I was reading the Works of Arminius today and Arminius’ statement on the perseverance of the saints. Battle lines have long been drawn on this issue with Calvinists holding to unconditional perseverance of the saints and in some cases, preservation of the sinner. Arminians have historically opposed perseverance of the saints. This has often kept some from claiming Arminianism as they feel that to claim Arminianism would be to embrace apostasy as a real possibility in the life of the believer of which they oppose. Many Baptists are in this camp.
I myself hold to conditional security meaning that I believe that our security is conditioned upon faith in Jesus. If we maintain faith in Jesus, we remain saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). I believe that the warning passages in the New Testament are not myths but very real possibilities. What is the point of warning people if the warnings are not true? I find that disingenuous if in fact the warnings are not real warnings but were meant to only scare us to keep us saved. What is the point of that? I believe that if we abide in Jesus, we have no fear (John 8:51). I believe that if we keep hearing the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him, nothing would be able to take us out of His hands (John 10:27-30). I fully agree with Paul the Apostle in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. I believe that 2 Timothy 2:12 is true, “If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.”
I agree with 1 John 2:24-25,
“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us— eternal life.”
Seems not too much to ask that we abide in Christ through faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).
Yet I do appreciate Arminius’ approach to this issue. Arminius doesn’t come out dogmatically in favor of one position over the other. In fact, he stays in the center on this issue. Arminius said,
“My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies — yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual.”
“Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.”
So Arminius left open both views. He didn’t state either for or against perseverance of the saints. He believed that we should debate out the key passages in the Bible about this. He hoped the Synod would perhaps debate this issue. They did but after he was dead and the court was highly stacked in favor of the Calvinists.
I believe that we can still agree in many issues and not agree on all. I have a few Arminian friends who hold to eternal security. I do not. Yet I don’t allow that to keep me from preaching the gospel with these brothers nor would I separate from them over this issue. I believe that if we are seeking Christ, that is what matters. If a person is seeking to live in sin and wants to debate over the issue of security, that is another issue involving repentance and forsaking sin (Romans 6:1-4; Jude 4). In fact, mature disciples rarely debate this issue of security. We know that there is no life apart from Jesus because we have been saved from sin and out of sin and we don’t want to go back (2 Peter 2:20-22). True disciples need not debate how much sin can we enjoy and still be saved. We want more of Jesus in our lives! We want to follow Him at all costs (Luke 14:25-35). We despise this world (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17) and we want nothing but Jesus alone (Colossians 3:1-3). True disciples don’t fear apostasy. We fear God (Romans 11:20-22) but we also enjoy His friendship and love (1 John 3:1-3).
It is the weak, those living in sin who want to argue about how secure are we. They want to wander from the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit toward the flesh. They want to call God their Father but not abide close to Him as His child. They want to claim Jesus as their Savior but not follow Him as their Lord (Luke 6:46-49). These are those who want to argue over eternal security.