Limited atonement; Total depravity of man; Irresistible grace; preservation of saints; john calvin; TULIP

Unconditional Salvation

One of the most well-known Protestant leaders was John Calvin. In about 1532 Calvin was converted and joined the Protestant movement, otherwise known as the Reformation. Unlike Martin Luther, whose focus was evangelizing the good news of Messiah, Calvin’s focus was developing a formal system of theology. Calvin’s theology was summarized with the acronym “TULIP,” which included five basic beliefs.

T – Total depravity of man, i.e. man inherited Adam’s sin and can do nothing for his own salvation.

U – Unconditional election apart from human merit or divine foreknowledge, i.e. salvation is based on Yahweh’s will and is a dual predestination of some to salvation and others to condemnation.

L – Limited atonement, i.e. Yahshua’s sacrifice is given to only those who are predestined to salvation.

I – Irresistible grace, i.e. the elect can do nothing to prevent salvation for the Holy Spirit irresistibly draws them in.

P – Perseverance or preservation of saints, i.e. the elect, who are saved by the Holy Spirit, will never be lost.

From these five theological points, Calvin believed that man was predestined to be either saved or condemned. He also believed that those who were elected could do nothing to fall from that grace. Question: is salvation something predestined or guaranteed no matter how one may live?

This teaching of Calvin could not be further from the truth. One undeniable fact that is found in Scripture is that salvation is not predestined and is not certain. What’s more, salvation is partially based on works or what we do in life.

The word “works” is taboo to many when it comes to salvation, but the fact is we all have a responsibility to obey when it comes to eternal life. Let’s now look at what the inspired Word says regarding the belief about once saved always saved, and predestination to eternal life or destruction. We will find that this belief is in complete contradiction of Scripture.

Endure to the End

Yahshua said in Matthew 10:22, “And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved.” Now this certainly does not sound as if He is promoting a

once-saved-always-saved teaching. Ifwe desire salvation we must do as Yahshua says here and endure to the end. But what it does it mean to endure? This word is from the Greek word hupomeno and means to undergo, i.e. bear trials or to have fortitude” (New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance).

Salvation is not something guaranteed at baptism, but baptism is a prerequisite. Salvation is a gift granted to us if we remain faithful to Yahweh’s Word no matter what trial or persecution we suffer. If we do not have the fortitude to stay strong in our faith then we will not attain the gift of eternal life. To achieve life in Yahweh’s kingdom we must have the faith and devotion to remain strong so that we are never removed from His Word — this is what it means to “endure to the end.”

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to remain steadfast, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living Elohim. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Messiah, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Heb 3:12-14).

We find the same message in this passage as we found in Matthew 10:22. The writer of Hebrews says that we are partakers of the Messiah IF we hold our confidence steadfast unto the end. It is our choice in whether or not to partake in the blessings through Messiah. We as sons and daughters of the Most High have a responsibility to do His will. As we find in this passage, that responsibility is holding our confidence steadfast unto the end.

The word for confidence is from the Greek word hupostasis and conveys the meaning of assurance or faith. It is absolutely imperative when it comes to salvation that our assurance or faith remain fervent unto the end. If we allow our faith to be weakened by tribulation, trial or doubts it is possible that we could fall away from the faith and fall short of salvation.

In addition to what we find in Hebrews, the Apostle Paul also offers a strong admonition to remain firm in this faith, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the good news which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; By which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain” (1Cor. 15:1-2).

Notice verse 2, where Paul emphasizes that you are saved IF you keep in memory or hold fast Yahweh’s Word which he preached to you. As we saw in Hebrews, salvation is conditional – it depends on how we live.

Through our own actions we have the ability to accept or reject eternal life in Yahweh’s kingdom. We were created with a free will to choose light or darkness, righteousness or sin. If, as Paul said, we follow in Yahweh’s Word we will conquer death, but if we reject that Word we also reject the hope of salvation and embrace condemnation. Salvation is given to those whose dedication and devotion stays unwavering to the end. It is given to those who allow Yahweh’s Word to mold their lives into His own image.

From the beginning His promise of salvation was conditional. Yahweh told the Israelites that if they would obey that they would be blessed and be called a treasured people unto His own possession (Ex. 19: 5-6). This is the great promise of salvation; those who dedicate their lives to Him now will be saved.

Paul in Philippians 2:12 declares that we all have an obligation to live for the goal of salvation. “Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

This is one of the most important passages in all of Paul’s epistles. From this passage we find two pivotal truths: (1) when it comes to salvation there is work and effort involved, and (2) salvation includes fear and trembling. These points are two of the most misunderstood and ignored truths of Yahweh’s Word. Nowhere do we find that individually we are predestined to salvation. Instead we find that we must stay devoted to the very end and work out our own salvation if we will find eternal life — anything short of this is simply not enough.

 We Have Hope, Not a Guarantee

Besides remaining steadfast in our faith, there are many instances in Scripture showing that we have only the hope of salvation, not a guarantee.

  • “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1Thess. 5:8).
  • “In hope of eternal life, which Elohim, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
  • “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

In all these examples we find one essential truth – salvation is a hope not a guarantee. The Apostle Paul explained that while Yahweh promises salvation, it is only a hope based on our devotion to our Father in Heaven.

In an astonishing confession, Paul in 1Corinthians 9:27 acknowledges that in the end he himself could have become a castaway. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

Now if anyone could have been certain about his salvation it would have been the Apostle Paul. But according to his own confession, that even after all his efforts to live by and further the truth that it was possible for him to lose his salvation.

Considering Paul’s trials from the many beatings to the times he was rebuked and chastised, it is truly amazing that he in the end could have lost it all. Determined not to become this castaway, we find that Paul worked to keep his body under bondage or subjection. He understood the carnality of the flesh as described in Galatians 5:16-21. Again, if anyone could have been certain of his salvation, it would have been this Apostle.

Is this concept of salvation found only in the New Testament? As with all New Testament beliefs, this one has its roots in the Old Testament. From the beginning salvation has been based on personal devotion. This is no more evident than what is found in the writings of the prophet Ezekiel. “The soul that sins, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him…For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, saith Yahweh Elohim: wherefore turn yourselves, and live” (Ezek. 18:20, 32). From this passage we find that every person will be judged on his or her own works. Yahweh declares that the soul that sins will die, but the soul that lives according to righteousness will live. So once more it is evident that Yahweh does not predestine man to either salvation or condemnation, but allows each person to choose by his or her own free will between life and death. If our Heavenly Father had his choice we find that there would be no death, for as it is written, “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” However, even with this desire has Yahweh allowed free will to reign over his creation, allowing man to choose between good and evil.

Is Obedience Important?    

Another undeniable truth from Scripture is that to receive the hope of eternal life a person must obey the commandments. In a question presented to the Messiah on how one can receive eternal life, His reply was to obey. “And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, Elohim: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:16-17).

Why did Yahshua say to keep the commandments if salvation was predestined with no way of changing the outcome? Obviously, from what is found in this passage salvation is not assured. There is no example in the Word to even suggest that salvation is predestined with the absence of free will. When it comes to eternal life we have a responsibility to obey Yahweh’s commandments, because in the end salvation is not given based on predestin-ation, but on our devotion and dedication to the One we worship. The only form of predestination spoken of in Scripture pertains to one’s calling, but after a person is called salvation is imparted on personal merit, Romans 9:29-30.

In Acts 5:32 we also find that obedience is required to receive one of the greatest gifts in Scripture, “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom Elohim has given to them that obey him.”

Can we enter Yahweh’s Kingdom without the Holy Spirit? According to John chapter 3 we must be born of water, which refers to baptism, and receive the Holy Spirit. Is it possible to receive the Spirit apart from obedience? According to Acts 5:32, we cannot. Even though we do not earn salvation from obedience or works, we are called to obey our Father in Heaven as we would our own natural father and mother. As carnal human beings, earning salvation on our own merit is impossible; salvation is a gift (Rom. 6:23), but even with that gift we have an obligation to obey. This is why salvation is partially based on our devotion.

Not only must we obey to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, but also according to Hebrews, Yahshua is the author of salvation to those who obey. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9).

Notice that our Savior learned obedience by his own suffering and tribulation. So obedience was not a foreign concept or unnatural way of life for the Messiah. In addition to Yahshua’s obedience, we find confirmation that Yahshua became the author of salvation to those who obey. It does not say that he became the author of salvation to those who were predestined or to those who were under grace. Obeying is a significant part of salvation. If we were predestined to salvation and believed according to Calvin’s theology we could do nothing to earn or reject salvation, but as we find in this passage, Yahweh is very specific about the responsibility we have if we seek receive everlasting life. Again, while Scripture is clear that salvation is a gift, which we cannot earn on our own merit, we do find that salvation is only offered to those who obey.

While the large majority might believe that profession is enough, we find through Paul’s epistle to Titus that profession is only one step, “They profess that they know Elohim; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).

From what Paul wrote to Timothy, is it enough to simply confess our devotion? Are works important in our relationship with our Father in Heaven? According to Paul, it is possible to profess devotion to Almighty Yahweh and yet deny Him by our works. Salvation is not about what we say; it is about what we do. If what we do is different from what we say then what we say means absolutely nothing. It is as Solomon said, a chasing after wind. You may fool those around you, but our Heavenly Father will not be deceived. Profession apart from works is like a house without a foundation, it will surely fall.

One of the most compelling Scriptures regarding the importance of works is found in Revelation 20:11-15, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before Elohim; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”

John of Patmos gives a glimpse of what many call the Great White Throne Judgment, otherwise known as the second death. In this account we find that mankind will be judged by their works. Now if man were predestined to eternal salvation or destruction as proposed by John Calvin, why do we find a judgment based on works? After all, why would works matter if we were all predestined and could do nothing to earn or reject salvation? Obviously, if our eternal fate were predestined there would be no need for a judgment on works. The fact that there is a last judgment for mankind, which will be based on works, confirms that not only are we not predestined to salvation, but also that salvation is partially determined by our own works and devotion.

Why is it important that we understand whether or not we are predestined apart from works and obedience? Because this belief leads to the apathy that we find with many Bible believers today. If certain people are predestined with no regard to their behavior and that there is nothing they can do to fall from grace, then there is no motivation for repentance and righteous living. Yahweh’s Word emphatically teaches that mankind is held to a standard of righteousness and when we teach a belief that opposes or degrades that notion then we again remove the motivation to repent and live according to holiness. This is not only a travesty, but it also opposes the very essence of who Yahweh is and what He desires from His people.

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