Jesus Saves …

… Go therefore

What do you believe about salvation?

A question I sometimes get asked is, what is my view of salvation? Usually, what is behind that is, do I have a Calvinist or Armenian view? Now, the person asking me may not put it like that, but that’s generally what it comes down to!

So, I thought I would share my answer here – something I wrote for a Bible College in 2020. It’s a very brief summary, but it captures the essence of what I belief about salvation!

A declaration

Let me begin at the outset with a declaration, I am a Pentecostal Evangelical/Calvinist. I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, followers of the teachings of John Calvin as expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism. I attended a Reformed Church school and was confirmed in the church after completing catechization classes at 16. We then moved to a Pentecostal Methodist Church, followers predominantly of the teachings of Jacobus Arminius[1]. Here I gained a whole other perspective on reading and understanding the Bible. In recent years, however, I have explored and learned to value much that forms the basis for my understanding of what it means to be a Christian, beginning with salvation, predestination, irresistible grace, and free will.

Defining Salvation

Salvation, according to the Heidelberg Catechism, comes through Jesus Christ, to whom I belong, because “He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil”.[2] In Him all things work together for my salvation (Rm 8:28). I love this ‘Answer’ in the Catechism, which continues that because I belong to Christ, I am assured of eternal life, and the work of the Holy Spirit in me makes me ‘wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him’.[3]

This was not inconsistent with what I was subsequently taught, each Sunday, in my next and many subsequent Pentecostal churches. Here I learned to quote Romans 10:9-10, that salvation comes by confessing and believing that Jesus is Lord, whom God had raised from the dead. Salvation is by faith alone (Rms 5:1), I learned in both denominations. By God’s grace we are ‘delivered’ from sin and death, instead we have new life in Christ (Rms 6:8) and are heirs with Him (Rms 8:17)[4]. The difference, as I have discovered, is in how both sides understand who gets to be saved (predestination), what is meant by the word’s ‘God’s grace’ (prevenient vs irresistible grace[5]) and who gets to make that decision (free will).


Both sides belief in the doctrine of predestination[6], but understand it differently. The doctrine teaches that even before the creation of the world, God had already preordained the eternal destiny of all man[7]. The difference is that Calvinists believe that salvation is only by the gift of God’s grace, His irresistible grace[8]. God’s grace is so irresistible, that when He calls the chosen or elect, through the preaching of the Word, the Holy Spirit works in them to bring enlightenment, and they understand and accept the gospel, and so choose it.[9] That is, first He chooses, and then He destines them to be saved[10]. Calvinists hold to the view that salvation is Monergistic,[11] that is, salvation through the conversion experience is through the act of God’s grace alone.

Armenians believe that God foreknew those who would respond or not to His grace[12], it is synergistic, God and man working together[13]. This is called prevenient grace, the believe that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to open the heart of the sinner to the truth of the gospel, and this then enables people to respond, and either accept or reject it. Prevenient grace is the “convicting, calling, enlightening and enabling grace of God that goes before conversion and makes repentance and faith possible.”[14] God still initiates conversion; without His grace it is impossible to be saved.[15] But it is what happens after, that is at issue.

The role of free will

Armenians take the view that it is possible to resist the work of the Holy Spirit[16] and reject God’s gift of grace, this is the freedom of the will.[17] Calvinists also believe in free will,[18] however, not as it is understood by modern Armenians, that is having a moral responsibility to choose one way or the other[19]. Man has complete free will, however, through the fall of Adam (Rms 5:12) the will of man has been “enslaved by sin and is in captivity to Satan”.[20]  And because we are held captive to sin (Rm 6:20, John 8:24), we will freely choose according to our sinful desire, and so bring damnation on ourselves.[21] It is God’s grace which sets us free, the power of his Holy Spirit which enlarges our freedom through bringing understanding and trust, and so we desire wholeheartedly to accept Jesus as our Saviour. [22] Our free will, says Piper, “not merely restores a kind of ‘free will’ that can accept or reject Christ, but rather opens our blind eyes … to see the compelling truth … of Jesus in such a way that we find Him irresistible. Then we gladly and willingly embrace Him as our Saviour and Lord”.[23]

Background by Charlene Warwick

Jesus saves … go therefore!

I enjoyed digging deeper into the two views, but ultimately, they are finite human attempts to understand an infinite God. My responsibility is and remains, to proclaim the gospel so that all men will hear (Matt 28:19). I’ll leave the rest up to my sovereign God. The end of the matter? Jesus saves … Go, therefore!

[1] (Kuiper, 1975)

[2] “Lord’s Day 1, Q & A 1”, (Heidelberg Catechism, 2011)

[3] Ibid

[4] (Conner, 2018)

[5] (Leonhardt, 2012)

[6] Ibid

[7] (Beeke & Smalley, 2020)

[8] (Leonhardt, 2012)

[9] (Packer, 1993)cited in (Leonhardt, 2012)

[10] (Piper, 1985)cited in (Leonhardt, 2012)

[11] (Lawson, 2020)

[12] (Kuiper, 1975); (Olson, 2006) cited in (Leonhardt, 2012)

[13] (Lawson, 2020)

[14] (Olson, 2006) cited in (Leonhardt, 2012)

[15] (Forlines, 2011) cited in (Leonhardt, 2012)

[16] (Kuiper, 1975)

[17] Ibid

[18] (Forster, 2018)

[19] Ibid

[20] Ibid

[21] (Piper, 2009) cited in (Leonhardt, 2012)

[22] (Forster, 2018)

[23] (Piper, 2019)


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