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Tulip´s Touching Truths

Introduction

In 1618, a church synod convened in Dort in the Netherlands to define the main points of the Reformed Church in relation to the biblical doctrine of salvation. This occurred due to certain theological novelties proposed by Jacob Arminius that were storming the reformed context and driving some away from Paul's teaching held since the days of the Protestant Reformation.

The Synod of Dort set five points to make clear what the Reformed Church believed in and taught. Those became known as "the five points of Calvinism", which follow:

1. Total Depravity 

2. Unconditional Election

3. Limited Atonement 

4. Irresistible grace

5. Perseverance of the saints 

In English, the first letter of each topic make up the acrostic TULIP, the name of a flower (in Portuguese, tulipa). Therefore, the Tulip figure was associated with Calvinist faith and, at times, we see pictures of that flower on websites, articles and books defending the Reformed doctrine.

Our church is Calvinist (at least our pastors are). We are not Calvinists in technical and full sense of the word (because we do not believe in the Covenant Theology), but we are Calvinists in our soteriology, adopting the points set at Dort. The fact of being a Calvinist in a theological context as humanist (which exalts the human) and as reductionist in its vision of God creates certain problems. Many people oppose to our teachings, perverting them, claiming that we say things we never said, twisting the meaning of verses that support our faith and even denying the validity and the inerrancy of the Bible in parts that show that we are on track. 

But there are people who are really sincere in their desire to know the ancient faith of the Reformers. Many, reading the Bible with an open heart, are impacted with the doctrines that were taught not only by Calvin but by Augustine, Gotescalco, Thomas Aquinas, John Huss, William of Occam, John Wyclif, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon and Abraham Kuyper (to name only a few). So they get in touch with us to ask questions about the "tulip". I write this series in order to help some of these people.

However, before explaining the first point highlighted in Dort (total depravity) I want to show the summary of all these points made by my daughter, Helena, in her testimony of conversion. She made this little testimony and I transcribe here just the way she wrote, with no "boost" to fix or improve the text. For a girl of sixteen who never studied theology (at least not formally), I think she captured very well the biblical soteriology held at Dort. See: 

A brief explanation about my conversion and about why I am Calvinist:       

I was totally lost in sin, my life was summed up in sadness and a life without purpose and with many doubts. My evil and sinful nature prevailed on me (total depravity of man). 

However, because of God's love for me, he chose me (unconditional election). I was taken and saved from the abyss that sin left me and placed as Christ's servant from the moment I gave my life to him. But I could only access this salvation because Jesus, the Son of God, died to pay for my sins - his death was to buy me (Limited Atonement).

I recognized that I am a sinner because God worked in my heart and through his grace reached out and convinced me of the sin that was in me (irresistible grace). 

Now I live for it, and even between attacks or even persecution, remain firm in the faith because God keeps me (Perseverance of the saints).

Helena Granconato | 04/02/2015 

In the following articles, I expose the five touching truths of tulip mentioned by Helena. That way, everyone will understand better the wonderful dimensions of biblical soteriology, just like her. And based on solid ground, they will praise God for his immense grace.

 

Total Depravity 

Theologians say that the five truths of Tulip listed in the previous article are interconnected, so that the second follows from the first, the third from the second and so on. They are right. In fact, the five points set at Dort make up a unified and interdependent system. If a point is accepted, it becomes very difficult to get rid of the others.

That's why Tulip opponents do everything to discredit the first point of Dort, the total depravity. According to this point, sin affected the whole human nature. Every aspect of it. There is nothing man can do himself to receive divine favor. Calvin said that "all men are conceived in sin and born as children of wrath, unwilling to any saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin and slaves of iniquity. Without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they do not want or are able to return to God, to correct their depraved nature or even be willing to it." 

The biblical basis for this doctrine is wide: Genesis 6.5; Psalm 51.5; Jeremiah 17.9; John 8:43; 15.4-5; Romans 3.10-18; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 12.3; 2 Corinthians 3.14-16; Ephesians 2.1-3; 4.17-18, etc. It is because of this level of depravity that man depends on the initiative of God to be saved (Matthew 11:27; John 1:13; 6.37,44,65, Acts 16:14).

As mentioned, those who rebel against the Reformed soteriology know that if the doctrine of total depravity is received, the entire system will also have to be accepted. On the other hand, if this point is destroyed, the entire construction of reformed soteriology will collapse. 

In evangelical circles, the majority of Tulip enemies are called Arminians, a designation that comes from Jacobus Arminius, theologian who rebelled against some elements of the doctrine taught by the Dutch Reformed Church. In Brazil, Arminianism does not accurately reflect Arminius’ ideas. In fact, most of the Arminians we know are called so just because they do not sympathize with the biblical doctrine of election. Most of them have never read anything about Arminius, or never understood the whole of his doctrine. What they do is just take the "Arminian" title intuitively, like a word meaning "someone who does not believe in predestination."

This makes the Brazilian Arminianism a sort of Pelagianism (doctrine that preaches salvation apart from the gracious act of God), mixed with liberal ideas (such as the denial of biblical inerrancy, especially in parts where Scripture speaks of the absolute control of God over all things), marked by extreme humanism (the human will is free and sovereign, able to generate saving faith) and a reductionist concept of God (God gave up his sovereignty by "respect" to man. Many Arminians say God also gave up his foreknowledge!). 

If Arminius knew what they preach today in his name he would certainly roll over in his grave. Having Calvinist training, Arminius flatly rejected the Pelagianism preached nowadays under the hood of his name. The proof is that he accepted the first truth of Tulip, the total depravity. He thus believed the human being, in itself, is someone totally devoid of any ability to seek God. He wrote in his Declaration of Sentiments:

"In his sinful and fallen state, man cannot, of and by itself, either think, want or do what is indeed good; but he needs to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or desire and in all his functions, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, to be able to properly understand, assess, consider, desire and accomplish whatever is truly good.” 

Arminius’ problem was the solution he provided to this problem. He created the concept of "prevenient grace". According to it, every human being had their free will restored and can therefore accept Christ by choice, without need for special irresistible grace (fourth item on Tulipa). It is impossible to find the concept of "preventing grace" or "enabling grace" in the Bible. In fact, Bible states the exact opposite, God hardened people’s heart even further so that they would not believe (Ex 9:12; Isaiah 6:10; 63.17; Rom 9:18; 2 Thess 2:11 11.7).

Well, in practical terms what are the effects of accepting or not the doctrine of total depravity? Personally, I believe this will have an impact in the field of personal devotion, in the field of ministerial achievement and in the field of liturgy. Let me explain: in the field of personal devotion, the believer who understands the doctrine of total depravity becomes more humble and grateful for his salvation, he understands better how God was gracious to him. He will be unable to boast for having "accepted Christ". He knows that he was unable to do anything. He knows he believed only due to the great power and grace of the Savior. 

In the field of ministerial achievement, the minister will rest. He will know that conversions do not rely on rhetoric or talent and therefore will not weary people with endless appeals to "take a decision". Also, he will not be proud when leading people to Christ. Instead, he knows that all the fruit of his ministry is God’s work and considering the depravity of man, no one would listen to his preaching if not by the mighty act of the Lord in the listeners.

Finally, in the liturgical field, the church that understands the doctrine of total depravity will not invest in projects of "multiplication" adopting cheap marketing strategies (parties, fun, artistic attractions) to "win souls", doing everything to convince them to use the "free will" and believe. Instead, it will give more value to preaching and prayer, knowing that only by the power of God human hardness can be broken.

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Unconditional election

As stated earlier, the five truths of Tulip are interconnected so that if you reject the first, you must reject the second and so on. Well, until the 18th century, it would be very difficult to find a Protestant who denied the first point of the reformed faith, that is, the total depravity. All reformers had taught that sin was severely affected every human faculty and believers saw this clearly in Scripture. Consequently, the vast majority of believers since the time of the Reformation (16th century) also accepted the unconditional election, for if the man was unable to move in the direction of God, then the only way out was God take the initiative and move on toward the man, breaking his hardened heart. Why God did this only with some and not all? The answer was again in the Bible, God had His elect! 

It turns out that scientific and technological advances of the 18th and 19th centuries created an intensely optimistic environment about the man and also strongly skeptical about the dogmas of the Bible. In this context, several consecrated doctrines of the Christian faith have been denied even by pastors and theologians (the so-called liberal theologians). Among these, one that was completely rejected was the doctrine of original sin, which highlighted the reality of total depravity. Rejecting this doctrine, the churches have come to see the sinner as someone capable of anything, even by of producing by himself a saving faith in his heart, just as he decides to do so. It is clear that after rejecting total depravity, believers also rejected the doctrine of election, or reinterpreted it so that their positive concept of man would persevere.

From there, many people saw Arminius ideas as an attractive option. His concept of a free will rescued by "preventing grace" and his ideas of an election based on what God foresees in man fit better within the humanistic environment that began to reign. 

It is because of this whole process started in the 18th century - a rationalist / humanist process - that most evangelical churches today are liberal or Arminian. In fact, many liberals are also Arminians (Arminians of the mind, in contrast to the Arminians of the heart), saying that man has free intellectual faculties (Arminian emphasis) and denying the total depravity as an idea arising from the "myth" of the Fall (liberal emphasis).

As already highlighted, without the doctrine of total depravity, the truth of unconditional election falls apart. In the Arminian model, the man whose faculties are free of the effects of sin by the action of "preventing grace" can elect God himself. In the end, the election is no longer an act of God for man and becomes a human act for God! Without the doctrine of total depravity the doctrine of total reversal is born! 

The truth, however, is that there is no preventing grace freeing all people from the limitations imposed by sin, as Arminius believed. The human heart remains corrupt and dead to the things of God, being unable to get it, love it or desire it. For this to change, a supernatural action is required from God's grace. And that grace does not act on all as Arminians think. It operates only in the elect. These were chosen without God seeing in them any merit (so the election is called "unconditional"), all based only on "purpose and grace" (2 Tim 1.9) "who works all things according to the counsel of his will "(Ephesians 1:11).

This doctrine has a broad biblical foundation. Jesus said that he had a scattered people that belonged to him and that he would meet these people calling each member by his name (Mt 24:31; Jn 10.3,16, John 11.51,52). He also said that those chosen were few (Mt 22:14), but that they would be preserved and protected from deception (Mt 24.22,24) and that God would one day do justice to them (Luke 18.7). 

The book of Acts also talks about the elected saying that God had people who belong to him in heathen cities and that these people would hear the preaching of the apostles (Acts 18.9,10). In Acts, it is still said that those who believed in the gospel were people who had been destined to eternal life (Acts 13:48).

Paul is who writes the most about the doctrine of election (Rom 8.29,30; Eph 1.4,5,11), saying that this doctrine emphasizes the sovereignty of God who has the authority to do whatever he wants with whomever he pleases (Rom 9.14-18 ), not having the man the right to question their actions (Rom 9.19-21). Paul also says that it is thanks to the election that God preserves a remnant faithful to him (Rom 11.1-5) and that those chosen cannot be the targets of any charge (Romans 8:33). According to the apostle, saving faith belongs only to the elect (1 Thessalonians 1.4-6, Titus 1.1), given that God included in the number of chosen many simple people to humble greatness of the illusory world and no one can boast before him (1 Cor 1.27-29. See tb. Tg 2.5). 

All this evidence makes undeniable God's election - and the believers must not rise up against it, as does the current corrupt church. Instead, the Christian should bow in gratitude, knowing he was saved not by having better spiritual perceptions, but because God, without seeing him attractive at all, sovereignly chose him.

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Limited atonement

The truth of unconditional election inevitably leads to the third Tulip “petal”: limited atonement. The central question related to that is this: if God has His elect, for whom did Christ die? The fast and accurate answer is: the elect, of course! However, even being so obvious, the third true of the flower is the one that has caused divisions and conflicts even among Reformed theologians. Among these there are many who claim unlimited atonement, a position also known as hypothetical universalism. According to this view, Christ died for the benefit and in place of all individuals, but his death has only effective for the elect. 

The hypothetical universalist (or four-point Calvinists) teach that God decreed that Christ's atonement was made in favor of every human being regardless of believing or not, but since no one was able to believe (total depravity), God chose those whom he would save (unconditional election). Thus, the atonement remains efficient and sufficient for all but effective only for the elect.

The hypothetical universalism gained prominence thanks to the work of Moses Amyraut (1596-1664), from Saumur Academy in France. So this theological position is also called Amyraldism or Amyrauldianism. 

Although seeming attractive at first glance, the four-point Calvinism runs into several problems. First of all, Jesus himself said he would give his life "for the sheep" (Jn 10.11,15). He said that many of these sheep for whom he died were scattered outside the fold of Israel, but they would believe him anyway and he would add them (John 10:16). Then he turned to the Jews who defied and said, "You are not my sheep," excluding them from the group for whom he would die and call for him one day (John 10:26).

Jesus also said he would give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45) and in instituting the Supper, repeated this fact, stating that the blood of the New Covenant would be poured out for many, limiting the target of his work (Mt 26.28 ). 

John, in his Gospel, when making reference to the purpose of Christ's death, said he would die to gather "the children of God who are scattered abroad" (John 11.51-52), that is, for the sake of a specific group that was scattered around the world and had not yet been reached (Titus 2:14).

Paul, in turn, when he spoke to the elders of Ephesus, said that Christ's blood was used to buy the church (Acts 20:28). When writing again to the same church in Ephesus the apostle once more emphasized that Christ gave himself for the church (Ephesians 5:25). Revelation points in the same direction, stating that through his death Christ did not buy everybody, but certain people scattered around the world (Rev 5.9). 

Another issue that must be taken into account is that Christ's death had a retroactive effect, benefiting people of the Old Testament (OT), i.e., individuals who had already died, like Abraham, Moses and David, for example (Rom 3:25; Heb 9:15). Instead, if Christ died for every human being, then he died even by people of the Old Testament that were already in hell - people like Pharaoh, Jezebel and Daniel's enemies. Now, what sense would there be in Christ giving his life for the sins of people hopelessly lost?  To die paying for the redemption of the prophet Isaiah makes sense, but to die in favor of men of Sodom would have no purpose at all.

The doctrine of limited atonement must also deal with certain difficulties arising from some biblical passages. So the next section is devoted to these issues. 

Difficulties

Arminians and the four-point Calvinists say that the doctrine of limited atonement bumps into scriptures that say Christ died for all and all over the world. Some examples of these texts (with brief explanations Calvinists) are as follows: 

2 Corinthians 5:15 - This verse says that Christ "died for all", which is basis for the challenge of living for him. The hypothetical Universalist understands that the word "all" here applies to every human being. However, a wider and more careful reading will show that in this text the word "all" refers to all believers. That word also appears in verse 14 ("all died"), where this is the only possible sense.

1 Timothy 2.6 - In this passage we have on record the phrase that says that Christ gave himself "as a ransom for all". Again, opponents of Reformed theology understand that here the unlimited atonement is taught. However, in this passage the word "all" refers to all types of people - servants and lords, rich and poor, Jew and gentile, etc. (See the vv.1-2 where only this sense is possible). 

Indeed, the analysis of the historical context of this passage shows that Paul was very concerned about breaking the idea proposed by the incipient Gnosticism of the time that only an elite group of men had spiritual privileges (1 Tim 1.3-7). Hence his statement that Christ died for all kinds of people, canceling the distinctions taught by the heretics (see tb. Titus 2:11, where the meaning is the same. In fact, soon after, in this passage, v.14 shows the target limited atonement).

Hebrews 2.9 - This text says that Jesus tasted death "for the benefit of all." Does this prove the doctrine of unlimited atonement? Of course not. Here the word "all" refers to Jews and gentiles. One must remember that the letter in question was written for Jewish Christians. Now, in the 1st century there was among those believers a trend to believe that only people of the Israelite nation would benefit from the work of the Messiah. The Hebrew Christians did not assimilate the idea that Christ had come for the benefit of all peoples. So it was necessary to claim that the Messiah died for all (Jews and gentiles) in order to weaken Israel’s notion of soteriological exclusivism. 

Moreover, at this point we must remember that in the Bible it is not always possible that the phrase "every man" and similar means every individual who lives in the world. See, e.g., John 12:32, 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Colossians 1:28. In all these passages, the terms "all" and "every man" have a limited sense. This is very obvious!

2 Peter 3.9 - According to Arminians, this verse teaches that God is not wishing that any should perish. Soon, they say, there is no unconditional election and Christ can only have died for everyone. However, in this passage, Peter speaks of the Lord's yearning towards believers and for all human beings (note the use of "you"). It turns out that in those days false teachers were influencing Christians (see 2 Peter 2.1-22; 3:16) and this would lead them to suffer some kind of damage in case this was the condition by the coming of the Lord (1 Cor 3.13-15; 1 John 2:28). Therefore, Peter warns Christians, saying that the Lord delayed his coming so that they would repent, not wanting any of them to prove any kind of paternal punishment (3:14). Incidentally, it is worth remarking that the term used by Peter and translated as "perish" (ARA) is apóllymi, which does not necessarily mean eternal doom, but any form of destruction, loss, damage or injury (see Rom 14:15). 

In addition to these texts, there are those belonging to John's writings (Gospel of John; 1,2,3 John and Revelation). In these books, the most quoted verses against limited atonement are John 3:16 and 1 John 2.2. Arminians and the four-point Calvinists understand that in these two passages the word "world" means every human being on Earth and thereby bring down the third TULIP petal.

However, in John's writings there are many texts that prove that the word "world" not always (if ever) may mean each individual on the planet. See, e.g., John 1:29; 6:33 and 16.8. If in these passages the term "world" include every person, then we will fall into universalism, claiming that all men are saved, which is a major doctrinal shift. Consider also 1 John 5:19. Note that in this passage, the term "world" is restricted in its application only to unbelievers, excluding the saved ones. 

How, then, should we interpret the word "world" in John 3:16 and 1 John 2.2? In John's writings there is only one verse that reveals how the term "world" should be understood in texts like these. It is Revelation 5.9. This is the only text that shows what John had in mind when he said that God loved the world or that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the world. Indeed, Revelation 5.9 indicates that when John spoke this way he did not think of every individual who lives here, but in men scattered among "every tribe, people, language and nation."

So when the good theology says that Christ gave himself for the world, it means that he died for men living around the world and not for all men living in the world. You notice the difference? That's why Jesus said he shed his blood in behalf of "many" (not all - Mark 10:45; 14:24).

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Irresistible grace

Of all the TULIP petals, this is the one I find the most remarkable and beautiful. This is the point of Reformed theology that stirs more with our memory, reminding us of that wonderful day when the Lord called us by our own name softly and tenderly, breaking the hardness of our hearts and attracting us to him (John 10.2-3). 

But even involving realities so rich and beautiful, the fourth petal of our flower is not free from the humanist theology attacks that reigns in evangelical circles. So, first of all, it should be noted what irresistible grace is not.

First, irresistible grace is not violence against personality or, more specifically, against human will (I’ve already heard Arminians say that irresistible grace doctrine teaches a kind of spiritual rape)! Others say it turns saved ones into puppets. For me, these statements border on blasphemy. Of course, God is under no obligation to "respect" human will and being the sovereign Lord, he often "runs over" it (Arminians use this term to criticize Calvinists). And it does not diminish or defame the greatness of his character (see, for example, the story of the prophet Jonah, whose will to go to Tarshish was "run over" by God. See also Is 43.13 and 4.35). 

In most cases, however, irresistible grace does not act by force. Such grace operates through slow and patient conviction, often spread over the years, years in which the Lord searches his elected at different times, talking to him little by little (by many and varied forms), slowly working into his heart and finally persuading him.

Obviously, there are cases in which God acts with greater force (see how it was with Paul in Acts 9.3-5), but even then, the Lord works in the human will. He works the heart so that the person wants to follow him. The fact is that no one is pushed into being a disciple of Jesus. All of his sheep wanted to follow him and still do. That’s not the matter. The issue is: how did these people wish to follow him at first if they were spiritually dead (total depravity)? There is a simple answer: the irresistible grace of God worked in them. 

Second, irresistible grace is not the kind that is never resisted. I've seen Arminians say nonsense like, "I do not believe in the doctrine of irresistible grace because I myself resisted long before believing." The person who says that proves what all Calvinists already know about the modern Arminianism: it is a group criticizing Calvinism without knowing what it preaches. In fact, Reformed theology has never denied that God's saving grace can be resisted. What it says is that such grace cannot be resisted forever. See the example of Paul. The Lord told him: "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" (Acts 26.14). This phrase may indicate that Paul had being bothered by Jesus for some time, but refused to bow. In the end, however, the Lord (literally) brought him down. And grace proved not only saving but also winning.

In addition to Paul’s story, others prove that irresistible grace can be resisted for some time, but that it is victorious in the end. It convinces, humbles, breaks and makes the person wish for the Savior. Among these stories, perhaps the reader can add your own, remembering how lovely and patiently, perhaps over a slow process, the Lord sought and convinced you to follow him wholeheartedly. 

After showing what irresistible grace is not, let us see now what it is. Such grace, when in operation, is also called "effective calling". It is a divine calling to faith that, as noted, always comes out victorious in the end. The effective calling is different from the general calling. The latter is addressed to all who hear the gospel, while the former is directed only to the elect.

For example, take the case of Lydia in Acts 16.13-14. As they listened to the preaching of the apostles, all the women there heard the general calling (the invitation of the preachers to believe in the gospel), but only Lydia heard the effectual calling (the Lord opened her heart). Note the difference: the first calling (general) reached all; whereas the second (the effectual calling) only reached Lydia. Another example can be seen in Acts 13.46-48. This text shows that Paul and Barnabas began to preach to all nations (general calling), but only those who had been appointed to eternal life actually believed (special grace or effectual calling). It was because of these realities that Jesus said in Matthew 22:14 that many are called (listening to the general calling of the gospel), but few are chosen (to answer the calling of God). These "chosen" are those that divine election separated, so that God acts in them in a special way, leading them to faith. 

Other biblical texts that speak of irresistible grace are as follows:

John 6:37 - In this passage, Jesus says that the ones his Father gives him will go to him. This shows that only come to Christ people who are supernaturally directed by the Father. No one can go by themselves, without God enablement (see vv. 44 and 65). It is this driving and enabling of God we call irresistible grace. 

John 10:16 - This verse shows that Jesus has his chosen around the world and that, in due course, he calls them individually (see the vv.2-3). When this happens, these people hear his voice and follow him into a new life of communion and knowledge of God (see Mt 11:27).

Romans 8:30 - Here Paul says that those whom God predestined, these He also called, justifying them right after. Obviously, this is a special calling, directed only to the ones God predestined. The call mentioned in this passage is effective because it is followed by justification. 

1 Corinthians 1.26-29 - It is clear here that Paul makes reference to the special calling of God. It encourages the Corinthians to learn something about this vocation watching believers in general (the ones "God chose" vv.27-28). He claims that God called effectively a large number of "weak". In contrast, this effectual calling acted in a few "mighty". The apostle teaches that the saving vocation was administered that way so that the world's wisdom was humiliated and no one could boast thinking that was saved by some personal merit (see Mt 11.25-26).

The doctrine of irresistible grace makes the reformed flower even more beautiful, generating humbleness and gratitude in the saved man, because he knows he believed not due to his intelligence or capability, but because God acted supernaturally in his heart. And more than that: this doctrine also removes from the "soul winner" the basis for pride, showing him that, if there is any success in his evangelistic work, this will be the result of irresistible grace and the effectual calling of God, not of their talents or personal skills. Thus, the reformed evangelist will say along with Paul: "I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the growth "(1 Cor 3.6-7). 

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Perseverance of the saints 

We got to the last point of the Reformed soteriology. Here, Calvinism opponents are divided. Many (especially among Baptists) reject the other points, but adopt this. Others reject this as well (for example, the Assemblies), saying that the believer has to be very careful not to lose salvation. Overall, however, most Arminians believe that the Christian can indeed lose his position as child of God and heir of Heaven.

Arminio was never against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. In fact, he just said that further reflection was needed on this subject. Thus, those who deny this doctrine are later Arminians, who are much more likely to center the responsibility for salvation in the man. 

The doctrine of perseverance of the saints is also called the doctrine of "preservation" of the saints and states that those whom God has chosen from eternity and irresistibly called are also saved from the absolute fall, so it is impossible they lose salvation. It is a teaching that emphasizes the eternal security of the saved and provides the theological foundation for the famous formula: "Once saved, always saved."

The biblical basis for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints are as follows: 

John 10.27-29 - In this text, Jesus says that gives eternal life to his sheep and they cannot perish. He also says that his sheep are in his hands and in the hands of the Father, and nothing can snatch them out of those hands.

Roman 8.29-30,33-35,38-39 - These verses indicate that those whom God predestined will inevitably be glorified. It also points out that the Lord's elect are above charge and that nothing in the visible and invisible universe can separate these people from the love of God. 

1 Corinthians 3:15 - This text teaches that on the Judgment Seat of Christ, even believers who served poorly will be saved, not receiving reward though.

1 Corinthians 5.1-5 - Here Paul speaks of a believer who fornicated with his father's wife. The apostle says that the man should be expelled from the church and said that even so, he would be saved in the day of the Lord. 

Ephesians 1.13-14 - In this passage, Paul says that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and that this stamp is the guarantee of their inheritance until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

1 Corinthians 1.7-8, 1.6 Philippians, 1 Thessalonians 5.23-24, 1 Peter 1.5; 5:10 and Jude 24-25 - All these texts teach that it is God himself who firms the believer and preserves him in faithfulness until the last day, and the perseverance of the saints is his work operating in his elect. 

Even in the face of such clear texts, Arminians fiercely attack the doctrine of eternal security of the saved. Generally, they do this on the grounds that this teaching encourages sin and spiritual lassitude. According to Arminians, the believer who believe that salvation cannot be lost, have no fear of God and live doing what he pleases, under the false assurance that, in one way or another, will go to heaven.

These allegations, however, stem from the idea nurtured by Arminians that saving faith is a mere human response to the gospel. It is known, however, that, as we have seen, the faith that saves is a supernatural work in the lives of those whom God has chosen. This supernatural faith is powerfully transforming and sanctifying, being impossible for the one who has it to live in sin, rejoicing and revolving in this rot world (1 John 2.4,19). Decidedly, those who attack the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints with these allegations did not understand the transforming and renewing character of saving faith (1 John 5.4-5). 

The enemies of the eternal preservation of the saints also try to base their ideas on some biblical texts. In the next section, we shall briefly examine these texts.

Difficulties 

In an evangelical scene dominated by a form of shallow and naive Arminianism, it is natural that there are attacks on the doctrine of the preservation of the saints. Often, these attacks seek foundation in biblical texts. Below are listed some of these texts, with brief comments that show how far they are from teaching loss of salvation.

Matthew 10:22; 24.13 (in parallel with Rev. 2:26) - These verses say that "he who endures to the end shall be saved." This causes some to understand that salvation is by faith plus the firmness and claim that to believe in Christ is not enough, you must also stand firm amid tribulation. However, the Master himself said that it is impossible for the chosen to abdicate their faith, even in the hardest times (Mt 24:24). So what these verses really mean is that there is a false faith, not having divine origin, without resistance that disappears as soon as tribulation arises. In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of this illusory and fleeting faith and contrasted it with the real and enduring faith of believers (Mt 13.1-23). So when Jesus said that he who endures to the end shall be saved, his goal was not to teach loss of salvation or salvation by faith coupled with perseverance. Rather, its purpose was to declare that true believers are those whose faith is the kind that endures, no matter what (Heb 3:14). Those who do not have this durable faith will not be saved, because such faith is not the saving faith that God gives to his elect. 

Romans 11.17-22 - In this text, Paul uses an analogy, saying that believers are branches that were grafted in the "olive tree" of God. Then he warns these "branches" of the danger of being cut. Many understand that here Paul warns about the risk of someone losing salvation. In Paul's analogy, however, being part of the olive tree does not mean only being saved. Note that when he speaks of the natural branches that were cut (v.17), he does not refer to Jews who had been saved and then fell from that position. Instead, he is speaking of Jews who enjoyed the blessings addressed to Israel, but who had never experienced the new birth. This could also happen with some Gentiles associated with the church of Rome. They could benefit from the blessings of the gospel and then be cut from the enjoyment of this "sap" for not having a persevering faith. In fact, this is very common to see in churches.

Galatians 5.4 - In this passage, to turn it off from Christ and to fall from grace might suggest that this applies to people who were linked to Christ and signed in grace, losing this condition after. However, this passage speaks to people seeking to "be justified by the law", i.e., the non-believer Jew makers infiltrated in the churches of Galatia - people whom Paul calls "false brethren" (2.4). The terms used in this text show that these people, in search of justification by works, had turned away from Christ and exiled themselves away from areas of grace. 

Hebrews 6.4-8 - Contrary to what the Arminians say, this text does not speak of believers, but to unbelievers who for a long time had been involved with things of the Kingdom, participating in their blessings and witnessing his power, but that after it all, only produced bad things. The illustration of verses 7 and 8 show that the text speaks of people on whom the "rain" of the Spirit “often” fell and that even then produced "thorns and thistles". It is a different unbeliever who heard, tasted and witnessed for years the power of the Holy Spirit, turning away after all and sinking in evil. Verse 6 says it is "impossible" that this kind of disbelief is restored - something that does not apply in the case of a believer’s deviation, as shown by the Bible and common experience.

Hebrews 10.26-31 - Many understand that the word "fire" here refers to hell and eternal damnation that can reach believers who sin deliberately. However, the fire word should be understood here as a punishment applied in this world. Verse 28 shows that it is this kind of punishment the author has in mind. See this sense also in 1 Peter 4:12. 

The enemies of the doctrine of perseverance of the saints should not only review the hermeneutics of these texts, but also deal with difficult issues. For example, if you lose your salvation, how can you get it back again? The answer to this question usually involves some work about abandonment of sin. So, what the believer must do to restore their communion with God becomes a personal work to restore their salvation before God. Ultimately, the "second salvation" ends up being by faith coupled with a measure that one takes to be readmitted to the church.

Another problem concerns the security and peace of mind of the believer. If salvation can slip through our fingers, when can we rest on the redemption that is in Christ? When we know that everything is really "OK" between us and God? Now, we all sin every day! How do we know we are “still” saved? Well, if salvation is lost because of personal sin of the believer, how many sins would be enough to lose our heritage? One would be enough? Or ten would be needed? And how long we would have to stay in these sins to stop being children of God? One day, a month, a year? Plus, what sins would be more effective in making us lose salvation? It would need adultery, robbery and murder or gossip is sufficient for us to be condemned to hell again? We need to know these things not to exceed the limits! 

Now, a life lived in this thriller is far from that reality of peace, rest and security that the Bible promises to believers in Jesus (John 14.1-3; Rom 5.1-2; 2 Timothy 1:12; 4.8).

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Conclusion

Behold the five touching truths of the Tulip. These are truths that will be welcomed by all those who place the Scriptures above perceptions and personal judgments; truths that generate amazement and often raise questions sometimes unanswered; truths that God's servants accept by faith, even without understanding them fully, knowing the mind of God is far above theirs (Rom 11.33-36). 

In addition to the grandeur and mysteries they contain, what else makes these biblical truths so important? In other words: why fight so much for them? What’s the difference anyway? The answer to these questions is not difficult and portions were already mentioned throughout this exhibition. In fact, as mentioned earlier, the five flower truths produce certain pious effects such as gratitude (for the salvation granted without merit), humility (to know that in us, before we met, there was only depravity) and dependence (due to the certainty that only because of his action we are saved and remain in his ways). Now, gratitude, humility and dependence are the three major pillars of Christian spirituality and nothing strengthens these columns more than the touching flower truths.

Practical effects also result from Tulip. I already mentioned them in part in the first section of this text, but I want to stress them again in this conclusion. Note: the servants of Christ who adopt Tulip abandon human techniques of persuasion in evangelistic work; they stop spending time with the insistent call to conversion that bores believers at the end of each Sunday evening sermon; they will emphasize the preaching of the Word and prayer as an instrument of the Spirit for the attraction of the lost rather than secular marketing and promotion of events in the church; they won’t  feel frustrated or threatened with their personal worth when preaching and no one convert, for they will know that it depends solely on the action of God and not of the "skills" of the preacher; and they will never feel proud when leading people to Christ, knowing that if this occurs, the cause is in God alone and not their skills or preparation. 

That’s how (among other things) the five points of Calvinism edify and protect believers, ministers and churches. Based on them you build a vibrant life of service to Christ, as well as a community of mature faith who understands the infinite dimension of saving grace and thus feel truly happy and thankful for their redemption.

Pr. Marcos Granconato

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