There seem to be many “flavors” of Christian theology in the world. Some based on myth and others based on misconceptions. Other denominations highlight baptism or favor communion as the pinnacle of spiritual life. Some theology is correct but over emphasize one aspect of exhortation over another and other theologies are just unfounded such as the idea that once a person becomes a Christian they can never be lost. This is call the “once saved always saved” theology and seems to completely ignore the content of most of the New Testament (NT) letters. These letters written by the apostolic leaders of the early church and in at least two cases, Jesus’ own half brothers are messages that lean heavily on the warnings not to fall away from Christ and so be counted as lost.
The theology was thought to stem from Calvin’s concept of irresistible grace; the idea that God has predetermined who is to be saved and at his discretion the Holy Spirit overpowers the chosen with irresistible grace. Since that person was foreordained to eternal life, they can never fall or be lost. Even when they sin, those sins will not keep them from life. Calvin only built on the misconceptions of other theologians and many of these from Catholicism as well. In fact is was James Harmensen, in Latin, Arminius (hence, ever since, Arminians) in the 17th century who along with his followers handed in 5 points of dispute they had with the State and the Church that were one and the same in Holland in those years. These grievances were against the formula TULIP these articles:
T — total depravity. This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one’s being, so that a man cannot save himself.
U — unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally, they are not chosen on the basis of their own will.
L — limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect, not the whole world.
I — irresistible grace. God has chosen who to save before the beginning… they are seized by grace and have no consent.
P — perseverance of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time. Deliberate sin is not deliberate.
While the Bible makes a clear distinction between the sins of the soul and the sin that dwells in the flesh, Jesus and later his apostles preached a gospel that required a human decision to obey that gospel. Total hereditary depravity is not to be found in the teachings of the New Testament. Men do not lose free agency in this regards thus nullifying the idea of God’s decision to unconditionally predetermine who shall be saved and who shall be damned. This eliminates the need for His grace to be forced irresistibly upon a sinner but allows man choice in his conversion. Men must give their hearts to Christ. Not have them ripped unconditionally to Him.
Among his 5 points of doctrinal disagreement Arminius was opposed to comments such as this:
In our Confession, Chapter 3, Sections 3, 4, and 7, we have this description of it: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death” (1 John 3:9). “These angels and men, thus predestined and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished” (2 Corinthians 1:22). “The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice” (John 10:27). The first and second sections of this tract prove absolutely this sad but stubborn fact, that no sinner ever truly regenerates himself. One sufficient reason is, that none ever wish to do it, but always prefer, while left to themselves by God, to remain as they are, self-willed and worldly. That is to say, no sinner ever makes himself choose God and holiness, because every principle of his soul goes infallibly to decide the opposite preference. Therefore, whenever a sinner is truly regenerated, it must be God that has done it.
That John taught that followers do not sin, and “cannot sin” because they are born of God means more in the original language than translations reveal. John taught that followers to not live in sin, and cannot keep on sinning. True followers will not choose to sin against the God who they worship. All men are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. God has predetermined that they should be saved. But because he has determined that the means of salvation is to become like Christ does not mean everyone wants to be like Christ. People are free to choose.
With many other pleas of logic and Bible reference, Arminius unequivocally argued that man was, is and will ever be free to choose his destiny, that through the manifest wisdom of God that choice might be known to Him, man’s will is not nullified.
We too can find many points of scripture written not to the unregenerate man but to Christians who were often warned and pleaded with to hold fast the faith without wavering that their end might find them in the presence of God without spot or blemish and pleasing in every way….because of choice not irresistible grace.
Consider the letter to the Hebrews, a document replete with argument, earnestly begging, challenging, warning the Jewish Christians to remain steadfast and not to fall back into a damnable life of Judaism.
Hebrews 2:2-4 Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Hebrews 3 says this:
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! 8 “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of testing in the wilderness. 9 “There your fathers tested me and tried me, and they saw my works for forty years. 10 “Therefore, I became provoked at that generation and said, ‘Their hearts are always wandering and they have not known my ways.’ 11 “As I swore in my anger, ‘They will never enter my rest!’” 12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has an evil, unbelieving heart that forsakes the living God. 13 But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception. 14 For we have become partners with Christ, if in fact we hold our initial confidence firm until the end. 15 As it says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For which ones heard and rebelled? Was it not all who came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership? 17 And against whom was God provoked for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose dead bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear they would never enter into his rest, except those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they could not enter because of unbelief.
The inspired author continues that men can chose to crucify Christ in their apostasy.
4 For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, 6 and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt. 7 For the ground that has soaked up the rain that frequently falls on it and yields useful vegetation for those who tend it receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is useless and about to be cursed; its fate is to be burned. 9 But in your case, dear friends, even though we speak like this, we are convinced of better things relating to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints. 11 But we passionately want each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of your hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:4-12.
Because our faith in God created a new and living way by the death of Christ we are assured of a clear conscious but must not abandon our good habits of encouraging one another:
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. 23 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, 25 not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.
26 For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27 but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies. 28 Someone who rejected the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 8:19-31.
32 But remember the former days when you endured a harsh conflict of suffering after you were enlightened. 33 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. 34 For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession. 35 So do not throw away your confidence, because it has great reward. 36 For you need endurance in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised. 37 For just a little longer and he who is coming will arrive and not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I take no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not among those who shrink back and thus perish, but are among those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Confident of Your Self?
I would not be so foolish as to put confidence in my life of imperfect life. But neither would I dismiss my decision to follow after Christ. It is he who cleansed my heart and soul and he who dismissed the charges against me. For that reason do I choose Him and hold fast my confession: He is the Son of God, the King of the Jews.