The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace
Then there are those doctrines which are known as the doctrines of sovereign grace: predestination and election, total depravity, Christ’s particular redemption, God’s irresistible grace, and the final perseverance of the saints. Arminianism is the name given to those who deny these truths. It is the predominant theology of our times, and is false. Arminians claim that man has a completely free will; that Christ died for all men and women without exception; that a person may choose, of his own free will and at any time he likes, to follow Christ; and that a true Christian is able to lose his salvation at any time if he is not careful.
These are serious doctrinal errors. And this being so, there are some who assert that no Arminian is a true Christian. But this is an error. A man may indeed be converted, even though he may not as yet understand all aspects of the full and free salvation which the Lord has wrought. This point has been made above.
A man may be brought under conviction of sin, repent, and call upon the Lord Jesus Christ to save him, with that repentance and saving faith which are the gifts of God to His elect. But because of false teaching he receives, or no real teaching at all, he may not understand the restricted, limited meaning of the word, “world”, as applying only to the elect; or the true meaning of election, irresistible grace, etc. A full understanding of these things, however, is not an essential requirement for salvation. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, after all – not by the amount of scriptural knowledge in our heads!
Essentially the sinner must know something of who Christ is; something of the lost state of all men without Him; and that salvation is only by faith in Him. He needs to know this much, at least, because salvation is by faith in Christ, and how shall he believe in Him of whom he knows nothing? But more than this he does not have to know in order to be saved. He has to be taught. He has to grow in the knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
Let us suppose the following scenario. We meet a man, a professing Christian, who is Arminian in theology. He has never been properly taught the truth about the doctrines of grace. And yet he gives every indication of being a true believer, a godly man, sound in the faith in many other respects, a man who loves the Lord and desires to live in a way that is pleasing to Him, forsaking the world.
But once the full truth is properly taught to him, a true Christian will not remain an Arminian forever. He will come to receive and embrace the truth. It may take some time, depending on how deeply he imbibed the error, or how soundly the truth is taught to him. But in time he will come to accept it with joy. For the doctrines of sovereign grace are an integral part of the entire doctrine of salvation. Salvation itself is impossible if any one of them is not true. Therefore, if they are rejected after they have been properly expounded, the truth of the Gospel is itself being rejected. And the one who rejects it reveals that he is not a true brother in Christ, and we are not to fellowship with him in spiritual matters or in worship.
The Cessation of Extraordinary Gifts and the Bible’s All-Sufficiency
What about those within the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement? Are they all still dead in their sins? Or is it possible that some of them are truly converted?
There are huge numbers of people in this movement who are so immersed in so many false doctrines that they do not even possess a rudimentary understanding of the most basic and fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, necessary to be known and believed for salvation. Sound doctrine means little or nothing to them. All they are concerned with is experience. There are those who deny the Trinity; others proclaim baptismal regeneration; others teach that Jesus suffered in hell, was tortured by demons, and had to be born again; etc., etc. Such people are by no means true Christians. They are heretics and cultists, just as much as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses are.
However, there are a few – a very few – who hold to many fundamental doctrines of the faith but who are essentially identical with other Arminians. They differ with them when it comes to such specifically Pentecostal doctrines as the false “baptism of the Spirit” and their false assertion that miraculous gifts are still given today; but in almost all other respects they are essentially Arminian. Therefore what is applicable to Arminians (see above) is applicable to them as well.
Certainly they are in error concerning the gifts of the Spirit, etc. But these are not what the Bible calls “damnable heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). What one believes about speaking in tongues or miraculous healing, for example, is not essential to salvation. One does not go to heaven or hell based on what one believes about such things, even if such beliefs are erroneous.
But what about their denial of the Bible’s all-sufficiency? After all, when one accepts so-called tongues-speaking and prophecies as being messages from the Lord for today, in effect one is denying the all-sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures. And this is a very serious matter.
Again, we have to make a clear distinction between those within this movement who are heretical on various points and clearly unregenerate, and those who, although mistaken in their views of the gifts of the Spirit, are simply untaught or falsely-taught Arminians, among whom some might be truly converted.
Now this latter class of Pentecostals have always asserted that the Bible is divinely inspired and is all-sufficient. Although they believe that prophecies are still given today, they maintain that these are not absolutely essential to anyone, but are a secondary type of revelation, subordinate to Scripture. This is very inconsistent, it is extremely poor biblical exegesis and thoroughly incorrect doctrine. But in itself it does not mean a man is necessarily unconverted, and some who are true Christians may hold to it out of much ignorance, being weak in the Scriptures and babes in understanding, at least for a time, until properly instructed in the truth.
But until they forsake Pentecostalism, fellowship is impossible. It would be absolutely contrary to God’s will.
6. Holiness of Life an Essential Fruit of Salvation, Thus Essential for Fellowship
Then there is all that the Bible teaches about holiness of life, separation from the world, etc. As we saw previously, conduct is just as important as sound doctrine. Is holiness optional for the child of God? Absolutely not. When it comes to Christian conduct, a man who lives an ungodly, worldly life is simply not to be received as a Christian, no matter what he claims to believe. God’s Word is absolutely clear: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19); “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1); for “without [holiness] no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14); “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13); “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4); “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15); “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes…. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? “(Lk. 6:43,44,46).