A New Identity: A New Tulip

There are a number of ways that one might establish a new identity associated with a change in terminology from Calvinism to Conversionism and from Reformed Theology to Transformed Theology. One way involves modifying the framework that Reformed Theology has built itself around, namely the TULIP which is an acronym representing the five points of Calvinism. By using the same five letters, this section will focus on a new identity that will find its significance in a New Tulip. Consider the following acrostic:

An Argument for Total Lostness
An Argument for Unconditional Love
An Argument for Limitless Atonement
An Argument for Irrefutable Gospel
An Argument for Perseverance of the Savior

In evaluating this new proposed position, it is important to remember that each plank must rest on its own merit based on what the Bible has to say as opposed to interpreting each through the lens of some preconceived premise. For example it can be argued that each of the points of Calvinism have been so developed to support the underlying premise that Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross could not have been for all men because it is obvious that not all men are saved and headed for heaven. While the latter part of this statement is absolutely true, that does not validate the former part of the statement. To be fair, there is always a tendency no matter how well intended, to frame ones theology around certain preconceived theological foundations and frameworks. Just as every man is a product of his own environment, so is his theology a product of his overall evaluation of the Scripture itself. However, when questions concerning theology are presented, it behooves those on both sides of the issue to consider certain arguments on their own merit in light of a standard, which must be the Word of God. Please consider the following points with an open Bible and an objective mind.

An Argument for Total Lostness

The first step in establishing a new identity based on this new terminology that is being proposed, is an argument for Total Lostness as opposed to the Calvinist plank of Total Depravity. This tenet says that man by willful transgression fell from a state of righteousness and holiness in which he was first created. Man since the fall of Adam has inherited this fallen nature and exists in a state of total spiritual depravity or lostness. This is a state of death in trespasses and sins in which he is held as a slave of sin and an enemy of God. If left in this sinful state, he will face the eternal consequences of his sin in eternal punishment, which is the second death. Sinful man is lost in that he is unable to attain divine righteousness by his own efforts and he must be redeemed and delivered by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is revealed to him by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Make no mistake about it; man is no doubt depraved in his humanity. The Bible is absolutely clear on this point. All men, both Jews and Greeks are under sin. “As it is written: ‘there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there’s no one who seeks after God. They’ve all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is no one who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The purpose of the Law was to establish man’s guilt before God and “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “If any man says he has not sinned he is a liar and the truth is not in him.” “All of our righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord.” As the children of Israel made their way through the wilderness on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, they repeatedly acknowledged their sin before the Lord.

Because all men have sinned against God, they are hopelessly and helplessly lost.
In the 119th Psalm, David acknowledged his sin and says “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” In Matthew 18, Jesus Himself speaks to this issue of being lost. He says, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” In verses 12 through 14, Jesus asked the question: “What you think? If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the 99 and go to the mountains to see the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that one sheep than over the 99 that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

Luke expands Jesus’ parable and adds the following statement, “I will say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance. Luke goes on to record two more parables dealing with lostness that Jesus gave. The second parable Luke records is the parable of the lost coin. In this parable Jesus speaks of a woman who had 10 coins and realizes that one has been lost and she searches her house until she finds that one lost coin. Jesus makes the following concluding statement, “likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” The third parable that Jesus used as He spoke on the subject of lostness, is the parable of the lost son, which is often referred to as the parable of the prodigal son. In this parable a father has two sons. The younger son comes to his father and asks him for his inheritance, which the father gives to him. The son leaves home and squanders away everything his father gave him. Jesus makes an interesting statement in verse 17; He says, ”but when he (the young son) came to himself, he said, ‘how many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger!’ I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ’Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’.”

The young man makes his way back home. He is greeted by his father and he asks for his father’s forgiveness. Listen to his father’s response, “bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf here and kill it, let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” The son fully understood his situation. He knew he was down and depraved. He knew he needed help. He knew his father could take care of his needs. He knew all the details with the exception of one: he had no idea what his father’s response would be. This lost son had a choice to make. He could keep on doing what he was doing and he would have kept on getting what he had always gotten. Or, he could get up and make the journey home where he would be able to live.” This son had a choice to make to come home or to continue on in the hog pen.

In the parable of the lost or prodigal son, Jesus adds a very important twist to this issue of being lost. This is Jesus’ third and final parable in this triage of three stories. In verse 17 Jesus intentionally mentions the young man’s “coming to himself”. Now it is clear that in coming to himself, he is still hopelessly and helplessly lost. The importance of this intentional phrase is seen in what the young man does as he turns from his present condition and goes back to his father. While this young man was no doubt depraved, he had not forgotten the provisions his father had provided for him for most of his life. The young son understood that his father represented the only hope he really had. He made a choice to walk away from his immediate past and walked toward a future that only his father could provide. Here is one of the clearest passages in the Bible that will deal with the lost condition that all men are in apart from any relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus understood the tragedy of man’s lostness. Jesus underscored the significance of the inability of the lost coin and the lost sheep to find themselves and no longer be lost. The shepherd went out to find the lost sheep and the woman searched until she found the lost coin. In Luke 19 Jesus spoke to a tax collector whose name was Zaccheaus; He told Zaccheaus to come down out of the tree because he wanted to go to Zaccheaus’ house for dinner. Jesus was criticized sorely as people said, “Jesus eats with sinners!” Jesus’ response was, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus identified what it meant to be lost. In the third chapter of John, Jesus explains to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, what he must do as one who is lost to be found. The Bible is not clear why Nicodemus came to Jesus; it simply says he came. Because Jesus understood Nicodemus’ greatest need, He ignored his flattering tribute and He told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I say to you, you must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the spirit.”

Here Jesus equates being found with being born again or being born from above. This is vitally important because just as was the case with the lost sheep at the lost coin, an individual who is lost cannot find himself. He cannot simply come to himself and realize and recognize that he is lost; he cannot correct that on his own. He must do as the prodigal son did as he turned from his sinful present state and the turned to his father. In looking at the prodigal’s “coming to himself” it must be understood that he was able to do this because of the promises and provisions he had experienced personally because of the personal relationship he enjoyed with his father. He came to himself and turned and went to his father. It was his father who forgave him and made him part of his family once again. The son came asking to be a servant; his father restored his sonship. The actions of the young man’s father are what changed his status from “lost” to “found.” Praise the Lord God can do the same to all who come to Him!

In Nicodemus’ case, he too left the comfort of his environment and he came to Jesus looking for answers. Nicodemus no doubt had a number of questions he wanted to ask Jesus. Jesus addressed the only question that mattered. In order to go to heaven, Nicodemus was lost and needed to be found; he needed to be born from above. Nicodemus needed what only Jesus could provide. Jesus goes on to explain what He meant when He said to Nicodemus, you must be born again. Nicodemus asks a very simple question, “How can these things be?” “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’ Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?’” Basically what Jesus was saying here is that Nicodemus along with the other Jewish leaders and teachers of the Scriptures should have recognized Jesus for who He was for the Old Testament was full of passages that spoke of His coming. Instead of Nicodemus coming to Jesus with questions, he should have been coming to Jesus with answers! The gospel is the same way for men today. God has given mankind every reason to come to Christ just as Nicodemus did.

In verses 14 through 21 Jesus goes on to explain to Nicodemus what it means to be born again or born from above. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Just as the prodigal son came to himself and made his way to his father, so was it Nicodemus’ responsibility to “come to himself” and by believing in the promises of God that are clearly laid out in the Scriptures, Nicodemus would not perish but have everlasting life. By believing in Christ, Nicodemus would be saved or born again and in that process he would pass from death to life, from being lost to being found.

In Matthew 19, another wealthy young ruler came to Jesus and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus told him, “If you want to enter into life keep the commandments.” The young man beamed, “I have done that.” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” What is the difference in the results of the visits of these two men? Both came essentially asking the same thing. Nicodemus went away with Christ and the other went away sorrowful because he made the mistake of thinking what he had was more important than what Christ had for him. This was a choice the two men made themselves. Jesus did not decide that one would be saved and the other lost.

Make no mistake about it; Jesus understood man’s lost state. He understood the gravity of sin. It was for this reason that Jesus left heaven in the first place. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Jesus did not need to leave heaven to condemn the world. Man in his sin was already condemned. It was Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross that provided man any hope at all. That’s why Jesus said what He did in verse 18; “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Verse 19 addresses this issue of Total Depravity or Total Lostness. Listen to what Jesus said about the extent of man’s depravity: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Man’s depravity is pictured in Jesus statement that “Light has come and the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Had Jesus stopped there, there are a number of conclusions one could draw. One might even be able to conclude that men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil and they were so depraved that they were blind and could not see the light without God first opening their eyes so that they could even see the light in the first place. The text prohibits that interpretation. First of all Jesus chides Nicodemus for being a teacher of the Law and not understanding these things. Verse 20 explains why men love darkness and hate the light. It is not that men hate the light because they’re blind and cannot see it; they hate the light because they do see it and they do not like what it reveals; for it reveals their evil deeds. Men do not want to be told the truth. They want to do what seems right in their own eyes. But there are those who see the Light for what it is and not liking what they see, they choose to move toward the Light instead of moving away from the Light. This is the choice that Jesus offers those who are lost for whom He has come to seek and to save.

An Argument for Unconditional Love

If there’s anything that’s unconditional where God is concerned, it would have to be His love for man. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.“ “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Here is the real story. God did not spare He is own Son but allowed Him to be sacrificed on the cross to pay the penalty for an unholy and ungodly world. In analyzing this, the apostle Paul makes the following statement: “it is very rare that a man would offer to give his life for the life of a righteous man not to mention just an ordinary man. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

The Apostle John makes the following declaration in I John Chapter 4, “ In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In I John chapter 2 he writes, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” What did John mean when he said that God sent His Son to be “the propitiation for our sins?” Wayne Grudem defines propitiation as “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in doing so changes God’s wrath toward us into favor.” God sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice that would change God’s wrath toward man to one of favor. In Hebrews 2 Paul explains that it was necessary for Jesus to come to the earth and “be made like his brothers, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

Jesus did more than “offer” an atoning sacrifice that would change God’s wrath to favor; Jesus became that atoning sacrifice. So the question shifts from what is propitiation to how did Christ become the propitiation for man’s sin? Paul answers this question in Romans Chapter 3: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” Once again Paul makes it abundantly clear that God’s righteousness is made available to sinful men “through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” In verse 23 Paul qualifies the “all who believe” in verse 22;. Paul says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

In Romans 6:23 Paul warns that the wages of sin is death. Sin separates man from God; God is both creator and sustainer of life. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “I am The Way, the Truth, and The Life. No man comes unto the Father but by Me.” In this sense, sin causes separation from God and death is separation from life. In order to restore this relationship with God and to bridge this separation that sin has caused, God sent His Son who is The Light of the World and The Life for the World and The Way to God to “provide justification by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation for mans’ sin by His blood, through faith, to provide His righteousness to a lost and dying world that He might be just and the justifier as they come to faith in Jesus.”

What is “redemption?” Once again looking to Grudem’s Systematic Theology, he defines redemption as “Christ’s saving work viewed as an act of buying back sinners out of their bondage to sin and to Satan through the payment of a ransom.” A ransom is the price paid to secure someone’s freedom. Jesus gave his life on the cross as a ransom to satisfy God’s justice and wrath concerning the penalty of sin that must be paid. The Apostle Paul tells young Timothy, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle — I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying — a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice satisfied God’s Law of justice and retribution set in place because of man’s sin. Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross was “payment in full” for the sin of the world. Paul notes that this sacrifice that Christ gave was different than any other sacrifice ever offered to God; for this sacrifice was “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. . For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the regeneration of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the world. All men have sinned and because of that sin they are condemned to die. But God loved the world so much that He sent his Son to pay the penalty for that sin. Christ redeemed us by His blood. He bore our sins in and on His body on the cross. He paid the price for man’s sin so that God could forgive men without violating His own righteousness. A ransom was paid to set sinful men free from this awful penalty for sin. At one’s conversion, through faith, repentance and confession, an individual passes from death unto life as he is redeemed by the blood of The Lamb. His sins are washed away; and he has the promise that he will be reconciled to God.
God indeed so loved the world that He gave the life of His only begotten Son to die on the cross to pay a penalty He did not owe for a penalty men could not pay. In speaking of the children of Israel following a long period of disobedience and captivity, the Lord spoke through Jeremiah saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Israel has had a long history of being on the mountaintop with God and then being in the Valley without Him. They have been disobedient to Him and then in repentance they have come back to Him. Israel’s history has been a long cycle of God’s blessings, their disobedience, God’s delivering them to their enemies, their cry for forgiveness and deliverance and God’s mercy and His grace as He redeems them and brings them back into fellowship with Him. God loved Israel then and He still loves His people today. While it is easy to see God’s Unconditional Love, it is difficult to see evidences of unconditional election in the nation of Israel’s rocky history.

Some have argued that God’s choice of election can be seen in God’s special relationship with Israel. However, if God’s special love for Israel is a means that will allow Him to establish His love and a relationship with the whole world, then it may be argued that His love for Israel is not specific at all, but rather a demonstration of His love so that all the world could come to Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth. There is no picture of unconditional election in the life of Israel but God’s Unconditional Love can be seen on every page not only in the Old Testament but the New as well.

Perhaps one of the greatest demonstrations of God’s Unconditional Love can be seen in Revelation 2, where Jesus is speaking to the church in Thyatira. He mentions a wicked woman who calls herself a prophetess who was either teaching in the church or in the city and was responsible for seducing some of the church members to commit sexual immorality and eat foods that have been offered to idols. Listen to what Jesus said about this woman, “I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” Two things are obvious here. First of all, Jesus gave this woman time to repent. He also gave those who committed adultery with her time to repent as well. The second thing that’s equally obvious is the fact that this is what Jesus expected them to do. This wicked prophetess did not repent and no doubt there were some who committed adultery with her who did not repent as well. There are eternal consequences to the choices men make. Jesus is addressing those consequences when He says that He will cast those who do not repent into great tribulation. He goes on to say, “I will kill her children with death” which is an obvious reference to the second death.

Did God love this wicked prophetess who had this spirit of Jezebel? His willingness for her not to perish and His patience for her to repent certainly lends credibility to an affirmative answer to this question. Extend this question one step further. Since God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life, and since Jesus expected this woman to repent, He must have died on the cross to pay the penalty for her sin just as He did for everyone else. The provisions for her repentance had already been met at Calvary. Those who are cast into the great tribulation are those who did not repent of their evil deeds. Even in one of the most extreme examples of human depravity in the Bible, God’s unconditional love is demonstrated and His forgiveness is offered and repentance is expected but it is refused.

A good illustration of this can be seen in the following illustration. Suppose a father loved his four children who had gone out into the world and wasted their lives and had gone deeply into debt. The debt was about to destroy each of the four children. The father unbeknown to his children wrote a check out to each of his four children that would pay their debts in full and leave them with enough money to live the rest of their lives very comfortably. The father placed the checks in cards that were addressed to each child and placed them on a mantle in his den. He called each child and asked them one by one to come see him and share a meal together. They never came. He called them a number of times asking them to come but each time they made excuses and never came. Now, the love of the father was evident in the gift he prepared for each of his four children. Each gift was more than adequate to supply their need, which was great. His invitation was for them to come and sit down with him for simple meal together. The only thing the father wanted was for his children to come and dine with him. Now, did the fact that his children did not come have anything to do with this father’s love for his children? No. In the same way, men’s refusal to come and dine with the Lord has nothing to do with God’s love and desire to meet their great need in the provisions that are already set aside for everyone who will simply come to Jesus. This can also be seen in the wedding feast of Matthew 22.

In going back to God’s statement to Israel in Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. With loving kindness I have drawn you.” In looking at this question of unconditional love and unconditional election, what did He mean in the second part of this verse, when He said, “with loving kindness I have drawn you”? Once again the question must be asked, does everyone that God draws with His loving kindness respond as God wants them to respond? Since Israel’s history was up and down and they were in and out of captivity because of their disobedience to His word, both before and after this statement was made, it can be argued that the answer to this question is a resounding “no.” Add to this the overriding fact that no one fully responds to God’s drawing as He would have them respond, for all men, saved and unsaved continue to sin and come short of the glory of God. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” It is clear that God’s Unconditional Love supersedes any Biblical concept of unconditional election.

Consider Paul’s comments to Titus in Chapter 3. Here Paul instructs Titus to remind those that he will minister to, “to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” Here Paul reminds Titus to remind those who have been saved that they needed to be patient with lost people because they too were totally lost before they came to Christ. Paul recounts this wonderful experience of new birth that many of them had experienced as he wrote: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Does this passage speak to the issue of God’s Unconditional Love or does it speak to the issue of unconditional election? Obviously Paul attributes their salvation to God’s love and His kindness toward them; even though their hearts were wicked and their lives were completely out of control. Paul acknowledges that it is God’s mercy that saved them and not works of righteousness that they had done themselves. Had Paul stopped here, one could argue that God’s love is unconditional and one could even argue the validity of regeneration and unconditional election in God’s salvific process. However, Paul did not stop there. He goes on to remind everyone how God saved them when “the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared to man;” he said, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” Once again Paul is clear; it is God’s unconditional love demonstrated by Christ at Calvary that compels men to “believe in Him” and that by believing in Him they “will not perish but have everlasting life.” For those who do not believe in Christ are already condemned because they have not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.

Consider one of the more tender scenes in Scripture painting a picture of Christ’s love for the world He created. Listen to His heart as He laments over Jerusalem before turning His eyes to the cross. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” Jesus’ love for the world is seen here as well as in every scene and heard in every syllable and demonstrated in every situation that He found Himself in. He is still seeking to save them that are lost. He is still reaching out to gather His children together so that His house is not left desolate. Blessed indeed are all who come in the Name of the Lord. Praise God, man’s Total Lostness is overshadowed by God’s Unconditional Love.

An Argument for Limitless Atonement

The foundational, bed rock tenet of Reformed Theology is contained in the third point of Calvinism, commonly referred to as Limited Atonement. Grudem defines limited atonement in the following way: “The Reformed view that Christ’s death actually paid for the sins of those whom He knew would ultimately be saved. Another term for this view is ‘particular redemption’ in that the power of the atonement is not limited, but rather it is fully effective for particular people.” In a sermon preached at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens in London on February 28, 1959 Charles H. Spurgeon made the following comment in a message dealing with Limited Atonement, he said, “The doctrine of Redemption is one of the most important doctrines of the system of faith. A mistake on this point will inevitably lead to a mistake through the entire system of our belief.” Whether one accepts his conclusions on this matter, Spurgeon statement was absolutely correct.

The issue of Limited Atonement offers a number of valid answers to the many questions dealing with Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Most of the problems that surface with respect to the doctrine of Limited Atonement do so when its proponents carry it to its extremes. Most if not all Southern Baptists agree with the concept of Limited Atonement. Anyone who is not a proponent of universalism must accept some concept of Limited Atonement. If Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross paid the penalty for “the sin of the world” then one of two things must be true. First, the penalty for all sin, which is death, was paid when Christ died on the cross and God is “in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.” One interpretation of this passage opens the door to Universalism. However, a closer look at the context from which this phrase is contained, reveals a much different picture. First of all Paul says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ.” Obviously, Paul is clear in this discourse that those whom God has reconciled to Himself, are those who are “in Christ” and are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Paul goes on to say that God has given all who have been reconciled into Him a ministry of reconciliation; “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” This is not a statement describing God’s character or purpose as much as it is a statement describing the ministry of reconciliation that every born again child of God shares a responsibility to be a part of. Not only is God not directly responsible for the choices men make in accepting the redemption made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross, those who have received this redemption are responsible for leading lost men to the cross where they too may find redemption for themselves.

Anyone who rejects the idea of Universalism by default accepts the doctrine of Limited Atonement. In its most basic application, Limited atonement simply says Christ’s atoning sacrifice at Calvary is by necessity limited to a certain group of people. Reformed Theology proponents identify this “certain group of people” as the “elect.” Non-Calvinist will define this “certain group of people” as those individuals who by faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning work on the cross are convicted by the Holy Spirit of their lostness and in repentance turn from their own attempts at righteousness and turn to God for forgiveness and adoption into His forever family. This “certain group of people” is referred to in the New Testament as believers, those who have been born again, children of God, the church, as well as “the elect.” Here the term “the elect” is synonymous with the believer or that Christian who is in Christ, who is a new creation for whom “old things have passed away; and for whom all things have become new.”

Since Reformed Theology proponents have defined limited atonement as it relates exclusively to the elect, the third point of Conversionism will be labeled Limitless Atonement. This modified point will highlight the limitless ability of Christ’s work of atonement as God seeks to reconcile a lost and dying world unto Himself. This Limitless Atonement is available to anyone who by faith in the Lord Jesus repents of their sin and turns to God for forgiveness initiating the new birth or conversion, whereby the Holy Spirit begins the transforming process of giving this new creation the mind of Christ. This is the process that Paul speaks of in Colossians Chapter 3 where he says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”

Listen to what Paul says in II Corinthians the 5th Chapter as he speaks about this ministry of reconciliation that God has given not only to him but to all who are in Christ Jesus. The critical issue raised in verse 20 speaks to the extent of the issue of limited atonement. Paul clearly says that he sees himself as “an ambassador for Christ” and it was as though “God were pleading through his preaching and teaching with a lost and dying world” to come to Christ. For this reason Paul says, “we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” Paul no doubt believed that somehow his preaching of this glorious gospel message that God loved everyone so much that He sent Jesus to be born of a virgin and live a perfect life so that He could offer Himself as a sinless sacrifice and pay the penalty for sin for any person who was willing to call upon the name of the Lord, and believing in the saving, transforming power of Christ that individual might turn to God in repentance and find forgiveness as he or she responds to this reconciling work of God. That’s exactly what Paul said in I Corinthians where he said, “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” The scope of the cross is indeed limitless to save to the uttermost all who come to Christ. This is the ultimate expression of revelation.

Jesus spoke to the issue of man’s response to preaching as he said of the people of Nineveh, “for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” The Ninevites were terribly wicked people. Their communities were not just dangerous places to wander into; the Ninevites went outside their borders and brought danger and destruction to neighboring areas, including Israel. There’s no evidence or mention of any process of regeneration nor any particular selection on God’s part where the Ninevites were concerned as Jonah began to preach a message of destruction if the people did not immediately repent. This biblical account plainly says the people heard Jonah’s message and they repented and God spared their city. These people did not repent because they were among God’s elect. They heard the warning proclaimed by this Israelite who took his life in his own hands by even coming to Nineveh to preach in the first place. No doubt the spirit of God convicted them of their sin and convinced them of the benefits of repenting and that is exactly what they did. God’s ability to forgive is second only to His desire to love. This whole notion that man is dead in his sin and incapable of even acknowledging his sin does not really make rational sense. The people of Nineveh knew that they were mean and wicked. Perhaps like Saul on the road to Damascus, they knew that God could kill them as easy as He could speak to them. The fact that He offered them an opportunity to repent was reason enough for them to do so.

The Bible says that “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.” Jesus’ ministry focuses on His teaching and preaching. Jesus spoke to the masses that came to hear Him speak. As Jesus would speak to various groups the Bible says many believed. Jesus spoke a number of occasions in the synagogues and the Apostle John tells us that many of the religious leaders believed on the Lord as well. It is clear in a number of passages that Jesus expected the Jews not only to understand the word of God presented in the Old Testament; He also expected them to believe His words as well.

Listen to a discourse that took place between Jesus and Philip: “Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us. Jesus said to him, Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” In verse 11 Jesus admonishes Philip to believe Him as He identifies Himself with the Father. Jesus tells Philip to believe what He has said or He tells Philip to believe in the works that he has seen Jesus perform. There is no picture of limited atonement in Jesus’ preaching. He expects people to hear Him and then believe what He says. Jesus’ invitation is simple, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

In John Chapter 7 Jesus makes the following statement, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” It is clear that Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and drink was to anyone who thirsts. There is no ambiguity in this invitation; there’s no question about who Jesus is speaking to. His invitation is simple; “if anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Jesus’ ability to make atonement for man’s sin is indeed limitless and is available to anyone who thirsts. There is no qualification dealing with the elect in Jesus statement. The same invitation is found in the 22nd Chapter Revelation: “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Jesus’ atonement is limitless in that it has the ability to save to the uttermost those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

In I Timothy 2, Paul wrote, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle — I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying — a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” Nowhere in this passage of scripture is there any hint of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross limited. It is absolutely clear that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Finally, I John 2 says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

An Argument for an Irrefutable Gospel

The fourth point of Calvinism is that of Irresistible Grace. This tenet basically states that there is nothing an individual can do to keep from being saved if it is indeed God’s will for that individual to be saved. God’s elect will be saved. God gives His grace to those that He foreknew before the foundation of the world; this gift of God’s grace is both unmerited and unexpected on man’s part. Unregenerate man has nothing to do with the gift of God’s grace and is powerless to resist this grace. There’s absolutely no question that salvation is the work of God’s amazing grace. God’s grace is His unmerited and undeserved favor offered to sinful men who deserve death and eternal separation from God. God’s grace has been defined or characterized as His giving to sinful men what they do not deserve. God’s mercy has been defined as His not giving men what they do deserve. Mercy and grace often go hand in hand.

The issue in question really has very little to do with God’s grace; it has everything to do with how that grace affects a man’s heart. There is no biblical precedent that even hints of God’s will being superimposed on an individual. Perhaps the closest example of this might be God’s calling of Jonah to go to Nineveh. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh but he chose to go in the other direction. Even in this case, it is clear that God allowed Jonah to go his way prior to going His way. There were consequences to Jonah’s decision. God proved that He was in complete control. Jonah got on a ship bound for Tarsus and a bad storm threatened to destroy the ship. The crew had no choice but to lighten the load. Jonah understood what was going on and he instructed the crew to toss him overboard. He understood that his current circumstances were related to the decision that he made to refuse to do what God had instructed him to do. He did go to Nineveh. Make no mistake about it, God did get Jonah’s attention. Jonah eventually did do what God told him to do. However, he did have the opportunity to exercise his free will over God’s will for his life and he took full advantage of it. In light of irresistible grace’s contention that God’s will is always complied with, Jonah’s will did not reflect God’s perfect will for his life. The truth is even when it comes to salvation, man does have the choice to choose; God gave man that responsibility. While man does have the choice to choose, he does not have the choice to choose the consequences of his choices. That responsibility belongs to God as well.

Instead of looking at God’s grace being irresistible, consider the plausibility of God’s gospel being irrefutable. For Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” Understand, God’s grace is absolutely essential to any movement on man’s part toward God. Jesus made that abundantly clear when he said, “No man comes unto the Father but by Me,” Salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit as He draws men unto Christ. Jesus identifies this drawing as one of the purposes for His coming to the Earth in the first place. He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” In Hebrews Chapter 7 Paul explains that the old law was unable to make anyone perfect. The best that man had to offer could never satisfy the penalty that God had set for sin. God told Adam when he was in the garden before he ever committed the first sin, “when you eat the fruit of the tree that I commanded you, you shall surely die.” But Paul contends, that in Christ “there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” This drawing that Paul speaks of is God reconciling the world to Himself in Christ. This drawing takes hold of man’s heart as the gospel is shared and it is this gospel that is absolutely irrefutable. Salvation or conversion is not possible apart from it. This drawing is God alone, by grace alone and in Christ alone. God’s grace is seen in His gospel message that is irrefutable. This drawing however is not irresistible.

In Hebrews chapter 10 Paul explains that Jesus sacrificial death on the cross should be reason enough for men to draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith, because their hearts have been sprinkled from an evil conscience and their bodies washed with pure water. Paul goes on to say, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much more as you see that Day approaching.” This exhortation is critical to anyone’s relationship to Christ. This exhortation is irrefutable; it is not irresistible.

Consider Paul’s statement in Hebrews Chapter 10, verses 26-30: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” This passage alone settles this issue of God’s irresistible grace. The truth is God’s Holy Spirit draws men to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who gives the knowledge of truth, which is seen in the proclamation (reconciliation) and presentation (revelation) of the gospel, to sinful men but that’s where the work of the Holy Spirit stops. The Holy Spirit does not force His way into a lost person’s heart. In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus emphasizes the importance of man’s response to the drawing of the Holy Spirit. Here Jesus says, ”whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man will also confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.” The power of the gospel is essential and irrefutable in the salvific process; the gospel is the “power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” it simply is not irresistible. If it were irresistible, there would be no reason for Jesus to warn people about blaspheming against the drawing of the Holy Spirit. The gospel message is irrefutable; it is not irresistible.

James makes the following statement, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

There are a couple of statements in this passage that are very revealing as one considers this concept of irresistible grace. In this passage in James is discussing the role that the lust of the world plays in the problems mankind faces. If someone wants to be a friend to the world that person is automatically an enemy of God. This is a choice that man makes; it is not a choice that God makes for him; for James says, ”You have not because you ask not; you asking do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” The pleasures that James is talking about are the pleasures that come by being a friend to the world. James’ question in verse 5 is an interesting question: “Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, the Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously.” This spirit that dwells in us that James is speaking is the Holy Spirit. If the work of the Holy Spirit were irresistible, there would be no jealous yearning. Again, the gospel message is irrefutable; it is not irresistible.

James does not stop there; he continues, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’.” Why does God resist the proud? That is very simple; God resists the proud because the proud resist God! Likewise God gives grace to the humble because humility is a choice that men make. In both of these statements it is crystal clear that God’s choice to resist or give grace is predicated by man’s choice to be proud or to be humble. When James says God gives grace to those who are humble, it is important to understand exactly what it is that James is saying. James makes it clear that God does not give grace to make one humble; God gives grace to those who are humble. This is a very important distinction. Once again the drawing of the Holy Spirit as seen through the gospel message helps an individual choose humility over pride and that choice that an individual makes has everything to do with God’s response to him.

With this in mind James continues, “Therefore, submit yourself to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Once again submission is a choice that an individual makes. How does one submit himself to God so that he can resist the devil? James answers that question: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This is an amazing statement. It is not even remotely possible in the Calvinistic mindset for an individual to draw near to God causing God to draw near to him. James is not finished describing this process of submitting oneself to God. As the Holy Spirit works on the cold, calloused heart of a lost person, He cleanses this lost man’s hands and purifies his heart and humbles him in the sight of the Lord and God will lift him up.” Once again God draws; this is no doubt that this drawing is both premeditated and predetermined. God knew exactly what He was going to do. Once God has cast the lifeline, it is up to the sinful man to grab hold of Christ and live. God’s grace as demonstrated in the gospel message is absolutely irrefutable; it simply is not irresistible.

In Malachi the first chapter, God is chiding His people. He says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence?” God goes on to accuse them of offering lame animals as sacrifices and bringing pitiful offerings to Him. God tells them, “offer it to your governor!” See how much he likes it and how well he accepts you. The underlying truth here is that no one would ever consider giving these pitiful offerings to the governor or anyone in authority for that matter. It’s very clear that God is not pleased with what has been going on either. Listen to God’s word of instruction to the children of Israel to correct this displeasing situation: “ “But now entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably? Says the Lord of hosts.” Once again, God’s favor will be determined by their response to repent and turn back to Him.

In the third chapter of Malachi, God tells the children of Israel “from the days of your father you’ve gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, Says the Lord of hosts. But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ ” Apparently God’s grace is not irresistible in the Old Testament for the children of Israel were guilty of going away from God’s ordinances and not keeping them. Even though his grace is not irresistible, His gospel message is irrefutable because there is always hope for the children of Israel. God tells them to return to Him and He would return to them. How are the children of Israel supposed to return to God? God provides that answer in verse 10: “Try me now! See if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” Imagine that: God telling the children of Israel to try Him first and then watch to see what He does in response to what they do first.

In First John Chapter 4 God’s love for man is set as the standard for a man’s love for God and for one another. For “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This is a very important statement. Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross was the propitiation or appeasement paid to God for man’s sin. Now with that in mind, John says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” In this passage of Scripture one thing is clear; God’s love for man was clearly demonstrated on the cross and that love ought to be enough for man to love God and his fellow man in return. It is the cross that is central in the gospel message and the love that was demonstrated at Calvary was what ought to cause men to love God and one other. God’s irreplaceable grace is evident in every scene that surrounds the cross. This grace is everything but irresistible; because it is clear that while men ought to love one another, many refused to do so.

In 1 John 5, John highlights the importance of believing in the Son of God for salvation, which is obviously the crux of the gospel. John says in verse 10, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” If indeed it is God’s grace that allows an individual to believe in God in the first place, that grace cannot be irresistible if men are not able to believe the testimony that God has given them in His Son. But that’s exactly what John has just said happens. The qualifying distinction between those who have the Son and have life and those who do not have the Son of God and do not have life, is predicated upon what they believe and in whom they believe. John writes in verse 13, “These things have I have written to you (the gospel) who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” This believing involves two things: there is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit through revelation and then then there is the convincing work of the Holy Spirit (reconciliation) at work in the heart of an individual to move them to believe. Once again God’s grace as presented in the gospel message is irrefutable in the salvific process but His grace is not irresistible for there are many who refuse or fail to believe in Christ.

In looking at this issue of an irrefutable gospel versus irresistible grace, Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well is a very interesting story. He asks the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. This sample request leads to a rather deep and detailed dialogue between Jesus and this woman. Using the analogy of drawing water, Jesus simply tells her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Jesus tells the woman to go and get her husband and of course she replies, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus acknowledges the woman’s reply and reveals to her that He knows that she has had five husbands and the man that she is now living with is not her husband. At this point the Holy Spirit has cut her heart to the core. Jesus has this woman’s attention. The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” It is at this point that this Samaritan woman was compelled to answer life’s crucial question: “what am I going to do with this man who is called Christ?” This woman’s decision is not immediately known. The disciples come up and they basically run this woman off wondering why Jesus would speak to this kind of woman in public in the first place. While the disciples are grilling Jesus about his actions, this woman whose lifestyle has made her a social outcast and a public nuisance, went into town and began telling people, “I have met the Messiah! He is told me everything about my life; He is not like any other man that I’ve ever met. He has forgiven me of my sin and he has made me a new person. Come and see Him for yourselves!”

Once again the irrefutable gospel of God is seen at work in this Samaritan community. God’s grace changed this Samaritan woman’s heart and life. The testimony of her lips and the evidence of her life caused many of the Samaritans of that city to believe in Him. The Samaritans asked Jesus to stay with them and he stayed for two days and many more believed in Christ, not because of what the woman said, but because of what they heard Jesus do and say; for they knew that he was the Christ, the Savior of the world. Salvation came to those individuals who like the Samaritan woman heard the gospel claims of Christ and believed in their hearts that this man called Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Savior of the world. John was careful to say many believed in Christ. No doubt there were many others who heard the same testimony and saw the same results that everyone else witnessed, but they refused to believe that this man could be their Savior. God’s amazing grace was poured out on this community and many responded.

Consider once again Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” God’s grace can be seen in Jesus’ desire to draw the people of Jerusalem unto Himself. The tenet of Irresistible Grace is actually debunked by Jesus’ statement that “they were not willing” to do what Jesus so much wanted them to do. If God’s will was indeed irresistible as Calvinist’s claim, Jesus would have had no reason to weep over Israel because “all that the Father had given to Him would come to Him.” God’s Grace as presented in the gospel message is irrefutable; it is not irresistible.

An Argument for Perseverance of the Savior
Conversionism’s fifth plank is the Perseverance of the Savior as opposed to the Calvinist plank of The Perseverance of the Saints. The author of Hebrews says, “Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep His promise.” Man’s hope is not in his own perseverance, but in Christ’s perseverance that is rooted in the promises and the character of God. Man’s only hope will be found in what God does in His Son, Jesus. Salvation is based on the person and work of the Lord Jesus and not based on man’s works. The believer’s security is for eternity. Salvation is kept by the grace and the power of God and not by the self-sufficiency of the believer.
Jesus says that His priority was to do what His Father had sent Him to do. He said, “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Eternity is God’s goal for humanity. Men are born to live forever. Sin has upset that goal. God has provided a lamb who has come to take away the sin of the world.
Here Jesus makes a very interesting statement. He tells the Jewish leaders questioning His coming, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.” Calvinists have taken this statement and gotten a number of miles off of it. However, there is no period there. Jesus continues, “as I said to you My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” The question is, who are His sheep? Jesus’ sheep are those who hear Him and follow Him. He knows who they are. There is no suggestion in this passage that He foreknew them. Jesus knows who His Sheep are because they are those who hear Him and heed Him. This is a consistent message for Jesus. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

In John 10, Jesus says “I am the door and He makes it clear that those who enter by Him, do so by hearing Him and then believing His promises. These are those who shall be “saved.” These are the ones who shall have life and have it more abundantly. Jesus makes a very important statement in verse 11: “”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” He does not say “My sheep.” This is paramount for Jesus did not die for “His sheep; He died for ‘the’ sheep.” He continues, “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” Now, Jesus is still speaking about “the sheep” that He gave His life for and the hireling does not care about. He contrasts Himself with the hireling. He continues, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and I am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” This is an obvious reference to Israel and the Gentile’s inclusion in His one fold. Those who belong in this fold and can enter in and will go in and out and find pasture. His sheep are those who hear His voice and follow Him.

These are the sheep those who hear Jesus’ voice “and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”

This is a very important passage of scripture outlining the priorities in the salvific process. John says that those who are saved are those who love God and love those who are saved. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Those who overcome the world are those who believe in the “Overcomer” who is Jesus and He will raise them up in the end.

Peter reinforces this hope that the believer has in Christ Jesus. Peter clearly indicates that the believer’s hope is a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” The issue here is not the perseverance of the saint; the One who perseveres is the Savior. Jesus is the constant and not the individual. The differential component in this comparison is vitally important. While the Calvinist plank certainly finds its source of validity in the sufficiency of Christ, it still is predicated on the individual’s “persevering”. In the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, the individual’s life becomes the ultimate test of his conversion experience. In fact, this tenet indicates that there is no way for a person to know for sure if he is even saved until the end because his perseverance itself is the actual test of his conversion experience. The Perseverance of the Savior corrects that deficiency by placing the eternal hope in the sufficiency of the Lord Himself, and not in the individual’s process of sanctification, which is the gradual transforming of one’s sinful, selfish mind to the mind of Christ. This is just as much the will of God as one’s conversion is and to some degree even more so. For it can certainly be argued that spiritual maturity is the goal of conversion, otherwise God would see men converted and He would simply bring them on home at that point.

“For all the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” The Holy Spirit “Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” This idea that the new born child of God is protected in and by the sufficiency of Christ is not an opportunity to do what he or she wants to do. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Paul makes it abundantly clear that the Christian is no longer to live in the flesh for “the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

Shall the Christian just live in sin knowing that his eternity is secure in Christ Jesus? “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Obviously, Paul is emphasizing the importance of living out one’s faith. However, it is important to understand the living out of that faith is not what guarantees one’s salvation. Salvation is in Christ alone and His Grace alone and not of works lest any man should boast. The Calvinists drive this home in conversion but step away from it in perseverance. In the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Savior, an individual’s salvation in effected by faith in Christ and his hope is guaranteed by faith in that same Savior. When an individual comes to Christ and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his heart, he is adopted into God’s forever family and he becomes an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus and that settles the question of a believer’s eternal security whether he understands or accepts it or not.


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