The quick answer is ‘No’. It is impossible. But, an unbeliever can become a believer. It is not a two-way path… those who say they have “stopped being a Christian” are deceived, for they were never saved in the first place.
The reason an unbeliever can become a believer is found in election and predestination. Without these two facts of salvation, no man can be saved, moving from death to life. The reason a believer can never become an unbeliever, is found in exactly the same facts, for what God decrees can never, ever, be changed. So, the truism often expressed: “Once saved, always saved”, is actually true.
Election is much hated by Arminians, because it removes their supposed part in salvation. You would think that a free pardon for their sins and entry into Heaven would be enough for them to thank God on their knees. But, no! They loathe the idea of not taking part in their own freedom; they want to say they made a choice!
This election stands from conception, as we read in Romans 9:10,11. It is the “purpose of God according to election” that it “might stand”. Arminians have no excuse whatever to ignore that fact. And, as verse 13 plainly teaches, God loves some and hates others.
Unbelievers such as Arminians cannot get over the core doctrinal teaching that election not only chooses who will be saved, but also who will be sent to hell. Of course, even reformed Christians try to avoid the latter fact – that God actually chooses who will go to hell… but, that is what God does, like it or not.
Election, eklogē, means THE ACT OF PICKING OUT; TO CHOOSE. This choice is entirely in God’s hands. He chose who would be saved (or not) before He created the world and the universe. Or, to put it another way, the choice has always been, for it is in eternity… and whatever is in eternity cannot be altered. This salvation is through Jesus Christ, and though it might seem that we ‘choose’ God, in reality, we do not and CANNOT. This is because, as unsaved people, we are incapable because of sin: God says no man looks for Him. (Philippians 2:21; Romans 10:20)
Romans 11:5,7,28 repeats the teaching. 1 Thessalonians 1:4 tells us that our election is of God. The election of some is found in the Old Testament, and is what the lives of the patriarchs were predicated on. In Isaiah 42:1 we see that the servant of God is “mine elect”. The word ‘elect’, bachiyr, means the same as in the New Testament – chosen (by God). God says He delights in the servant who is elect, and He has put His spirit in him… this corresponds to the entry of the Holy Spirit in a man at the point of salvation.
It is not sufficient to merely say God saves ‘those whom He foresees would be obedient’. Yes, of course God foreknows who will be saved. This is because it is He Who saves them! Thus, He both Knows and chooses simultaneously! Even so, He must choose* who will be saved, electing them to salvation. (* An human term).
We are predestined to receive this election. In itself this is a mystery, for everything is known to God at the same time. Human logic says that to be elect one must firstly be predestined. But, who dares to know the mind of God unless it is made known to him by God? As far as we are concerned, both apply, as scripture testifies.
Christ adopts us into His bosom by His own grace and pleasure (Ephesians 1:5). The word ‘predestination’, proorizō, reinforces the idea of election, for it means to predetermine/decide beforehand. Thus, election and predestination essentially share the same meaning. And, as textual translators tell us, “this verb is to be distinguished from proginosko, ‘to foreknow’; the latter has special reference to the persons foreknown to God; proorizō has special reference to that which the subjects of his foreknowledge are predestinated.”
Some try to suggest that the basis of God’s foreordaining is His foreknowledge. This has an air of ignorance about it, for God cannot know something before making a decision to do something. This is because, if He did not know something, He could not be God. He had to know and ‘decide’ all at once. He does not ordain because He knows, but He knows and ordains because He is ‘I AM’. The difference is vital. Both are products of His omniscience and both MUST act at the same time and be fixed, because they are executed in eternity and God cannot change. So, to say foreknowledge and predestination are the result partly of man’s free will is blatantly wrong. Man has no free will, only a partial will based on what God allows in finite beings. Man certainly has no freedom to choose God, so an unbeliever can ONLY become a believer if God has already predestined him by way of election.
In verse eleven we see this to be true: “predestinated according to the purpose of him… after his own will.” Man CANNOT choose his salvation. He can only agree to it, and even this agreement (which many call his ‘choice’) is mandatory, for election is not a matter of human choice, but of God’s eternal plan. This is underlined in the word “inheritance”, because we can only inherit what has firstly been left to us.
It is essential to get these distinctions clear in one’s mind, or we move into heresy and anti-faith. Election (to either salvation or hell) is predestined, and both were/are in the mind of God in eternity. They were not thought-out nor did they come one after the other, but have always been extant. We are told that a man needs salvation before he can enter heaven; before he is saved he is regenerated, and all is of God in eternity. Because of this it cannot be altered. Therefore, a man who is ordained to salvation will be saved at the chosen time in his history; the man who is ordained to hell will enter that place, no matter what he does or believes or says. Understand this fact of God’s grace and power, or be confused.
© November 2010
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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