This is an important issue to settle. For it is obvious that the issues surrounding Calvinism are not a dispute about secondary matters like baptism or church government. For those who have followed closely, this whole debate actually centers on the full meaning of the gospel. How should we then approach brothers in the Lord who differ with us on this subject?
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Even if one wanted to state that Arminians were heretics, note here how the biblical teacher is to deal with false teachers.
In this same passage, note the application of "Reformed theology." The verse says that God is the one who grants repentance. Now do we use this as a proof-text to beat those who deny it over the head? Or do we do what the verse says to do? Put another way, how can we expect others to affirm with their lips what we deny with our attitudes?
There are several tasks that the elders of the church have which require a large measure of discrimination. The Bible requires elders, first, to be able to refute false teachers:
. . . holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict (Tit. 1:9).
At the same time, the elders are required to instruct and encourage the weak, the confused, the "lied to" and so forth.
This means that an important distinction must be made and maintained between those who are confused about sound doctrine, and those who hate it. And even with those who hate it, we must remember our earlier passage which requires a real gentleness in refutation.
How Can We Do This?
This is not a place where we set aside our convictions about the sovereignty of God. It is one of best places to begin applying your convictions about the sovereignty of God. Because God is sovereign:
· We do not see into hearts, and should not act as though we do. If some professes Christ as Lord, and is not characterized by immorality or active opposition to the gospel, then we should fellowship with them.
· We do not determine the boundaries of salvation -- God does. We must follow His lead. We must not seek to have higher fellowship standards than God does. For example, did God fellowship with you before you understood these truths?
· Salvation is a gift based on the sovereign grace of God. It is not based upon any human merit or contribution at all -- including a biblical understanding of Romans 9. Because we are saved by sovereign grace, Arminians are saved for the same reason that Calvinists who are inconsistent in some other area are saved. We are not saved by our works.