3 False Comfort and Discovering You Might Not Be Elect
Once you've been among Calvinists for a while, rejoicing and thinking you've found the grace of God, you'll discover the idea that you might not be one of the "elect", and whether you believe has nothing to do with it. This is tied up in something called "Perseverance of the Saints".
At first, this sounds good, as if it is God's power to preserve us. But what the Calvinist means is that if you're one of the elect, you'll show it in a fruitful life of godliness, and if you don't, you might be a false believer. Not only that, but faith may not save you in that case. You can believe all you want if you're one of the elect, and it won't save you. They'll say you deceived yourself. Calvinism is not faith alone, it is faith plus work. It pretends to be a system of grace, and they even call it the "doctrines of grace". But in their P of the "TULIP", they undermine your assurance.
You'll begin to think you're not saved every time you hit a rough patch of living in the flesh. And you'll be living in the flesh the entire time if you're under this system because you're under law. They view the law as the rule of life. They see almost nothing about regeneration and our identification with Christ in His death and our death to sin and to the law. So they have no way out from under the lordship of sin.
With Arminianism, you may fear that one day you could "un-choose" God and lose your salvation. But the Calvinist looks back to the past and fears that they might not have been saved in the first place. They fear that they might not have truly believed but have had "spurious faith" because they look to their works and think, "I don't have enough fruit." You can never look to the Gospel message for assurance, you look to yourself and your performance. This will put you under suicide watch!
Calvinism is more subtle and dangerous than Arminianism. The Arminians don't even have a theology, but the Calvinists have a very well-defined system of theology that uses the right words to make it sound like they are talking about grace while attacking its roots.
I was talking to a reformed pastor for a long time who kept insisting that he was talking about justification by grace through faith, but that faith might not save you, because faith without works is dead.
Again, this is a system that is a revival of Augustine's doctrine, in which Roman Catholicism's soteriology is rooted. This is why you see a move towards reconciliation with Rome among so many Protestant churches. They do not have a fundamental disagreement when it comes to how man is justified and what assurance should be based on. The Protestants just don't like the corruption, the idols, and the titles in the practice of the Roman Catholic system. If the Roman Catholics were to abandon these, you'd see a new world Catholic church emerge consisting of many Catholics and Calvinists, as well as others.
WWhen you step back and look at this whole thing, everyone is arguing about the wrong thing. The question of whether we were predestined for salvation is not the right one. Instead, we were predestined for sonship. If we are saved, there is an inheritance and destiny waiting for us, which He already remembers.
He knows you and has gone before you, preparing your way. It's not that He forced you to be saved, but when you are saved, you can't say, "I saved myself. I convinced myself to believe." You have to admit that God worked through His Spirit and mercy, revealing the Son of God to you.
- Joh_6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
- Mat 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
At the same time, "whoever comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:39). We can know that if we have come to Him and are coming to Him, we won't be rejected and haven't been rejected. Eventually, the person under Calvinist teaching fears that even though he is coming to Jesus, he might not be one of the elect and might be rejected after all. He might not even know that is the root of his fear, but if he stays in it long enough, this will eventually come out.
As long as you're in fear, you're going to be in the flesh and in bondage, and you're going to be sinning. So you get no comfort at all because you are looking to your performance for assurance. You don't realize that your fear is producing the problem, and that the root of your fear is the false teaching you've embraced.