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Salvation and Security in Calvinism

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


Exchange #1

>Praise the Lord and good morning to you.  I want to thank you for the DTL site, it has been a great help in understanding a lot of things.< 

I am thankful my site is being of help to you.

>I need help.  I was born and raised a Roman Catholic.  I left the RC church when at 27 years old to join a church (which evolved into a cult) that was Pentecostal and Arminian in theology.

I was not aware of the meanings of the terms Calvinism and Arminianism until shortly after I left the church/cult in 1995 at age 42.  It was a devastating period in my life.  The cult, and all its teachings, so bound me up it was impossible for me to understand and experience the Truth.< 

Yes, leaving a cult can be a very difficult experience.

>I was so financially strapped, the cult had sapped me of over one hundred fifty thousand dollars over the 15 years I was there and found myself bankrupt and emotionally and mentally "off my rocker".  I wound up robbing a bank (armed robbery) but wound up with 5 years probation.  When sentenced in 1996 I began a new life in Christ, finally making what I understood was a connection with Christ.  Still understanding from the viewpoint of what I had learned and experienced in the cult for all those years.< 

Praise the Lord you've come to know Him in a read way!

>I am still in confusion, though, about the claims of Calvinism versus Arminianism.  Two issues concern me most.

First is simply how does one come to faith in Christ or become "saved" under the Calvinist "program."  Is there a commitment to be made, a surrender of will, an acceptance of the Lordship of Jesus Christ? ... please explain how one receives salvation through the Calvinist perspective.<

By acknowledging one is a sinner that needs a Savior, and that Jesus Christ is that One and only Savior. The main difference between the Calvinist and Arminian approach is the Calvinist puts the emphasis on what Christ has already done, whereas the Arminian emphasizes what the sinner needs to do.

>  I have read and seem to understand the concept of Calvinism from the TULIP acrostic, but there seems to be something missing (which my son David says is my "pentecostal hangover")  He has been a member of the Lutheran Church, Missouri synod now for almost five years since shortly after he and I fled the "cult" in 1995.

My wife and two of our remaining five children are still in the cult, with the two youngest children crying to get out.  I am doing all I can to deliver them from this mess.< 

A difficult situation; you have my prayers.

>My second issue is regarding the "Eternal Security of the Believer" or otherwise entitled, the "Once Saved - Always Saved" controversy.  Please help me understand, although I have read considerably on this issue, how once you have been "saved" that you can sin and still go to heaven.  By sin, I mean committing a sin, not "repenting" of it nor "confessing" this sin nor asking for forgiveness for it from God.< 

If a person is truly saved, then if he sins the Holy Spirit will convict him of his sin and lead him to repentance.

[1Jn 3:9] Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God (NKJV).

  Only note, "sin" here is in the present tense indicating ongoing action; hence why I translate this verse as:

Every one having been begotten from God is not practicing sin, because His seed in him is abiding, and he is not being able to be sinning, because he has been begotten from God (ALT).

The point is, if a Christian cannot continuing sinning because the Holy Spirit will convict him of his sins and turn him from it.

>Let's say that I kill a man.  Let's say that I go to the home of the man who ran the cult that I was in for all those years and killed him in cold blood for all the pain and anguish I went through all those years and for all the money he defrauded me out of. (Not that I would do this thing, but i am using this as a graphic example of what i am trying to understand here.)  Let's say that I have done this heinous thing.< 

First, it is doubtful a true Christian would do such a thing as the Holy Spirit would be convicting him of the very thought of it. But if we assume the Christian suppresses this conviction and goes through with the action, then the Holy Spirit will overwhelm him with conviction and he will repent. And by this repentance he will receive forgiveness. 

> Where do I stand with Christ?  Will I still make heaven my home?  It seems as if I have sinned greatly with impunity and have done it in God's face boldly with no regard for punishment.  Let's say I get away with this crime and I live out my days here on earth and then, in the end, die.  Where will I go?  Where will I stand in the Judgement?<  

As indicated, if you are truly saved then you would repent. If you never repent of the murder then it shows you were never saved. 

The main issue here is, the Calvinist does NOT teach "Once save always saved" if by this it is meant a person can continue to sin and still be saved. A better way of expressing the doctrine is "The perseverance of the saints" or even better, "The perseverance of God with the saints." The point is, God will lead the true Christian to persevere in the way of holiness until glorification. This is not to say the Christian will never sin, but if he does he will be convicted of his sin, repent, and return to the way of holiness. 

>I have great trouble understanding how I will make heaven my home after doing all this.  Sin is sin and according to what I have understood in the scriptures that there will be no sin in heaven, and nobody who has commited these horrible things (from Revelation 21:8) as well.< 

EVERY ONE is a sinner. But through forgiveness we are cleansed of our sins. Hence why there are no sinners in heaven.

>My desire to understand these things is sincere.  I am currently fellowshipping in a local baptist church in the town where I live which is Calvinist in perspective and have taken my stand, as have some others in the congregation, regarding the Once Saved - Always Saved issue.  Please help me with this.

I am also concerned as to what I see around me today in many churches that claim to hold to Calvinism.  So many of these churches seem to say they are Calvinistic, but they have altar calls, seek to reach others for salvation through personal witnessing and asking them to make commitments to Christ through "sinner's prayers" and other such means.  If they are to be true to Calvinistic theology, then these methods are wrong and contrary to what they say they believe, right?< 

Altar calls have too much of the element of manipulation. Calvinist do seek the lost, to proclaim the Gospel to them, what Christ has already done, telling the person to repent of his sins and to acknowledge Christ as their only Savior. The use of a "sinner's prayer" is problematic as true repentance comes from the heart, not repeating someone else's words.

>Thank you for your consideration in reviewing my questions and concerns.  I am sincere and searching for the truth in these matters as I believe it is Vital for me and to those I minister to!!  Thank you very much.

John
2/10/2000<

I hope the above is helpful.


Exchange #2

 >Thank you for your kindness in responding to my email, it was most helpful. Your words and explanations were most helpful.  From all that I read, the Arminian and Calvinist positions that are taught in most churches, are often taught incorrectly.  What you stated about the Once Saved - Always Saved controversy is what I had pretty much come to an understanding of in my heart and what you said helped me to solidify that understanding.

 

God bless you for your ministry.  I have notified many of your site and find that there is a wealth of information there, too much to "digest" in one sitting.  Just like with the Word, you've got to come back again and again and again, which I most certainly will do.

 

Thanks again Brother Gary!!

John

2/13/2000<

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Calvinism - Eternal Security and Salvation
Calvinism (Reformed Theology)

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