by Mike Ratliff
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 ESV)
When I was growing up as a Southern Baptist the Gospel we heard preached to us continually always included a doctrine that could best be called “Once saved, Always Saved.” After God had mercy on me in 1986 when I was 34, opening my heart to believe the Gospel, I went right into serving in various Southern Baptist churches eventually becoming a Bible teacher and Deacon and serving in the role of an Elder even though our church did not officially have that role defined at that time. It was as I began studying doctrine back in 2003-2004 that I realized that I had grown up as an inconsistent Arminian. In any case, in that study of doctrine I also compared Arminianism and Calvinism. I had heard of Calvinism in a historical sense but really knew nothing about its theology. However, through this study, I also found that I was not in agreement with all the points of consistent Arminianism. As I prayerfully studied Reformation Theology over a period of several weeks I found myself coming to grasp each of the five points. How did this happen? What was it that God was revealing to me from His Word that caused this? It was the fact that Sacred Scripture clearly shows that He is sovereign over all especially the salvation of all who believe the Gospel.
While Southern Baptists have a doctrine called “Once saved, Always Saved,” those of us who are Reformed in our Theology also are firm in our belief in the security of the believer, but in Reformed Theology it is called Perseverance of the Saints. However, I prefer the term, “Persevering Grace.” The former makes it seem as if the believer is eternally saved by his or her own merit or ability. The latter, however, states that it is God who preserves His saints by His grace.