July 31, 2019 by directorfsm
The following article is taken from the chapter on Perseverance in Jim
Scott Orrick’s upcoming book, Mere Calvinism. Used by permission.
The Danger of Doctrinal Reduction
The doctrine of perseverance is like a golden crown that adorns the glorious body of God’s sovereign grace. There are more than a few who would say that they believe only one of the Five Points of Calvinism, and the one they believe is this point, the perseverance or preservation of the saints. They want to hold to the crown while rejecting the body of sovereign grace that supports the crown. Such a position leaves the crown mysteriously floating in mid-air. I readily admit that these “one-point-Calvinists” have a substantial reason for holding so tenaciously to this one point: they see that it is taught in the Bible! They rightly take Jesus at His word when He says, “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. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27–30). The “one-pointers” at least know the meaning of eternal.
There is, however, a dangerous tendency that is inherent in holding to the crown of perseverance while rejecting the other four points. That dangerous tendency is hinted at in the name the “one-pointers” often call this doctrine. Instead of referring to the doctrine as the Perseverance of the Saints, or the Eternal Security of the Believer, they call it, Once Saved Always Saved. Properly understood, there is nothing wrong with calling it that. It is catchy, memorable, and it is true. The real trouble is not what they call it, but the way they sometimes explain it. Regrettably, some of the one-pointers—not all, but some—who say that they believe in Once Saved Always Saved have woefully deficient ideas of what it means for a person to be saved. For them, a person may “get saved” when he or she merely repeats “The Sinner’s Prayer” (a prayer, by the way, that is not in the Bible). Or a person may “get saved” when he “walks down the aisle” (not in the Bible) or “asks Jesus into her heart” (also not in the Bible) or when she gets baptized. In brief, the person who “gets saved” has not necessarily repented. Perhaps the person has been told that all she need do is to admit that she is a sinner, but merely admitting one’s sin is not repentance.1 Repentance that leads to eternal life is a saving grace, and when a person repents, he has a true sense of his sin, and he has begun to see the mercy of God offered in Christ. He is grieved over sin, he hates sin, and he turns away from sin. At the same time, he turns to God fully intending to and trying to obey God.2 Repentance is much more than admitting that I am a sinner! A superficial understanding of repentance leads to a superficial understanding of salvation.
Similarly, many of those who hold to Once Saved Always Saved have a superficial understanding of saving faith. For them, faith in Jesus Christ may be no more than believing facts about Jesus, or believing that Jesus died for sinners, or even believing that “Jesus died for me.” Nowhere does the Bible say that if you just believe that Jesus died for your sins you will be saved. You must receive the Christ who died for sinners and rose again from the dead. The fact that our church rolls are sometimes swollen with the names of persons who give no evidence of spiritual life is a strong indication that we have often dealt with precious souls in a hurried, slipshod way. I am a Baptist, and we Baptists have historically stood for believer’s baptism, but based on the disparity between the large number of inactive members on our church rolls and the members who faithfully attend our worship services, the evidence is that we have settled for consenter’s baptism. We will baptize anyone who consents to it. Consent to be baptized is not saving faith.
What, then, is saving faith? Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.3 We are saved when we receive Christ—a person—and we are not saved until we receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation…
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