Has Rome led you astray?
You have persevered and now are at the last blog post in our series on TULIP. As this final post ends the series so it will also end our contrast and comparison of Protestant Arminian Soteriology and Roman Catholic Soteriology, which in basic terms, provides roughly the same ending point. The question posed in the title of this post is extremely important. We will examine if Christ is a liar and Rome is true. There is no middle ground on this issue, Rome and Christ are directly opposed to one another at this point as you will see.
In this series we have seen how in both systems God must exercise a type of grace to bring the spiritually dead sinner to the point of decision. We have also looked at each system and how God’s election of man finds its origin in man’s election of God. In other words, God would not choose you if He knew you would not have chosen Him. From there we examined how both systems have the intention of God as having Christ atone for the sins of every single human who ever lived. There is not a single human who was not atoned for, this would include Judas (think for a moment of the multitude of problems with that). Finally, this brings us to where we left off last week when we brought out the similarities of resistible grace in each system. God can desire to save you and even try; however, it is within man to deny God His desire and thus be the one who determines salvation.
All that remains in our series is if Jesus lied. Were the words spoken by Jesus about His sheep true? Or did Jesus say things about them that were false. Could Jesus have been mistaken when He said that no Christian could lose His salvation? Where you land on the issue of Perseverance of the Saints, will determine if you make the Shepard a liar or not. Were His words true? Or is the tradition you were raised with truer than the words of Him who is “the truth”?
Perseverance of the Saints:
The concept is simple: Christians cannot lose their salvation. Put more clearly, the elect of God, those whom He predestined unto salvation as vessels of mercy, are in no danger of ever losing their status and falling away from the faith for it is God Himself that causes them to persevere unto the end.
If you were raised and taught that you or other Christians could lose your salvation, how distant are you from Rome on this issue? Rome makes it very clear that a Christian can lose her salvation. Rome makes distinctions between mortal sins, sins that cause one to fall from the state of grace, and venial sins, those which one can commit, but that do not cause the Christian to fall from the state of grace.
Rome puts it this way:
- A serious, grave or mortal sin is the knowing and willful violation of God's law in a serious matter, for example, idolatry, adultery, murder, slander. These are all things gravely contrary to the love we owe God and, because of Him, our neighbor. As Jesus taught, when condemning even looking at a woman lustfully, sin can be both interior (choices of the will alone) or exterior (choices of the will carried into action). A man who willfully desires to fornicate, steal, murder or some other grave sin, has already seriously offended God by choosing interiorly what God has prohibited. (Source)
- Venial sins are slight sins. They do not break our friendship with God, although they injure it. They involve disobedience of the law of God in slight (venial) matters. If we gossip and destroy a person's reputation it would be a mortal sin. However, normally gossip is about trivial matters and only venially sinful. Additionally, something that is otherwise a mortal sin (e.g. slander) may be in a particular case only a venial sin. The person may have acted without reflection or under force of habit. Thus, not fully intending the action their guilt before God is reduced. It is always good to remember, especially those who are trying to be faithful but sometimes fall, that for mortal sin it must not only be 1) serious matter, but 2) the person must know it is serious and then 3) freely commit it. (Source)
With these doctrines that Christians can commit certain sins and possibly lose salvation, salvation is never guaranteed. According to Roman Catholicism, after receiving initial justification in baptism, which removes original sin, grace is also infused into a person However, with each sin a person commits after baptism, there is a loss of justifying grace. The more a person sins, the more grace he loses. Venial sins (lesser sins) result in incremental losses of this grace, but mortal sins (greater sins) bring an instantaneous loss of all grace--if a person dies after committing mortal sin, he goes to hell. In order to replace the grace that was lost, he must participate in the sacraments (mainly penance) administered by a properly ordained priest in the Roman Catholic Church. This regaining of grace enables him to do good works and keep himself in a state of justification before God. This is how the Roman Catholic maintains his salvation. (Source)
The Roman system is more complex than the Arminian system, however the key point to recognize is that Rome certainly teaches that the salvation of Christians can and is lost by people everyday as they commit mortal sins. In contrast to this you may have heard it stated: “You cannot lose your salvation, but you can walk away.” The question is then posed, is that not basically the same as committing mortal sins in the Catholic system such that one loses their salvation? The end result is the same, both are a walking way from the Biblical ordinances which the Christian is called to live by. Is it true then that you can “walk away” or “fall away”? The very honor of Christ is at stake in this discussion as Jesus made direct statements on this issue.
What is the Reformed and Biblical position on whether or not Christians can lose their salvation? Allow me to present Scripture for your consideration:
- What God begins, He finishes: Psa 138:8; Ecc 3:14; Isa 46:4; Jer 32:40; Rom 11:29; Phi 1:6; 2Tim 4:18
- Of all whom He has called and brought to Christ, none will be lost: John 6:39-40; John 10:27-29; Rom 8:28-31; Rom 8:35-39; Heb 7:25; Heb 10:14
- God's preservation of the saints is not irrespective of their continuance in the faith: 1Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5; Heb 3:14; Heb 6:4-6; Heb 10:26-27; Heb 12:14; Rev 21:7-8; Rev 22:14-15
- However, it is God who sanctifies us and causes us to persevere: John 15:16; 1Cor 1:30-31; 1Cor 6:11; 1Cor 12:3; 1Cor 15:10; Gal 3:1-6; Eph 2:10; Phi 2:12-13; 1The 5:23-24; Heb 13:20-21; 1John 2:29; Jud 1:24-25. (Source)
I’d like to address in detail one verse as primary to this discussion. Let’s look at John 10:27-28:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
In these two verses Christ makes very clear, His sheep, the elect, Christians, cannot lose their salvation. Notice a few things about this verse:
- It is Christ who gives them eternal life: to suggest that the sheep can do anything to undo this giving of eternal life, is to make the giving of eternal life to the sheep, pointless and illogical.
- The sheep will never perish: this statement is plain and basic. The sheep who have been given eternal life, will never perish. There is no need to belabor this statement.
- Christ’ sheep cannot be snatched out of His hand: The way this is phrased is such that the sheep are a possession of Christ. The sheep are owned by Christ, and are not free to themselves. The sheep cannot be stolen from Christ. The idea is not that the sheep had the ability to leave the Shepard, the framing of the statement is that nobody is able to take the property of Christ away from Him.
Thus, in the final analysis we see that to say that Christians can fall away, or lose their salvation, is to make the statement of Christ in John 10:27-28 fictitious. The Bible says we were bought with a price, that we are slaves of Christ and His sheep. We do not have ownership of ourselves, nor are we free to just leave the Shepard. What shepherd who, upon noticing a sheep has wandered away, does not go and retrieve Him. The ability to be kept or lost is not dependent upon the sheep, it’s wholly dependent upon the Shepard. The Bible calls Christ the “good” Shepard. A good shepherd gets their sheep and bring them back. They fight off attackers and protect their property.
To say then that Christians can lose their salvation is a fundamental misunderstanding of who the sheep really are and what their capabilities truly are. Rome errors when it teaches that a Christian can lose their salvation. Rome provides a system that must be worked, that must be redone, again and again. The typical Arminian puts it in terms of “a re-commitment to Christ” some even go so far as to receive multiple baptisms over the course of their lives when they make the re-commitments. It should not be. All these works are based on the underlying concept that Christ’s work, was not enough and that we must somehow do something to maintain our status as Christiansg. The questions are then asked, how much must you do to remain in fellowship with Christ? How much sin does it take before you lose the salvation you once had? How many times can you lose your salvation and regain it? The answers to these questions simply cannot be determined by Rome or by any person who says that salvation can be lost and regained. Bluntly: It is a fool’s errand, as Scripture emphatically states, that Jesus gives His sheep eternal life and they will not perish.
I leave you with these last thoughts: Was Christ wrong? Can His sheep actually perish? And if so, what force in the created realms is stronger and mightier than Christ’s intercessory prayers to the Father for His elect? What would cause Christ’s prayers on behalf of the elect to fail to such a degree to cause the very ones He is praying for to fall away into hell? Lastly, jumping back into the topic of the atonement, (as these five points are interconnected) what could possibly make His work on the cross fail? For His atonement before the Father was perfect. What could possibly cause His sacrifice to fail to achieve that for which it was intended? The answer to all these: a resounding NOTHING.
Do you, as a Protestant, find yourself agreeing with Rome on this point or with your fellow Reformed believers? If you find yourself at a distance with Rome on this topic now that you have seen an example of why Christians losing their salvation is in error, I implore you to reach out to your Pastor/elders to discuss this and any of the topics we have covered in this series. After that, our Facebook page is full of resources for you to study and Reformed believers willing to walk with you through these studies on Calvinism and the Doctrines of Grace.
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