Such is the state of professing Christendom today that multitudes will not even know what we mean when we speak or write of those doctrines which, collectively, have become known as the doctrines of grace. A different system of doctrine is in vogue today: a system which exalts the will of man the creature, and rejects the sovereign will of God the Creator. It is an immensely popular doctrinal system, certainly; but it is, emphatically, not a scriptural system.
Sometimes, the doctrines which shall be set forth here have been collectively known as “Calvinistic” doctrines. This is to be regretted, for two reasons: firstly, these blessed doctrines were not invented by John Calvin, and yet this is often the impression given to many; and secondly, “Calvinism” can refer to a number of other doctrines taught by John Calvin, with which this author, and many other Christians, cannot agree. In a word, these glorious truths can be comprehended thus: ELECTION. That is to say, the choice of God in the matter of the eternal salvation of men. This is a word that adequately describes what is going to be set forth here. There is no need to attach Calvin’s name to it. The doctrines of grace are the doctrines of the prophets of the Old Testament, and the apostles of the New; and those holy men of old received them, by inspiration, from the Lord himself. The doctrines of grace, then, are divine doctrines. And thus they are true doctrines. Men, who in their own opinions make themselves wiser than God, may speak against them as much as they please, but these truths are to be found on almost every page of holy writ.
The doctrines which shall be treated of here, are the following: the total depravity of man; unconditional election; limited atonement, or particular redemption; irresistible grace, or effectual calling; and the final perseverance of the saints. Some have claimed a belief in some, but not all, of these; but if just one is removed, none can stand. It will be shown that each one of these doctrines is thoroughly scriptural, and therefore absolutely true.
The Total Depravity of Man
“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions”(Eccl.7:29). When God created the universe, the world, and man, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good”(Gen.1:31). Adam was created “upright” — without sin. But this perfect man chose to sin — and plunged the entire human race into misery. God did not force Adam to sin: Adam wilfully, deliberately chose to sin, by eating the fruit that God had forbidden (Gen.2:16,17; 3:6). Adam, being a perfect man, was capable of obeying the law God had laid down; and he was also capable of disobeying it. He chose to disobey.
God had said to Adam, “In the day that thou eatest thereof (of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) thou shalt surely die”(Gen.2:17). And so he did. In the very moment that he ate of it, he died spiritually. His body was not to die for many hundreds of years (Gen.5:5), but he died spiritually immediately. Adam became a sinner: separated from God, dead in trespasses and sins.
But that is not all. Adam’s fall affected all his posterity. For the truth which the Scriptures make abundantly plain is that Adam was not only the father of the human race; he was also the federal representative of it. Consider, for a moment, these Scriptures: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”(Rom.5:12); “by man came death”(1 Cor.15:21); “in Adam all die”(1 Cor.15:22). Adam and Eve, having become sinful creatures, conceived children (Gen.4:1, etc.); and those children were conceived with sinful natures; and so on, down through the centuries: all men, all women, are conceived with sinful natures, and are born “dead in trespasses and sins”, and are “by nature the children of wrath”(Eph.2:1,3,5). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity,” wrote David, “and in sin did my mother conceive me”(Psa.51:5). “ALL have sinned”(Rom.3:23), without exception; and to this truth, the Scriptures give abundant witness (e.g. Gen.6:5; 8:21; Rom.3:10-12; Isa.64:6; Jer.17:9; etc., etc.).
All mankind sinned “in Adam.” Being the father and representative of the entire human race, when he sinned, all sinned. We were “in his loins”, so to speak. Just as Levi “payed tithes in Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met” Abraham (Heb.7:9,10), so all mankind was “in the loins” of Adam. And thus, ever since the birth of Cain, the first man, every man and woman enters this world a rebel against God, spiritually dead, alienated from God, and under the dominion of sin.
Now, what can a dead man do? Can he, by his own will, his own strength, give himself life? Of course not! And that utter impotence of one who is physically dead, aptly illustrates the reality of the one who is spiritually dead. The Bible describes the unregenerate man as being blind (Eph.4:18), utterly without strength (Rom.5:6), dead (Eph.2:1). The picture is one of utter hopelessness. It is one of utter impotency. Just as certainly as a physically dead man cannot give himself life, so a spiritually dead man cannot give himself spiritual life, by his own will. So much for the false doctrine that men are saved by “choosing” Christ of their own “free wills”! Being utterly dead, “there is NONE that seeketh after God” (Rom.3:11). Not only are they powerless to do so — they do not even want to! Their wills are in bondage to sin, and they choose only evil. The Lord does not prevent them from coming to Christ for salvation; but they are unable to come, by the power of their wills, which are in bondage to sin. Nor do they even want to come to Christ! (Lk.19:14).
Now we have two truths before us: one, that no man is able, or even willing, to come to Christ for salvation; two, that there are those who have come to Christ for salvation. It follows, then, that since no man is able, by nature, to choose to come to Christ, God must choose men, and enable them to come. And, since by no means all men are saved, God quite obviously does not choose, and enable, all! And so the doctrine of the total depravity (and consequently the total impotence) of man, leads us to the next doctrine: the doctrine of unconditional election.
How have men fought against the doctrine of election! They loathe it, distort it, mock it, misunderstand it. They exalt the supposed “free will” of man, and rebel with all their hearts against the sovereignty of God. And yet there it is, on page after page after page of both the Old and New Testaments: the doctrine that God, before the foundation of the world was laid, from all eternity, elected (chose) some of the race of mankind to eternal salvation in Jesus Christ, while leaving the rest to go on in their sins to their just damnation.
His election was unconditional. That is to say, it did not depend on men meeting any conditions in order to be saved. It is entirely an act of the free and sovereign grace of God.
Finite, fallible, frail, foolhardy men cry, “This is a horrible doctrine! God loves all men; he wants all men to be saved; he gives them free wills, so that they can either choose to be saved, or choose not to be saved.” The doctrine of election is not a horrible doctrine; it is a most glorious doctrine, and if it were not true, no man or woman or boy or girl would ever be saved! Consider this:
All men are sinners: guilty rebels against an infinitely holy God, deserving nothing but eternal damnation; you, and I, and all others who have ever walked this earth. God was not obligated to save anyone! If he had chosen to, he could justly have condemned the entire race of mankind to hell. But out of his love and mercy, the Lord chose some of the human race unto salvation, while leaving the rest to go on in their wicked ways, unto damnation. Did he act unjustly? Not at all. None deserved his mercy. He, being absolute sovereign over all his creation, could have elected all to eternal life in Christ; or he could have elected none; or he could have elected some. If he had elected all, he would have displayed his mercy and love; but not his justice and wrath. If he had elected none, he would have displayed his justice and wrath, but not his mercy. But in electing some, he displayed his mercy and love, and his justice and wrath. As it is written: “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory”(Rom.9:22,23).
The Scriptures which speak of God’s election are very many. “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest,” wrote the psalmist, “and causest to approach unto thee”(Psa.65:4). “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” said the Lord Jesus (Jn.15:16). The Father gave an elect number to the Son, and to them alone the Son gives eternal life (Jn.17:2,6,9). Rebecca gave birth to twin boys, Jacob and Esau; and yet the Scripture says that God loved Jacob, and hated Esau (Rom.9:10-13). Was this unrighteous of God (vs.14)? “God forbid!” For God will have mercy on whom he will (vs.15). And just as the potter has absolute power over the clay, to make of the same lump one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour (vs.21), so God has absolute power over all men, to do precisely as he pleases. And “shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”(vs.20). No; for all men being hell-deserving sinners, if he saves any at all it is by his unmerited favour. No man is entitled to salvation, as some kind of “right”! But this is what the “free-will” doctrine is saying, in effect: “I have the right to be saved, if I choose!” No; all mankind deserves eternal damnation. That God saves any at all, is an act of his grace alone. And thus the elect soul can only say with joy, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved”(Eph.1:3-6). These are just some Scriptures, of the many.
The enemies of this doctrine often say it makes God into a monster, who makes men evil so that he can damn them. Those who say such a thing have no understanding whatsoever of this doctrine. All men are wicked, vile sinners by nature. The Lord does not take good men and make them evil — they are all evil, and their evil is of themselves! Out of a world of sinners, the Lord chooses some to eternal life; and as for the rest, he simply leaves them to continue on in their wickedness. He simply withholds his grace from them — that grace by which alone they could have been saved, and which he is not in any way obligated to bestow. Then they merely follow their own wicked natures, walking according to the course of this world, and according to the prince of the power of the air (Eph.2:1,2), adding sin to sin, until they die.
“The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil”(Prov.16:4). God is not the author of sin. He makes the wicked, yes; but he did not make them wicked! There is a great difference. Man has made himself wicked. God has ordained that some should be saved, and some should be lost; but those who are lost, are lost because of their own sins, and not because God took good men, and made them evil! “There is none good but one, that is, God”(Matt.19:17). Again, the Scriptures are conclusive, that just as God elected some men to eternal life in Christ, to the praise of his grace, so he foreordained the rest to eternal damnation, as a just punishment for their sins, to the praise of his justice. “God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Rom.9:22). Or, as Peter puts it, Christ is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed“(1 Pet.2:8). And 2 Pet.2:12 says, “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption”. And Jude says, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men”(Jude vs.4). The Word of God is plain enough: some are fitted to destruction; appointed to stumble, and that eternally; made to be taken and destroyed; ordained to condemnation. But let it be clearly understood: the salvation of sinners is all of God’s grace; the damnation of sinners is because of their own sin! On that great day of judgement, not one of those who will be cast into everlasting fire will be able to say, “This is unrighteous of God! I don’t deserve this!” They will know that their sins brought it upon them, and that their punishment is just. And none will be able to charge God foolishly, and say, “God is a respecter of persons! He elected my neighbour to eternal life, but not me!” For they will know that the Lord is NOT a respecter of persons. He did not elect anyone to salvation because they deserved it — for NONE deserve it! Paul owned himself to be the chief of sinners (1 Tim.1:15), and yet he was a “chosen vessel”(Acts 9:15). God is absolutely sovereign. He is free to give, or to withhold, as he wills. “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth”(Rom.9:18).
Two objections answered, and then we will move on to the third doctrine. Objection one: “This doctrine means that, if a non-elect soul calls upon the name of the Lord for salvation, he will not be saved. The Lord will say to him, `You are not one of the elect; you cannot be saved.’ But the Scriptures say, `whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved'(Rom.10:13).” Indeed it will not be denied, but strongly affirmed (for it is soundly scriptural), that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved; that “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”(Rev.22:17); that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”(Jn.3:16). But the Scriptures also teach (and this truth must be just as strongly affirmed, for it is just as soundly scriptural as the other) that only the elect will call upon the name of the Lord for salvation! Oh, others may hear the Word, and like what they hear for a time (Matt.13:20), and appear to men to have called upon the Lord in repentance and faith, and even deceive themselves, for a time, that they have done so; but it is not true repentance, or true faith. Even repentance and faith are gifts of God’s grace (Acts 11:18; Eph.2:8), and only as many as are ordained to eternal life, ever truly believe to the saving of their souls (Acts 13:48). And this truth will become even clearer, when we come to the doctrine of irresistible grace, or effectual calling.
And so, there will never be a time when a non-elect soul calls upon the name of the Lord in true saving faith and repentance. Only those whose hearts the Lord opens, will ever do so (Acts 16:14). And the only hearts he opens, are those of his elect. Such an incident, as described in the objection — of God turning away a non-elect soul who truly repents, and believes on Christ — has never occurred, and will never occur; for the simple, scriptural reason that God does not give repentance unto life, and the gift of faith, to the non-elect; and if he does not give them, they cannot be had.
Objection two: “If this doctrine is true, why preach the Gospel? If those elected to salvation will assuredly be saved, and no others, why go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature?” Answer: firstly, it is commanded (Matt.28:19,20, etc.); secondly, the Lord who ordained the end, has ordained the means as well. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe”(1 Cor.1:21). “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?“(Rom.10:14). The Ethiopian eunuch was a chosen vessel, ordained to eternal life from all eternity; and (also from all eternity) the Lord had ordained that Philip would preach the Gospel to him (Acts 8:26-40). And so the objection falls flat.
Limited Atonement, or Particular Redemption
This doctrine follows on naturally from the doctrine of unconditional election. If (as the Scriptures assert) God elected a specific number of the human race unto salvation in Christ, then for whom did Christ die? For all men, or for the elect only? Arminianism screams: “He died for all men!” But Scripture says that he died for the elect only. And this is the doctrine of limited atonement, or particular redemption. Not that the atoning death of Christ is limited either in value or power! By no means. But it is limited in its purpose and application. Christ died for some, and not all. It was particular, not general. He died for a particular number, not for all men who have ever lived, or will ever live.
This doctrine is despised by today’s advocates of “universal atonement.” Once again, they exalt the will of man above that of the sovereign God. “Christ died for all men,” they say, “but men must choose to accept him, and his work upon the cross for them.” We have seen somewhat of this fallacy of “free will” already, and will see more when we come to the doctrine of irresistible grace. But for now, let us consider the implications, if “universal atonement” were true.
If, indeed, Christ died for all men, then he died for untold millions who never are saved, but who die in their sins and sink into hell. For the Arminians agree that not all are saved. Free-willers accuse electionists of limiting his power — but truly this is limiting his power!
If, indeed, Christ died for all men, but not all are saved, then the Almighty’s purposes are overturned by mortal men!
If, indeed, Christ died for all men — and yet multitudes are lost — then his sacrifice does not actually secure the salvation of anyone! It only makes salvation possible for all, if they want it.
But what does the Word of God teach? Away with man’s opinions! Mortal man can air his views as much as he likes — they are worthless. To the Word of God!
And there we find that Christ’s sacrifice does not make salvation merely “possible” for those who “choose” it; it actually secures the salvation of the elect.
In Matt.20:28, Jesus said that he came to “give his life a ransom for many.” Not all, but many! Now, when a ransom is paid, it frees those for whom it was paid, does it not? Well, if the Lord Jesus died for all men; if he gave his life a ransom for all; then all are free! None will die in their sins and go to hell! After all, if Christ bore the wrath of God for the sins of all, then the debt has been paid. God will not demand a payment twice. If it is paid, it is paid. Cancelled. Yet it is agreed that multitudes die in their sins, and sink into everlasting fire. Behold the absurdity of the doctrine of “universal atonement”.
“I am the good shepherd,” said Jesus. “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” There are sheep, and there are goats, as he himself said (Matt.25:33). Not all are sheep. He laid down his life, not for the goats, but for the sheep. A little later in the same discourse he said to some, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you”(vs.26). Did he lay down his life for these? No; for he lay down his life for his sheep.
“Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it“(Eph.5:25). He did not give himself for all men, but for his church; his sheep. He purchased the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). We see from this, too, that the Lord does not love all men. He “hatest all workers of iniquity”(Psa.5:5). The wrath of God abideth on them (Jn.3:36). He loved Jacob, but hated Esau (Rom.9:13). He endures the “vessels of wrath,” but does not love them (Rom.9:22).
One can almost hear the howls of outrage. “God is a God of love! He loves all men! What about Jn.3:16?” We cannot create a God of our own imaginations. He is as he reveals himself to be in his Word. If he loves all men, and if Christ died for all men, then the Scriptures must say so. But we have seen that the Scriptures do NOT say so. Of course, most indignantly turn to Jn.3:16, 1 Tim.2:3,4, and 2 Pet.3:9, claiming these support the Arminian position. Without taking any verse in isolation, but allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, let us look briefly at these passages.
“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”(Jn.3:16). It is a beautiful verse. But it does not support “universal atonement.” The word, “world,” does not have to automatically refer to every single person in the world. In various places in Scripture, it has a limited application. For example, in 1 Jn.5:19, it refers to a large portion of the world’s population, but not to every single human being — for those who are saved by grace through faith are exempt from these words. In Rom.1:8, Lk.2:1-3, and Acts 19:27, as well, a large portion of the world is meant, but not every single person in the world. In 2 Pet.2:5, we find that there is a “world of the ungodly”; obviously, then, there is a “world” of the godly, too — and this world, God loves! And indeed, as would be expected, the Scriptures speak of this “world”: for example, in Jn.6:33 and 2 Cor.5:19. As there is “the world of the ungodly,” so there are “his own which are in the world,” whom he loves (Jn.13:1).
In Jn.3:16, the word has reference to “his own which are in the world”; the elect of all nations — not just Jews. God so loved the world — not just elect Jews, but elect Gentiles as well — that he gave his only begotten Son for them. This becomes evident when comparing this verse, with Rom.11:12,15, 1 Jn.2:2, Lk.12:30, etc.
As for 1 Tim.2:3,4: it tells us that God “will have all men to be saved.” And so he will. But does it mean, every single human being? Quite obviously not — for the fact is that multitudes die in their sins; and if it was his will that every single human being should be saved, they would be: for “he doeth according to his will”(Dan.4:35); “he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased”(Psa.115:3); and “who hath resisted his will?”(Rom.9:19). If this passage in 1 Timothy means that God wants to save every single person, then either God has failed, or all men ARE saved. We know the first is impossible, and the second is simply not the case, as his Word makes plain. What God wills, comes to pass. Man’s puny will cannot thwart the sovereign will of God.
Quite obviously, then, this passage means that God will have all the elect to be saved; and this infallibly comes to pass. All his elect, from all nations, and all ranks, and both sexes — this is the meaning of the words, “all men.” And many Scriptures show us that the word, “all,” does NOT always mean every single individual; for example, Mk.1:5; Jn.12:32; Acts 4:21.
Finally, let us consider 2 Pet.3:9. The Lord “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Again let it be said: first, if it means that the Lord is not willing that any human being should perish, then his will has been thwarted, for many have; and yet his will, Scripture asserts, cannot be thwarted; and second, “all” does NOT always mean every single human being, as seen above. But there is more, and this is absolutely conclusive: the verse says that the Lord is “longsuffering to us-ward“; that he is not willing that any (of “us”) should perish, but that all (of “us”) should come to repentance. Who is meant by “us”? The elect are meant! The “beloved” of vs.1; the “beloved” of vs.8; Christians (2 Pet.1:1)! And truly, none of the elect shall ever perish (as we shall see when we consider the perseverance of the saints), but all will come to repentance (as we shall see in the next section–irresistible grace, or effectual calling).
Irresistible Grace, or Effectual Calling
As was seen when the doctrine of man’s depravity was examined, all men (even the elect) are born dead in trespasses and sins, utterly unable to come to Christ for salvation of their own power. “No man can come to me,” said Jesus, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him“(Jn.6:44). The Lord himself draws the elect, and only the elect, to Christ for salvation. There comes a specific point, ordained by God, when each one of the elect is effectually called to Christ, and drawn by God’s irresistible grace. They may have heard the Gospel many, many times, but it is only in God’s appointed time that they hear effectually, and are drawn to Christ. And also, although many multitudes hear the external call when the Gospel is preached to them, only the elect hear the effectual, internal call, and respond. “ALL that the Father giveth me SHALL COME to me,” said Jesus (Jn.6:37). The Father gave the elect to the Son; and each one comes to the Son, in the divinely-ordained time. For, “whom he did predestinate (to eternal life), them he also called (effectually)”(Rom.8:30).
The Gospel is to be preached to all, for that is the divine command (Mk.16:15), and no man knows who is chosen unto salvation, and who is not; but one is drawn to Christ irresistibly, and another is not. Paul preached to many women by a river side in Philippi; but only one woman’s heart was opened to attend to the Gospel (Acts 16:13,14). In Antioch, when the Gentiles heard Paul preach, “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”(Acts 13:48). And only such will ever believe, for only such ever have their hearts opened.
The free-will advocates say that men choose, of their own free wills, to respond to the Gospel, or to reject it. The truth, however, is that man, in his natural, unregenerate state, cannot choose to follow Christ. His will is enslaved to sin, and he does not seek God (Rom.3:11). He is dead, and a dead man can do nothing. He is powerless and impotent. Thus, God has to give the will, and the power, to his chosen, so that they can turn to Christ by faith. If the “free-will” doctrine was true, then the new birth (regeneration; spiritual birth) is produced by man’s own power. Arminians say, when a man repents, and believes in Christ of his own will, then he is born again. In other words, he gives birth, spiritually, to himself! But this is impossible. A man must first be regenerated; then, because he is regenerated, he is, for the very first time, able to repent and believe. For regeneration is the giving of spiritual life. Only when a man is quickened spiritually, can he exercise repentance toward God, and faith toward Jesus Christ. Just as, in one’s physical birth, one is entirely passive, so, when one is “born again,” one is entirely passive. It is solely and absolutely the work of the Holy Spirit of God (Jn.3:5-8). The new birth is the GIFT of God, given freely to all the elect in God’s appointed time. God gives a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek.36:26). And, having such a new heart and new spirit, that soul repents, and puts his faith in Christ Jesus, and is justified, adopted, and sanctified.
The enemies of this glorious doctrine cry, “It makes man a robot!” No, it does not. The Lord simply gives a desire that that soul never had before! He makes him willing to seek the Lord in repentance and faith (Psa.110:3). He enables him to see what he could never see before, and then, knowing his desperate state and the truth about Christ as the only Lord and Saviour, he freely comes to Christ! He is not forced–but now he wants to come! As Phil.2:13 says, “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” A dead man cannot “choose” to give himself life. But when the (spiritually) dead hear the voice of the Son of God (i.e. the effectual call), they live (Jn.5:25). They can only “run after” Christ when he “draws” them (Song of Sol.1:4). They can only approach the Lord when he “causes” them to (Psa.65:4). This is the doctrine of the effectual call. The soul is irresistibly drawn with the bands of divine love (Hos.11:4).
The Final Perseverance of the Saints
Stated simply, this doctrine is as follows: those whom God elected in eternity, sent his Son to die for, and draws to Christ for salvation, can never be lost; they will be kept, by his almighty power, to the end of their lives, and will then be glorified. “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified”(Rom.8:30). And of course, this must be so! It cannot be that God, having predestinated a soul to eternal salvation, and called him by his grace to life in Jesus Christ, and justified, can lose that soul before its final glorification. No; each step in the divine purpose infallibly follows the preceding one, as Rom.8:30 shows so well. So much for this false doctrine of the free-willers that a soul, having been saved, can lose his salvation! It is not possible. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” said the Saviour, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out“(Jn.6:37). And if the Saviour will not cast that soul out, he cannot be cast out by any other means: for, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand”(Jn.10:27-29). ALL the elect will be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation”(1 Pet.1:5).
Does such a doctrine teach that Christians can live sinful lives? Does it give them licence for all kinds of wickedness, knowing that they can never be lost? By no means! The true Christian has a new nature; he is a “new creature” in Christ (2 Cor.5:17), and all things have become new. He longs to please God. He abhors sin. And one who professes to be a Christian, but who goes on living habitually in sin, gives no evidence that he is indeed a true Christian, and must not be treated as such! “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son“(Rom.8:29). Those whom God has chosen, he has chosen unto holiness. “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love”(Eph.1:4). The elect are chosen to salvation, yes; but — through sanctification (2 Thess.2:13)! Where this is lacking, there is no evidence of regeneration. None, then, can say that this wonderful doctrine encourages sin. For the new nature of the child of God is at war with sin, and loathes sin. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord (Heb.12:14); and the Christian, being made free from sin, and having become the servant of God, has his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom.6:22). Holiness is the evidence of election, and regeneration.
The believer sins — oh, none can deny it! But he repents; he mourns over his sin; he loathes it. Read Romans 7, and this becomes plain. The believer sins; but the Lord who loved him from all eternity, and chose him unto salvation, and died for him, graciously leads him to repentance, and is faithful and just to forgive, and to cleanse (1 Jn.1:9). The believer sins; but sin does not have dominion over him (Rom.6:14); he does not “walk in darkness”(1 Jn.1:6). And the Lord will keep him throughout his life, and finally receive him into glory. And so the Scripture says to the Christian, “that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it (margin: “will finish it”) until the day of Jesus Christ”(Phil.1:6). That which God purposed from before the foundation of the world, he infallibly brings to pass. And no man or devil can prevent it.
These, then, are the doctrines which collectively are known as “the doctrines of grace.” Much has been said, and yet the surface has not even been scratched. The Bible abounds with these precious truths. And precious indeed they are! For they exalt God, and humble man; they magnify God’s grace, but demolish man’s vain and futile works; they make the Christian realise that he owes EVERYTHING to God, and is NOTHING apart from him; they are the foundation of the Christian’s assurance of salvation–for one who knows himself to be “in Christ,” knows that he can never be lost; they strengthen the Christian in his walk, and move him to follow after holiness of life; they fill the heart of the child of God with praise to the Lord, for the great love wherewith he loved him; they cause him to bow in adoration before the Lord, who, not because he saw anything lovely in the person, but out of his absolute free grace and mercy, chose him unto salvation, and accomplished all things necessary to secure his salvation for all eternity.
Shaun Willcock is a minister, author and researcher. He runs Bible Based Ministries. This pamphlet was first published in 1993, and slightly revised in 2018. For other pamphlets (which may be downloaded and printed), as well as details about his books, audio messages, articles, etc., please visit the Bible Based Ministries website; or write to the address below. If you would like to be on Bible Based Ministries’ email list, please send your details.
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