Perseverance of the Saints

Part 5 in a 5 part series. View series intro and index.

We are now at the last doctrine in the TULIP acronym: Perseverance of the Saints. If everything that has been written before this is true, that we are totally depraved, we are unconditionally elected apart from any works, that Christ atoned for a particular people, and that the Holy Spirit overcomes all resistance in order to call certain people to himself, then it holds that no one whom God elects will be lost. They will persevere. Perhaps a better name for this doctrine would be “Preservation of the Savior, Perseverance of the Saint.” For those people God keeps, they can never be lost. Romans 8:29-30 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Does this sound like someone can “lose their salvation”?

Furthermore, Romans 8:33-35, 38 says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rules, nor things present nor things to come nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” People will then say, “But people can choose to not be a Christian.” When Paul writes, “nor anything in all creation,” what does that communicate? Are you not part of all creation? Surely, not even yourself can leave the salvation of the Lord. Jesus said in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” No one includes Satan, demons, and yourself.

This is a great theme of Scripture-that God has redeemed his people and he keeps his promise! Philippians 1:6 says, “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.” John 6:39-40 says, “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.” And in Hebrews 10:14, the author says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Whoever believes in Jesus is already being sanctified and Christ has already perfected them.

But what about passages that seem to teach otherwise? What about people who have professed faith then turn and renounce Christ? First of all, we must know that Scripture teaches that faith must endure in order for us to be saved. Hebrews 3:14 says, “For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” If faith stops finally, then that person is not a true believer. Second Timothy 2:11-12 says, “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” John teaches this in his first epistle. “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore who know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” This shows that those who do not hold to their confession of faith in Jesus are not true Christians. They are the rocky or thorny soil in the parable of the sower. The faith that causes us to persevere is grounded in the sovereign grace of God that preserves us. We can think of it this way: Imagine trying to hold onto a greased flag pole. It is impossible. Yet, you still cling with all your might. Without a more powerful person to hold you up, you will fall. In the same way, David cries in Psalm 63:8, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” The clinging is a demonstration of faith. God’s right hand is his preservation.

Hebrews 6:1-8 is the pillar text for those who believe one can lose salvation. It is hard for me to concede that this passage teaches that when other clearer, more direct passages teach that we cannot lose salvation. Hebrews is a very tough book to understand because of the author’s obscurity. When we examine the text closely, we see three things. One, the author never says that anyone actually does fall away. He simply describes what would happen if someone did. Two, he says that he is “sure of better things-things that belong to salvation” for his readers. So, he is positive they are really saved and can have assurance. Three, he points to God’s promise in salvation in verses 13-20, that “Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (20) so that we can have “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (18).

In Revelation 21:7-8, John shows what it would look like for someone to abandon faith in Christ. “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” These people very well may have been professors of Christ at one point. But they did not live by faith, so they shrunk back and God took no pleasure in them (Heb. 10:38).

Examine yourself. Are you in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5)? If you shrink back, you will not be saved. John Piper once said, “If this sounds Arminian, let it. Preach the word! The Bible says to endure in faith so you don’t fall away.” God is sovereign, but our responsibility is faith.  Trust that God is keeping you in the faith and that he will give you the ability to persevere. Be confident that if you are a confessor of sin and a worshiper of the Most High God that you are secure, because you have been elected and called to salvation. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:8-9, “Jesus Christ will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus will sustain you. Trust in him.