Contend Earnestly: Refutation of Dr. John Goetsch - Perseverance of the Saints

Monday, March 05, 2007

Refutation of Dr. John Goetsch - Perseverance of the Saints

I am going to start this post of the refutation by quoting Dr. Goetsch and you will see that he has now completely crossed the line and knows very little of Calvinism. These are strong words but they are used because I find Dr. Goetsch’s words as completely mishandling a topic and belief system (Calvinism) that has worked hard at pointing completely to Christ and completely away from man. Here is the quote to start us off on perseverance of the saints.

Calvinism teaches that even though one has faith, he can never have the assurance that his faith is true, “sovereign grace” faith. Perhaps God has given him a false faith because he is not really one of the elect. The Calvinist also teaches that one must persevere with his faith and good works, and that salvation is never assured. The Bible does not teach the saints persevering in order to keep salvation, but there are several verses that mention that the saints have been preserved. Perseverance is one thing. Preservation is another. The saints do not persevere – they are preserved.

Where do I start? I am going to try my best to be very gentle here even though my flesh wants to “lash out.” I have never been so astonished when reading those who oppose Calvinism. I thought I had heard it all when I read and heard Dave Hunt speak, but Dr. Goetsch takes it to the next level here in his opening comments on Perseverance of the Saints. Ironically, as I read this article, I was preparing a message titled, “Assurance: The Basis, Testing and Barriers to.” But how could I preach this message as a Calvinist if Dr. Goetsch’s words are true when he says, “Calvinism teaches…he can never have the assurance that his faith is true…” We, as Calvinist, teach that we can have assurance, but we don’t want this assurance to be a false assurance. We want believers to know that they have the faith given by God, the faith that produces fruit. We don’t want people to believe that just because they said a prayer when they were five years old, that they are saved. Now, if that prayer and repentance was true and showed forth fruit, then that would be a true, God giving, faith. But, what about those who “pray a prayer” and then live a life of careless sin? This is what Calvinism teaches is a false repentance and not from God.

So what do we teach in this area? Calvinism teaches that our assurance is completely laid at the feet of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We believe that we should have assurance because of what Christ did, not what we have done. If God elected us from before the foundations of the world, if Christ died and completely propitiated for my sin and if God drew me to His side, then we should have assurance that our salvation is secured in Him. But only in Him. The difference that we need to show is that perseverance is different than the coined term, “Once saved, always saved.” Although, the Calvinist would completely agree with this term, this does not cover all that the fifth point of Calvinism covers. Based on the verses that Dr. Goetsch then puts forth, I am not going to list and exegete the verses that would refute Arminianism, but will show what the Calvinist means by “Perseverance of the Saints.”

We believe that if someone is truly “sovereignly saved” then they will produce fruit. This fruit starts on the day of salvation and continues til their death or Christ's return. The faith that God gives to the believer is not a dead faith. If someone says that they are saved and they live a life of a sinner then they are no more saved than the demons themselves.

You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
James 2:19,20

Know that we do not teach that our assurance is because of our works and neither is our salvation, but our works are merely how we can test our salvation. Just as the fruit of an apple tree shows that the tree is truly an apple tree, so does our good deeds. The deeds are only good because of our Saviour, and they show that we are truly saved. Since gardening is a much used metaphor, an apple tree really has nothing to do with its fruit but it relies on the gardener that plants, prunes and waters the tree so that it can produce more and better fruit.

We even see this in the great “Vine and the Branches” passage:

...and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
John 15:2b

One of my favorite passages when dealing with fruit is from the letter to the Colossians. Look how Paul comforts the Colossians and their faith.

because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;
Colossians 1:5,6

Notice that when the Colossians understood the grace of God in truth that they bore fruit from that day and, not only did they bear fruit, but their fruit was increasing. The faith from God’s elect produces fruit, this faith is not dead, but is alive in the glory of Christ. It is alive because it was from God and started by God:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Phil 1:6

Notice that it is God who starts the good work and it is God who will perfect it. That good work can only come from God, and that good work is perfected and assured by God, and that good work will produce works of God, because it is from God.

Jesus tells us this earlier in the Gospel of John when He states:

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.
John 14:21

John’s first epistle is all about the testing of our faith; John states that true Christians:

Keep His commandments (1 John 2:3; 5:2,3)
Keeps His word (2:5)
Loves his brother (2:10; 4:19-21)
Do not love the world (2:15)
Confesses Jesus as the Christ (2:23; 4:13-15; 5:1) notice “confesses” is in
the present tense
Abide in Christ (2:27,28)
Practice righteousness (2:29;3:6,7)
Do not practice sin (3:8-12)
Are hated by the world (3:13)
Overcomes the spirit of the antichrist and the world (4:1-4;5:4,5)

So after all these ways to test ourselves we are told why John has shown us all these (I know that I missed some but you get the gist); John states this:

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life
1 John 5:13

The Calvinist believes that through Christ and His righteousness, and through the faith that God gives, the believer will be able to, through the Spirit, pass this testing that John puts forth in his first epistle. We will also be able to test ourselves as Paul tells us to in 2 Corinthians 13:5. The question then is what about those who said a prayer when they were five years old and then live a life of sin, how can they go through this epistle and test themselves and know they have eternal life (1 John 5:13)? The answer is that they will not pass the test and should be afraid of damnation. Are they not doing exactly what Paul condemned in Romans 6:1: continuing and living in sin? They should fall on their faces and ask for repentance from the God of our Salvation, so that they will not be apart of those whom Christ never knew in Matthew 7:23.

The Calvinist believes in assurance because of the old life that has passed away and the new life that has come (2 Cor 5:17). We can be assured that we have the faith from God. This testing that we do is not to bring doubt to our faith, but is to strengthen our faith and show ourselves ways in which we can grow closer to God. God doesn’t love us any more or less because of our works, but our good works are now pleasing to His sight because they are the fruit of His Spirit and not of our flesh.

The Calvinist believes as John Piper has put it:

Salvation is not faith PLUS works, but a faith THAT works.

We stand behind the great epistle of James and behind the statement that James purported:

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead
James 2:26

So, does the Calvinist believe in assurance? Of course we do. Our biggest plea for our people though is to make sure that they are in the faith as Paul was concerned for the Corinthians when he told them to test themselves to make sure that they were in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). We don’t want people to have a false confidence, we want them to have the confidence that only comes from God and because of God. This really comes and flows also from the belief in Sola Fide, Sola Gratia and Solus Christus. When we realize that it is only by faith alone, grace alone and because of Christ alone will we have the true assurance that Christ can give us.

Do we believe in “once saved always saved?” Yes, but it is much more than that. We want God’s people to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. We want as Paul wanted and prayed:

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
Colossians 1:9-12

May you continue to walk in the Light and may you pass the test of eternal life and enjoy the assurance that only comes from our great and glorious God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.


Anonymous said...

Seth, if you know who Adrian Rogers was, he spoke some of the most vehement words I've ever heard against Calvinist Theology. It amazes me the hatred some Christians can hold of other professing Christians.

Seth McBee said...

David...that saddens me because Adrian was one of my favorite pastors to listen to. The other odd thing is that he took after and learned a lot from W.A. Criswell who was a Calvinist. Where did you hear Adrian's comments? I know that he was not a Calvinist but didn't know that he spoke out against it...

Anonymous said...

I have a transcript of a message he gave to a youth group (possibly seminary students) several years ago where he slams Calvinists really hard.

I grew up in and around Bellevue where he ministered most his life. I always heard he lost a infant child when he was young and from that point foward could never accept the idea God would predestine people to heaven or hell. If it's true, it's really sad.

Seth McBee said...

Would you mind emailing me that transcript?

Anonymous said...

I only have it in hard copy. I've tried googleing it but I cant find it anywhere. If I have time, I (via my wife who types a lot faster than me) might try to transcribe it into an electronic form. At that point I'll email it to you.

Reforming Baptist said...

I was one of those little kids who recieved Christ as a four year old. Many of my class mates who were "saved" at young ages, have fallen away, only one or two that I know of are still living for God. There's the proof of assurance. Good posts

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