within us. In the closing verse of Romans 8, God promises that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God. Specifically, we read these beautiful promises:Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Verses 35 and 38-39)
Here we have the very confidence of salvation. As we consider these verses, how can we think even for a moment that we can lose our salvation?
BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE VERSES WHICH SEEM TO TEACH THAT WE CAN LOSE OUR SALVATION?
But aren't there verses that seem to indicate beyond the shadow of a doubt that, after all, we can lose our salvation? What about such passages as Hebrews 6:4-8 or Hebrews 10:26-27 or II Peter 2:20 or John 15:2,6? If we read these passages superficially, isolating them from the rest of Bible, we can indeed come to a conclusion that a believer can lose his salvation. However, when we read them and study them as we should, that is, viewing them in the light of everything else the Bible teaches, we know that under no circumstance could they be teaching that we can lose our salvation. If they are teaching this, then we would have a major contradiction concerning all the other passages of the scripture that indicate the nature of our salvation and the promises of God concerning the eternal character of our salvation.
THE BODY OF CHRIST - INDIVIDUAL AND CORPORATE
But these passages that seem to teach the possibility of the loss of our salvation must be faced. They, too, are part of the Bible. We can understand them if we will keep in mind, as we saw earlier in our study, that the Bible presents the body of Christ or the church in two ways. Somethimes, when the Bible is talking about Christ's body or the church, it is speaking of individual believers who personally have become born again. These individuals are, of course, eternally secure in Christ, as we have seen from the foregoing passages.
The Bible also, however, presents the body of Christ as a corporate body, that is, as an organized membership of those who have declared their desire to serve God. This corporate body is seen in the congregations and denominations and groups of believers which have been formed throughout the New Testament period and who declare that they will serve the Lord Jesus Christ. But within this corporate body of church members there are many who are not born again. Corporately they have become citizens of God's Kingdom by virtue of their church membership.
But personally they have not become new creatures in Christ. Personally, their sins have not as yet been paid for. They have never personally accepted the fact of their spiritual bankruptcy and the fact that it is only by grace that they can be saved. They are those who believe that because they have joined the church, because they are seriously attempting to live a holy life, therefore they are worthy before God. They have a knowledge of many things that the Bible teaches. They know the Bible declares that mankind is sinful and is under the wrath of God. They know that Christ is the only way, But personally, individually, this has never become an intrinsic, intimate part of their lives. They are yet in their sins.
ISRAEL - AN EXAMPLE OF GOD'S CORPORATE BODY
Israel of old is an excellent example of this. Every Israelite was convinced he was saved, that he was acceptable to God. He believed this in view of the fact that Israel was the chosen race, in view of the fact that He kept the ceremonial laws. But the Bible teaches that most of Israel at any time in its history was unsaved.
Hebrews 3:15-19 declares this most graphically, as God states that they could not enter into His rest because they believed not.
This passage remembers ancient Israel in the wilderness on the way to the land of Canaan. They were intimately associated with God as He guided them in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by nigtht. They drank the water that miraculously come from the rock. They tasted of the manna that came from heaven. They were enlightened concerning the will of God. They were under the personal leadership of that great type of Christ, Moses. But most of them were not saved. The Bible sadly records "that they could not enter in" (Hebrews 3:19). It explains further that "the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Hebrews 4:2).
Corporately they were members of Christ's body. Corporately they had become identified with the Lord Jesus Christ. Corporately they were the bride of Christ. Corporately they were well acquainted with the promises of God. Corporately they experienced many blessings of God in their lives. But personally they were not saved. They individually had not trusted God with saving faith. Therfore they were still subject to Hell.
So is the case in the church today. There are those who are members of the congregation in good and regular standing. They may teach Sunday School. They may be pastors. They may pray fervently. They may read the Bible. They may do all the things that true believers do. But if they have not become new creatures in Christ, they still are not saved. These are the people whom God has in view in such passages as Hebrews 4:4-8, Hebrews 10:26-27, II Peter 2:20, and John 15:2,6. Like Nicodemus, who was a faithful member of the Jewish congregation of his day, they must still be born from above before they can enter Heaven.
Obviously, those in the congregation who have not experienced the new birth and yet believe they are saved rightly should believe they can fall from grace. The salvation they are following is one in which they are expecting to be declared worthy before God because of their church membership or because of their actions as seemingly committed Christians. When they stop living this way, they no longer are identified with the body of Christ. The fact is they were never saved.
THE TEACHING THAT WE CAN LOSE OUR SALVATION IS A DANGEROUS DOCTRINE
The doctrine that we can fall from grace or lose our salvation is indeed very dangerous in the sense that effectively it makes our works a ground for salvation. If we believe that somehow by God's grace we are saved, but now, being weak in ourselves in departing from the law of God we would stand guilty before God, effectively we are declaring that a condition of our salvation is our good works. In other words, we think we are saved by God's continued grace in some sense, but in actuality we are attempting to gain salvation by living some kind of holy life.
We therefore have effectively designed our own salvation plan whereby we can merit God's continued favor and salvation by our acts in doing good works. Our salvation, therefore, is no longer a gracious bestowal of God's grace, God's unmerited favor upon hopelessly bankrupt sinners, but is something we have earned because of our holy lives. We have then fallen into the snare of the Jews of whom God speaks in Galatians 5, who were insisting that a requirement of salvation was circumcision. There God declares that those who believe this are then not under grace but under the curse of the law. Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly indicates that by grace we have been saved, not of works.
That our works could never save us is clearly indicated when we realize that the Bible teaches our best works are as filthy rags in God's sight (Isaiah 64:6). In James 2:10 God declares that if we have broken one of the smallest points of the law, we are guilty of the whole law of God. In other words, if we think for a moment that we can be saved by doing good works, we have elected to follow a salvation plan whereby we would have to be absolutely perfect before Him. If we deviate in the slightest from the perfection of God's law, we immediately come into the condemnation of sin and will be cast into Hell. Praise God that our salvation is of grace! The works that we do are a result of God's grace in our lives.
Some are afraid that if we teach that we cannot lose our salvation, someone who is a believer will become a very profane, wicked person in the security of believing that every sin has been paid for. He therefore will wish to enjoy the pleasure of sin.
Anyone who has become a true child of God will realize the impossible nature of this statement. He is a new creature in Christ, living with an eternal resurrected soul. Sin has become abhorrent to him. He doesn't require the threat of God's condemnation to be motivated to live a holy life.
In the eyes of an unsaved person, who lusts after sin both in his body and soul, sin is very attractive. But in the life of the true believer, who has received his resurrected soul, there is a severe conflict within his own personality when he sins. In his new soul he feels violated if he gives in to the lusts of his sinful body. He finds that his highest pleasure is in obedience to God because this is the kind of life in which his soul has pleasure.
Moreover, God indwells him. He has become the property of God, in view of the fact that he was ransomed by Christ. God therefore will begin to deal with him if he continues in sin. It is thus impossible for a born from above believer to backslide, to again live as the unsaved person that he was before he had become a new creature in Christ.
PEACE WITH GOD
We therefore see very conclusively that there is no question at all about the eternal security of our salvation. What a tremendous comfort to us who have experienced God's saving grace in our lives! We never have to live with that feeling that possibly we might commit a sin of which we are not aware, or for which we have not specifically asked forgiveness, and thus end up in Hell in spite of the fact that at one time we were saved. We live with the peace of God in our hearts that we eternally are sons of God. We live with that tremendous joy that all our sins have been paid for. We will never have to answer to God for our sins. We will never stand before the judgment throne of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, as our substitute, as our Mediator, has already stood condemned before God on our behalf. As our sin-bearer He has already borne the wrath of God we so rightly deserved. What a magnificent salvation God has provided for us!
On that note we conclude our consideration of Eternal Security, which is also referred to as the doctrine, Once saved, always saved. We have considered it under the topic of the Perseverance of the Saints, which was the P part, or the last letter of our acronym, TULIP. This finishes our study of TULIP.
CHAPTER 7We have come to the end of our study of the magnificent salvation program God has provided. We have seen that God indeed has a well-meant offer of salvation that goes to the whole world, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. We have seen, however, that because man is dead in his sin, completely rebellious against God, totally a slave to Satan, of his own will he will never respond to the Gospel. But Christ has, before the foundations of the earth, developed a very intricate and detailed plan of salvation wherein He has named those whom He would save. Therefore, as the Gospel goes out into all the world, Christ is seeking out those whom He has planned to save; and indeed He will save them!
This shows us that God is sovereign in these things, and nothing can frustrate God's eternal will. Again the question ought to be raised, "Where do I stand if I am unsaved and an not one of God's elect? Is there any possibility that I can be saved?" The answer we must come to is that the election program of God is God's business rather than ours. If we are unsaved, there is only one way to become right with God, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. By recognizing our sins and throwing ourselves on the mercies of God, trusting in Christ as our Savior, whether we think we are elect or not, whether we think we are predestinated or not, we will find the only hope there is, in the precious blood shed by Jesus at the cross.
If a person is elect unto salvation, God will incline his will, and so he will want to be saved. He won't ever want, in his born again soul, to sin again. and if a person is not predestined unto salvation, he will not be the least bit interested in God's salvation program. He might try to design one of his own, but he won't care about God's plan.
I am reminded of the time that the reformer Martin Luther, when he was still a young lad, read St. Augustine's writings concerning election and predestination, which in turn were based upon the Biblical writings of Paul. Luther struggled in anguish with the horrible thought that perhaps he was not one of the elect who were predestined unto salvation...as much as he wanted to be faithful and saved...just think of it! What if he wasn't one of the elect?
He brought this concern in anxiety and tears to his beloved pastor, who told him, "Stop worrying, Martin, about these lofty theological matters! Instead, look to the precious shed blood of Jesus at the cross, which was shed for your sins! That is where forgiveness lies! Look to the blood of Jesus shed at Calvary for the forgiveness of your sins and for your salvation!" Yes, it is true, that is where salvation is to be found. So keep your eyes upon your precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Find your salvation and forgiveness in His shed blood at the cross of Calvary!
The advice given to Luther is also good advice for us when we struggle with such questions. You see, at the point where we are feeling anxiety, God is in fact calling. At that point, don't worry about predestination and election! Just trust Jesus! He came to seek and to save that which was lost. When you recognize that you ought to go to Hell for your sins, and yet you don't want to, but would rather spend eternity in joy praising our wonderful God in the fellowship of the saints, then simply throw yourself on the mercy of God and cry out to Him for His loving salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. You can depend on the fact that YOU WILL BE SAVED!
God clearly teaches that if you seek with all your heart, you will be saved. "Seek and ye shall find." "Knock and it shall be opened unto you." "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power (right, privilege) to become the sons of God; to them that believe on His name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
After you are saved, you will want to study the Bible; and when you read it, you will realize that when you wanted to be saved it was really because God was drawing you. He elected you. He did His work of grace within your heart. (You had become "born again...of the will of God.")
The doctrine of election does not frustrate the Gospel call in any way at all. It is rather the insurance program that guarantees that the Gospel program of God will be successful. In a deeper sense of speaking, actually, it is the shed blood of Jesus that guarantees that the Gospel program of God will be successful.
To be saved, you must yield, as God turns you from your own salvation program to make you a part of His salvation program. If you do yield your will in repentance to God through Christ, as God empowers you to do so, then the blood of Jesus shed at Calvary in accord with God's program of election and predestination will absolutely guarantee that you will be saved.
I trust that this study will have helped us all to gain a greater appreciation of what a great and wonderful loving God we have! He is sovereign in every area of our lives. Praise God for His magnificent salvation program!
by Harald Camping