"I warn you, as I warned you before, those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:21)."
Here is a passage which proves beyond all doubt that a Christian can fall short of salvation at the end of the age. So what does the Calvinist do with this passage? Well, he might try telling you that this is just Paul's way of making sure these Galatians persevere. We will investigate this kind of insane claim in another article. For now, let us look at another thing they might try to escape the obvious implications. Many Calvinists will try and claim that Paul is not referring to true Christians here. They will assert that he can only have non-regenerate people in mind. But does it pan out? Not for a minute. Let's see why.
When Calvinists do say such things, it is rather obvious that they are imagining something into the scenario that they would like to see. If we go back right to the beginning of the gospel and follow it through we see that Paul is talking about people who were born again and were returning to the ways of the Mosaic Law, most specifically, circumcision. Let us look at what Paul has to say about these Galatians.
First, we see that he is writing to the "churches of Galatia" (1:2). Next, we find him saying that he is astonished "that you are so quickly deserting Him (God) who called you by the grace of Christ" (1:6). So he is speaking to people who were called by God into his grace. These people were deserting Christ and following a different gospel. It is pretty difficult to desert Christ unless you have already been united to him. Then after taking a small detour to defend the gospel which he, Paul, preached to them as opposed to this other gospel the Galatians were following, he says, "O foolish Galatians. Who has bewitched you?" (3:1). Christ warned his disciples to watch out for false prophets. There was a reason for that warning. Then Paul says, "Having began in the Spirit do you now end in the flesh?" (3:3) and asks them if they had received the Spirit as a result of doing works of law or because they had believed. (3:5) So, right here Paul is seeing that some born again believers who began a new life in the Spirit were ending in the flesh.
And then Paul goes on to say, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for those who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (3:25-26). Okay, so these are born again and baptized Christians who, "because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, the Spirit which cries 'Abba Father" and "you are no longer a servant, but a son and if a son, an heir of God through Christ" (4:6-7). That's pretty plain. So he asks, "how is it that you turn again to those weak and beggerly elements where you will again be in bondage?(4:9) Then in chapter 4 he reminds them they are "children of the promise" who, like Isaac, were born of the Spirit (4:28-31). That's pretty plain too.
Then in chapter 5 he exhorts these born again Christians to stand fast in the freedom of Christ and not be entangled in bondage again (5:1) and in verses 2 he warns them that if they are circumcised Christ will profit them nothing. And at verse 4 he tells them that if they are circumcised Christ has become of no effect to them if they are circumcised and tht they have fallen from grace. In other words, he is repeating that the concept he conveyed at 2:21 that if righteousness comes through works of the Mosaic Law, then Christ died for nothing. Christ came to redeem them from bondage of the Law and to return to that bondage is to nullify the freedom Christ gave them. And he reminds them that in Christ circumcision has no value (5:6) because righteousness is through the Spirit not through fleshly circumcision (5:5). He reflects that they were indeed doing well (5:7). He sums up this whole thing by telling them that they should not use their Christian freedom to resort to the flesh (i.e. circumcision in the flesh) because the whole Law is summed up in loving our neighbour (5:13-14).
So now we finally come to our passage in question. So far we know that Paul is very perturbed that some false prophets have convinced these Galatian Christians they need to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses (see Acts 15:1). There can be no doubt that he is assuming that he is speaking to people who were born again of the Spirit.
So now he reminds them that if they are in the Spirit they are not under the the Law (5:18; see Rom 6:14; 7:6). In other words, there is no need for circumcision if one is born again of the Spirit. This is much the same thing as saying "in Christ Jesus circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail" (5:6) and "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation,"(6:15) since being in Christ Jesus is being born again a new creation in the Spirit. Then Paul goes on to remind the Galatians of the ways of the flesh (5:17-21). Why is he doing this? Well, he is doing this because they are appealing to the flesh by being circumcised in the flesh. But Paul wants them to live in the Spirit, that is, the Spirit in which they began. He does not want them to end in the flesh. So he reminds them of the fruit of the Spirit and exhorts them to walk this way instead (5:22-23) since if we live in the Spirit we need to walk in the Spirit (5:25).
And now at verses 6:7-8, Paul warns them not to be deceived. God will not be mocked and these Galatians will reap what they sow. If they sow to the flesh they will reap corruption. The implication is that if they are circumcised in the flesh they will reap eternal destruction. But if they instead sow to the Spirit they will reap eternal life. It is the same message at Galatians 5:21, "I warn you, as I did before, that those who practice such things will not enter the Kingdom of God." Paul is telling them that those who appeal to the ways of the flesh will not be saved. And unfortunately these Galatian Christians who had began in the Spirit, who like Isaac were born of the Spirit, were appealing to the flesh by being circumcised into the flesh. As such, Paul warns them to mend their ways and walk instead in the Spirit or they will not enter the Kingdom of God.
Is there any clue that Paul might be referring to people who had not been born again. Not at all. Instead, there is a multitude of evidence that he has born again Christians in mind. God's word says they were sons of God. Well, couldn't someone pretend that he had non-regenerate individuals in mind anyway. Couldn't one get away with just making that claim? No, not for a minute. He told them that he warned them as he had warned them before. Warned who before? Answer: The born again Christians of Galatia to whom he is referring - those who had began in the Spirit. Paul had previously preached the gospel in Galatia and knew full well that the Galatians had become born again and had received the Spirit. He had previously warned them that those who practice the ways of the flesh would not enter the Kingdom of God. Why would he even had warned these them at this time if apostasy were not possible? And now he is astonished that these same people are deserting Christ and turning to a different gospel which demands circumcision in the flesh. So he tells these same people that if they resort to the flesh they will not enter the Kingdom. So, with the evidence we have, we can know for absolute certainity he has the born again Christians of Galatia in mind. The evidence contained in the letter demands it. It is plain to thinking people that Paul is warning those who had began in the Spirit that if they end in the flesh, they will never enter the Kingdom of God, proving again that the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is a false doctrine.
"Having began in the Spirit, do you end in the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3).