by Christopher Adams
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One of the most important issues faced by those who profess to believe the doctrines of grace (commonly called "Calvinism") is how to relate to professing Christians who reject the doctrines of grace. Should they be approached as brothers in Christ? Should we take their "conversion experience" at face value? In answering these questions, the writer would like to submit the following Three Reasons Why Arminians Are Not Saved.
Reason Number One: Arminians are not saved because they worship an idol. By an idol, I mean "a god who cannot save." But wait a minute, you say, don't they worship Jesus? No, as a matter of fact, they don't. They may say they worship Jesus, but the jesus they worship simply cannot save. The Pharisees said they believed in God and even convinced themselves they believed in God, but their faith was really in a god who could not save them; their faith was not in the one true God. This is obvious from the fact that when the one true God come to live among them, they blasphemed him and had him executed. The Pharisees had made an idol out of their idea of God; hence they were just as lost as those who worshiped a carved idol named Moloch. Forming an image in our brains and calling it "Jesus" is no more evidence of salvation than carving a wooden idol and calling it "God." Either way the individual is in gross idolatry. And the end of those who worship idols is to become like their idols (Psalm 115:8). Arminians have a god who is unable to turn the will of man as he pleases. They may firmly believe that he is able to move mountains, cause thunder and lightning, and ordain the stars in their courses, but he is powerless before the Almighty Human Will, and the blood of the only begotten son is shed for those who are in hell in a powerless atonement. This is not the God of the Bible (Psalm 115:3, Proverbs 1:21). This "god" is neither a just God nor a Savior (Isaiah 45:21). This "god" simply cannot save (Isaiah 45:20). This "god" is a broken staff, piercing the hand of the one leaning on it. This "god" is a lie from hell and is destined to return there. And those who follow him to the end are destined to return there with him.
What was God's complaint to apostate Israel? "... thou thoughtest that I was altogether [such an one] as thyself ..." (Psalm 50:21). Arminians have fashioned a god in their own image. They are no more saved than the Jews who had done exactly the same thing.
Reason Number Two: Arminians are not saved because they do not believe the truth. This is related to the previous reason but has more to do with the evidence of a person's salvation.
Any Calvinist who defends the salvation of Arminians must explain 2 Thessalonians 2:12, which says, "That they all might be damned who believe not the truth ..." Some use the excuse that Arminians believe the important, essential doctrines of Scripture. But do they?
Every member of the Godhead is associated with the truth (Psalm 31:5; John 14:6,17). Those who are saved love the truth (Titus 1:1; John 3:21), because it was the instrument of their second birth (James 1:18; Ephesians 1:13). More to the point, they love the truth because God has predestined them to love it (2 Thessalonians 2:13); therefore, the elect sheep know the voice of their Shepherd (John 10:14) and they inevitably follow him. In fact, those who do not hear the voice of the Shepherd are simply not sheep (v. 26)! Why does God predestine his sheep to love his truth and follow him alone? The reason is given in Isaiah 48, verses 9-11:
"For my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. ... For mine own sake, [even] for mine own sake will I do [it]: for how should [my name] be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another."
God's glory is the only reason he does anything. It is the reason Jesus came to the earth (John 12:27-28), it is the reason he saved his church (Ephesians 1:12), and it is the reason he will some day return to take his church home (2 Thessalonians 1:10). It is the very reason for the existence of creation (Romans 9:23). Now if God wills to be glorified by his church, what possible reason could he have for allowing them to attribute the source of their faith to their own free wills? This would strip God of his rightful, unshared glory in salvation. He does not leave his people in ignorance any more than he leaves them to wallow in their sin (1 John 3:9). Therefore, the glory of God absolutely demands that we judge Arminians lost.
The teaching that God could not, or would not, irresistibly lead his people to believe and confess the true Gospel is a teaching that presents God as being as weak and powerless as the Arminian god. In fact, that line of thinking is really the result of a very subtle form of works-based sanctification. It tacitly assumes that God does the initial work of changing the heart from stone to flesh but then allows that changed heart to choose its own way. If this were true, it would mean that such "innocent" aids to religion as idols and images would be helpful, even necessary. On the contrary, God does not allow a regenerated person to freely develop his theology any more than he allows a regenerated person to freely persist in sin. Instead, he places his Holy Spirit within that person, and the Spirit sovereignly leads the person into all truth (John 16:13).
Moreover, there are three truths into which the Spirit specifically leads us: Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment (John 16:8-11). Let us examine each truth in more detail.
First, why will he teach us about sin? The answer is given in verse 9: "... Because they believe not on me." This is obviously the doctrine of Total Depravity. Every regenerate sinner has been taught by God the Holy Spirit that he is a vile, helpless, wretched sinner, totally void of righteousness, and absolutely unable to come to saving faith on his own. Every regenerate sinner has been taught by God the Holy Spirit that unless God himself intervenes to save him, the sinner will be eternally lost (Psalm 130:3; John 6:45). The saved sinner may not use the words "Total Depravity," but he will always understand his innate inability to please God and will never believe that his own efforts or decisions were what brought him into favor with God. Arminians teach just the opposite when they proclaim that God saves a sinner based on the actions or decisions of the sinner (John 1:12; Romans 9:16) or when they proclaim that God will save a sinner based on foreknowledge of what the sinner will do.
Second, why will he teach us about Righteousness? The answer is given in verse 10: "...because I am going to the Father, and you will no longer see Me." Here, Jesus is teaching that the Holy Spirit will teach every believer that Christ, by his bloody death on the Cross, produced a righteousness that appeases the Father's righteous anger against everyone whom Christ represented. The Holy Spirit teaches every regenerate sinner about the doctrine of Limited Atonement. The saved sinner may not use the words "Limited Atonement" or "Particular Redemption," but he will always understand that Jesus has effectually established peace between himself and God and will never believe that anyone for whom Christ died could ever come under the wrath of God again. Arminians teach exactly the opposite when they proclaim that Jesus poured out his precious blood, even for those who will suffer the Father's wrath eternally in Hell (Jeremiah 6:14; Galatians 1:8-9).
Third, why will he teach us about Judgment? The answer is given in verse 11: "... because the ruler of this world has been judged." Here, Jesus is teaching that the Holy Spirit will teach every believer that Jesus has undone the works of the Devil and forcibly released the Devil's captives (Luke 11:21-22; 1 John 3:8; 5:19). They can never return to the lies and snares of Satan (John 10:5). The Holy Spirit teaches every regenerate sinner about the doctrines of Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints. The saved sinner may not use the words "Irresistible Grace" or "Perseverance of the Saints," but he will always understand that his conversion and perseverance come from the Holy Spirit, and he will never believe that his conversion and perseverance come from his own strength. Arminians teach the very opposite when they proclaim that a child of God may become a child of the devil again (Matthew 13:11-17).
Again, a saved sinner may not necessarily use all the same words that I have used here, but he will never believe the opposite of these doctrines, nor will he ever oppose them when confronted with them (1 Cor 2:12).
Reason Number Three: Arminians are not saved because they hate the truth. This reason also has more to do with the evidence of a person's salvation.
Look again at 2 Thessalonians 2:12, especially the latter part of the verse. "That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Arminians certainly have pleasure in unrighteousness. They believe that Jesus poured out his blood to redeem millions of people whom God sends to hell anyway. And Arminians certainly have pleasure in what is false. Arminianism is the fulfillment of the oldest lie in existence: You will become like God. Or, what the natural man really wants to hear: You will become more powerful than God. When Arminians proclaim a god who is powerless before the human will, they proclaim the same old lie that is so tickling to unregenerate ears. And this is exactly the point: the one who hates the truth is the natural, unregenerate man. By nature, men love darkness (John 3:19); by nature, men hate the light (John 3:20); only those who have had their nature changed come to the light (John 3:21). Since Arminians hate the light of truth and love the darkness and lies, we are forced to conclude that they are unregenerated. Natural man (the Arminian) hates the truth of God's Sovereignty (Psalm 15:3; Romans 9:20).
"But," it may be argued, "if we are saved because we are orthodox, doesn't that make salvation a result of works?" This argument is really a subtle twisting of what has been said here. No one is suggesting that we are saved because of our orthodox doctrine. On the contrary, what we are suggesting is that orthodox doctrine is a necessary result of being saved. To claim otherwise would be to deny the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, even over the thoughts of men. Salvation is not dependent on orthodoxy any more than it is dependent on good works, but both will certainly come to be manifested in every child of God (Romans 8:9).
Again, the writer has often heard it asserted that "one does not have to be orthodox to be saved, because even the demons believe in God." But let us compare Scripture with Scripture. "But without faith it is impossible to please [him], for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). Notice how this verse is constructed: He (who has faith) must believe -- and then there are two things to be believed. Notice also that what follows is a pair of facts: God's existence and his benevolence toward the elect. James 2:19 says that the demons believe in the existence of God, and this is one of the necessary facts according to Hebrews 11:6. But since they don't believe that he is a merciful God, they tremble at the thought of his divine wrath that must someday fall on them. Are the demons really orthodox? They believe some things about God but not the right things. They believe some of the truth about God but not the whole truth. And without the whole truth they are not really orthodox. So we see that orthodoxy is a necessary result of salvation after all.
Again, it is objected that no mere human being can fully understand God, because we are finite and he is infinite (Isaiah 55:9). This objection is easily met when we remember that the people of God are those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In this way a finite human being is able to truly understand the infinite God, because the infinite Holy Spirit is teaching him.
Lastly, it is often argued that Arminians must be saved because they perform such good works. Few Calvinists would seriously and openly insist that we are saved because of our works; yet when the salvation of Arminians is questioned, the typical response is to point to their good works. They are fervent in prayer, joyous in worship, and zealous for good works. And above all, they are determined soul-winners, always talking about God and busy making converts. But to assert that one is saved because of any of these actions is a flat denial of Salvation by Grace Alone. Justification is a gift; it can never be earned (Romans 4:24, Titus 3:5). But, by the same token, these good works can never be used as proof of one's salvation. The Pharisees were also fervent in prayer (Luke 18:11-12), joyous in worship (Matthew 6:5), and zealous for good works (Matthew 23:23,27,29; see also Romans 10:2-3). Above all, they were determined soul-winners, crossing land and sea to make one convert. And yet what was the result of their soul "winning"? "... you make them twice as much a son of hell as yourselves" (Matthew 23:15). Since the Pharisees were obviously unsaved, it must be that the flesh is very good at reproducing good works without ever being pleasing to God. However, works that are done in the flesh are still an abomination to God, no matter how they appear to men.
The context of 2 Thessalonians 2:12 is even more explicit about this point. "And will all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie ..." Notice that those who are saved love the truth and the unsaved do not. Notice also that God causes them to believe a lie, with the intent of righteously sending them away from his presence forever. God hates them, as he hated Esau. Dare we say that those whom God hates are saved?
The very fact that there is any debate over this issue indicates that the majority of professing Calvinist churches are not true churches at all. There is often heard the plea for tolerance, based on the mistaken notion that doctrine is of little importance. On the contrary -- purity of the doctrine of the gospel (the doctrine of salvation, or soteriology) is an essential fruit of salvation. Being able to define "soteriology" isn't necessary; being able to state the five points of Calvinism isn't necessary; but loving the truth and giving all glory to the only living and true God is necessary. Arminians do exactly the opposite when they try to reserve some of that glory for themselves; it is not a 'sincere misunderstanding of gospel doctrine' but a determined rebellion against the only living and true God and a stench in his nostrils.
The fact that Arminians are unsaved also leads us to a few conclusions:
1. We must not fellowship with Arminians. They are members of the whore church, and if we do not come out from among them, we share in their sins (Revelation 18:4). Of course, this will mean that not only are some precious friendships lost, but families will be divided as well. But is this not the very effect the gospel is supposed to have? "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes [shall be] they of his own household" (Matthew 10:34-36).
2. We must treat them as unsaved. It does no good to let an Arminian go on thinking he has the truth when he doesn't. We should witness to them the true gospel of grace. God is glorified when we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) but not when we suppress the truth for the sake of group harmony.
3. We must be willing to exercise church discipline on those who turn out to be Arminians or consider Arminians to be their brothers in Christ. Part of the reason the bulk of the professing church has apostatized is that it is generally unwilling to discipline members for doctrinal reasons. Of course, this calls for sound judgment on the part of elders, but allowing heresy to remain in a church for the sake of building up the membership list is inexcusable.
Calvinists need to learn that the power of God does not lie in relationships with Arminians and Arminian ministries. The power of God is in the Gospel and the Gospel alone. But the true power of the Gospel will not be manifested unless it is preached in all its fullness, both as a savor of life unto life and as a savor of death unto death. The Gospel condemns Arminians as enemies of God, enemies of the Cross, and enemies of the Gospel. Turn away from them, lest you share in their condemnation (2 John 11, Rev 18:4).