Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Predestination


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Calvinism Part VII...
When the Gospel Becomes a Lie

Assurance of Salvation? How Can Any Calvinist KNOW He is Saved?

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

Section 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace
Section 2: Total Inability... The Cornerstone
Section 3: Unconditional Election
Section 4: Limited Atonement
Section 5: Irresistible Grace
Section 6: Perseverance of The Saints and Death Before Sin
You Are Here 001orange Section 7: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie and Assurance of Salvation...
How Can Any Calvinist KNOW He is Saved?
Section 8: God’s Sovereignty and Omnipotence. Hypocrisy Unlimited
Section 9: Conclusion
Section 10: Calvinism and The First 1500 Years. The Sins of Augustine


On This Page

When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
God Loves You
Believe and Be Saved
Praying for the Lost

 Assurance of Salvation
The Question... How Can Any Calvinist KNOW He is Saved? The Answer... He Can’t


When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
God Loves You

When sharing the Gospel with a non believer the Christian, who is not a Calvinist, can truthfully point to the cross and tell the person that God loves them enough to sacrifice His one and only Son for their sins. This is because the non-Calvinist reads verses like John 3:16 and takes them literally.

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever (Greek pas) believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

However, Arthur Pink, and other Calvinists, claim that when Jesus uses the word world in this passage, He "does not mean the whole human family" [39] but the world of God's people. Since the Calvinist does not know who the elect are he cannot, with any integrity whatsoever, tell anyone that God loves them... because it is entirely possible that God does not love that particular person.. certainly not enough to save him.  [See more on John 3:16 in the chapter on Limited Atonement]

Believe and Be Saved
The Calvinist believes that people, of themselves, cannot respond to God or the Gospel.  God has to initiate salvation in their lives, which He does by means of "Special Grace" which causes the person to be regenerated (or "born again") and become a believer and disciple of Christ. However this grace is restricted to only those whom He has previously elected to salvation. God unconditionally and “sovereignly” elects who will be saved and who will not be saved. In other words God chooses a person who then, in turn, chooses God.

However this presents us with a huge problem. 

There is little question of the importance placed on preaching in the Bible, which is the essential means by which God's message is communicated to people who, if they are to be saved, must believe this message and repent [Romans 10:14]. Paul says it is the power of God unto salvation [Romans 1:15-16]. Jesus Himself instructed His disciples to "go into all the world and teach the Gospel". However to say

    We can share the Gospel with everyone and pray that they accept Jesus because we know that there is a chance they just might come to believe! [57a]

... is absolutely inexcusable.

[The comment was made by John Rothra of John Rothra Ministries. He is pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church in Alvord, Texas, holds a 'Master of Divinity' degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is working toward a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)].

"They just might come to believe" is a euphemism for they just might be one of the elect. The Calvinist can only hope that the person they are talking with is elected by God and should the person actually repent and be baptized, they have to further hope and pray that the person is not a false convert who will believe for a while and then fall away. John Rothra then goes on to say (under the heading of "Evangelize Them All and Let God Sort It Out!")

    As a “five pointer,” I can say with confidence that I do not know if the next person I come across is a believer or an atheist. I do not know if they are elect or reprobate. What I do know is that I must share Jesus with them and give them an opportunity to respond. [57a]

Yet his page on How to Be Saved, he says [Emphasis Added]

    God provided the only way to be saved. The only way to get to heaven is through Jesus Christ. The good news is that this gift is offered to whomever will accept it. This gift is given freely out of God's love and grace... You can be forgiven and be saved if you believe in Jesus as your savior. God promises that whoever confesses and believes in Jesus will be saved...If you sincerely prayed and received Jesus into your life, God has done something wonderful for you!... May God bless you in your new life in Christ.  [57b]

Now that's addled... even someone who boasts a Master of Divinity. But remember what I said about what the highly 'educated' can do with the extremely straightforward and uncomplicated message of salvation..

Apparently what has not been taken into consideration is that it is a lie of gargantuan proportions to stand before an audience of any size and preach that God will save them if they will believe and put their trust in Jesus if, as Calvinism believes, God has limited to the offer to only an select few. ANY attempt to persuade an unbeliever to repent and come to faith in Christ conveys the impression that he can choose to do so. This could be totally misleading since the person concerned may or may not be one of those "elected" to salvation.

In an effort to address this problem Got Questions Ministries both dances around the issue and contradicts themselves. Note the two points I have made bold.

    Yet another argument against limited atonement is that it is a hindrance to the preaching of the Gospel and to evangelism. Those that use this argument will say that if an evangelist cannot say “Christ died for you,” then his effectiveness in presenting the Gospel will be limited. Or they will say that if only the elect will be saved, why should the Gospel be preached at all? Once again, these objections are easily dealt with. The Gospel is to be preached to everyone, because it is the power of God to salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16) and it is the means that God has ordained by which the elect will be saved (Romans 10:14-17). Also, the evangelist does not need to tell the unbeliever that “Christ died for your sins” specifically. All he needs to proclaim is that Christ died to pay the penalty for sin and provide a way for sinners to be reconciled to a holy God. Believe in Him and you will be saved...  [35]

Isn't it a fact that telling a person to "Believe in Him and you will be saved" is a lie in many cases. And when did you last hear an evangelist or preacher generalizing or de-personalizing the message to the point it conveys nothing more that a general statement that Christ died to pay the penalty for sin. On the contrary the effort is always made to convince the hearer/s that they themselves are sinners who desperately need to be reconciliated with a Holy God.

Certainly the first evangelists did.

Acts 2:37-38 tells us that on Pentecost when the crowd in Jerusalem heard what Peter had said they were deeply affected and asked Peter and the rest of the apostles what they should do. Peter's reply directed at every single person in the audience was ... "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit". If only the elect among them were able to repent and believe, Peter was a deceptive liar.

Similarly, in Acts 16:30-31, Paul and Silas did not beat around the bush when asked by the Philippian jailer what he (the jailer) had to do to be saved.  Their reply was almost identical to Peter's on the day of Pentecost (above)...  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”.

How could Peter, Paul and Silas have said what they did if they did not KNOW if their listener/s were one of the elect, and not one of the damned who could neither repent nor believe.

And apart from actively preaching the Gospel, many people also pray for the lost. Paul did...

Praying for the lost
The tenth chapter of Romans begins with the words

    Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved.

Paul's heart's desire and prayer is that his fellow Jews may be saved. And I can be reasonably certain that there are many Calvinists who do pray for the salvation of unsaved friends, family and acquaintances. However in doing so they are not being very consistent with their own theology, since it would be a complete waste of time to pray for the souls of the unsaved, if every individual's salvation or damnation has already been pre-determined. If Calvinism is true then any prayer, including Paul's, for the unsaved accomplishes nothing.

So, in order to be consistent the Calvinist should not pray for the lost (an exercise in futility), runs the risk of becoming a blatant liar when he preaches the Gospel to an unsaved person, since he does not have any assurance that the person he is preaching the Gospel to is one of the elect.

But, even worse, the Calvinist pray-er or preacher cannot know if he himself is saved? In fact ...

How Can Any Calvinist KNOW He is Saved?
Lets return for a moment to John L. Rothra of John Rothra Ministries, who says..

    We do not know who it is God chose to save. We do not know if the person we encounter is elect or not merely by looking at them. The only time we become privy to this information is after the fact, either after they confess their faith in Christ alone, by which we know they are elect, or after they die without faith in Christ, by which we know they are not elect. [57a]

Actually this is not true. There have been many who have "confessed their faith" in Christ as savior, then some time later have fallen away. The standard answer to this problem provided by Calvinism is that they were never really saved in the first place.

So is it even possible for a Calvinist to know if they have been really and truly saved? According to John Murray Jesus "set up a criterion by which true disciples may be distinguished". [All Emphasis Added]

    In order to place the doctrine of perseverance in proper light we need to know what it is not. It does not mean that every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in the fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation.  Our Lord Himself warned his followers in the days of his flesh when he said to those Jews who believed in him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye truly my disciples, and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31,32). He set up a criterion by which true disciples may be distinguished and that criterion is continuance in Jesus' word.

Which is fair enough. The Scriptures stress over and over again that believers have to persevere in the faith. However Murray goes on to stress that it is only endurance to the end that marks the true believer... [Emphasis Added]

    It is just what we find elsewhere when Jesus said, "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22). It is the criterion applied also in the epistle to the Hebrews when the writer says, "We are partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (Heb. 4:14).

    It is possible to give all the outward signs of faith in Christ and obedience to him, to witness for a time a good confession and show great zeal for Christ and his kingdom and then lose all interest and become indifferent, if not hostile to the claims of Christ and of his kingdom....

Murray then elaborates on the parable of the sower of seed in Mark 4 and goes on to say [Emphasis Added]

    The Scripture itself, therefore, leads us to the conclusion that it is possible to have a very uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel, to come into such close contact with the supernatural forces which are operative in God's kingdom of grace that these forces produce effects in us which to human observations are hardly distinguishable from those produces by God's regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet not be partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life. [58]

In other words not only can the observer be fooled by a person's "outward signs of faith in Christ" and his "zeal for Christ and his kingdom", but the person concerned can be fooled as well.

And make no mistake. People have fallen away who themselves have been fully persuaded that their faith was of paramount importance in their lives. They demonstrated all the fruits of the Spirit, and had even spent much time in the pulpit.. But something went horribly wrong. In at least one case that I clearly remember, an immense personal tragedy caused the person to fall away from God. None of us can say with 100% certainty that we would not react the same way. As the Scriptures warn..  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. [1Corinthians 10:12]

As Paul said.. the church in Ephesus had been saved by grace through their faith (See Acts 19:1-7 and Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet according to the book of Revelation, they left their first love and was in danger of being disowned by Christ. (See Revelation 2:4-5 and 1:20). The Bible prophesies a great apostasy before the return of Christ. Please note that one has to be in the faith before one can fall from it.

    But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, [1Timothy 4:1]

In fact it is hard not to believe that we are not smack bang in the middle of this predicted apostasy. The reason most people do not recognize it is because it does not fit most people's perception of what apostasy looks like. People have actually becomes more spiritual, not less. But... [For Details See The Signs Of The Times]

If salvation is solely of God, and it is entirely His decision whether or not to extend His saving grace to any individual, then no one can know with any degree of certainty that he or she is a recipient of that grace. Your "faith" may be just the result of fervour stirred by persuasive preaching or your own human reasoning. It may be a temporary phase which you will, in time, grow out of. Your "born again" experience may be the result of a mystical experience the likes of which are experienced by people of many faiths and persuasions.

    (Note: These experiences are interpreted not only according to the beliefs, hopes, and desires of the person involved but the setting in which the experience took place.. If a person "feels" different in a church or during or after prayer they are likely to understand it is Christian terms. A similar feeling experienced in an ashram will lead the individual to interpret it in Hindu or Buddhist terms. If a hotel ballroom, in secular terms. The point is the sinner can not rely on subjective feelings, but on the objective Word of God).

According to Calvinism, God promises that the believer that through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, He will keep or preserve him to the end, however God has never told this person whether or not he is even one of the elect. So, if you are a Calvinist, all you can do is keep "working" at it and hope like the blazes that you are not wrong, and you are indeed one of God's elect. If you happen to be one of the elect, then you are assured of being able to persevere to the end.

Fat lot of good that does.

Sadly John Calvin's words in his final will before he died, reflected that he had hope in a hope, not in the sure promises of God. His words in his final will were.

    I confess to live and die in this faith which He has given me, inasmuch as I have no other hope or refuge than His predestination upon which my entire salvation is grounded. I embrace the grace which He has offered me in our Lord Jesus Christ and accept the merits of His suffering and dying, that through them all my sins are buried; and I humbly beg Him to wash me and cleanse me with the blood of our great Redeemer,…so that I, when I shall appear before His face may bear His likeness. [59].

It is claimed that John Calvin's several volume long Institutes of the Christian Religion explores both "knowledge of God" and "knowledge of ourselves" with "profound theological insight". He himself claimed that Institutes was meant to "aid those who desire to be instructed in the doctrine of salvation".  Yet the tragedy was that far from being able to rest on the unshakeable promises of God, his only hope was that God had indeed selected him to be saved... something he had no way of knowing.

Yet the Word of God tells us

    These things have I written unto you, that ye may know (Greek eido)that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God. [1John 5:13]

(eido literally or figuratively means to see, and has been translated so in literally hundreds of New Testament verses. However by implication eido means to know, or to be sure of)

See Assurance of Salvation

And all this because God's Sovereignty and Omnipotence have been so sadly misunderstood and tragically mis-represented.

Part 8... God’s Sovereignty and Omnipotence. Hypocrisy Unlimited


End Notes
[57a] John L. Rothra.  March 11, 2009. An Evangelistic Five Point Calvinist is Possible.

[57b] John L. Rothra. How to Be Saved. http://www.jrothraministries.com/how-to-be-saved/

[58] John Murray. Redemption Accomplished and Applied.  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, June 1984. Pages 151-153

[59] Steven J. Lawson. The Expository Genius of John Calvin. Reformation Trust Publishing (March 1, 2007). Page 17


Index To Calvinism