We come now to the final letter of our Biblical acrostic TULIP. This “P” is known as the perseverance of the Saints. However, we might better remember the “P” as Preservation of the Saints? The emphasis on the perseverance of the Saints falls on the saints while the emphasis on the “Preservation of God” falls on God’s preserving power. The best way to say it would be that those in Christ actively persevere because they are actively preserved by the power of God.
Perhaps we could say it this way. The called of God as positioned in Christ by the Holy Spirit work out their faith as God works in them to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13)
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Let us examine a Whitman’s sampler of Scripture that clearly teaches this doctrine.
John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
Phil. 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Romans 11:29 – For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
II Timothy 4:18 – The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
II Tim. 1:12 Which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
II Thess. 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
II Peter 1:5 Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Here we see consistently the testimony of Scripture that once the elect are planted in Christ who died for them, they do not fail of the end of glorification which is the ultimate destination of their salvation.
So… gathering all these Scripture threads how might we define this Preserving of God so that the saints persevere to the end?
Perseverance of the Saints declares that by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit consistent with the Father’s election and the Son’s atoning work God preserves every single one of those who have been united to Christ so that they continue to persevere to the very end so that sanctification (increasing Christ-likeness consistent w/ God’s law-word) becomes the gateway to glorification.
Of if you prefer our standards (Synod of Dordt) puts it this way,
Article 1 Whom God calls, according to His purpose, to the communion of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, He delivers also from the dominion and slavery of sin in this life; though not altogether from the body of sin and from the infirmities of the flesh, so long as they continue in this world.
So as we have already noted here the doctrine of Perseverance has a two fold motion.
First, God relentlessly and without fail holds and keeps His people so that they never ever fail of their beginning
This is taught unambiguously in John 6:39-40
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Now, note a simple point here that reinforces the perseverance of the saints. Let me put in a the form of a question.
Look at that passage in John 6… what is the adjective that describes the noun “life” in that passage.
Now, if the those united to Christ could fall away then by definition that which they were given could not be called “eternal.” So the very idea that the life we are given in Christ is eternal life sustains the idea of the perseverance of the Saints because persevered by God.
Those who teach a salvation that can be lost (Lutherans, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, General Baptists etc) deny the Scripture that describes life in Christ as being eternal. It’s not eternal life if one can lose it. These Christians who believe that a genuine Christian can fall away are of a different spirit from us. There theology is in complete anti-thesis to ours. We are
glad to call them Christian but they will never be anything but milk sucking Christians. They will not be able to mature in the faith because their faith is quite distinct from the faith of the Scripture. We need to pray for them and ask that God would lead them to knowing Christ better which is a prayer we should have for ourselves as well.
But think about it. Don’t you see the vast chasm that exists between a Christian who believes that God is sovereign enough to keep His people unto glory and a Christian who believes that God’s sovereignty might be overcome by man’s sovereignty. Don’t you see that these two types of Christians are pulling against opposite sides of the rope?
Now remember we said there is a two fold motion here. We just said the first motion is that God preserves. Each member of the Trinity is involved in this preserving work. The Spirit is given as a deposit GUARANTEEING that which is to come. The Son promises that He will nothing that has been given Him. Jesus says in John 10 that no one can snatch believers from the Father’s hand. God – Father, Son, and Spirit – preserves His people.
Now this second movement in Perseverance of the saints is that the saints who are preserved by God persevere. They endure to the end.
Phil 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have [a]apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
So here we see in St. Paul what John Murray will later characterize
“Perseverance means the engagement of our persons in the most intense and concentrated devotion to those means which God has ordained for the achievement of His saving purpose. (John Murray)
Note in that quote Murray speaks of “the most intense and concentrated devotion to those means which God has ordained for the achievement of His saving purpose.” We need to understand that the means God has ordained for the achievement of His saving purpose is the gathering of the Saints unto the Preaching of the Word and the distribution of the sacraments. That means the attendance of Church where we find the means of grace is a must for those who are persevering in the faith. By gathering ot worship we find the place where God preserves us unto our persevering.
End Rabbit trail
C.) The Consistency of Perseverance of the Saints w/ Other Doctrines
1.) Unconditional Election
Several weeks ago we considered Unconditional Election. You, of course, recall it is the doctrine that teaches that God from eternity past marked out His people for salvation. Now, if we could lose our salvation … if perseverance of the saints was not true then the doctrine of Election would also not be true. But we clearly saw when we preached on this that the doctrine of election is true and therefore it impossible for the perseverance of the saints not to be true. The perseverance of the saints is merely unconditional election incarnated in space and time in God’s people. The perseverance of the saints therefore has to be true or unconditional election isn’t true.
One of our Reformed Theologians has said on this score
“A denial of the doctrine of the perseverance of the Saints is a denial is a denial of the Sovereign grace of God in unconditional election.” (J. Oliver Buswell)
2.) Insuperable Grace
We took 2 weeks looking at this Insuperable / Unconquerable grace. We said during that time that this Irresistible grace always gets its man. Now, how odd would it be that the Irresistible grace of God that calls us from the dead was also not effective enough to keep us alive in Christ to the very end? It is because of God’s continuing insuperable grace that we as God’s saints continue to persevere. God unconquerable grace doesn’t end at regeneration but continues until we are glorified.
Romans 8:28-30 proves this
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
You see that in this passage that the certainty of the end is in the beginning. Glorification is implied in calling, Our end in glorification is merely the full development of our beginning in God’s calling.
3.) Limited Atonement
We looked at the doctrine of Limited Atonement or particular redemption and saw that the Scripture teaches that Christ paid for all the sins of all God’s elect. Now, if the believer who has had all of his sins paid for by Christ fell away and consigned to hell that would either mean that said believer was paying for sins that Christ already paid for or it would mean that Christ didn’t really pay for all the elects sins. Both of those options are ridiculous.
Because Christ in His death paid for all of the sins of all the elect that means all those elect who are grafted into Christ will persevere to the very end. They can’t do anything but persevere. There sins have been paid for. They have been given the Spirit GURANTEEING that which is to come and they live their lives making it their goal to please him as being zealous for good works.
Tod deny the perseverance of the saints is to deny Limited Atonement and to deny Particular Redemption is to deny the success of Christ to accomplish what He intended to accomplish on the Cross.
4.) The Intercession of Christ
If we deny the Preserving by God of His people we deny what Scripture teaches about how Christ continues His Priestly intercessory work praying that His people would finish their course. Thus if we deny perseverance of the saints we also proclaim that the heavenly prayer life of Christ can fail. We are saying that God fails.
Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save [a]to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
See also Romans 5:8-10 Remember what we are doing here. We are looking at other Scriptural doctrines that support the Scriptural doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. We are seeing the interlocking nature of Scripture. We are seeing the harmony of the Scripture. If one doctrine is true it has ripple effects across the whole horizon and consistency requires us to believe all these doctrines as they are clearly mutually supporting.
As we have said… Calvinists / Reformed Christians / Biblical Christians don’t do contradiction in our thinking. Contradiction is to a Calvinist what garlic is to a vampire. We recoil and flee at the presence of contradiction.
5.) God’s ability to Keep us / God’s truthfulness
Jude 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began
Shall we call God a liar and insist that the perseverance of the Saints is not True and he does not have the ability to keep us?
7.) The Nature of the Change in the Believers heart
II Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Here we are these new Creations in Christ. The old has passed. A radical supernatural change is wrought in the believer. The whole principle of one’s nature has been changed.
Where in Scripture do we find any doctrine about a de-creation of those who are new creations? We don’t. The nature of the change in the Believers heart necessitates the idea of the perseverance of the Saints.
8.) Our Union w/ Christ
Scripture teaches that we are united to Christ. He is the Head and we are the members. For Christ to lose a believer would be akin to having a part of Himself amputated. Our Union with Christ is permanent and can’t be undone. This teaches the perseverance of the saints.
9.) From the Work of the Holy Spirit in the heart
Here we have the person of the Holy Spirit. He has renewed our heart. He has been given as a deposit Guaranteeing that which is to come and what is to come is glory. It’s guaranteed. That same Holy Spirit who convicts the heart at the time of conversion… who raises us up with Christ is the same Holy Spirit who continues with His people. He continues the work of conviction …. repentance …. faith… and a going on with Christ. He is the one who preserves us so we as Saints persevere.
D.) Objections to the Perseverance of the Saints doctrine.
1.) It is contrary to human freedom
Remember … we have said before that the freedom of man is defined by the nature of man. This doctrine is not inconsistent with human freedom because in Christ we have been given a new nature that desires Christ. Therefore this doctrine is perfectly consistent with a human freedom that is operating consistent with our new creation human nature.
The problem with those who argue this way is that they desire to give to man a freedom that is gained at the cost of God’s freedom. God has promised in His divine freedom to preserve His saints but those who insist on human freedom want redeemed humans to have a freedom that checkmates God’s freedom.
It is blasphemy.
2.) It leads to indolence and laxness
First of all Scripture testifies against this happening
John 10:27 – My sheep hear my voice and they FOLLOW me.
Those who were opposed to Luther had a cat call they would hurl at Luther. They would say that the reason he believed in free grace is that he wanted to live however he wanted. Luther merely turned on them and said “precisely, now look at what we want.”
The believer has been delivered from the judgment and wrath of God. He has been made a new creation. He has been given life. Having been once aware of all his danger and now aware of how He has been delivered He is bursting with gratitude and so He lives His life to the glory of God.
Anybody who used the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints to excuse themselves from pursuing Christ thus embracing indolence and laxness demonstrates that they have not yet been born again.
3.) It is contrary to the teaching of Scripture
In Philemon he is mentioned as a “fellow worker”.[Philemon 1:24]
- In Colossians he is mentioned along with Luke (the physician and writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts).[Colossians 4:14]
- In Second Timothy, a letter traditionally ascribed to Paul, where it is mentioned that “…for Demas, because he loved this world, he has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” [2Timothy 4:10a] This has led to one commentator to describe Demas as ‘Paul’s Judas’.
Demas – Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world,
I John 2:19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
4.) The Warning passages
Matthew 24:12, Col. 1:23, Heb. 2:1, 3:4, 6:11. I John 2:6
Comfort of this Doctrine