One of the readers of my recent blog “Are Assurance Verses in John Directed to Believers or Unbelievers?” (which you can see here), left the following comment:
Hi Bob, I just finished reading the above and I’m afraid I may be misunderstanding you.
Are you saying that the only saved people are those who believe in Jesus and unconditional eternal security?
Wouldn’t that mean that the only people who will populate heaven are Baptists, Bible Church denomination members and the like? No Pentecostals, no Methodists or any other people who’ve been taught Arminian Soteriology?
Surely you’re not saying this. In my estimation, that would be tantamount to replacing the “mean” God of Calvinism with the “mean” God of a radical eternal security doctrine.
To use an earthly analogy, when I was born I couldn’t even say, much less spell my own name, but I was born a child of my [earthly] father nonetheless. I was not held accountable to know anything, but my father made sure I learned everything later on.
Doesn’t God love us more than an earthly father?
There are several good questions there.
First, is there something we must believe to be born again? If so, then some will be excluded since they don’t believe that. That is just the way it is.
Second, if what we believe is what the Lord Jesus said we must believe (e.g., John 11:25-26), then unconditional eternal security, or at least that concept (forgiveness that can’t ever be lost, an eternal relationship with God, the guarantee of life with God forever, justification which can’t be undone), is something we need to believe.
Third, not only will many Arminians be excluded. So will many Calvinists. While Calvinists formally say they believe in eternal security, in reality they say that one must persevere in faith and good works in order to gain what they call final salvation. They might say, “Well, if you fail to persevere, you didn’t have initial salvation either.” But some Calvinists appear to be saying that one can gain initial salvation by faith alone and yet fail to gain final salvation by failing to persevere.
Fourth, human birth is totally mindless. We do nothing at all to bring it about. Unless universalism were true, and it is not (John 3:14-18; 5:39-40; Rev 20:11-15), then many will be excluded from the kingdom because they did not do what was necessary to be born again. Spiritual birth, unlike physical birth, has a condition: faith in Christ for eternal life. See, for example, John 5:39-40.
Yes, God loves us more than our earthly fathers. That is why He sent His one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but has everlasting life. That is the message of John 3:16.
God has given us physical life and He has done everything necessary for us to have everlasting life and to live with His Son forever in His kingdom. God wishes for all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4). He is drawing all to faith in Christ (John 12:32; 16:7-11). The fact that some are unwilling to believe in Jesus that they may have everlasting life (John 5:39-40) does not mean that God does not love them. It means that they are rejecting Him and His life.
Finally, let’s take the comment about the Pentecostals and the Methodists and expand it a bit. If the issue is devotion and commitment (though the reader does not say what he thinks the issue is), then the issue is not faith at all. But if the issue is faith, then no amount of devotion or commitment will suffice.
In fact, if the issue isn’t belief at all, then one would not need to believe in Jesus to be born again. One could be a devout and committed member of any of the world’s religions and still be admitted into Jesus’ kingdom, without ever having believed in Him for everlasting life.
Imagine you were a Jew in the first century and you heard Jesus teach. You might ask, “Wouldn’t that mean that the only people who will populate heaven are the small number of Jews who believe in You as Messiah? No Sadducees, no Pharisees, or any other people who’ve been taught Rabbinic soteriology?”
Jesus is the only way. There is no other.
I came to faith in 1972. At that time there was great concern about the salvation of our religious “Christian” friends. We were concerned about all our religious friends of all denominations. We shared our faith on campus with everyone. If we found a Methodist or a Pentecostal, we didn’t say, “Oh, glad you believe the saving message.” Instead we’d explain the love of God, the death and resurrection of life, and the promise of salvation that is permanent.
Do some Methodists and Pentecostals and other Arminians currently believe the promise of everlasting life that can never be lost? Sure. Not a high percentage based on their writings and based on talking with them. But some do.
Did some Methodists and Pentecostals and other Arminians believe in Jesus for everlasting life at some point in the past, but have since believed something else? Sure. That percentage is probably much higher than the percentage who currently believe in the gift of everlasting life. But all who have ever believed are born again. Once a person is saved, he is always saved.
So here is my suggestion for anyone who thinks like the man making the comment. Prayerfully study this issue. If you become convinced that one must believe the promise of everlasting life to be born again, then start praying for your family and friends who don’t believe that. As God gives you opportunity, start sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them.
I came to faith out of a cult group. The leader was from a Pentecostal Holiness background. So I was from that background. I’m so glad that a friend came to me and said, “Bob, is it possible that your view of the gospel might be wrong?” I ended up going to a Christian meeting and then having a series of one-on-one visits with a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member, Warren Wilke, who led me to faith in Christ for my eternal salvation. I’m glad my friend didn’t think, “Well, Bob loves Jesus and is very religious.” If you want to read more of my story, see here.