Calvinism teaches that there is an eternal security for believers (the once saved -- always saved doctrine) and Arminianism teaches that a believer can lose his/her salvation. There seem to be convincing scriptures supporting both sides of this issue. Just what is the answer to this seeming paradox?
Calvinism and Arminianism are both ideas of theology. Theology came about when the teachings of Christ, spread to the Greeks, who interpreted it based on their way of thinking which is called philosophy. The views of most theologians are based on the teaching of Greek philosophy about the nature of man and the nature of God that are unscriptural. As a result, their conclusions about salvation cannot be relied on and we need to turn to the plain statements of Scripture.
The time of Calvin was the Reformation, when the Protestant churches were formed as a revolt against a corrupt church and its teaching. The church was teaching that salvation came through the sacraments of the church, and also involved the merit of the person concerned. Calvin reacting to this, taught that guilt of Adam's sin, is imputed to all men, who are totally depraved and corrupted and incapable of doing any spiritual good, or contributing to their own recovery. Salvation is therefore based entirely on God's grace. God chooses who will be saved and gives them grace so they can become good, to this end. Such are predestined absolutely to salvation and others are predestined to destruction. The person chosen has no choice or say in the matter. This was not a new idea, but a rehash of the views of Augustine.
Arminianism claims to be based more closely on the views of earlier Christians. Arminius taught that men are weakened or polluted as a consequence of Adam's sin to the extent that they are incapable of deserving eternal life. God gives man the gift of grace to the extent that they are enabled to co-operate with God in the work of regeneration. God chooses all men for salvation and only rejects those who reject him of their own free will. His choosing is therefore conditional on people accepting his grace. The main mistake of Armimius was to assume that all people are called and will be saved even if they have never heard or understood the Gospel provided they haven't actually rejected it.
Calvin made two fundamental errors:
The first was his insistence in the total depravity of man. The Bible says that man is made in the image and likeness of God, (Genesis 1:23, 1 Corinthians 11:7). Though that image has been marred by sin, there is still in man both good and bad, described by Paul as "the law of his mind" verses the "law of sin in his members", or the spirit vs the flesh, in Romans 7,8.
The other mistake of Calvin was to make predestination an absolute principle to which all others must conform. The problem we have in understanding the topic is that neither God's foreknowledge nor our own free will are ideas that humans can fully comprehend.
While the New Testament talks of predestination, it is based on Gods foreknowledge. Romans 8:28-30 states (NASB); " And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren; and whom he predestined, these he also called; and whom he called, these he also justified; and whom he justified, these he also glorified." In these verses Paul is emphasising the role that God plays in our salvation. These verses show that God's predestination is based on his foreknowledge, or his knowing the end from the beginning. It also shows that only some are called. But even among those called Jesus said "many are called but few are chosen" Matthew 22:14. And even of the apostles he said, "Have I not chosen you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" John 6:70.
The whole process of salvation depends on God's activity. However earlier in Romans 8, Paul contrasts the carnal mind (set on the flesh), with the spiritual mind, and indicates the choice man makes to be led by the Spirit. Time and time again the Scriptures emphasis the free will response of individuals to the Gospel message. Jesus said "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." Luke 13:24. The cooperative relationship between God's work and our own is illustrated in Paul's words; "work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you" Philippians 2:12,13.
Even the apostle Paul realised that his own salvation also depended on his own continuing response to God. At the end of 1 Corinthians 9, he compares the Christian life to a runner competing at the games, and for himself he takes the lesson, "but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified." 1 Corinthian 9:27.
All the references in the New Testament to the judgement seat of Christ, make it clear that we are judged according to our works, whether good or bad. Jesus refers to people who will surprised to be rejected at the judgement seat who have performed many wonderful works in his name. Matthew 27:21-23.
In Hebrews 6:4-8, the writer refers to some who have once been saved and experienced the full power of God's grace, who then fall away, and are not able again to repent. Their lives are described as bringing forth briars and thorns and end up being burned.
Other Scriptures talk of the book of life. While people who belong to Christ have their names written in the book (Phillipians 4:3), names can be blotted out of the book of life. Exodus 32:32, Psalm 69:28, Revelation 3:5.
So it is very obvious from these verses that we while we may have received the promise of salvation, and the forgiveness of our sins, and have our names written in God's book, our ultimate salvation from death, depends on our continuing to have faith and show that faith in a changed life.
"The revelation of the righteous judgement of God, Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life; Romans 2:5-10.