Holiness is fun!
This is the follow up of the last blog about the Calvinism/Arminian debate. If you wish to refresh on my last post, just click on the "Older Post" prompt at the foot of this page.
It was a typical Sunday morning at Ascot Baptist Church, my home church where I attend regularly. During the sermon, Phil Rogers, our Elder, came out with these words:-
Holiness is Fun!
I was somewhat stunned. To me, "Holiness" had always conjured up in my mind of a group of monks chanting in the monastery, way out in the countryside, separate and away from the hustle and bustle of life in the secular world.
Or I imagine a "holy person" so pious, that whenever he looks at me he could see into my soul and mentally judges me, and I turn away to avoid that look.
Holiness is nothing like that.
Jesus himself said that holiness is fun. In John 15:10-11, he says:
If you keep my commandments (that is, to love one another) ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Jesus also said:-
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels in heaven over one sinner that repents. Luke 15:10.
Just imagine it. Our God is a happy God! Because somewhere in the world somebody had just got saved, and received the free gift of eternal life. And here and there someone is saved all the time. So the heavenly party never ceases. The believer is a gift from the Father to the Son for dying for his sins on the cross. So I can imagine a Heavenly Christmas morning that never ends. Gift after gift is received by Jesus Christ from God the Father, the myriad of angels shout for joy and everyone is having fun. The party is enhanced further by millions of saints (Christian believers) who have already died and entered glory. Their thunderous shouts of praise are twofold: first at a conversion of a sinner to saint on Earth, and the death of a Christian as he then enters the glories of Heaven, very much like the winner of an athletic foot race crossing the finishing line and breaks the tape.
God is a happy God. He loves us immensely. We are a gift to the Son from the Father, and there are no unwanted presents either. God does not make mistakes. That's why I firmly believe in Once Saved always Saved.
If there is such a doctrine so strongly debated, it is this one. Once Saved Always Saved seems too good to be true. In fact, all it says that there is absolutely no way a sinner can do anything to merit grace. Instead, the Good News of God's Grace is proclaimed, and the hearer believes, his faith resulting in salvation. Another name for "Good News" is the Gospel.
Once Saved Always Saved has been the cause of this Big Debate for nearly half a millennium and which shows no sign of slowing down.
In this article we shall look into further into the debate and what is it about Calvinism which Arminians and other non-Calvinists so dislike about it.
When one talks or reads about this debate, the issue is almost entirely about Once Saved Always Saved. This issue being: Are we as believers eternally secure in the hope of entry into Heaven after death? Or can we fall away, lose our salvation and end up in Hell? In other words, in this case the believer, rather than receiving a free gift from God through grace, he is on probation, to see if he is worthy enough to be saved.
But eternal security is only a part of what Calvin advocated. His whole treatise involved five points with which each initial letter spell the acronym TULIP.
To deciphering this acronym, we get this result:
T Total depravity of the sinner
U Unconditional Election
L Limited Atonement
I Irresistible Grace
P Perseverance of the Saints
It's the P in the last article which the debate really is centered on, which we get the modern terminology, Once Saved Always Saved.
But for anyone who sees Limited Atonement as something akin to blasphemy or grossly unfair, it simply means that Christ died for the Church. This means that the power of the Atonement is effective to everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour. Each believer who has this faith becomes a member of the Church, which is the family of God, with God himself as his Heavenly Father. But the power of the atonement is for each person who believes, or trust in Jesus Christ to save him. To those who refuse to believe, the Atonement has no effect on them.
Thus Jesus himself said while at the Temple in Jerusalem:
And (Jesus) said, Therefore I say unto you, that no man can come unto me, except that it was given unto him of my Father
He also said, in John 10 that the Jews did not believe because they were not of his sheep. His sheep hear his voice and follows him (because they are his sheep already, apparently not because they have just decided to follow him) and he gives them eternal life (free gift of grace) and they shall never perish (eternal security) - my Father, who gave those sheep to me (as a reward for his coming Crucifixion) is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them from his hand (so God can't be beaten by human will).
In John 17 we see Jesus praying for first his immediate disciples, than for all believers to come. On more than one occasion Jesus emphasised that each disciple was given to him by God, indicating that they were already his from eternity past. He also says that all that are his belongs to the Father as well, indicating that very believer belonged to God from eternity past, for there is absolutely nothing that could happen without God knowing about it beforehand. In plain English, God knew every single work, thought, feeling, speech and action you would ever say, think, feel and do before you were even conceived!
Thus where TULIP is explained: Total depravity, is where it would be impossible for anyone to come to God in his own power. Yes, many people are good to others, kind, compassionate and generous to each other, but because of our fallen natures, these virtues are of no use to God.
It can be likened to a glass of clean water to a thirsty person, it is desirable. But just one tiny drop of ink, and the thirsty person would not touch it, even if there is only a very slight discolouration.
All this seems to indicate the U in Tulip for Unconditional Election, and I, for Irresistible Grace. If God foreknew the believer from eternity past and has predestined you to conform unto the likeness of his Son, then he also knew that he will not resist his grace. As Jesus himself said,
Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. John 6:65.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44. And,
All that the Father gives to me shall come to me; and he who comes to me I will in no wise cast out. John 6:37.
Therefore the P in Perseverance can only make sense if we are to believe that God the Father has given you to his beloved Son as a gift, and God does not makes mistakes! Especially if God knew that the believer was chosen right up until the believer falls away and loses his salvation. Some "gift" for his Son!
So then, what about Free will, human choice? Does the Bible teach it? Yes, it does. Does it contradict Divine Sovereignty? Yes, apparently it does!
Look at John chapter 1. in verse 9 John wrote that the Light of Christ shines into the soul of every man born into the world, and the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life."
Jesus also said, He who heareth my word, and believes on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. John 5:24.
Later, Jesus called out to the crowds, If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. John 7:37.
He also said, Except that you believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins. John 8:24.
Paul also said,
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth that all men everywhere should repent. Acts 17:30.
And also Peter stated:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise...but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that anyone should perish, but all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9.
Do these verses indicate free will and human choice? Yes they do.
So here is the apparent contradiction between God's Sovereignty and free will. Both are true.
So what do we do? Accept them both equally. The Bible is God's Word to mankind. How one becomes a believer through hearing the Word preached was the result of God's Sovereign choice and at the same time a choice the person himself had made, cannot be explained. But it is taught. Rather than fight it about in a debate lasting centuries, why not just accept what the Bible says?
And it says that Christ died to reconcile us to God.
So in this final part I wish to discuss why believing in Once Saved Always Saved is the key to Holiness.
It is the assurance we need when the chips are down, when feeling lonely, a loser, struggling with a problem or as in the the days the New Testament was written, under intense persecution. Back then every Roman citizen must confess by law that Caesar is Lord. They must accept that the Emperor was divine. To say Jesus Christ is Lord instead of Caesar added up to treason, and the offender was imprisoned or executed. That is why Paul writes to the church in Rome that no one can confess that Jesus Christ is Lord except by the Holy Spirit in him. In other words, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord is of God's grace, not human merit. The same applies to perseverance. It is a grace from God, not a human strength. Many times in his letters Paul admonish his readers to "stand firm in the faith". That is to allow God's power to work unrestrained in the midst of tribulation without allowing the human weakness of fear and doubt get in the way.
It has nothing to do with loss of salvation.
To all those who trusts in Jesus Christ to save them:
God is a happy God. You are a gift to the Son for dying for your sins.
He had chosen you from eternity past, to enjoy the privilege of holiness.
Would he let you go? I can't see the sense in that.